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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > Costa Rica

Where to stay in Costa Rica

Hotels

San José has many hotels, from the extravagant to smaller, family-run hotels, and several well-run hostels with dorms. There are good chain-run hotels out of town near the airport. Costa Rica has an excellent reputation when it comes to wilderness lodges, which can be found throughout the country in national parks and remote areas, and tend to occupy the middle to high-end of the budget. They are often marketed with an eco-friendly bent.

Most coastal areas have options from luxury hotels to surfers' camps and cheap cabinas are available everywhere. Larger hotels have swimming pools and other leisure facilities. The majority have their own restaurants, which are generally good and reasonably priced. Several of the best boutique hotels in the country promote themselves through the Small Distinctive Hotels of Costa Rica (http://distinctivehotels.com).

Grading: Hotels are graded from 1- 5 stars according to facilities, customer service and the condition of the building. Some hotels also have leaf ratings (1 – 5, 5 being best) to show that they strive to uphold the ICT's tourism guidelines established in the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) program.

Bed and breakfast

What we know as B&Bs in the UK are more commonly known as guesthouses in Costa Rica. These are smaller, homey places and are cheaper than hotels.

Camping

Facilities for recreational vehicles and campers exist at Belén Trailer Park, at San Antonio de Belén, 8km (5 miles) from San José. Most, but not all, national parks allow camping at designated sites. Many wilderness lodges operate as tent-camps, with some being quite luxurious. Pitching a tent outside designated sites is not recommended due to the risks of robbery or wild animal encounters.

Other accomodation

Backpacker Hostels: Costa Rica has a great backpacker scene. US and German teens flock here on their gap years, along with older people taking years out of their careers. Hostels tend to be relaxed and easy-going, mostly a dormitory affair but many also offer private rooms for an additional fee, and they will offer excursions and trips. You'll need to be quite laid-back to enjoy staying in a backpacker hostel, but they are great places to meet like-minded travellers and are generally of a high standard.

Homestays: Online homestay platforms have become increasingly popular in recent years, offering a vital source of income for many Costa Ricans prepared to rent out their property. There are more than 6,000 hosts on Airbnb, for example.

Cabins: In coastal towns, and in particular on the Nicoya peninsula, you'll find many beach cabins available. These are for the truly back-to-nature travellers, consisting of a little shack and a bed and there will probably be no lock. Remember to bring a mosquito net to combat dengue fever. This is about as cheap as it gets and is a wonderful state of mind to get into (very back to basics) if you can handle it.

Lodges: While not necessarily the cheapest option, lodges near the nature reserves throughout the country are cheaper than hotels and give you a chance to get a bit of peace and quiet and be at one with nature. Self-catering lodges in particular are wonderful – you can choose how you eat and aren't tied into huge tourist groups.

Resorts/Retreats: Costa Rica has a wealthy tourism market which has led to plenty of retreat-style resorts in every corner. Furthermore, as one of the greenest countries on the planet, most of these resorts are completely eco-friendly and really lovely places to be. You will be able to find many spa resorts of incredibly high quality situated in the absolute middle of nowhere, and the peace and tranquillity is overwhelming. It's a great way to do it.

Rural Farmstay: This is popular with longer-term travellers who want to experience a country's culture and local life. Some allow you to volunteer in exchange for somewhere free to stay. For those who don't wish to stay so long and don't want the hard work, many farms will rent out the rooms, nooks and crannies of their farmhouses for very little money, if you don't mind a bit of a rustic stay. You can get thoroughly off the beaten path this way.