Anytime you hear the question “¿cuántas horas le gustaría quedarse?“, (how many hours would you like to stay?) when shopping for a hotel you should suspect that maybe you’ve wandered a bit too far off the tourist trail.
Fun for the Whole Family
We were planning to spend the night in the rustic hostel of a community project to protect the spring and headwaters of the local watershed but we misjudged the travel time and found ourselves on a gravel track rapidly deteriorating into 4WD rugged as the sun went down.
Houses and pulperias had given way to small fincas and patches of rainforest as we climbed the bottom of a valley. When we reached a stream crossing and found a ford instead of a bridge we knew we’d either have to find our lodging quickly or turn around (if we could find a wide enough spot) and try one of the less than savory looking cabinas associated with one of the bars downtown.
Anyone who’s ever driven the back roads in Costa Rica’s mountains knows they can be scary in the daylight and downright dangerous after dark so I was pleasantly surprised to spot a small sign announcing “area recreativo, descanso, trucha, piscina, cabinas.”
We stopped and I asked to see a room. The proprietor led me through the little open air restaurant next to the trout pond where kids could fish for their supper, over a bridge by a little waterfall and a rancho with a pool table, and across a mini soccer pitch to a row of four small cabins. The compact fluorescent light bulbs were still warming up so it was pretty dark inside but it looked like a pretty standard Tico family style room with a double bed plus a couple of bunk beds.
I asked how much and he answered “$35” and added something about “noche” that I didn’t quite catch. I replied that we’d take it. He adjusted the curtains as we walked out.
When I got back to the car Sue and I had our usual exchange “Is it nice?” she asked hoping for the quaint charm we sometimes stumble across. “It’s the usual, but it seems pretty clean,” I half lied. The compact fluorescent bulbs had been cold and to dim to do the normal through inspection “and besides what choice do we have?”
While we were schlepping our backpacks and huge duffel bag full of mapping gear up the path I mentioned “It sounded like he said something about ‘noche’ or “toda la noche’ when I asked about the price, but it couldn’t be one of those could it.” Sue asked why it couldn’t be and I pointed out the pool table, trout pond, swing sets by the soccer field and of course “there were bunk beds in the room, it has to be a family place.”
When we got inside the light bulbs had warmed up and in the glare I could see it wasn’t quite as clean as I’d hoped plus the look of slightly disappointed resignation on Sue’s face. I knew she’d tough it out and we always carry permethrin infused silk sleeping bags just in case the sheets aren’t up to standards.
I remembered the owner’s quick movement by the curtains and decided I’d better check the window for missing panes or a big hole so there wouldn’t be any more surprises…like a racoon maybe. When I pull back the sheet hanging from the rod in front of the window everything looked intact, but there was a little white sign in the corner.
I pulled it out, read it and knew instantly “it is one of those.”
He had said “Cuesta $35 para toda la noche.”
“Cabaña Ocupada” signs are used at hotels that rent rooms by the hour for local’s illicit affairs or prostitution which is legal in Costa Rica. The sign is to let other couples who wander up the dark trail after one too many in the middle of the night know that they should move down the row.
Other than the not quite spotlessly clean part and the massive spider that spent the whole night hanging out on top of the door staring down at our sleeping forms it turned out okay.
There was a dad and his two kids that came to play pool while we had a fresh trout dinner prepared by the proprietress. Since it was a weeknight no one came around in the middle of the night – the sign probably wasn’t necessary.