When you live in Costa Rica the general assumption is that you spend all of your time lounging near beaches and traipsing through the forest. But for those of us with business in San José, long stretches of time can pass where the only jungle we find ourselves in is one of the urban variety. Planning a weekend escape can be complicated with a limited time and budget, and trips to the nearby beach towns of Jacó or Playa Hermosa can get old.
But for a quick get away, San José residents need to look no further than their own backyard in the less developed parts of the often ignored Central Valley. So one weekend, I took a short hour car ride out of the city to the mountains outside of Cartago to stay in a cabin in the woods at the Hotel Quelitales.
Quelitales has all the makings of a convenient weekend getaway. First, the location is perfect. Only an hour and a half outside of San José, Quelitales is just outside the beautiful Orosi Valley, arguably the most beautiful valley in all of Costa Rica. Quelitales is also dog-friendly, something that is surprisingly difficult to find outside of beach towns. I was assured by the receptionist that my slightly insane puppy would feel right at home on the property’s hiking trails. Finally, Quelitales was affordable. At $95 a night, the hotel sat well above hostel rates, but was reasonable for someone splurging on a weekend away.
Though best attempted in a 4×4, the drive to Quelitales was far from the most harrowing I’d had in Costa Rica. From San José you cruise the paved Panamerican Highway for nearly the whole drive, not hitting gravel until the very end. We arrived just after dark, greeted by an enthusiastic receptionist and a short man in a chef’s hat. The chef-hat man turned out to be José Alvarez, the owner and, ostensibly, the head cook. José’s soft suggestions and constant smiling was undeniably welcoming and his food was killer.
Most of the food on Quelitales’ menu is farmed onsite, and while the pastas and steaks seemed appetizing enough, the restaurant specializes in freshly farmed trout. An entire page is dedicated to trout cooked any which way. Whether infused with herbs, covered in vegetables or stuffed with shrimp it is all delicious, but as impressed as I was with the food it paled in comparison to the hotel grounds.
Quelitales’ website boldly promises that it is “the best romantic hotel in Cartago,” and for a certain type of person, it absolutely is. Secluded, surrounded by trails and covered in flowers, Quelitales is the sort of place that inspires you to stand outside, breath in deep and sigh a lot. Each of the hotel’s private cabins come with a view and a private outdoor area. But though the accommodations are cozy, the often creaky cabins aren’t 5-star. Those looking for a more luxurious experience should try a beach resort.
The hotel has six unique accommodations. We stayed in the Las Tangaras bungalow, which featured a small sitting area, spacious bathroom and a bedroom with a picture window overlooking the forest. The suites, at $142 a night are larger, featuring balconies and one, an outdoor shower. Close by, nature buffs can visit the river hiking trails of Tapantí National Park or hit up the famed rock climbing in Cachí, but we stuck around Quelitales.
The view from our window was enough to make you want to lay in bed all day, but we managed to get out to explore the hiking trails, swim in the on-site waterfall and stand on the mountain side staring at nature. Overall, Hotel Quelitales made the perfect weekend getaway.
Going there: Hotel Quelitales is located in Cachí, Cartago. Standard bungalows cost $95 a night while suites cost $145. You can book a room and find more information at their website.