Costa Rica is an amazing country full of jungle, volcanoes and wildlife. Since tourism is one of the most booming economic sectors of the country, many ‘ticos’ developed very special places for their guests to stay at.
After two years of living in the country, we’ve visited basically every corner of Costa Rica. The best of it was that we often encountered awesome spots, most of the time by coincidence.
I’d love to share them – some hard-won knowledge! -here with you. Do keep in mind that most of them are quite a splurge. But whether tucked away in the jungle, next to a wildwater rafting river or in an airplane, I’m pretty sure you’ll have a very special stay in one of these hotels!
“The amazing treehouse and Nature Observatorio” – Manzanillo / Puerto Viejo
The town of Manzanillo on the far south of the Caribbean coast counts some 300 people, a handful of tourists, inestimable palm trees and since a couple of years a wonderful treehouse! It has been designed and built by Peter Garcar, a structural engineer by profession and Slovak from origin.
His creative masterpiece is hanging in the jungle just outside of town. Literally, since the cabin is suspended on nylon straps that are tied around the branches, without harming the tree. Not a single nail has been used, not a single branch cut to create the cabin. All has been put together piece by piece in place in the air, like Lego blocks.
Peter aims that his guests become a part of nature during their stay, without leaving any traces. The hike towards the cabin is already a start of this connection, and so is the climb up. Personally, of all the tree houses I’ve seen in Costa Rica, this one was by far my favourite, because of its location. Don’t expect a regular sleepover, but a magnificent experience. Click here to read more about our stay in the cabin!
From $170,- per person per night. This is the VP-stay which includes food, but you kind of need a bit of pampering, since you are situated in the middle of nowhere.
Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa – La Fortuna
This lodge is a bit out of the way, but in case you’re not in the mood of staying in the busy town of Arenal it’s actually a great hideout. The property has kilometers/miles of tracks to explore and amazing wildlife all around. The sounds of the jungle come all the way to your room and butterflies, monkeys and lots of birds are to be seen straight from the windows.
The platform offers the best views of the volcano – it’s incredible how close you are next to it. They monitor the activity with volcanic seismographic equipment in the grounds, which is fun to see.
The road towards the place is a bit more rough than usual and you shouldn’t stay here if you’re looking for pure luxury. Nevertheless the atmosphere is romantic and especially if you are a lover of nature and quietness, the place is highly recommended.
From $127,- per night per room (2 persons).
Selva Bananito – Bananito
Selva Bananito is a very special lodge situated on the Caribbean coast between Limón and Cahuita. The exact location is a bit inlands; on the slopes of Talamanca Mountains and on the edge of beautiful primary rain forest. The owner (of German descent) is a very ‘hands on’ person who speaks many languages and is above all a crazy enthusiast for conservation, sustainability and eco-tourism. He’s always eager to share his knowledge with his guests – so be prepared.
The bungalows have little electricity and are being completely open to nature and that’s what makes it so awesome. You’re really living with the wild here. Though this may not seem very luxurious to some, there are some subtly features that make this places very comfortable. The same goes for the food. It’s quite simple but well prepared and with its candlelit surroundings this makes up for a lovely evening. Guests are encouraged to eat communally too, great in case you’re solo travelling.
Selva Bananito provides a lot of different tours, with friendly rangers that come from the area and have a huge amount of knowledge about nature and animals. Now if you want to do something superspecial that is possible too in here. The owner has recently acquired a two-seater ‘microlight’ gyrocopter; with a flight in this you get a great chance to see the rain forest from above!
From $100,- per room (2 persons) per night, excluding food.
Casa Turire – Turrialba
One of the most relaxing stays I had in the country was at Casa Turire, just outside of Turrialba. After an enormous driveway, which is surrounded by beautiful palm trees, you’ll be welcomed at the place by ducks – already a strange sight in Costa Rica. This old building in the sugar cane plantation fields has an almost un-Costa Rican like feeling anyway. It’s quaint and charming with a colonial like outlook and stars lots of attention to details on the insides too.
Go here if you do want to feel being thrown back in time. With spa treatments and lots of activities – like kayaking on the lake next door – this is a perfect stay for pampering yourself. The place is also lovely to visit if you just want to eat something nice. Whether you go for lunch or dinner (or breakfast), don’t forget to order the sugarcane ice cream, it’s seriously one of the better scoops you’ll get in the entire county – we ordered two of those in a row!
From $90,- per room (2 persons), including breakfast.
Rancho Naturalista – La Suiza
Off the beaten track, and set half way up a lush mountain, this lodge is a wonderful base for walking and bird-watching (they mainly promote themselves as a birding lodge). Moreover, Rancho Naturalista has a friendly and welcoming environment, for both people and wildlife. All meals are served communal style, which might help you end up talking with a lot of the other guests.
Several species of hummingbirds, as well as many other birds, can be seen right from the spacious balcony where you also have a great view of the distant smoking Turrialba volcano. There a couple of small trails around the lodge you can hike yourself without a guide. All in all a wonderful getaway for birders, photographers, and nature lovers in general.
From $300,- per night per cabin (2 persons), including food
Costa Verde – Quepos / Manuel Antonio
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? – Yes well spotted, indeed you’ll able to see a red coloured plane standing firmly on the ground on the road to Manuel Antonio from Quepos! The airplane is part of hotel Costa Verde and is perched on a custom-built platform 15 meters / 50 feet up from the ground. From this height, surrounded by jungle, you’ll be able to enjoy ocean views from both the factory airplane windows and the handcrafted deck that has been built atop its wings.
The inside of the plane really is something special too. It has been totally decorated using local teak wood and therefore it has a very tico like, yet luxury feeling.
From $260,- per night in low season up to $750,- per night in high season (2 persons). They have other rooms too if you’re looking for something cheaper.
Heliconia Island – Sarapiqui
This lodge on an island is a beautiful place to stay if you’re aiming to do some activities in Sarapiqui. The owners of Heliconia Island are Dutch and bought some ten years ago a couple of acres within the Sarapiqui river. The location is a bit out of town, but it feels like you’re really in a tropical fairytale over here.
So it’s fun being on an island, even more so because it stars an superb, exotic, botanical garden. After the howler monkeys wake you up in the morning you can take a stroll around the area where you’ll possibly encounter peccaries, agoutis, coatis, sloths, anteater, armadillos and so much more!
From $75,- per night per cabin (2 persons), including breakfast.
Pacuare Lodge – along the Pacuare river
Pacuare is a secluded ecolodge that is surrounded by nothing but the Pacuare River and the surrounding rainforest in the southeastern part of Costa Rica, near the Caribbean side. The fun part about this lodge is that you’re able to arrive here by wildwater rafting.
This in itself is already one of the better activities one can do in Costa Rica. Though the water may be rough at times, each boat stars a very skilful guide and therefore you don’t need to have any previous rafting experience. Personally I had none either, and managed pretty alright on the water.
Halfway the river you’ll find the Pacuare Lodge, high up on a hill. Since it’s an ecolodge, the majority of the electricity is used for the common area. But don’t worry – the staff will light up your room with candles and lanterns. When walking back from dinner, the bungalows are a delight to see, glowing up in the jungle.
At night a fine sleep is guaranteed with all the flowing water around you and in the morning you’ll be awaked by the sounds of the jungle. Next thing you know you’re be able to raft the rest of the river after an amazing experience in the jungle.
From $740,- per person per night.
Mirador Prendas – Horquetas
This nature lodge is quite an adventure to get to due to a very tico style road. The trip towards the place might only be 4 km in total as the crows fly, it took us at least 40 minutes from Horquetas – a small community nearby Sarapiqui – via rickety bridges, large fields, typical Tico casas and along the edge of the enormous National Park Braulio Carillo.
All the more rewarding it is when you’ll reach the enormous, wooden, rustic building of Mirador Prendas. Not only it’s quite impressive on the outside, the inside is filled with art and sculptures too, mostly wooden carvings. The accommodation is nestled harmoniously in the surrounding jungle with sounds of nature all around. At the fourth and highest level of the lodge you have a marvellous view on both the dormant volcanoes of Braulio Carillo and the endless fields of the Caribbean.
At sunrise and sunset the many toucans and aracari’s and monkeys are flying and howling around the building. Be sure you’re in time to see this spectacle, whether it’s at the beginning or end of the day. If you’re lucky you’re staying in one of the rooms higher up in the building. Like that, you only have to open up your windows to see what’s going on in the canopy.
There are a lot of activities you can do in here: a night or bird walk, hike to the waterfall, ziplining, horseback riding and rafting (at very tranquil level – more like river floating, therefore good for families). All for very low prices – for most hikes you pay around $30,- per guide (so it doesn’t matter with how many people go along on a tour). Ziplining and rafting were also some $30,- p.p.
Don’t expect luxury, but really do go to Mirador Prendas if you’re a true lover of nature, not afraid of a bit of an outdoor cabin and consider yourself an adventurous person!
From $50,- a night per room(2 persons) if booked directly and paid in cash, excluding food $6,- for breakfast and $8,- for lunch or dinner.
Finca BellaVista – Palmar Norte / Osa Peninsula
Like the “The amazing treehouse and Nature Observatorio” in Manzanillo, Finca BellaVista is a great rainforest escape from the world. This project is a bit different however, due to it’s sheer size. Thirteen tree houses are scattered on a 600-acre piece of land and are individually owned. Whenever unoccupied you are able to rent them.
The tree cabins are basically like a village above the ground, since it’s possible to travel from one to another via the hanging bridges. Food is grown beneath the community. The houses vary in size and available amenities, but they all have at least water and electricity.
Prices start at $50,- for a single occupancy, and range from $100,- to $300,- a night for two people. Finca BellaVista has a two-night minimum stay. The exact location you’ll receive after your booking!
La parcela – Dominical
This place stands almost secretly on a rock cape at the top of the hill near Dominical. Because it is situated on a small peninsula, this wonderful gem has ocean views on all sides.
The cabins are simple, but the view alone is reason enough to come here. Moreover the food of the restaurant is pretty good and reasonably priced too, with real Tico dishes. In the early morning or late afternoon the capuchin monkeys will probably keep you company in here. A fun place to visit or stay, near one of the biggest surf hotspots of the country!
From $40,- per night per cabin (2 persons).
Topo’s Tree House – Cahuita
This Tree House in the lovely and small town of Cahuita on the Caribbean side is artfully constructed right around a massive and ancient tree within a piece of jungle. Since the tree is the home of many animals – such as sloths, birds and frogs -, and the area is an open air one, it feels like you are their guest or – even better – part of their habitat. Apart from that, the charm of this house is to be found in the fun details of the design. Every corner has another surprise, which makes staying here for a night or two all the more magical.
Though it feels like you’re in a rather remote area, it’s only a short walk from the Tree House to the beach and/or the nearest reggae bar. So order yourself an Imperial and listen to the ultimate music style of the Caribbean before you return to your jungle haven.
Prices from $260,- per night, minimum stay two nights (2 persons). Want to know more about where to eat in Cahuita? Click here!