San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

‘Happy House’ Offers Peace and Quiet Within 20 Minutes of Capital

Hotel Casa Alegre is an unpretentious affair nestled in the backstreets of Santa Ana, about a 20-minute drive southwest of San José. The quiet, New Mexican-style hotel transports its guests to a no-frills colonial atmosphere where they can conduct business or rest up before moving on to other Costa Rican tourist attractions.

Lounging in the pool in the center of Casa Alegre’s courtyard, you can hear the sounds of children playing at the school across the street – but not much else. This “Happy House” is serene and quiet, offering a marked contrast to the crowded streets of San José.

Owners Alejandra and Gregory Chávez opened the hotel together after stumbling upon the perfect house for it in Santa Ana.

Gregory, a native of the U.S. state of New Mexico, also owns the diver-oriented Jinetes de Osa hotel in DrakeBay, on southwestern Costa Rica’s OsaPeninsula.

Alejandra says she and her husband always wanted to open a hotel together as a couple, and were delighted when they finally got the chance.

The couple’s personal touch can be seen throughout the hotel. Gregory designed several mosaics on the outside walls of the courtyard, including one of a lizard, to add to the old-Spanish atmosphere. They personally remodeled the house from top to bottom, expanding it from three rooms to eight guest rooms, two of which are larger, “superior” rooms slightly apart from the main hotel, on the other side of the pool. Casa Alegre manager Paola Lafuente says these rooms are perfect for couples seeking privacy.

Since the hotel opened three years ago, it has built up a faithful client base of traveling businessmen who want to stay somewhere peaceful but close enough to San José to be convenient, Lafuente says.

“Most of the people who have come here before come again because they know it’s safe and calm, and that we try to take care of them very well,” Lafuente says.

The hotel has attracted many of its customers by marketing to businesses, and it offers a corporate discount. At first, Lafuente says, it was difficult to get the word out about the hotel.

“We kept the prices very low so people could get to know us,” she says.

Lafuente estimates that more than half of the hotel’s guests are from the United States, and about 15 percent of them are on business.

She thinks almost all hear about the hotel through word of mouth.

Service is very important to the ethos of the hotel.

“We look for staff who are fun and friendly,” Alejandra says.

The setup of Casa Alegre allows soothing breezes to make their way through the stucco-like interiors, and some rooms are equipped with air-conditioning. All come with modern televisions, elegant bedspreads and simple bathrooms. Though the hotel is small, the way the house opens up onto the courtyard and gardens makes the space seem larger.

A hearty breakfast – your choice of gallo pinto and eggs, pancakes or cereal – is included in the room rate and is served on a sunlight-dappled outdoor terrace overlooking the pool.

Alejandra says they expect to add a few more rooms and remodel the pool and garden area sometime in the future.

“I’m living the dream of owning my own hotel,” she says.

Getting There, Rates, Info

Hotel Casa Alegre is 100 meters north and 150 meters east of the Palí in Santa Ana, opposite the VictorySchool. The hotel offers transportation from the airport for $20.

High-season double-occupancy rates from Nov. 1 to April 31 are $81.95 for a standard room with one bed and $101.15 for a superior room with two beds, including taxes. During the low season, May 1 to Oct. 31, rates are $66.60 standard and $88.33 superior. Each additional person costs $10 extra; children under 12 stay for free. Rooms come with a television, wireless Internet, full breakfast and access to local calls.

For information and reservations, call 2235-5485 or 2203-7467, e-mail or visit



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