One of the city's first guesthouses (technically it's three houses), this is the kind of place where you'll meet fellow travelers and swap stories about what you've seen. The Don Carlos has been in the same family for four generations, and the spirit of Carlos Bálser, the hotel's Liechtenstein-born founder—painter, geologist, archaeologist, and general jack-of-all-trades—lives on. Most rooms in the rambling old coffee-baron house have ceiling fans and big windows.
Those in the colonial wing have a bit more personality, and several newer rooms on the third floor have views of the Irazú and Barva volcanoes. Orchids and pre-Columbian statues adorn the abundant public areas, and the 272-tile mural in the lobby depicts the history of San José. The Don Carlos is a favorite among Fodors.com forums users.