Mi Familia Es Su Familia at Kaps Place

Hannah J. Ryan, The Tico Times, June 22, 2012

Northeast of downtown San Jose, a 10-minute walk from the National Museum, is perhaps the friendliest guesthouse in the capital. More than just a nice place to spend the evening, Kaps Place invites patrons into both its hostel and its every-growing family of travelers. The owner of the hostel and mother of the family is Karolina Bermudez.

Kaps has been around for years, but Bermudez purchased the business this May from its previous owner. Bermudez says she wants to maintain the warm, familiar ambiance on which Kaps has built its reputation, but she also has some upgrades in mind. At the moment, Bermudez is replacing many of the individual fixtures in the rooms and training a new housekeeping staff.

"My goal is to be the best, most well-known hostel in all of the capital," Bermudez said. "I am made happy by making others welcome and comfortable."

The family-style hostel is brightly painted with mosaics scattered throughout the interconnected houses, which contain 25 guest bedrooms, dorm rooms, suites and long-term apartments. From the reception desk, visitors pass through to a comfy living room stocked with public computers and adjacent to two communal kitchens.

Guests can eat meals at one kitchen's island table, on the connecting outdoor patio or by the pool and ping-pong room. One living room also features hammocks alongside a fountain, where fish and turtles paddle about. Guest Vanessa Chambert can attest to the friendly vibes at Kaps.

Visiting from George Town, Ghana, Chambert has been living in Kaps for a month and feels totally at home, she said, cutting potatoes in the communal kitchen. "Karolina has been like a sister to me," she said.

On Chambert's birthday, Bermudez and others in the guesthouse surprised her with cake and wine. All residents and staff partook in the dessert, making the far-from-home occasion something special for Chambert.

Another group residing at Kaps is the Barrantes family. While Mr. Barrantes resides at the nearby Calderon Guardia Hospital, the four children, Mrs. Barrantes and a caretaker are staying at the hostel.

"Though we are not here for the happiest reasons, it's a good place for the kids," said Dorcas Barrantes. This is the family's second stay at Kaps, and the members report that the place has always been kind to them. Sometimes Bermudez brings the kids cookies.

Room types range from single suites to five-bed, dorm-style quarters. A continental breakfast of bread, jams, cereal, fruit, coffee and fresh juice is served every day, 7-9 a.m. There are numerous computers in the lobby and WiFi throughout the building.

One unique perk is the free international phone calls to 60 countries. And the owner has made friends across the country with owners of excellent restaurants and lodges, enabling her to hook you up with a good price.

The hostel was 90 percent full last week, despite it being the rainy season, when fewer tourists venture to Costa Rica. Bermudez said business was good, even as she has heard of three hostels in San Jose shutting down in the past month for lack of business.

"It must be the pura vida vibes here," she said. "I will be making some changes, but it will always be a guesthouse and a family."

Going there

Rates range from $20-$125 a night, and the hostel is located in downtown San Jose. For more info, call 2256-4850 or visit www.kapsplace.com.