Costa Rica, a small country in Central America is nestled between Nicaragua and Panama. It’s just 51,100 square kilometers (19,700 square miles), and would you believe Costa Rica would fit into the United States 74 times? But, for such a tiny country, there are so many epic tourist destinations, from the most popular tourist town in the country – the Pacific Coast to the wildlife haven and the less-visited Osa Peninsula!
And, when you’re planning your travel itinerary in Costa Rica, knowing exactly where to stay is difficult, especially if you’ve never been before!
Do you stay in a busy beach town like Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula, or amidst the lush jungle in La Fortuna, which is inland and not close to any beaches?
Costa Rica is notoriously one of the most expensive countries in Central America for tourists – so do you splurge your budget on nice hotels or opt for a much cheaper option – a hostel? Thankfully, there are plenty of options (hotels, hostels, and even some airbnbs) in each area I’ve listed below!
These are all questions I had before I booked my own accommodation in Costa Rica on my recent trip there. And there’s a high chance you’re asking yourself the same question!
So, I am writing this blog to help you decide where to stay in Costa Rica! I’ve included a list of the best hotels as well as the best areas based on what you want to get out of your trip! You’ll also find the advantages and disadvantages of each area and hotel recommendations to suit any budget!
- Choosing Where to Stay in Costa Rica
- Northern Pacific Coast of Guanacaste (BEST Place for a Short Holiday in Costa Rica)
- Where to Stay in Guanacaste
- Inland Central Costa Rica (Best Place to Stay for Adventure)
- Where to Stay Inland in Costa Rica
- Pacific Coast (Most Popular Area to Stay in Costa Rica)
- Where to Stay on the Pacific Coast
- Caribbean Coast (Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Destination)
- Where to Stay on the Caribbean Coast
- Nicoya Peninsula (Best Area to Stay for Surfing in Costa Rica)
- Where to Stay on the Nicoya Peninsula
- Osa Peninsula (Best Place to Stay for Wildlife)
- Where to Stay on the Osa Peninsula
- Pura Vida!
- Getting Around Costa Rica
- Invest in Travel Insurance
Choosing Where to Stay in Costa Rica
My best advice for deciding where to stay in Costa Rica would be to decide on an area to stay in first and then choose a hotel in that location. Once you’ve decided where in Costa Rica exactly you want to base yourself, then it is time to pick a hotel!
Even though Costa Rica is considered a small country – the distances between some of the top tourist destinations can be lengthy due to traffic and road conditions. Therefore, it’s vital to narrow down where you’ll stay to just one or two places.
How much time you have in Costa Rica will determine how many places you get to see; for example, if you have a week, you could visit both Tamarindo and La Fortuna because they are just a 4 hours drive from one another. While if you want to go off the beaten path for a week and explore the Osa Peninsula, then it’s best to spend the full week there because of its far distance from the other regions listed in this article.
Deciding where to base yourself also comes down to what you want to achieve from your vacation. Do you want to relax on a beach and maybe learn how to surf – then you should choose either the North Pacific Coast of Guanacaste or the Nicoya Peninsula. Whereas if you want to explore jungles and see some unique wildlife up close (like the infamous sloth), then head to Inland Central Costa Rica!
For this reason, I have selected the best areas to stay in Costa Rica (shown on the map above and described in more detail below!) I’ve narrowed it down to 6 epic regions, including the Northern Pacific Coast of Guanacaste, Inland Central Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula, the Osa Peninsula, the Pacific Coast, and the Caribbean Coast!
It includes a detailed explanation of what each area offers as well as the best Costa Rica hotels and hostels for every budget!
Northern Pacific Coast of Guanacaste (BEST Place for a Short Holiday in Costa Rica)
- Popular towns in this area: Tamarindo, Playa Flamingo, Playa del Coco, Playa Hermosa
- Best Activities: Surfing, ziplining, ATV tours, Tenorio National Park tours
- Closest International Airport: Liberia International Airport is 65 km (an hour and 11 minutes drive) from Tamarindo
If you’re a surf enthusiast or simply love a stunning beach, then you should consider spending your vacation on the North Pacific Coast of Guanacaste. In fact, the surf here is among the best in Costa Rica. Surfers from across the world arrive here in their droves every month to surf at some of the best surf spots in the world; including Witch’s Rock near Playa Flamingo.
And because it’s just over an hour’s drive from Liberia International Airport, this area is ideal for a short getaway because you’re not spending too long traveling there and back (unlike some of the other regions in Costa Rica!)
Plus, you’re spoiled for choice with the activities on offer here, from surfing to ziplining to renting an ATV. So you’ll never have to venture into another region to get your activity fix. Pretty much everything is available here on the North Pacific Coast! The only downside would be the lake of wildlife. Don’t expect to see sloths in the wild here like you can in other regions.
The North Pacific Coast of Guanacaste is one of the busiest and most popular areas for tourists, and as a result, there are a ton of all-inclusive resorts and hotels here, and because it attracts a varied clientele, there’s an area here suitable for all budgets.
And what makes this area even more attractive is the fact it doesn’t have a ‘rainy’ season. So, if you’re looking to vacation somewhere with pretty much-guaranteed sunshine, then head to the Northern Pacific Coast of Guanacaste.
Some of the most popular towns in the area include Tamarindo, Playa Flamingo, Playa del Coco, and Playa Hermosa. And they are all large towns with lots of restaurants, hotels, and activities.
But honestly, my favorite town within this region and my top recommendation to base yourself in is Tamarindo! Which is a popular party and surf town which boasts a stunning golden-sand beach! Some of the best things to do here include a sunset cruise through Tamarindo Bay which includes water activities, an open bar, and a meal.
And of course, you can’t come to Tamarindo and not try your hand at surfing! If you’ve surfed before you can rent a board from one of the stores in town or if you’re a beginner book a lesson. This two-hour surf lesson in Tamarindo is top-rated and has over 1,100 five-star reviews.
Regardless of what you want from your vacation, the North Pacific Coast of Guanacaste is sure to have just what you need! In fact, it’s one of my top choices for where to stay in Costa Rica!
Pros of staying in Northern Guanacaste:
- Easy to access from Liberia airport
- Lots of variety when it comes to activities
- Plenty of nice hotels and resorts to choose from
- Ideal holiday destination for those looking for touristy spots (plenty of restaurants an shopping!)
Cons of staying in Northern Guanacaste:
- Can be very busy
- Lots of tourists, not a ton of authentic Costa Rican culture
- Not much for wildlife viewing or hiking/wildlife viewing
Where to Stay in Guanacaste
As I mentioned above, Tamarindo is our favorite town on the North Pacific Coast of Guanacaste and where I recommend basing yourself! From here you can easily explore other nearby towns, as well as take advantage of the best restaurants and hotels in the area.
But if you settle on Tamarindo, you need to know that there are several different areas within the town where you can stay, including Playa Tamarindo, Playa Langosta, and Playa Grande.
For example, if you’re after a relaxing beachy vacation, then stay at one of the hotels near Playa Tamarindo but just be aware that this is also the most popular area and can get booked out pretty quickly. While if you’re looking for a more peaceful holiday surrounded by nature – book a place in Playa Langosta or Playa Grande only a few minutes away!
Below I have listed three of my top choices for hotels in Tamarindo, there’s something for every budget!
Are you looking forward to a quiet Tamarindo holiday without dealing with the constant rowdiness of kids around? Then a stay at Jardin del Eden Boutique Hotel is just what you need.
An adults-only boutique hotel in the center of the town, Jardin del Eden is set in a tropical garden brimming with trees and flowering plants. It’s far away from the bustling streets enough to provide you with nothing but the private retreat you’re craving, but also right in the heart of town, within walking distance to everything.
As one of the best hotels in all of Costa Rica, Jardin del Eden will pamper you with top-notch amenities in your suite and world-class facilities on the property. The rooms include flat-screen TVs and high-speed Wi-Fi, plus a huge (beautiful!) bathroom.
If you prefer more luxurious accommodation, stay in one of the suites that come with a large terrace with your very own jacuzzi and a panoramic view of the ocean and the town. Just imagine, enjoying your morning coffee or sunset cocktail here while dipping in the jacuzzi and soaking in the view – pure luxury!
Outside your suite, you can enjoy more of what Jardin del Eden has to offer. Visit the in-house spa for relaxing massages, body treatments, and facials. Join free beachfront yoga sessions, then enjoy a friendly game of outdoor tennis or a quiet stroll along the hotel’s private beach, which is conveniently set in the middle of Tamarindo Beach.
When it’s time to refuel, just head to the poolside restaurant that serves an eclectic mixture of Central American, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisine made from locally sourced ingredients. Feel free to visit Tamarindo’s other dining options, too!
The rooms at Jardin del Eden are diverse and spread out, with rates ranging from $220 to $537 USD per night.
Check availability and book Jardin del Eden Boutique Hotel online here.
Related Read: Check out the best restaurants in Tamarindo!
$$ – BoHo Tamarindo
So you’re looking for a romantic adults-only hotel for your holiday or honeymoon in Costa Rica but don’t want to break the bank? Then BoHo Tamarindo is exactly what you’re looking for! This cozy boutique hotel boasts only eight guestrooms, so you’ll have more privacy and space to enjoy the property’s amenities.
To kick off your day at BoHo Tamarindo, you will be served a hearty complimentary breakfast before you embark on a fun day out in the sun. Have the staff organize a snorkeling, diving, or canoeing trip for you on the nearby beach, or rent one of the hotel’s bicycles and ride to the downtown area, where all the action is.
If you like a more laid-back way to spend your day, you can just chill out in the deckchair by the pool or do some yoga on the sun deck. There is also a common area on the property, where you can play some board games or read books and magazines.
When it’s time to hit the hay, you can head to your room, which is tastefully decorated with wood and blue accents. Your suite sits right outside the pool area, so you can enjoy the view of the garden and pool while sitting on the beanbag of your private patio. Each suite is also equipped with air conditioning, a mini-fridge, and coffee/tea-making facilities.
Rooms start at around $144 USD per night. Check availability and book BoHo Tamarindo online here.
$ – Selina Tamarindo
Selina is every traveler’s go-to accommodation provider for budget-friendly rooms in Costa Rica. But apart from its affordability, what makes Selina Tamarindo stand out from the other hotels in the Tamarindo downtown area is its unbeatable surfing school program.
Nestled between Playa Grande and Playa Langosta, Selina Tamarindo is among the best hotels in Costa Rica for surfing, thanks to its incredible waves and expert guides. Surf lessons at this site are suitable for all levels, from curious beginners to experienced professionals. So whether you’re just starting or are already pretty skilled at surfing, Selina wouldn’t disappoint.
If you’re a non-surfer, there are plenty of other activities that the hotel can offer you, too. The hotel’s schedule of activities changes each week, so you can experience everything that Tamarindo has to offer. Go on volcano treks or try restorative yoga and meditation sessions. Don’t miss the salsa lessons, too!
Back at the hotel, you can chill at the outdoor pool or enjoy some chick-flicks in the movie room. There is a lively restaurant and bar on the property, as well, where you can try the best Costa Rican dishes. To cap off your day, catch the breathtaking sunset on Tamarindo Beach, which is only three minutes away on foot.
At Selina, you’ll have the choice of staying in a dorm or a private room, both of which are equipped with air conditioning (a must in Tamarindo if you ask me!) Rates for a private room start at $86 USD per night, while a bed in the dorm rooms starts at $26 USD per night.
Inland Central Costa Rica (Best Place to Stay for Adventure)
- Popular towns in this area: La Fortuna/Arenal, Santa Elena/Monteverde
- Best Activities: Hiking, cloud forests, wildlife watching (the sloth tours are excellent!), whitewater rafting, ziplining, volcano tours, chasing waterfalls
- Closest International Airport: San Jose International airport is 114 km (2 hours 15 minutes drive) from La Fortuna and 126 km (2.5 hours) from Monteverde
There’s more to Costa Rica than beaches and surfing, so if you’re after a more unique vacation and are itching to get up close to the wildlife and jungles in Costa Rica, then Inland Central Costa Rica is the spot for you! Plus, this region is only a few hours north of San Jose and the International Airport there, so it’s very easy to reach both by rental car and public transport!
Some of the most noteworthy towns in this region include La Fortuna near Arenal Volcano, and Santa Elena near Monteverde Cloud Forest. And spending a few days in one of these towns will give you a different perspective of Costa Rica! For example, Monteverde is surrounded by lush forest and is most famous for the Monteverde Cloud Forest located here and the abundant wildlife which can be spotted here!
But my top recommendation for where to stay in Inland Central Costa Rica is the small town of La Fortuna which is home to some great restaurants, hotels, and lively bars! This town is also considered by many to be the adventure capital of Costa Rica, and there are a plethora of adrenalin-pumping activities on offer here, from a caving experience through the Venado Caves to a thrilling white-water rafting adventure on Rio Sarapiqui!
But there are also plenty of calmer things to do on offer here, like exploring the Mistico Hanging Bridges, one of the best hanging bridges in La Fortuna, or hiking to the famed La Fortuna Waterfall! And another must-do is, of course visiting the Arenal Volcano National Park, which is just a 30-minute drive from the town!
If you want to see sloths in their natural environment in Costa Rica, there are sloth tours here. No need to visit a rescue center if you’re in La Fortuna, sloths live in the trees here!
In short, Inland Central Costa Rica is an adventure-lovers paradise and a great place to see wildlife! It’s one of the more unique areas to stay in Costa Rica!
Pros of staying in Central Costa Rica:
- Tons of adventure tours on offer
- Some of the best volcanoes to visit in Costa Rica are nearby (Arenal and Poas Volcano)
- Lots of waterfalls and wild jungle hiking experiences
- Wildlife viewing
- Plenty of hotels and some with hot springs
Cons of staying in Central Costa Rica:
- No beaches or coastline nearby
- Can get very busy and full of tourists
- Opposite rainy season than most of Costa Rica
Where to Stay Inland in Costa Rica
As I mentioned above, the town of La Fortuna is our top choice for where to stay in Inland Central Costa Rica!
And when deciding on where to stay in this small town, it’s important to know the different parts of the town and what each part can offer you. For example, within the town itself, there are plenty of accommodation options, restaurants, and stores. And there’s a hotel/hostel for every budget here.
Whereas on the outskirts of town, you’ll have the best views while still being within walking distance of the amenities within the town. And finally, Lake Arenal is a 30-minute drive from downtown, but the hotels here boast a breathtaking lake view!
Below I have listed three of my top choices for hotels in La Fortuna; there’s something for every budget!
Located only a few minutes from La Fortuna, Baldi Hot Springs Hotel & Spa provides you with more than just your standard hotel amenities. It boasts 25 thermal pools with crystalline waterfalls, lush gardens, and air-conditioned suites – it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is only of the very best hotels in Costa Rica!
You can find four restaurants on the property serving free buffet breakfasts and a mix of organic, vegetarian, and international dishes. There are also four bars, with some located by the hot pools. If you want to pamper yourself, head to the hotel’s spa and wellness center that will ease away your stress with full-service spa treatments.
The Baldi Hot Springs Hotel offers upscale rooms well-appointed with free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen cable TV, and even a mini-bar. You also have your own bathroom, complete with complimentary toiletries.
Baldi Hot Springs are also considered to be one of the best hot springs in La Fortuna. If you aren’t staying at the hotel, a day pass costs $40 USD per person. This fee is waived if you’re a hotel guest, so it’s well worth just booking a night or two here!
You can stay here for as low as $209 USD/night. You should secure your room at Baldi Hot Springs Resort online in advance to avoid missing out.
Amidst the vibrant tropical garden at the base of Arenal Volcano, Volcano Lodge, Hotel, and Thermal Experience gives the sense of being in the middle of the jungle but still just a short distance from all of the area’s attractions, activities, and nightlife.
You’ll find everything you need at this resort to have the best possible vacation in Costa Rica. There is a tropical botanic garden right on the property, two cold-water pools, two exclusive hot springs with varying temperatures (one with a swim-up bar), two hot spring-fed Jacuzzis, and a boutique spa.
If those aren’t enough to convince you, the hotel features a hiking trail on-site! They can also arrange tours for your convenience, such as a canopy excursion or a trip to nearby hot springs.
If you’d rather spend your time indoors, the lounge, billiards, and reading areas are all available to you. You can also spend your time digging into traditional Costa Rican food offered in their in-house restaurant and three bars.
There are over 60 rooms and suites on the property, all fitted with private terraces featuring full or partial views of the volcano, botanic gardens, or both. There are some with private plunge hot springs. Each room is also appointed with a coffee maker, cable TV, and a private bathroom.
If you plan to stay here, rates start at $161 USD per night. Be sure to book in advance as Volcano Lodge is often fully booked. You can check availability and book online here.
With an outdoor pool, bar, garden, and complimentary wireless Internet access, Arenal Poshpacker is a low-budget stay with excellent amenities. In addition, you’ll also find a terrace, a shared kitchen, a tour desk, and even ticket service for your convenience all at the property. Should you also need a lift to the airport or the beach, Arenal Poshpacker offers a paid shuttle service, too.
The location of Arenal Poshpacker puts you in the center of La Fortuna town, yet you’re still just 10 minutes away from Kalambu Hot Springs and La Fortuna Waterfall.
There are 30+ guest rooms on the property where you can stay. A private bathroom is included in every room, and some are even fitted with rainfall showerheads or bathtubs for an extra touch of luxury. If you are traveling solo or on a limited budget, their comfortable dorms are a great option.
of course, a hostel that calls itself “Poshpacker” has an onsite spa – would you expect anything less?! Treatments and facials are also available in the in-house spa to relieve your stress after a long day of sightseeing.
Related Read: There are some awesome restaurants in La Fortuna, you can check them out here!
Pacific Coast (Most Popular Area to Stay in Costa Rica)
- Popular towns in this area: Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Uvita, Dominical
- Best Activities: Wildlife watching, exploring national parks, beach days, surfing
- Closest International Airport: San Jose International airport is 98 km (1 hour 45 minutes) from Jaco, 168 km (just under 3 hours) from Manuel Antonio, and 223 km (3.5 hours) from Uvita
Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is the most popular tourist destination in the country, thanks to its close proximity to San Jose International Airport and the epic surf and stunning beaches here. In fact, the city of Jaco offers some of the best surfing conditions in Central America!
As well as that, this large region is home to both Manuel Antonio National Park and Marino Ballena National Park. So, considering all of the above, it’s no wonder the Pacific Coast is one of the best areas to stay in Costa Rica.
The best towns to stay in this region include Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Uvita, and Dominical, and all are touristy towns with lots of hotels, restaurants, bars, and things to do! There are also some amazing treehouse hotels around here!
To be honest, my favorite city to stay in on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is Jaco, which offers a chilled-out vibe during the day and turns into an epic party destination when dark falls! It’s also the closest beach city to San Jose, so it attracts a large number of holidaying Costa Ricans too! The beach here is 2 miles long and is a great place to catch a wave, relax or watch the sunset! Some of the other best things to do in Jaco include a two-hour ATV tour through the jungle, riding the aerial tram to see the epic scenery and wildlife, and a speed boat tour to Tortuga Island!
The Pacific Coast is one of my favorite choices for where to stay in Costa Rica!
Pros of staying on the Pacific Coast:
- Easy to access from San Jose airport
- Plenty of nice hotels and resorts to choose from
- Ideal holiday destination for those looking for touristy spots including restaurants and shopping
- Opportunity to see wildlife in Manuel Antonio National Park
- Whale watching and exploring the Whale’s Tail in Marino Ballena National Park
- Close to some of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica including Nauyaca Waterfalls
Cons of staying on the Pacific Coast:
- Can be very busy
- Lots of tourists, not a ton of authentic Costa Rican culture
- Party vibe in Jaco (could be a “pro” depending on who you are talking to)
- Tours and hotels book up quickly
Where to Stay on the Pacific Coast
As I said, Jaco is my favorite city on the Pacific Coast and has the most options for hotels. It also is a good central location for exploring other attractions in the area. You can easily visit Manuel Antonio National Park or Nauyaca Waterfalls on a day trip.
But before deciding where to stay in Jaco, you should know that there are four areas in and around town where you may base yourself. The first two areas, North and South Jaco, are right along Jaco beach and the center of the action. Many bars and restaurants can be found in these areas, and the nightlife is vibrant. Thus, these areas attract a mostly younger crowd.
Another option is Playa Hermosa, a 10-minute drive away. It’s a quieter beach with a few bars, restaurants, and hotels. However, it’s not advisable to swim on the beach here, and surfing there is only recommended for advanced surfers.
And finally, Playa Herradura is a quieter beach than Playa Hermosa and is popular with families. However, it doesn’t have many restaurants and bars.
Below I have listed three of my top choices for hotels in Jaco; there’s something for every budget!
Related Read: if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of free and cheap things to do in Jaco!
f you’re looking for the best way to make the most out of your Jacó vacation, then look no further than Best Western Jacó Beach Resort. An all-inclusive resort sitting right on the beach, Best Western Jacó Beach Resort boasts exciting amenities for visitors of all ages.
Bringing your kids on vacation? A games room and supervised kid’s activities are located right on the property. If you prefer spending your time outdoors, you’ll be glad to know that the hotel comes complete with tennis and volleyball courts at your disposal, too.
Want a more laid-back way to spend your time? Then take a dip in the outdoor pools or munch on some local and international cuisine at the hotel’s El Puerto Restaurant, where you can also enjoy a panoramic view of the Pacific. Grab some mid-day snacks at the in-house El Almendro Bar and El Muelle Bar, and soak up the sun while downing your favorite cocktail.
When it comes to your suite, choose from 125 guestrooms, all of which are well-appointed with wireless internet, satellite TV, and tea and coffee making facilities. Another thing you’ll surely love about staying at Best Western is how easy you’ll get to enjoy everything that Jacó offers. Simply head to their tour desk, and they’ll happily assist you with booking activities, from fishing trips to Canopy Adventures.
Hotel rooms here start at $198 USD per night for two persons, including meals and unlimited beverages except for alcoholic beverages.
Hotel Beachfront Vista Hermosa may look like your typical hotel with its humbly furnished guest rooms. But what makes it one of the best hotels in Jaco is that it’s super close to the beach. In fact, you’re so close that you will wake up to the relaxing sound of the waves crashing the shore.
After munching on your complimentary breakfast (which, by the way, is one of my favorite things about this hotel), you can head to the outdoor pool area to cool off. Lay on the lounge chairs that face the ocean and take in the beauty of the surrounding tropical garden and the stunning Pacific. There is also a spa center, sun deck, and restaurant right on the property for your convenience.
If you’re up for some wet action, just approach one of the surf instructors of the hotel for some lessons. The waves can be pretty big in this area, so you can practice with your surfboard to your heart’s content. For a more laid-back activity, you can try hiking and horseback riding on site or stroll along the private beach.
The rooms start at only $100 USD a night.
$ – Room2Board
A boutique hostel and surf camp tucked away on the southern end of the beach, Room2Board is probably one of the best hostels in all of Costa Rica. It boasts a social and friendly atmosphere, the kind that makes you feel like a part of the family from the moment you walk through the door. This makes Room2Board a favorite among solo travelers and backpackers alike offering budget dorm and private rooms.
While the rooms at this hostel are pretty basic, the hotel-like amenities and varied activities offered right on the property easily make up for it. Go on a quick movie date at the in-house movie theater, dip in the pool, or enjoy the romantic sunset on the rooftop while you down your cocktail and chill on the hammocks. Join your new friends for lunch at the on-site restaurant or cook your own meal in the communal kitchen if you like.
Room2Board also provides the necessary resources to get your vacation off to a flying start. Start perfecting your surf pose with the surf and SUP packages offered here, or get in touch with your inner peace in the yoga classes done daily. You can also just walk to the town center to get in on the action as it is just five minutes away on foot.
The rooms at Room2Board come as private, shared, or dorm-style. If you prefer rooms with a private bathroom, rates start at $75 USD per night. Meanwhile, beds in dorms range from $16 to $24 USD per night. There is an additional charge for air conditioning.
Caribbean Coast (Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Destination)
- Popular towns in this area: Puerto Viejo, Tortuguero
- Best Activities: Wildlife, wild beaches, small towns, relaxing, Caribbean culture (and food!), calm Caribbean beaches
- Closest International Airport: San Jose International airport is 230 km (4 hours and 50 minutes) from Puerto Viejo and 136 km (3.5 hours) from Tortuguero
Do you consider yourself an adventurer? Or perhaps you’re a backpacker in search of a hidden gem?! Well, then, Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast is for you! Although this side of the country tends to get more rain, and the beaches here don’t boast the same breaks as those on the Pacific Coast – it’s still a worthy destination, at least for a couple of days! Let me explain why!
There are two major towns on the Caribbean Coast – Puerto Viejo and Tortuguero, and both are situated in the Limon Province. And although Tortuguero is closer to San Jose International Airport, it’s Puerto Viejo that attracts the majority of the tourists.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, as it’s also known, is a beachside town and exudes a fabulously chilled vibe that I just love! It has several restaurants and bars and a couple of accommodation options, although there are not too many luxury resorts here. It’s definitely geared more toward a more budget-savvy traveler.
The locals here are so friendly and truly live the “Pura Vida” lifestyle. Another bonus to basing yourself in Puerto Viejo is that you can explore Cahuita National Park, where you can explore mangroves and the rainforest and go snorkeling to see a shipwreck. Other top things to do in Puerto Viejo include surfing on Playa Cocles and visiting the Jaguar Rescue Center, one of the best wildlife rescue centers in all of Costa Rica!
But, if you decide to stay in Tortuguero, that’s a great choice too, because it’s the gateway to the stunning Tortuguero National Park. As one of the most important nesting sites for sea turtles in the world, this is one of the best places to visit if you want to see turtles in Costa Rica! Would you believe a whopping 20,000 green sea turtles come here annually from July to October to lay their eggs? The national park can only be reached by boat or plane, so one of the best ways to see it is by booking a tour!
Pros of staying on the Caribbean Coast:
- Relaxing vibe
- Calm beach bays perfect for swimming
- Wildlife and some of the best national parks in Costa Rica to explore (Cahuita and Torgtuguero)
Cons of staying on the Caribbean Coast:
- Can be difficult to get to
- Far from other popular attractions in Costa Rica
- Limited things to do and see
- Limited hotels, especially in the luxury range
Where to Stay on the Caribbean Coast
Puerto Viejo is our top choice for a place to stay on the Caribbean Coast because there’s more to do here, and there are much more accommodation options. Plus, you can easily do a day trip or overnight trip to Tortuguero from here!
When picking out where to stay in Puerto Viejo, you have four main areas to choose from. Puerto Viejo downtown, Manzanillo, Playa Cocles, and Cahuita. But for the purpose of this blog, I will focus on Puerto Viejo downtown, as that’s where all the best restaurants and most of the hotels are located!
Below I have listed three of my top choices for hotels in Puerto Viejo; there’s something for every budget!
$$$ – Umami Hotel
Offering a fresh blend of exclusivity and luxury, Umami Hotel stole my heart from the get-go, and it’s easy to see why. The moment you step into the property, its refreshing minimalist white theme with coral and wood finishes will be the first to greet you. Add this to the fact that the property is surrounded by towering trees, and you have a tropical haven just five minutes away from the beach.
The best part? Umami Hotel is exclusive to adults, so you won’t be bothered by rowdy kids spoiling your holiday relaxation!
Apart from the hotel’s appealing theme, what I love about this property is its top-notch amenities strategically placed within a few steps from the rooms. There’s an outdoor pool just outside the ground floor suites that comes complete with sunbeds and is surrounded by tropical plants. You’ll find a spa on-site, too, where you can be pampered with the famous coffee treatment.
I also love the hotel’s Mar & Sal restaurant. It’s right beside the pool area, so you can dig into a sumptuous feast of international cuisine while taking in the view of the pool and garden.
Umami Hotel makes sure that you don’t only enjoy its amenities but also get to experience what Puerto Viejo has to offer. Just approach the concierge, and they can organize an excursion for you, whether that’s visiting the neighboring Cahuita National Park or getting up close and personal with the local turtles and dolphins.
Back at the hotel, you’ll be treated to more of Umami Hotel’s luxurious touches right in the comforts of your room. There’s air-conditioning available, on top of wireless internet access, cable TV, and a minibar! You’l have a terrace overlooking the pool, too, for a more airy feel.
You can score the rooms with the pool view for as low as $292 USD per night, but I’d recommend staying at the Deluxe Rooms (starting from $337) and Premium Suites (starting from $382) for an elevated luxury experience.
$$ – Black Bamboo B&B
Located just an eight-minute walk from the beach, Black Bamboo B&B really makes it easy for first-time visitors to make the most out of staying in Puerto Viejo. Staying here means you’ll only be 15 minutes away from the downtown area on foot, less than a kilometer away from Playa Cocles, and a quick walk away from many great fishing spots.
But beyond its convenient location, I really like that it’s one of the most budget-friendly Puerto Viejo hotels where you don’t need to sacrifice luxury. Sure, it’s a relatively small B&B, but the rooms are pretty comfy and nice. They’re primarily designed with wood furniture with the white canopy bed as the main piece. The rooms also overlook the pool, so you can enjoy the refreshing view of the garden and pool from your terrace as soon as you wake up.
Other amenities you can find right on the property are a fully-equipped shared kitchen, an open-air dining area near the pool, and BBQ facilities.
Room rates here start at $120 USD per night. You can order a full breakfast each morning for $6 per person per day and have it served in your room.
When it comes to the cheapest accommodation worth staying at in Costa Rica, Selina is always on my list, and Selina Puerto Viejo is no exception. This tropical gem combines the best of the Caribbean vibe into one property.
There’s a restaurant on site serving the best regional dishes and artisan dark ground coffee, a surf club that will teach you how to perfect your alley-oop, and live music events that will get you into the Caribbean groove.
Selina also has other notable amenities to keep you occupied during the days when you would rather stay inside. Dip in the swimming pool to cool off, stay productive in the modern coworking space, or join the yoga sessions in the studio. You’ll also love the spacious common areas in the hostel, where you can gather with other guests and chit-chat about life.
In terms of the rooms, Selina has a ton of options to suit your needs and budget. There are a variety of private suites and shared dorms, but my personal recommendation is the unique teepee! Bathrooms are shared for the teepees, but you’ll get to immerse yourself better in nature as the “room” is built of hand-made, indigenous materials for an eco-friendly stay.
The private rooms at Selina Puerto Viejo start at $59 USD, the teepees at $22, the rooms with shared bathroom at $19, and a bed in the dorms at $13 with the option to stay in a female-only dorm room.
Nicoya Peninsula (Best Area to Stay for Surfing in Costa Rica)
- Popular towns in this area: Montezuma, Santa Teresa, Samara, Nosara
- Best Activities: Surfing, yoga, Montezuma waterfall, small-town vibes, markets, local cafes
- Closest International Airport: San Jose International airport is 168 km (just under 5 hours) from Santa Teresa, and Libera airport is 205 km (just under 4 hours) from Santa Teresa. Nosara is 114 km (2.5 hours) from Liberia airport, and 234 km (4 hours and 45 minutes) from San Jose Airport.
The Nicoya Peninsula is the biggest peninsula in the country and incorporates both the Guanacaste and Puntarenas provinces. This lengthy stretch of the Pacific Coast is 121-kilometer-long (75 miles) and is considered one of the top surf destinations in Costa Rica, and tourists flock here to tackle the region’s infamous waves – the beaches in Nosara and Santa Teresa are some of the best in the country and are especially popular with surf lovers!
It’s worth noting that the Nicoya Peninsula is a little harder to reach than some of the other regions on the list, with the towns here averaging a 3-hour journey from the nearest international airport in Liberia. And San Jose is even further away, it’s important to add that the journey from San Jose to Santa Teresa includes a 1.5-hour ferry to Puntarenas!
This peninsula is home to several charming surf towns, including Montezuma, Santa Teresa, Samara, and Nosara – which are some of the most popular areas to stay in the whole country! These towns boast a laid-back vibe, plenty of bars and restaurants, and an abundance of activities like ziplining, fishing, scuba diving, and horseback riding.
If you’re after a more up-market surfing destination, then Nosara is for you. While the small town of Samara exudes a laid-back hippie vibe, and Montezuma is the perfect mix of jungle and beach. But, my favorite town on the Nicoya Peninsula, and where I recommend basing yourself for at least a couple of days is Santa Teresa.
Santa Teresa is a beach town that tends to attract a younger crowd, and the nightlife is great, but the daytime activities are equally epic, choose from an inshore fishing charter and an eight-cable ziplining tour, and much more! Plus, the surfing here is out-of-this-world and experienced surfers can catch some waves at “Suck Rock” or Playa Hermosa near the town. There are also surf spots for beginners.
Interestingly too, the Nicoya Peninsula is one of only five Blue Zone areas globally, which means that people here live the longest and are among the healthiest people in the world. So, it truly does represent the best of the Pura Vida lifestyle that Costa Rica is so famous for!
Pros of staying on the Nicoya Peninsula:
- Amazing surf beaches
- Beautiful sunsets
- Lots of beautiful restaurants/cafes/bars, and boutique shopping
- Less busy than many other places in Costa Rica
Cons of staying on the Nicoya Peninsula:
- Can be difficult to get to
- Not the best swimming beaches
- Smaller towns, some with limited places to stay
- Expensive area to travel, more expensive than most of Costa Rica
Where to Stay on the Nicoya Peninsula
As I said above, I think that the best place to stay on the Nicoya Peninsula is Santa Teresa because not only does it have some of the best surf conditions in the country, but it’s also home to plenty of cool bars, restaurants, and accommodation options.
On top of that, Santa Teresa has a central location that makes it easy to explore nearby Montezuma or even Tortuga Island!
But before choosing a hotel in Santa Teresa, it’s important to understand the layout of the town. There are no sidewalks, so walking around this area can be difficult ad time-consuming. That’s why it’s important to choose a hotel that is close to the activities and restaurants you want to try.
The “downtown” area is called Playa Carmen and stretches all the way to North Santa Teresa, and it’s where you’ll find most amenities. While if you want a more peaceful vacation, it’s best to head out to Mal Pais or Playa Hermosa for a hotel!
Below I have listed three of my top choices for hotels in Santa Teresa; there’s something for every budget!
Related Read: Check out the cheapest and free things that you can do in Santa Teresa! Perefct if you’re on a budget!
$$$ – Hotel Nantipa
Set just steps away from the ocean, Hotel Nantipa is Santa Teresa’s definition of a true beachfront vacation. This luxurious accommodation is one of the best beachfront resorts and offers you nothing but a trip worth remembering. After all, with private bungalows and easy access to the beach, what’s not to love about this boutique hotel?
Walking into your bungalow (which, by the way, is framed by tastefully landscaped flora for privacy), you’ll immediately notice its interiors inspired by Costa Rica’s coastline. Photos of the beach hang on the wall, and the furnishings have a wooden touch to them. You’ll also enjoy the modern amenities found inside the rooms, such as a smart TV, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and mini-bar.
My favorite part of the bungalow, though, is definitely the patio, where you can take in the ocean, pool, or garden view before heading out to start your day.
From your room, head to the hotel’s in-house restaurant, Manzú, which sits on the beach and provides you with a panoramic view of the ocean and the sunset. Grab your à la carte breakfast and try out one of the unique cocktails offered here that mixes Costa Rican tropical fruits with local liqueurs. After having your fill, unwind by the large pool while you mingle with the other guests.
You can find Hotel Nantipa on the northern end of Playa Carmen. Bungalows start at $370 to $465 USD.
Check availability and book Hotel Nantipa online in advance here.
$$ – Fuego Lodge
A family-owned hotel just five minutes from the beach, Fuego Lodge is one of the best hotels in Santa Teresa if you’re looking for a tropical staycation that isn’t too expensive.
Right on the property, you’ll have everything you need to make the most out of your stay. Take a swim in the outdoor pool that’s shaded with towering palms. There’s also a spacious jungle deck nearby, where you can just chill while surfing the internet and soaking in the beauty of the surrounding gardens.
If you’re in the mood for some serious R&R, join the on-site daily yoga and pilates lessons, treat yourself to some Reiki sessions, and indulge in a relaxing massage.
Fuego Lodge has something in store for its active guests, too. Just approach the front desk, and they’ll happily arrange your tour of choice, whether that’s horseback riding or snorkeling excursions. You can also just go the DIY route, especially since plenty of beaches are within a quick walk or drive away. Some traditional restaurants, coffee shops, and car rentals are also close.
When it’s time to hit the hay, head to your cozy room with air conditioning and TV. Some units come with fully equipped kitchens and outdoor seating areas for your convenience.
Rates here begin at $120 USD per night. You can check availability and book Fuego Lodge online in advance here.
When traveling to Santa Teresa on a budget, Selina Santa Teresa South is one of the best hotels in Costa Rica for you.
Want to bunk up with other guests to save money? There are shared dorm rooms available here. Want your own space? Then, the standard room is just what you need.
Traveling with family or friends? Book the four-person private family room that comes complete with a bathroom, sitting space, and refrigerator.
Aside from the variety of accommodation choices, what makes Selina South perfect is that you’re close to practically everything. There’s a handful of restaurants and shops within walking distance. Most importantly, the local beach is just a quick walk down the trail.
After waking up in the morning, you can start your day by grabbing breakfast at the on-site food truck. Head to the beach afterward to join your surf instructor for the day. Feel free to join the other outdoor activities organized by the hotel’s sister location, Selina Santa Teresa North.
Back at Selina, join the other digital nomads at the co-work space if you’re bringing work with you on vacation. Once you’ve finished work, laze in the pool that’s bordered by beautiful murals.
Afterward, sip on a cocktail at the bar before taking a restorative yoga class at the in-house wellness center. There’s a library and massage room on the property, too, if you just want to chill during your downtime.
Like Selina Santa Teresa North, Selina South offers different room types to accommodate different budgets. For the Standard Room with a private bathroom, a night’s stay costs $73 USD. A bed in the dorm room starts at $20 USD.
You can check availability and book Santa Teresa South online in advance here.
Osa Peninsula (Best Place to Stay for Wildlife)
- Popular towns in this area: Puerto Jimenez, Drake Bay
- Best Activities: Hiking, seeing wild animals, visiting Corcovado National Park, visiting Cano Island, mangrove tours
- Closest International Airport: San Jose International airport is 361 km (just under 6 hours) from Puerto Jimenez and 357 km (6 hours and 20 minutes) from Drake Bay. These are remote locations, so best for those with time on their side. Also expect delays when driving due to road conditions.
And finally, I may have saved the best for last – the Osa Peninsula! Located in the southwest of the country and within the Puntarenas province, it is a wildlife lovers’ idea of heaven and a remote peninsula that is typically crowd-free and retains an authentic ‘Pura Vida’ vibe!
Visiting here is an opportunity to get off the beaten path and see a part of the world that very few people are lucky enough to experience.
As I mentioned above, it’s a must-visit destination for wildlife lovers because the remote Osa Peninsula is one of the country’s most biodiverse regions. In fact, it’s been labelled “the most biologically intense place on Earth” by National Geographic.
There are two main places to visit on the Osa Peninsula: Drake Bay and Puerto Jiménez. They are both small towns with a laid-back vibe and plenty of things to do. But we recommend basing yourself in Drake Bay if you have to choose just one because it’s more picturesque and is close to Caño Island, where you can snorkel with dolphins and turtles. Plus, there are so many adrenalin-pumping activities to get up to in Drake Bay, from river tubing to hiking.
Both towns are the gateway to Corcovado National Park, which is an incredible place located on a very remote peninsula and is one of the last remaining patches of lowland tropical rainforest in Latin America. There’s so much wildlife to be found here, many of which are considered rare or endangered, like Baird’s tapir (aka the largest land mammal in Central America), the elusive Harpy eagle, as well as ocelots, bull sharks, pumas, and White-faced capuchin monkeys!
Add in 37 km (23 miles) of unspoiled beaches and 13 different ecosystems, and you’ve got yourself one of the most bucket-list-worthy national parks in Costa Rica!
However, it’s very important to note that Drake Bay is difficult to reach! I mean it – in the dry season it’s reachable either by 4×4 vehicle, by boat from Sierpe, or by plane. While in the rainy season, driving is not recommended due to flooding! Therefore, most tourists choose to get here by boat from Sierpe as it’s the easiest option!
With incredible biodiversity, amazing national parks, and secluded beach towns, the Osa Peninsula is the perfect spot to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s without a doubt one of the more unique options for where to stay in Costa Rica!
Pros of staying on the Osa Peninsula:
- Where you can explore Corcovado National Park
- Lots of wildlife
- Less touristy than other areas, fewer crowds
- Access to Cano Island
Cons of staying on the Osa Peninsula:
- Remote, and difficult to get to
- Limited accommodation options
- Tours are expensive
- Limited things to do
Where to Stay on the Osa Peninsula
The best place to stay on the Osa Peninsula is Drake Bay, in my opinion! Because this beautiful beach town has the most accommodation options, and it’s also within easy reach of other popular destinations in the region, like Corcovado National Park and Cano Island!
This tiny town is definitely off the beaten track, but that’s what makes it so memorable! The main town here is called Agujitas de Drake, and only 1,000 residents call this place home. Getting around town is very easy, and because most people don’t have a rental car (because they got the boat from Sierpe), it’s best to stay in Aguijitas de Drake because that way, everything is within walking distance.
Below I have listed three of my top choices for hotels in Drake Bay; there’s something for every budget!
$$$ – Las Caletas Lodge
If you’re looking for a luxury Drake Bay hotel, Las Caletas Lodge is one of the top choices to consider. It is perfect if you’re wanting to escape from the hustle and bustle of Drake Bay as it is situated in the middle of the rainforest, and only accessible by boat – talk about a secluded getaway!
The lodge is complete with a variety of facilities, which will ensure you have an amazing stay even though you are quite literally in the middle of nowhere. The onsite bar and restaurant serves delicious meals made with as many locally sourced ingredients as possible.
The lodge only has 8 rooms on offer, making it a small boutique hotel where you can enjoy personalized service. For something luxurious, you simply have to opt for their Superior Room. If you don’t mind “roughing it” a little, try one of their glamping tents.
Right from the property you can book all of your activities and tours in the area. Although, the remote location means that you will be hotel-bound when you are;t on organized day trips. For some people, this is a negative point, for those who really want to relax in nature, this is entirely a positive.
In terms of mid-range Drake Bay hotels, Cabañas Bajo Bosque Drake is one of the top picks. I personally love this place as it is tucked away in the jungle outside the town, offering a quiet atmosphere, a chance to see monkeys and birds up close, and a great view of nature! Taking this into account, the hotel is a perfect haven for nature lovers.
Another great aspect of staying at Cabañas Bajo Bosque Drake is that the town and beach are only a short drive away. In particular, Drake Bay’s town center is nearly 5 km (3 miles) away while the closest beach is 1 km (0.6 miles) away from the hotel.
Within the property, guests can find a patio, a balcony with mountain views, a garden, a dining area, a kitchen, a designated smoking area, and a free private parking space. Complimentary Wi-Fi is also available.
Here, only double rooms with mountain views are open for reservation. Room rates start at approximately $83 USD/night.
This area of Costa Rica is known for various water sports including diving and snorkeling, as well as hiking and cycling. A tour around Corcovado National Park, which is located just 4 km (2.5 miles) away, is also a must!
Life for Life Hostel Drake Bay is one of the best budget options outside of Drake Bay town near Rincon del San Josecito. On-site facilities include a garden, a shared kitchen, BBQ facilities, and a designated smoking area. What’s more, the hostel has a restaurant that serves three meals per day, so there’s no need to leave the property for food. Complimentary Wi-Fi is also available in common areas.
You can find an array of rooms available here such as family rooms, dormitory rooms, bungalows, and tents of different sizes. A bunk bed in a dormitory room costs roughly $63/night while rates for a family room start at almost $147 USD/night.
This budget-friendly hostel sits along the seashore near Rincon del San Josecito’s beach. This makes it ideal for beach lovers! Besides that, you can enjoy hiking, horseback riding, and tours in nearby areas.
If you wish to spend a day in Drake Bay’s town center, a 9 km (5.6-mile) drive is required. On the other hand, getting to Corcovado National Park, which lies more than 20 km (12.4 miles) away, includes a boat trip from Drake Bay to the entrance to the park.
Getting Around Costa Rica
How you choose to get around Costa Rica is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when planning your holiday here! How you do it depends on your budget, travel style, and comfort level.
Renting a Car
Without a doubt, the number one way to explore Costa Rica is in a rental car. We book rental cars on the Discover Cars website as we have had good experiences with them in the past.
One of the things you need to watch for when renting a car in Costa Rica is the mandatory insurance that the government requires you to have. There are a lot of very cheap rentals that don’t include this mandatory insurance (TPL) in the original booking price, but there are also ones that do. To avoid additional surprise charges when you pick up your rental car, be sure to rent a car that includes the mandatory insurance when you book.
Thankfully, on Discover Cars it’s easy to tell apart the companies that include the mandatory insurance and those that don’t. The trick is you can’t pick any car on their website. In the picture below, you can see this rental car, with pick up in Jaco, includes the TPL. That means the mandatory insurance is included in the price. Any cover you get above that is extra.
Of course, I still suggest getting the full coverage offered by Discover Cars, which covers you even more.
You can browse cars on Discover Cars here.
If renting a car isn’t in your budget, you don’t feel comfortable driving in Costa Rica, or you just don’t like driving, shuttles are the next best option. There are hundreds of shuttle routes available all over the country, and they are very affordable.
Shuttles in Costa Rica are specifically for tourists and often include pick up and drop off at your selected hotels and airports. The drivers also speak some English, and the vehicles have air conditioning. You’ll also be guaranteed a seat when you book a shuttle (which isn’t the case with the public bus system.)
To get the best price, use the website Bookaway. They compare all the offers and prices of shuttle companies in Costa Rica so you get the best price! Honestly, we have saved so much money using Bookaway!
You can search for shuttles online on Bookaway here.
Lastly, you can use the public bus system. On short journeys, such as from San Jose to La Fortuna or Uvita to Manuel Antonio, this system is great. However, the longer the journey the more hassle and time spent on a bus. It’s undoubtedly best to save the public bus in Costa Rica for short and straightforward trips!
The public buses are definitely the cheapest way to get around Costa Rica, but they are not always very reliable and schedules often change without notice and delays are to be expected. The buses can also be very crowded and hot – so just be prepared!
It’s also good to speak some Spanish if you plan on riding the public bus since most drivers and ticket booth operators don’t speak English.
Invest in Travel Insurance
Paying out of pocket for trip interruptions or medical treatment will add to what might already be a stressful situation. Not to worry, SafetyWing is here to help!
This affordable travel and medical insurance is perfect for digital nomads, long-term travelers, and remote workers. The best part is that it only costs $45 USD per 4 weeks.
To start coverage you must purchase it after leaving your home country. We usually purchase it as soon as we land at the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
I think the perfect vacation to Costa Rica involves both the beach and the jungle because that way, you get the best of both worlds! So, for me, the best way to visit Costa Rica is to spend a couple of days in a beachy destination like Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula and then head inland to the jungle to La Fortuna!
But, of course, the perfect vacation to Costa Rica is different for everyone. I hope I’ve given you some inspiration as to where you should base yourself for your upcoming vacation to Costa Rica!
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