This review is of a hotel a little off the beaten path, but with many international students attending the nearby National University of Costa Rica, it may be useful for parents or families dropping off or visiting students, as well as anyone else visiting the area.
Heredia, Costa Rica, known as the “City of Flowers”, has a population of about 123,000 and is located about 6 miles from the capital city of San José. The National University of Costa Rica, as I mentioned, is located here and is one of the largest universities in the country.
Heredia is also a short drive from popular tourist spots like Barva and Poas Volcanoes, and is home to the Herediano Soccer Club. There’s also a new mall, Oxígeno Human Playground, that’s only 5 minutes away by bus. The mall is worth checking out, even if you’re not staying here, for it’s spectacular views of San José and Heredia! To get there by bus, just walk to the park across from the church, take the diagonal path through the middle of the park, and cross the street to the left. The very first bus in line should say “Oxígeno”, and will take you there in about 5 minutes for 220 colones, or about $0.36! See this post for a few pictures of Oxígeno!
Heredia downtown is filled with locals making there way through their daily lives. You won’t see many tourists here or any chain hotels, and other hotel options are pretty scarce, but if you find yourself needing a place to stay, I stumbled upon a hidden gem, The Hotel Hojarascas.
I found myself needing a place for 4 nights that was within walking distance of my friend Ana’s apartment in downtown Heredia. We were setting up a new work project, and a close proximity to her would make things much more convenient.
I did a search online the night before, and there were only about three options worth considering. The one that stood out above the others was actually the closest and the cheapest of the three options. It was the Hotel Hojarascas, a small boutique hotel with only 12 rooms, which ended up being less than a 5 minute walk from Ana’s place.
I ended up booking it for 4 nights for $181 all in. About $45 total per night.
Arrival and Check in:
Check in was at 2pm, so we walked over at about 2:45 to get that done and leave my bag. The hotel entrance is very unassuming on a block of restaurants and clothing stores, and you could very easily walk right by it if you didn’t know to look for it. Directly across the street is a supermarket, Mas X Menos.
When we arrived, and as we started to enter the front door, a man got up from a chair in the very small lobby and greeted me by my first name. He was obviously expecting me. He spoke a little bit of English and was very friendly.
He checked me in, made a copy of my passport, and then showed me to my room. They give you two keys, one is for the secure nighttime entrance near the lobby front door, and the other opens your room.
My room was number 8, which was down the hallway and up the stairs on the second floor. The walkway and stairs were lined with plants, which gave the interior a very warm and outdoorsy feel. The hallway was also very bright during the day with lots of light, due to the transparent roof panels above it.
One thing to be aware of with this hotel, and it could be a pretty significant thing for some, is that even though online, and even in the paperwork inside the room, they claim to “accept all credit cards”, the manager told me that he only accepted cash, and in U.S. dollars. For me that wasn’t a problem because I have a bank account in Costa Rica, and probably not a huge problem for most, but worth noting none the less. He said it was fine if I paid it at the end of my stay, since I don’t carry much cash, and didn’t know I needed cash when I checked in.
The room was very cozy, but didn’t feel too cramped. The bed was a double, and there was a small desk and wardrobe on one side of the room, and a shelf, a small TV, and a fan mounted above a full size mirror next to the door.
The room was very clean and neat, although I did notice some stains on the sheets and the bedspread. The double bed in Room 8 was very hard. I like a little firmness in a mattress, but this one was excessive. The vaulted ceiling made the room feel bigger than it actually was, and although it seemed hot in the room when I checked in in the afternoon, at night it was very pleasant, and I never needed the fan turned on.
The bathroom had very high ceilings and several windows, which helped with the light, since the room was on the interior of the building, and featured a large shower with soap and shampoo mounted in a dispenser on the wall. The sink had a large mirror above it, and also had a soap dispenser next to it on the wall.
The WiFi was free and fairly fast. I had no problem at all with web surfing, or watching high definition videos on Netflix and YouTube at various times each day. I don’t think there were more than a few other guests in the hotel while I was there though, so keep in mind that speeds could be affected by more guests logging on. The WiFi password is provided at check in and is also located in the paperwork that is left in a folder in the room.
The outlets in the room are all 2 prong, so make sure you have a travel adapter if you need to run something with 3, like a laptop. I recommend this one from Amazon that I have used all over the world. I love that it has two usb charging outlets as well.
Also, be aware that it can be fairly noisy in your room. There is a lot of street traffic during the day, and you basically hear everything, even the wind rattling the doors. Here’s a tip to keep the noise down quite a bit – keep your bathroom door closed! At least in the upstairs rooms, there are several windows in the bathroom that are left open for ventilation. One was so high up it would have been difficult to close, so just close the door and you’ll notice a big difference.
There was no refrigerator or coffee maker in the room, but everyone staying at Hotel Hojarascas has access to the kitchen on the 3rd floor. There is a refrigerator there that you are able to keep items in if you’d like, which also has an ice maker if you need ice. Local Britt coffee as well as bananas are provided each morning in the kitchen.
Presumably there is free parking, if you have a car, according to the Hotel Policies sheet in the room. Because it’s a very busy downtown area parking space is scarce. There is a spot directly in front of the hotel marked “Hotel”, but I would expect that to be for the manager or someone checking in. There is also a public parking lot on the opposite corner of the hotel next to the park.
During the day this area of downtown is bustling with people. There are tons of restaurants and clothing stores all around, as well as the central market for fruits and vegetables. There are also several parks nearby, and one in particular almost right next to the hotel, if you want to hang out and people watch. Many of the parks also have free WiFi if you need to connect while you’re out and about.
At night however, it’s a different story. Darkness falls early year round in Costa Rica, as any visitor here knows, and the city shuts down pretty quickly in the evening. With all the businesses closed and most of the people gone, it can seem a little less than safe. If you are out late at night, I would recommend taking an Uber from wherever you are, back to the hotel. This way they can drop you off right at the front door.
Although violent crime is not very common throughout Costa Rica, petty theft is a problem, so try to be discreet if you need to use your phone, or another gadget. Playing with your phone is the best way to attract unwanted attention, so It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Buses are cheap and convenient, but the bus system can be a little tricky to navigate if you aren’t used to it. The train station is just down the street, but the trains and the train system in Costa Rica are not the most up to date, so using that could be an adventure for first timers, as well.
If you need a ride quick, there are usually a long line of taxis in front of the church, and alongside the park that is half a block away from the hotel. Be sure to read my Costa Rica Taxi Guide before you go so you are fully prepared.
Although taxis are abundant around Heredia, in my opinion, Uber is the best alternative, especially for more than one person. Getting around Heredia will only cost you a couple dollars per ride, and to get down to San José should only run you about $10. Just be sure that if you are alone you sit in the front passenger seat, or if you are a group, one of you sits in the front passenger seat. This is because of the ongoing feud between the Uber drivers and the taxi drivers. It’s less conspicuous if you just look like a regular passenger.
This hotel exceeded my expectations. While I was expecting it to feel more like a hostel than a hotel, it really didn’t. It was warm and cozy, and for me the location was extremely convenient. The mattress was a little harder than I like, but it did the job. The cash only payment requirement was a little annoying, but not really a big deal, especially for a relatively small amount of money. The owners were fun to talk to and very helpful. At this price, I’d definitely stay here again if I needed to be in the area.
It’s also worth noting that the Hotel Hojarascas, as you can see in the picture of the front of the building, pretty emphatically advertises rooms for Costa Rican nationals for 15,000 colones, which at the time of this writing is less than $25 per night. That is a great deal for Ticos that might need a room in downtown Heredia!