Costa Rica is an eco-tourism dream destination. Nearly 25% of the country is covered in protected jungle, with exotic wildlife. The rainforests, best beaches in Costa Rica 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 2023.
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.
|❤️ Best Area first timers||Manuel Antonio|
|💸 Best Luxury Hotel||Makanda by The Sea Hotel Adults Only|
|👪 Best Hotel for For Families||Sunrise Condos of Tamarindo|
|🏨 Best Mid-Range Hotel||Paradise Hot Springs Thermal Resort|
|🛏️ Best Budget Hotel||Hotel Brasilito|
|✨ Best Hostel||Selina San Jose|
Wonder where should I stay in Costa Rica for the first time? Below are 9 of the best neighbourhoods in Costa Rica to help you make the right decision when trying to work out best cities to stay in Costa Rica for you. We have tried to make the guide as easy to follow as possible.
Wondering how to choose where to stay in Costa Rica or where should I stay in Costa Rica? 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
This guide shows off the best Costa Rica hotels, best places in Costa Rica to visit, the best place to stay in Costa Rica, hotels near Costa Rica attractions, Costa Rica neighborhood guide and many more. Check out our detailed list of hotels in Costa Rica, to make planning your future trip super easy!
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San Jose – Best places to stay in Costa Rica
Most 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 as it’s one of the best areas to stay in Costa Rica.
The largest and capital of Costa Rica is San José, which is also the name of the province. San Jose makes an excellent home base for day trips around Costa Rica. You can easily travel there to explore the cloud forest, volcanoes, and waterfalls thanks to its strategic location.
San Jose is also a great place for day trips to nearby 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.
The vast majority of visitors to Costa Rica will touch down in the big city of San Jose before heading to the beaches and the volcanos. Sat in the midst of the lush Central Valley, it’s a town with a vibrant cafe scene and plenty of cultural attractions, plus wild nature parks just on the periphery.
Why stay in San Jose?
Before you head off to the rainforests or the beaches, consider staying in San Jose for a night or two. Those who do will be able to put their finger on the pulse of modern Costa Rican culture and get a feel for the rich history of this corner of Central America.
You’ll want to be sure to sample the earthy and filling local cuisine. There’s nowhere better for that than bustling San José Central Market, where traditional cookhouses known as sodas serve up plates of grilled chicken and gallo pinto (the national dish).
There are also two museums that stand out from the crowd. The first is the National Museum of Costa Rica, which chronicles the story of the nation from its earliest days. The second is the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, which brims with priceless craft art from the days before the Spanish conquest.
San Jose also makes an excellent base for day trips around the heart of the country. You can easily escape to the smoke-belching tops of volcanoes like Irazu or Poas, or hit coffee plantations and waterfall parks within an hour’s drive.
Things to do in San Jose?
- La Sabana Park – Called the ‘Lungs of San Jose,’ this lush dash of parkland in the heart of the metropolis is a great place to escape for a stroll and a picnic. It’s filled with walking paths and centres on an ornamental lake that spouts fountains. There are views of the surrounding central mountain ranges on all sides, too.
- Pre-Columbian Gold Museum – Nearly 4,000 special artefacts from the age before the Spanish invaded Central America are on display at this amazing museum. Many of them are made of gold; pure, glinting gold. You’ll see intricate carvings that are 500 years old and more – think frogs, crabs, and snakes shaped out of precious metals.
- San Jose Central Market – A hubbub of local life, the Central Market is one of the oldest retail areas in the country. It’s packed with thousands of sellers that tout all sorts, from traditional rainforest fungi for healing to herbs and spices and chilis of all shapes and sizes. There’s also a section of the market that’s dedicated to local food and cooking.
Where to stay in San Jose Costa Rica
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in San Jose:
Selina San Jose
Hotel del Paseo
Budget Hotels in San Jose:
La Fortuna Roja
Sleep Inn Hotel Paseo Las Damas
Mid range Hotels in San Jose:
Holiday Inn Aurola San Jose
Family Friendly Hotels in San Jose:
Radisson Hotel San Jose Costa Rica
Taormina Hotel and Casino
Park Inn by Radisson San Jose
Affordable Luxury Hotels in San Jose:
Hotel Grano de Oro San Jose
Gran Hotel Costa Rica Curio Collection by Hilton
Self contained apartment/rentals 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.
Many of Costa Rica’s major highlights may be found in Manuel Antonio, including one of the country’s top tourist sites, beaches, family vacation spots, and coastal villages.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Manuel Antonio National Park is quite busy because it is the most well-known and visited of the country’s 26 national parks and because it is a loved travel and holiday destination.
The average visitor to Manuel Antonio stays in Costa Rica for 8 to 10 days, usually including time in Arenal/La Fortuna and Monteverde. Plan a well-paced tour of approximately 5 days if visitors only wish to see Manuel Antonio.
Manuel Antonio and its eponymous national park is one of the bucket-list draws of Costa Rica. The reserve is one of the smallest in the country, but also one of the most biodiverse places on the planet – head in to see three-toed sloths, howler monkeys, and even whales out at sea.
The town itself, meanwhile, has surf beaches and eco resorts that are uber-romantic and great for couples looking for life on the Pacific Ocean.
Why stay in Manuel Antonio?
Most of the hotels in Manuel Antonio stretch up a roadway between the park entrance and the town of Quepos. Many hide between the coastal hills that divide wonderful beaches like Playa La Macha and Playa Tulemar.
Choose those if you want to have some days of surfing and tanning between your sloth safaris. They are also perfect for romantic stints on the beach, since loads offer sweeping sunset views and suites with balconies.
The other main reason you’ll want to add Manuel Antonio to your Costa Rica itinerary is the fact that it’s the gateway to the Manuel Antonio National Park. It’s one of the most famous reserves in the country, unfolding over a series of ridiculously idyllic beaches and stretches of old-growth rainforest filled with sloths and howler monkeys.
There’s a handful of marked walking trails in the park, including routes like the Mangrove Trail that takes you over wetlands inhabited by crocs and the Sloth Trail, which weaves through one of the most sloth-rich sections of forest in Central America.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Manuel Antonio National Park is quite busy because it is the most well-known and visited of the country’s 26 national parks, and because it is a loved travel and holiday destination.
We think four to five days here is prime, leaving enough time to enjoy the sands and see the national park to the fullest. Because it’s such a popular spot, expect hotel options to suit the full range of travellers and budgets, from bargain hostel dorms to family resorts with pools.
Things to do in Manuel Antonio?
- Manuel Antonio National Park – Established way back in 1972, this bijou reserve sure does pack a punch. Some say it’s the single most biodiverse pocket of coastal jungle in Central America. The stats back that up – there are over 100 species of mammal here, and more than 180 species of bird. The whole thing is very well managed. It opens at 8am each morning and visitors can choose one of about 12 marked trails, each of which showcases a different side to the reserve. All trails can be walked in under a day.
- Manuel Antonio Beach – Perhaps the most photographed beach in the whole of Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio Beach sits at the heart of the aforementioned Manuel Antonio National Park. It dresses the side of a tombola that pokes out into the Pacific in a symphony of seaweed-covered rocks. The sand here is a glistening goldy white hue, sloping softly into a protected bay that’s a great place to cool off once you’ve completed a hike through the reserve behind.
- Espadilla Beach – Long Espadilla Beach has one foot in the national park and the rest of its body outside of the reserve. You can even get hotels right on the sand here – just look to the northern end. There are waves and board rentals for those looking to score some of that legendary Costa Rican surf between adventures through the jungles.
Where to stay in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in Manuel Antonio:
Selina Manuel Antonio
Budget Hotels in Manuel Antonio:
Karahe Beach Hotel
Mid range Hotels in Manuel Antonio:
Hotel Flor Blanca
Hotel La Colina
Family Friendly Hotels in Manuel Antonio:
Villas de la Selva
Igloo Beach Lodge
Shana by the Beach Manuel Antonio
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Manuel Antonio:
Gaia Hotel & Reserve
Makanda by The Sea Hotel Adults Only
Parador Resort and Spa
Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort
Self contained apartment/rentals 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. Arenal is the best area to stay in Costa Rica for first timers, read on to find out why!
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. Wondering where to stay in Costa Rica for a month, Arenal is the perfect spot to base yourself.
Arenal is the most well-known volcano in Costa Rica. The symmetrical cone-shaped Arenal Volcano dominates the beautiful green terrain of Arenal Volcano National Park. It used to be the most active volcano in the nation, averaging 41 eruptions daily.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica, Arenal offers everything. Although there are many tourists in this area, you can still feel like you are in a little town because most of the businesses are run by Costa Ricans. A must-see sights in the La Fortuna region is the La Fortuna waterfall, and the trek there is well worth the effort.
Arenal is the adventure mecca of Costa Rica. Watched over by the cone-shaped silhouette of Arenal Volcano, it’s the place to go for wild hikes, whitewater rafting, and waterfall chasing in the rainforests.
The spot has also become a bit of a hub for eco hotels, which you’ll find in abundance on the outskirts of the volcano park and around Arenal Lake.
Why stay in Arenal?
Costa Rica isn’t just about the beaches, you know? Arenal is testimony to that. An active volcano about 90 kilometres northwest of San Jose, the mountain is hemmed in by its very own national park (the Arenal Volcano National Park). In the last 10 years or so, it’s risen to become a haven for adventure seekers, what with whitewater rafting expeditions and waterfall hikes on the menu.
Most people choose to stay in or around the nearby town of La Fortuna. That’s got a surprisingly raucous nightlife scene that’s fuelled by a regular stream of backpackers.
Other hotels – boutique jungle lodges, eco resorts that are 100% carbon neutral – dot the backcountry around the centre, many of them clinging to the main road that leads the way to Arenal Volcano to the east.
Talking of Arenal Volcano…that triangular peak dominates the horizon here but you can’t actually climb it (it’s active, after all!). However, there are treks to the flooded caldera of Chato Volcano (that takes 2 hours each way) and walks to the roaring La Fortuna Waterfall (only 40 minutes in total) that you can ready the boots for.
Arenal isn’t all hike, hike and more hike, though. The region is also famed for its abundance of natural hot springs. Some hotels here have even got their own private ones. They tend to cost a touch more but reward trekkers with 40-degree baths in the jungles – just what you need to sooth sore hamstrings, eh?
Things to do in Arenal?
- Arenal Volcano National Park – The Arenal Volcano National Park is centred on its namesake mountain. Hiking to viewpoints that overlook its great, cone-shaped top is a fantastic way to spend a day here. You’ll spend the whole morning navigating jungles riddled with multi-colored frogs and parakeets before emerging to see a soaring mountain rising to a halo of cloud. There are other paths that take you over petrified lava fields and along the banks of Lake Arenal to the west.
- Tabacon Hot Springs – The Tabacon Hot Springs are probably the most popular hot springs in the Arenal region. You’ve got two choices here. You could fork out a whole load for access to the private spa resort that occupies the main pools. Or you can seek out the secret entrance that’s just a little along the roadway. Either way, you’ll be bathing in 40-degree pools warmed by underground magma channels.
- La Fortuna Waterfall – La Fortuna Waterfall has become Instagram fodder in recent years. It’s easy to see why. It’s downright beautiful. Imagine a ribbon-like stream of H2O emerging from a gap in moss-covered cliffs deep in the rainforests. The hike to the waterfall takes about 10 minutes going down and 20 minutes returning (when it’s uphill). Try to get there early before the crowds!
Where to stay in Arenal Costa Rica
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in Arenal:
Arenal Backpackers Resort
Arenal Sloth Hostel
Budget Hotels in Arenal:
Hotel Sueno Dorado & Hot Springs
La Fortuna Downtown Hotel Boutique
Condo’s Vista Al Volcan
Cabinas Las Palmas del Sol
Mid range Hotels in Arenal:
Hotel Lomas del Volcan
Paradise Hot Springs Thermal Resort
Arenal Volcano Inn
Family Friendly Hotels in Arenal:
Hotel La Pradera del Arenal
Hotel Villas Vilma
Hotel Campo Verde
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Arenal:
The Springs Resort and Spa
Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens
Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa
The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa & Resort – Adults Only
Self contained apartment/rentals 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.
Surf’s up in Tamarindo. Welcome to what might just be the most famous surf town in the Americas. Fronting Playa Tamarindo, this chilled Pacific resort has access to something like 15 breaks within a 15-minute drive, so there’s surf for all levels. After a day on the waves, hit the bars – Tamarindo is a party town with real moxie.
Why stay in Tamarindo?
Tamarindo shines for three main reasons: The beach, the surf, and the nightlife. Now if that makes it sound like just about the best vacation destination out there, then that’s because it might well be. For people who like sand, salt, and good cocktails once the sun has set, this erstwhile fishing village on the Nicoya Peninsula can hardly be beaten.
The main surf breaks and the sands where you’ll be doing your sunbathing stretch up Playa Tamarindo right out front of the town itself.
You can also push further north to Playa Grande, where there are barreling waves for advanced surfers. Or there’s chilled Playa Langosta to the south, which tames the nightlife a little and offers more in the way of hammock swinging.
At just an hour’s transfer from the international airport in Liberia, Tamarindo Beach is always pretty popular. The surfers tend to come for the Green Season (May-September), while beach lovers come for the dry season (November-May), which is also when the leatherback turtles build their nests along the beaches.
For travellers seeking a variety of activities on their Costa Rica vacation, Tamarindo Beach has a little bit of everything: All-inclusive resorts, hotels, restaurants, boutiques and art galleries, pumping nightlife venues.
Things to do in Tamarindo?
- Laze on the beach – Playa Tamarindo has been the setting for many an R&R jaunt to Costa Rica. It’s a long scythe of cinnamon-coloured sand that has palm trees sprouting from its sides and ocean waters that lap over clutches of coral reef. It’s also not the only option in town. Lots of people prefer to look for a hotel on nearby Langosta Playa, which is even more relaxed and has epic sunset shows since it faces directly west.
- Go surfing – If there’s one activity that’s put Tamarindo on the map, it’s surfing. There are fast, hardcore breaks for serious surfers here, located further north along Playa Grande. But there are also loads of easy waves on the main beach, which is where you’re likely to go if you book into one of the local surf schools to learn.
- Party – There’s never a dull night in Tamarindo. The place is positively pumping once the sun sets, but the drinking begins before that, in the reggae-playing beach bars that hide under the coastal coconut trees. Later, you can head for award-winning craft beer at the Volcano Brewing Company or party the night away on the dancefloor at Sharky’s, a local legend.
Where to stay in Tamarindo Beach
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in Tamarindo Beach:
Coral Reef Surf Hostel and Camp
Pura Vida MINI Hostel – Tamarindo Costa Rica
Hostel La Botella de Leche – Tamarindo
Budget Hotels in Tamarindo Beach:
Best Western Tamarindo Vista Villas
Hotel Mar Rey
Mid range Hotels in Tamarindo Beach:
Hotel La Laguna del cocodrilo
Family Friendly Hotels in Tamarindo Beach:
Sunrise Condos of Tamarindo
Hotel Tamarindo Diria
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Tamarindo Beach:
Jardin del Eden boutique hotel
Les Voiles Blanches – Luxury Lodge
JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa
Self contained apartment/rentals 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.
Located on Costa Rica’s fabled Gold Coast, Playa Conchal is one of the most exotic beaches in the country. With nearly ten hours of daylight in the high season, and warm, calm water throughout the whole year, the spot is very popular with swimmers and snorkelers. However, it never seems to get uber-busy, even at the peak of the dry months (November-March).
The lack of crowds at Playa Conchal is partly due to the lack of major resorts in the area. The Westin Playa Conchal is the largest here, but it’s one of only three or four big hotels along the shore. Lots will opt to stay in the small resort town of Brasilito instead. That has stacks of affordable accommodation to suit a variety of budgets, but is only 1.2 miles away in all.
The main activities here centre on the beach itself. There are jet-ski rentals for those who want to crank up the adrenaline but also a series of well-protected snorkelling reefs that really come into their own at high tide.
Things to do in Conchal Beach?
- Relax on the beach – Conchal Beach is relaxation 101. Get ready to hit a 1.2-mile-long run of beige-yellow sand that slopes neatly into a bay that’s protected from dominant Pacific swells by a headland to the west. The result is an often-windless bay with calm waters, which will flood a number of little snorkelling areas when the tide pushes up, letting you dive in to see seahorses, parrotfish, zebrafish, and more.
- Playa Zapotillal – One bend in the coast around from Conchal Beach is the just-as-idyllic Playa Zapotillal. Unlike in Conchal, there’s been zero development along the shoreline here, which means you’ll get a taste of a truly wild Costa Rican coastline in all its glory. It’s not uncommon to spot sea turtles in the reefs at the north end of Zapotillal. Stick around for sunset t
Where to stay in Conchal Beach
Budget Hotels in Conchal Beach:
Mid range Hotels in Conchal Beach:
Hotel Diversion Tropical
Family Friendly Hotels in Conchal Beach:
Casa de Playa Mar de Luna
Villas La Paz
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Conchal Beach:
The Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal – All-Inclusive
W Costa Rica Resort – Playa Conchal
Self contained apartment/rentals in Conchal Beach:
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.
The vast Gulf of Papagayo is easily accessible from Liberia Airport and San Jose. It’s a wide, open bay that fronts the Pacific Ocean with gorgeous runs of coffee-coloured sand.
Lots of the beaches here get good protection from various headlands and islands, making them an excellent choice for families with kids in tow. On top of that, this region has an abundance of highly-rated chain hotels and all-inclusive resorts.
Why stay in the Gulf of Papagayo?
The Gulf of Papagayo is a whole region of northwestern Costa Rica that’s among the best places in the country to visit as a family.
There are many reasons for that, but mainly it’s down to the availability of comfy resort hotels with family facilities and the sheltered nature of the coastline, which makes swimming and snorkelling with the little ones just a bit easier.
You’ll need to pick the beach town that tickles your fancy the most…
There’s Playa Hermosa, which is probably the most popular of the lot. The town there is riddled with sport-fishing outfitters, whale-watching tour providers, and scuba companies. We’d say it’s better for families with slightly older kids who are up for a bit of an adventure.
You could also go to Ocotal Beach. That’s suited more to eco travellers who like to escape the crowds. It’s a remote bay with clifftop hiking trails and places to snorkel dotting its coastal islands.
Finally, there’s Playas del Coco. Another of the headline resort towns of Guanacaste province, it’s laden with classy boutique hotels and large brand resort hotels, many of which have walking access to the main beach and the chilled promenade that links it all up.
Things to do in the Gulf of Papagayo?
- Whale watching – The Gulf of Papagayo is one of the main whale watching destinations in Costa Rica. You’ll find tour outfitters ready and waiting to take you out over the waters to spot orcas and humpbacks in all of the main towns, though Playa Hermosa and Playas del Coco probably have the most. There are two main seasons for seeing whales here. The first crosses over with the high season in January and February. The second comes in the mid-autumn, in September and October.
- Santa Rosa National Park – The Parque Nacional Santa Rosa is made up of nearly 40,000 hectares on dry land and nearly double that in the water. It’s one of the wildest national parks in northern Costa Rica, with a proven population of migrating whales each year and resident animals that include pumas, tapirs, and even jaguars. It’s not often visited by travellers, but families can get stuck into planned day hikes through the forests and up the mountains.
Where to stay in Gulf of Papagayo
Mid range Hotels in Gulf of Papagayo:
Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica
Casa Conde Beach-Front Hotel
Occidental Papagayo – Adults only
Family Friendly Hotels in Gulf of Papagayo:
Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Costa Rica
Hotel and Villas Nacazcol
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
Self contained apartment/rentals in Gulf of Papagayo:
Monteverde – Where to stay in Costa Rica for young adults
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.
Although Monteverde, Costa Rica, is somewhat different from the nation’s tropical beaches and all-inclusive resorts, it has its own unique charm. It’s a well-known ecotourism destination with stunning rainforests and a wide variety of flora and fauna. The ideal site to view a cloud forest is there.
The weather at Monteverde, Costa Rica, which is known for its cloud forests, is mountainous and occasionally damp. You can pack in a lot of activities in Monteverde if you stay for two to three days.
The cloud forest reserves can be visited both during the day and at night, and going at both times is recommended because you’ll see something new each time.
Calling all adventure seekers – Monteverde is second only to Arenal when it comes to getting out and about in the wild Costa Rican backcountry. Set high up in the sierras northwest of San Jose, the town has one foot firmly wedged into the fabled cloud forests. It’s surrounded by four or five reserves that boast ridiculous levels of biodiversity, and offer adrenaline-pumping pursuits such as canopy hikes and ziplines.
Why stay in Monteverde?
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 – which you may or may not see on one of your rainforest hikes!
The region’s most famous natural park is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. That’s got epic suspended bridges linked by hiking paths. And it’s home to jaguars, ocelots and many other exotic species of animals.The nearby Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve has similar species, but can also add spider monkeys to the roster.
For this reason alone, Monteverde is very popular with bird-watchers and wildlife photographers. But there’s also a more hardcore side to it all, in the form of heart-thumping zip-lines, hanging bridges and aerial trams that whisk you high above the canopies.
Although Monteverde, Costa Rica, is somewhat different from the nation’s tropical beaches and all-inclusive resorts, it has its own unique charm. It’s a well-known ecotourism destination with stunning rainforests and eco hotels wedged into the middle of them.
You can also stay in the backpacker hub of Santa Elena, which is where most of the budget hostels and guesthouses are located.
Things to do in Monteverde?
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve – The most iconic place to venture into the legendary cloud forest habitats of inland Costa Rica is this historic reserve. Buses run to the entrance every day from most of the resorts that line the road between the mountains and Santa Elena. Visitors can walk through a serpentarium filled with venomous snakes and endangered amphibians, and then hit the famous trails, which include sections on suspension bridges deep in the rainforests.
- Ziplines – Monteverde is the capital of zip-lining in Costa Rica. Some of the best await at the acclaimed Sky Adventures Monteverde Park. They offer a Sky Trek that includes several individual zip-lines that cross deep canyons and unexplored jungles. There’s also an aerial tram that takes you high above the forest to help you spot rare parrots and even the elusive quetzal bird!
Where to stay in Monteverde Costa Rica
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in Monteverde:
Hostel La Suerte
Budget Hotels in Monteverde:
Mariposa Bed & Breakfast
Bella Vista Lodge
Mid range Hotels in Monteverde:
Monteverde Country Lodge
Los Pinos – Cabanas y Jardines
Hotel Trapp Family
Self contained apartment/rentals 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.
The Poas Volcano is a 2,697-meter active stratovolcano in Poas Volcano National Park in central Costa Rica. Since 1828, it has erupted 40 times. For good reason, Poas Volcano is still one of Costa Rica’s most well-known national parks.
One of the most interesting places you’ll ever visit is the Poas volcano. For anyone travelling to Costa Rica, seeing an active volcano up close and personal is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Poas is a hulking volcano that keeps watch over the sprawling urban capital of Costa Rica. It’s a fantastic place to start your travels through the untamed backcountry of the land of Pura Vida, mainly because it’s so accessible from the international airport.
A stay here can also be a great alternative to trekking in Monteverde or Arenal, since you’ll get to see a sulfur-belching volcano up close and personal!
Why stay in Poas?
The Poas Volcano is a 2,697-metre-high summit that looms large to the north of San Jose, the capital of the country. Although it’s not erupted since 2014, it’s capped off by a duo of crater lakes that emit the pungent scents of sulfur into the air.
You can hike to them both. It’s a moderately challenging trek on scree-covered ridges but rewards trekkers with visions of glowing blue lakes of pure turquoise, not to mention the jagged Cordillera Central ranges beyond.
The main reason to stay in Poas itself is to make it into the park and hit the trails super early. That way, you can have the walking paths to yourself and photograph the crater lakes without anyone else around. Crowds or no crowds, it’s likely to be an experience you’ll never forget – witnessing a flooded volcano caldera from the crater rim itself!
Things to do in Poas?
- The volcano hike – It takes 1.5-2 hours to hike the main trail around the Poas Volcano. That’s not all that long, but it promises to be a hike of truly epic proportions. You’ll come close to the top of one of the most active peaks in the whole country – nay, the whole of Central America. You’ll also get the best views of the iconic crater lakes here, which glow a shimmering blue under the tropical sun.
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park – These manicured jungle gardens offer a tamer experience of the Poas backcountry. Visitors can walk paved paths through groves of big cottonwood trees and blooming orchids. Along the way, you’ll spot not one, not two, but five individual waterfalls gushing through the greenery. The La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park can be accessed from hotels in both Poas and San Jose.
Where to stay in Poas Costa Rica
Budget Hotels in Poas:
Poas Volcano Rooms
El Churrasco Hotel Restaurante
Lagunillas Del Poas
Mid range Hotels in Poas:
Poas Volcano Observatory Lodge & Glamping
Poas Volcano Lodge
Family Friendly Hotels in Poas:
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Poas:
Self contained apartment/rentals 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.
Alajuela is a convenient place to book a hotel if you’re flying into Costa Rica late or need to get to the airport early. The reason? The large Juan Santamaría International Airport is right on the doorstep. You can also launch coffee tours and see the famous Poas Volcano with ease from hotels in this area.
Why stay in Alajuela?
Just 20km from the capital city of San Jose, Costa Rica’s second largest city, Alajuela, is a good, central location for travellers seeking a variety of adventures on their vacation.
Mainly, though, it’s the best base for hitting the country’s biggest international airport, the Juan Santamaría International Airport, which is served by both long-haul and short-haul flights.
There’s loads to help you pass the time before you board. You could hop on a tour to the Poas Volcano National Park.
That’s less than one hour away and offers gnarly hikes up a volcano crater to see flooded calderas. Then there’s the Doka Estate, where you can go to learn all about the long heritage of coffee growing in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, and even buy some beans to take home.
In addition to the natural splendour of Costa Rica, Alajuela has some interesting churches, museums and markets to explore.
Things to do in Alajuela?
- Poas Volcano National Park – An hour’s drive to the north of the airport town can bring you into the shadow of mighty Poas Volcano. It’s nearly 3,000 metres high and reigns as one of the most active volcanoes in the region. There’s a hike to the top that takes around 2 hours in all, showcasing glimmering crater lakes and views of the mountain-shrouded Central Valley of Costa Rica.
- Doka Estate – Visitors to the Doka Estate will be treated to tours of the coffee-growing fields and terraces that bedeck the whole of the Central Valley. You’ll learn all about proper cultivation techniques from real coffee farmers and see the whole process of going from farm to cup. The Doka Estate is around 40 minutes’ drive from Alajuela and is best done as part of a guided day trip.
Where to stay in Alajuela Costa Rica
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in Alajuela:
Alajuela Backpackers Boutique Hostel
Hotel Cortez Azul
Budget Hotels in Alajuela:
Hotel el Tucan
Hotel La Guaria Inn & Suites
Mid range Hotels in Alajuela:
Holiday Inn Express San Jose Airport
Family Friendly Hotels in Alajuela:
Hotel Casa Tago
Hotel Santa Maria Inn
Melrost Bed and Breakfast
Affordable Luxury Hotels in Alajuela:
Pura Vida Hotel
Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton San Jose Airport
Self contained apartment/rentals in Alajuela: