Last updated on January 28, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Costa Rica

Where to Stay in Costa Rica: Guide to 35 Key Areas & Towns

It’s always hard to shortlist the best destinations in a country, even more so in Costa Rica, one of the most stunning places on earth for its pristine nature.

I have written this guide to where to stay in Costa Rica in two sections. The first part describes the top 10 destinations in detail with all the pros and cons, besides the types of activities that you can experience.

In the second part, I added a handy table with 25 more places to stay in Costa Rica or to explore on a day trip, with all you need to know in just a few words. Super helpful if still unsure of how to organize your vacation time.

But let’s start with a few important key points.

Map of the 10 best areas to visit in Costa Rica
Map of the 10 best areas to visit in Costa Rica

Where to stay in Costa Rica – Key points

Below is a summary table that compares my top 10 destinations to stay in Costa Rica. Click on the area/town name to discover all the pros and cons, a detailed description, and a couple of suggested accommodations.

On a mobile swipe left or right to see all the columns.

Area/TownBest place in Costa Rica forProsConsAccessibilityRestaurantsFamiliesNightlifeCharacter of the Area
Playa Conchal & Brasilito BeachCouples, All-inclusive seekersStunning beaches, Luxury resorts, Fantastic scuba divingExpensive, Far from San Jose AirportClose to Liberia AirportLimitedGoodLimitedBeach, Luxury, Scuba diving
TamarindoFamiliesGreat for surfing, Plenty of dining options, Good nightlifeTouristy, Expensive in high seasonClose to Liberia AirportExcellentExcellentGoodSurfing, Family-friendly
Santa Teresa & MontezumaFirst-time visitorsBohemian vibe, Great for yoga and wellness, Awesome surfingRemote, Limited amenitiesRemoteGoodModerateModerateNature, Surfing, Bohemian
JacoNightlife, Proximity to San JoseClose to San Jose, Great for surfing, Good restaurants and barsBusy on weekends, Safety concernsExcellentExcellentModerateExcellentBeach, Nightlife
Dominical & DominicalitoNature loversLess touristy, Great for surfing, Wildlife spottingLimited dining options, RemoteModerateLimitedGoodLimitedBeach, Rainforest, Wildlife
UvitaBeach lovers, Nature enthusiastsBeautiful beaches, Whale watching, QuietExpensive, No nightlife, Limited diningModerateLimitedGoodLimitedBeach, Nature, Quiet
MonteverdeNature lovers, Adventure seekersCloud forests, Trekking, WildlifeChilly, Limited nightlifeModerateGoodGoodLimitedCloud Forests, Wildlife
La Fortuna & ArenalAdventure seekers, Thrill-seekersHot springs, Volcano views, Adventure activitiesTouristy, ExpensiveGoodGoodGoodGoodAdventure, Volcano, Hot Springs
Puerto Viejo de TalamancaCouples, Budget travelersCaribbean vibe, Cycling, Less busyRemote, Limited amenitiesRemoteGoodGoodGoodCaribbean, Culture, Beach
TortugueroWildlife enthusiastsUnique ecosystem, Turtle watching, WildlifeHard to reach, Limited amenitiesDifficultLimitedGoodNoneWildlife, Unique Ecosystem
San JosePractical stays near airportUrban experience, Cultural spots, DiningTraffic, Safety concernsExcellentExcellentFairExcellentUrban, Cultural
Best 10 areas to stay in Costa Rica + San Jose

I included in the table also an 11th destination, San Jose, but not because you necessarily have to stay there for your vacation, but more as a practical place to stay for the first/last night based on your flights schedule.

You can now decide to keep reading the descriptions of these 10 areas or jump down to the other suggested 25 destinations of Costa Rica.

Just my last tip here, rent a car in Costa Rica if you want to optimize your time and experience the most stunning and hidden places of the country, like amazing beaches, waterfalls, rainforests and I could keep going.

I usually hire my vehicles from DiscoverCars, a website that compares local and international rental companies giving the best price with transparent information (attention to these insurance scams in Costa Rica). The $7/day full insurance is just the icing on the cake.

Playa Conchal & Brasilito Beach – Where to stay in Costa Rica all inclusive

  • Best area to stay in Costa Rica for couples and for an all-inclusive deal

Pros

  • Stunning beaches
  • Luxury resorts
  • Fantastic scuba diving
  • Close to Liberia Airport

Cons

  • Playa Conchal can be expensive
  • Far from San Jose Airport

Playa Conchal and Brasilito Beach are like the dynamic duo of Costa Rican beaches. They’re next to each other, divided by a rock formation, but so different and with a unique and distinct vibe.

First off, the beaches are nothing short of stunning. Playa Conchal is all about that white sand and crystal-clear water. You will feel straight away so far from your busy life back home. This is a boutique paradise where you can unwind and recharge.

Brasilito Beach, on the other hand, is a bit more rustic but equally charming. It’s less busy and with more of a local vibe with a couple of Sodas (local restaurants) too where you can have family food for a very good price.

Playa Conchal & Brasilito Beach
Playa Conchal & Brasilito Beach

This area is very well famous also for scuba diving. In fact, when I booked my scuba day trip in Tamarindo, they actually took me here for the day (a 30-minute drive).

The underwater world is teeming with life. Think colorful coral reefs, schools of exotic fish, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a sea turtle or two. It’s like finding Nemo in real life, minus the drama.

If you are looking for where to stay in Costa Rica all inclusive then Playa Conchal may have all you need, with some top-notch options.

We’re talking luxury resorts that pull out all the stops—think infinity pools, spa services, golf courts, and gourmet dining. One of the best places to stay in Costa Rica for couples looking for a romantic getaway.

Are you more on a budget? Brasilito Beach is the place for you, still very local and chilled-out with accommodations options that are more basic and rarely with a pool, but lovely otherwise.

Another plus is the proximity to Liberia International Airport. If you’re flying in or out of there, you’re just a short drive away from beachside bliss.

But let’s talk about drawbacks for a second. Playa Conchal can be a bit on the pricey side, especially when it comes to accommodations and dining. But remember, you get what you pay for.

And if you’re flying into San Jose Airport, there is a bit of a drive. But once you arrive, trust me, you’ll see it’s worth every mile.

If you are renting a car in Costa Rica, be aware that the last couple of miles to Playa Conchal may be challenging. Hiring a 4×4 vehicle is going to help a ton, as well as for visiting the Guanacaste region.

This is a fantastic area for couples. The romantic vibes are off the charts. Luxury travelers will also feel right at home with the high-end resorts and amenities. But honestly, anyone who appreciates natural beauty and a bit of comfort will fall in love with Playa Conchal and Brasilito Beach.

Here below 3 of my favorite hotels in Conchal and Brasilito Beach.

Westin Reserva Conchal ($$$$$): A splendid beachfront resort with inclusive perks, varied dining, family-friendly facilities, and a lush tropical setting for ultimate relaxation and adventure.

W Costa Rica Resort Conchal ($$$$$): An idyllic escape with top-notch service, luxurious rooms, and breathtaking beachfront views.

Conchal Hotel ($): A tropical oasis near Brasilito Beach. Rustic-style rooms with garden or pool views. Varied dining options, free WiFi, and accessible amenities.

Tamarindo – where to stay in Costa Rica with family

  • Best area to stay in Costa Rica with family

Pros

  • Great for surfing for beginners and kids
  • Plenty of dining options for any like
  • Many accommodation options
  • Good nightlife

Cons

  • Can be touristy
  • Expensive during high season

On my trip in December, I traveled there with my wife and my 9-year-old kid. We hired a car and took a long trip around the country. We experienced a lot and we had such a great time.

Tamarindo was the destination that we enjoyed the most, and for many reasons. That’s why I have no hesitation in suggesting Tamarindo as one of the best places to stay in Costa Rica with family.

First off, surfing there is the easiest we have found in the country. It’s not only among the best towns for beginner surfers but also an awesome spot for kids to learn riding the first waves, long and forgiving.

I still remember my kid catching his first wave on the surfboard with his face lighting up with pure joy.

There are plenty of schools that are clearly used to teach kids and a surfing shop every second corner to rent your gear. We had such a great time in the water.

Besides surfing, there is also a small soccer beach field, a place where the local children mix with the small travelers for games in the late afternoon.

Where to stay in Tamarindo map
Map of the best 4 areas to stay in Tamarindo and nearby

When it comes to food, Tamarindo has plenty of options. From the inexpensive local Sodas to American, Italian, Asian cuisine and I could keep going forever. Sushi is surprisingly very popular, not to mention the excellent Mexican restaurants.

There are also a couple of ice cream shops along the main road and plenty of bars around for a late drink. My favorite spot is El Mercadito, a food court in a jungle setup with a central cocktail bar in the keel of a boat (you must visit it).

If it’s all about riding, you can also enjoy some time at the skatepark, hidden behind Central Avenue.

If traveling without kids, you should visit El Terreno, another food court with fantastic food and music into the late hours of the night.

Drawbacks of Tamarindo? Well, the town can get very busy, especially during high season and surely around Christmas and NYE. And yes, ‘high season’ also means ‘high prices,’ so be prepared for that.

But honestly, the experience you will have there makes it worth every penny.

Tamarindo has accommodations for any budget and style. My only suggestion is to stay away from the 3 main streets for a quiet night’s sleep. I have actually written a full guide to where to stay in Tamarindo and a video too. Here below my top 4 suggestions.

Tamarindo Blue ($$-$$$): 1BR and 2BR apartments, family-friendly, spacious, clean, great location, friendly staff, and beautiful surroundings

Casa Coco de Mer ($$): Spacious, modern apartment in Playa Langosta, great pool, and helpful hosts. Peaceful location near the beach. Perfect for families

BoHo Tamarindo – Adults Only ($$$$): An exceptional boutique oasis in Tamarindo! Stylish, immaculate, and relaxing. Wonderful hosts, delicious breakfast, and close to the beach.

Hotel Boruca ($$): Great location, friendly staff, delicious breakfast, and comfortable rooms with excellent amenities, fantastic value for money

Are you looking for a great Costa Rica Travel Guide? Here is the best FREE trip handbook dedicated to first-timers.

Santa Teresa & Montezuma – where to stay in Costa Rica first time

  • Best area to stay in Costa Rica first time and for a laid-back, bohemian vibe

Pros

  • Bohemian vibe
  • Great for yoga and wellness
  • Awesome surfing for any level
  • Not as busy
  • Fantastic waterfalls

Cons

  • Remote location
  • Limited amenities

I always suggest visiting this country because of its beaches and its nature, its waterfalls and of course its surfing vibe.

The good news is that in Santa Teresa and Montezuma you have them all. And that is why I suggest this area to any first time traveler to Costa Rica.

You will be able to experience the essence of Costa Rica, all within a few miles.

Let’s begin with the very long beach, starting from Playa Carmen, turning into Santa Teresa and finishing in Playa Hermosa, then the amazing beautiful waves and the jungle of palm trees on your back. Pure nature.

Surfing is literally for any level based on where you enter the water, from easygoing waves for beginners and longboards (Playa Hermosa) to challenging and pro waves in Playa Carmen.

Where to stay in Santa Teresa - Costa Rica - map
Best 4 areas to stay in Tamarindo and around

The town develops inside the forest along the main road, with a few small streets/lanes going up in the hills. There are a few surfing shops, ATV rentals, and a good selection of restaurants and bars.

I love the chilled surfing vibe in town, so cool. And certainly, the accommodations immersed in nature help to be part of the environment, and not just a visitor. And this is probably the biggest difference between Tamarindo and Santa Teresa, the first more touristy and the second more undeveloped.

Moreover, in 30 minutes from Santa Teresa, you will be in the Bohemian Village of Montezuma, a real local gem, full of colors and a small selection of restaurants and bars along the beach. There is even a bakery.

From the village, you can also hike up the Montezuma Waterfalls, a multilevel wander of nature, with waterholes for a refreshing dive.

Looking for accommodations? Plenty of options. My biggest tip here is to stay 200m away from the main road which can be very dusty, especially in the unpaved section, and possibly noisy with restaurants and bars.

Also in this case I have organised a video and a full guide to where to stay in Santa Teresa and around with a few suggested accommodations for a quiet night. Here below my favorite four.

Hotel Nantipa ($$$$): Idyllic beachfront escape with excellent service. Comfy rooms, stunning pool, and serene surroundings. A memorable Tico experience

Canaima Chill House ($$-$$$): Serene hillside retreat with spacious suites, pool, and hot tub. Charming eco-friendly haven near Santa Teresa Beach.

Fuego Lodge ($$$): Stunning oasis near the beach with comfy rooms, friendly staff, and an inviting pool. Perfect tropical getaway.

Santeria Lodge ($): Cozy rooms, friendly staff, and a convenient location. The pool is fantastic and the place very clean

Jaco – Practical beach place near San Jose

  • Best area to stay in Costa Rica for a beach experience while still having nightlife options

Pros

  • Close to San Jose
  • Great for surfing, ziplining, etc
  • Good restaurants and bars
  • Nightlife

Cons

  • Can be very busy at weekend
  • Safety concerns at night in dark lanes

Let me be honest with you, I don’t particularly like to spend time in San Jose, the capital. It’s a busy city, with traffic and noise, certainly not why I like to spend my vacation time in Costa Rica.

Jaco is the perfect alternative. It’s a coastal town around 90 minutes from the San Jose International Airport with all you need for a few fun days.

Let’s start with the beach, in a very long sandy bay, with waves for any skill. Plenty of shops and schools to organize your surfing time. On low tide, the beach becomes massive, and that’s when the kids set up their soccer fields and the adults chill out with a cocktail in hand.

The town develops along the main road, parallel to the beach, with plenty of shopping options, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Probably the best nightlife in Costa Rica, besides San Jose.

It must be said that the character of Jaco is certainly not very captivating. It has grown from village status to town very quickly, with condos scattered here and there in an otherwise beautiful bay. Not much town planning I would say, and it’s an understatement.

Where to stay near Jaco map
Playa Herradura and Playa Hermosa – Two great alternatives for a chilled-out stay

However, for a more chilled-out setup, you can always drive down south 5 minutes and you will be in Playa Hermosa, a tiny village by a very long beach.

I always highly suggest renting a car in Costa Rica, even more so if deciding to visit Jaco and the south-west coast, because there are so many things to do and places to see around town, like the ziplines in Playa Hermosa (plus another two around Jaco), the rain forest, a few amazing beaches like Playa Herradura, and I could keep going.

If driving a car, you can also be at the San Jose Airport in less than 90 minutes, thanks to the direct road, partially highway (take some change, just a few dollars worth of Colon, to pay the tolls). But if you don’t have a car, you can easily organize private transportation ($50-$150). So handy.

Being so close to the capital city, Jaco can get very busy with weekend trippers and around Christmas/NYE. Also, avoid walking in any dark lane at night. If unsure grab a taxi or an Uber (a few available) to your accommodation.

There are plenty of accommodation styles in town, for any budget. The choice is very wide and certainly less expensive than San Jose. I have written a full guide to where to stay in Jaco with suggestions on the best areas around, besides a few hotels and condos (my fav 4 below).

I would not certainly stay the entire vacation in Jaco, however, this town is now my favorite place to be for the last couple of nights in the country before heading to the airport.

Los Ranchos ($$$): Hidden gem with friendly staff, cozy rooms, and a pool, steps away from Jaco Beach

Boutique Hotel IBIZA ($$$): Nestled in Jacó’s heart, two pools, attentive staff, and spacious rooms, making it a perfect tropical escape.

Oceano Boutique Hotel ($$$): Comfortable 1BR, friendly staff, great amenities. Ideal for families seeking relaxation and convenience.

Selina ($): An amazing value beachfront retreat. Welcoming staff, great vibe, and comfortable rooms. Perfect for a relaxing getaway.

Where to stay in Jaco Costa Rica

Dominical & Dominicalito – Where to stay in Costa Rica for beach and rainforest

  • Best area to stay in Costa Rica for travelers looking to escape the crowds and get closer to nature

Pros

  • Less touristy
  • Great for surfing
  • Wildlife spotting
  • Great beach vibe in town

Cons

  • Limited dining options
  • Remote

If you’re looking to capture the essence of Costa Rica—its untouched beaches, lush rainforests, and that laid-back vibe—then look no further than Dominical & Dominicalito. This is one of the best spots to experience the famous Costa Rican Pura Vida, away from the crowds and closer to nature.

Dominical Beach is a surfer’s paradise. I love the wide choice of surfing conditions, with waves of any size and difficulty, from beginner to challenging ones. Dominicalito, just a short drive away, offers a more tranquil setting, perfect for paddleboarding or just soaking in the natural beauty.

The area is literally surrounded by the rainforest. Definitely a great destination for nature lovers. The town itself is small but full of character. There is a sort of bohemian flair, with organic markets, yoga retreats, and a handful of cozy cafes and eateries.

And let’s not forget about the nearby natural wonders. Within a 30-minute drive, you can find yourself hiking through the Nauyaca Waterfalls or exploring the Marino Ballena National Park, famous for its whale tail-shaped sandbar (check down Uvita).

When it comes to drawbacks, it’s worth mentioning that Dominical is quite remote, although not too far away from San Jose. If you are planning an itinerary of the Pacific Coast, then Dominical should be on your bucket list.

Being a small village, you will not find a huge number and range of accommodations. In saying that, I love that most amalgamate so nicely into the local nature, making them almost invisible. Here are 2 great examples that I suggest.

Hona Beach Hotel ($$): A coastal gem offering a fantastic location steps from the beach, friendly staff, and a sustainable stay.

Hotel Tropical Sands ($-$$): Cozy rooms, a short walk from the beach. Friendly staff, lush garden, and serene atmosphere.

Dominical Beach
Dominical Beach

Uvita – Where to stay in Costa Rica on the beach

  • Best area to stay in Costa Rica for the beach almost on your own

Pros

  • Beautiful beaches
  • Whale watching
  • Not busy
  • Waterfalls
  • Nature and quiet time

Cons

  • Can be expensive
  • No nightlife
  • Limited restaurants and bars

Ah, Uvita. If you’re the kind of traveler who dreams of pristine beaches without the crowds, this is your spot. I always recommend Uvita to anyone who wants to experience Costa Rica’s coastline in all its untouched glory. Something that is becoming very rare these days.

Let’s talk about the beaches first. Picture this: golden sands stretching as far as the eye can see, framed by lush greenery. Visit Uvita in the off-season, or even in the shoulder seasons (November/December and April/May), and you will have it almost on your own, especially if you walk 10-15 minutes away from the gate of the Parque Nacional Marino Ballena.

Uvita is actually becoming increasingly popular because of the shape of its beach, which once in low tide, resembles the tale of a whale (English for “ballena“).

And talking of these massive mammals, if you are in luck, you may actually spot them. There are two seasons, which is unusual, from mid-July to October and then again from December to April. They rarely come near the beach, but plenty of boat tours are offered in town.

Where to stay in Uvita map
Three great areas to stay in Uvita and nearby

But Uvita isn’t just about the beach; it’s a nature lover’s haven. Walk towards the rainforest to discover the Uvita Waterfalls, a series of waterholes where you can dive in from a few natural trampolines.

Or, if you are up for some adrenaline, hike up to the main fall to slide it down through the rocks but be aware that it’s 10 meters high!

It must be said that the average price of the accommodations tends to be higher than usual in Uvita (although still lower than in most of the Western world).

The dining options are also somewhat limited, but what’s available is genuinely good—think fresh seafood and local Costa Rican fare. Of course, no nightlife.

Despite these minor drawbacks, the tranquility and natural beauty of Uvita more than makeup for it.

I have organized a guide to the best places to stay in Uvita with my 4 best areas to book your accommodation and a few tips on hotels and bungalows (see my top 3 recommendations below)

Hotel FAREMITI ($$$): Boutique gem in Uvita. Relaxing vibe, modern rooms, and exceptional hospitality

Bungalows Ballena ($$$-$$$$): Splendid beachside stay with spacious 2BR villas, refreshing pools, and friendly staff. Ideal for families and beach lovers

Valle Hermoso ($): Very cheap and cozy place with friendly hosts, mountain views, and comfortable amenities. An excellent choice for a peaceful stay.

Where to stay in Uvita Costa Rica

Monteverde – Where to stay in Costa Rica rainforest

  • Best area to stay in Costa Rica for the unique cloud forests

Pros

  • Cloud forests and amazing nature
  • Trekking
  • Wildlife spotting
  • Adventure activities

Cons

  • Can be chilly
  • Limited nightlife

If you’re yearning for a slice of Costa Rica that’s more rainforest than “beach bum,” then Monteverde is your haven. I can’t recommend it enough for those who want to dive headfirst into nature, literally above the clouds.

First off, what is a cloud forest? Well, it’s essentially a type of high-altitude rainforest between clouds. Imagine walking through the mist, where every step you take feels like you’re in a dreamy, otherworldly landscape.

The flora and fauna here are unlike anything else. In fact, the cloud forest of Monteverde is considered among the 7 wonders of Costa Rica.

Trekking opportunities? Oh, they’re abundant. You can even organize a few of them directly from Monteverde or Santa Elena town, the main settlement in the area.

Otherwise, join one of the many available tours for a deeper experience. You can find all sorts of trekking levels, from easy walks to more demanding full-day hikes.

An easy walk I suggest is the one at the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, just off Monteverde.

Where to stay in Monteverde map - Best 4 areas
Best 4 areas to stay in Monteverde

Spotting wildlife will be part of the fun, of course. From the resplendent quetzal to countless species of hummingbirds, your camera is going to be busy.

Are you looking for some adrenaline? You will not be disappointed in Monteverde. Think zip-lining through the cloud forest canopy or walking on hanging bridges suspended above the forest floor.

A little tip here. Monteverde is located around 1,400 m (4,600 ft) above sea level. The weather can be a bit chilly, especially in the evenings. So, pack a light jacket or a cozy sweater.

Monteverde is more about the sounds of nature than the beats of a nightclub. So no do not expect much of a nightlife, although Santa Elena has a couple of places with live music.

But honestly, the sheer beauty and tranquility of Monteverde’s cloud forests make these minor drawbacks seem trivial.

Also in this case I have organized a guide to where to stay in Monteverde, including a comparison with Santa Elena. Here below are 4 of my suggested accommodations in the area.

Koora Hotel-a Cloud Forest Resort ($$$$): The boutique choice with stunning views, friendly staff, amazing food, and exceptional comfort

Cabinas Eddy B&B ($$-$$$): Cozy atmosphere with animals around, friendly staff, and central location. Great breakfast and activities

El Bosque Lodging ($$-$$$): Nature-filled retreat with comfortable Monteverde property, diverse cuisine, and friendly staff. Convenient for cloud forest explorations and enjoyable on-site trails.

OutBox Inn ($$-$$$): Cosy lodging amidst lush nature, central location, friendly staff, comfortable rooms, captivating common areas, and a delightful terrace.

Where to stay in Monteverde Costa Rica

La Fortuna & Arenal – Where to stay in Costa Rica for adventure

  • Best area to stay in Costa Rica for hot springs and adventure activities, it’s a must-visit for thrill-seekers

Pros

  • Hot springs
  • Volcano views
  • Adventure activities
  • Unique trekking

Cons

  • Touristy
  • Can be expensive

If you’re the type who thinks a vacation isn’t complete without a dash of adrenaline, then you’ve hit the jackpot with La Fortuna and Arenal. I always tell people that if you’re looking for adventure in Costa Rica, you can’t skip La Fortuna and Arenal.

Let’s kick off with the hot springs. Imagine soaking in a natural thermal pool with a view of a volcano in the background. Yes, pretty unique, so unique that even the Kardashians wanted to experience it. Besides, the hot springs will help you relax after a day packed with activities.

Speaking of which, the adventure activities here are off the charts. Let’s start with the most iconic of the experiences, the hike to the Arenal Volcano National Park, just a few minutes off the main town of La Fortuna. It is the kind of natural wonder that you have to see to believe.

Where to stay in La Fortuna and around Arenal map - Best 5 areas
Best 5 areas to stay near the Arenal Volcano

Then you can choose between the many activities on offer by the tour operators in town.

You can decide to go zip lining in the rainforest, explore the thrilling hanging bridges, do some white-water rafting, or why not canyoning. The choice is really wide.

It must be said that La Fortuna can get a bit touristy, especially during peak season. The town can get very busy and far from any peaceful heaven that you may have pictured. In fact, there are also a couple of clubs for some late hours, if you feel like it.

And with high demand comes high prices, so be prepared to shell out a bit more for accommodations and activities.

Besides La Fortuna, I described another 4 areas in my guide to where to stay near the Arenal Volcano, one of which was the setup for a Kardashians episode. Here is a quick selection of my suggested accommodations.

The Springs Resort & Spa ($$$$-$$$$$): A hidden gem with exceptional service, stunning volcano views, and a range of activities for an unforgettable stay. Even more famous after the Kardashians’ stay

Country Inn ($$$): Tropical oasis near attractions, comfortable rooms with scenic views, friendly staff, delicious breakfast, and serene pool area.

Hotel Secreto ($$): A hidden gem with friendly staff, stunning volcano views, and a lovely pool. Modern rooms and great breakfast.

Arenal Poshpacker ($): Lively hostel in Fortuna with pool, garden, and tours. Social atmosphere, friendly staff, comfy rooms, and convenient location.

Where to stay in La Fortuna and around Arenal - Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca – Where to stay in Costa Rica Caribbean side

  • Best area to stay in Costa Rica for a Caribbean feel in a less touristy spot

Pros

  • Caribbean vibe
  • Great for cycling
  • Not as busy
  • Great for couples and budget backpackers

Cons

  • Remote
  • Limited amenities

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca must be on your bucket list if you’re yearning for that laid-back Caribbean vibe without the throngs of tourists.

First off, let’s talk about that Caribbean vibe. Think reggae music, colorful buildings, and a melting pot of cultures. It’s so different from the Pacific side of Costa Rica and so captivating too. You’ll find yourself swaying to the rhythm of the ocean waves and the local music in no time.

A great thing about Puerto Viejo is that you can pedal your way to secluded beaches or hidden eateries that only locals know about. No need for ATVs or motorbikes.

What I also love about Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is that it’s not swarming with tourists. It’s a great spot for romantic couples and budget backpackers because the living cost tends to be lower than in any other coastal town in Costa Rica.

You also get to experience the Caribbean without the commercialization, and that’s a rare find these days.

There are a couple of cons, however. The area is pretty remote, it’s quite a long trip from San Jose, but totally worth it.

Also, you won’t find as many ATMs, there are limited healthcare facilities, and less variety when it comes to dining out. But is this a problem, considering all the pros?

So, if you’re planning your Costa Rican adventure and want a taste of the Caribbean, make sure Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is on your list. You can find below 3 of my suggested places to stay in Puerto Viejo for a quiet night in a chilled-out place.

Hotel One Love ($): A charming spot steps from the beach. Welcoming owner and well-equipped communal areas. Ideal for both couples and families.

Tasty Dayz Hostel ($): Warm beachfront hostel with friendly staff, jungle surroundings, and diverse activities. Relaxing and lively atmosphere with great vibes.

Kalunai Hostel ($): A vibrant hostel in Puerto Viejo with friendly staff, social atmosphere, well-equipped kitchen, and comfy beds. Perfect for meeting fellow travelers.

Chiquita Beach in Puerto Viejo
Chiquita Beach in Puerto Viejo

Tortuguero – Where to stay in Costa Rica for wildlife

  • Best area to stay in Costa Rica for wildlife and unique ecosystems

Pros

  • Unique ecosystem
  • Turtle watching
  • Plenty of wildlife
  • Boat tours

Cons

  • Very hard to reach
  • Limited amenities

I always tell people, that if you want to see Costa Rica’s wildlife up close and personal, Tortuguero is your golden ticket.

The entire setup of Tortuguero is pretty unique, far from any other town or center, isolated in the northern Caribbean coast, and reachable uniquely by boat or an expensive small regional flight.

You will find a maze of rivers, lagoons, jungle, and the long beach which, unfortunately, you can’t enter due to the strong currents.

Tortuguero is famous for its biodiversity and you may already know that this is a turtle-watching paradise. Depending on the season, you can witness these magnificent creatures laying their eggs or baby turtles making their first journey to the sea.

And it’s not just turtles. It’s so easy to spot monkeys, caimans, and a plethora of bird species. Boat tours are the way to go in Tortuguero. You’ll glide through waterways surrounded by lush greenery, with the chance to spot all kinds of animals in their natural habitat.

But, and it’s a big but, Tortuguero is not the easiest place to get to. You’re looking at a combination of buses and boats or a small and expensive chartered flight.

Plus, amenities are limited. We’re talking basic accommodations (I have suggested 2 of the best below) and not a whole lot of variety in dining options.

Still, if you’re an adventure-seeker who doesn’t mind roughing it a bit for an unforgettable wildlife experience, Tortuguero is absolutely worth the journey.

Casa THIREMA ($$): A central gem with family-friendly rooms, WiFi, AC, and beach proximity. A sustainable haven amidst natural beauty.

Babylon Suite ($$$): Stunning views, exceptional design, helpful staff, and central location. Spacious 1BR (up to 4 people), clean, comfortable rooms with great amenities.

Navigating the maze of rivers and canals in the Tortuguero National Park
Navigating the maze of rivers and canals in the Tortuguero National Park

San Jose – A practical base

  • Best area to stay in Costa Rica near the Airport

Pros

  • Urban experience
  • Cultural spots
  • Dining options
  • Practical for an early departure or late arrival

Cons

  • Traffic
  • Safety concerns

Let me be open with you. I have added to this list San Jose, however, I do not suggest staying in San Jose, unless you have an early departure or a late arrival at the San Jose International Airport.

Big tip here. Even if you decide to rent a car to experience Costa Rica, avoid driving it at night because it can be quite dangerous. Roads are poorly lit, there could be wildlife crossing and potholes are everywhere, and I mean big ones too.

If you have an engine problem, an accident, or simply a flat it will be very hard to find help around, especially in the countryside, which is 98% of the country.

Where to stay in San Jose and around map - Best 5 areas
Best 5 areas to stay in San Jose and near the airport

And honestly, if you are just looking for a place to stay near the San Jose airport, there is not even the need to spend a night in the capital. I have talked about 5 great areas in my guide to where to stay in San Jose and nearby with a few suggested accommodations (here below are my top 3).

Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen ($$$$): Escape to lush serenity, surrounded by captivating views and abundant amenities for a rejuvenating retreat close to the airport. Great pool

Casa Garitas GuestHouse ($): A tranquil haven with attentive staff, near the airport. Spacious, clean rooms with mountain views. Shuttle service to the nearby airport, family-friendly, sustainable stay.

Hotel Presidente ($$$): Boutique gem with spotless rooms in Downtown San Jose, delicious breakfast, friendly staff, and rooftop bar. Perfect for exploring nearby attractions.

Where to stay in San Jose Costa Rica

More places to stay and visit in Costa Rica

In this table, I have shortlisted 25 more places to stay in Costa Rica, or possibly to visit on a day trip. This table, as well as this post, is growing and improving with any new trip to Costa Rica.

Do you think I have left out a great destination? Leave a comment, I will add it and possibly visit it on my next Costa Rican adventure.

Area/TownGreat forTraveller typeProsConsAccessibilityRestaurantsFamiliesNightlifeCharacter of the Area
Nosara (Nicoya Peninsula)Yoga retreats, surfingWellness enthusiasts, surfersYoga, SurfingExpensiveModerateGoodYesLimitedRelaxed, Wellness-focused
Manuel Antonio (Quepos)National park, wildlifeNature lovers, familiesWildlife, BeachesCrowdedEasyExcellentYesLimitedNatural, Family-friendly
Papagayo Peninsula (Guanacaste)Luxury resorts, secluded beachesLuxury travelersLuxury, PrivacyExpensiveModerateExcellentLimitedLimitedExclusive, Luxurious
Cahuita (Limón Province)Caribbean vibe, less crowdedBudget travelers, couplesAffordable, BeachesLimited amenitiesModerateGoodYesLimitedLaid-back, Caribbean
Sámara (Nicoya Peninsula)Laid-back beach townFamilies, couplesBeaches, RelaxingLimited nightlifeModerateGoodYesLimitedRelaxed, Family-friendly
Playa Flamingo (Guanacaste)White sand beaches, water sportsAdventure seekersWater sports, BeachesExpensiveModerateGoodLimitedLimitedAdventurous, Upscale
Playa Hermosa (Puntarenas)Calm waters, swimmingFamilies, swimmersCalm watersLimited nightlifeEasyGoodYesLimitedCalm, Family-friendly
Drake Bay (Osa Peninsula)Close to Corcovado National ParkNature enthusiasts, hikersWildlife, HikingRemoteDifficultLimitedLimitedLimitedRemote, Natural
Liberia (Guanacaste)Gateway to Guanacaste’s beachesTransit travelersConvenientLimited attractionsEasyGoodLimitedLimitedPractical, Transit-friendly
Playa Grande (Guanacaste)Turtle nesting, surfingWildlife enthusiasts, surfersWildlife, SurfingLimited diningModerateLimitedLimitedLimitedNatural, Adventurous
Playa Avellanas (Guanacaste)Surfing, less crowdedSurfers, couplesSurfing, QuietLimited amenitiesModerateLimitedLimitedLimitedQuiet, Surf-focused
Playa Negra (Guanacaste)Surfing, black sand beachesSurfers, nature loversSurfing, Unique beachesLimited amenitiesModerateLimitedLimitedLimitedUnique, Natural
Montezuma (Puntarenas)Bohemian vibe, waterfallsSolo travelers, couplesWaterfalls, BohemianLimited amenitiesDifficultGoodLimitedGoodBohemian, Natural
Santa Ana (San José Province)Close to San José, upscaleBusiness travelers, luxury travelersUpscale, ConvenientExpensiveEasyExcellentLimitedLimitedUpscale, Convenient
Golfito (Puntarenas)Sport fishing, duty-free zoneAnglers, shoppersFishing, ShoppingRemoteDifficultGoodLimitedLimitedRemote, Sporty
Ojochal (Puntarenas)Culinary scene, beachesFoodies, couplesCulinary, BeachesLimited nightlifeModerateExcellentLimitedLimitedCulinary, Relaxing
Playa Carrillo (Guanacaste)Quiet beaches, family-friendlyFamilies, couplesQuiet, Family-friendlyLimited amenitiesModerateLimitedYesLimitedQuiet, Family-friendly
Playa Santa Teresa (Puntarenas)Surfing, yogaSurfers, wellness enthusiastsSurfing, YogaLimited amenitiesModerateGoodLimitedGoodSurf-focused, Wellness
Playa Ocotal (Guanacaste)Snorkeling, quietCouples, snorkelersSnorkeling, QuietLimited amenitiesModerateLimitedLimitedLimitedQuiet, Snorkeling-focused
Playa Junquillal (Guanacaste)Turtle nesting, quietNature lovers, couplesTurtles, QuietLimited amenitiesModerateLimitedLimitedLimitedQuiet, Natural
Playa Potrero (Guanacaste)Quiet, family-friendlyFamilies, couplesQuiet, Family-friendlyLimited amenitiesModerateLimitedYesLimitedQuiet, Family-friendly
Playa Zancudo (Puntarenas)Fishing, quietAnglers, couplesFishing, QuietLimited amenitiesDifficultLimitedLimitedLimitedQuiet, Fishing-focused
Playa Matapalo (Puntarenas)Wildlife, quietNature lovers, couplesWildlife, QuietLimited amenitiesModerateLimitedLimitedLimitedQuiet, Natural
Playa Bejuco (Puntarenas)Quiet, family-friendlyFamilies, couplesQuiet, Family-friendlyLimited amenitiesModerateLimitedYesLimitedQuiet, Family-friendly
Playa Esterillos (Puntarenas)Surfing, quietSurfers, couplesSurfing, QuietLimited amenitiesModerateLimitedLimitedLimitedQuiet, Surf-focused

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best area in Costa Rica to stay?

The best area depends on your interests. La Fortuna for adventure, Monteverde for cloud forests, and Tamarindo for family-friendly beaches.

What part of Costa Rica should I go to?

If you’re a nature lover, head to Monteverde or Tortuguero. For beach vibes, try Tamarindo or Uvita.

Where could tourists stay in Costa Rica?

Tourists can stay in a variety of places, from luxury resorts in Playa Conchal to budget hostels in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

How many days in Costa Rica is enough?

A 10-14 day trip allows you to explore multiple regions, but even a week can offer a fulfilling experience.

Is Costa Rica cheap or expensive?

Costa Rica can be both. While activities and some areas can be pricey, there are budget-friendly options available.

What part of Costa Rica has the prettiest beaches?

Playa Conchal and Uvita are renowned for their stunning beaches, perfect for relaxation and water activities.

Is it better to stay on the Pacific or Atlantic side of Costa Rica?

The Pacific side offers more variety in activities and beaches, while the Atlantic side offers a unique Caribbean feel.

Is it worth going to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica?

Yes, especially if you’re looking for a less touristy experience with a Caribbean vibe, like in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

Are the beaches swimmable in Costa Rica?

Most beaches are swimmable, but always be cautious of rip currents and tides. Some, like Tamarindo, are also great for beginner surfers.

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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