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Costa Rica Hotels: What You Need to Know Before Booking

Having a comfortable and nice place to stay while traveling in Costa Rica can make all the difference between an amazing vacation and a not-so-great trip. When booking a hotel in Costa Rica there are some things you need to know and consider first.

We have been living in Costa Rica since 2016 and have traveled all over the country. We have stayed at countless hotels and vacation rentals and have a clear idea of what you need to know in order to have the best experience possible. 

We created this guide to give you info on the best booking websites, make you aware of some things to watch out for, and give you advice on how to save money. 

So, let’s get to it!

Current Costa Rica Travel Discounts

Costa Rica Hotel Booking at a Glance

  • We suggest Booking.com for hotels and VRBO for vacation rentals
  • Make sure to pay attention to reviews and cancel-by date of whatever place you book
  • To save money, travel at off-peak times, stay in budget accommodations, and consider staying in more remote areas
  • Keep in mind that Costa Rica is a lush jungle destination. You might hear or see geckos in your room as well as occasionally other insects, bugs etc.

The Best Websites for Hotel Booking

hotel costa rica

We mostly only use Booking.com when searching for the best Costa Rican hotels. 

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Secure Payment Options: In Costa Rica, some websites don’t always seem the most secure for booking. 
  • Good Cancellation Policies: You need to check each listing individually, but a lot of listings let you cancel up to a certain date. 
  • Great Filtering Options: We like Booking.com because we can filter by rating, reviews, amenities, exact location, and more.
  • User Reviews and Ratings: Definitely check out the reviews before you book a place. This will give you a better idea of the overall vibe. I find that typically the reviews on Booking.com seem to be a bit more honest and real than on sites like VRBO and Airbnb.
  • Possibility to Get the Best Deals: Sometimes Booking.com has insanely good deals and often offers better rates than directly on the hotel website. 

Booking.com Tips for the Best User Experience

  • If you haven’t already, head on over to Booking.com and sign up for an account. This will allow you to be part of their insider program. You will then get better deals the more often you book hotel stays. 
  • Check prices on the mobile app and the website. Sometimes there are mobile discounts as well
  • Make sure to keep track of the cancelation dates so that you don’t miss them. 

Other Booking Platforms

Additionally, you might want to check hotel and vacation property options on: 

  • TripAdvisor: TripAdvisor is a good option for easily seeing exactly which website offers the lowest price and best hotel deals. It is also a good place to check reviews. 
  • VRBO: Our favorite site for booking vacation rentals such as houses, apartments, and villas from private hosts. On VRBO you can filter by places with free cancellation if you prefer. We like vacation rentals for a more private setting and the chance to be more immersed in local culture. 
  • Airbnb: Basically the same thing as VRBO. We find that Airbnb has a greater variety of properties, but we have had some issues with their customer service, so we prefer VRBO.
  • Credit Card Rewards Site: If you collect points on your credit card, your vacation might be the perfect time to use them. Typically, I prefer to use my points when booking a flight because it usually has the best value. However, check out your credit card’s hotel booking options as well. 
  • Direct Booking: I like direct booking on a hotel’s website if they have special combo deals or packages that are not visible on Booking.com. In Costa Rica this is usually possible for more well established hotels, but some smaller places may require you to email them to make a reservation instead of having a secure booking platform. Make sure a booking platform seems secure before entering your credit card info. 

Factors to Consider When Booking

hotel costa rica

Here are all the things you should think about before securing your hotel reservation to find the best hotels for your specific travel style. 

Location and Accessibility

You need to consider if you prefer to stay in the downtown area of a town or if you prefer to be in a more rural area. I think both have their pros and cons. 

It can be nice to be directly downtown so that you have easier access to restaurants and shops within walking distance. 

Also, if you plan to take a lot of day tours with transportation included it is sometimes better to be a bit closer to town. Some of these tours might not pick you up if you are located further away.

The nice thing about being in a more remote location is that it can be more peaceful and gives you a better taste of the country away from the more touristy areas.

If you are in a more remote area it is best to have a rental car so you can easily get to any activities, national parks, restaurants, etc. 

Proximity to Major Attractions

You might want to consider how easy it will be for you to get to major attractions and if that is important to you. 

For example, the Manuel Antonio National Park is the most popular national park in the country for its white-sand beaches and the possibility to see wildlife in their natural habitat.

The surrounding area is filled with hotel options but they can book out fast and be expensive.

Sometimes it is a lot more affordable and more peaceful to stay south of Manuel Antonio in Dominical or north of Manuel Antonio in Esterillos. You can then visit Manuel Antonio National Park as a day trip. 

The Overall Vibe

Is the hotel a family friendly place with multiple kids pools?

Or is it geared more towards adults looking for peaceful relaxation?

We are all about finding the best vibes for your vacation (hence our website name) so, these are definitely things to consider when selecting the ideal hotel for your visit. 

Room Size and Features

Here is what you need to think about when it comes to the actual hotel room here.

Air Conditioning

In a lot of places in Costa Rica an air conditioning unit in the room is somewhat of a must have. This especially applies to the beach towns where it can be very warm and humid even at night. 

It may seem like a given that a room would have AC in these places, but this is actually not always true. In a lot of more budget-friendly places it is not unusual to only have a standing fam. So, definitely check each listing

In the Central Valley area (San Jose, Alajuela, San Gerardo de Dota) you really do not need an AC unit.

Also, you do not need AC in Monteverde and usually you will be fine without it in La Fortuna.

Private Bathroom

In more budget-friendly hotels in Costa Rica it is not unusual to see listings that have a shared bathroom.

It can be easy to miss this detail in the booking, so just make sure you check what the bathroom situation is specified as.

Number of Beds

In a lot of more budget-friendly hotels it is not unusual for them to cram as many beds as possible into a room.

This can be great if you are traveling with a family.

However, sometimes a place might specify that it can sleep up to 6 guests, but when you actually look at the pictures you will realize that one bed is a pull out couch or the beds take up the entire room with no space to walk.

Amenities and Services

Here are some different amenities and services you might get at a Costa Rican hotel.

Breakfast

Have you ever had Gallo Pinto? This is a mix of rice and beans and it is the traditional breakfast in Costa Rica. It is typically served with a side of eggs, fried plantains, occasionally a piece of cheese, coffee, and a fresh fruit juice.

It is delicious and very filling!

We like to to try and find hotels with breakfast included because it might save you a bit of money and is a great way to get a taste of the culture. 

If you are not a big breakfast eater, this might not be important to you.

Pool

We love to find a place with an outdoor pool while traveling in Costa Rica.

It is a great built-in activity and a nice way to cool down and relax after a day filled with fun adventures.

Keep in mind that several beaches here have rip currents, so they are not always the best for swimming.

A swimming pool can be a great alternative to that.

Kitchen Access

Many hostels and more budget friendly hotels have shared kitchen access in Costa Rica. More high end accommodations might have a private kitchen or kitchenette in the room. 

You will need to decide if this is a priority for you. Personally, we love finding a place with a kitchen because it allows us to save a lot of money by cooking our own food, gives us the option of keeping drinks cold in the fridge, and Thomas is always fishing so having a kitchen lets us cook up all the tasty fish he catches. 

If a kitchen is very important to you, you might want to consider looking on VRBO for vacation properties. Booking.com also has a lot of apartments and houses listed in recent years as well. 

Other Property Features

Consider what else is important to you. Sometimes in Costa Rica you can find places with amazing views, direct beach access, a restaurant on the property, a spa, fitness center, on-site hiking trails etc. 

Our Hotel Booking Method

hotel costa rica

One of the things I am best at in this life is finding amazing hotels at great price points. I know, I should definitely put that on my resume. 😉 

So, here is my exact (somewhat neurotic) method if you would like to be a bit crazy like I am.

  1. Open Booking.com and VRBO.
  2. In Booking.com and VRBO enter your dates and location
  3. In Booking.com filter by places rated 9.0 and above, your max price point per night, and any other make-or-break amenities or qualifications you may have. 
  4. In VRBO in the filters tab select any make or break features such as a pool. Then in the Price tab select your price range. In the “Sort by” tab I suggest sorting by “Guest Rating”.
  5. Open every single hotel/ vacation rental listing that matches your qualifications in new tabs. Yes, you may end up with like 40 tabs.
  6. Go through each listing and close any tabs that aren’t exactly what you want. I suggest looking at:
    • The exact location on the map
    • The amenities
    • The pictures of the rooms and property
    • The reviews
    • Does the price point seem reasonable?
    • Does the vibe match with what you are looking for (family-friendly, adult-only, etc.)
  7. You will then hopefully be left with a handful of amazing places. From there, I usually ask the opinion of my travel companions and we are typically able to narrow it down to one perfect place.

How to Save Money and Get the Best Deals

la fortuna hotel

Here is how we get great deals at the best places in Costa Rica. 

Book with Free Cancellation

A lot of the hotels on Booking.com offer free cancelation up to a certain date. This is one of the many reasons we prefer Booking.com rather than booking directly through a hotel website. 

Additionally, if you opt to book a vacation property on VRBO, you can filter by places with free cancellation options as well. 

This is helpful if your plans may change

Book Far in Advance

The further in advance that you book the more hotel and accommodation options you will have.

This is when Booking.com is super helpful because of the whole free cancellation thing if you happen to find a better option later.

Stay in Less Popular Areas

If you visit popular towns such as Manuel Antonio, Nosara, Tamarindo, and the Pacific Coast beaches near Liberia Airport you can expect to pay more for hotels.

Instead, opt for smaller towns that are more remote. 

The exception to this are the popular jungle towns of Monteverde and La Fortuna. We are always able to find great places to stay in these towns that aren’t crazy expensive. 

Travel at Off-Peak Times

The busiest and most expensive time to visit Costa Rica is during the dry season (late December – late April).

From early May until July you can expect mid-season prices. Hotels will be a bit cheaper.

From August until December prices go way down for hotels and you will have more variety. The only problem is, some hotels shut down during this time of year because there just isn’t enough demand to stay open. 

Accommodation Options in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Hotels: What You Need to Know Before Booking

In Costa Rica it is possible to find accommodation options for all budgets and interests. Here are some other cool places to stay. 

Glamping

Have you always wanted to stay in a beautiful elevated tent or unique dome with luxury amenities in the middle of the jungle? That’s what glamping is all about, and it’s awesome.

Check out our guide to the 21 best glamping spots in Costa Rica for more info.

Tree House Rental

Yes, in Costa Rica you can stay in an elevated property in the trees. This is a fun way to connect with nature and have a completely unusual experience.

Check out our guide to the 12 best tree house in Costa Rica for more info.

Retreats

If you are interested in surfing, yoga, or wellness; a retreat with accommodations included might be a great option for you. 

Check out our guide to yoga retreats or our guide to wellness retreats for more details.

Vacation Packages

Want to take all the stress out of planning? Consider booking a guided vacation package for your vacation.

This is a great way to have transportation, hotels, meals, and activities in one package with an experienced guide leading the way.

We like TourRadar for the best selection of vacation packages and tours in the country.

Hot Spring Hotels

La Fortuna is home to several hot springs with epic volcano views and pools of various temperatures.

Some of these hot spring parks also have an on-site hotel with direct access to the pools.

Find out more with our guide to hot springs in La Fortuna

Resorts

There are tons of resort options in Costa Rica from all-inclusive resorts that are perfect for a romantic getaway to family friendly places.

In our opinion, this is such a beautiful country that we believed you should not spend your entire trip at a Costa Rica resort.

Instead, divide your vacation between resort relaxation and exploration. 

Check out our guides to:

Boutique Hotels

Boutique accommodations are places that are often smaller than a typical hotel, are artfully designed, and are often eco friendly.

In Costa Rica it is possible to find an adults-only boutique hotel, family friendly places, places with a focus on sustainability, and more. 

Check out our guide to boutqiue hotels in Costa Rica for the best places to stay.

Hostels

If you are budget traveler, backpacking through Central America, or a solo traveler you might consider staying at hostels for you Costa Rica vacation.

There are hostels located throughout the country in various forms.

It is possible to find budget friendly places with mixed dorms, female only dorms, or private rooms with shared bathrooms.

We like hostels because they are a great way to meet likeminded travelers.

Check out our guide to hostels in Costa Rica for more info. 

Airport Hotels

There are two international airports in Costa Rica.

The most popular airport is the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in San Jose. This is the most centrally located and provides easy access to almost anywhere in the country.

Check out our guide to San Jose Airport area hotels for great place to stay when you land or before you fly out.

The second international airport is Liberia Internation Airport (LIR) in the northwest corner of the country.

This is a ideal place to fly into if you would like to explore the beautiful beaches in Guancaste.

Some of the best luxury hotels are located in this area on the Papagayo Peninsula with Pacific Ocean views.

It is also a good starting point to drive to La Fortuna or Monteverde.

Check out our guide to Liberia Airport area hotels for more info.  

Hotels for Your Honeymoon or Romantic Getaway

If you are looking for a hotel for a romantic getaway we suggest a adults-only luxurious hotel or resort.

It is possible to find places with a private plunge pool, beautiful guest rooms, spa treatments, and more.

Check out our guide to booking your honeymoon in Costa Rica for more info. 

Hotel Safety Info

hotel arenal

In general, Costa Rica is a very safe country. We have never had a hotel room or vacation rental broken into the entire time we have been living here.

However, that doesn’t mean that it never happens.

Petty theft is the most common crime that can occur here. 

I will say, almost every hotel we have stayed at has had several safety measures in place including night time security guards that patrol the property. 

To further ensure your safety we suggest:

  • Keep all valuables in the in room safe. This includes passports. We suggest carrying a photocopied paper passport with you when exploring and keep you passport locked up in the room.
  • Put the Do Not Disturb sign on your door
  • Don’t leave stuff hanging on the patio, private terrace, etc, while away. 
  • Tell someone at home which hotels you will be staying at. 
  • Travel insurance is an added expense, but it is so worth it to purchase! Travel insurance doesn’t just cover you for things like illness, it also covers changes in travel plans, lost luggage, etc. For hotels, it is great because if you have already paid for your hotel and your plans change at the last minute, you can apply to your travel insurance company to get refunded. 

Other Things to Know About Hotels in Costa Rica

playa hermosa hotel
  • Most places have free WIFI throughout the property. It is very unusual to cone across a place that does not have WIFI.
  • Outlets are the same as in the United States. This is 110 volt plugs. If you are traveling from Europe you will need to bring an adapter.
  • Some things to pack for your hotel stay include:
    • A surge protector: The power sometimes goes out during big storms. This will protect your electronics.
    • A headlamp: The suns sets daily between 5:30 pm and 6pm. If you plan on doing any evening exploring you might want a headlamp or flashlight.
    • A deck of cards: Because the sun sets so early you might be looking for ways to entertain yourself in your hotel room in the evening. We always bring a deck of cards because it takes up almost no space and can keep you entertained for hours.
  • A lot of mid-range to budget hotels have a more rustic feel. You might see geckos to some insects. It is all part of the jungle life. I suggest checking your sheets every night before you get into bed and shake your shoes out before putting them on.

Ready to Book Your Hotel?

Use the widget below to search for the best hotels in Costa Rica for all budgets and interests.

 

Conclusion: Costa Rica Hotels

In conclusion, you are bound to find the best options for hotels in Costa Rica by following our tips. If you have any questions about booking your hotel don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out!

You Might Also Like:

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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One Comment

  1. Stacy S. Bolich says:

    We love Air bnb too! I’d say be careful about cancellation policies. I got burned one time by rushing to book without at the strict cancellation.

    Our family of four is hoping to come down in 2019 right after New Years. The ‘kids’ are all grown and on their own, but we love to travel together! I’ll be using your site to help me out.

    Cheers!