San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Bed-and-Breakfast Guests Get ‘Food and Comfort’ in Eastern San José

A name can say a lot about a place. A good name encapsulates what you do and is easy for people to remember.

Tambo Mundo captures the warmth and sharing offered at a small lodging for travelers on the eastern outskirts of San José.

Tambo is derived from the Quechua word tampu, a roadside lodge used by Inca messengers as a shelter for the night while bringing news from the coast to the Andes in Peru. Mundo is Spanish for world.

The name Tambo Mundo implies hosting and connecting people through closer human relationships by creating a relaxing ambience, networking and giving comfort to people when needed, says Tambo Mundo owner Juan Carlos Mendoza.

Mendoza, 33, an adviser for the Citizen Action Party (PAC), lives on the first floor of the three-story bed-and-breakfast. After experiencing much kindness from people during his own travels, including a study abroad in the U.S. state of North Dakota and two years in Europe, he decided to open his home to travelers.

I want to bring a little bit of the world into the house, Mendoza says.

Located on the well-traveled road linking the eastern suburb of San Pedro to Tres Ríos, one could drive by Tambo Mundo without blinking an eye. The only detail that sets it apart from any other home is the name plaque sitting discreetly above the intercom.

After hearing the buzz, I push open the front gate and enter a large, landscaped garden. I continue down a short brick path to an orange-colored house. A man in his 30s with long black hair and wearing jeans and an embroidered Mayan-design shirt welcomes me at the door. Tambo Mundo manager César Retana is an old college friend of the owner. Apart from the business cards and the small stack of brochures on a table at the entrance, I feel more like I m meeting a friend of a friend than checking into a hotel.

Tambo Mundo officially opened its doors six months ago. Most visitors arrive wordof-mouth through friends and colleagues.

Some come to vacation, while others come on business, working with nongovernmental organizations and doing research.

A woman was here completing a Ph.D. in political science. We were able to help her out by putting her in contact with people with similar interests, Mendoza says. We enjoy networking and bringing people together.

The hotel s five rooms all have private bathrooms and are available for short- and long-term stays. Four of the five rooms are named after the mountains visible from each room s window: Tres Marías, Barva, Pico Blanco and Zurquí, which is wheelchair-accessible. The fifth room, Oropéndolas, is the only room without a view of the mountains, but it does have a view of oropendola nests hanging from trees in the front garden.

Each room has a window that extends the full length of the wall, with a movable slat section to let in fresh air. The bathrooms are newly tiled with sliding-door showers. Free laundry service is offered for extended stays. Most rooms also have safe boxes, though the house feels so secure that it seems a bit ridiculous to even lock your room.

In preparation for the cooler evenings here, the beds are covered with fluffy down comforters. A TV can be hooked up in the rooms upon request, and wireless Internet is available.

While it would be easy to relax in the light, airy rooms, watching one of the hundred DVDs on file or reading a book from the library, the numerous and expansive common areas are the highlight of Tambo Mundo. The foyer opens to a large living room decorated with modern couches, votive and pillar candles, and mementos gathered during world travels. For the musically inclined, a piano and an acoustic guitar invite playing.

The dining area is connected to the living room and has a table that can seat at least eight people. Adjacent is a huge communal kitchen with a double-door stainless steel fridge big enough to house multiple guests groceries.

Connecting both the dining room and the kitchen is an enormous deck that extends over a canyon thick with foliage. Rumored to have a capacity of 40 dancers, the deck is a great place to relax day and night.

Tambo Mundo feels removed from and connected to the city at the same time. Along the street are a handful of restaurants, bars and sodas, or mom-and-pop eateries. Just 600 meters down the road is Parque del Este, which has a jogging and exercise trail, pool, soccer field, playgrounds, picnic tables and nature trails. A five-minute drive or a quick bus ride brings you down the hill to the university area of San Pedro.

If you are staying in, the good news is that both Mendoza and Retana love to cook. Food plays a part in the cultural exchange they strive to create. Sometimes Mendoza and Retana prepare one of the gourmet meals available upon request, and sometimes they share the kitchen with guests.

Everyone brings something different even recipes, Retana says.

Not only do they love good food, but they also try to eat right. Good friend and frequent visitor Eva Carazo, of the Costa Rican Organic Agriculture Movement, helps keeps Tambo Mundo stocked with organic fruits and vegetables. Mendoza s mom makes the homemade jams served at breakfast.

Future plans include inviting local artists as another way for guests to get to know Costa Rican society and to develop relationships with people. Some of Tambo Mundo s friends include sculptors, writers and musicians.

We want to shape an intimate space by creating an exchange between guests and artists, Mendoza says.

Among the entries made by departing guests, Tambo Mundo s first guest book reads: Couldn t leave this lovely place immediately felt at home all the warmth and kindness that one could hope for on the road.

Tambo Mundo is living up to its name. The concept of comida y consuelo, food and comfort, as Mendoza describes it, just may encourage visitors to do a bit more than pass through the busy capital.

Getting There, Rates, Info

Take the Sabanilla highway and go 400 meters past the Cristo de Sabanilla. Tambo Mundo is the house on the left just before the Hogar Calasanz entrance, in front of Asianía restaurant.

Rates range from $30 to $50 single and $45 to $60 double occupancy; triple occupancy is an additional $14 per day. Weekly rates range from $160 to $285 single and $265 to $370 double, with triples an extra $85 per week. Contact Tambo Mundo for rates for longer stays. Taxes and breakfast are included in the rates.

 For information, call 2273-0265 or 8848-9707, or visit



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