Costa Rica: Orquiedas Inn, Alajuela

costa rica - orqueidas.jpgBecause you will be forced to stay in San Jose (see above) upon your arrival in Costa Rica, I will recommend the Orqueidas Inn as a solid introduction to your Central American experience.

A couple of preliminary notes. First, it is not close to the airport. It’s not far, but it is at least twenty minutes out of town, forty, if, like us, you rented a car and are going to by two hand-drawn maps to get there. If you’re used to rolling out of the Hyatt and onto the moving sidewalk into the terminal, this place is not for you. If, however, you’d like to get a taste of the rainforest right away, Orqueidas Inn is a sturdy bet.

Second, you must be tenacious to secure a room here. While they are listed on Hotels.com, the site will show no room availability even when there is availability. This would seem counter-productive for them but I choose to think of it as a filtering method they employ to secure only the most competitive and determined lodgers, such as myself.

They also have a web site. Before ascertaining whether there is a room for you, you will be asked to submit a credit card on a non-secure form. You will send them the form without your credit card number, web-savvy and safety-conscious as you are, and substitute a note explaining your discomfort. They do not care about your feelings and you will receive no reply. It turns out that you will also receive no reply if you do include your credit card, so don’t be hurt but press on. After you send them two or three emails and make four phone calls, only one of which will be picked up, you may have yourself a deal. This is a good introduction for you to Costa Rican service and road maintenance. There is no ill will and the neglect is not intentional, but only those with patience will be rewarded.

The Orqueidas has a bar and restaurant (get the coconut shrimp) which serve until 10PM, gated parking (essential in Costa Rica’s cities), rooms with air conditioning and hot showers (something which, if not specified, may not be the case), a serviceable pool and almost American prices. Don’t expect to get Central American deals here, but you can get a room for $75 or a little more and it will look out on jungle trees and make you feel like you’re already in the jungle. The staff is exclusively male and talkative. They’ll set up tours for you if you like and you can catch a van to just about anywhere in the country from here. Just ask at the desk or when you finally get someone on the phone to make your reservation.

Do NOT try the house drink, the Marilyn Kiss, which is a vile mix of Cointreau, grenadine and some terrible, low-grade gasoline mixed in a martini glass laced with salt. Go for the caipirinha, a typical Costa Rican drink made of smashed bits of lime, sugar cane and whatever else they had lying around. It’s like a dark mojito and is very tasty. Their margaritas are also good: I usually hate them but ordered one by accident and enjoyed it.

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