Let me say from the beginning that my wife and I are Spanish-speakers, lived in San Jose in the 70's and have spent MUCH time in this beautiful city. San Jose is like a second home. However, tourism in Costa Rica has become a major industry since our time there many years ago, and I make no pretense of being on top of the exploding tourism market. Casa Roland took us by surprise - all good.
We had decided to combine a few days R&R with a visit to a young friend whose mother has been dealing with major health issues recently. I have stayed many places in San Jose over the years, both hotels and private homes. This time location would be the major factor so as to be close to the family we would visit. I checked out some hotels in the normal touristy areas that are in the general vicinity of where we wanted to be. I also asked our young friend for some recommendations. While providing a Holiday Inn and a couple of Marriott products, she also asked if we had heard of Casa Roland. We had not, but it was literally just a few blocks down the street from her house and that certainly warranted checking it out. She had never been in the property, but had heard some good reports and was very curious as to what it might be like.
Our personal travel preference is to avoid the usual international chains in preference of unique local establishments. That, plus the fact that Casa Roland's price came in quite a bit cheaper than either Holiday Inn or Marriott were deciding factors in giving Casa Roland a try. We were glad we did.
Here's some stuff you need to know. The hotel is NOT in a normal hotel zone, but in a predominantly residential neighborhood. However, the airport is less than 20 minutes for a knowledgeable driver and equidistant from downtown San Jose - very convenient location. Txis are abundant, safe and cheap. Additionally, it is very close to the hot spots of Santa Anna and Escazu, just not a commercial location, which I consider to be a plus. It seems the hotel has purchased three corners of an intersection in a residential neighborhood. The hotel itself is in what appears to be a large home on one corner and diagonally across the street is another area labeled "suites" that appeared to be overflow or extended stay, but I'm not sure. Directly across the street is another property that formerly was home to what everyone says was a wonderful restaurant operated by the hotel owners. Apparently the location doomed that type of restaurant and the space was being renovated and converted into something else while we were there.
We arrived late at night and found the night crew on duty. They were friendly, accommodating and efficient. Check-in was a breeze and they explained where breakfast was served. Our local friend was a bit nervous because her first impression late at night was that this might not be a "family" place, if you know what I mean. Words that come to mind are: eclectic, eccentric, artsy, unique, boutique, unusual and different. Original art of all varieties covers every available space - good, bad and ugly - but it strangely seems to work. As you look toward the direction where you head to your room, past a small bank of computers and sitting areas is a large landscape-oriented painting of a topless, reclining woman that looks very much like what you remember hanging over the bar in a saloon from an old Western movie. Things looked a bit differently in the morning and we assured her that it everything was very good!
Here's the deal. Every room is a new adventure. The layout is totally unpredictable along with just about everything else. But, it's all good! our room was spacious, quiet, well-equipped and clean. Wi-fi and TV were good. No complaints. Not 5-star, but it was everything we wanted for a few nice days in San Jose. If you want Four Seasons, go there. If you want fun and different, this is the place.
Breakfast was the next pleasant surprise. Rather than the normal hotel type buffet, this was order what you want. Costa Rica has a unique system of giving you a menu where you take a pencil and check what you want on the menu, a system that was started in the many "sodas" years ago. This is the system employed at breakfast. The menu is not extensive, but you can order eggs, rice and beans (gayo pinto), waffles and other fare. Breakfast was included in our price. The food was great and the service excellent. Food was correctly prepared to order and they were more than accommodating to any requests. One morning they were out of the unqiue Costa Rican version of sour cream (natilla) for the gayo pinto, and the server made sure she picked some up at the store that afternoon to have for us the next morning. It was never a problem for our young friend to join us and no charge for her ever showed up. They made us feel as though we were in a home. It was a very special experience.
Our young friend's father has his office literally right around the corner and we later learned that the hotel is a favorite place for him to come for a beer to relax in the late afternoon. Again, the attitude of the staff, all of them, is to treat you as in your own home. And, they were all just plain fun to be around - very relaxed, eager to please and not the least bit stuffy or grouchy. I am so done with stuffy and grouchy hotel staff!
Another surprise was to hear fairly equal amounts of English and Spanish. We also heard some German. Some were Costa Rican/American families back to visit; some were obviously tourists and others business people who clearly use this hotel often as their base in San Jose. There were also some tourist groups who staged here on the way from or to other parts of their excursion packages. The hotel appears to be friendly for families, singles, or couples as well as the business crowd. Unusual, but it works. We were told that the owners are Americans, but it seems a true piece of eclectic fusion. Kudos! The staff seems very comfortable in both languages. We spoke only Spanish while there because that is natural for us, so I cant' speak for everyone, but I can say for a fact that the front desk people all speak flawless English from what I could overhear.
Bottom line: Casa Roland is a blast! I'll be back in San Jose this August and plan to be back at Casa Roland. Love it!
I hear that rooms to the back tend to be quieter. That's where we were and that's true.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.