San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Barrio Escalante Hostel a Tranquil Alternative

Tucked in the trendy residential neighborhood of Barrio Escalante, just east of downtown San José but without all the buses and people, Abril Hostal, a quaint older home turned hostel, is a great choice for the relaxed traveler.

Owner Sabrina Vargas worked in her family’s business, the Hotel 1492 just around the corner, for 13 years before opening Abril Hostal. She considers herself “a backpacker at heart,” and designed her place to reflect the type of hostel she says is lacking here.

“I want people who stay here to know they won’t be kept up late at night,” Vargas says. “They can actually get some work done, or sit and read a book, or sleep until noon.”

The hostel has three dormitory-style rooms with bunk beds, two private rooms with bunk beds and three shared bathrooms. The rooms are simple but nicely decorated with well-matched furniture and a white and-blue theme throughout. All the beds are a meter wide and two meters long, larger than the average single bed.

The wooden staircase leading to the second floor is old but well polished, and paintings by Vargas’ friends and family members line the walls. Downstairs is a living area with cable television, a book exchange, two computers with free Internet access and a work desk.

“The laid-back atmosphere is really what we’re all about,” Vargas says. “Anyone who comes here for rock and roll is not the type of client we’re looking for.”

Vargas says she decided to venture out of the family business and open Abril Hostal because so many visitors asked her if there was “a more economical option, but with the tranquility of a hotel” in San José.

She has high hopes for her project, with its convenient location near the downtown area and Barrio Escalante’s great restaurants. Her ultimate goal is for Abril Hostal to become a chain, “a kind of hostel version of a Best Western” – though that may be a long way off, considering she opened the hostel only seven months ago.

“The first few months were quite full,” Vargas says, “although lately clientele seems to have dwindled. But I think it’s been like that everywhere.”

Vargas is proud to call the hostel all her own. She decided on the concept, came up with the name and organized all the permits. “It’s my risk, and one I’m willing to take,” Vargas says. “If it goes well, it’s all for me, and if not, it’s all on me. Though I’m definitely hoping for the ‘go well’ option.”

Abril Hostal is in Barrio Escalante at Calle 29, Avenida 1, 200 meters east and 25 meters north of Cine Magaly. Rates are $12 for a bed in a dorm room and $24 single or double for a private room, including a breakfast of toast, jam and coffee or tea. If a guest stays four nights, the fifth is free. For information, call 2256-8542 or visit


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