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If you are interested in booking a private vacation rental such as a condo, villa, bungalow etc. for your stay in Costa Rica, VRBO is a great choice for searching for this type of place.
VRBO is a vacation rental platform that allows users to rent a short-term place to stay from a private owner.
We have been traveling around Costa Rica for several years now and often opt to stay at a VRBO over a hotel. It is often our preferred accommodation because we like having our own space and having the option of cooking our own meals.
We created this guide to let you know what to look out for, teach you how to best use the search features to find the perfect place, and 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.
A Few of Our Favorite Costa Rica VRBO Listings
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.
Using the VRBO 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.
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.
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.
Here is where you can really filter out what you want. Your filter options are…
Here it gives you the popular search features for the particular area you are looking for. 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.
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. The nightly Price just shows the basic price and doesn’t factor in the additional fees.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 VRBO’s in Costa Rica
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 people are sharing a bedroom.
If you scroll down a bit in the listing there is usually further details on how many bedrooms 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.
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
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.
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 aren’t ready to reserve a place yet, you can 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 in Costa Rica
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.
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.
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. This 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.
Other Advice on VRBO in Costa Rica
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 to get money back for your stay.
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.
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.
- 10% discount for Costa Rica Vibes readers
- Free second driver
- 0% deductible on Liability Protection Insurance
- Excellent customer service
- New fleet of well-maintained vehicles
However, if you plan to rent a villa that is near a town and don’t think you will take any day trips, you can always opt for a private transfer instead.
If you need to, you can get a quote from our favorite transfer company, Adobe here.
Or, if you would like a shared shuttle, Bookaway consistently has the best collection of shared shuttles from reputable companies throughout Costa Rica.
Getting to Your VRBO in Costa Rica
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.
In conclusion, VRBO is a great accommodation option for Costa Rica. It will give you the flexibility to cook and have your own space, unlike many hotels and resorts.
If you have any questions or need help just leave us a message in the comment section below!
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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 allow you to visit more off-the-beaten-path destinations and will allow you to take fun day trips on your own.
☀️ Should I buy travel insurance for Costa Rica?
Yes, travel insurance is always a good idea. It is not just for illness or injury, but also lost luggage, delayed trips, and more!
We like Heymondo for Costa Rica travel insurance.
✈️ 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?
🗣️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
🌴 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.