San Jose. A Great Start to Wonderful Costa Rica!

San Jose. A Great Start to Wonderful Costa Rica!

Leaving Puerto Rico, I was thrilled to be on my way to Costa Rica, although my trip to San Jose was not necessarily off to a smooth start.  I had already had problems with a hotel I had booked and was flying in without a place to stay.  I had reservations at a condo in Jaco for a couple days later, but I had two nights that were scheduled for San Jose that were looking homeless.  To top it off, after a layover in Florida, a group of dudes about my age came barreling into my row of the plane whoopin’ and hollerin’ in what I could only recognize as a Slovic language.  This seriously threatened to ruin my sleep on the plane.

As predicted, the guys did ruin my sleep time.  However, they turned out to be a group of really cool dudes, from Chicago of all places!  Apparently there’s a thriving community of Russian-Americans in Chicago.  Who’da guessed it?  If memory serves, there was one guy from “the Mother Land” and they generally stuck with Russian for his benefit, but switched to English randomly for mine.  They agreed to let me tag along with them until we got to their hotel to see if there were any rooms available.  This would at least get me to downtown San Jose.

San José Costa Rica
View from my hotel

We first navigated the airport to get to the second floor of SJO to the upstairs bank.  Apparently the upstairs bank had a better exchange rate than the downstairs one.  I didn’t personally check this out but these guys seemed to know their way around San Jose.  Then we got a cab to the Best Western in Downtown San Jose.  I had intentionally avoided this place because of its reviews, but anyplace was looking good now.  The guys didn’t particularly like the place either.  They had chosen it because a few of them were married and they were attempting to avoid the working girls.  Here’s a little tip about Downtown San Jose…  If you don’t see a prostitute around, it’s the wrong place to be.  The reason there were no girls working the area was because it was occupied by thugs and drug dealers.  Of course, I’m not married so I’ll take pretty girls over trouble any day.

After getting settled in at the hotel, I went and got a quick bite to eat at a Subway or something.  Then I came back to the hotel, cleaned up, and decided it was time for a massage.  I had spent far too much time in airplanes over the last couple weeks and my back was killing me.  I jump in a cab and tell him I need a massage.

“OOOHHH, sexy massage.”  He says with a wink and a nod.

“NO, real massage.” I explain as clearly as I can.

“Massage with pretty girl?” he asks.

“Massage with gorilla girl” I respond.

He drives about three blocks down the road and stops.  He tells me he will be right back and runs in to one of the buildings.  I wasn’t thinking much of it as he came back outside and I expected to take off again.  Then he tells me to come with him.  He guides me through a buzzer door and up a desolate looking hallway to a room with an old lady at the desk and a couple couches full of younger ladies.  None of them looked like they could have given me a real massage with a sledge hammer, but they insisted they could give a real massage.

I selected one of the cleaner looking girls and she led me to a room.  Much to my surprise, they had a legitimate massage table at one end of the room.  Much less of a surprise was her inability to put any pressure on my back.  By American standards it had been a cheap massage so I went on my way figuring I’d gotten what I paid for.  I had told the cabbie not to wait on me, that I could walk to two blocks back to the hotel.

When I got back to the hotel there was a guy and a girl at the reception desk.  I asked where I could get a massage and they both looked as if this were the craziest question ever asked and neither wanted to answer.  I clarified with “a REAL BACK MASSAGE.”  They both shook their heads and said not around here.  As the feeling of defeat began to sweep over me, I made one last attempt and repeated my question.  “Where can I get a real massage?”

They told me to go to the Best Western in Irazu.  I asked if they could make me an appointment and they told me there was no need, I could just go and they would be available.  They had implied that this place was quite a ways away.  A ten minute cab ride later and I was there.  They obviously don’t share my idea of what’s far away.

This place was beautiful.  Luxury to the max here.  I wound my way through the reception area and to the spa and asked if they could fit me in.  I was told by a gorilla looking lady that it would be about 45 minutes.  I was off to a good start and to the bar to wait out my 45 minutes.  I had a few drinks and met some Americans that were staying there on business.  When my 45 minutes was up, I returned to the spa.

Now, I’m not much of a spa guy, but I do like a good solid back rub.  In this case it was a full body massage.  About 90 bucks for an hour if I remember right.  This included some black stones she’d been cooking in a crockpot for some odd reason and a bunch of stretching that I usually handle just fine by myself after my workouts.  I had pretty much been going along with whatever she said was best until she offered some kind of swamp-seaweed cream.  That’s when I kind of drew the line and explained that I was here because my lower back was sore, not because I wanted to look pretty.  She went back to working out the kinks in my back and did a damn fine job.

So far everyone in San Jose was friendly and Costa Rica was looking like a good place to be.  San Jose did not end up being one of my favorite spots, but it was a good one overall and a great spot to recover from Puerto Rico before moving on.

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