8 incredible hotels in Costa Rica, from no frills cheap stays to villas with private plunge pools

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A room at Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel in Costa Rica.
Stay perched atop the trees at Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel.

  • Costa Rica means rich coast, which is the perfect way to describe the ecologically diverse country.
  • Costa Rica has so much to offer, from cloud forests and rainforests to beaches and hot springs.
  • We found the best Costa Rica hotels, from family-friendly resorts to surfer hotels and eco getaways.

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Costa Rica’s name alone, which means rich coast in Spanish, tells you so much about what you’ll encounter here. Indeed, this small Central American nation that is flanked by vast swaths of Caribbean and Pacific coast is home to 30 national parks, more than 6% of the world’s biodiversity, six active volcanoes, and a warm and welcoming population.

I’ve visited Cosa Rica many times, from the Papagayo Peninsula with its uncrowded beaches and 600 square miles of protected wilderness, to hot springs, cloud forests, and the buzzing capital city of San Jose. And I can attest from a recent trip that the country is actively doing all it can to combat COVID-19 with safety protocols in place.

With so much on offer for tourists, Costa Rica is also home to stunning hotels to make your base. From jungle enclaves to beachfront resorts, these are the best places to stay in Costa Rica.

Browse the best Costa Rica hotels below, or jump directly to a specific area here:

These are the best hotels in Costa Rica, sorted by price from low to high.

El Sano Banano Beachside Hotel

A guest room at Sano Banano Beachside Hotel
Sano Banano Beachside Hotel is no frills but offers warm hospitality and a great location.

Book El Sano Banano Beachside Hotel

One of the things that has always struck me in Costa Rica is how everyone here embraces the country’s slogan, “pura vida” (pure life). Similar to the way people in Hawaii say “aloha,” many Ticos — as the locals are called — will greet you by saying “pura vida.” And when you check into the Sano Banano Beachside Hotel, that’s exactly the friendly greeting you’ll receive.

El Sano Banano is set in the center of Montezuma, a bohemian beach town on the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula, an area so healthy that it is home to some of the oldest living people in the world.

Downstairs is a popular local restaurant; upstairs is where you’ll find the rooms. There’s not much to this place. The hotel is simply decorated with colorful bed coverings and monochromatic tan walls and tile floors. There’s no pool, either, but if you’re craving a swim, the property has a reciprocal arrangement with a resort that’s just a 10-minute walk away.

But who wants to stay in the hotel or even use a pool when you’re in a setting like this? A block away from the hotel is a beautiful beach, and there are plenty of things to do in the area, from surfing and snorkeling to biking and ATV tours. If you love hiking, don’t miss the nearby Reserva Natural Absoluta Cabo Blanco, Costa Rica’s first national reserve.

For current COVID-19 policies call +011/506-2642-0638. 

Hotel Banana Azul

The pool at Hotel Banana Azul in Costa Rica.
This adults-only hotel offers a peaceful, rejuvenating vibe.

Book Hotel Banana Azul

For a romantic and affordable location and a relaxing, child-free vacation, Hotel Banana Azul is your place. Everything is focused on quiet serenity. There are no telephones or TVs in the rooms and you’ll instead be lulled to sleep by the rhythm of nearby waves crashing. But if you can’t bear to be completely cut off from the rest of the world, there’s free Wi-Fi.

You’ll find 25 rooms ranging in size from a simple studio to a two-bedroom apartment. Some have a private plunge pool or a hot tub, and only a few have air conditioning; most are cooled by the ocean breezes. All the rooms are decorated with bamboo furniture and local art that references the jungle surroundings.

Spend your days lounging in the hammocks that hang all over the property, have a massage by the beach, or take a dip in the pool. If you’re itching to explore, a tour company located on-site can book canopy tours, river rafting, and hikes to Arenal volcano. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Gran Hotel Costa Rica Curio Collection by Hilton

Gran Hotel Costa Rica Curio Collection by Hilton
Gran Hotel Costa Rica Curio Collection by Hilton is the best place to stay in San José.

Book Gran Hotel Costa Rica Curio Collection by Hilton

When I want to stay in the center of the San José action, my top pick is the Gran Hotel Costa Rica Curio Collection by Hilton, which is conveniently located near major museums and cultural institutions. Using the Gran Hotel as your base, you can easily scope out other San José attractions, from the Braulio Carrillo National Park to the Poás Volcano, one of the largest craters in the world.

The hotel originally opened in 1930 and was later named a national landmark (the only hotel in Costa Rica to have this designation). After taking over the property, Hilton’s Curio Collection gave it a revamp, adding a striking glassed-in upper level with a rooftop piano bar overlooking the National Theatre and a new fusion restaurant, Cultura5, with panoramic views stretching from the city to the surrounding mountains. 

The rooms are just as dazzling, done up in shades of cream with midcentury modern furniture. It’s no wonder Trip Advisor named this one of the “best of the best” in its 2021 Traveler’s Choice Awards.

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen

Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen

Book Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen

For travelers who want to experience San José, but don’t want to stay right in the urban center, the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen combines the best of all worlds. This property is set on the grounds of a 30-acre historic coffee plantation just a 20-minute drive from central San José, with massive rooms in a sprawling hacienda-style property.

It’s hard to believe the city is so close when you’re staying in this lush paradise of palm trees and gardens, with views of the mountains and valley. But look a little closer and you’ll spot the skyline in the difference. For travelers who want to be close to the San José international airport, it’s just a 10-minute drive away, though you’d never know it when you’re in this quiet oasis.

Whatever your passion, you’ll find it here, from golf to tennis to a spa. Kids love it, too, with a dedicated children’s pool and a playground. There are multiple restaurants serving Peruvian cuisine, sushi, Creole cuisine, and more.

COVID-19 policies can be found here.

Alta Vista Vacation Rentals

Alta Vista Vacation Rentals

Book Alta Vista Vacation Rentals

Manuel Antonio is where the rainforest meets the beach on the Pacific Coast. On a recent trip, we booked a one-bedroom villa at Alta Vista Vacation Rentals, which is set on a cliff in the Quepos area of Manuel Antonio with spectacular ocean views.

Though technically a rental property with four villas ranging from one to three bedrooms, it operates like a hotel with a concierge to welcome you, full security, daily housekeeping, and breakfast included. 

The only thing missing is a front desk and a lobby — but we didn’t need that at all. The town of Manuel Antonio operates like one, a small grocery store is across the road, and many great restaurants and cute shops are just a few minutes’ stroll away. Plus, the concierge was always available on Whatsapp to answer questions or help organize excursions and services, like a private chef to cook dinner.

We loved rolling out of bed into our private plunge pool every morning and never needed to leave the property. We spotted almost as many animals from our pool as we did in Manuel Antonio National Park, including a baby sloth climbing through the trees, white-faced monkeys, macaws, parrots, and more.

Still, you won’t want to miss the many pleasures of this special destination, from ziplining to hiking in the national park. And about a 10-minute drive from the property is Manuel Antonio’s famous Espadilla Beach, where we took surfing lessons, went on a wave runner, and drank from fresh coconuts cracked right on the sand. 

For current COVID-19 policies call 877/977-7765. 

Hotel Belmar

Hotel Belmar

Book Hotel Belmar

Costa Rica is known as one of the world’s most eco-friendly places and this boutique hotel in a lush cloud forest in the mountains of the Monteverde Reserve is a great example of the strides that this country has made when it comes to protecting the planet and its people.

The hotel is set on nine acres, two-thirds of which are untouched forests that are home to endangered species. There are programs dedicated to preserving the environment (from water management to energy preservation) and supporting the local community. 

The property is simple but beautiful, decorated with wooden furniture that’s hand-carved right on the property. In keeping with the hotel’s eco-minded ethos, there’s no pool and no air conditioning (though as it’s set in the mountains, you won’t need it).

The emphasis here is on experiencing nature, and there’s so much to do, from yoga classes to private hiking trails right on the property. Fun fact: The Cerro Amigos trail leads to the highest mountain in the region.

Nearby, you can visit a coffee farm, go horseback riding, ziplining, or explore a wildlife refuge. The hotel also has immersive programs for farm-to-table dining and garden-to-glass cocktails, where you gather the ingredients yourself and learn how to make your own food and drinks. 

For current COVID-19 policies call +011/506-2645-5201. 

Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel

A room at Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel in Costa Rica.
Stay perched atop the trees at Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel.

Book Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel

My husband still complains about the trip he made to Arenal — when he spent several days socked in by fog and rain and never actually saw the area’s famous volcano. So when we recently returned to Costa Rica, he wanted to check out a different volcanic area. We chose Volcan Tenorio National Park, which is home to the Celeste Waterfall, an iconic site that’s one of the most photographed locations in the country.

Walking into the lobby of Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel — a secret getaway in the rainforest just a few minutes’ drive from the volcano and the waterfall — the soaring ceilings, carved wood furniture, and koi pond make you feel like you could be in Bali. But look up in the trees and you’re likely to spot a sloth hanging from the branches, reminding you that you couldn’t be anywhere but Costa Rica. 

Our freestanding villa felt like a honeymoon suite with its romantic canopy bed, open-air rock shower, and spacious day bed, where our daughter slept. The sprawling terrace overlooked the rainforest, and there was nothing more relaxing than listening to the rain falling on the surrounding trees. It rained a lot in the morning and evening, but there were enough breaks in the weather to get out and explore (and actually see the volcano).

We were impressed with the excellent job the hotel did of blending romance, adventure, and a family-friendly vibe, making it appealing to all. There’s a huge pool, multiple hot tubs, plus a swim-up bar where they make cocktails for parents and mocktails for kids. And, of course, you can’t beat the nearby excursions like hiking through the rainforest to the Celeste Waterfall.

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo

The view of Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo
Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo offers dramatic ocean views.

Book Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo

Costa Rica’s Guanacaste coastline is known for its great weather (it has very little rain and consistent heat from November to April), excellent surfing beaches, and the luxurious Four Seasons resort, which put the area on the map for many luxury travelers when it opened in 2004.

Set right near the Four Seasons on the Papagayo Peninsula is the Andaz, which costs about half the price and has just as much to offer, including three beaches, golf, restaurants, a spa, and more.

When I stayed at the Andaz, what I loved the most was its fun, Instagram-worthy vibe. Setting the tone is a purple VW van parked at the hotel entrance that makes for the perfect photo backdrop. And I still dream about the infinity pool, with its dazzling Pacific ocean views.

Built on the side of the mountain, the resort has a treehouse-like feel and its sleek, modern design is truly something to behold. The food in Costa Rica can be hit or miss, but not here: The hotel has several restaurants serving delicious traditional dishes, from empanadas to sopaipillas.

And not to be missed is a treatment at the Onda Wellness Spa, where the treatment rooms are hidden in the rainforest and most of the products are handmade using ingredients sourced in the surrounding area, from purple corn to brown sugar.

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

FAQ: Costa Rica hotels

What is the best area to stay in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is small — roughly the size of West Virginia — but it is one of the most biodiverse places on earth, with 12 different ecosystems. So whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here, including rainforests, beaches, mountains, even a bustling city.

Where you go depends on what you’re looking for on a vacation. If you are an adventurous traveler, consider the Northern Highlands, including Arenal Volcano National Park, Vulcano Tenorio National Park, and Monteverde, where you’ll find ziplining, hanging bridges, river tubing, great hiking, waterfalls, and mineral-rich hot springs.

Sun worshippers and surfers will love the Guanacaste coastline, which is home to a number of beach areas (including the resort-friendly Papagayo Peninsula) and the Nicoya Peninsula (one of the world’s legendary Blue Zones, where people live the longest).

The rainforest meets the beach in Manuel Antonio, a prime place for sloth-spotting. Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast is a little quieter and less developed. And then there’s the buzzing city of San José.

What is the best time of year to visit Costa Rica?

Costa Ricans think of the winter season (December through April) as their summer, and this is the most popular time to visit. It is when the weather is at its driest, prices are at their highest, and resort destinations are most crowded.

To find a deal and avoid the crowds, consider the rainy low season, which goes from around May through November. 

Are there travel restrictions in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica does not require a COVID-19 test for entry, however, visitors — regardless of age or vaccination status — must complete a “Health Pass” at least 72 hours before their trip. Those who are inoculated must attach a copy of their COVID-19 vaccination card.

Up to now, all travelers have been required to purchase COVID-19 travel insurance, but beginning August 1, travelers who have a COVID-19 vaccine and minors under the age of 18 will no longer be required to purchase travel insurance to enter Costa Rica. You can read more about the requirements here.

And everywhere you go, you’ll find protocols in place to protect locals and visitors alike, from mask-wearing requirements to hand-washing stations for patrons to use before they enter a national park or even a roadside food stand. The country is meticulously clean, which adds to the feeling of safety. Costa Rica is also actively working to protect its population of 5 million people against COVID-19, with a goal to vaccinate at least 3.5 million citizens by the end of this year. 

Should I choose a regular hotel or an all-inclusive one?

Whether you choose a regular hotel or an all-inclusive one depends on the kind of traveler you are. Some people prefer to have the freedom to go to local restaurants and explore on their own, while others prefer to stay at a resort where everything is included in one price, including food and activities.

There are also some small eco-friendly hotels in Costa Rica that are all-inclusive due to the fact that there are no restaurants nearby and don’t feel like a typical all-inclusive resort. 

How cheap or expensive is it to plan a trip to Costa Rica?

The cost of a trip to Costa Rica depends on the accommodations that you choose and can range from budget to ultra-luxurious. Unless you eat at an affordable roadside stand called a “soda,” food at restaurants frequented by tourists is generally not cheap. Grocery stores can also be expensive (especially if you want to buy foreign food).

One area where it’s particularly hard to save is with a rental car. Travelers are required to purchase expensive rental insurance, which can be more than the cost of the car rental itself.

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