While most people might not really know a lot about Costa Rica, anyone that’s ever visited the country can attest to the natural beauty that’s present pretty much in every city, as well as the countless attractions that you’ll find in every area.
We’ll tell take you through some of the most notable locations in the country to help you decide where to stay in Costa Rica for you to get the most out of your trip.
Where to Stay in Costa Rica
Coats Rica is undoubtedly a stunning country. The beaches stretch as far as the eye can see, the cities have a lot of history tied to almost every building, the animal life is beautiful and fascinating to see, and there are great natural attractions that you can visit and marvel at their grandeur.
Some of these sites are the volcanoes that can be found in several locations in the country, like the active Arenal volcano, or the dormant Cerro Chato. You’ll also usually find a lot of natural hot springs in the vicinity as well, on top of the national parks and the rainforests that you can explore.
The cities themselves have a thriving club scene and plenty of entertainment venues, bars and restaurants that people can visit. There are also plenty of tours around places like San Jose, which tell you about the history of the country and take you through some historic locations.
In brief – this country is a great vacation spot, and figuring out where to stay in Costa Rica is easy once you know what you want to do when you’re on holiday.
The 6 Best Parts of the Country
There are several notable cities in Costa Rica, but to our mind, there are only a few places that truly stand out as “must visit” locations while on your trip, which include:
- La Fortuna: You can get easy access to the Arenal volcano and national park from here
- Puerto Viejo: There are a lot of beautiful beaches with different attractions
- Jaco: The place to go if you’re looking to experience the nightlife scene in Costa Rica
- San Jose: The home of a lot of historic buildings and sites
- Tamarindo: One of the best places in the country for surfers
- Sámara: This is one of the best place to go if you want to see wildlife
Costa Rica’s Best Areas and Hotels
Costa Rica has more beautiful beaches than you can reasonably remember, and most of the cities are known for at least a few interesting attractions, so the main goal of this article is to narrow down all of the best choices so that you get a good vacation regardless of where you’re staying.
There are going to be cities that we skipped which tourists love, and the simple reason behind this is that we can’t go over all of these locations unless we want the article to be twice as large as it already is.
We’ve gone through some of the best locations that you can visit in the country and listed what we thought were the best hotels in the region. Regardless of where you stay, we’re confident that you can have a lot of fun and see the beauty of this country.
1. La Fortuna
A small town located to the northwest of the capital, La Fortuna may not be as big as some other tourist destinations that you can find throughout Costa Rica, but it more than makes up for it with the natural beauty that it possesses and the tons of interesting spots that you can visit.
The most notable thing that this city is known for is the national park that houses not one, but two volcanoes.
The Arenal volcano is still active and there are surging lava flows that spread out underground and create the many hot springs that are located near the base of the mountain.
While the volcano can easily be spotted from the city, most tourists prefer to take the more scenic route and take a cruise on Lake Arenal to get a better view.
The dormant Chato volcano (referred to as Cerro Chato) is a lot safer to approach, and it actually has mountain trails and hiking paths that take you all over the area and eventually lead you to the 70 meter tall La Fortuna waterfall that’s located around 540 meters above sea level.
La Fortuna is a pretty small town, and the attractions that you can find here revolve around the wildlife or the scenic views.
This makes it a great place where you can go to snap a few pics or see some great scenery, but it’s not really the place for you if you’re more interested in the nightlife scene.
Things to Do
- Explore! The two volcanoes that are located here are just the tip of the iceberg and there are plenty of trails that you can follow and sights that you can see while you’re out and about.
- Visit the wildlife shelter and educational center that’s called Proyecto Asis if you want to see some beautiful animals and learn a little more about them.
- Go and relax in one of the many natural hot springs that are littered all over the place in this area.
- If you want something a bit more different, then take a Sloth Tour in La Fortuna to see these animals up close.
Where to Eat
- Kappa Sushi Fortuna is the best place to go if you’re in the mood for some Asian food.
- Spectacolar Cantina has some pretty exotic dishes on the menu.
- Restaurante Cafe Mediterraneo is a great place to grab a bite and let your kids run around in the play area.
La Fortuna Budget Hotels
- Arenal Xilopalo comes with a flat-screen cable TV in every room, a garden that you can enjoy at night, and a lounge with an 8-ball pool table.
- Hotel Secreto La Fortuna provides you with a free parking spot, free wifi, and an AC unit in every room.
La Fortuna Mid-Range Hotels
- Tifakara Boutique Hotel & Birding Oasis has a restaurant on the premises, as well as an outdoor pool that the guests can use at any time.
- Noah’s Forest Hotel offers a free breakfast each morning, free wifi in every room, and a front desk that’s on call 24/7.
La Fortuna Luxury Hotels
- The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal comes with a staggering 28 hot spring pools that the guests can use at any time of the day, a fully-equipped fitness center where you can work out, and a spa that provides massage sessions.
- Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa has an in-house restaurant that can provide you with quite a massive menu from which you can select your breakfast lunch and dinner, and it also has a bar where you can enjoy a drink.
2. Puerto Viejo
To use the full name, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a relatively small city on the Caribbean coast that’s located on the southeast side of the country. The city is characterized by the beautiful beaches that you can find all along the coast, all of which have a specific temperament to them.
Some beaches are known for the Salsa Brava surf break that’s a great place to visit for anyone that knows how to ride a surfboard or maybe a kayak, but the strong waves might be a bit too much for swimmers to enjoy.
There are locations around the city with beaches that you can go to if you’re more in the mood for a casual swim rather than participating in water sports. But you can also go scuba diving on pretty much every beach in this city and explore the wonders that you can see under the surf.
If you head in the opposite direction of the coast, you’ll find quite a few cafes that you can enjoy a drink in, restaurants where you can try the catch of the day, and bars where you can spend all night drinking and partying and go to see the sunrise over the coast.
Puerto Viejo draws in a lot of tourists each day and a lot of the bars and restaurants have adjusted their prices accordingly.
The drinks aren’t astronomically high everywhere, but let’s just say that certain cafes and bars have payment methods that include cash, credit card, and mortgage agreements.
Things to Do
- Rent a surfboard, kayak, or jet ski and just spend a whole day goofing around on the waves and having a bit of fun.
- Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center and see these giant wildcats in all of their glory as you take a walk through and learn a bit more about these animals
- The Cahuita National Park is a coral reef conservation site and it also provides access to a shipwreck that divers can visit.
- Get dressed up and check out all of the bars that are located in this area and maybe catch a live show and rock out all night long.
Where to Eat
- Bread & Chocolate is a simple restaurant that you can sit down in.
- Koki Beach Restaurant Bar Lounge is located right next to the beach and it’s a great place to grab a quick snack while sunbathing.
- Salsa Brava Restaurante Caribeño is a great place to grab some traditional Caribbean food.
Puerto Viejo Budget Hotels
- Hotel Torres del Mar is located right next to the beach, all of the rooms come with parking, and an AC unit in every room.
- Blue Conga offers a free breakfast each morning, as well as an outside dining area where you can enjoy your meal.
Puerto Viejo Mid-Range Hotels
- Le Cameleon Boutique Hotel is right next to the beach, it comes with a spa inside of the hotel itself, as well as an outside swimming pool.
- Umami Hotel offers rooms that come with an AC unit, a flat-screen cable TV, and both a continental and American breakfast option in the morning.
Puerto Viejo Luxury Hotels
- Lomas del Caribe offers all of the guests a cozy cottage that comes with a queen-sized bed, an AC unit, a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom with toiletries, and a small pool that you can use whenever you want to.
- Hotel Aguas Claras comes with an outdoor swimming pool, an in-house bar where you can sit down for a drink, a free continental breakfast each morning, free wifi in every room, and a front desk that’s on-call all day and night.
This city has a little bit of everything and it’s one of the most popular vacation destinations in the entirety of Costa Rica.
While the city itself only takes up just a bit more than 50 square miles and has a population of around 10,000 – 15,000, there is no shortage of great locales that you can visit, beaches that you can lounge on, and even nature preserves that you can explore.
During the day you can visit one of the many beaches in this area and just lounge around in the sun, enjoy the water and get some swimming done, or just sit in one of the many bars that you can find on the beach and enjoy a nice cold drink with your friends.
During the night. Jaco has some of the most fun nightclubs that you can find anywhere in Costa Rica. There’s always a live band or a DJ that’s playing a gig somewhere in the city, and you can easily find a party by just looking around and following the crowd.
If one locale is a bit too crowded, there’s a good chance that there’s another club that you can go to just a little bit down the road that might not have quite so large of a crowd of people trying to shove their way inside.
You remember how we said that certain bars in Puerto Viejo might be expensive? Jaco is the place to be in Costa Rica if you want to experience some of the famous nightlife.
So the drinks in almost every bar are going to be eye wateringly expensive.If you want to have a night out in this city, then you’re going to need to have deep pockets and a credit card without a limit.
Things to Do
- Visit Carara National Park and check out the beautiful crimson macaws that fly around, and the reptilian crocodiles that look absolutely terrifying even from afar.
- Nature lovers can put on their walking shoes and take a hike down the paths that lead through the rainforest and pass by the Bijagual Waterfall.
- Try out one of the many water sports that are available in this city like kayaking, paragliding, bungee jumping, and even sports fishing.
- You can take one of the ATV tours that go through the beaches or the rainforest and enjoy the views while also having a bit of fun.
Where to Eat
- The Beer House is the best place to grab a drink with your friends.
- Ohana Sushi Tapas Bar can help sate your craving for raw fish.
- Ridiculous Burgers makes exactly what the name says, and their sizes definitely match the name.
Jaco Budget Hotels
- Hotel Arenas en Punta Leona comes with a free breakfast each morning, and it’s located in the center of the city, giving you quick access to pretty much everything.
- Cadillac Rock Beach Hotel has a TV and an AC unit in every room, free wifi access throughout the hotel, and a front desk that’s on-call 24/7.
Jaco Mid-Range Hotels
- Selina Jaco comes with free wifi throughout the hotel, an outdoor pool, an on-site restaurant, and a garden that guests can enjoy.
- Hotel Beachfront Vista Hermosa has an air conditioning unit and a cable TV in every room, as well as free wifi throughout the property.
Jaco Luxury Hotels
- Hotel Club del Mar Oceanfront provides you with access to a seasonal pool and a spa, there’s a tiki bar that serves drinks on the sunset terrace, and all of the rooms come with a coffee maker so that you can wake up a bit more easily.
- Best Western Jaco Beach All Inclusive Resort provides all of the guests with access to the free wifi that’s available throughout the hotel, an outdoor pool, a free parking spot, and a garden that guests can use whenever they want.
4. San Jose
You can’t really call a trip to Costa Rica complete without paying a visit to the capital city of San Jose.
There’s a lot of history in the buildings here and there are plenty of museums and historic sites that you can visit if you want to try and learn a bit more about the story of the people and everything that happened there.
A lot of the old buildings are still standing today and efforts have been made to maintain their original appearance as closely as possible, and certain buildings like the national theater stretch back to 1987.
There has naturally been a lot of restoration done in an effort to prevent these buildings from degrading, and a few of them were even converted into hotels that maintain the overall architecture and appearance on the outside, with a completely refurbished inside.
This city and the country of Costa Rica are very well known for the coffee bean trade, so it makes sense that there would be plenty of plantations that still surround the city and supply the many many coffee shops in San Jose with fresh beans that anyone can enjoy when they need a bit of a boost to start the day.
While the Victorian-era buildings and the history of this city is interesting to learn about, there really isn’t much more to the city.
There are cafes, bars, and wildlife attractions, but you can find these anywhere in Costa Rica. After you take a few tours around the city you’ll be really scratching your head and trying to figure out what else you can do here.
Things to Do
- Visit the Museo del Oro and check out the pretty unique exhibits that tell you a bit more about the properties of the precious minerals that are housed there.
- Take a guided tour that goes into the history of San Jose and takes you to some of the most significant buildings in the city.
- Maybe catch a show in the historic National Theater and enjoy your evening in one of the oldest buildings in Costa Rica.
- Find a spot that you like with a cafe nearby, take a chair, and wither enjoy a book or a chat with your friend while you sip on the coffee that the city is so proud of.
Where to Eat
- Cafe Rojo has a pretty expansive menu for both drinks and food.
- Cafeoteca Coffee Shop is just a small shop where you can get a nice cup of coffee.
- Restaurante Grano de Oro is where you should go if you’re looking for a fancy night out.
San Jose Budget Hotels
- Isla Verde Hotel comes with a fitness center, free wifi throughout the property, and a safety deposit box where each guest can store their valuables in.
- Hotel Casa Roland has free parking, free wifi, a cable TV and ceiling fan in every room, and a safe for your valuables.
San Jose Mid-Range Hotels
- Park Inn provides you with an outdoor pool that all of the guests can use, a mini-bar and coffee maker in every room, and a great view of the city.
- Balmoral Hotel offers a free breakfast each morning, a fitness center that you can work out in, and a bar in the hotel where you can enjoy a drink.
San Jose Luxury Hotels
- Hilton Garden Inn has a fitness center with all of the gear that you could ever need, an outdoor pool, a front desk that’s always on call, and all of the rooms come with a flat-screen cable TV.
- Sheraton San Jose Hotel offers a free breakfast each morning, it has an in-house restaurant and bar where you can just spend the night having a good time with friends, and the fitness center is open 24/7
While most of the other beach-front towns in Costa Rica have sections of the coast with different beaches that are suited for either surfing or swimming, the beaches of Tamarindo are all known for their strong surf.
This makes this city a favorite destination of surfers and water sports enthusiasts since they can just spend all day tackling the waves and trying to do awesome tricks on anything from a surfboard to a jet ski.
It’s also a great place for newcomers to learn how to surf since the waves are big and come at a steady frequency, which gives them a lot of freedom to practice as much as they want until they can shred with the best of them.
There are also plenty of shopping centers and shops in this city where you’ll be able to find anything from a souvenir shop where you can get yourself a memento of your vacation, to a clothing store where you can pick out an entirely new outfit for yourself.
Additionally, while the nightlife might not be as present as in a few other cities, there are still plenty of different bars to choose from, different restaurants to eat in, and different cafes where you can just sit and have a coffee with your friends.
If you’re looking for some fun in the sun and try out some water sports, then this is the spot for you, but if you’re not into that and just want to swim for a bit, the strong tides really won’t allow you to do that.
Anyone that wants to just lounge on the beach and maybe take a swim every now and then might want to visit one of the other cities that we mentioned just above.
Things to Do
- Visit Monkey Park and see some of the monkeys that are kept here, as well as the toucans and other exotic birds.
- Visit the Volcano Brewing Company and maybe take a tour to find out a bit more about the process, or just have a drink with your friends at the in-house bar.
- Go to the Tamarindo Night Market where you can catch live music performances, clowns, and even fire dancers every Thursday night.
- The Tamarindo Tennis & Pickleball Club is the best place to go if you’re looking to work up a bit of sweat and play a few games.
Where to Eat
- Breaking Bread may be a bad pun, but the pastries here are to die for.
- Black Stallion Ranch Style BBQ is the place to go if you’re craving some meat.
- Cactus Restaurant allows you to enjoy the view while you enjoy your meal.
Tamarindo Budget Hotels
- Selina Tamarindo offers yoga classes to all of the guests, an on-site restaurant and bar, and all of the rooms are pet-friendly.
- Hotel Mar Rey provides you with a room that has satellite TV, an AC unit, a seasonal pool, and free wifi.
Tamarindo Mid-Range Hotels
- The Coast Beachfront Hotel has units that come with a fully equipped kitchen, an outdoor pool that you can use, and private parking on the property.
- Hotel Arco Iris has an on-call reception desk that’s always available, a cable TV, free wifi, and a minibar in every room.
Tamarindo Luxury Hotels
- Capitán Suizo Beachfront Boutique Hotel has an on-site restaurant that serves both local dishes and more exotic cuisine, and it also comes with a bar, a business center, private parking, and free wifi.
- JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa has a swimming pool, free wifi, and it comes with a garden that guests can enjoy, sometimes along with their pets since the hotel allows you to keep them in your room.
Sámara is a relatively large village on the northwest coast of Costa Rica. The coast here is covered in palm trees and the water itself houses giant reefs that are known to attract a lot of different marine life.
Scuba diving is very popular here since you can just go into the water and check out some of the reefs and even get close to the fish that swim around here.
If you’re more of a fan of land animals, then you can go for a horse riding lesson and feel the wind through your hair as you run down the beach on your mighty steed. In all honesty, it’s going to be more like a slow canter, but it still counts.
Additionally, you can visit the wildlife preserve in this area to see some of the exotic birds that are housed there, go to the Playa Buena Vista to check out the sea turtle nesting site, or just take a walk down the coast and enjoy the natural beauty of the beach.
The nightlife and entertainment venues in this town are practically non-existent. There are still bars, restaurants, and cafes that you can find, but the major draw of this location is the animal life.
If you’re looking to explore and see some majestic animals, then this is the spot for you, but you won’t really get anything else out of this location.
Things to Do
- Go on a dolphin and snorkeling trip and go out to spots where you can get so close to these incredible animals that you can almost touch them.
- If you’re feeling adventurous, then you can take a tour of the area and see all that it has to offer by either renting out an ATV or a horse.
- Take a Macaw tour that will take you deep into the mountains where you can do a bit of hiking and birdwatching at the same time.
- Take a kayaking trip down the coast and try to see some of the marine life as it passes below your little boat.
Where to Eat
- Gusto Beach is a great choice if you’re craving a few slices of pizza.
- Bagels Garden sells exactly what you might have assumed that it does.
- Roots Bakery & Café is where you go if you want a pastry and a cup of coffee.
Sámara Budget Hotels
- Samara Beach Hotel is located right next to the beach, it comes with free wifi, a free parking spot, a fan and cable TV.
- Hotel Belvedere Playa Samara comes with cable TV, free wifi, a hot tub, and two swimming pools that all of the guests can use.
Sámara Mid-Range Hotels
- Hotel Leyenda provides you with access to a restaurant in the hotel and an outdoor pool, and all of the rooms come with free wifi and a continental breakfast every morning.
- Hotel Giada comes with an outdoor pool and spa bath, as well as an air conditioning unit and a flat-screen TV in all of the rooms.
Sámara Luxury Hotels
- Villas Kalimba provides all of the guests with a villa that comes with either twin beds or one large bed for couples, a fully equipped kitchen, a private bathroom, and you also have an outdoor pool that all of the guests can use.
- Hotel Leyenda is located just next to the beach and it actually allows you to use the tables on the beach that are reserved for guests, and the hotel itself offers a free breakfast each morning, free wifi, and an on-site restaurant.
So, Where Should You Stay in Costa Rica?
So there you have it — the best places to stay in Costa Rica. But picking the part of the country you’ll visit it only half the battle. Now comes the fun part…
The hotel is a very important aspect of any trip. It’s true that you might not spend a lot of time in your hotel room when you’re on a trip since you’re spending most of your day exploring.
But the room that you go back to in the evening matters and it’s important that you feel comfortable when in a country that you’re not used to.
Regardless if you’re planning on spending a small fortune on your hotel room or trying to spend as little as possible, there are a few places that we can recommend that are almost always guaranteed to provide you with at least a decent room.
The Hilton Garden in is always a good choice since it’s a chain that provides good service at affordable prices. On the higher end of the scale, Lomas del Caribe might be a bit pricey, but you can’t beat the comfortable little huts with their homey feel and fully stocked facilities.
And finally, if you’re just looking for a comfortable bed, a private bathroom, and a few small perks, then your best bet would probably be the Samara Beach hotel.