When visiting Costa Rica, there are numerous activities that the traveler may have on his or her checklist of things to do. Maybe embark on a safari in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Tour guides can point out all the animal and plant life of this beautiful rainforest, or offer a bird’s eye view of the forest with a canopy tour complete with a recreational zip line for the adventurous soul. A possible trip to the Poas Volcano National Park is always a great reason for travel. Touted as the second largest active volcano crater in the world, the sight of the blue-green water filled crater and the long and winding scenic drive up the mountain are sure to be a trip worth remembering. Even the surfing is world class, with professional and amateur surfers from the four corners of the globe flocking to the beaches of Playa Grande and Playa Negra during peak surfing seasons. Although a trip to Costa Rica is a destination that can stretch the value of your dollar, the activity costs add up fast and finding an affordable place to stay can be a task in and of itself. For the traveler on a budget interested in the wonders of Costa Rica and not in the extravagant and expensive accommodations of a luxury hotel, La Botella De Leche hostel is the obvious choice.
La Botella De Leche is a family owned and operated hostel in two locations within Costa Rica. With one in the northwestern beach town of Tamarindo and the other in the capital city of San Jose, the hostel offers the chance for travel buffs to experience two parts of the country with the ease of similar living arrangements. The cost is the same in both locations: Shared dorm style bunk beds for $10 per person, a single occupancy room for $15, or a two person room for $24. Special discounts are available for longer stays, and with lodgers coming and going every day it’s often easy to get a shared $10 room all to yourself.
Besides running the hostel with the help of local staff, the family actually bases itself in the Tamarindo hostel. The mother is the main proprietor and is referred to as ‘mama’ by both her children and boarders alike. Her sons are in and out with their wives and children and they mingle openly with those staying at the hostel, giving the place a general family-style appeal for all. When I stayed there last summer the family threw a birthday party for the younger son (who had to be in his mid 20’s) and all the residents were invited to the event. For some reason by the end of the party, the birthday boy was dressed in full pirate attire complete with eye patch and long sword – confusing, yes, but fun nevertheless.
The rooms in Tamarindo are not elaborate by any stretch of the imagination, but they more than serve their purpose for the frugal traveler. There are shared bathrooms for boarders throughout the hostel along with a shared kitchen, sitting area and free internet access to help lodgers search for their next Costa Rican adventure. Outside the hostel are a basketball court, ping pong table and a palm shaded hammock perfect for taking a well needed nap after a long morning of surf lessons.
Surfing in Tamarindo beach is an activity worth experiencing and the hostel accommodates this by being a mere 400 meters from the beach. The horseshoe shaped beach is scattered with every type of person imaginable between the shop filled street and sandy shore. Sun-baked surfers wax their boards next to a middle class family of vacationers building sand castles, just as naturally as an old and grizzled ‘tico’ (Costa Rican word for a native of the country) sells armfuls of seashell necklaces to sunbathing college students ‘studying’ abroad. The whole scene of random individual’s blends together to make one collective picture of relaxation. For beginning surfers, expensive lessons begin to add up. That’s where the sons of La Botella De Leche can come in to save the day. During my stay one of the older sons I had befriended offered me surf lessons at a fraction of the cost (with the same level of quality.)
In and around Tamarindo there are local bars and restaurants all over the main street, just a five minute walk from La Botella De Leche hostel. For the vacationer intent on truly experiencing everything Costa Rica has to offer, there are many restaurants that offer heaping plates of local food at an affordable price. ‘Casados’, the Spanish word for marriage, are a Costa Rican dish comprised of rice and beans, fried plantains, some type of cabbage salad, and a meat or fish. The dish is so called because the different foods are ‘married’ together on one delicious plate. For the less adventurous, Tamarindo’s main street is beginning to see an influx of American influence with places like Pizza Hut sprouting up among the surf and souvenir shops. The bars and clubs there are also plentiful, but my memory of those establishments is fuzzy (in a happy way), which I attribute to a string of very fun and inebriated nights. Again, the heirs of La Botella De Leche will save the day with their vast knowledge – this time with the in’s and out’s of Costa Rican night life.