Dec 19, 2022

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The 14 Best Places to Stay in Costa Rica

Fora Author Fora Travel

The Modern Travel Agency

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From San José to Puerto Jimenez, the best places to stay in Costa Rica share a rich, welcoming culture and gorgeous tropical backdrops. 

There is no one best area to stay in Costa Rica. The country boasts upscale resorts on the Papagayo Peninsula, jungle lodges deep in the rainforest, boutique hotels in the city and much more.

And remember: if you’re wondering where to stay in Costa Rica, there’s nobody who can help like a true Costa Rica travel expert. Translation: connect with a Fora Advisor for expert travel recommendations and access to unbelievable hotel perks and upgrades that will level up your travel to Costa Rica.

Looking for more hotel inspiration? Check out our list of the best hotels in Costa Rica.

The 14 best places to stay in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica’s best places to stay include bustling urban centers, scenic beaches and much more. Here are 14 of our favorites.

1. The Papagayo Peninsula: the most luxurious place to stay in Costa Rica

The Papagayo Peninsula — on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast — is the best place to stay in Costa Rica if you’re looking for an upscale travel experience. Aside from being undeniably beautiful, the Papagayo Peninsula has seen massive development since the 1990s, with luxurious resorts now dotting the picturesque landscape.

Offshore, the calm waters of the Gulf of Papagayo make it a prime location for relaxed boating and swimming.

As for dining, Playa Hermosa and Playa del Coco have the most to offer. Both beaches boast a wide array of traditional Costa Rican cuisine, as well as upscale international menus.

Where to stay on the Papagayo Peninsula

There are many great resorts on the Papagayo Peninsula, but a few stand out. The Four Seasons Costa Rica, Andaz Resort and Casa Chameleon in Las Catalinas (one of the best places to stay in Costa Rica for couples) each offer breathtaking scenery and top-tier accommodations. 

Chat with a Fora Advisor to see which resort makes the most sense for your vacation.

2. San José: Costa Rica’s culture & nightlife capital

San José is the cultural center of Costa Rica. Here, you’ll find everything the country has to offer, but especially a vibrant Costa Rica nightlife

Live music is a mainstay, with dozens of venues, swanky bars and nightclubs hosting both local and international artists (check out our family-friendly Costa Rica itinerary if you’re traveling with kids).

A unique blend of American and European influences has contributed to a city that’s decidedly modern, yet architecturally rich. In particular, don’t miss the National Theater of Costa Rica, which hosts a variety of plays, ballets and more. 

As for gastronomy, we recommend sampling the sodas, traditional Costa Rican food vendors, in the San José Central Market. San José is also home to many of the country’s top fine dining experiences, like Restaurante Silvestre

For all the can’t-miss stops in San José, connect with a Fora Advisor. Whether it’s tips for the ultimate Costa Rica girl’s trip (or even a Costa Rica bachelorette party), we have your back.

3. Monteverde: the best area to stay in Costa Rica for ecotourism (and the cloud forest)

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Lush, green forests shrouded by an ever-present fog make Monteverde an otherworldly starting point for any jungle excursion. Wildlife tours through the “cloud forest,” as it’s called, explore one of the world’s richest areas in terms of biodiversity, but nature isn’t the only appeal here.

When you’re not ziplining through the rainforest, you can sample delicious food from Monteverde’s array of restaurants and cafés, which source most of their ingredients from the immediate area. Coffee lovers will be particularly happy, as Monteverde farmers are among the most prestigious producers of coffee in the world.

If you’re a coffee connoisseur looking for the best places to stay in Costa Rica, a few days in Monteverde are an absolute must.

4. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca & Cahuita: the most romantic (and laid-back) places to stay in Costa Rica

Found near the southern tip of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo has a chill, beachy vibe. This laid-back setting is one of the best places to stay in Costa Rica for couples looking to relax (or explore at a leisurely pace), but there’s adventure here, too.

Just outside the town is an expansive jungle with diverse flora and fauna. The Jaguar Rescue Center is a point of interest for many, especially conservationists, but chocolate lovers may be equally enthralled by the area’s cocoa-based tours and attractions. Like Montverde, Puerto Viejo also offers a number of wildlife excursions.

Where to stay in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca: Hotel Aguas Claras

Hotel Aguas Claras offers boutique-style bungalows just steps away from the Caribbean. Sip margaritas to the tune of live reggaeton before exploring Cahuita National Park or snorkeling off the coast. 

5. Tamarindo: one of the best places to stay for surfing & the beach

Costa Rica is one of the most luxurious surfing destinations in the world, partly thanks to Tamarindo, a city on the country’s Papagayo Peninsula. Costa Rica’s first surfing school was founded here, and it remains a great place to ride the waves for beginners and pros alike. 

The turquoise waters are warm all year long, and the white-sand beaches harbor rows of breezy bars and cafés. And although Tamarindo’s beaches are among the most popular on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, the vibe is relaxed.

6. Manuel Antonio National Park: the best area to stay in Costa Rica to explore the jungle 

Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the top landmarks in Costa Rica, is a magical spot if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Costa Rica in the midst of nature. Here, a verdant jungle separates the country’s interior from an incredible coastline teeming with wildlife like sloths, marmosets and adorable tamarins.

Accommodations are limited, but a Fora Advisor can help you book — and score you awesome perks.

7. Nosara: where to stay in Costa Rica if you want to relax

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Nosara is a friendly beach town and retirement community just a few miles from Nosara Beach on the Papagayo Peninsula. And like much of Costa Rica, you’ll find an abundance of wildlife preserves and lush natural scenery surrounding Nosara. 

Yoga and spa treatments are popular pastimes here (check out the best of Nosara for more ideas). If you want a little adventure, you can also learn to surf at the Nosara Surf School, or check out the local market for handmade goods.

As with Manuel Antonio, accommodations are somewhat limited, so be sure to check in with a Costa Rica travel advisor for the best options. 

Where to stay in Nosara: the Gilded Iguana Surf Hotel

The Gilded Iguana Surf Hotel sports an upscale surfer theme that provides a relaxing refuge after a full day of exploring. Best of all, the hotel is only a short walk away from miles of undeveloped beach.

8. Drake Bay: the best area to stay in Costa Rica for true adventure

Drake Bay is only accessible by plane or boat, but it’s well worth the trouble. In fact, Drake Bay is easily one of the best places to stay in Costa Rica for adventure and exploring the outdoors. 

Hiking, camping, scuba diving — with whale sharks if you’re lucky — and so much more are all within reach at Drake Bay. When you’ve had your fill of adventure, a variety of cultural immersion and fine dining experiences await you. Read our Osa Peninsula nature itinerary for more inspiration.

9. La Fortuna: the gateway to Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano is the first stop on our adventurous Costa Rica itinerary, with plenty of hiking trails through lush rainforest leading up to the conical summit. Tourism in La Fortuna is almost exclusively geared toward excursions up the mountain, but the town is still worth visiting. 

If you’re looking for a traditional Costa Rican experience, La Fortuna is one of Costa Rica’s top areas to stay.

Where to stay in La Fortuna or Arenal

The luxury resorts around Arenal Volcano offer spa-themed oases in which to relax when you’re not adventuring in the surrounding jungle. 

Nayara Springs, Nayara Tented Camp, The Springs Resort and the Rio Perdido Hotel are but a few of the top resorts in the area. Check with a Fora Advisor for the intel on each to determine which best fits your travel preferences.

10. Montezuma: a great place to stay for adventurers on a budget

Montezuma is a top place to stay in Costa Rica if you want adventure sans crowds. The town doesn’t get nearly as many visitors as Drake Bay or Papagayo, although it’s equally as beautiful.

Highlights from our Montezuma itinerary: waterfalls at El Chorro and Cabo Blanco National Park. And remember: your Fora Advisor can personalize your trip to Montezuma and hook you up with VIP hotel perks. 

11. Jacó: where to stay in Costa Rica for variety (but especially the nightlife)

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There’s a lot to do in Jacó, from enjoying the city’s bars and nightclubs after dark to surfing or sportfishing off the black-sand shores of the Pacific. The small city also has a variety of fine dining options to complement its many food stalls, which mostly feature local seafood. 

Jacó is one of the best areas to stay in Costa Rica if you want a livelier trip, but it also makes for a great day trip from San José. And remember: your Fora Advisor can personalize your trip to Jacó and hook you up with VIP hotel perks. 

12. Tortuguero: the best place to stay in Costa Rica for viewing sea turtles

Tortuguero, like Drake Bay, is only reachable via airplane or sea travel; however, the town is one of Costa Rica’s most-visited areas because of its amazing biodiversity. People from all over Costa Rica and the world come to view sea turtles laying eggs, which typically hatch in October (some of the top Costa Rica jungle resorts have viewing opportunities).

Check out our Tortuguero itinerary for more details. 

Where to stay in Tortuguero

Tortuguero’s best resorts take advantage of the area’s pristine jungle, with numerous opportunities to observe nature. The Tortuga Lodge, Mawamba Lodge and Manatus Hotel are among the best, each offering guests luxe accommodations near turtle nests and vibrant rainforest.

13. Conchal Beach: the best area to stay in Costa Rica for snorkeling & scuba diving

Conchal Beach is located just south of the Papagayo Gulf on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific Coast. Snorkeling and scuba diving are the big draws here, but you can also jet ski or charter a short cruise. 

Some of Costa Rica’s most luxurious resorts can be found here, but more affordable options exist as well.

14. Puerto Jiménez: one of the best places to stay in Costa Rica for nature 

The last place to stay in Costa Rica on our list: Puerto Jiménez. This colorful town on the Osa Peninsula (see our Osa Peninsula itinerary) further cements Costa Rica’s reputation as a wildlife sanctuary, with forays into the jungle and whale-watching tours off the Pacific Coast.

Where to stay near Puerto Jiménez: the Lapas Rios Lodge

A true adventure resort in Costa Rica, the Lapas Rios Lodge offers guests the rare opportunity to enjoy luxurious accommodations just feet away from the rainforest. Guests stay in villas connected by a boardwalk that’s literally built into the surrounding rainforest — a magical setting.

FAQs about the best places to stay in Costa Rica

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Here are a few answers to common questions about the best areas to stay in Costa Rica. And don’t forget, your Fora Advisor can answer any and all travel questions, too.

Is Costa Rica safe for a vacation?

While the US State Department has noticed a rise in property crime in Costa Rica, the country is widely considered to be one of the safest places to visit in the Americas. Nevertheless, it’s wise to exercise caution anytime you visit a new place.

When is the best time to visit Costa Rica? What’s the weather like?

Costa Rica is busiest during the winter months. As for the weather, the country is rainy and warm in summer, but dry and temperate for the remainder of the year.

Where to go in Costa Rica for first-timers? What part of Costa Rica has the most to do?

It depends on what you want out of your trip. 

San José is a good choice because you’ll be able to sample nearly everything Costa Rica has to offer. However, if you’re looking for an ocean-bound vacation, you may want to look at Puerto Viejo or the Papagayo Gulf instead.

Speak with a Fora Advisor to build your ideal trip to Costa Rica (and check out this relaxing Las Catalinas itinerary).

What’s the best way to get around Costa Rica?

All the best places to stay in Costa Rica are connected by bus, but if you want true flexibility, you may want to consider renting a car. Most of the major cities have regional airports as well, with San José International Airport serving as the hub.

Still wondering where to stay in Costa Rica? Chat with a Fora Advisor

Still not sure how to narrow down where to stay in Costa Rica? Work with a Fora Advisor to customize your dream Costa Rica trip. And don’t forget: booking with an advisor costs the same as booking directly — and scores you A+ hotel upgrades and perks.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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    Fora Travel

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