Though Costa Rica is more expensive than other Central American destinations, there are some hotels that include freebies or have amenities worth the extra price. We visited over 100 hotels in Costa Rica and evaluated how every feature stacks up against the competition, from the rooms to the pools to the restaurants — to make sure you get the most for your money. Take a look at our top picks for value in Costa Rica, and start planning your wallet-friendly getaway!
Gaia is one of the top luxury properties in Costa Rica, but it's also one of the country's best values: The prices are often surprisingly affordable for the level of luxury you get, and freebies abound (an a la carte breakfast, Wi-Fi, and a mini spa treatment, to name a few). Tucked into the hillside of a 14-acre nature reserve, Gaia feels appropriately exclusive and private, and has the attentive, personalized service to match. Rooms are spacious and airy, and the great views are never-ending. Keep your eyes peeled for iguanas, sloths, and the like.
For a small hotel, this 54-room boutique has a lot to offer: A beautiful hot springs pool complex with natural thermal waters, great views of Arenal volcano, a lovely spa, a bar with an outdoor terrace, and an on-site restaurant. Contemporary rooms all have volcano views, but the property feels more developed, and less lush, than others in the area. All in all, though, it delivers the most bang for your buck in the La Fortuna area.
Hotel Arco Iris is an immaculate, mid-range, 13-room boutique hotel with a sparkling pool, a restaurant run by a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, and perfectly manicured gardens. Located just outside the noise of Tamarindo, yet still within walking distance to the nightlife and beach, Hotel Arco Iris offers rustic-chic private bungalows with hammocks and Deluxe Rooms with terraces that overlook the gardens. A made-to-order breakfast is included in the room rate and Wi-Fi is free.
The 24-room, mid-range Hotel Kokoro Arenal is a yoga-friendly, eco-friendly property a 10-minute drive west of La Fortuna. Rooms are dimly lit, rustic bungalows that lack Wi-Fi and might be a tad too open to the elements for the truly squeamish, but they're reasonably clean and comfortable. Breakfast is included, there's an outdoor pool, and three hot springs on-site.
Nepenthe is a remote, modest seven-room hotel off the beaten track from the Arenal tourist circuit and just outside small-town El Castillo, close to the lake and the southwest slope of the volcano. It offers a choice of modest motel-like rooms in the main building or kitchenette-appointed cabins below. The hotel is too far to be convenient to La Fortuna's tourist hub, but it's within a 40-minute drive of the entrance to Arenal National Park and offers a slice of local tico culture. The unofficial hotel restaurant next door, Tres Cabras, serves seasonal fare; the pool has an excellent view of the lake; and treatments are available at a small, simple spa.
The Conchal Hotel is a nine-room, budget-oriented boutique hotel with lush gardens, colorful decor, and an attractive courtyard pool. Guests love the personal service provided by the on-site hosts, the free continental breakfasts featuring freshly baked breads, the tidy rooms, and the low rates. However, getting to the beach is more of a a chore than a stroll, requiring a 5-minute walk along a busy road without sidewalks and a quick jaunt over a precarious bridge before finally reaching the soft sand of Playa Brasilito.
La Posada Private Jungle Bungalows is a budget option with an incredible location directly next to the entrance of Manuel Antonio National Park and a three-minute walk to the beach. Rates are low for the area, and include a free daily breakfast buffet, Wi-Fi, and limited street parking. Rooms range from a two-story villa that sleeps six to cute bungalows with microwaves, small refrigerators, and flat-screen TVs with cable channels. Three of the eight rooms face the street and can be a bit noisy. A limited restaurant serves a free breakfast and casual fare, but there are better options within fast walking distance for lunch and dinner. The vibe here is warm and convivial, with guests gathering on their porches or by the small pool to play guitar or swap monkey sighting stories.
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.
A sprawling resort in an area of mostly boutique-sized hotels, Hotel Parador is a relaxed, family-friendly property perched high above the ocean. It's not particularly luxurious or upscale (though we love the newer rooms in the Parador Suites building), but it keeps guests happy with several restaurants and bars, three pools, a tennis court, a relaxing spa, and great ocean views.
The Harbor Reef Surf Resort is a busy, mid-range property with a variety of room types, two pools, and a lively restaurant and bar. The hotel caters to surfers, singles, and families, many who come to Nosara to experience the laid-back lifestyle that epitomizes Costa Rica’s surf culture. While the resort is not located on the beach, the waves and restaurants of Playa Guiones are a 10-minute walk down the gravel road.