Often overlooked by travelers on their way to Tamarindo or Tortuguero, San Jose is a Central America jewel with a rich history and a lively nightlife. Much more than a stopover, San Jose is a destination in its own right. That said, some of the city’s best boutique hotels are actually on its outskirts, affording great views of the metropolis from a semi-jungle setting.
We’ve chosen the best boutique and luxury hotels in and around San Jose based on criteria such as aesthetics, location and price. Here are our favorites:
Understated yet hip, Hotel Presidente is located in the middle of San Jose’s very walkable historic center. Exposed brick walls, tastefully rusted steel supporting beams and makeshift tables from old wine barrels compete with neon signs and antique furnishings at this boutique gem. A massive metal spiral staircase takes you up to the rooftop bar for some unbeatable nighttime views of the city. The suites all come with a big bathtub and comfy beds. Best of all, it’s affordable and a great continental breakfast is included.
If you’re looking for a private getaway outside the city center, Hotel Alta Las Palomas is your best bet. Located in the verdant hills to the west of San Jose proper, Alta Las Palomas offers stunning views of the city in a natural setting. The views from the massive outdoor pool combine jungle, sky, city and plenty of refreshingly cool breezes. The contemporary classic design impresses but does not overwhelm, unlike the views from the suite’s balustraded balconies. Located a 30 minute drive from downtown San Jose, it’s best to have a car, but if not, buses run to the city all the time and you can hire a car from the hotel’s front desk.
Inspired by Old World hotels of days gone by, Grano de Oro is a timeless classic. Located just a few blocks from Parque Metropolitano La Sabana, Grano de Oro is close to all the highlights of San Jose’s historic center. The deluxe king suite features an abundance of hardwood funishing and facades as well as a jacuzzi with a tremendous view of the city.
Another hilltop retreat outside the city proper, Posada el Quijote is located a short drive southwest of the city. The view of San Jose from the swimming pool is magical, and the cozy atmosphere will make you feel very much at home. Less of a modern boutique hotel and more of a semi-rural guesthouse, Posada el Quijote is a great place to relax before or after a flight.
Modern, minimalist décor and a great location within walking distance of the US Embassy and a free shuttle to the airport make Isla Verde the hotel of choice for stopover travelers with business with Uncle Sam. Go down Via 104 a ways and you’ll hit Parque Metropolitano La Sabana and all the bustle of San Jose’s downtown. Glass-walled walkways stretch across the hotel’s enfiladed courtyard where guests can relax on one of the many sofas before enjoying a meal at the hotel’s onsite Chinese restaurant.
A jungle oasis just a few blocks away from San Jose’s downtown, Hotel Aranjuez is a ecofriendly lodge featuring five wooden cabins originally built in the ‘30s. The grounds feel like a slice of the Costa Rican jungle despite the hotel’s central location. The Paseo Gastronomico La Luz, a street with more than 20 restaurants and bars, is just a short walk from the hotel. However, you won’t be skipping Aranjuez’s breakfast, which consistently get rave reviews from guests.
Built in the late 19th-century by a French mason, Villa Amon is now a six-bedroom guesthouse capable of accommodating 12 guests at a time in the historic center of San Jose. Villa Amon was used to plan the 1948 Revolution which established the modern democratic state of Costa Rica before hosting the British Embassy in the 1950s. Hardwood floors, granite surfaces and marble columns characterize this charming embassy-cum-guesthouse’s dining and common areas. Two of the six suites come with jacuzzis, and all come with views of the hotel’s garden. If you’re looking for the perfect place for a large family gathering in the heart of San Jose, Villa Amon awaits.