Why do visitors flock to Costa Rica? Because of its people and their inspiring connection to the biodiverse landscape. And the accommodations aren’t half bad, either.
Within hours of arrival, it’s possible to drive from a sandy beach to a tropical jungle, to a cloud forest or mountain range. Since the accommodations vary as much as the landscapes, here are a few unique places to stay in Costa Rica you won’t soon forget, each created in harmony with the environment.
A retreat with a view at Cielo Lodge
This secluded eco-lodge in Golfito is surrounded by 380 acres of private rainforest. Perched 1060ft above sea level, Cielo Lodge has six luxury canopy suites and expansive views of Golfito Bay, the Osa Peninsula and beyond.
Jungle resorts can often be stiflingly hot, yet Cielo’s higher elevation brings less humidity, fewer insects and more ocean breezes. If you want to get further afield, take advantage of different wildlife and cultural excursions such as forest bathing, a nighttime frog walk and a visit to the Boruca community. This indigenous village 2 hours away offers tours of artists’ workshops, with the possibility of purchasing masks or textiles.
For those wishing to stay put, there’s an open-air restaurant with fresh food procured from local purveyors, and a second-story bar to watch the setting sun as monkeys swing from the trees. Within hiking distance are two waterfalls with natural swimming pools. For the less intrepid, the infinity-edge saltwater pool will certainly suffice.
Village living in a quiet Airbnb studio
The village of San Gerardo de Rivas in the Talamanca Mountains attracts bird-watchers, hikers and nature lovers due to its proximity to the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve and the Chirripo National Park.
While there are rustic accommodations in town, I chose a clean, modern Airbnb in an impressive three-story glass, wood and steel home with a private deck overlooking the Chirripó Pacífico River and the owner’s tropical garden.
From this location, I could walk to several attractions in under a mile: Cloudbridge; the Thermal Hot Springs; the Jardines Secretos to see exotic orchids and plants; and the Chirripó trailhead, about a half mile from the center of town.
Be sure to eat lunch at Truchero Los Cocolisos, the family-run trout farm next door, whose wooden tables are encircled by tropical foliage and colorful rainbow eucalyptus trees. After selecting your fish from the pond, it will get cleaned, placed in a bucket, hoisted up to a second-floor kitchen, cooked and served with slaw, rice and fries.
Pods for luxe camping at Art Villas Resort
A recent addition to the Art Villas Resort, these five elegant, egg-shaped pods look futuristic but feel like small nests cradled by the lush jungle vegetation surrounding them.
This glamping spot is connected by a series of footbridges and terraces leading to a dipping pool with a water slide, a trampoline, and a communal pavilion with a shared kitchen. There are spectacular views of the majestic Pacific Ocean from the living area.
The pods are located in the hills near the coastal village of Uvita, Playa Hermosa – a renowned “World Surfing Reserve” that’s also home to Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, where you can spot migrating humpback whales from July to October.
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A bedroom open to the stars at Green Moon Lodge
Green Moon Lodge is a private rental in the hills of Montezuma – one of the world’s renowned Blue Zones. With a a little help from her artist friends, the owner lovingly designed and built this one-of-a-kind property by assembling 1200 concrete blocks, then adding just the right amount of dish-detergent foam injected into handmade molds.
From the outside, it resembles a big green caterpillar because of its three adjoining domed-shaped rooms and round windows. The colorful and lovely interior features ornate welded iron doors and windows, with painted plant and marine motifs adorning walls, archways, and floors.
A roof that opens for stargazing while lying in bed completes this enchanting experience – although seeing monkeys, coatis and agoutis foraging in the tropical garden is pretty magical as well.
Montezuma, a mere 3-minute drive away, is famous for its waterfall, surfing, many beaches and pristine wildlife refuges. Even during the congestion of peak tourist season in December through April, its charms don’t fade.
A canopy getaway at Topo’s Tree House
Instead of cutting down trees to construct his eco-lodge, a hotelier named Topo built around them. The result is a spacious two-bedroom tree house with full kitchen and living quarters spread across two decks. Housed within a living rubber tree whose massive roots have been thoughtfully incorporated into the design, this multilevel guesthouse brilliantly fuses domesticity with nature.
The tree is at the perfect height for spying monkeys, sloths, toucans and parrots. The owner’s reverence for nature also extends to orchids and poison dart frogs – and he has cultivated a garden specifically to encourage their and other jungle fauna’s presence.
The treehouse is just 330ft from Playa Negra in Cahuita, a village settled by West Indian immigrants whose influence is present in the local music and cuisine. Check out the beachfront Reggae Bar, with live music and typical island fare like coconut chicken and fresh grilled red snapper.
And don’t miss out on a guided snorkeling tour along coral reefs at Cahuita National Park.
A cabin in the jungle at Amazonita Ecolodge
Consisting of three very rustic, no-frills cabins (two with well-equipped outdoor kitchens), this small eco-lodge is located in the defunct mining village of Dos Brazos on the Osa Peninsula.
This remote and thrilling region is home to the Reserva Forestal Golfo Dulce, which has some of the oldest and tallest trees on earth, plus the county’s largest and most pristine rainforest, Corcovado National Park.
While Amazonita’s beds are hard, the wi-fi nonexistent, the bugs plentiful and the humidity unbearable (sound good so far?), we can’t recommend this place enough. Every visitor here is close to the heart of the jungle, where nature reigns supreme.
We stayed in Casa Zenon, whose four resident bats came and went through glassless windows at dusk and dawn. Every morning we awakened to a near-deafening yet wondrous symphony of birds, cicadas and other insects.
Guided tours of the rainforest farther afield can be arranged by the family that runs the place, while self-guided walks nearby will take you down the trails of Bolita. Enter the Corcovado with or without a guide using the El Tigre Trail.
Domes to cuddle under at Igloo Beach Lodge
Apparently, igloos aren’t just for winter anymore. Suitable for up to four people, these cool, dome-shaped cabins delight those enjoying the Central American sun. Though they may be white on the outside, they’re deeply green: the Airform design uses half the amount of energy for heating and cooling that conventional structures do.
Laid out around a courtyard, the structures all have doors that open to a shared pool. Expect a lively, health-conscious beach club that draws a younger crowd and offers an array of activities to nourish the body and soothe the spirit.
The club features two onsite restaurants offering light bites, smoothies and cocktails. Communal happenings include Sunday paella, movies alfresco and volleyball on Espadilla Beach, just steps away. Bring your dog (or your toucan), because pets are welcome.
Don’t miss the unspoiled Manuel Antonio National Park, just a mile from the hotel: its rainforest abounds with birds, mammals and reptiles, while three beaches let you lie out and cool down after your jungle walk.
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