The Central Valley is full of party hostels to choose from. Cheap aluminum- framed bunks are loaded into rooms decorated with Spartan inspiration to avoid the mess that comes with the latenight rowdiness often associated with the backpacker crowd.
For those seeking a more laid-back, comfortable atmosphere, Casa Ridgway may be a more appealing option.
The hostel is half a block from the Justice Tribunals in downtown San José, just a few minutes’ walk from the National Museum, Plaza de la Democracia and soon-to-berelocated artisans’ market (TT, Aug. 14), and the pedestrian stretch of Avenida Central.
The exterior is bright and attractive, with a small, well-kept garden contained by a short outer wall. Inside, the atmosphere has the air of a bed-and-breakfast, with a quiet sitting room leading up to the reception area. The building is flush with wooden trim and furniture, and the floor is covered in beautiful tiles.
According to Isabel Macdonald, coordinator of the FriendsPeaceCenter, which operates Casa Ridgway, the hostel is a refuge of quiet and comfort.
“We try to really enforce the quiet hours,” Macdonald said. “It’s not a party hostel. No drinking, no smoking.”
A variety of rooms is offered, from a private room with a bathroom to dormitories. Many of the rooms are themed with the pictures and words of famous peace advocates, such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
And, especially in light of the economic crunch, the hostel provides nice, cheap lodging for those looking to cut back on hotel expenses so they can still enjoy the abundance of beautiful tours offered in the country, Macdonald said.
In addition, it supplies travelers with a place to intermingle and get an understanding of what is going on in Costa Rica and Central America. The center hosts regional discussions, and many of the speakers stay at the hostel – but even those just passing through tend to interact.
“It’s an opportunity to meet other Costa Ricans, which isn’t really common at hostels here,” Macdonald said. “We are very encouraging that, when you stay at Casa Ridgway, you get to know about the history of Casa Ridgway and the movement.”
The FriendsPeaceCenter was founded by a group of Costa Ricans and Quakers from the United States in 1983, in reaction to the violence that was consuming Central America at the time. Casa Ridgway was set up as a means of financing the center years later and is fundamental to its operations, Macdonald said.
The shared library – with books in multiple languages – is one example of the social awareness so ingrained in the building. A world of information, spanning everything from pacifism and human rights to history and literature, sits at a visitor’s fingertips.
Additionally, the hostel’s common areas offer wireless Internet access, and kitchen facilities are available for guest use.
Casa Ridgway is directly west of the Justice Tribunals, on a dead end street off Calle 15 between Avenidas 6 and 8, around the corner from The Tico Times’ office.
Rates are $14 per person in the dormitories and $19 per person in a private room with shared bath. A private room with private bath costs $22 single or $34 double. For information, call 2233-2693 or 2222-1400, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.amigosparalapaz.org.