Costa Rica is an eco-tourism dream destination. Nearly 25% of the country is covered in protected jungle, with exotic wildlife. The rainforests, beaches and parks like Corcovado National Park draw over two million visitors each year, and Costa Rica is becoming a popular retirement destination for North Americans, too. There are many reasons to come to Costa Rica, and many Costa Rica resorts and hotels to choose from.
We’ve rounded up the coolest places to stay in Costa Rica, whether you are coming for rainforest treks, or lazy days on the beach. While distances in Costa Rica are not great, travel times can be long, so you may want to split up your vacation between multiple areas when you are deciding where to stay in Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, all inclusive resorts are found throughout the island. Of the best places to stay in Costa Rica, all inclusive resorts feature high on the list. For all of our European readers that are travelling to Costa Rica via the United States, will need an ESTA Visa, even if you won’t be leaving the airport during the layover period.
We will cover off all types of Costa Rica accommodation options from Hostels to luxury Costa Rica hotels as well as how to decide where to stay in Costa Rica, the best Costa Rica hotels, best places in Costa Rica to visit, the best places to stay in Costa Rica, hotels near Costa Rica attractions, Costa Rica neighborhood guide and many more. Airbnb is also a great option for short or long stays.
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
San Jose – Best places to stay in Costa Rica
Many travelers to Costa Rica will arrive and depart from the capital city of San Jose. Before you jet off to the rainforest or the beach, considering staying in San Jose for a night or two, as you will get a good sense of the Costa Rica culture and cuisine that you might not find in beach resorts that are accommodating to tourists.
San Jose is also a great place for day trips to nearby cloud forests and volcanoes, such as Irazu or Poas. San Jose has excellent museums, historic architecture, restaurants and night clubs, as well as a wide variety of hotels to choose from.
Best places to stay in San Jose
Manuel Antonio – Where to stay in Costa Rica for couples
Often the best place to stay in Costa Rica for first-time visitors is the Pacific beach town of Manuel Antonio. Much of the area is covered by Manuel Antonio National Park, which includes rainforests, beaches and off-shore coral reefs. There are many hiking trails in the park, making it a great place to stay for active travelers who seek adventure on their vacation.
Manuel Antonio is a great choice for where to stay in Costa Rica with family, as it’s easy to get around, fairly close to the San Juan International Airport, and offers many activity choices, as well as hotels and restaurants. With some of Costa Rica’s most romantic resorts, Manuel Antonio may also be the best places to stay in Costa Rica for couples.
Best places to stay in Manuel Antonio
Arenal – Where to stay in Costa Rica for first timers
While beaches are a big draw to Costa Rica, the Arenal Volcano is also a very popular destination for travelers. If you aren’t staying on the beach, this is the best place to stay in Costa Rica. Arenal is an active volcano about 90 kilometers northwest of San Jose.
The volcano sits inside Arenal Volcano National Park, and there are so many outdoor adventures to be had in this area. The famous La Fortuna waterfall is here, as well as many hiking trails, lakes and hot springs. There are dozens of Costa Rica resorts to choose from in the area, many of which will gladly help book your excursions into the rainforest.
Best places to stay in Arenal
Tamarindo Beach – Where to stay in Costa Rica on the beach
If you are wondering where to stay in Costa Rica on the beach, Tamarindo Beach is a great option. Just one hour from the international airport in Liberia, Tamarindo Beach is known for surfing, diving and fishing. From October to May, leatherback turtles build their nests along the beaches.
Tamarindo Beach has some of the best infrastructure, and roads, for tourists, as well as many resorts to choose from. For travelers seeking a variety of activities in their Costa Rica vacation, Tamarindo Beach has a little bit of everything: all-inclusive resorts, hotels, restaurants, boutiques and art galleries.
Best places to stay in Tamarindo Beach
Conchal Beach – Where to stay on Costa Rica on a Budget
Located on Costa Rica’s Gold Coast, Playa Conchal is one of the most exotic beaches in Costa Rica. With nearly ten hours of daylight in the high season, and warm, calm water, Playa Conchal is very popular with swimmers and snorkelers. Tamarindo Beach is not far away, but draws more crowds than Conchal Beach.
The lack of crowds at Playa Conchal is also partly due to lack of major resorts in the area. The Westin Playa Conchal is the largest resort here, but for those looking for a budget place to stay, the nearby town of Brasilito has more accommodation options for every budget.
Best places to stay in Conchal Beach
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Conchal Beach:
The Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal – All-Inclusive
Reserva Conchal Beach Resort, Golf & Spa
Gulf of Papagayo – Where to stay in Costa Rica with Family
Another great option of where to stay in Costa Rica with family is the Gulf of Papagayo. Protected waters make the beaches here excellent for children to play along the shore. This is also where you’ll find a large concentration of Costa Rica’s all inclusive resorts.
Along the gulf, there are several areas including Ocotal Beach, Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, and Playa Panama. The calm waters here are also a great place to spot wildlife, including orcas. The Papagayo Pensinsula is less than one hour from the Liberia Airport, and is home to some of the most exclusive Costa Rica resorts.
Best places to stay in Gulf of Papagayo
Budget Hotels in Gulf of Papagayo:
Vista Bahia Beach Resort
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Gulf of Papagayo:
Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica
El Mangroove, Autograph Collection
Andaz Costa Rica Resort At Peninsula Papagayo
Monteverde – Where to stay in Costa Rica to be near nature
Another popular inland destination in Costa Rica is the area around Monteverde. This is where you’ll find the best cloud forest in Costa Rica, as well as the highly sought Quetzal bird. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is also home to jaguars, ocelots and many other exotic species of animals.
For this reason alone, Monteverde is very popular with bird-watchers and wildlife photographers. The nearby Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve has similar species, but is also home to spider monkeys. There are zip-lines, hanging bridges and aerial trams affording better views of the forests, as well as naturalist-guided tours in the Reserves.
Best places to stay in Monteverde
Poas – Coolest places to stay in Costa Rica
Another volcano in Costa Rica is Poas, although this one is dormant. At the summit, there are two craters filled with sulfur water, which gives off a beautiful turquoise blue. This is also a great place to visit a cloud forest if you don’t make it to Monteverde on your vacation. At only 90 minutes from San Jose, Poas is a popular day trip destination, but if you decide to find a resort in the Poas area, you can have the park to yourself first thing in the morning before the crowds arrive.
Best places to stay in Poas
Alajuela – Where to stay in Costa Rica near the airport
Just 20km from the capital city of San Jose, Costa Rica’s second largest city, Alajuela, is a good, central location for travelers seeking a variety of adventures in their vacation. It’s also quite close to the San Juan airport, so it’s a great place to stay if you arrive late or depart early. Poas Volcano National Park is less than one hour away, and the Doka Estate is renowned for their coffee beans. In addition to the natural splendor of Costa Rica, Alajuela has some interesting churches, museums and markets to explore.