San José Feature
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Eco-Lodges in San José
Clean? Green? Pristine? San José is none of these, but even in Costa Rica's congested capital, you can count on a handful of pioneers who keep the environmental spirit alive.
The capital's few pockets of greenery are its parks, and, in this regard, the city does itself proud. The grandiose monuments so common in other Latin America countries are not very prominent. Small is the watchword in Costa Rica, so parks are places to enjoy mini eco-refuges rather than shrines to past heroes and glories. A trio of parks—Morazán, España, and Nacional—graces the area just northeast of downtown and provides a mostly contiguous several blocks of peace and quiet. Vast La Sabana Park on San José's west side once served as the country's international airport. Its lush greenery and ample space for recreation get our vote as being one of the most pleasing uses of urban space. The capital's parks have one big downside: after dark, a small cast of unsavory characters replaces the throngs of day-trippers. Make a point to vacate city parks when the sun goes down.
Use public transportation whenever possible. Buses travel everywhere in San José and suburbs, and taxis are relatively easy to find. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, it also saves you the hassle of driving and parking in an already congested city.
Ask whether your hotel recycles glass, plastic, and aluminum. A few lodgings—and, unfortunately, "few" is the operative term here—do. Take advantage if you can.
Don't litter—the city has a burdensome trash problem—although you'll swear no one else here follows this advice. Dispose of your trash properly.
Top Eco-Lodges in San José
To ensure that your hotel really is eco-friendly, do a bit of research or ask a few questions. Check on the property's lighting—does it use compact fluorescent bulbs? What about sensors or timers? Is any form of alternative energy, like solar or wind power, employed? Are there low-flow faucets, showers, and toilets? What sort of recycling programs are in place for guests and staff? Answers to such questions give you a sense of whether a property is green or not. Here are a couple of San José properties that do more than pay lip service to the environmental movement.
Clarion Hotel Amón Plaza
From its active in-hotel recycling program and its eco-friendly store that sells no products made from endangered woods, to its small garden that acquaints you with rain-forest plant species and its liaison program with the community, the Amón Plaza is greener than most countryside hotels.
Costa Rica's first "carbon neutral" hotel has taken major steps to reduce its carbon footprint. What is left over is offset by a tree-planting project the lodging supports. The Presidente has organized a small but growing consortium of San José hotels to take up recycling. All in all, not bad for a place located smack-dab in the center of the city.
Hotel Rincón de San José
Your hot water in this small Barrio Otoya hotel will be solar heated, and the place makes maximum use of natural lighting during the day in its public areas. The Rincón de San José uses only biodegradable products whenever possible, it also engages in an active recycling program. Even captured rainwater finds its way into your room's toilet basin.
The government is forever announcing some grandiose plan to make San José more livable and a bit less of an urban hell. Few, however, make it off the ground, mostly due to a chronic lack of funds. Two have come to fruition, though, and you will notice the benefit.
For years, the city government has been turning downtown streets into pedestrian-only malls. Some 34 blocks in the center city—sections of Avenidas Central and 4, and Calles 2, 3, and 17—now have bulevar (boulevard) status, with more on the drawing board. Thank the European Union for much of the funding.
Weekday driving restrictions cover all of San José and parts of neighboring San Pedro. The last digit of your license plate dictates the day of the week when you may not bring a car into the large restricted zone from 6 am to 7 pm. The city still hosts far too many cars, but the 20% reduction in vehicles each weekday rush hour has made a noticeable difference.
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