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Reviewed 18 August 2009

We ended our vacation at Pura Vida Hotel. We received a free upgrade to the rainforest casita, which is a nicely decorated, spacious, very clean suite. The grounds are beautiful, breakfast was fresh and delicious, and the hotel is conveniently located about 10 minutes from the airport. We very much enjoyed our short stay at Pura Vida Hotel.

  • Stayed: August 2009, travelled as a couple
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Thank Travelbug22043
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 August 2009

We just returned from a great trip to Costa Rica. Our family (two adults and two kids (11 & 15) spent two nights at Pura Vida. Great breakfasts--the best we had in Costa Rica! Loved the German Shepherds, who were very sweet and loved to play fetch with mangoes and very large logs : ) The gardens were truly beautiful. The Mariposa cabin, with two bedrooms, accomodated our family nicely. Berni was welcoming, even when we showed up early in the morning. All of the staff were very helpful as well, asking us what our plans were and offering to help. Great location -- close to the airport yet very quiet. Highly recommended.

  • Stayed: August 2009, travelled with family
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Thank Travelfamily09
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 August 2009

The Pura Vida Hotel is close to the airport in Alejuela, and less expensive than the Hilton or Holiday Inn, which are even closer to the airport. The rooms here are spacious, clean, and comfortable. My husband and I stayed here to begin our trip to Costa Rica, hoping to spend an afternoon exploring Alejuela with this as our base before heading to the coast. We were disappointed to learn that there's no good place to walk outside of the grounds here, so you must either take a short cab ride or drive (and risk parking downtown). Finding nothing noteworthy to visit downtown, we drove out to Zoo Ave, which is a nice conservation-oriented zoo about 15-20 minutes from the hotel.
The staff is very friendly and helpful, which is nice because they need to be contacted every time you want to enter or leave the hotel grounds. They have a secure gate, and you must ring a bell to be let in and have the staff open the gate if you have a car. The security is nice, but it takes away independence. It would be nice to provide guests with a key as other places on our trip have done.
Bottom line, if you plan on spending most of your time on the hotel grounds and on tours with this as a base, it might be a great choice. If you're looking for a convenient location with easy access to local sights, you might want to stay elsewhere (or avoid Alejuela all together).

  • Stayed: July 2009, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank MM2510
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
alajuelanorth, Manager at Pura Vida Hotel, responded to this reviewResponded 16 August 2009

Our guest seems to have enjoyed the hotel but wanted more to do in the area and simpler access to the hotel.

Regarding our gated compound, we want our guests to know that anyone they meet inside the hotel will be people we have let in, not someone to be concerned about. As this guest kindly noted we don’t mind opening our gates often in order to let guests in or out. Many guests are comforted to know that they, their family and their car are in an enclosed compound.

Now about those local activities. For those not familiar with the neo-tropics, it gets dark by 6pm pretty much all year round on the equator. As a result, Ticos (the local name for locals) tend to be early risers – around 5am and very little happens after 6:00pm. You should be aware that Alajuela, the town closest to us and the Juan Santamaria International Airport is not a tourist destination. It IS a market town with fabulous fruits and veggies but not much in the way of “shopping” or one-hour excursions. There are however many things for people to do in and around the area as long as you don’t try this around 4pm or 5pm as everything is closing up. For example the last tour at the excellent and authentic Doka coffee plantation is at 3:30pm most days. The marvelous Zoo, Zoo Ave, doesn’t recommend arriving after 3:30pm as they close at 5pm. Poas Volcano isn’t worth visiting in the afternoon due to cloud cover but can be spectacular in the early morning.

Lots of this information is available on our web site and we provide the following info to all guests before they arrive. If you’d like to fully experience the neighborhood we are happy to advise.

THINGS TO DO AROUND THE HOTEL:

A Garden Walk: on your own or ask us to show you the varieties of plants, trees and orchids and interesting specimens from our travels around Costa Rica.

Orchid Propagation for Gringo Beginners: you need to give us a few hours notice and we only do this after breakfast. Native orchid types, health, happy environments, division, tree layering and general care in the neo-tropics - includes hands on orchid propagation. We really have no idea what we are doing but it seems to be working when you visit our “orchidarium”.

A School Visit (the school needs a days notice): the guests of the Pura Vida Hotel have built the local elementary school library with donations of thousands of books and many teaching aids like flash cards, kindergarten learning toys, etc.
Note: some airlines allow each person to check in 2 bags of 50 pounds each at no extra charge for international flights. If one of these is "an old duffel bag with school books, supplies, an old laptop, kids DVD's, reference materials, etc" you will be helping 380 children at a local primary school build a library that does not exist in most schools here.

THINGS TO DO IF YOU HAVE 1/2 A DAY:

Zoo Ave (15 minutes from the hotel) in nearby La Garita: not just a Zoo, but a place where animals go for rehab, one of the nicest zoos on the planet - the largest breed and release location in central and south America

Butterflies and Coffee - this is a favorite day trip: one of our guides, Alexis, has his own butterfly farm about 30 minutes from the hotel. He also happens to be a local coffee and flora expert; an educational day

La Guacima Butterfly Farm (15 minutes from the hotel): make sure it is a sunny day or the butterflies will be shy

Poas Volcano and/OR La Paz Waterfall Gardens (45 minutes from the hotel): leave early by 8am for best viewing. If you go by private van we can shift the itinerary if the volcano is clouded over that day.
NOTE: La Paz Waterfall Gardens was damaged after the January 2009 earthquake and is now partially open.

Downtown Alajuela (5 or 10 minutes from the hotel): the old museum, the cathedral, the new Juan Santamaria square, the Mercado Central (a typical “experience” in most of Latin America) and on Fridays and Saturdays, the farmers market.

Alajuela Farmers Market: Plaza Ferias on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning is the biggest and most interesting farmers market in Costa Rica. It offers an amazing selection of Central American produce and friendly farmers. Visit on your own (10 minutes from the hotel) or book the "foodies market tour" at 2:30pm Friday (advance booking with the hotel)

InBioParque (35 minutes from the hotel): this repository of Costa Rica’s biodiversity is also an educational visit contrasting the structure and preservation of the tropical dry forests, the rain forests, etc.

Grecia, Sarchi & Zarcero (starts 30 minutes from the hotel): wood crafts, souvenirs shopping and memorable photos. Sarchi is home of the painted ox cart; also try the little visited and very nice Elsie Kintzler gardens behind Sarchi (a rare find). You might even meet the local “Edward Scissorhands” working on the topiaries at the church plaza in Zarcero!

San Jose: 1/2 day city tour of museums, city walk, etc. We like the Gold Museum (world class), also visit the best indigenous art at the NAMU gallery and the newly worked on National Museum, the old Bella Vista Fort.

Coffee Tour: pilgrimage to Doka coffee just up the hill from us (20 minutes from the hotel). This is the tour of vintage coffee processing using the water separation method for the coffee aficionados.

Ark Herb Farm: being cooks this is one of our favorite places locally (Heredia area). It offers acres of medicinal plants and interesting herbs, unique trees and produce.

THINGS TO DO IF YOU HAVE 1 DAY:

The Costa Rica History Tour: our well respected, smart English speaking guide will take you to parts of Costa Rica now lost or soon to be lost, but now found by you - read his reviews here on TripAdvisor: search for Sterling, Pura Vida Hotel.

Poas Volcano AND La Paz Waterfall Gardens: on a clear day, maybe add the local canopy tour at Las Colinas after an excellent trout lunch from their own trout ponds.

Irazu Volcano, Cartago ruins and Cathedral, Orosi valley and/or Lankaster Gardens: an excellent day trip, our favorite is the orchid season in the spring. There is so much to do in this Southeast side of San Jose that you may end up doing 2 day trips to include the delightful Cachi Lake restaurant, the sugar fields of Juan Vinas, the pre-Colombian ruins at Guayabo, and the newly erupting Turialba Volcano.

4 in 1 Tour: good intro for first timers to Costa Rica, but currently not advised due to earthquake damage to the north of Alajuela and San Jose making part of this tour inaccessible.

White Water Rafting Class III or IV on the Sarapiqui or Pacuare rivers by tour operator: departs around 5:30am and returns to Alajuela around 5 or 6pm before dinner.

Tortuguero/Turtle nesting: wildlife viewing boat tours on river canals visit to the Tortuguero National Park. Night walks on beach during turtle nesting season which is July to October. This is a very long day or overnight trip - departs around 5:45am from the hotel.

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Reviewed 10 August 2009

My wife and I stayed at the Pura Vida on the last two nights of our honeymoon. As we had extended our stay in Costa Rica this hotel was a last minute decision. Fortunately for us it was the middle of the week during the low season and they still had a room available. The entire staff at Pura Vida provided the best service of any hotel I have been to. Just a few examples, we had to leave at 5:15 AM in time to return our rental and catch our flight, Bernie met us in the dining area and had a to go breakfast already prepared for us. Also the previous morning, after asking our plans for the day, Bernie, without being asked, called the Poas volcano park to get an update on the conditions at the top of the mountain. The rooms were excellent, a very good value and the food was wonderful. Its location 4 km from the airport, makes it a perfect place to stay at the beginning and end of any trip to Costa Rica.

  • Stayed: August 2009, travelled as a couple
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Thank psurpcv
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 August 2009

The hotel is located in a nearby neighborhood which I did not think was going to be so safe, but they have private parking and a gate. The bungalows were nice and confortable. The staff was very friendly. The breakfast that was included was delicious and just enough to get us started. It was located close to the airport which helped if you wanted to stay close by the first night or even your last night in Costa Rica. The only downfall was that it was a very noisy night. The cars and motorcycles going by at night were loud. Also there were a lot of barking dogs throughout the night and morning. Besides that it was a nice place to stay for our last night in Costa Rica. It was perfect for getting to the airport.

  • Stayed: August 2009, travelled as a couple
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Thank hope2678
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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