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“Charming place tucked away in the hills”
Review of El Cafetal Inn

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El Cafetal Inn
Ranked #5 of 7 Atenas B&B and Inns
Reviewed 22 March 2010

We didn't get a chance to enjoy this place for very long - we were only there for less than a day due to our flight time out of San Jose. The gardens were beautiful and pool was very nice, but a bit dirty. The room was small and very dark, but one of the walls was a gorgeous curved window that overlooked the garden. I loved all the romantic nooks and crannies on the property - it was easy to find a quiet place to relax. One problem we had was with leaving in the morning. We had to leave at 5:15 am (we told staff), but struggled to find a way to exit the house since the front doors were locked (we only had a key to our room). Luckily we found a key in the back door, which I could not lock again when we left.

  • Stayed: March 2010, travelled as a couple
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Thank Traveler27704
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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34 - 38 of 77 reviews

Reviewed 20 March 2010

I stayed with my wife and two daughters at the El Cafetal on our first night in Costa Rica a month ago today. Having read a lot of reviews of this and other places, and looking only for a place to spend our first night (we were heading to the coast and I did not want to drive at night), I chose the bungalow at the El Cafetal. After getting our rental car and diving into the rush-hour traffic at about sunset, we drove the twenty minutes or so to the well-marked Grecia exit, then took the first left onto the road that would eventually get us to the inn. We made it, nerves a little frazzled after our first driving experience in Costa Rica (I found that one gets used to it pretty quickly), and after turning around twice--once after thinking we had gone too far--we hadn't--and another after we passed the entrance despite being on the lookout for the sign, we drove into the El Cafetal.
The owner, Romy, warmly greeted us, saying "Welcome home." We instantly relaxed. We ate a very good meal at the restaurant (just downstairs from our bungalow) and went for a dip in the huge, refreshingly cool pool. We awoke fairly early to the sounds of the neighborhood--barking dogs, crowing roosters, and sputtering motorcycles. We enjoyed a relaxing breakfast on the patios (again, excellent food and coffee, attentive but not overbearing service), strolled the pathways on the scenic grounds, and went for another swim in the pool before packing up to be on our way.
The El Cafetal was a wonderful welcome to Costa Rica. As I mentioned, the owner warmly welcomed us (I read another review that described him as aloof and odd, but our interpretation was that he did not want to be overbearing or in our face. We were sad to say goodbye to him), the room was comfortable, the grounds were beautiful. I did not expect all of the comforts of home or of an American vacation resort, and so we were not disappointed. In fact, we loved the El Cafetal. I would highly recommend it, and I would stay there again.

  • Stayed: February 2010, travelled with family
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1  Thank kcookvt
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 March 2010

Reading the reviews on El Cafetal Inn, I was prepared for this rustic, quaint B & B, so I was not disappointed at all (I was not prepared for the seep twisting narrow roads that are Costa Rica’s road system). Anyway, I was in Costa Rica for a twelve day, eleven night vacation and used El Cafetal as my first and last night B & B. Made for a nice place to start my early drive to the Arenal volcano, and to decompress on the last night.

Atenas (El Cafetal) Feb 25th
La Fortuna (Volcano) Feb 26th & 27th
Monteverde (Cloud Forest) Feb 28th & March 1st
Samara (beach) March 2nd – 6th
Atenas (El Cafetal) March 7th

The room and Breakfast were more then adequate, (breakfast is served out of a small kitchen in building # 2 from 7:30 to 8:30am), no coffee in room, or anywhere else in the early morning, you just have to wait for the kitchen crew to put out the carafe of coffee, about 30 min before breakfast is served.

Wife brought a fan for the night stand that blows air into her face (this is the way she sleeps), the fan also was a nice white noise generator for those early morning crowing rosters and the ubiquities roaring early morning motorcycles.

Building # 1 is a small building with not much more then the reception counter. Building # 2 is just a few steps away from the reception area (maybe 6 or 8 rooms???), and building # 3 (past building # 2) is down the hill, a steep walk down many steeps (no railing) and an even steeper drive in an automobile (its another 4 or 6 rooms, more like cabins). Pool and restaurant are basically part of building # 3. Restaurant has limited hours of operation, found a very nice Soda in Atenas (Rest. Tipico La Trilla), fish Casado and beer, cheap and very good.

No A/C, but they do have ceiling fans, no safe in room. Building # 2 rooms seem to be older rooms, but not as rustic as the cabin like rooms in building # 3. And you can't flush the TP, it goes in a basket next to the toilet!!!!!!

However, reading reviews did not give me the information I was really seeking, I had a rental car (Tricolor – great rent-a-car company) and was going to drive from location to location. Sorry to say, the info about El Cafetal and how to get there is weak at best. But, using Google Maps and a few other Costa Rica web sites (including the El Cafetal Inn web site) I was able to identify some key GPS point to aid in my drive to the Inn.

Note: The country of Costa Rica is divided into seven major provinces which are again subdivided into Cantons, and these Cantons are further subdivided into districts. Both the town of Atenas and the El Cafetal Inn are in the province of Alajuela, and both are in “Canton De Atenas”. But the town of Atenas is in the “1st District - Atenas”, while El Cafetal Inn is in the “7th District - Santa Eulalia”. Thus it can be a little confusing with some of the descriptions about El Cafetal Inn and its address or location; El Cafetal Inn is actually about two miles north of the town of Atenas, and finding maps to clarify all of this is next to imposable, thus the need for GPS points.

Anyway, I had a number of GPS points that I used to drive to El Cafetal, and updated these points with my handheld GPS unit when I drove to El Cafetal. So I hope these updated GPS point will help.

10° 0` 48.2", -84° 21` 29.3"
This GPS point marks the turn off of the Pan American Hwy onto the Sarchi/Grecia Hwy. This Sarchi/Grecia Hwy is a two lane road, but for the most part so is the Pan American Hwy.

+10° 1` 25.6", -84° 21` 35.8"
This is the second GPS point, (less then 1 mile north of the first GPS point) and marks the left turn off of the Sarchi/Grecia Hwy. This is a hard turn back to the left on to a narrow paved road.

+10° 1` 04.7", -84° 21` 42.9"
This is GPS point three, where you pass under the Pan American Hwy (Rafael Iglesia Bridge), and continue down a steep twisting road.

+10° 0` 54.4", -84° 21` 48.6"
This is GPS point four, a narrow one lane Bridge at the bottom of the steep twisting road.

+10° 0` 41.3", -84° 22` 08.0"
This is GPS point five, a point at the top of the hill where another narrow road comes in from the right, keep going straight (do not turn right). Just keep going straight, the Inn is about 1 mile straight ahead.

+9° 59` 57.8", -84° 22` 42.3"
This is the actual location of the El Cafetal Entrance/Driveway. It is very easy to drive right past this entrance. Turn right, into this one lane driveway, and drive about 50 meters up over a small hill, then you'll pass through a small gate, and just past the gate you'll see the reception building to the left. Parking, well…. you’ll figure it out…..

See attached pictures……… you can also search Google Map “Drive to El Cafetal Inn”

  • Stayed: February 2010, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank ohiotx
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 March 2010

Hard to describe this place. A great setting. But the rest was average at best. Our room was small, the sheets and furniture are worn out, no mattress pad on the bed, and the bathroom was awkward and less than clean. Hot and cold reversed but curiously the red/blue (hot/cold) markings on the faucets are where they should typically be. Don't get a ground floor room as you'll have absolutely no privacy as other guests can and do stroll right by your room and all times of the day or night, and because of that you need to keep the curtains closed. And that's too bad because it makes the otherwise well-lit, airy rooms dingy and stuffy. Don't plan on sleeping past 7 if you get a room next to the breakfast area-noisy. The upside is that the breakfasts are pretty good, although they typically serve only between 7:30-8:30. They advertise that they serve their own coffee, but all the plants on site look dead. The on-site restaurant is more than adequate for Atenas, and the service was quite good, at least when we were there. The somewhat remote location is what it is, but you'll need a car or cab to get anywhere. There's no internet or TV which may or may not be a bad thing, just be advised. The owner seemed kind of eccentric or aloof or just preoccupied with selling the place, but yet he was all smiles just the same. Bottom line, this would be an adequate place to stay on the way to somewhere else, but not much more.

  • Stayed: February 2010, travelled as a couple
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Thank bald0neNebraska
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 February 2010

I stayed here for one night in December 2009 on my way out of the country. I had been wanting to check it out for some time, and for $40 I decided to give it a try.

It took the cab driver 25 minutes to get there from SJO, but the next morning, it took 50 minutes to get back -- so obviously a lot depends on the traffic. When we got to the hotel, no one seemed to be around. After the cab driver went looking, a guy (not the owner) came out and asked me my name. He then gave me the key to my room. That was that. No other check-in procedures. It felt very casual, but it's that kind of place -- just very laid back.

I have mixed feelings about the place. I wanted to like it more, but there were some issues.

The good
It is set on a very pretty, relatively large parcel of land. There are lots of little trails that meander over the property and several hidden-away sitting areas where you can plop down and forget your worries (and hide!). LOTS of birds -- I would even say a birder's paradise. The place was obviously designed for relaxation and enjoying nature.

The pool was HUGE, and it was very nice to take a late afternoon dip while watching all the birds fly by. Beyond the pool is the trail down to the river. The trail down is very, very steep and not well-maintained. Since I had been hiking for several days, I just didn't have it in my to hike down -- or, rather, hike back up. But, it's nice that that's an option if you would like to get a hike in.

The room (#17) was cute and perfect for one person. The bed was comfortable. Ceiling fan and a nice little balcony with a super view and two wooden rocking chairs. No tv, no phone, no safe. The bathroom was clean except for the sink -- it was pretty dirty actually. Good hot water (though the hot and cold water dials are reversed in both the shower and sink -- at first I thought there was no hot water). I left the balcony door open when I went to sleep (there's a screen) and left the ceiling fan on -- I woke up in the middle of the night pretty darn cold. I came to realize why the bed had a big, heavy quilt!

Since I was leaving so early the next morning, I assumed I would miss breakfast. But, to my great surprise, Sonia -- in the kitchen -- prepared me a nice little plate of food and wonderful coffee. Thank you, Sonia!

The not so good
The owner was strange. I would say hot and cold. One minute he was warm and talkative and the next cold and distant. I don't know, it was just weird and made me feel uncomfortable at times.

The advertised restaurant was not open for dinner. Since I didn't have a car, this was a bummer. I ended up having pizza delivered from a local restaurant which was easy enough, but it just wasn't what I had in mind for my last dinner in CR. I understand the owner can't open the restaurant when there aren't many guests, but it is advertised on the website. Just be aware that it may or may not be open when you are there.

Lastly, a rooster was crowing ALL night long. This is not the fault of El Cafetal -- I think the rooster was on someone else's property -- but it made for a restless night. I forgot that I had a white noise maker on my phone, so maybe that would have drowned out the noise. This may have been a fluke -- I haven't read anything about rooster crowing in the other reviews -- but it was annoying. Maybe on another night I wouldn't have noticed it so much.

All in all, this is an interesting place to stay. As long as you have realistic expectations, I think it's a real option for your first or last night in the country and/or on your way to other parts of CR. Best if you have a car and if you don't have a very early flight out.

  • Stayed: December 2009, travelled solo
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Thank plumboy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about El Cafetal Inn

Address: Carretera Sta. Eulalia | 100 mts norte de la Iglesia de Santa Eulalia, Atenas 20505, Costa Rica
Region: Costa Rica > Province of Alajuela > Atenas
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Centre with Internet Access Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Kitchenette Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #5 of 7 B&Bs / Inns in Atenas
Price Range: S$112 - S$158 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — El Cafetal Inn 3*
Number of rooms: 14
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Also Known As:
El Cafetal Hotel Atenas

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