Costa Rica is a country bursting with natural wonders, from active volcanoes to rainforest-blanketed mountains to dreamy cloud forest reserves and beautiful white-sand beaches. Lush forests are astoundingly rich with living creatures — visitors are quite likely to spot monkeys, iguanas, sloths, parrots, and toucans. Wildlife lovers and travelers interested in sustainable organic farming might especially love staying at one of Costa Rica’s many working farm hotels. Throughout Oyster’s extensive travels across Costa Rica (we’ve visited 500 hotels and counting), we’ve stayed at a number of hotels with working farms. Here are our favorites, from a secluded farm hotel in the middle of the rainforest to a century-old historic cattle ranch at the foot of the Rincon de la Vieja volcano.
At the secluded Finca Luna Nueva Lodge, the property's 200-plus-acre farm takes precedence over its 13-room hotel. This shows in every aspect of a stay here, from the free-range pigs and water buffalo you might come face to face with on one of the trails (don't worry, they're behind lightly electrified fencing); the free daily tour of the farm, where staff guides explain the hotel's eco-conscious philosophy; or the paid chocolate tour that takes you from the grove of cacao plants on the farm to the drying and roasting to the final, sweet product. The truly serious enroll in Finca Luna's three-month-long sustainable-farming internship, where they learn about the property's Earth-first farming practices. When it comes to Arenal-area agritourism, Finca Luna Nueva Lodge is in a league of its own.
The quirky and cheery Leaves and Lizards is one of the most remote options guests can book in the Arenal region; only Finca Luna Nueva Lodge (which also has a working farm) can compare in terms of seclusion. Every morning, guests at the nine-room eco-hotel are welcome to visit the hotel farm and milk the cow or collect their own eggs for breakfast. (Breakfast is included in the rate, and the hotel's open-air dining room also offers truly farm-to-table fare for lunch and dinner.) Guests can also saddle up one of the property's two dozen or so horses to ride the trails nearby and explore the rainforest.
With 82 rooms spread over 27 sprawling acres, Arenal Manoa Hotel & Spa sometimes feels more like a gated community than a hotel. It offers horseback riding, a spa, hot and cold pools, and a large restaurant with commanding views of the volcano and the hotel's horses -- but the most special attraction might be the working dairy farm, which supplies the hotel with its milk and offers free farm tours daily. The Manoa is embedded in the rainforest, but it's not as secluded as Finca Luna Nueva Lodge and Leaves and Lizards. Located off Arenal volcano's ring road, Manoa is within a 15-minute drive of La Fortuna.
Villa Blanca is situated on a stunning and secluded 2,000-acre cloud forest reserve. The property's rolling, pastoral hills contain 35 rustic, freestanding bungalows; a historic wedding chapel; a charming lobby bar with a fireplace; and a dairy farm that holds workshops where guests milk cows -- then feast on the resulting yogurt, ice cream, and milk, which is made by the restaurant staff the next day. Staff guides also provide free tours of Villa Blanca's organic greenhouse and hummingbird garden. Several miles of private hiking trails are available exclusively to hotel guests.
Cala Luna is a serene boutique retreat on the outskirts of bustling Tamarindo. The hotel's wellness focus is emphasized by free daily yoga classes, free nightly sunset cocktails and mocktails at the beach, a bungalow-style spa, and cooking classes at Cala Luna's sister property, an organic farm. Cala Luna's two restaurants serve sustainable food sourced from their farm and on-site garden or other local organic farms. The hotel has also established an impressive list of organic and biodynamic wines.
Just five minutes north of La Fortuna, and 40 minutes from Arenal national park, Hotel El Silencio del Campo is a mellow hot-springs hotel, with 20 tree-shaded bungalows surrounded by farmland. On-site cows and chickens provide milk and eggs for the restaurant (where an excellent free a la carte breakfast is served) and other nearby hotels. Plus, the hotel's orchard grows plantains, oranges, grapefruit, and passionfruit. Guests are free to visit the orchard and farm, where they can try their hand at milking cows. There's even a fenced-off reservoir for frogs, and ducks seem to be everywhere -- they love the pond, as do geese and swans.
In operation for over a century, Hacienda Guachipelin is a historic, 3,400-acre cattle ranch that gives guests a chance to get up close and personal with Costa Rica’s distinct flora and fauna. The ranch's lush grounds offer gorgeous views of the Rincon de la Vieja and Santa Maria volcanoes, the Guanacaste plains, and the Pacific coastline. Pristine dry tropical forests cover part of the ranch grounds and surround the property, offering excellent trails for hikers and superb wildlife-viewing opportunities. If you're awake early enough, you might see ranch hands milking cows and getting fresh milk ready for breakfast. Meals are primarily made with ingredients sourced on the property, including dairy and beef from the ranch's own herd, as well as an array of herbs and veggies. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the ranch's close relationship with nature, it aims to be as eco-friendly as possible. It has earned three leaves (out of five) in the Certification for Sustainable Tourism program by the Costa Rican Tourism Board, with initiatives that include solar-powered hot water heaters and reforestation programs.