VRBO in Costa Rica – What to Know Before Booking

An octagon shaped house made of wood in Mal Pais, Costa Rica
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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If you are interested in booking a private accomodation option such as a condo, villa, bungalow etc. for you stay in Costa Rica, VRBO is our top choice for searching for this type of place.

With VRBO you can stay at some really amazing spots.

We created this guide to let you know what to look out for, teach you how to best use the search features, and to give you some insight into VRBO in Costa Rica.

What is VRBO?

VRBO is a search engine platform for finding short-term rentals for vacations. These places can be anything from a single room in a house to an entire private multi-room villa. 

The listings are put on the VRBO platform by the vacation rental owner or property manager. 

The owner of the property listing is in charge of all communication and care for the property. VRBO just acts as the middle point to connect you with a property host. 

In Costa Rica, these places are often owned by foreigners with property managers who care for the rental or locals who will greet you and help make you feel right at home in the country.

Using the Search Features

First, head on over to the VRBO website.

There are tons of different search features you can use to find the best places based on your needs. 

Location

First off, you can select your desired town where you would like to stay in Costa Rica. If you don’t know, just enter “Costa Rica” as your desired location. This is great if you are looking for a particular type of house, but are flexible about where it is. 

Check in / Check Out

This is where you can enter your travel dates. Again, if your dates are flexible you can leave this blank for now.

Guests

Here you can enter the number of people staying in the rental. Again, if you don’t know, you can leave this blank for now. However, make sure you enter the exact number of guests before completin g your reservation. 

After selecting these things just click “Search” you will then be able to further narrow down your filters. 

Filters

Here is where you can really filter out what you want. Your filter options are…

Popular

Here it gives you the popular search features for the particular area you are looking. For example, in Costa Rica, you can check off “pool” or “beachfront” etc.

I suggest leaving some of these blank.

For example, if you really want a pool, this is a good thing to check off, but in my experience sometimes there are oceanfront places and the owner didn’t check off “oceanfront” when they made the listing so, if you check off oceanfront you might miss some great properties. 

Price

Set the limit to what you are willing to pay per night/ total. We usually also set a minimum limit if we are trying to avoid more basic accommodations. 

I suggest searching by Total Price instead of Nightly Price. This accounts for any extra fees such as cleaning costs. Nightly Price just shows the basic price and doesn’t factor in the additional fees.

Room/ Space

Here is where you can select your minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Keep in mind that it is usual in Costa Rica to have multiple beds in one bedroom. 

I suggest not checking off the boxes for kitchen. dining room, living room, and outdoor space. Most places will have all if these things and if you check them off you’ll again miss places that the host might not have written a thorough description of. 

Free Cancellations

Personally, I like to try and find places with free cancellation up until a certain date. You never know if your plans will change, if you’ll get sick etc.

Just make sure to remember to cancel your booking in time if you need.

Features & Amenities

You might want to check off “pool” and “air-conditioning” here.

Property Reviews

I always check off the box to only see places with 4 star reviews and above. Call me a snob, but I only want the best places that other people have loved. 

House Rules

Unless you are planning to have a party or wedding at the VRBO property, you can leave this blank. 

We tend to leave the rest of the options blank until Discounts.

Discounts

If you plan on staying for more than a week, this is something interesting to check off. It’s always good to see which places are more affordable for longer stays. 

Tips for Booking the Best Places

san gerardo cabin

Once you have narrowed down your search I suggest opening several tabs with all the listings you are considering. Read through each one and close the places that don’t seem to be exactly what you are looking for.

From your narrowed down list, we suggest doing a few different things….

Look at the Pictures

The first thing we like to do is look through the pictures. We look for cleanliness, the layout of the home, how modern it is, the kitchen, the pool, the view etc.

Read About this Rental

Next, you can read about the rental. On the top of this section you can easily spot the bedroom info.

For example, sometimes a place will say it sleeps 12 guests, but in this section you will see there are only four bedrooms. That means either somebody is sleeping on a pull-out couch or some peopel are sharing a bedroom.

If you scroll down a bit in the listing there is usually further details on how many bedrooms and and how many beds are in each room.

Check Out Amenities

One thing you will most likely want in Costa Rica is air conditioning. You may also want to make sure the place has a pool, outdoor grill, deck area, etc.

Read Reviews

We typically don’t book places that don’t have any reviews. I know, everybody needs to start somewhere, but I usually don’t like to take that risk on my vacation.

We suggest reading through the reviews and pay attention to any red flags. Usually if I see multiple reviews complaining about the same thing, I tend to not book a place.

Also, I find that if the owner of the place has left multiple responses in which they are very defensive or rude, I tend to avoid a place. 

Look at the Map

It is sometimes difficult to tell by the description just how close the property may be to the beach, town, main road etc. At the bottom of each listing is a map. This will help you get a better idea of exactly where the place is located.

Read the Policies

At the very bottom of the listing is a section on policies

Cancellation

Again, here is where you can see when you cancel until and how much money you will be able to get back if you cancel.

Damage and Incidentals

Here is where you can find out if you are responsible for damage that occurs during your stay.

House Rules

This section is important. It will tell you the check in and check out time, if the house is equipped for young children, how many people can stay here etc.

Trip Board Feature

If you arent ready too reserve a place yet, you cam create an account on VRBO and save your favorite places to a trip board. This is helpful if you are trying to decide between a few different places and want to revisit the listings

Ask the Host Questions

Below the button to book a place there is a button to contact the host. If you have any questions, you can write them here.

There are some very hilly unpaved areas in Costa Rica. It is best to ask your VRBO host about driving to your destination. You may need to rent a 4×4 vehicle if it is located up a steep unpaved hill.

We recently stayed at a place in Manuel Antonio which had amazing views, but it was up about 200 stairs. Carrying our luggage up was not exactly fun. So, if you have trouble walking at all, best to ask your property manager about the accessibility. 

How to Save Money on VRBO

vrbo

Use the US Site

In the top right corner of the VRBO website, there is an area where you can select your country and currency. Different countries have different taxes added to your booking total. In my experience, the US site offers the lowest cost in taxes (so you can sometimes save TONS of money). So, book as if you are based in the US and enjoy a little savings.

Reserve Early

There are tons of places available on VRBO, but all the really great places definitely tend to book out fast. If a place has a great cancellation policy, it never hurts to reserve early. If your plans change you can always cancel the place.

Travel During Rainy Season

The rainy season in Costa Rica runs from late April until November. During this time of year, prices tend to go down and things don’t book out as fast. 

Despite it being the rainy season you will most likely still have decent weather. Just expect a daily afternoon rainstorm that lasts about one hour. 

You can find out more in our guide to Costa Rica weather. 

Compare VRBO, Airbnb, and Booking.com

We have noticed that often in Costa Rica people will list their rental property on all three sites under different names. And, for whatever reason, the prices are sometimes different. 

So, if you have a place in mind that you really like, check out VRBO, Booking.com, and Airbnb to see which offers the best price and cancellation policy. 

Make Compromises

Nobody wants to compromise, but sometimes you might not find a place that checks off all your boxes and is in your budget. If we find a few places that are decent, but none that seem 100% perfect we like to determine our deal breakers and narrow our list down that way. 

For example, for me, I care a lot about having our own space away from other people. Typically, I wouldn’t book a cabin that is directly next to other cabins. The design of a place isn’t as important to me.

Airbnb or VRBO?

In the past, we were big fans of Airbnb and didn’t really use VRBO as much. It seemed that Airbnb had a wider variety of places offered.

In the past few years our opinion has changed a bit. And I will admit, part of that is coming from a travel business owner perspective.

See, in 2019 Airbnb announced that they were going to start an affiliate program so travel writers could receive commissions. So, I, and many other travel writers were able to switch all of our Airbnb links on our websites to affiliate links. Let me tell you, this is a painstaking process, but if it was going to make us money for something I was already promoting, then I was happy to do it.

About nine months later Airbnb announced they were canceling this affiliate program. So, everybody had to then change all their Airbnb links on their websites again and lost an income source we had all come to depend on.

Basically, they alienated a lot of people in the travel business world with that move.

However, besides that, I really dislike that on Airbnb there is no place to see the Total Price as a search feature. Instead, you can only see the total price right before booking. Since there tend to be a lot of extra fees, this can be super frustrating.

The fact that VRBO has a setting to set the total price you are willing to pay, makes life much easier when searching.

Just note, we are part of the VRBO affiliate program. Which means, we do make a small percentage if you book your VRBO through any link in your post. This is at no extra cost to you and we genuinely think highly of them as a company.

A Few of Our Favorite Costa Rica VRBO’s

Villa Fugata – A two-bedroom villa in Playa Flamingo that can sleep 4 guests. This would be perfect for a girl’s trip or a small family. There is a small infinity pool and everything is immaculate. 

Luxury Sunset Villa – A five-bedroom home in Playa Flamingo that can sleep up to 10 guests. This home is beautiful and would be perfect for an extended family or group of friends.

Manhattan hits Jaco – A 3 bedroom/ 3.5 bath condo with views of the Pacific coast in Jaco. Everything is modern and top-notch here. There are 3 balconies, a fully equipped kitchen and shared pool access. 

WORLD FAMOUS 727 Airplane –  You may have seen pictures of this place before (it goes viral from time to time). This is an old 727 airplane that has been converted into a 2 bedroom/ 2 bath home in Manuel Antonio.

Superb Villa with Ocean View – A 4 bedroom/ 4 bath villa that sleeps 8 guests. This is located in the hills above Manuel Antonio and has a private pool. 

Villa Preciosa – This place in Manuel Antonio is perfect for a large group that wants an all-inclusive option. This house sleeps up to 24 guests, comes with a chef, housekeeper, and bartender. There is an all-inclusive meal plan option so your group can fully enjoy all the food and drinks you would like. 

Casa Everlong – If you would like a very modern villa, this would be our choice in Ojochal. There is an indoor fitness area, a large infinity pool that is perfect for laps, and a nice outdoor fireplace.  

Casita Silencio – This is the perfect place for a couple looking for a relaxed and romantic getaway in Mal Pais.

Casa Manana – A 4-bedroom villa that can sleep 8 guests in Playa Hermosa (in Guanacaste). There is a nice outdoor area with a pool and grill. 

The Ranch Villa – Six bedroom home that sleeps 11 guests in La Fortuna. The home is very nice, but the property is just amazing! There is a pool, hot tub, and nice yard.

Also, check out all of our destination guides for the areas of the country you are visiting. We recently added suggested VRBO’s at a variety of price points in each guide.

We also have a guide to treehouses and villas in Costa Rica if you want some unusual VRBO options.

Other Advice

vrbo arenal

Travel Insurance

We always suggest purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance doesn’t just cover you for when you get sick while traveling, it also covers things such as if your plans change last minute and you want tyo get money back for your stay. 

Grocery Shopping

If your VRBO has a kitchen you will most likely want to do some cooking yourself. All bigger towns have decent-sized grocery stores. If you are in a small village you will most likely at least have a mini market that sells basic essentials.

We have a guide to grocery shopping which includes some great basic recipes you can easily make with what you can find in Costa Rican grocery stores. 

Transportation

We suggest renting a car for your trip to Costa Rica. It is almost always the best way to get around and will give you a lot of flexibility in traveling.

BOOK YOUR COSTA RICA RENTAL CAR AND SAVE 10%

The Adobe Rent-A-Car discount includes…..

– A 10% DISCOUNT  

– FREE SECOND DRIVER 

– FREE ROOF RACKS TO USE 

– 0% DEDUCTIBLE ON LIABILITY PROTECTION

– DISCOUNTED SMARTPHONE USAGE WITH UNLIMITED DATA

However, if you plan to rent a villa that is near a town and don’t think you will take any day gtrips, you can always opt for a private transfer instead.

If you need, you can get a quote from our favorite transfer company, Adobe here.

Getting to Your VRBO

Keep in mind that there are no addresses in Costa Rica. Often your VRBO might be listed on Google Maps or the free app Waze under a certain name. Otherwise, your VRBO owner will probably give you directions such as “drive 20 meters past this hotel and turn left at the big tree”. 

We really like the app Waze for driving directions. It is free and works really well here.

And that is all for VRBO’s in Costa Rica! If you have any questions or need help just leave us a message in the comment section below!

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BOOK YOUR COSTA RICA RENTAL CAR AND SAVE 10%

The Adobe Rent-A-Car discount includes…..

– A 10% DISCOUNT  

– FREE SECOND DRIVER 

– FREE ROOF RACKS TO USE 

– 0% DEDUCTIBLE ON LIABILITY PROTECTION

– DISCOUNTED SMARTPHONE USAGE WITH UNLIMITED DATA

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