Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. Packed with lush rainforests and pristine beaches, this small Central American country is perfect for enjoying outdoor adventures, incredible food, and a relaxing holiday of surf, sand and sun.
But with so many different towns and neighbourhoods to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know where to stay. Which is why we wrote this article for where to stay in Costa Rica.
Written by travellers for travellers, this article breaks down the best neighbourhoods in Costa Rica by travel need and budget. So no matter what you’re looking to do, you’ll be able to find the neighbourhood of your dreams.
Here are our picks for where to stay in Costa Rica.
Table of Contents
- Quick Tips – Where to Stay in Costa Rica
- Where to Stay in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Neighborhood Guide
- Costa Rica’s 5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in
- 1. San Jose – Where to stay in Costa Rica first time
- 2. Monteverde – Where to stay in Costa Rica on a budget
- 3. Puerto Viejo – Best area to stay in Costa Rica for nightlife
- 4. Cahuita – Coolest place to stay in Costa Rica
- 5. Puerto Jimenez – Best neighbourhood in Costa Rica for families
Quick Tips – Where to Stay in Costa Rica
- Where to stay in Costa Rica first time – San Jose
- Where to stay in Costa Rica on a budget – Monteverde
- Best area to stay in Costa Rica for nightlife – Puerto Viejo
- Coolest place to stay in Costa Rica – Cahuita
- Best neighbourhood in Costa Rica for families – Puerto Jimenez
In a hurry? Here’s my top neighborhood for first timers:
- Dine on delicious Latin fare at Restaurante Silvestre
- See a performance or take a tour of the elegant Teatro Nacional Costa Rica
- Shop for souvenirs at the Mercado Nacional de Artesanias
Where to Stay in Costa Rica
Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Costa Rica.
Best Hostel in Costa Rica: Turtle Saving Hostel
Thanks to its great location in San Jose’s creative Barrio Escalante, this is our pick for the best hostel in Costa Rica. It sits surrounded by gastro pubs, bars, cafes and shops. This hostel has clean, comfortable and spacious dorms and modern amenities.
If you love hostels, you should check out our list of the coolest hostels in Costa Rica!
Best Hotel in Costa Rica: Physis Caribbean Bed & Breakfast
This is our pick for the best hotel in Costa Rica. Set in stunning Puerto Viejo, this five-star B&B is comprised of four cosy and charming rooms, perfect for unwinding after a day at the beach. It has a range of fantastic features, including a BBQ/picnic area and an on-site library.
Costa Rica Neighborhood Guide
Quick Summary: The Best Places to Stay in Costa Rica
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Costa Rica is a unique and spectacular travel destination.
One of the greenest countries in the world, Costa Rica has a reputation for its pristine, golden sand beaches and its verdant active volcanoes. It’s where you can enjoy a myriad of outdoor adventures and is a paradise for intrepid travellers.
Costa Rica is divided into 7 provinces, which are further sub-divided into a whopping 473 distinct districts.
Towards the north of the country is Monteverde. This charming town is home to the second most popular tourist attraction in the country, the exquisite Monteverde Cloud Forest. Here you’ll also find a great variety of natural attractions, as well as coffee and chocolate plantations, tasty restaurants, and budget accommodations.
Travel south and you’ll arrive in San Jose. The largest city and capital of Costa Rica, San Jose is a modern city complete with historic landmarks, tourist attractions, cultural institutions, and exotic nightlife and dining options.
Head southeast from here towards to Caribbean coast to Cahuita. Famous for its black-sand beach, Cahuita has a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, perfect for an enchanting seaside holiday.
As you continue south you’ll arrive in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. A former fishing village dotted with incredible beaches, Puerto Viejo is a natural paradise that comes alive as the sun goes down.
And finally, hop over to Puerto Jimenez on the Pacific coast. Home to one of Costa Rica’s most impressive national parks, Puerto Jimenez is where you can enjoy an action-packed adventure holiday filled with animal encounters and unforgettable memories.
Still not sure where to stay in Costa Rica? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
Costa Rica’s 5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in
Now, let’s take a look, in more detail, at the best towns and neighbourhoods to stay in Costa Rica. Each is a little different from the last, so be sure to pick the area that’s the right fit for your style, interest and budget.
Situated on a plateau in the Central Valley, San Jose sits at the heart of the country. It’s where you’ll find not only most of the country’s population, but it is a hub for art, culture, history, food and nightlife – which is why it’s our recommendation for where to stay if you’re visiting Costa Rica for the first time.
Boasting a fantastic selection of theatres, museums, art galleries and restaurants, you certainly won’t be bored in the Costa Rican capital.
San Jose is also the perfect base for exploring the country thanks to its central location. From here you’ll be able to enjoy convenient access to all of Costa Rica’s top landmarks, sightseeing attractions and major tourist centres.
Things to See and Do in San Jose
– Browse the exhibits at Museo de Arte Costarricense.
– Dance the night away at Rapsodia.
– Dine on delicious Latin fare at Restaurante Silvestre.
– Eat savoury snacks at La Criollita.
– Explore the Ruinas de Ujarras.
– Sample Costa Rican delicacies at Restaurante Ram Luna.
– Savour cheap and tasty dishes at Chelles.
– See a performance or take a tour of the elegant Teatro Nacional Costa Rica.
– Shop for souvenirs at the Mercado Nacional de Artesanias.
– Take a stroll through Parque Central.
– View incredible works of art by local and indigenous artists from throughout Central America.
– Wander throughout the Plaza de la Cultura.
Best Hostel in San Jose: Turtle Saving Hostel
Thanks to its great location in San Jose’s creative Barrio Escalante, this is our pick for the best hostel in the city. It is surrounded by gastro pubs, bars, cafes and shops. This hostel has clean, comfortable and spacious dorms and modern amenities.
Best Hotel in San Jose: Taormina Hotel and Casino
A central location and attentive staff make this our pick for where to stay in San Jose. Set at the heart of the city, this hotel is close to the National Theatre and San Jose’s top tourist attractions. It has comfortable and spacious rooms with air-conditioning and a range of contemporary amenities.
Best Hotel in San Jose: Hotel Presidente San Jose City Center
This fantastic four-star hotel comes complete with a roof-top terrace, exquisite rooms, and a fantastic location. Set at the centre of the city, this hotel is close to museums, markets, shops and restaurants. It has recently refurbished rooms, perfect for relaxing after a day of sightseeing in the city.
Lush scenery and incredible nature – it’s no wonder Monteverde is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Home to the majestic Monteverde Cloud Forest, this magnificent mountain community is where you can enjoy a myriad of outdoor activities including hiking, trekking and zip lining through the clouds, as well as animal encounters and out of this world food experiences.
Monteverde is also where you’ll find a good selection of budget accommodations perfect for backpackers and cost-conscious travellers.
It’s the perfect destination for travellers with a limited amount of time. Within this small region, you can experience a wide variety of natural landscapes from rainforests and reserves to active volcanoes and beautiful beaches. If you are low on funds, then you will want to limit your accomodation costs to save money for your Costa Rica activities.
Things to See and Do in Monteverde
– Dine on delicious food at Sabor Tico.
– Eat authentic Costa Rican fare at Raulito’s Pollo.
– Hike through the incredible Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.
– Savour great food and a fantastic vibe at Soda Bonanza.
– See a large variety of butterflies, insects and arachnids at the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens.
– Surround yourself with beautiful and colourful flowers at the Monteverde Orchid Garden.
– Taste awesome tacos at Taco Taco.
– View waterfalls and breathtaking views at Valle Escondido Preserve.
– Visit The Bat Jungle.
– Walk above the clouds at Selvatura Park.
– Walk the beautiful trails through Curi Cancha Reserve.
– Zipline through the Monteverde Cloud Forest.
Best Hostel in Monteverde: Monteverde Backpackers
This charming and colourful hostel is located within walking distance of public transit, a grocery store, and Monteverde town centre. It has a great selection of dorm rooms and a variety of modern features. You’ll enjoy unlimited wifi, satellite channels, and a free breakfast during your stay.
Best Hotel in Monteverde: Monteverde Ecolodge
Monteverde Ecolodge is a modern and comfortable hotel that gets our vote for where to stay in Monteverde. A convenient base for exploring the region, this hotel is close to the Cloud Forest and the city centre. It has nine well-appointed rooms, wifi access, and relaxing gardens.
Best Hotel in Monteverde: Trapp Family Lodge Monteverde
This awesome hotel comes complete with massage services, laundry facilities, and a convenient airport shuttle. Set in Monteverde, this hotel provides easy access to the region’s top attractions. There is also hiking and horseback riding nearby. Enjoy modern rooms with private bathrooms and satellite channels at this rustic three-star hotel.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a small coastal town nestled in Carribean Costa Rica. It is a former fishing village that is fast becoming a tourist hotspot thanks to pristine beaches and crystal clear waters, exotic jungle and amazing wave breaks. With its laid-back atmosphere and ultra-cool vibe, Puerto Viejo attracts travellers and tourists from around the world.
This small seaside village is also where you’ll find some of the best nightlife in Costa Rica. Although you won’t find many heaving clubs and all-night dance floors, in Puerto Viejo you can enjoy a few drinks, good music and a great time almost any night of the week.
Things to See and Do in Puerto Viejo
– Dance the night away at Johnny’s Place.
– Dine on delicious dishes at Café Rico.
– Enjoy cheap drinks, tasty food and a laid-back vibe at Tasty Waves Cantina.
– Explore the beautiful Finca La Isla.
– Party with locals at Mango Sunset.
– Play in the surf at Puerto Viejo Beach.
– Sample a great selection of chocolate products at Chocorart.
– Sip Costa Rican microbrew at The Point Sports Bar and Grill.
– Soak up some rays on Playa Chiquita.
– Spend a day drinking and hanging out at The Lazy Mon at Standford’s.
– Visit La Ceiba for an unforgettable experience.
– Wander throughout the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve.
– Watch the sunset at Salsa Brava.
Best Hostel in Puerto Viejo: Pagalu Hostel
This cosy hostel was inspired by its beautiful surroundings and the beaches of Manzanillo. Located in Puerto Viejo Town, this hostel is within walking distance of all the town’s top offerings. It has a comfortable common room, a full kitchen, and a good selection of clean and secure dorm rooms so your bags are safe.
Best Hotel in Puerto Viejo: Physis Caribbean Bed & Breakfast
This five-star bed and breakfast is our top choice for where to stay in Puerto Viejo. It is comprised of four cosy and charming rooms, perfect for unwinding after a day at the beach. This property also boasts a range of fantastic features, including a BBQ/picnic area and an on-site library.
Best Hotel in Puerto Viejo: Hotel Banana Azul
Set in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, this delightful three-star hotel is one of the best in the area. This hotel has attentive staff, incredible views, and a beautiful outdoor swimming pool. It also has a garden, terrace and a BBQ area. This hotel has 14 unique and large rooms with essential amenities.View on Booking.com View on HostelWorld View on Agoda
Cahuita is far and away one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Costa Rica. Tucked away on the country’s southern Carribean coast, Cahuita is a lush and verdant paradise famous for its black sand beaches and its exquisite national park.
The region’s main attraction is Cahuita National Park. Covering more than 11 square kilometres of land, the park is a haven for hikers, trekkers and outdoor adventurers.
Prefer to explore beneath the waves? Cahuita is also a great place for snorkelling and scuba diving. Within the park, there is an incredible reef that is home to more than 35 species of coral, as well as fish, molluscs, fish and the occasional turtle.
Things to See and Do in Cahuita
– Dine on fresh and delicious seafood and more at Sobre las Olas.
– Eat great Costa Rican dishes at El Rincon del Amor.
– Explore the rainforest with Tarantulas Way to see all those creatures that go bump in the night.
– Go for a swim at Playa Negra.
– Hike through the incredible Cahuita National Park.
– Relax on the white sands of Playa Blanca.
– See lazy sloths at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica.
– Sink your teeth into a delicious slice at Pizzeria Cahuita.
– Sip a coffee and satisfy your sweet tooth at Aroma, Coffee Bar.
– Visit with rescued animals at Tree of Life Wildlife Rescue Centre.
Best Hostel in Cahuita: Secret Garden
The Secret Garden Hostel is in a fantastic location for exploring the best of Cahuita – winning our vote for the best hostel in the region. It has comfortable rooms, a social common area, and a lush garden that frequently welcomes wild animals. There is also a large terrace and relaxing hammocks.
Best Hotel in Cahuita: Hotel Suizo Loco Lodge & Resort
This three-star hotel offers free wifi, a swimming pool, and a relaxing sun deck. It also boasts a library, terrace and table tennis for guests. Comprised of 11 comfortable rooms, this hotel has modern amenities and a great location. It’s no wonder this is one of our favourite Cahuita hotels.
Best Hotel in Cahuita: Hotel El Encanto
Hotel El Encanto is our recommendation for where to stay in Cahuita. Ideally located, this hotel is a convenient base for exploring the city as it’s close to the park, restaurants and other top attractions. It has seven spacious rooms, a terrace and a garden, and a relaxing and stylish lounge bar.
One of the largest towns on the Osa Peninsula, Puerto Jimenez is our recommendation for where to stay in Costa Rica for families. Set on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, this former logging and gold mining town is famous for its stunning views, exquisite landscapes and its bio-diversity.
Puerto Jimenez is also known as the gateway to Corcovado National Park. The world’s only lowland rainforest, Corcovado is 424 square kilometres of lush forest, wild animals, and incredible hiking trails. Strap on your boots and keep your eyes peeled, because you never know what amazing sights and animals you’ll see from the trails.
Things to See and Do in Puerto Jimenez
– Cool down with a refreshing dish of rolled ice cream at Heladeria Buen Rollo.
– Eat incredible meals at Soda Jimenez.
– Enjoy a day of sun, sand and surf at Playa Preciosa.
– Explore the lush landscapes of Puerto Jimenez on horseback.
– Hike through verdant and stunning Corcovado National Park.
– Rent kayaks and explore the calm waters of the Costa Rican rainforest.
– Savour fresh seafood and great views at Marisqueria Corcovado.
– See incredible and colourful animals at Osa Wildlife Sanctuary.
– Take a tour of the Golfo Dulce and spot whales, dolphins and other majestic sea creatures.
– Visit Rancho Raices de Osa and sample locally grown chocolate treats.
Best Hostel in Puerto Jimenez: La Palapa Hut Hostel & Camping
Tucked away in the tropical jungle, this hostel is surrounded by lush forests, babbling brooks, and verdant mangroves. It has comfortable beds, free wifi, and self-catering facilities. There’s also an incredible outdoor pool. Keep your eyes peeled throughout your stay, you never know when you’ll see a wild creature wander by.
Best Hotel in Puerto Jimenez: Hotel Corcovado Beach Lodge
This rustic lodge is located in Puerto Jimenez. It is just a few short steps to the beach and is close to a good selection of restaurants and cafes. This hotel offers free wifi, a relaxing terrace and a helpful on-site tour desk.
Best Hotel in Puerto Jimenez: Agua Dulce Beach Resort
Agua Dulce Beach Resort is our top recommendation for where to stay in Puerto Jimenez. A stone’s throw from the beach, this resort is ideally located for exploring the region. It has private beach access, an outdoor swimming pool, and an on-site bike rental for guests. There’s also a relaxing lounge bar and an in-house restaurant.
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Costa Rica
Lush landscapes, verdant forests, pristine beaches and a laid-back way of life; Costa Rica is nothing short of paradise. It’s a country that perfectly balances action and adventure with interesting history, thriving culture, a delicious food scene and unparalleled nature.
In this guide, we’ve highlighted the five best neighbourhoods to stay in Costa Rica by interest and budget. If you’re still not sure where to stay, here’s a quick recap.
Turtle Saving Hostel in San Jose is our favourite hostel thanks to its great location in trendy Barrio Escalante. It offers clean and comfortable beds, modern amenities and a friendly atmosphere.
Another great option is the Physis Caribbean Bed & Breakfast in Puerto Viejo. This five-star property is within walking distance of the beach, bars and bistros and has a great range of features for guests.
While Costa Rica can be very safe, it’s super important to make sure you get travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
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