Wondering where to stay in Costa Rica? Here’s a guide to the best places to base yourself out of!
During chillier mornings here in the frigid North, it’s not uncommon that I catch myself daydreaming about warmer weather, aquamarine waters, lush jungles, and proper sunshine. It’s pretty much all I can do not to throw my bikini in a backpack and hop on the next flight to Costa Rica, but for now, telling you about some of my favorite spots in this gorgeous country will have to do.
Because I work remotely, I have the option to work from exciting places all around the world. However, my digital nomad life paired with my passion for scuba diving makes Costa Rica one of my favorite places to visit. If you’re looking for tips on places to visit whether you’re working or playing, read on!
Best Place to Stay in Costa Rica for Culture: San Jose
This one is pretty obvious, but San Jose will most likely be your port of entry into Costa Rica if you’re arriving by plane. There’s no need to rush out, though; stay for a while and experience life in the capital city. I love wandering through the streets of San Jose and drinking in the colorful Spanish colonial architecture. Book a walking tour to really learn more about San Jose’s history and culture.
Make sure to save time to visit the San Jose Mercado Central which is open every day except Sunday — they have everything from local bites to kitschy souvenirs. I never shy away from a good central market!
Accommodations in San Jose
If you’re traveling on a budget, San Jose has plenty of options. I tend to split my time between social accommodations and private accommodations when I travel, and that all depends on how productive I want to be balanced against how many friends I want to make!
Selina San Jóse
If you’re feeling the hostel vibe, snag a bunk at the trendy Selina. It offers a ton of extras, from an on-site restaurant to a rooftop activities center, and co-working space. Check here for rates and availability
Airbnb near San Jóse
For a mid-range price, I recommend staying just north of San Jose in the hills of San Isidro de Heredia on the grounds of a coffee ranch. The whole ranch is around 8 acres and offers some seriously stunning panoramic views. Check here for rates and availability
Hotel Boutique Alta Las Palomas
If you’re looking for a higher end stay, check in at Hotel Boutique Alta Las Palomas. The hotel offers total luxury from its beautiful rooms to its onsite restaurant, which gets its ingredients from local, organic farmers. Check here for rates and availability
Where to Stay in Costa Rica for Beach Lovers: Las Catalinas
When in Costa Rica, there is no reason to stay landlocked. Although there are certainly some wonderful places to visit inland, the Pacific Coastline is one of the reasons behind Costa Rica’s descriptive name, which means “Rich Coast” in English. For me, spending as much time as possible on the coast is mandatory so that I can get a few more scuba dives under my belt!
Las Catalinas is a fairly new beach town situated North of Potrero Bay and due east of Islas Santa Catalina, or the Catalina Islands. These islands are popular for divers because the surrounding underwater coral and lava formations make for a spectacular adventure, plus there is a high probability for shark sightings!
Accommodations in Las Catalinas
As far as accommodations in and around Las Catalinas, I’m completely obsessed with this oceanfront guest house on Airbnb. It’s a little on the pricey side, so it’s more fun to share it with a friend or two. Check here for rates and availability
However, if I were looking for something a bit more budget-friendly, I’d head south to Playa Flamingo and stay at Massai Apartments. The apartments are close to the beach and they also have an outdoor pool, gardens, and more. Check here for rates and availability
CPI Spanish Immersion School
There’s a Spanish immersion school down in Playa Flamingo too, and I’ve spent a lot of time enrolled in Spanish immersion classes throughout South America. Shacking up around Playa Flamingo for Spanish school and diving the Catalina Islands sounds like a perfect time to me!
Where to Stay in Costa Rica for Adventure: El Castillo
If I absolutely have to tear myself away from the Pacific coast, then El Castillo makes it all worth it. El Castillo is a small town located right next to Arenal and Chato volcanoes, which are surrounded by dense, lush rainforest. This is a great place to go if you’re looking to find a chill home base for outdoor adventures and hikes — Sky Adventures Arenal Park is nearby for those who like to zip-line, and Arenal Volcano National Parks have hiking trails and hot springs to explore.
El Castillo and the surrounding natural areas are a little bit difficult to access because you can only take the public bus so far, so you’ll either have to grab a taxi at some point or rent a car yourself. For me, it’s genuinely worth whatever fancy footwork it takes to get there.
Accommodation in El Castillo
There are plenty of places to shack up in this natural paradise, and you pretty much can’t go wrong with any of them.
If you’d like to combine your activities with sustainable accommodations, definitely book in with Rancho Margot. This eco lodge features a ton of educational outreach opportunities including Sustainable Living, Spanish Language, and Eco-Literacy immersion programs. Enjoy farm-fresh meals, natural pools, forest trails, and even learn how to milk a cow if you don’t know how already. I recommend staying here if you’ve got some time because you’re going to fall in love with the community and never want to leave! Check here for rates and availability
Essence Arenal and Spa
Alternatively, stay in a tent at Essence Arenal and Spa which is located on a coffee plantation near the Butterfly Conservatory. Check here for rates and availability
As you can see there are a ton of places to stay in Costa Rica, whether you’re looking for culture, the beach, and/or adventure.
For more advice, check out our Costa Rica travel tips post as well as where to go!
Have you been? Where do you think is the best place to stay in Costa Rica?
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What a beautiful adventure! It’s a total dream of mine to visit Arenal! Thanks for writing!
I loved Costa Rica, the nature is amazing! It was my first stop when I set off on my world trip and would love to return one day. Have you been to Samara? It was my favourite little beach town, so cosy and chilled! Thanks for the tips!
Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse and environmentally conscious countries we’ve ever been. Despite receiving around 1.7 million tourists each year, Costa Rica has done such a great job in ensuring that tourism here is sustainable and beneficial to local communities. For those planning an exciting Costa Rica itinerary, I have compiled a guide on where to stay in Costa Rica to help you decide on the best area to stay in Costa Rica. There’s no shortage of interesting and affordable accommodation in Costa Rica: from unique eco lodges to treehouses, family-friendly beach resorts to funky surf hotels. I have done plenty of research and we have stayed at most of these hotels, so you can trust me on this!
Really beautiful adventure! I will be visiting Arenal! Thanks for sharing!