From the second floor of Montaña Linda’s guesthouse, the town of Orosi is visible. All of it.
The scene is quiet, tranquil and relaxed, helped by the breezes caressing the OrosiValley, a coffee-producing region east of the capital.
And that’s what the owners of Montaña Linda (“BeautifulMountain”), with its guesthouse, hostel and Spanish school, want their guests to experience: the small-town, friendly feeling of Orosi.
People from Orosi “still see tourism as the joy of meeting people,” said Canadian Sara Verkuijlen, who along with her Dutch husband Toine bought the complex and then expanded it more than 10 years ago.
When the Verkuijlens bought Montaña Linda, it was just a youth hostel and a Spanish school that was “not taken seriously,” Verkuijlen said.
Now, the facility has three different buildings: a guesthouse with six rooms (two are for families), a hostel with 11 rooms (three are dorms), a restaurant and a school with eight classrooms.
Moreover, the Spanish school has blossomed into a community effort. Students have the option to volunteer teaching English classes free to the Orosi community; in return, they get a 10% discount on their costs at Montaña Linda.
Orosi, with a population of about 9,000, is a 40-minute bus ride from Cartago, east of San José. Tucked at the edge of town, Montaña Linda provides an escape from the busy capital or the more populated tourist spots in Costa Rica.
Although Montaña Linda has no stated philosophy, Verkuijlen said they want their guests to experience a genuine connection with the townsfolk, and the complex itself to avoid tainting the town’s feeling.
When they first talked about moving to Orosi, the Verkuijlens considered, then quickly rejected, the idea of opening an Internet café, because the town already had one.
“There is no big mission,” Verkuijlen said. “The underlying theme, it’s been whatever we do. It’s not going to have a negative connotation on the town or affect the culture, the Tico culture.”
Affordability might also be a theme here; rooms in the guesthouse cost about $25 a night, including a private bathroom.
At the hostel, located two blocks from the school and guesthouse, dorms go for $6.50 a night, while private rooms cost $10.50 and a single room for two people is $17. The hostel has four shared bathrooms.
Camping is also available on the hostel’s tiny grass patio in the back; the cost is $3 a night with your own equipment or $4 if you need to rent.
Both the hostel and guesthouse have kitchens; in the hostel, kitchen use carries a $1 fee. Montaña Linda’s restaurant doesn’t have a set schedule (depends on number of guests), but usually it serves only breakfast and lunch. Meal prices range from ¢1,000 to ¢1,600 (about $2-3).
Rooms don’t have air conditioning, making them warm on a sunny day, but a fan can be included.Nights in Orosi are usually cool, Verkuijlen said, and people go out to explore during the day.
The guesthouse has a communal lounging area complete with a wide variety of books, tourist information and a dining table. A varied assortment of fossils serves as decoration.
The hostel features seven tables for guest use in the open-air lounging area, as well as a little garden in the middle of the complex.
It’s a pleasant place, decorated by earth colors, driftwood and stumps. Next to it, there’s an empty lot with chickens pecking around.
Three cats roam between the hostel and the Verkuijlens’ home, just behind it.
Packages including classes and lodging are available. Choices are varied, with options on the number of classes and place of accommodation. Prices range from $85 for four classes, five nights and tent accommodations to $1,035 for 20 classes and 27 nights in a room in the guesthouse.
Airport pickup and drop-off is available for an extra charge. Moreover, the driver who works for Montaña Linda will take guests to any part of the country, said manager Rafael Muñoz.
He added that organized tours to nearby Cartago, Irazú Volcano, waterfalls and TapantíNational Park are available for $15.
A tourism information center and a small store next to the restaurant provide information on a myriad of attractions and places to stay, and Montaña Linda has compiled a guidebook for the OrosiValley to help visiting tourists get around.
In all, the options are varied for anyone staying at Montaña Linda and the town of Orosi.
“People come here to escape the noise in San José,”Muñoz said. “It’s a quiet town.”
Montaña Linda is 250 meters west of La Primavera bar in Orosi. Buses leave about every 30 minutes from Cartago, 200 meters east and 125 m south of the Municipality. Tickets cost ¢315 ($0.60) and the ride takes about 40 minutes. Once in Orosi, from the SportsPlaza go 300 meters south, then 100 meters west.
For info, call 533-3640, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.montanalinda.com.