San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Budget Travelers Have New Home-style Option in Atenas

New budget accommodations are now available in the coffee town of Atenas, northwest of San José. Installed in a former Tico dwelling, the roomy, two-story Hostel El Boyero opened its doors to guests May 15, just two and a half blocks south of the Atenas bus terminals. The neat establishment is the first of its kind in the heart of town, and offers all the amenities backpackers and budget travelers seek.

Owner and manager Tina Newton says she opened Hostel El Boyero to provide young travelers a clean and welcoming haven for stopovers or use as a headquarters while exploring the country.

With Highway 3 passing through it, the small town of Atenas sits high above the gorge of the Río Grande, not quite halfway between San José and the Pacific port of Puntarenas. Highway 3 follows the path of the old national road, called the camino de carretas, used in the mid-19th century by caravans of oxcarts to haul coffee and other goods between the Central Valley and the Pacific coast. A monument on the highway celebrates the boyeros, the oxcart drivers who made the long trek under the sun, the moon and the rain, bare-footed.

“Atenas is well known for its traditional hospitality and its unspoiled rural culture, which Hostel El Boyero aims to carry on,” Newton says.

Its carmine fence and striking road sign make the wheelchair-accessible inn easy to recognize. Set in a tranquil neighborhood, the hostel exudes a warm, home-style atmosphere.

Reception is open 24 hours, and English, Spanish and German are spoken. Accommodations include two private rooms with double beds and three shared dormitory-style rooms with bunks, including fresh, clean sheets and new mattresses. All rooms are equipped with practical, plastic-covered racks. Three spacious, hot-water bathrooms are shared.

The kitchen, which serves free, fresh coffee 24 hours a day, is equipped with a refrigerator, microwave and electrical skillet, enabling guests to prepare their own meals and snacks.

The meeting point of the house is the large recreation room, where travelers may exchange reliable word-of-mouth updates on what’s hot and what’s not, lounge and relax or watch cable TV. Newton plans to accommodate her constantly growing library on the second floor, transforming the hallway into an inviting reading area.

Internet access is free for guests, and a washing machine and locker room are available for a small fee. The inn offers secure parking for cars and bikes, as well as tours, travel information and rental cars.

Newton, an economist from the U.S. state of Oklahoma, has been living in Atenas for nine years. Since 2006, she has been working as a coordinator for the international volunteer program of the Texas-based Institute for Field Research Expeditions, whose Costa Rican branch is headquartered in Atenas.

“Working with North American volunteers, I recognized the need for a hostel in Atenas,” Newton says.

Blessed with an excellent climate – called the best in the world by some – Atenas offers Internet cafés, restaurants, banks with ATM machines and other conveniences, all within walking distance of the guesthouse.

Su Espacio (Your Space), a community center opened by Newton in 2005 across from the gas station, offers volunteer experiences as well as English and Spanish lessons. Popular Latin American dance and exercise classes are also on the program.

Atenas’ location allows for fantastic trips across the country. The town is only 30 to 40 minutes from JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport and an hour’s drive from the capital. Poás Volcano, the Pacific coast and many other tourist attractions are within a one- to two-hour bus ride.

Tourist highlights in and around Atenas include a visit to one of the coffee-processing plants, hiking to Las Minas (The Mines) waterfalls and sitting in the park to absorb the local culture.

“Atenas is an unspoiled rural town where people are very open, friendly and welcoming. They are excited to have international visitors,” Newton says.n

Getting There, Rates, Info

Buses to Atenas leave San José almost every hour from the Coca-Cola bus terminal at Calle 16, between Avenidas 1 and 3 (Coopetransatenas, 2446-5767). Rates at Hostel El Boyero are $25 for a private room with double bed and $15 per person for a dormitory bunk. Group and long-term discounts are offered. Credit cards are not accepted.

For info, call 2446-6390, e-mail or visit


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