We'd like to introduce you to some of 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
- Have been recommended by multiple Pura Vida guests
- Great food (at the inn or very close) and a sense of humor
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 the Ballena Coast 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
GOLFITO - extraordinary lodge with a view to infinity, a place to gain some perspective
Zona Sur high above Golfito
The location is most unusual, the drive is "most interesting" (4WD only but the steep road/trail is well maintained) and after it all you will say "thank goodness we did." We met the owners Nicole & Keith some years ago as they were embarking on their great life adventure in the jungle and making plans for this fabulous project and we then visited after they opened.
Forget the wonderful design and materials of this top notch lodge, it is obvious why they chose this spot - a view all the way to the Osa peninsular, with the lodge and beautiful casitas looking into a perfect natural cut in the jungle down below surrounded by more flora and fauna than many will see in a lifetime. I'd rate this as the most spectacular natural location of a lodge we have seen in Costa Rica. Did I mention the staff? No? Oh, also really nice, impressive.
You do need a 4WD in this area so ask about car rentals or you can fly into Golfito and they will pick you up.
Host: Nicole & Keith
CONTACT: Cielo Lodge
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
WEB: La Anita Rain Forest Lodge
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 displaced Aussie and proud Costa Rican with a wry sense of humor). 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 amenities you'd find in a 5 star hotel. Great birding and not far from a not to be missed visit to Rio Celeste. Ask them about their involvement in the neighborhood and see how you might also get involved with this center of rural tourism.
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. There is a short beach drive to get to the lodge - do not try it if you are not familiar with 4WD beach driving - stay in town at their other hotel and they will pick you up. 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
PLAYA HERMOSA/ NICOYA PENINSULAR - where the surfers go
Shaka Beach Retreat
Just north of Santa Teresa
After so many rave reviews on Tripadvisor and the surge of surfers asking us for "just the right spot" some guests told us to look no further than Shaka.
Experienced surfers or those wanting to try it out should most def head out to this interesting corner of Costa Rica.
We usually come in from the ferry by car - you will appreciate a 4WD for the ground clearance. This makes a super nice day trip. We like the beach road past Montezuma. Once there in a good 4WD you will enjoy touring the jungle, perhaps taking a horse ride or grabbing some fabulous baked stuff at The Bakery.
Other options getting there from the Pura Vida on your first night include flying to the Tambor "airport" then taxi to Shaka and we can also find you a private van to take you the whole way.
We visited in early 2022 and know that once there Mike will take very good care of you (even if you are not a surfer like me).
Host: Mike Bienz or Frank Bauer
Phone: +(506) 2640 1118
US Phone: +(970) 379 9811
WEB: Shaka Costa Rica
MONTEVERDE - in the cloud forests of Monteverde with a view to Nicoya
on the road to Santa Elena, Monteverde
Arriving from the Pura Vida look out for a huge sun on your left some kilometers short of Santa Elena on Ruta 606. On the right if coming from Arenal area a few km south of Santa Elena. The road is newish but already littered with famous locally built potholes so bring an SUV with good ground clearance (you don't need 4WD but is nice to have).
We have known El Sol for nearly 20 years but renewed our connection just recently and what a lovely surprise! You will be met by the delightful Susanne, also the author of a lot of the color and artwork or perhaps Javier, also the designer of some of the marvelous woodwork in the cabins.
When I wanted to refer our guests to places we liked to stay I had some criteria and El Sol exceeds all of them. But here is my advice - if Monteverde is not on your list of places to stay when you come to Costa Rica you best add it but only if Susanne has space for you :-)). Many of our guests have been touched by the magic at El Sol and so were we (once again). Not to be missed.
Phone: +(506) 8676-1869
WEB: El Sol
MONTEVERDE - in the cloud forests of Monteverde just north of downtown about 3 hours from the Pura Vida
Hidden Canopy Treehouses Boutique Hotel
Just a little north of Santa Elena, Monteverde
Every couple of months we like to get out and visit something interesting in Costa Rica - we were not prepared for this one. A word of caution: some of our guests will need to ignore their budget to stay here (do it for the memories!.
Jenn, the on-site owner, has built this thing a plank at a time over the last few years - the tree houses are quite extraordinary "masterpieces of accommodation" (not a description I have used ever in Costa Rica). Enormous tree houses with warm and delicious woods all beautifully finished with all the acoutrements of a Park Lane hotel in London. That is a mind blower in what is usually considered a rustic area.
Take some time to understand the area from your vantage point at Jenn's lookout over the forest - we have been to Monteverde a number of times but in addition to the amazing cloud forest views, flora and fauna we gained a new perspective staying here chatting with Jenn.
Isn't that why we travel?
Phone: +(506) 2645 5447
WEB: Hidden Canopy Treehouses Boutique Hotel
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 between 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.
BETWEEN HERE AND MANUEL ANTONIO
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 Tiffany & Nome, a couple of displaced Californians who understand hospitality and have revamped 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.
BETWEEN UVITA AND OJOCHAL
Mango Tree Villas and Spa
The rain forest starts here but within reach of a couple of our favorite restaurants in the country
Brian and Gail are your onsite hosts at this jungle lodge just south of Uvita and one of our favorite beach areas in Costa Rica. Unlike most of the lodges on this page this is more of a spa/yoga lodge but you are not into yoga you will be welcomed. The location is a fantastic spot to reach out to the nearby jungle, our favorite kayak spot at Jorge's in Siepe (best wildlife photography), access to the Borucan indigenous community and delightful beaches like Ventanas and Uvita.
If you are going to try for the Osa peninsular and the amazing Corcovado national park it is a perfect location for a few days stopover.
Contact: Gail & Brian
Phone (Costa Rica): tel:8706-5302
WEB: Mango Tree Villas and Spa