San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hotel City One Offers a Touch of the Caribbean in Downtown San José

Hotel City One and its Caribbean Loft restaurant in downtown San José, off Calle Central, offer access to a world of activities and different tastes in the heart of the city.

About a half-hour drive from JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport in Alajuela, northwest of San José, and a few blocks away from the Caribbean bus terminal, the hotel’s location is a prime spot for those just making their way in and out of the capital. For families with kids, the Children’s Museum is practically in the hotel’s backyard; the Caribbean Loft on the fourth floor of the hotel offers a great view of the enormous penitentiary-turned-museum.

Several casinos ring the blocks surrounding the Caribbean-themed hotel for those interested in the spicier nightlife. Though this part of San José can be dangerous to go out into at night, the hotel and restaurant offer visitors a pleasant haven on the inside.

From the moment I stepped in, I knew I was someplace hip but tranquil. The colors orange and brown accent a lot of the furniture and artwork in the hotel to promote a laid-back atmosphere. The theme of modern art meshed with Caribbean style envelops visitors, from the orange, glowing lamps and black leather furniture in the lobby area to the tidy bedrooms with original art on the walls.

Even without air conditioning (only 10 of the hotel’s 50 rooms have air conditioning), the air in the rooms is fresh, and it’s almost easy to forget about the loud, dirty city outside.

Rooms come with a private bathroom, ceiling fan and television, as well as a nightstand and a large chest of drawers.

The Caribbean Loft, open for breakfast from 6-10 a.m. and for dinner from 6-10 p.m., balances a late-night cocktail-drinking atmosphere with family-friendly, Caribbean-style dining at mid-range prices. Still modern but slightly peppier than the rest of the hotel, the restaurant’s decor features Rastafarian green, yellow and red, from the bamboo art to the serving cloths, which stands out well against the white walls, furniture and  tablecloths. A projector plays videos of chill reggae performances on the wall to provide a nice addition in the restaurant’s lounge section by the door.

Salads and appetizers cost $4-6 and soups $5-6. The patí, a traditional Caribbean treat much like an empanada, is a tasty switch from the normally greasy and dripping patí snack you might buy on the street. The shrimp soup with rum and coconut (and onion, and avocado) was particularly good.

Entrees cost $8-14, and cater to the palate of seafood lovers and those who like their meals from the pasture. I had the mahi-mahi, which came with rice cooked with coconut milk and mashed sweet potatoes, and the fish was topped with a tangy orange sauce. The different parts of the meal looked small when stylishly isolated on separate parts of the plate, but it was plenty to fill me up.

Desserts cost $3 and range from cake to mousse. Not on the menu but highly enjoyable is the Caribbean sweet treat plantintá, a rich plaintain and raspberry pastry, served with vanilla ice cream. Though I’m not a big fan of plantain, the three different flavors combined made it all good.

I don’t know if I’d call the food world-class dining, though it tries hard. The flavor and quality are enough to let you know you’re getting your money’s worth.

And the cocktails are great. They cost $5 each and do the trick nicely. I had the caipirinha, a sweet, lime-flavored drink from Brazil that has spread across Latin America in different varieties.

You can go to the Caribbean Loft for cocktails, but don’t expect a big party to break out on account of its 10 p.m. closing time. Staff members said the reason it doesn’t stay open later is to respect the wishes of guests trying to get a good night’s sleep.

All in all, the hotel and restaurant make up a fine little place in one of the less aesthetically pleasing ends of San José. It’s located at Calle Central and Avenida 9. Rates are $60 for a single room with one twin, $70 for a double with a queen bed and $85 for a triple with a queen and a twin. Rates include an American breakfast. Two computers in the lobby offer free Internet access for guests. Local calls are also free.

For information, call 248-1778, visit or e-mail


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