Many places around the world are seeing renewed interest in tree houses, and Costa Rica – with its vast stretches of primary forest and ubiquitous, durable hardwoods – is no exception.
More visitors are opting to sleep in tree houses because they care about forest conservation. When a tree generates more income standing than felled, people have incentive to keep it alive.
Wherever you're traveling in Costa Rica, you'll likely be near a tree house of some kind. There are tree house rentals, tree house hotels, tree house resort communities, tree house restaurants and even a tree hostel. But a word of caution: many internet ads for "tree houses" are actually offering regular houses near trees or on stilts. These are our picks of the best real tree houses in Costa Rica, but do feel free to branch out.
For a sense of what it's like to live in a primary forest’s canopy, spend the night at Nature Observatorio in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Getting there involves a 45-minute hike in the jungle and then an 80-foot climb up a rope ladder strung over an old-growth Nispero tree. You're strapped into a harness for this feat and then sent up baskets with all your meals. The circular, two-level deck sleeps four, and guests often encounter all manner of other tree dwellers, including monkeys, toucans, iguanas and kinkajous.
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Arboreal accommodations are undeniably upper class, but there's a hostel on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast where a stay in the trees isn't such a burden on your wallet. The beloved Flutterby House in Uvita constructed three treetop accommodations on its property, including two private rooms and the country’s first tree dormitory.
Tree House Lodge
In Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean, an imaginative Dutchman taught himself architecture and created Tree House Lodge, a collection of whimsical vacation homes just steps from Playa Chiquita. Not all the homes are proper tree houses, but the eponymous "Tree House" accommodation is. The first floor is built around a Sangrillo tree, and the second-story master bedroom is a proper tree room, with a hanging bridge for an entrance. Another home on the property is built around several trees and contains a mini-golf course in the living room.
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Tree House Restaurant and Café
In downtown Santa Elena in northwestern Costa Rica, a quaint eatery appropriately dubbed Tree House Restaurant and Café is perched inside an enormous Ficus tree. Guests ascend a staircase up into the dining room and take their seats at tree trunk tables. Although the food is not particularly cheap, you can’t beat the atmosphere. Tree House Restaurant and Café is a fun option for families and a great spot for ice cream. If you can’t get enough of being in trees around Monteverde, Hidden Canopy is a boutique stay offering five tree chalets just up the road from the restaurant. The oversized beds are constructed out of tree roots, and the showers are waterfall-style.
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Tree Houses Hotel
In a 173-acre wildlife refuge containing waterfalls, refreshing pools and a river near the Arenal Volcano, Tree Houses Hotel offers seven adorable tree houses equipped with air conditioning, warm water showers and even refrigerators. Guests admire birds from rocking chairs on wrap-around decks and often receive monkey and toucan visitors. Rates include breakfast, and there’s also an on-site spa.
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Costa Rica’s most ambitious tree house project is the 600-acre Finca Bellavista, an upscale community of tree houses in the vicinity of Palmar Norte on the Osa Peninsula (the exact location is emailed to guests once they’ve booked). Like many vacation home communities, the houses are individually owned and rented out when unoccupied. But unlike many communities, residents and visitors can travel between homes on hanging bridges, and dinner is grown in a garden on the rainforest floor down below. The amenities in each house vary, but the highest-end offerings have kitchens, electricity and running water.
This article was originally published in May 2016 and updated in June 2021.
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