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“From chaos to Paradise in 23 hours”
Review of Pura Vida Hotel

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Pura Vida Hotel
Ranked #1 of 61 Alajuela B&B and Inns
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 8 September 2009

We arrived after a long grueling flight and immediately began to relax. The rooms are so serene and beatuifully decorated that the stress rolls off. A comfortable bed and then a wake up to the birds outside and coffee in the room.
Walking outside the tropical gardens are spectacular and it's hard to believe you are only 5 minutes from the airport.
Breakfast awaits and is gorgeous.
Best of all? Your hosts, Berni and Nhi. Nhi is a gourmet chef and Berni is the ultimate guide and walking history book about Costa Rica. They both have a delicious sense of humour.
I totally recommend you do as we did....stay there the night before your flight, and again when you return. Nowhere compares

  • Stayed: August 2009, travelled as a couple
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Thank HappyCostaRica
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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570 - 576 of 767 reviews

Reviewed 4 September 2009

Stayed in the beautiful Katydid casita for first 2 nights of our Costa Rica holiday after full day of travel from UK via Madrid. We chose Pura Vida for the location - so close to the airport and therefore somewhere to recharge the batteries and get acclimatised. The whole family (children 14, 10 and 10) loved it - beautiful birds and plants in the garden, wonderful breakfasts and hosts with a wealth of knowledge about and commitment to the surrounding area. For anyone arriving or departing from San Jose airport this is a perfect stopping off point.

We visited the local school where guests' donations are really helping to make a difference to the kids' educational opportunities. We also took a trip to Zoo Ave - well-run and well-intentioned with lots for the kids to see. They should publicise their conservation work more (which is the main purpose of the place). Berni's recommendations are spot-on so do take time to talk to him and consider what things you would like to do in the area.

  • Stayed: July 2009, travelled with family
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Thank devizes64
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 September 2009

It was a hard decision to post this review, but after much thought and time...... our opinion of Pura Vida Hotel has not changed. We loved our stay in Costa Rica, but things didn't start out so good when we stayed at the Pura Vida compound.
My husband and I could live with the fact that our room was small, outdated, had a few bugs and a constant stream of barking and traffic noise which kept us up all night long. We could also understand the fact that Berni's wife was not "in the mood" for cooking dinner for us the night we were there. OK we understand, no big deal, stuff happens. However........What we could NOT get over was how unwelcomed we felt in Berni's presence. Geez...Berni, would it kill you to say Buenas Dias in the morning when you ignored us at breakfast or at any other point during our entire stay there? I dont get it ,he even makes a point of writing a book about how problematic and difficult it was starting a business there. Poor Berni, maybe the Tico's felt the same way we did when they were interacting with you.

We LOVED Costa Rica and this is truly the only BAD experience we had when picking a place to stay on Trip Advisor. Id also like to mention that the local schools appreciated the books we donated to them and I encourage other travelers to do the same. A little effort goes along way. God Bless!

  • Stayed: March 2008, travelled as a couple
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5  Thank happytrails2uall
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 6 October 2009

As Innkeepers, however hard we work to ensure a perfect stay for all our guests, there are guests who won’t be satisfied whatever we do. Based on the guests’ description of the room, they must have stayed in the Mariposa Casita which has the following description: Our un-remodeled ‘little Casita’ at the bottom of the garden, 2 bedrooms with 2 double beds, 2 bathrooms, living room, mini fridge, coffee maker, safe and ceiling fans - sleeps 2 to 4. View from room: Mostly viewless. This accurate description of the Mariposa Casita is the only Casita in the original condition as when we arrived (though we keep it spotless and freshly painted). It comprises of two small bedrooms, each with its own small bathroom; offered at a great price and as such, many families on a budget love it (as reviewed by those who have stayed in it.) These guests also complain about noise although the Mariposa Casita is the furthest from the road. The Pura Vida Hotel is located on the road to the village of Tuetal 2km north of the major city of Alajuela, hence some nights there is traffic. As other reviewers have also noted, the hotel provides earplugs in the rooms for light-sleepers.

These guests implied that we were not in the mood to make dinner for them. We cook for the love of great food and the availability of fresh ingredients, not according to “mood”. The Pura Vida Hotel does not have a public restaurant so we prepare dinners with advance reservations only. Every guest is informed about the fact that we buy what we cook each night, therefore we need advance reservations if they want dinner. We also confirm such dinner reservations with each guest ahead of their arrival. Our other guest reviews can speak for themselves about our dinner service and restaurant experience.

As owners of the hotel, we live on site and interact with our guests on a daily basis. Breakfast time is usually spent chatting with guests on their itineraries, recommending hotels and attractions along their way, rental car deliveries and hooking them up with English-speaking drivers for their private van tours. We make special efforts to help get our guests (often new to Costa Rica) off on a good footing with an excellent breakfast and lots of useful traveling or cultural information if they need it and if they ask for it. It’s pretty difficult to miss a guest on site in a small hotel and we generally have more staff than rooms so we don’t really know why these guests felt ignored that day.

The so-called book referred to by this reviewer is a compilation (some laminated sheets in a binder) of humorous true stories of when we first took over the Pura Vida Hotel, and examines the cross-cultural differences that two clueless gringos experience in a new country. Hmmm… most guests find the stories amusing. We don’t understand the Tico comment but our staff is 100% Tico and has been with us for years. The staff member with the longest length of employment is a young man who has been with us since day one of our operation and seven years prior to that with the former owner of the hotel.

At last, the positive comment from this reviewer mentions that local schools appreciated the books they donated and they encourage other travelers to do the same. This school book donation program was started the day we arrived in Costa Rica as our way to “give back to the community we live in” and to involve our guests more with the village kids, teachers and parents. Many guests enjoy that experience and a week hardly ever goes by without a visit to the school where guests can see how things like this work in a developing country. We are currently working with two schools, one in our village of Tuetal, and the other in Poasito, which was heavily damaged in the January 8, 2009 earthquake and written off by the Ministry of Education who has since rebuilt the school in a new location. Finally, we did something this reviewer liked.

No matter how hard we try, we will never please everyone but we'll keep working at it. Hope to see you here soon.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 August 2009

My girlfriend and me stayed in total three nights in the Pura Vida B&B, 2-nights upon arrival and 1-night in the Volcano room before departuring.
The hotel is situated on a compound, which is very close to the airport. This is very convenient for arrival and departure from Alajuela - Sant Jose airport. The place has a wonderful botanic garden and very friendly German shepard dogs. Of course this means that if you do not like the dogs, you better find another place to stay. We stayed one day in the garden which we really enjoyed and just read and played with the dogs.
The rooms are very spacious, perfectly clean and have a very nice interior. For a couple or 2-person party I would recommend one of the rooms, as it gives a better value for money compared with the Toucan casita. This ends up quite expensive for 2-persons compared with other places we stayed ( room price + taxes). We rented the car through Pura Vida from a Toyota car rental. This was organized absolutaly flawless. When we stayed in the Volcano room we heard some cars go by, but I slept perfectly and did not find it annoying at all. Unfortunataly we did not have the chance to try the dinner, as there was no dinner served the first night and we did not book it in advance the last night, when we arrived late. Pura Vida is placed on a compound so its not so easy to go somewhere late at night or even during lunch time. You will always need a taxi or a rental car. We enjoyed this place, but had a bit the feeling that " we had to feel lucky that we could stay here". Maybe due to all the excellent rates in tripadvisor or maybe for the same reason our expectations were just very high. Mind that the breakfast is included in the rate, but the eggs are charged extra. We were surprised that we were charged 4.- $ per day per person at our bill, as they were offered to us so friendly by the (very nice) personal. For a this room rate, eggs, simply should be included. I am sure it is mentioned somewhere, but both of us defintely did not see nor hear it during our two days stay after arrival.
In summary I would definetely recommend this place for couples or families, who wants a well organized and safe place of arrival during his stay in Costa Rica. But who do not care to spend about 30% more then in other places in the nearby. The site is very nice, but it remains a bed and breakfast, with services you can find in any other place in Costa Rica. It is not the familiar place were you get excellent value for money, but a well organized bed & breakfast with quite high rates. You should be prepared to spend something extra for it. I would check well all alternatives and not go blind on the reviews on this site. Its defintely worth to try. But remind that there are many other places and activities in Costa Rica on wich you can spend your money as alternative..

  • Stayed: August 2009, travelled as a couple
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Thank Jasper0
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 August 2009

My husband and I stayed at Pura Vida the first night in San Jose and the night before we left the country, after staying for a week or so on the Caribbean coast. We landed in San Jose late and had to leave early the next morning to catch the bus. Berni gave us an upgrade in the hotel room. After five or so hours on the plane, being able to sleep in the beauty of the Rainforest Room was too much to ask for. They had made a late dinner for us, and yes, while the food is pricey when compared to the cost of Costa Rican fare, it's incredibly good, outstanding. (Nhyi is a true artist in the kitchen.) And for the convenience of having a meal waiting for you after traveling and landing in a place you've never been, it's worth it. Berni was so helpful with getting a taxi the next morning.

When we returned to the hotel on our way out of the country, Berni again gave us an upgrade--this time the Volcano Room (I think this was the name). Another great view of the grounds and of the volcano. Waking up to the breathtaking view of clouds hovering around the distant volcano is impossible to describe. This time, we had more time to explore the surrounding area of Alajuela, and while some people have said there's nothing to see, this really depends on what you're expectations are. We took a taxi (about $2) from the hotel to the square and found it charming. The old church, the huge square with old men and young couples, and women sitting together--a great place to people watch and become part of the scene. There's also a supermercado next to the square with a cajero (ATM) where you can get cash, and the market is a great place to buy coffee, rum, and cacique for gifts to take back (or to drink there!:)) The next day, our plane didn't leave until late afternoon, so we took a taxi downtown again and had more time to wak around. We bought a couple of souvenirs from some of the shops. We ate lunch at a restaurant we knew nothing about, which served Costa Rican fare. Afterbeing on te Caribbean coast, the food paled in comparison, but it was still good. We bought some food from their deli for the plane ride, and it was quite good, especially the mini quiche. When it started to downpour we wandered into a bar on a side street near the square to wait out the rain.

While at Pura Vida, we bought a beautiful woven tapestry by an artist from Nicaragua, which will hang in our kitchen reminding us of our time there and of the incredible hospitality. Yes, Pura Vida is pricey, as are most of the hotels near the airport. We wouldn't be able to afford to stay there for more than one or two nights, but it's in such a great location, so near to the airport. When we left that afternoon, we eventually discovered our flight had been cancelled and so the airline put us up in the Holiday Inn--a functional hotel, also pricey but with nothing of the character of Pura Vida. Berni is so helpful and welcoming, te details of the hotel are so carefully thought out that we will defintiely stay at Pura Vida on our trip next year.

  • Stayed: August 2009, travelled as a couple
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Thank rs p
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 August 2009

Although Pura Vida often brings travellers in because of their proximity to the airport, as well as a convenient axis for discovering tours around the country, we found ourselves wanting to make Pura Vida much more than a beginning and ending point for our trip to Costa Rica.
Beginning with the excellent communication from the owner in learning about the area prior to the arrival(check out the website, it is incredible!), to the outstanding attention to detail during our stay, Pura Vida has won our highest approval. Upon our arrival, we met all of the wonderful staff, were treated to a welcome cocktail, and were shown to our rooms. We stayed in the Volcano Studio, which was recently renovated and has an incredible view of the Poas Volcano, rolling hills of local farms and gorgeous coffee plantations in the valley. Looking directly down, you will see a mature and beautifully landscaped garden that is obviously well loved and tended. We started out with a guided tour with the owners, Nhi and Bernie, to the local Mercado to make selections for evening's meal. We were treated to delicious tastes, sights and sounds of this huge and festive market in Alajuela before heading back home to await the delights of dinner.
Giving even more personal attention, Bernie provided us with an extensive tour of his gardens, providing us with all of the names and background information on the wide variety of orchids, fruit trees, bamboos, and other countless specialty plants.
Should I tell you about dinner? Are you hungry? You will be! Nhi is in charge of the kitchen, and she is always trying new recipes, trying to find the best menus for her guests. On our first night there, she made the "tomatillo" the focus of our meal. We had an appetizer of pulled pork croquettes with tomatilla and fruit, along with Mango-Vodka shooters with Tomatillo-mmmm! My main course was a delicious chicken dish with an incredible sauce and vegetable, which I would describe further, but will allow pictures to assist me, as my words fail me. (This has absolutely nothing to do with the vodka shooters, I'm sure.) Dessert followed as an outstanding blackberry and chocolate drizzled pastry. Top all of this with the incredible company of the owners, the always friendly assistance of the staff, and you have the perfect beginnings of a vacation.
Heading out first thing in the morning, Bernie actually went through the trouble to get up at 5:00 am to assist us in procuring a taxi, and even packed a delicious breakfast for us to enjoy along the way. Do the staff at Pura Vida sleep? How do they keep on smiling? Must be the "Pure Life" that they live every day, that keeps them AND their gusts so happy.
We stayed again at Pura Vida on our way home, and received the same warm reception as our previous stay. I must tell you it was very hard to leave. In the short time I spent with the people here in this hotel in Alajuela, it has become obvious to me that Costa Rica is more than a place to do business for this couple; they truly care about its people, the culture, and its future. Will I be back? Absolutely!

  • Stayed: August 2009, travelled as a couple
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Thank smileatsusan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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
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Additional Information about Pura Vida Hotel

Address: Tuetal Sur | 4km North of SJO International Airport, Alajuela 20102, Costa Rica
Phone Number:
Region: Costa Rica > Province of Alajuela > Alajuela
Amenities:
Business Centre with Internet Access Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Kitchenette Restaurant Suites Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 61 B&Bs / Inns in Alajuela
Price Range: £65 - £116 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Pura Vida Hotel is located 4km north of the SJO International airport - we provide a free taxi pickup for international arrivals. Breakfast is included and an excellent dinner is available with reservations (or late meals for late arrivals). Touring services include car rentals delivered here, private vans and as much touring advice as you wish - we are experts on Costa Rica. We have arrangements with Toyota Car Rental for deals on car rentals. Our idea is simply that this is a place we would like to stay at when we travel. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Pura Vida Alajuela
Hotel Pura Vida
Pura Vida Hotel Costa Rica/Alajuela

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