San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Orosi Home and Hostel Shares Family Warmth with Travelers

Mayela Zúñiga enjoyed conversing with her son’s foreign friends so much that she got the idea of opening a little hostel in the back of her house.

With breakfasts and dinners shared in the family’s kitchen, for a guest it’s more of a homestay than a hostel. But so it goes at Pensión Doña Mayela, a three-bedroom establishment in Orosi, a little town in the highlands east of San José.

About two years ago, Zúñiga, 59, transformed the back of her family’s home by adding bedrooms and a little kitchen-patiodining room area.

It’s a nice setting, with quirky decorations made by Zúñiga herself. She’s a painter – well, a beginner – so the area is decorated by her earlier work.

Paintings of green mountains and rivers are everywhere, even on discarded milk cartons transformed to showcase her love for colors and nature.

A creek flows behind the house, and the murmur of water is a nice addition to the ambience. Clucks from the pet chickens in the coop behind the guest area add to the quirkiness.

There’s a small green area with orange and lime trees adjacent to the patio, and yet another coop that houses songbirds. The home’s two cats – there to keep the mice at bay, according to Zúñiga’s husband, José Luis Masís – patrol the area.

Of the three rooms, two have a pair of beds and the third has three beds. The cost is $6.50 per person. The bedrooms are nothing fancy, humble and simple. Guests share a shower and toilet outside the rooms.

If arranged in advance, and if the car is available, the family offers airport pickup for an extra charge, or they can arrange a taxi.

“I like sharing with my guests,” Zúñiga said. “It’s nice learning about other cultures.”

She remembers a recent guest from Israel who talked about life back home. Zúñiga was fascinated to learn about the way homes are built in Israel, and other factoids about the Middle Eastern country.

In addition to swapping stories with her guests, Zúñiga likes the fact that her three bedrooms help out a little with the financial needs of her home.

Many guests continue their relationship with the family via e-mail and pictures.

What Zúñiga is trying to do with her three rooms suits the surroundings; sleepy, calm Orosi is a nice getaway from busier tourist hubs in Costa Rica.

It’s not a requirement for guests to eat with the family, but many times guests gravitate to the family’s kitchen, said Melania, Zúñiga’s daughter.

Having people around is something Zúñiga loves. She has a big family – 10 kids in all – and she sees many tourists looking for a family’s warmth, something she is happy to provide.

Many of the guests grow fond of the family, Zúñiga said.

“Some leave crying,” she said. “The last guy we had said he didn’t want to leave. He said he would be back in one year and buy a house nearby.”

Getting There, Info

Pensión Doña Mayela is 100 meters north and 75 meters east of the Coto restaurant in Orosi. For information, call 533-1848 or e-mail


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