Costa Rica is such a great place for adventure that, in the past, we might have considered choosing to stay in a resort there somewhat of a cop-out. But come 2021, we are embracing the option of comfort and security on our vacations — and Costa Rica definitely has its luxurious side. The resorts below are all outstanding, offering guests the highest level of Costa Rican customer service with all the opulent amenities of a Central American luxury stay. Whether you are considering staying in the mystical cloud forests in the highlands or want to trek south to the remote jungle of the Osa Peninsula, you can choose from a large variety of unique accommodation options. These are our favorite resorts for the ultimate vacation experience in Costa Rica.
1. The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal — Arenal
The Arenal Volcano is the biggest draw in Costa Rica’s lowland region. Arenal is the most active of the country’s six volcanoes, but it’s been a while since a major eruption, the last having been in 1968. It is located in Arenal Volcano National Park, which encompasses 29,692 acres and treats visitors to one of the world’s most precious ecosystems.
One of the better places to stay when exploring Arenal is The Springs Resort and Spa. The resort was built on 165 acres of private land and is a short 20-minute drive from the town of La Fortuna. The hotel has one of the best views of the volcano and towers over the Arenal Valley below. A range of activities abounds, including horseback riding, kayaking, rock climbing, and access to 28 hot pools and springs. If you’re in need of some rest and relaxation, the spa uses the surrounding nature, drawing on ingredients from the forest for its five-star treatments. The accommodations are also spectacular and all rooms, suites, and villas at the resort come with a balcony, hammocks, beautiful rocking chairs, and a jacuzzi.
2. La Paloma Lodge — Osa Peninsula
Located on the southern part of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, the Osa Peninsula is one of the most remote places in the country. People make the journey here mainly for the reward of incredible surf conditions, but it’s also home to Parque Nacional Corcovado — arguably one of the country’s better national parks in a country jam-packed with them. It’s home to a diverse range of unique wildlife.
La Paloma Lodge is an ideal place to stay if you are interested in exploring the peninsula. The lodge has a team of naturalist guides and promises guests an immersive experience in the surrounding rainforest. The resort sits on Drake Bay, a stretch of coastline where Sir Francis Drake reportedly hid his treasure in the 1500s. This is about as close to a hidden jungle retreat as you can get, with rooms that either open up to views over the ocean or into lush vegetation. Beyond tours of the national park, the resort also runs educational diving and boat trips around the local biological marine reserve, horseback riding along Drake Bay, a canopy expedition, and many other outdoor adventure activities.
3. El Silencio Lodge and Spa — Toro Amarillo
El Silencio sits in a remote valley in the cloud forest highlands near the Poas Volcano. The highlands are a short 90-minute drive from San Jose, making this a superb option if you have limited time in Costa Rica.
The grounds of the resort span over a 500-acre private reserve, and like many of the accommodations listed here, sustainability is at the core of the business. El Silencio makes a huge effort to reduce its environmental footprint in the forest and works hard to protect the local environment and culture. In other words, this is not a Cancun-esque vacation. Guests here are embedded in nature and encouraged to learn why the ecology of Costa Rica is not only special but also hugely important to the wellbeing of the entire planet. The suites are modern and stylish and come with private outdoor hot tubs, while the two- and three-bedroom villas have beautiful kitchens and lounge areas. The onsite restaurant, Las Ventanas, has a seasonal menu, and in keeping with the lodge’s commitment to supporting the region, it draws from local suppliers and farmers.
4. Casa Chameleon at Las Catalinas — Playa Danta, Guanacaste
Playa Danta is on the Guanacaste coast around 45 minutes north of the well-known, busy beach town of Tamarindo. Its location at the north end of Potrero Bay means the black-sand beach does not get big swells unlike most other spots on the coastline, making it a great place to SUP, snorkel, and kayak — all without the crowds.
Casa Chameleon has been built into the hillside above the man-made luxury small town of Las Catalinas. Opulence is what’s on offer here, from the infinity pool with unobstructed views of the ocean, a yoga studio with a 360 panoramic vista, and an exceptional restaurant and bar. Small details such as unique brass door handles from Indonesia to Moroccan-style lighting really set this resort apart from others in the region. The rooms each come with a private saltwater plunge pool, terrace, and a luxurious king-sized bed.
5. Florblanca — Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is a small town on the Nicoya Peninsula around 90 miles from the capital of San Jose. It was once a small fishing hub but now attracts surfers and creatives from all over the world. The main track road of Santa Teresa runs behind the beach and is peppered with nice local boutiques, restaurants, and hipster cafés.
Florblanca’s 11 villas are buried in the jungle that looks over the beach less than a mile from the town. Winding paths connect the rustic but luxurious villas, each with its own two-person hammock and private lounge area. The service here is impeccable — staff learn guests’ names before arrival — and the range of activities on offer is outstanding. If you enjoy outdoor adventure sports, this is a great place to make camp when in Costa Rica.
With a core focus on health and wellness, Florblanca offers classes in surfing, SUPing, fishing, pilates, and yoga. You can go ziplining, take local excursions around the peninsula, or just kick back with a coconut at the highly rated restaurant, Nectar.
6. Kinkara — San Isidro
Built into lush forest surroundings, Kinkara sits on the Talamanca mountain range. Located a short 20-minutes drive from San Isidro, the largest town in southern Costa Rica, the eco-friendly retreat lies 3,000 feet above sea level and has a view of the country’s tallest mountain, Mount Chirripó.
Kinkara is highly rated as being one of the best health and wellness resorts in the country, and past guests rave about the farm-to-table dishes that are produced by award-winning chefs at the onsite restaurant. In fact, the retreat aims to become the most biodiverse source of food grown in one location in the world.
Unlike other options in the country, Kinkara is unique in that its accommodation is glamping. The luxurious tents stand in a circle with inward views that look out over more than 100 beds of vegetables and herbs. Tours of the farm projects are available to all guests, as are other activities such as river hikes, mountain biking tours, yoga and meditation, and world-class treatments at the spa.
7. Secrets Papagayo — Papagayo Peninsula, Guanacaste
Unlike Santa Teresa, which has managed to avoid serious modernization, the Papagayo Peninsula in Guanacaste is a shiny new gated development. Here you’ll find upscale resorts, golf clubs, and a marina.
One of the better resorts on the peninsula is Secrets Papagayo. Unlike most of the places listed here, this property is extensive. There are 202 rooms, and the resort offers all the modern amenities of a typical upscale resort. Secrets is adults-only and attracts a lot of honeymooners looking for a quiet and peaceful escape. There are four on-site, à la carte restaurants; a buffet venue; a grill; and a café, so guests don’t really have to leave the property during their stay if they don’t want to. When it comes to activities, there’s everything you could expect in terms of water sports, but you can really step it up with ATV mountain excursions and individual or group cooking lessons.
8. Nayara Springs — Alajuela Province, San Carlos
Nayara Springs is another resort in the previously mentioned Arenal Volcano area. The Nayara Springs resort is the adults-only section of the well known Nayara Hotel to which it’s connected by a footbridge. Each of the 35 villas is elegant but homey, offering guests privacy with their own private plunge pool and outdoor shower. Breakfast is also served on the villa’s deck, away from other guests. One of the resort’s highlights is its fine-dining restaurant, Amor Loco, which serves up local red snapper and beef tenderloin. The area around the resort and nearby town of La Fortuna is an outdoor playground, but you might not want to leave the confines of Nayara. The resort offers daily yoga sessions, massages in an outdoor pavilion, and an extensive spa menu drawing on local traditions and ingredients.
9. Lapa Rios Ecolodge — Osa Peninsula
Another world-class lodge resort in the Osa Peninsula is Lapa Rios Ecolodge. The eco-conscious resort has been built into the rainforest and consists of 17 private bungalows. As the peninsula is a trek to reach, guests who make this journey commonly have an interest in learning about the unique ecosystem and wildlife — but this is no jungle camp. The upscale eco-lodge has an array of five-star villas to choose from. Each comes with its own private balcony, where guests can enjoy a view of the ocean with a soundtrack of bird song from the surrounding jungle.
10. Si Como No Resort, Spa, & Wildlife Refuge — Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Costa Rica. The park sits on the Central Pacific Coast near the town of Quepos. People flock here mainly because of the park’s beauty. Within its boundaries, you can hike to one of three pristine beaches through the thick rainforest, and this is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.
The Si Como No Resort is not the most luxurious in the park, but it is one of the best in terms of value for money. The property is built into the hillside looking out over the Pacific. The resort has everything you could ever want from a relaxing and fun vacation. A movie theater, full-service spa, two restaurants, and two pools with swim-up bars keep guests fully entertained, and upgraded rooms have ocean views and private hot tubs. It is also an ideal option if you are traveling with family as Manuel Antonio is an easy transfer from the capital San Jose.