We were searching for a real name, with Costa Rican identity, and “Grano de Oro” refers directly to the coffee bean. Known in Costa Rica as the “grain of gold” despite being such a small fruit, coffee has represented one of the main economic activities of the country. In the same way this hotel, compared to traditional big hotel chains, is as small as a grain of coffee, but as important to hospitality industry as coffee has been to the economy.
The Hotel Grano de Oro is located in San José, in Barrio Don Bosco, on street 30 between avenue 2 and 4, very close to Paseo Colón. The building originally was a private residence belonging to the Pozuelo family. Built around 1910, with tropical Victorian architecture.
A Canadian couple who frequented Costa Rica on vacation, decided to venture into the hotel business; although they immensely enjoyed the natural beauty of the country, they felt that within San José there was no option of “boutique” style accommodations offering a personalized service. With this concern and with the conviction that they had a good business opportunity, not caring they had no experience in the hospitality industry, they began to search for a house that could be renovated to function as a hotel (fortunately the family Pozuelo agreed to sell this house), and the adventure began… The Grano de Oro was inaugurated in December 1991, consisting of 21 rooms, a gift shop and a modest café type restaurant.
During the first year of operation the hotel did extremely well and quickly gained recognition from local and international agencies for offering great service. There are two historical events that contribute to a massive influx of tourists to Costa Rica and consequently helped the initial success of the hotel: the first in 1987 when the President Oscar Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for actions in pursuit of peace in Central American territory (which for so many years had suffered serious conflicts). This international recognition helped to raise awareness of the country within the world, and was admired by millions of people in many countries for being a Central American country and having survived without an army all the while promoting peace. The second historic event was the football World Cup Italia 90; our country not only qualified for the first time in a World Cup, but also had an outstanding performance winning two games. These two historical facts (the Nobel Prize and the World Cup) placed Costa Rica as an exciting new tourist destination, exotic and with an amazing biodiversity.
Many of the tourists coming to Costa Rica appreciated the service presented by the Hotel Grano de Oro. Considering this successful first year, the hotel owners decide to buy a second property (also originally of the Pozuelo family), to carry out an expansion, which was ready for the month of December 1994; with this renovation the hotel jumped to having 34 rooms, as well as adding a terrace with 2 jacuzzis and a first extension of the restaurant was made. At this time a positive evolution in the restaurant began to take shape causing the decision to improve the restaurant in all aspects, new dishes, an extended and more sophisticated menu, more kitchen and restaurant staff to improve service. All this occurred of the hand of the new chef, Francis Canal, who along with the hotel owners was determined to convert the restaurant into one of the best in the city.
Over the next 10 years the hotel continued to stand strong as one of the best lodging options in San José, and the fame of its restaurant made it impossible to serve all of the customers who wanted to come to eat, especially the large number of local customers. Again based on the situation a decision was made to work in the next phase of the hotel: the owners bought yet another property next door (on the corner, where the current restaurant is) and in 2005 the construction of a beautiful building maintaining the original tropical Victorian style of the original house began. Currently the new building houses the restaurant, with 30 tables and a capacity for 108 people, a beautiful inner courtyard, a spacious bar, a wine cellar and a lounge as well as 4 more hotel rooms. The remodeling was completed in May of 2007, with a total of 6 new rooms, parking for up to 22 vehicles and an enlarged reception area and lobby. Shortly afterwards the gift shop was remodeled too.
Since then and until now the Hotel Grano de Oro worked to please its customers and is always looking to exceed their expectations. The Hotel Grano de Oro belongs to groups of boutique hotels: Small Distinctive Hotels of Costa Rica and Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality, both groups are for marketing purposes.
Parallel to the activity of the hotel and the restaurant, the owners of the Hotel Grano de Oro founded a social project in Costa Rica. This social project is a shelter for teenage mothers and their children, these girls were rescued from high-risk social environments (generally suffering from some form of abuse, sexual exploitation or drug addiction); the shelter is called Casa Luz, and is located in La Guácima, Alajuela. This project is unique because it is not only about “food and shelter”, the program includes a strong spiritual guide and psychological support, also providing an opportunity to help the young mothers study and re-integrate back into society. This home was started to break the chain of abuse these mother’s have lived so that their children do not come to suffer as they have.