We'd like to introduce you to some places that are in fact the nicest accommodations and best hosts in Costa Rica today. But don't take our word for it, check them out at the top hotel ratings web site (TripAdvisor). We have stayed at loads of places in Costa Rica but a few stand out as places we will or do return to again and again.
What's the deal with these places?
- Onsite knowledgeable innkeepers with an "interesting" lodge
- Great food (at the inn or very close) and a sense of humor
- A place we would be happy to go back to in a heartbeat
We get out every few weeks to experience new places in Costa Rica, so we want to be sure our recommendations are only for "places we would stay". They usually have a wonderful attention to detail and a laid back atmosphere for guests and staff. Next we want to connect with good food at the end of a long Costa Rican drive (they all are!). Great food and a nice comfy place to relax are as important as anything - that's what we want when we travel.
We hope our guests will be able fully experience the areas they are going to (our guests are VERY inquisitive types) - so knowledgeable Innkeepers are a huge (no no no no VAST) plus. You can't go wrong with few days at any of these; people who know what they are doing in Costa Rica.
I included the names of the contacts at most locations so you can get right to it on a first name basis :-)) Click on any map point for info on each. Ask us how to get there if you're not sure.
SOUTH OSA PENINSULAR - pristine Rainforest and "good eats" too
El Remanso Lodge
Just past Cabo Matapalo
This unique Rainforest Wildlife Lodge is located on the Osa Peninsula, in the southwest corner of Costa Rica. It is halfway between Puerto Jimenez and Carate on the road to Corcovado National Park.
Every Pura Vida guest that comes back from El Remanso is impressed with the combination of beautiful jungle lodge and people totally committed to their amazing environment - um, and did I mention "good food" too?
This is one of the best places in Costa Rica to use as your jungle base and no better place on the planet to explore the extraordinary biodiversity that is Costa Rica - just outside your room. All this just down a dirt road to the Corcovado National Park, labeled by National Geographic as "the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity"
Drive or fly - but if you do drive stop by Shelter from the Storm (see Uvita below) and turn your transfer into a tour. The photo is one of many creatures you may find peering down at you while wandering the jungle paths of the Osa. This lovely anteater was just checking us out quietly in the trees above us as we meandered through the jungle one morning. Not a care in the world.
Phone: +(506) 2735 5569
Cell: + (506) 8814 5775
WEB: El Remanso Lodge
UVITA - where the beaches and bad jokes go on forever - great sunset views over the Pacific
Shelter From The Storm
South of Manuel Antonio
Yes, another great place we take a break at . . . almost no time for Innkeeping with such nice places to visit. If you are not one for the crowds of Manuel Antonio just keep on driving another hour and you'll reach the turnoff for Shelter From The Storm. A few of the best appointed Villas with 180 degree views of the Pacific are perched on a hill in just about the middle of nowhere. Well except for the fact that you probably won't find places as detailed or as nice anywhere in the area.
Then there are the hosts, good friends Daryl and Donna. Not far off is the delightful indigenous village of Boruca. If you go do try and bring a few kids gifts for the Borucan children's xmas party - every year they bring gifts for over 400 kids. If you are at the lodge in December join us on the trip! Boruca is one amazingly lovely village and center of the Borucan mask making in Costa Rica. Oh and Daryl and Donna are the funniest Innkeepers anywhere. . . a 4WD is a must exploring the area.
You do need a 4WD in this area so ask us about car rentals. Some things just mystify Daryl - one of the reasons we stay here so often :-). We have been back here many times.
Host: Donna y Daryl
Email: shelter from the storm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Phone: cell: 8373-2244
CONTACT: Shelter From The Storm
PLAYA COCLES - southern Caribbean coast - steps to Cocles Beach
South of Puerto Viejo
Located halfway between the Cahuita National Park and Manzanillo-Gandoca wildlife refuge with easy access to Tortuguero and Bocas del Toro, Panamá. Surrounded by tropical jungle gardens and close to many amazing beaches. A dream for nature lovers and those who simply want to relax in the salt water pool and take life at a slower pace.
Good wifi, breakfast included with delicious home made breads and something you do not find in many places - air conditioning in large open bungalows. Depending on the season you may see; howler monkeys, sloths, agawati/watusa, kinkajous, armadillos, ant eaters, possums, raccoons, butterflies of all varieties, toucans, aracaris, hummingbirds, owls, giant blue crabs, geckos, mountain ducks, oropendolas, woodpeckers, tanagers . . .
Hosts: Jessica & Marc
Where everybody wished they could be - the northern Costa Rican rainforest between 3 volcanoes
La Anita Rain Forest Lodge
The Volcano Region - behind Rincon/north east of Liberia
The first thing that happens after a long drive on roads not found on maps or google is a warm welcome from either Ana or Pablo, your incredible hosts.
Ana and Pablo are a couple of Costa Rican agronomists with a keen understanding of hospitality and a complete connection to their environment. La Anita was once a macadamia farm and you will still find quite a bit of farming going on. Often you will find they have students visiting learning about sustainable practices - why not become a student yourself for a day?
An excellent place to do some down time and see new futures you may not have considered. Highly recommended - "our best off the beaten path" location.
Great visit, a must see if you are interested in the future of the planet. The pic is our trip to the Rincon de la Vieja volcano mud pits - highly active bubbling mud and fumaroles in the woods.
Hosts: Ana y Pablo
Phone: +(506) 2466 0228
BIJAGUA - Volcano region northern Rain Forest
Casitas Tenorio B&B
Not far from Rio Celeste
Birding and great hospitality.
You will be welcomed by Pip (a cool Aussie and proud Costa Rican) married to Donald (a knowlegeable Tico who knows the area like the back of his hand). This place was a huge surprise to find out in this remote and delightful rain forest miles from anywhere. As with all the small hotels on this list we were turned on to it by a number of our guests who really enjoyed their visit. It is one of the nicest birding lodges we have been to - we were in their newest and most elegantly designed casita, very private with all the ameneties you'd find in a 5 star hotel. Great birding and not far from a not to be missed visit to Rio Celeste. Casitas Tenorio B&B, we should note is also a working farm. Ask them about their involvement in the neighborhood and see how you might also get involved with this center of rural tourism.
Hosts: Pip & Donald
SOUTHERN NICOYA - does it get any better at the beach in Costa Rica?
Ylang Ylang Beach Resort
Montezuma, Southern Nicoya
What can you say about Ylang Ylang that our guests have not raved about - fabulous location, cool hosts and one of the top beach locations in Costa Rica. This was and is one of our all time favorite personal experiences too.
You can choose from your own romantic bungalow with air conditioning, a family suite with a loft, or a unique tent cabin. The resort is down the beach from the most eclectic town in Costa Rica - Montezuma. You will park in town and the hotel driver will take you down the beach to your perfectly disconnected home for the next few days. Anywhere on the large property you're likely to see a variety of wildlife including white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, agoutis, iguanas and coati mundis. Breakfast and candlelit dinner are included. Once in your life you owe it to yourself to stay at one of the top 3 beach resorts in Costa Rica or perhaps anywhere?
Actually we think the word resort doesn't get the idea across at all. You will see almost nobody except at dinner, you will be surrounded by whatever you like and you will be looked after by caring folk. Highly recommended . . . no no I correct myself "not to be missed".
US Phone: +1-415-692-5294
CR Phone: +(506) 2642-0636
PLAYA HERMOSA/ NICOYA PENINSULAR - where the surfers go
Shaka Beach Retreat
Just north of Santa Teresa
After so many rave reviews on Tripadvisor and the surge of surfers asking us for "just the right spot" some guests told us to look no further than Shaka.
Experienced surfers or those wanting to try it out should most def head out to this interesting corner of Costa Rica.
We usually come in from the ferry by car - you will appreciate a 4WD for the ground clearance. For the real adventurers or slightly daft you can come in from the north (Samara area) but it is almost impassable in the rainy season and just slightly nuts in the dry season but oh what a memorable trip.
Other options getting there from the Pura Vida on your first night include flying to the Tambor "airport" then taxi to Shaka and we can also find you a private van to take you the whole way. Note: due to covid we have yet to visit Shaka (unlike the other places on this list) but guests are telling us the story. We will fix our oversight soon!
Host: Mike Bienz or Frank Bauer
Phone: +(506) 2640 1118
US Phone: +(970) 379 9811 WEB: Shaka
MONTEVERDE - in the cloud forests of Monteverde about 3 hours from the Pura Vida
Santa Elena, Monteverde
Getting to Monteverde is all part of the adventure. Most people arrive from the Arenal side down the bumpy road and into the Arco Iris which is a great surprise. A lovely lodge right in downtown but in a compound that seems to be right in the cloud forest.
The cabins are very nice, spotless too and the hospitality excellent. We rarely have found a place like this so close to town and yet so seemingly "in the forest".
The Arco Iris makes a great base to start your explorations of the area - most people try out the Monteverde Reserve but ask the front desk for places they like such as the night walk or a jungle horseback ride.
Maybe you can get a peek at Susanna's most interesting veggy garden growing most of the greens for the hotel. Hmmm and tell us when was the last time a "downtown cabin" looked like this one?
Phone: +(506) 2645 5067
WEB: Arco Iris Lodge
ARENAL - most visited area of Costa Rica 3 1/2 hours from the Pura Vida
El Castillo, near La Fortuna along the lake
This most unusual place is a must visit if you have any interest at all in how the planet could be if we all thought a little more about our environment.
Our guests had been telling us about this remarkable experiment in nature for years when finally we took some friends to see it. All that is written about it will not prepare you for your personal experience there. In addition to the farm, the students, the volunteers and perhaps the most well engineered compost heap on the planet :-)) you will find beautiful accommodations and excellent farm to table dinners for those who like to take it easy while learning something new. Make sure you view Sanjay Gupta's CNN Next List video on their site.
We do recommend you have your own 4WD as the "road" in is not very long "off road" but pretty bumpy (and difficult in the rainy season). The photo we took is a local cacao tree ready for harvest. A few days here is a once in a lifetime experience that will probably change your perception about what can be done with the planet.
Hosts: Juan or Liz
Phones: +(506) 8302-7318 or 2256-3763
WEB: Rancho Margot
Central valley Highlands near Turialba
Not far from Smoking Joe Turialba Volcano and about 3 hours from the Pura Vida on your way to the Caribbean
Some birders call this place legendary . . . here's a few words from a birding tour leader from Ecuador posted on Tripadvisor that sums this place up "I was expecting the birding to be good, as this has been a hallowed site for birders for years; and it was - I got my lifer Thicket Antpitta with wonderful lodge owner and birder Lisa Erb, and saw many other great birds in my all too brief 2-day stay (longer is definitely recommended). Among the other highlights included a Mottled Owl using the lodge as a perch one night, a gorgeous male Snowcap (a very special hummingbird), and one of their signature birds, the Tawny-chested Flycatcher for which this is perhaps the best place on Earth."
We have known Lisa for some years now - if you area birder this should be your first stop after the Pura Vida . . . if you are not a birder you will enjoy the friendly hospitality, upgraded rooms and you might just become a birder too :-))
The lodge makes a perfect stopover bewteen the Pura Vida and the southern Caribbean beaches and the super active smoking Turialba Volcano can be seen or even driven too (4WD only) on a clear day.
ZONA SUR NEAR WILSON GARDENS/SAN VITO - great food, great explorations
Just a little way from Wilson Gardens
Casa Botania is why they invented B&B's . . . home made bread, 2 fabulous hosts, home made bread, beautiful area with super nice views, home made bread etc etc - you get the idea?. I'm into bread.
On your first visit to Costa Rica you "do Manuel Antonio and Arenal . . . on your second trip you want to really get to see the country. We love this area of Costa Rica - I suggest a drive down the central route, perhaps stopping for some birding at El Toucanet in Copey as we did. Then continuing south with a stop at the market in San Isidro and maybe a visit to Boruca (lovely indigenous village with great crafts - make sure you have a 4WD) and then on to a warm welcome at Kathleen & Pepe's.
When we are down in this part of Costa Rica I would not stay anywhere else - um did I mention the homemade bread? A Chef and a great guide - could there be a better combo to run a B&B? Now about that homemade bread . . .
BETWEEN HERE AND MANUEL ANTONIO - and a much better idea on the beach
Encantada Beach Cottages
Just North of Manuel Antonio
For years we tried to find places we really liked with cool onsite innkeepers in Manuel Antonio. Well that did not work.
So we came up with another idea - what is within striking distance of the excellent Manuel Antonio park, the Carara park and has a great beach location. We found a couple of displaced Californians who understand hospitality and are revamping their great beach location in Esterillos.
So if you are like us, not one for crowds and want to be looked after by people who care this would be your best bet on Costa Rica's northern part of the central Pacific coast right after Jaco and just north of Manuel Antonio. Endless beaches and a very nice place to stop off and veg for a few days.