Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Easily among the most luxurious resorts in Central America, The Four Seasons is as close to perfection as it gets. With two beautiful beaches, ocean views from each one of the sumptuous rooms -- decorated in materials including wood, bamboo, and stone -- and an 18-hole golf course, the resort makes it possible for guests to spend their whole vacation on-site. Expect beautiful white (and some gray) sand, and, in the evening, beautiful sunsets. The waves are gentle enough for safe swimming, although jellyfish can occasionally be a problem.
Arenas Del Mar Beach And Nature Resort Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Arenas del Mar is proof that staying at an eco-resort doesn't mean roughing it: Its 38 contemporary rooms are among the nicest in Manuel Antonio, its restaurant is excellent, and its public spaces embody rustic luxury. The property's lush rainforest, two beautiful white-sand beaches on site -- a rarity in the area -- and diverse wildlife allow guests to truly connect with the nature that the resort's design so painstakingly preserved. But the 11-acre property is steep, so you'll need to call for a hotel golf cart to go just about anywhere.
Karahe Hotel Rating: 3.0 Pearls
For beach lovers, Karahe Hotel is one of the best mid-range bets in Manuel Antonio, as its one of the few properties with direct, private access to Playa Espadilla and is a 13-minute walk to Manuel Antonio Beach and National Park. It's best to think of this hotel as two properties, with the cheaper rooms, Bungalows, and lobby built on a steep hillside, and the more expensive rooms, tiered pool, and restaurant located in front of the beach across the street. Jungle grounds are lush and natural, with iguanas, monkeys, and sloths as regular visitors. Remember, you get what you pay for with room decor and location.
Hotel Riu Guanacaste Rating: 3.5 Pearls
The 701-room Riu Guanacaste is a lot like a Riu anywhere, with a good beach, a huge, raucous pool, an energetic entertainment staff, and a party-hearty, booze-fueled atmosphere. Rooms are nothing special, and a la carte restaurant reservations need to be made a day in advance. The beach is a good quality with protected turtle nests.
Reserva Conchal Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Reserva Conchal is not so much a hotel, but rather a series of four individual condo villages, each with several buildings clustered around a communal pool. Drive several minutes to the guests-only Beach Club and it feels more like a resort, with a great-looking pool that has two bars, an open-air restaurant, and a lovely spa and fitness center. The hotel has access to a lovely white-sand beach.
Tulemar Bungalows & Villas Rating: 4.5 Pearls
Tulemar Bungalow & Villas manages to combine the privacy of bungalow living and the convenience of full hotel services, without any sense of pretension. There are 45 luxury residences spread out on a 33-acre resort that includes private access to Tulemar Beach, which has one of the only beach-facing restaurants in Manuel Antonio.
JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The JW Marriott is one of the top luxury properties in Guanacaste, with beautiful, hacienda-style architecture (think: lots of wood and stone, romantic white hammocks, wrought iron light fixtures and indigenous art). The stunning free-form pool is the largest in Central America, and the tranquil spa is world-class.
Buena Vista Luxury Villas Rating: 3.5 Pearls
There's a lot to like about Buena Vista Luxury villas: The beautiful, sprawling 33-acre grounds, a great on-site beach and beach bar, and big rooms, most of which have a at least a kitchenette. But the steep property is difficult to walk around, so you have to wait for the hotel van to take you just about anywhere.
Tamarindo Diria Beach & Golf Resort Rating: 3.5 Pearls
For an affordable mid-range hotel right on Tamarindo Beach, this 183-room property is a solid bet (particularly for the young and party-minded). The central location is within easy walking distance of shops and restaurants, androoms are comfortable, if not luxurious. But the hotel is split in half -- one side is near the beach, and one is across the street, where the larger pool is located -- which some may find inconvenient.
Hotel Villa Amarilla Rating: 2.5 Pearls
Hotel Villa Amarilla is a funky, laid-back, eight-room, budget-oriented bed-and-breakfast with a surfer vibe, a prime beachfront location, and colorful, friendly owners who go out of their way to make guests feel at home. The hotel lacks a pool, but the ocean and Tamarindo’s famous surf break is just steps outside the back gate. Rooms are basic and bright, individualized by colorful murals of sea life and sunsets. Guests can prepare meals in the communal outdoor kitchen or walk to Tamarindo for a variety of dining options. Hotel Arco Iris is a similar option that does have a pool, but it's not nearly as close to the beach.