Costa Rica Hostels – Read This Before Booking a Place

pool mal pais
about us

Hi! We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica.

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Costa Rica is often considered the most expensive country in Central America, and for good reason. It is expensive here compared to other countries! However, it is also an amazing country to visit. If you are interested in traveling on a budget, meeting like-minded travelers, and finding unique things to do; a stay at a Costa Rican hostel might be the best option for you.

Before booking your stay there are a few things you should know…

Best Hostel Booking Sites

costa rica hostel

I suggest comparing HostelWorld and Booking.com as your main search engines to find the best hostels in Costa Rica based on price, amenities, overall vibe etc.

I did a lot of research when writing this and compared prices on both sites. I discovered:

– Sometimes HostelWorld has places available that aren’t listed on Booking.com

– Usually, Booking.com has the best prices and cancellation policies

– Because HostelWorld mostly only lists hostels, sometimes Booking.com is better because they will list hotels that offer private rooms with a shared bathroom which can sometimes be the same price as a bed at a hostel. 

What to Look Out For

hotel la fortuna

Location

Most hostels are located in downtown areas of Costa Rican towns. Staying downtown is most likely preferable so you can easily get to nearby restaurants and activities. 

However, just check before you book anything. Staying at a hostel away from the downtown area can be nice, but it just means transportation will become more complicated.

The Vibe

Most hostels in Costa Rica are social places designed to help travelers connect with like-minded people. However, every place has a different vibe. Most hostels seem to either have a party vibe or a relaxed yoga-type vibe.

Amenities

It is common for hostels in Costa Rica to have a kitchen that guests are allowed to use. Some other amenities to look out for here are:

Air Conditioning or fans – This is a big one because it gets really hot in Costa Rica. Most hostels won’t have AC, but having a fan that you can point on yourself while sleeping is sometimes so helpful.

Swimming Pool – It’s always nice to take a dip on a hot day and this can be a great place to meet people.

Free Breakfast – There are not too many hostels with free breakfast here, but some do offer this. We also like to check if we can buy breakfast at the hostel if there isn’t a free option.

Surf Lessons/ Surf Boards – If you are staying near the beach, check if the hostel offers board rentals or surf lessons.  

Dorm Layout

Pay attention to how many people each dorm fits, if the dorms are coed or same-sex, and the bathroom situation. Depending on your preferences one hostel might be better suited for your needs over another.

Payment Type

Most hostels accept credit cards, but we have also seen some places that only take cash. This is important to pay attention to because in smaller towns it might be difficult to find an ATM.

The Ease of Booking

If you are doing long-term travel in Costa Rica or Central America you might get used to finding places to stay on the fly. Keep in mind that Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination and things tend to book out fast, especially during the dry season. If possible, always book your stay ahead of time.

If you are concerned that your plans may change, pay attention to the cancellation policies. Some places will allow you to cancel very last minute.

Popular Towns to Visit

This is a list of popular backpacker towns, which in turn have a lot of hostels and a more hostel vibe if you will.

Puerto Viejo

puerto viejo

A popular backpacker town on the southern Caribbean coast and a great place to stay on your way to or from Panama. 

Puerto Viejo is a good place to go surfing, bike between nice beaches, visit the Cahuita National Park, and relax.

Suggested Hostels

Kalunai Hostel – They offer small shared rooms and private rooms in the downtown area of Puerto Viejo. There is a nice outdoor hangout area with hammocks and they offer affordable bike rentals.

La Ruka Hostel – Located on the edge of town, this place just has a great feel to it. They offer dorms for 6 and 8 guests.

La Fortuna

la fortuna

La Fortuna is a jungle destination located in the north-central part of the country. This is the place to visit for unlimited adventure. Plus, the views of the Arenal Volcano are amazing!

Some popular activities include; zip lining, white water rafting, relaxing in hot springs, and visiting the La Fortuna waterfall

Suggested Hostels

There are so many options in this area that it was hard to narrow down our list!

Arenal Hostel Resort – The most centrally located hostel. This place features a nice garden area with hammocks, a kitchen for guests to use, a pool, and a pool bar.

Arenal Backpackers Resort – This place is huge and has tons of different accommodation options. They have private tents, shared bunk rooms, private rooms, and cylinder tube rooms (you’ll need to look at the listing to understand what I mean). The amenities include; a swimming pool, board games, pool table, tour desk, garden with hammocks, and a restaurant. There is no kitchen for guests.

Palacios Arenal – This place is slightly smaller than the other two, but doesn’t lack amenities! There is a pool, shared kitchen, game area, and fitness area. This place just has all-around good vibes.

Monteverde

monteverde cloud forest

Monteverde is a cloud forest town located in the northern part of the country. The most popular activity here is zip lining. We like this area for its unique environment and cozy feeling.

Suggested Hostels

Monteverde Backpackers – A comfortable place in the downtown area of Monteverde. It is possible to book a private room or shared bunk room.

Hostel Cattleya – Small hostel with private rooms and shared rooms. I suggest staying here if you want a more relaxed vibe and Monteverde Backpackers if you want more social interactions.

Manuel Antonio

manuel antonio beach

Home to the most popular national park in the country, Manuel Antonio is one of the most visited beach towns by tourists. We suggest staying as close to the beach as possible for a short walk to the national park.

Suggested Hostels

Planet B – A unique hostel that focuses heavily on yoga and vegetarian living. A vegan breakfast is included in the room rate. There are also free yoga or dance classes most days. Just note that this place is located in the hills near Manuel Antonio. There are restaurants around but you will need transportation to get to the beach and national park.

Selina Manuel Antonio – All Selina hostels have the same modern, luxury backpacker vibe. You can expect to pay more than at other hostels, but that is because of the amenities. There is a pool, yoga deck, fully equiped kitchen, on-site restaurant, and cinema room.

Corcovado Area

corcovado

Corcovado National Park is located in the Southern Pacific part of Costa Rica on the Osa Peninsula. It is possible to visit the park as a day trip with a guide or take a multi-day trip with accommodations in the park.

Either way, you will need a place to stay when you aren’t in the park. We suggest staying in either Drake Bay or Puerto Jimenez.

Suggested Hostels

Palapa Hut Nature Hostel – Located near downtown Puerto Jimenez, but on a quiet four-acre property. This place is awesome! There is a shared kitchen, outdoor barbecue, and tons of space to see wildlife. They offer private rooms, tents, and shared dorms.

Jungla de Jaguar – Located in Drake Bay, this place is only accessible by boat. If you want a totally unique experience, this is it. There is a restaurant and bar on the property, it is possible to book tours with an experienced guide, or you can take advantage of the map they give you during check-in to explore on your own. Keep in mind there is no kitchen for guests.

Santa Teresa

santa teresa

Santa Teresa is a remote but bustling beach town. If surfing is your thing, this is the place to be. The only downside is that it is a bit complicated to get here.

From San Jose, you will need to get to the Puntarenas ferry, take the ferry across the Nicoya Peninsula, and then find transportation to Santa Teresa which is about 1:30h away.

Suggested Hostels

Somos – A more luxurious hostel experience next to the beach. Super nice place with a pool and a modern hipster vibe.

Lost Boyz – A fun co-ed hostel located in the center of town. There is a shared kitchen, a large dining area, a restaurant on-site, and evening entertainment almost daily.

Tamarindo

surfer tamarindo

A busy surfing town located only about 1:30h from the Liberia International Airport. There is always something going on in Tamarindo and there are tons of beach hostel options.

Suggested Hostels

Onda – Onda is located just north of Tamarindo on Playa Grande. It is a popular new hotel/ hostel with a fun relaxed surfer-type vibe. Plus they have coworking space options!

Use the code: CRVIBES10 for 10% off your booking directly on their website.

La Botella de Leche – A comfy hostel located in downtown Tamarindo. There is a pool, shared kitchen, board games, and concierge office on the property.

Tamarindo Backpackers Hostel – This place has a younger backpacker vibe. It is possible to book shared or private rooms. There is a pool, nice hang out areas, and a private surf instructor who charges very fair rates.

Hostels Near the Airports

hostel

If you need a place to stay after landing in Costa Rica or before your flight out, here are our suggestions.

San Jose Airport Hostels

When flying in or out of San Jose International Airport it is best to stay in the downtown area of Alajuela or right near the airport. Downtown San Jose is actually about a 25-minute drive from the airport without traffic. During rush hour it is not unusual for the drive to take over an hour.

There is one hostel in downtown Alajuela but it doesn’t have the best ratings. Instead, we suggest staying at a budget-friendly place with a private room. Bonus points if it has a free airport shuttle.

Our top choices are:

Casa Lapa – A hotel in which you can usually get a budget single room for about $25. Breakfast is not included. You can book a shuttle to the airport for $10.

Melrost Airport Bed & Breakfast – A hotel not a hostel. You can expect to pay about $50 per night for a double room. Transportation to the airport and breakfast are included in the room rate.

Liberia Airport Hostels

There aren’t many places right next to the airport but, there are a few great options in the town of Liberia. You will be able to easily get to the airport in about 20 minutes.

Our top choices are:

Hospedaje Dodero – Located in downtown Liberia, this hostel is small and cozy. There are private rooms and bunk rooms. You can book transportation to the airport for $20.

Hotel del Rio – Not a hostel, but you can usually get a private room for about $45 per night. They offer transportation to the airport for a small extra rate.

Best Way to Get to Your Hostel

adobe shuttle

If you are a budget traveler you will most likely plan to depend on public buses for transportation in Costa Rica.

The public bus system here is OK, but it can be difficult to get good connections between certain locations. 

I suggest checking out our guide to backpacking in Costa Rica. I included some good itinerary ideas with easy bus routes.

I also suggest checking out the Centro Casting and Bus Schedule websites for more detailed information on taking the bus around Costa Rica. 

For more info on other transportation options, check out our complete transportation guide.

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Planning Activities While Staying at Your Hostel

hostel

Almost every hostel will have activities that you can book. Usually, these are actually at a decent price rate.

I suggest booking your activities directly from your hostel if it is within your budget. It’s a great way to meet other people and maybe make some buddies for future travels.

If you would like to plan day trips on your own, please keep in mind that you should only ever take legal taxis. You can recognize a legal taxi because the car is red (or orange if coming from the airport) and has a yellow triangle on the driver and passenger side door. 

If your hostel recommends a specific driver and they are not a legal taxi driver, it is most likely OK. The hostel must have good experience with this person or they wouldn’t suggest that person.

Sometimes we see travelers hitchhiking. I wouldn’t encourage this, but understand that sometimes it is your best option for getting around. Costa Rica is usually safe, but petty crime has been known to happen.  

Meal Planning for Staying in a Hostel

hostel kitchen

As I mentioned above, most hostels have a kitchen with fridge that guests can use. If you opt to cook your own meals, there are decent grocery stores in all towns. We wrote a full guide to grocery stores in Costa Rica which has some of our favorite easy meal ideas.

Another option is to eat at “sodas”. Sodas is the name for the small restaurants that serve typical Costa Rican food.

We suggest ordering the daily casado which usually includes a protein, rice, fried plantains, and a salad. You can expect to pay about $7 for a meal like that. 

Remote Working 

remote working

If you are a digital nomad or just planning to get some work done while traveling in Costa Rica, have no fear!

There are some hostels that have coworking spaces on-site. The most popular one is the Selina hostel chain which is located throughout the country.

I find that their prices tend to be way higher than other hostels and I have heard some negative things about them in the past. However, I can’t really judge them because I haven’t stayed at any of their places. As a company they come off as very modern/ hip, so maybe it is actually an excellent place.

If you have stayed here, I’d love to hear what you’ve thought.

Most hostels throughout the country have decent wifi and some type of gathering space which you can use to work. However, sometimes these areas can be loud because they often double as the main hangout area.

Packing for Staying at a Hostel

hostel

Padlock – Usually you will be able to put your valuables in a locker. Bring a sturdy padlock for extra security.

Eye mask – For when your bunkmates won’t turn off their lights.

Earplugs – For when your noisy bunk mates come home from an evening out.

Microfiber towel – For use after a shower or at the beach. We like microfiber because they roll up small to fit in your backpack and dry quickly.

Flip flops – For the showers and for…life.

Packing cubes – When living out of a backpack and staying at a hostel it is so much easier to have your clothes organized by packing cubes.

Money belt – For keeping your money, credit cards, etc close.

Travel size toiletries – Most hostels don’t provide shampoo or soap. If you are not checking a suitcase we suggest TSA approved clear plastic bottles that you can fill up with your shampoo, bodywash etc.

Lightweight PJ’s – It gets hot in Costa Rica (unless you are in the mountains or cloud forest) and not all hostels have AC. Thin sleeping layers are most likely best.

Powerbank – For easily keeping your phone and other electronics charged.

Tupperware – If you plan on cooking your own food it is always good to bring some tupperware for leftovers. Plus, it takes up virtually no space because you can keep clothes in it until you need it.

Bag for wet clothes – We like to just take a few plastic bags from grocery shopping. These are great for wet clothes when you are leaving one hostel and moving on to the next. And, trust us, everything tends to get wet here.

Travel backpack – Definitely travel with a large backpack instead of a suitcase. This will make life much easier when traveling between locations.

Copies of important documents – We like to make a copy of our passports and any other important documents. Just in case things get stolen or lost, this is good to have.

Our Tips

hostel

– Costa Rica is generally very safe, but please always tell someone where you will be. It doesn’t even have to be someone also staying at the same place as you. Just send a quick text to a friend saying, “I’m going to such and such restaurant in this town.”

On that same note, I always leave a copy of my travel itinerary with someone at home, just in case.

– Keep in mind that there are no addresses in Costa Rica. When trying to figure out directions to your hostel or nearby sights you will need to just type in the name of the place.

– As I already mentioned, Costa Rica is mostly safe, but please don’t walk around at night alone. Petty crimes have been known to happen and it seems these occur most often in the evening.

– Keep in mind that during the dry season prices go up and things tend to book up fast. It is best to make reservations if traveling between December and May. During rainy season you can have a bit more flexibility in your travels and can usually find a place to stay somewhat last minute.

If you have any questions about Costa Rican hostels please leave them in the comment section below and we will happily help you out!

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