Late in the afternoon on Friday, February 12 — the beginning of Valentine’s Day Weekend — we completed the drive from Puntaneras (ferry terminal) to the vicinity of Arenal Volcano. We had a reservation at a small hotel but no address or location information about the hotel.
Alas, when we arrived at the hotel, about 7 kilometers from La Fortuna, the busy resort town at the base of Arenal, we were disappointed to learn the hotel had not registered our reservation The receptionist desk and office had the feel of a government office where some service was provided to the public, a welfare office, perhaps, or a department of motor vehicles. Contributing further to this impression was the reaction of the desk clerk to our announcement that we had a reservation for two nights. She had no record of any such reservation in her computer. She seemed more annoyed than anything at the inconvenience this was causing her, and had no trace of sympathy for our circumstances. I would not say she was unfriendly, exactly, just preoccupied and a touch annoyed. She did nothing to calm our growing sense of doom.
Valentine’s Day weekend, in this country even more so than in our own, is a very busy time in resort areas, a time for romantic getaways for couples from San José and elsewhere. Even small remote hotels get fully booked with guests. There was no room set aside for us. After 20 minutes of anxious waiting, a partial solution was found: We could have a room for just that one night. A young man w, by touching the wall with his finger and then displaying the wet paint on his finger. The wall evidently had just been painted that afternoon. This room would not have been considered ready for guests for at least another 24 hours. Now it was ours.
We spent an unhappy night there. It rained very, very hard during the night, pounding and clapping loudly on the tin roof. The din of the raindrops above us seemed apocalyptic, giving the impression the entire place might be swept away in a deluge. Later, in the deepest part of the night, the rain let up, but then two dogs in an adjoining yard, just over a wall next to our room, began to bark incessantly. No human in this world, I thought to myself, could possibly sleep through the loud excited barking of those dogs in such close proximity. What hotel could allow such a condition?
Breakfast the next morning was served in a covered outdoor patio area with an adjoining kitchen. The coffee was hot and flavorful, served directly from an electric percolator, and the food was perfectly good. Things were looking up. As we were finishing breakfast, our friend the receptionist appeared, carrying her cell phone, and explained that her boss, Mario, was on the line and wanted to talk to us about accommodations for the next night. Brian took the call, having been the one who had booked the unsuccessful reservation. It began to feel as if things were looking up. Mario was taking an interest in our case. When Brian finished the call, he explained that Mario was offering accommodations at a “rustic” facility even farther from town than the hotel we were in — back up the road we had traveled the previous afternoon. I was not at all enthusiastic about an even more remote location and a more rustic environment than where we were, but Brian said Mario had cautioned that this was the only option he could find for us this weekend. Brian agreed to go look at the place, and the gloomy receptionist at Mario’s direction accompanied him to give directions. I stayed behind to shower and pack.
Brian returned about 30 minutes later with a cheerful report. The rain had let up, the sun was beginning to shine, and Brian said the new place was quite charming, not the “rustic” unhappy place we somehow had come to expect.
My feeling on Friday evening, which became even more pronounced during the night with the rainstorm and the barking dogs, was that Arenal was a grim place, and that we had made a mistake in leaving the Pacific Coast beach towns we had been enjoying over the past week. Here it was rainy, gloomy and unwelcoming. The dogs ruled. We were going to be unhappy. Those were my thoughts, indeed my firm convictions, even as I enjoyed the perfectly decent breakfast they served us.
Imagine, then, my delight, and Brian’s alongside me, as we pulled into the driveway of Villa Josipek, with a charming row of small cabins for guests, in a tropical garden carved out of a hillside. It is an absolutely beautiful and peaceful place. Jorge, our host, along with his wife (whose name, I regret to say, I cannot remember), are attentive, warm and respectful, and very welcoming toward guests. The grounds are lush with tropical plants, very neatly trimmed and organized.
We loved it there very much, living in our little cabin for three nights and exploring the natural wonders of the Arenal Volcano region. The gloom I felt that first night in the funky hotel completely dissipated once we found our way to this little paradise with the kindly hosts!
And Brian loved the construction of the cabins. Even though they were built only fifteen years ago, the construction reminded him of cabins built in the 1920’s in the US: