When the Costa Rican tourist boom began in the late 1980s, hotels popped up like mushrooms in a crowded cow pasture. By the 1990s the country's first true megaresorts opened, and then more followed, and now still more are under construction or in the planning phase. Except during the few busiest weeks of the year, there's a relative glut of rooms in Costa Rica. That said, most hotels are small to midsize, and the best ones fill up fast most of the year. You’ll generally have to reserve well in advance if you want to land a room at any of the more popular or highly rated hotels. Still, in broader terms, the glut of rooms is good news for travelers and bargain hunters. Less popular hotels that want to survive are being forced to reduce their rates and provide better service.
Be aware that almost all hotel prices in Costa Rica—and the rest of the world, for that matter—are not truly fixed. Rates go up and down by season and by the volume of bookings. That’s why you will often see one rate on a hotel’s website, another rate on a discounter site (such as Agoda.com) and still another rate on another booking site (perhaps Expedia.com). We’ve tried to present realistic rate ranges for all the hotels listed. We’ve done so by searching online travel agencies like booking.com and hotel search sites like hotelscombined.com, to find prices for a room for two, taxes included, on both Feb. 15 (high season) and Oct. 15 (low season). In most cases, we used the range of prices obtained in this manner, though in the few cases with complicating factors, we used the hotels’ stated prices, either from their websites or from interviews with their management.
Hotel listings in this book are separated into three categories: expensive, $200 and up; moderate, $100 to $200; and inexpensive, under $100 for a room for two people. Though we’ve tried to specify if rates include the 13% tax imposed on all hotels, be sure to confirm this when booking. This tax is often not included in listed rates on hotel websites.
Costa Rica has hotels to suit every budget and travel style. In addition to the Four Seasons, Andaz Papagayo, and JW Marriott, a host of luxury boutique hotels around the country will satisfy the high-end traveler.
Still, the country's strong suit is its moderately priced hotels. In the $100-to-$200 price range, you'll find comfortable and sometimes outstanding accommodations almost anywhere in the country. However, room size and quality vary quite a bit within this price range, so don't expect the kind of uniformity that you may find at home.
If you're even more budget- or bohemian-minded, you can find quite a few good deals for less than $100 for two. You can occasionally find private rooms with shared baths and dorm rooms that are perfectly comfortable for under $20, though they are becoming rarer. Be aware that budget lodging often means either cold-water showers or showers heated by electrical heat-coil units mounted at the shower head, affectionately known as “suicide showers.” If your hotel has one, do not adjust it while the water is running, and avoid touching it accidentally while showering. Except where noted, all rooms listed in this guide have private bathrooms.
Note: Air-conditioning is not a given in many midrange hotels and even in some of the more upscale. In general, this is not a problem. Depending on the temperature of your locale and your tolerance for warm places, this may or may not be a problem for you. In most places, cooler nights and well-placed ceiling fans are often more than enough to keep things pleasant.
Bed-and-breakfasts are also abundant. Although the majority are in the San José area, you'll also find B&Bs (often owned and operated by expats) throughout the country.
Costa Rica has many small nature-oriented ecolodges. These lodges offer opportunities to see wildlife (including sloths, monkeys, and hundreds of species of birds) and learn about tropical forests. They range from spartan facilities catering primarily to scientific researchers to luxury accommodations that are among the finest in the country. Although the nightly room rates at these lodges are often quite moderate, prices start to climb when you throw in transportation (often on chartered planes), guided excursions, and meals. Also, many of these lodges are quite remote, so be sure you know how to get there and which tours and services are included in your stay.
A couple of uniquely Costa Rican accommodations types that you might encounter are the apartotel and the cabina. An apartotel is just what it sounds like: an apartment hotel where you'll get a full kitchen and one or two bedrooms, along with daily maid service. Cabinas are Costa Rica's version of cheap vacation lodging. They're very basic and inexpensive—often just cinder-block buildings divided into small rooms. Occasionally, you'll find a cabina in which the units are actually cabins, but these are a rarity. Cabinas often have clothes-washing sinks (pilas), and some come with kitchenettes; they cater primarily to Tico families on vacation.
Skip the Motel: If given a choice between hotel and motel, skip the motel. Costa Rica has several shady spots disguised as motels that are actually geared toward lovers consummating affairs. They often feature a heart somewhere in their logo. They’re called “moteles,” or “sitios de paso” in Spanish, and most rent rooms hourly, with private garages outside each room so that snoopy spouses can’t check on the cars.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.