SOME REALLY GOOD IDEAS FOR YOUR TRIP TO COSTA RICA
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 100's of places in Costa Rica but a few stand out as places we will or do return to again and again.
What's important to us about these places? First and foremost is that the owners or people you will book with are on-site and have a sense of humor. We know that this leads to 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 get out about once a month to experience new places in Costa Rica, so we want to be sure our recommendations are only for "places we would stay". 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 VAST) plus. You can't go wrong with few days at any of these; people who know what they are doing in Costa Rica. The cut:
- Onsite knowledgeable innkeepers with an "interesting" lodge
- Great food (at the inn or very close) and a sense of humor
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?
There is no better place 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. Not a care in the world.
NORTH OSA PENINSULAR/DRAKE BAY - beach and jungle excellence with eco-luxury
Copa De Arbol
Between Drake and the Corcovado National Park
Remote untouched and accessible by boat - from the Pura Vida Hotel fly SANSA (or Nature Air) to Drake Bay. Also ask us about 1 way car rentals to Sierpe and then a boat with a flight back.
White-faced monkeys swing from the trees while toucans and scarlet macaws circle overhead. Endless swimming beaches, fresh-water lagoons, and miles of hiking trails that wind through the rainforest make this the perfect spot to relax all day or embark on the eco-adventure of your lifetime.
After a day of hiking, sighting perhaps a Tapir or an ant eater and host of interesting life in the Osa you come home to this! That's my idea of roughing it :-)) The attention to detail at Copa makes this easily one of the top 3 eco lodges in Costa Rica.
Contact: Summer (will most defintely take care of you, yes you probably will fly in - to quote Summer "the road isn’t too bad, totally doable, it’s the river crossings that make it tricky")
Phone (US): 831 246 4265
Phone (CR): +(506) 8935 1212
WEB: Copa De Arbol
SOUTHERN PACIFIC - an adventure in the jungle
Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge
Just north of Golfito only by boat deep in the jungle
We have visited many a jungle lodge but none quite as interesting. You are 1/2 an hour by boat from anywhere and maybe 8 hours drive from anywhere else (or a short 1 hour flight from San Jose). Though deep in the jungle we very much enjoyed the food and accommodations as well as the team at Nicuesa. Don't miss a kayak ride to the Orchid man! For a jungle experience we'd very much recommend our friends at Nicuesa.
Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is an environmentally sensitive lodge set on a 165-acre private preserve in the undeveloped Pacific Coast Osa Peninsula/Golfo Dulce region of Southern Costa Rica. The lodge embraces conservation and harmony with the natural environment and caters to travelers interested in eco-tourism, nature, adventure and sports.
Their goal is to provide guests with an experience that you will always remember and we do! Part of the joy of visiting this lodge is just getting there - and when you do you will be greeted with warm smiles.
US/Canada phone: 1-866-504-8116
Phone: +(506) 2258-8250
UVITA - where the beaches and bad jokes go on forever
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 inigenous 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.
Some things just mystify Daryl - one of the reasons we stay here so often :-).
Host: Donna y Daryl
Phone: +(506) 2100 1769 or cell: 8373-2244
WEB: Shelter From The Storm
TORTUGUERO - out on the Caribbean coast - great wildlife, turtles or lazy beach days
Turtle Beach Lodge
North Caribbean Coast
This is THE place to experience something very special . . . mama turtles laying or baby turtles hatching on the beach at night. That . . . and an amazing variety of animals and jungle flora that is second to none in Costa Rica. You can do an overnight if you like but we'd much recommend the 3 day 2 nights stay.
We took the night turtle tour after an exciting "fast boat" along pitch black canals (don't miss it in turtle season). There's an early morning canal tour to visit with caymans, turtles, birds and bats. Recommended and we'll be back.
Snag a kayak or two and take yourself on a jungle adventure for one of your lazy days in this beautiful untouched area.
Yes, the photo is from our trip deep in the jungle on one of the Lodge's boats. The Lodge has the canals on one side and the beach on the other and is as far into nature as you may get.
And Turtle beach will do a pickup from the Pura Vida and van/boat you all the way to your lodge and back - this is a great way to start your Costa Rican vacation. First night here and next few nights there - we or they can arrange a car rental pickup for you when you come out of the jungle.
Phone: +(506) 2248 0707
WEB: Turtle Beach Lodge
NEAR NOWHERE - 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
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. 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. This photo (from our last visit) is the turtle rescue just down the beach from Ylang Ylang. Highly recommended.
US Phone: +1-415-692-5294
CR Phone: +(506) 2642-0636
MONTEVERDE - in the cloud forests of Monteverde about 3 hours from the Pura Vida
Just south of Monteverde
Just 2 log cabinas crafted with love - a big one and a smaller one situated on the sunny side of Santa Elena.
If you go to our tour site (InsightCostaRica.com) and click on the big yellow box ("the road less travelled"), you will see the view from our cabin. You will never forget your visit to the sunny smiles of El Sol.
Every guest is touched in some way by the experience at El Sol - we recommend a few days up here and don't miss a trip with Javier, Elisabeth's son and "native of the region." His horseback rides are a delight and his local knowledge will make all the difference to your trip. You will be "touched" by the experience.
WEB: El Sol
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 Volcano (or for that matter any destination) 3 1/2 hours from the Pura Vida
Leaves & Lizards
Monterey, near La Fortuna
This secluded lodge is one of our favorite visits - great hosts Debbie and Steve make it #1 for hospitality and the volcano view from your bedroom is just perfect! Well it helps they happen to have the perfect volcano.
They have a nice restaurant and most of the cabins are huge. The place is more like a rural farm than a hotel but you won't mistake the hospitality for anything but home. "Summer camp for adults" is how one guest described it.
An excellent surprise could be a delightful visit to Cano Negro - this is a day trip into the jungle by car and by boat, just south of the Nicaraguan border. We met with cayman, bats, toucans, howler monkeys and a whole lot more you'll spend a lifetime trying to see. There are 3 really amazing spots with huge animal life in Costa Rica and this is one of them. It helps there are no roads and few people. While you are there, try to get out on one of their little herd of amazing horses - the photo is from a day we spent with the hotel staff and their kids - everyone is a horse expert in the area. We do recommend you have your own 4WD for Leaves and exploring the local back roads which are pretty bumpy.
Hosts: Steve & Debbie
TollFree (US/Canada): 1-888-828-9245
Local: +(506) 2478-0023
WEB: Leaves and Lizards
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 accomodations 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 far but pretty bumpy (and dificult in the rainy season). The photo we took is a local cacao tree ready for harvest.
Hosts: Juan or Liz
Phones: +(506) 8302-7318 or 2256-3763
WEB: Rancho Margot
TAMARINDO - Guanacastican beaches about 5 hours from the Pura Vida
Villa Alegre Beach Front B&B
Tamarindo, Guanacaste Coast
A favorite place when we need a beach break with our good friends Suzye and Barry, the hotel owners and long time Tamarindo experts.
Villa Alegre offers Spanish style villas built within walking distance to the beach of Playa Langosta. Last time we stayed in the one called Russia - very nice.
This is what we think a tropical B&B is all about - great location on the beach, 38 different breakfasts (maybe more?), beautiful beach with usually nobody on it, the wildlife strolling by (the iguana is a local resident) and funny hosts - steps to the beach.
Don't miss a day at Avellanas beach when you are in the neighborhood. Our photo is us in the Villa Alegre kitchen conducting an asian cooking class for local friends of the hotel.
Hosts: Suzye and Barry
Phone: +(506) 2653 0270
Toll free (US/Canada): (650) 860 6317
WEB: Villa Alegre
PLAYA JUNQUILLAL - Guanacaste beach, great turtle watch & 5 hours from the Pura Vida
Hotelito Si Si Si
Joan is a good friend and the host at Hotelito Si Si Si - a small upscale bed and breakfast with 3 modern rooms and 1 bedroom casita. It is not on the beach but a short drive with good access to Playas Junquillal, Negra and Avellanas, the "community club" offers guests pool, tennis and gym facilities.
The little beach community is not far but you do need a car. We go for the turtles and a laid back vacation. The turtles are protected under a unique local program that uses volunteer high school kids to collect the eggs with the help of an expert biologist. The eggs are protected in beach nests and released when hatched. One of the best run turtle protection programs we have seen. For more info on this check out the WWF page here. The photo is called "Baula boys" with a leatherback turtle at Junquillal beach taken by Gabriel of the WWF.
Nice visit, very rustic little beach town "the way Costa Rica was."
Phone: +(506) 8376-2284
or +(506) 2658-7118
WEB: Hotelito Si Si Si
MAL PAIS/SANTA TERESA - disconnected from the planet with ocean views for miles
Across the road from the glorious surfing beach of Santa Teresa you will find this delightful rendition of just the kind of place we love to stay.
Well built, great amenities, marvelous pool and super nice hosts and the important part for us - they are also the owners making the place beautifully maintained and spotless.
If you want some down time for a few days (better a week) we think this is the exact right place. Down the street you will find one of the 2 best bakeries in Costa Rica (a rare find indeed) and next door a perfect restaurant for those romantic evenings. A unique spot indeed.
CERRO DE LA MUERTE - Quetzal country
Outside of Copey about 2 1/2 hours from the Pura Vida
El Toucanet is a lovely rustic little lodge in the cloud forest and a great stopover heading anywhere south in Costa Rica. Gary and Edna will be your welcoming hosts and likely as not Edna will be preparing the dinner that night as this place is completely disconnected from the planet. A great place to just getaway and write the great american novel or join Gary on an early morning Quetzal walk.
The lodge is about 6000 feet or 1950 meters so bring a jacket - you don't need 4WD to get to the lodge but any exploration in the area you will probably welcome it for some ground clearance. Oh and yes that is a Quetzal from our morning walk - we were lucky to meet up with a nesting pair - ohmygoodness!
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?.
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 . . .