Airbnb in Costa Rica is one of the most affordable and enjoyable accommodation options for travelers. We like Airbnb because it is often cheaper than hotel booking sites and it gives you more flexibility in the type of accommodation you choose to stay in.
We created this guide to Airbnb in Costa Rica to give you an extensive overview of how to book a vacation rental, helpful tips for booking the perfect place based on your needs, the pros and cons of Airbnb in Costa Rica, and our experience.
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is a website which allows hosts to rent out their property (room, tent, house, villa etc) to customers on a short-term basis. It is a great service because it allows you (the customer) to search for an accommodation based on your specific travel desires.
It is possible to rent out a shared room, a room in someone’s house, or a private home. When I say “private home” this can range from a small cabin to luxury villas with infinity pools. This all depends on your preference and price range.
Once your account is set up, it’s time to start searching for your perfect Airbnb in Costa Rica!
Finding the best Airbnb in Costa Rica
One thing we really like about Airbnb is that you can search for a particular spot in Costa Rica, for example, Manuel Antonio.
You can also keep your search broad and search for listings throughout all of Costa Rica. This is a good option if you don’t have a particular destination in mind, but instead have particular qualifications that you would like the accommodation to have.
Next, choose the dates, the number of guests, the room type, and more filters such as if there is a pool, how many bedrooms you would like etc.
I like to use the map feature to narrow or broaden my search even more as needed.
When searching for a place in Costa Rica there are a few things to consider.
– Where exactly is the Airbnb located? All listings have a map feature. This is not an exact pinpoint of location (for safety reasons) but rather a radius in which the property is located in.
This is important because sometimes listings will say things like “walking distance to the beach” and when you look at the map you will realize close to the beach means a 15-minute walk in direct sun.
– How are the reviews/ how many reviews are there? I hate to be this person because everyone has to get started somewhere, but I only stay in Airbnb’s with several reviews and they must, of course, be positive reviews. Here is an example of a place that is clearly doing something right.
However, I have also realized that people are not always the most truthful when writing Airbnb reviews. I think it can be difficult to say negative things about a property if you have met the owner in person. Because of this, I think Airbnb reviews are generally a bit more positive than they should be.
– What is the cancellation policy? Every Airbnb host sets their own cancellation policy. It’s important to note if it is possible to receive a refund if something comes up, or not.
– What are the sleeping arrangements? Some places will say things like “sleeps 10” but when you look at the sleeping arrangement section you will realize that 6 of those spots are on pull out couches. Definitely, check this before booking.
-What is the total price? This is something that is annoying about Airbnb. On a listing it might say the accommodation option is $25 per night, which seems like an excellent overall price.
However, when you look at the total it will be $50 per night because there is a cleaning and service fee which were not included in the initial price quote.
These service fees are set by the host so they are different per listing. This means it is necessary to check every listing specifically to see the total price. Sometimes the more expensive listings end up being cheaper due to lower service fees.
-What is the minimum stay? Some places have a minimum nightly stay. Occasionally this is not actually listed and you have to enter your specific dates to see the minimum stay.
–Another tip is to see if the host has several listings. You can do this by clicking their profile picture. If the listing you would like to book looks as if it has private a private pool and then see the host has several properties all with the same pool picture, you know that the pool is not actually private.
The Cons of Airbnb
Although we think highly of Airbnb there are some cons to be aware of before placing your vacation reservation.
– It can be difficult to depict exactly what the accommodation option entails. In other words, we have had a situation in which it seemed as though the apartment we booked on Airbnb had its own balcony. In actuality, it turned out to be a shared balcony for all guests.
We recently stayed at a place that looked very promising from the pictures and reviews, but the outside space ended up being directly on a main road with frequent motorcycles going by at all hours of the day and night.
– The communication aspect can be difficult. When staying at an Airbnb you will likely need to meet up with the host of the listing to retrieve keys for your stay. This is easy for us because we have working cell phones here.
However, if you are traveling from a foreign country and do not have a working cell phone while in Costa Rica, it can become difficult to arrange an exact meeting point and time.
Our suggestions for using Airbnb in Costa Rica
We’ve stayed in a lot of Airbnb’s in Costa Rica and here is what we have learned during our travels.
– Get a place with a nice outside area. Costa Rica is the perfect country to spend as much time as possible outside enjoying the fresh air and looking for diverse wildlife. In our opinion, a nice area with a pool, lounge chairs, or hammocks makes all the difference in an enjoyable Airbnb stay.
– Use the Airbnb website instead of the app. The Airbnb app is functioning and perfect for when trying to book a place on the go. However, in general, the website is much easier to use.
– Make sure to arrange how you will get the key and exactly where you have to go ahead of time. We had a situation recently where the address listed on Airbnb sent us to the middle of the town and the phone number listed on the Airbnb listing was an old number.
We eventually figured out where to go, but I should have confirmed exactly where to go ahead of time with the host.
– Make sure you have a phone so you can contact the host if necessary. In the situation I mentioned above, I was able to email the host and he responded quickly so we were able to find the location.
If your phone is unlocked for international use you can pick up a prepaid card from a phone company called Kolbi next to the baggage claim area in the San Jose airport. This will make it easy for you to send emails if necessary.
You can read more about this in our guide to using your phone in Costa Rica.
Also, if you book your car rental through Adobe with our discount here, you also get a free phone to use for local calls. As long as the phone number on the listing is not wrong (which I think was a pretty rare occurrence), you’ll be able to call the host.
– Stay at a place with a kitchen. One reason we usually opt to stay in an Airbnb is that we like to have a kitchen. It is nice to have the option of cooking our own meals instead of always eating in restaurants. Costa Rican restaurants are not always the most affordable.
Thomas also tends to go fishing whenever we are on the coast. It is nice to have a freezer to keep the fish frozen and a place to cook what he catches (because he always catches tons of huge fish 😉 ).
Also, having a place to keep drinks cold is always a bonus.
I believe that it is not allowed to have a place listed on both the Airbnb and Booking.com sites. People get around this by just changing the name of the listing.
To see if the same listing is on Booking, just enter the area and the general price range and scroll through.
I say to search both sites because sometimes the prices are a bit different.
Just note that some properties on Booking say “13% tax not included in quoted price.” Check for that before thinking it is cheaper on Booking.
– VRBO is also a good option. VRBO is a site that is similar to Airbnb. Usually, there are fewer options than Airbnb, but it is always worth searching VRBO Costa Rica as well.
-Message the host if you have any questions. Most hosts on Airbnb in Costa Rica are great about responding right away if you have any questions or concerns.
Our experience using Airbnb in Costa Rica
We have had really good luck with Airbnb throughout the world and in Costa Rica. In fact, it’s our favorite way to stay in unique places.
Here in Costa Rica we have stayed in villas with ocean views, a house that was only accessible by boat, a cute cabin in the woods in La Fortuna, and plenty of other amazing places.
We have never had a bad experience, but we have, unfortunately, stayed at some places that weren’t exactly what we expected. As I mentioned above in the “cons” section, it can be difficult to know exactly what you are getting sometimes.
Alright, that’s all for our guide to Airbnb in Costa Rica. Please leave any comments or questions in the comment section below. We love to hear from you! Also, don’t forget to sign up for Airbnb here to get $25 off your first stay.
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