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
SOUTHERN PACIFIC - inside a national park
North of Golfito, access only by boat & deep in the jungle
As Harvey & Susan say, "Saladero is more than just an ecolodge, it is our home". And that is exactly why they got to be on this wonderful list of places we enjoyed staying at (photo as Susan sees us off at their beach).
Saladero is as close as you can get to nature in Costa Rica because it is uniquely situated inside a national park - and one that is visited by very few people. Other than you, a few guests at Saladero and a neighboring fishing family that is all there is for humankind for miles in all directions. The rest is nature - pure, simple and wild.
Email us for more information about our experience there or just pop on over to their web site below. We'd be happy to advise on transportation and can also help with one way rentacars if you'd like to drive and fly back (we think a great way to see the country on a tight calendar). A cool diversion on your road trip is one of our favorite spots next on the list (Shelter from the Storm).
Contact: Susan and Harvey
US phone: 561-283-1947
Local Phone: +(506) 8721-0425
WEB: Saladero Ecolodge
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
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.
The views from the cabins is an endless expanse off to the Nicoya peninsular. Walks or horse rides in the cloud forest is an experience like no other on the planet. 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.
Phone: +(506) 2645-5838
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 anywhere in the wild. 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 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.