I needed to be in Costa Rica for a couple of weeks to set up a new work project, and I preferred a location near the airport, since it’s a quick Uber ride to Heredia downtown, where my friend Ana lives.
I was going to stay a few days right in Heredia, but for the other days I was looking to keep my costs down, and use hotel points. You can see my review of the small Heredia downtown hotel I ended up staying at here.
My plans change a lot and I tend to book last minute, so I ended up booking 5 nights at The Doubletree Hilton Hotel Cariari San Jose – Costa Rica, since Silver, Gold, and Diamond members using Hilton Honors points can get the 5th night free. The lowest cash rate was for two double beds and was $173 + tax, but the points rate was 30,000 points per night. Using the fifth night free benefit, it cost me a total of 120,000 points, or 24,000 per night. This was by far the best points redemption I could find around the airport on short notice.
To put the redemption in perspective, the cash cost for those five nights, including tax was $980.05. But check this out – Hilton actually sells Hilton Honors points, and usually a couple of times a year they have a sale where you can buy them for half a cent each (.005). That means that you could buy these same 120,000 points during one of these sales for $600. If you didn’t have enough Hilton Honors points from other sources, buying and using points in this case would have saved you about 40% off the lowest cash rate! Crazy, I know!
It’s important to note up front that the location of this hotel is ideal for your arrival to, or departure from, Costa Rica, or if you are spending a couple of days in San José (I don’t recommend more than a couple days in San José), or if you are in Costa Rica for work. If you are here for pleasure, your final destination should be Manuel Antonio, or Guanacaste, or La Fortuna etc., not Cariari, but please read on if you need help deciding on a hotel near the airport or San José.
Hotel check in was 2pm, and I arrived to check in about 7pm. I love the open air lobby at this Doubletree. It has tons of character and feels more like a resort in the mountains of Costa Rica, than an airport hotel near the city.
The front desk agent gave me a Doubletree chocolate chip cookie, made a copy of my passport, thanked me for being a loyal Diamond member, and explained the Diamond benefits to me. The only real benefits that mattered to me were the Executive Lounge Access and the complimentary breakfast.
I was assigned room number 2083, which was a very long walk from the lobby, but when I got there I realized there is one other Diamond benefit I care about, and that is a nice upgrade. I had stayed here earlier this week, and although the room was nice, it was nothing special. It actually felt kind of dark and cold!
Room 2083, on the other hand, was actually awesome! The wonderful front desk agent had upgraded me to a pool view room, with a big beautiful balcony! I had booked a room with two double beds since that was the lowest rate, and that’s what I got, but the room was very big, more private than the last room I had, and featured a large balcony and what had to be one of the best views of the very nice pool area.
There was about a six foot walkway with 2 closets to the right as you walk in the room, and then the door to the bathroom just past the 2nd closet. The small closet had a safe, an ironing board and an iron. After that there was a large archway, and the room opened up nicely into a very large space.
The floor was a Spanish style tile, which I actually found pretty nice. You may want to keep a pair of sandals handy though, since the floor can be cold and hard. There was one pair of slippers on the shelf under the nightstand, but they were pretty small.
There were 2 double beds on the right side of the room, with a nightstand separating them. I love the mattresses in other Doubletrees I’ve stayed at and these were the same. I was able to sleep very well.
On the left side walking into the living area was a long dresser, and a nice sized desk if you need to do some work, with a mirror mounted above it. The TV was mounted above the long dresser.
One thing that annoys me about this hotel, is that they don’t include small refrigerators in the rooms. At least not the 2 rooms I have been in this week. I inquired about getting a small fridge put in my room last week, and the front desk agent informed me that, yes they could bring me one, but it would cost me $10 per day. I said “no, thanks”, since the ice machine was close enough.
At the back of the room was a large window with a beautiful view out to the pool and restaurant area, and to the right of that, a tall door leading to the main feature of this room, the balcony!
The balcony was very large and had a couple of patio chairs out there for relaxing. The main draw was the view. This particular room had a clear view of almost the whole pool, and past that the poolside restaurant, whereas it looked like many of the other balconies had obstructed views because of the palm trees in front of them.
The bathroom was a comfortable size with a standard size tub/ shower combo, and nice Crabtree & Evelyn bath soaps and lotions. There was also a hair dryer in a bag near the sink for those of you with hair.
Wifi is free and pretty fast at The Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Cariari – San Jose. I had no trouble at all with surfing the web or doing work online.
There were 2 complimentary bottles of water in the room, as well as an espresso machine with an assortment of flavors from the famous Costa Rican coffee company Britt. It’s worth noting that the room I had at this same hotel the week before had coffee in the room, and this one had espresso. I’m not a coffee drinker, so I’m not sure why that is, but you may be able to switch out for one or the other, if you have a preference.
Las Tejas is the poolside restaurant. I ate there a couple of times, and found it to be quite good. Can’t beat the pleasant atmosphere, the staff were very friendly, and the food was also very good. Prices were fairly high, but not bad for a hotel restaurant. I had the DT Burger with fries one day, which was delicious, and it was 8,500 colones, so about $14. The pasta was also very good, and rang in at 7,000 colones, or about $11.60.
The pool area is very nice at this hotel. There aren’t a huge amount of chairs around the pool however, which can be a problem during the afternoon.
The fitness room was well stocked with equipment. There are signs everywhere pointing towards a gym, but it was a little tricky to find the first time. Since the hotel is in a “U” shape, and is very large, the hallways can be quite long, but if you’re going to workout anyway, you’ve already started your workout.
There is a Concierge Desk in the lobby near the checking desk for help with booking excursions, and there is also a casino onsite, next to the Las Tejas restaurant, if you feel lucky.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, this hotel is not a destination hotel. It’s more of an airport and business hotel. There are very few places that are walkable from here. The main exceptions are the Hard Rock Cafe, just about a 10 minute walk, the Real Cariari mall across the highway, and a few restaurants and a small market along the same street as the hotel. There is also a golf course (Cariari Country Club) behind the hotel and a bowling alley (Bol Cariari) just across the highway that’s always good fun.
I’ve seen rates at this hotel over $200 per night. I think that is way too much, but 30k points per night can be a value if you have Hilton Honors points, especially if the 5th night is free. Because of the current sale Hilton is having on their points, you should never pay more than $150 all in for this hotel, if there is standard room award availability.
I actually like the design and feel of this hotel very much. There are only two floors, so no elevators (at least none that I saw), and the walkways in some areas are beautifully designed.
Service and amenities were excellent, and the location for me was convenient, but be aware that you will need transportation to anywhere important.