Walking past the striped hammocks and passing through the sliding glass doors, your eyes are first drawn to a hand painted white swinging chair. Then, you notice a growing tree placed in the centre of the room, and nearby stools carved from standing logs.
A painted sloth reclines dozily, and there are colourful chalked Costa Rican phrases (Que tuanis) above reception. A selection of cosy corners invite any visitor to throw down their bags and lay down for a quick siesta.
Chillout House is a hostel known for its recycling, encouraging its guests to separate their waste responsibly, but it also showcases a myriad of ways to lovingly restore items to surpass their former glory.
You’ll find the owner, Edith, buzzing around and fixing up her next creative project. From her hanging pineapple plants to her modernist lamp shades made from white rice containers, she is never short of ideas on how to spruce up her place.
Having spent two weeks at her hostel, it was clear that Edith epitomises the word ‘strong.’ Not only did she build the place with her own bare hands and a bucketload of grit, you’ll often find her dead lifting weights on the balcony.
The hostel used to be Edith’s family home. When she divorced, she lost everything except the bare bones of her house. Needing to work, she moved to La Fortuna to help one of her brothers at his restaurant. There, she began to formulate ideas for her own business.
After two years of hard graft and discovering her entrepreneurial spirit, in 2015 she decided to turn her house, which was being looked after by a friend, into a hostel.
Initially, her idea was met with disbelief. Some said that the location was too far from central Santa Elena despite it being only a fifteen minute walk.
Still, her new venture was difficult to envisage at that point. The place was empty and she had no furniture except for her own bed and a small bedside table. She said that her family weren’t totally on board at first, and instead she received pity rather than encouragement.
Yet, little by little, she began to acquire the things she needed. She asked around for any donations and told me that her neighbours couldn’t understand why she wanted their old pots and pans. Over time, she gained chairs, a fridge, then some beds.
When she was ready to open her doors to guests, her family still needed some convincing. Looking at the rooms, her daughters said that there weren’t enough home comforts to make it work.
However, the first group of guests were delighted. The growing reviews of her hostel were positive, earning her a high score and commendations on TripAdvisor. Where Edith saw flaws and improvements to be made, her guests saw quirky and creative solutions full to the brim with character.
That is what makes the Chillout House so special. It is Edith and her family. Wherever you look, it is evident that a lot of heart has gone into forging the place as it is today.
I look forward to returning soon to see how the place evolves further, and saying hello to the adorable Alaska.
Edith continues to be a trailblazer and you can find her new pop-up restaurant Qiao Pierde in Santa Elena (next to Restaurante Mar y Tierra). Currently serving crepes, it will soon offer the biggest burger in town!
Address: Barrio Valle Bonito, Calle #1 Monteverde Chillout House, Calle 1, Provincia de Puntarenas, Monteverde, Santa Elena, Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Price: varies depending on room and season, but around $15/night. This is great value for money compared to other places we’ve stayed in Monteverde.
Breakfast: various options available for 3,500 Colones each, including a continental breakfast, typical Costa Rican breakfast or a wrap. I highly recommend the pancakes and fruit option.
Kitchen: There is a fully stocked kitchen with a shared fridge and individual shelves for storing groceries if you wish to cook yourself.
Other services: laundry for $4/kg. Edith or her daughter Betsy can help you book ziplining tours, horseback adventures, night tours, or arrange your transport to the nature and wildlife reserves nearby. They can also book buses for onward travel.