THE Orquídeas Inn in Alajuela sits righton the border of two facets of Costa Rica –down the road lies the traffic woes and hustle bustleof the ever-developing capital city, upthe road features the tranquility of the traditionalcoffee and sugarcane fields.Sitting at the rectangular-shaped pool, thejuxtaposition of the hotel’s location becomesclear: One can hear the resident toucans’squak as well as the occasionalrumbling engines ofcars passing just outside theentrance gate.Time and time again, thehotel has been described asan “oasis” by guests throughnumerous letters, e-mailsand the guest book.And it is. Just 10 minutesfrom the airport, thehotel is everything San Joséis not. The hotel is calm andfriendly. It even smellsgood. The air is fresh andfull of flowers, not smog.It’s surrounded by nature,something newcomersexpect but don’t necessarilyfind in the city.“WHY waste your firstand last day of vacation?”said new owner GaryStubbs. “We find most people who come toCosta Rica on vacation come for Costa Rica,not San José.”The hotel is perfect for weary travelersjust arriving from long flights at the airport –not quite ready to continue their travelsexploring the country.It also serves as a good home base fortravelers booked for day trips around theCentral Valley and is a great option for thosewho have come to Costa Rica for nature, nottypical city life.For those who haven’t made travelarrangements prior to arriving, a tour company,Aventuras Turísticas Zamar, is located inthe bright purple-and-red lobby to help coordinatevarious day trips. For those who wantto plan trips themselves, tour owner WadyZamar has no problem dishing out free adviceand drawing maps for guests not using hisservices.STUBBS, the 53-year-old pony-tailedand bespectacled hotel owner, has been in thehotel business for about 30 years and heknows how to treat his guests. Although fromthe United States, he is as talkative andfriendly as a Tico and gives better traveladvice than a guidebook.Stubbs, once a regular guest of the inn,bought the hotel in 2003along with the propertynext door, which now housesthe hotel’s luxury roomsand massage therapist.All the woodwork –floors, doors, furniture – isCosta Rican artistry as wellas the painted teal bambooheadboards.Originally, the hotelwas a home for an elderlycouple. People beganknocking on their doorasking for a place to stay,since there were fewplaces in the outskirts ofAlajuela, and they eventuallyturned their home intoa hotel.The Orquídeas Inn is inthe middle of remodeling –repainting rooms, addingplants and clearing walking trails throughoutthe 10-acre property, which is host tobanana, avocado, lime, orange and mangotrees along with a wealth of non-edibleplants.AMONG the new features is a fabulousrestaurant. The food is presented like a workof art on banana leaves. Fried plantain chipsform curly Qs and sprigs of rosemary looklike evergreen trees. The tilapia is great.They also have newly added vegetarianoptions.The restaurant, located directly abovethe Marilyn Monroe bar, overlooks the pooland diners can see Irazú Volcano on a clearday.Poás and Barva volcanoes are also visible from other points of the property.With excellent food and a friendly staff it is easy to see why thebrightly colored hotel has a litany of repeat customers.With the exception of the restaurant crew, almost all the staff hasbeen with the hotel since its inception in October and they are wellliked. Even Edwin Sandoval, one of the newer staff members,receives thank-you mail and packages from former guests.“People work really hard so they can save money and take theirvacations,” Sandoval said. “I just want to make sure they have agreat vacation.”One guest loved the popular Marilyn Monroe bar so much, herequested to stay there forever.About eight years ago, Richard, a frequent guest, asked that hisashes be kept in the popular Marilyn Monroe bar. Richard was anairline pilot who traveled worldwide and Marilyn’s was his favoritebar through his travels.“The last time he was here he was very sick with cancer,” saidErich Barrantes, the hotel’s manager. “He said, ‘If I die, would youlet me stay here?’ and of course I said ‘sure.’ I thought it was a jokebut he died here and his son said he knew his dad would want to stayhere forever.”GETTING THERE: The hotel is 5 km west of the Alajuelacemetery and is clearly marked. Buses from San José leave forAlajuela every 5-10 minutes from the Tuasa bus station. Or, call thehotel at 433-9346 to arrange pick up from the airport.For the rainy season, room prices range from $45 for a standardroom to $120 for a mountain-view suite or the geodesic dome whichsleeps up to five.For more info, call 433-9346 or e-mail email@example.com.
Today in Costa Rica