Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful destinations on earth. The people are friendly, the landscape is beautiful, and the food is tasty. But just like every beautiful place, there's always a hub that feeds the whole country. That's what I think of San Jose.
We arrived in San Jose after an early morning wake up call at 2:30am in Boston, hopped on a plane, sprinted through the Atlanta airport to catch our connecting flight which we barely made, stood in customs for over an hour, and then finally collapsed in a taxi to take us to our hotel. In the rainy season (May through November/December), Sansa flights to our destination only run in the mornings and at noon. Most international flights don't arrive until at least 1:30pm, which means staying a night in San Jose was our only choice unless we want to drive (which we definitely don't).
So if you're like us and you have to stay a night or two in San Jose, I highly recommend Hotel Aranjuez.
Although your taxi fare will be between $30 and $40, it's worth it. Tucked into the city, it has kept it's same charm from when it was built in the 1930's, with dense jungle surrounding you and located on a quiet dead end street.
Our room was clean, with high ceilings and very open and airy. The bed was incredibly comfortable and they even had a little shop to buy provisions. There is beautiful art on every wall, and lush greenery everywhere you turn.
After checking in, we went to the front desk to inquire about a place to grab a much needed meal. Standing there at the desk was another woman, who very quickly became our new friend, who also happened to be friends with someone we knew!
This world is small folks.
We ended up sharing a meal with her at a little vegetarian restaurant down the street, just around the corner from the hospital nearby, called Coma Verde. The menu was full of fresh, healthy foods, and the gentleman running the place was so friendly. We felt like we were having a home cooked meal.
There are plenty of other restaurants around if you don't want vegetarian that you can find on TripAdvisor or a simple Google search, or I recommend asking the front desk for recommendations.
By the time we finished our meal, it was dark and I was starting to see double from being so tired. We slept a solid 10 hours that night!
Hotel Aranjuez is known for their breakfast and is the most talked about point for reviewers on TripAdvisor and Booking.com, and they were right, the breakfast the next morning was magnifico!
We sat under a canopy of trees as we ate our breakfast, sipping on the most delicious coffee and watching the little squirrels and birds try to make a meal out of the crumbs we left behind. And although we could hear the sounds of the city around us, we felt like we were in the middle of the jungle with all the lush greenery surrounding us.
After breakfast, we packed our things, called our cab driver from the day before, and off we went back to the Sansa airport. Sansa is one of two regional airlines that takes you to the many different and beautiful places in Costa Rica. We were flying to Golfito, in the southwest Pacific corner of the country, as far away from civilization as possible. The flight is about $80 one way, and the route takes you over the mountains and jungle and then along the coast - a must if you can swing it.
So the next time you find yourself in San Jose for the night, forget the more known Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, and instead opt for a little more local flair - you won't regret it.