Hostel El Icaco is a totally charming little hostel with bright tropical colors everywhere, right on the dark sands of a Caribbean beach. We would stay here again, no hesitation, as long as it's not the rainy season! The owner comes across as totally forthright, with more integrity than is typical for the innkeeper stereotype. Because we arrived for a two-night stay during a horrible monsoon storm that was expected to worsen, he allowed us to cut short our stay by a night to get to better weather in another town. He admitted that wildlife viewing, the reason nearly everyone comes to Tortuguero, would be very slim during such heavy rain, since the animals would seek shelter just like humans. He also told us that it was the worst storm he'd seen in eight years of operating the facility, and encouraged us to return another season. We deeply appreciated his honesty and would certainly go back to enjoy this hostel in better weather.
It's right on the beach! You literally walk out the front gate onto the sand of the beach and you can watch the surf from the breakfast patio or the hammock gazebo. The place is only a few feet above sea level. We saw several depressions in the sand from sea turtles' egg-laying activities; we will definitely try to return here during sea turtle season to appreciate the majesty of this.
Finding the place is relatively easy if a town-dweller gives you accurate directions. We were told to cross the flooded town square, wake through the flooded soccer field where all the kids are sliding in the mud, turn right when you reach the second set of high voltage lines, then follow the path almost to the end of town. And there it is, brightly painted with a small sign.
The hostel's central courtyard is beautifully landscaped with colorful tropical plants. Even the fifty-five-gallon drum trash can is painted in Caribbean colors. Everything is nicely maintained.
Rooms and Bathrooms
Every room seems to have a different combination of tropically bright paint on the walls, with bare basic furniture. Private rooms have locking doorknobs; ours had one window with white-lace curtains inside a sturdy screen. This private room had one double bed and one single bed, both with clean sheets and light bedspreads. There are comfortable mattresses on bare bed rails, which have uncomfortably sharp ends (ouch -- my shin!). Two basic, narrow shelves provide some storage space in the bedroom. Sturdy hooks for backpacks would be an excellent addition.
There are a few drawbacks, including a few large patches of (thin) mold on the bathroom door, which we wiped off with toilet tissue. The bedroom and bathroom have very dim bulbs in the fixtures, which makes it quite dreary, considering the completely overcast skies. Higher-output bulbs would have been cozy. Private room has no mirror in bedroom or bathroom; a small one would be an inexpensive but welcome addition. The portable fan didn't work during our stay.
The hostel has a spacious breakfast patio with a handful of small tables, all set attractively for morning. Breakfast of eggs and fruit is individually cooked. The kitchen space is left open in the evening, but it does not seem to be a communal kitchen available to hostel guests. The gazebo at the front of hostel's property has sturdy hooks for six hammocks, which are ragged but seemed strong enough for an adult's weight. During hot weather, this would be an ideal place to rest between running around on the sand.
This hostel offers basic accommodations in an outstanding location with terrific view of the surf. We would return, no question.