The REAL Costa Rica
 



Hotels, Motels, B&B's Costa Rica

Contents: Click to read

General Information about accommodations in Costa Rica
Hotels & Resorts
Aparthotels
Bed and Breakfast
Hostels
and the famous Motels!

General Information about hotels and accommodations in Costa Rica

Want to spend a few thousand dollars per night for a nice hotel?  Want to spend a few dollars per night for a clean room and a bed? You can do either in Costa Rica and everything in between because we have it all here. 

Costa Rica can accommodate any budget!  Costa Rica is a beautiful natural paradise served by over a thousand hotels, beds and breakfast, resorts, aparthotels, hostels and the infamous Costa Rica motels!

Whatever you chose, remember that as of the writing of this page there is still a shortage of quality hotel rooms in some parts of Costa Rica, though this problem has now been mostly resolved.  What do I mean by quality?  I mean a hotel with hot water, clean beds and a private bath in the room.  Your definition of quality may be a LOT higher.  To me, the bathroom thing rules as I do not like sharing that facility with someone or many someones whose personal hygiene I do not know or I suspect may be ummm... well you get the point! While you can always find something, I recommend phoning ahead or reserving by Internet to make sure you can get something decent. This is less important during the rainy season, June to November.

Remember that most US cell phones do NOT work in Costa Rica and those that do may have roaming charges as high as $5.00 per minute, so consider renting a phone while you are here if you feel that you will want to keep in touch. Phones are available in the rooms of most better quality hotels, but many of the budget hotels and all hotels often only have a phone in the lobby. 

Plan your trip early... especially from December to May.  Also, Christmas and Easter are HUGE holidays here and most rooms, quality or not, are booked months in advance.  This is where a good travel agent can help you out. If you use a travel agent, make sure they have actually been here. Many have.. many have not. Hotel web sites often have stunning photos but may not fairly represent the actual property. Most are pretty accurate though.

Accommodations are located everywhere... in the cities, next to volcanoes, in the jungles, in the rainforests, at the beaches, in the mountains, on the banks of rivers and lagoons... just about everywhere you might want to go in Costa Rica, there will be an something to fit your needs. Here is what to expect:

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Hotels and  Resorts in Costa Rica

Most of the hotels in Costa Rica are smaller hotels – with generally 40 rooms or less though this is changing. A large Costa Rican hotel is about 80 rooms. Therefore, most of the quality hotels that people read about fill up very early and very quickly and may not have any vacancies for the dates you want if not booked months and months ahead of time. This is especially true over the holiday seasons. 

Larger International chain hotels have come to Costa Rica; providing individuals the 5 STAR luxury at 10 STAR prices that these hotels are famous for. The service from these larger hotels is exactly what you expect; with room designs and public areas equal to those in their other hotels worldwide – adapted, of course, for Costa Rica. Saying that, you are going to get what you would get if you were in a fine hotel in the US or Europe. Lots of people like that. Others prefer something more local in nature. Costa Rica has a ton of boutique hotels that are just out of this world. Many have 25 rooms or less, good restaurants, and excellent service plus a special ambiance not found in the big international hotels. Regardless... whatever you want... we got it!

Costa Rica hotels are rated by the Ministerio de Tourismo of Costa Rica based upon their criteria. The star rating means that the hotels offer and have available to the guest those services the Ministerio requires for the star rating the hotel is given. These hotels will have all the services you generally expect, but may lack certain formalities that would be available in a similarly rated International hotel. Many hotels, except the very small ones, will have English speaking employees at the front desk to assist you. Many hotels have German & French speaking owners or employees. Almost all hotels will accept US Dollars at the hotels specified rate of exchange which is usually a few colones less than the exchange rate specified by the Central Bank, but in most cases is fair.

Most hotels, except the very small ones, will accept credit cards like VISA (the most widely accepted) followed by Master Card and American Express. Most of the hotels or lodges in the jungles, rainforests, and on mountain tops offer special packages for their guest including roundtrip transportation to/from San José or Liberia along with specified tours and often including all meals. In recent years, Marriott and other large chains have built elaborate resorts.  Most of these are built to meet the world resort/hotel rankings, so when you see a 5 star hotel, it probably is.

  • Use a quality Travel Agent if you are not completely familiar with Costa Rica.  Either use a Travel Agent with offices in Costa Rica, or if in another country, find one that specializes in Costa Rica travel.  You can easily tell this by looking at their web sites.  If there is no mention of Costa Rica, no tours, no packages... they probably have no idea what Costa Rica is really like!  If they have several packages and are clearly promoting Costa Rica on their web sites, they probably DO know what they are doing and can put together a memorable vacation for you.  A GOOD Travel Agent makes all the difference as they are familiar with all the well maintained, safe accommodations, which tours are cool and which are a waste, and will make your travel trouble free.
  •  Check out exactly what is included when you decide on a package to a hotel or lodge.
  •  Be certain you bring with you your Pre-Paid Voucher for your hotel. Without the voucher you have no ‘claim’ on a room for the night.
  •  Do not wait until the last minute to reserve accommodations, especially at Christmas and at Easter.
  •  Most hotels will have an additional fee for bring a guest to your room.  
  • Some All-Inclusive hotels will not permit a paying guest to bring a guest onto the hotel grounds.
  • Regardless of which travel agent you use (or don't) read this page!

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Bed and Breakfast accommodations

Do some research here either by using a good travel agent or surfing the Internet and you will be rewarded! You will find some really excellent B and B's here in Costa Rica, and many are quite special offering charming, stylish and very cost effective accommodations.  Some are in San José, others in the mountains or on the playas (beaches), but not only can you find some really great values, you will find some really nice memories. As with most B and B's, breakfast is offered and may be anything from continental breakfast to a "tipical' Costa Rican breakfast (Gallo Pinto, eggs, toast, cheese, etc.) to a first class sit down and chow down thing!

Some travel agents know these places and can make recommendations.  To me, they are the treasures of Costa Rica (the hotels, not the travel agents).  Be careful traveling with children to many B and B's. While not adult in nature, they are often really geared for couples and do not have the amenities for kids. Ask first.

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Eco-Resorts and Hotels

With the world's attention focused on matters of global warming and ecology in general, eco-lodges and other ecology sensitive resorts and hotels are becoming very popular. Almost always, these are located away from San José in the rain forests, cloud forests, or mountains.  Many are located relatively deep within these areas, and most eschew the use of commercial power preferring to generate their own electricity using wind or solar power.  Many also grow their own food because of their remote locations, you will find yourself generally immersed in the environment.  Many offer screened-in rooms where you will literally be out in the jungle.  Most offer excellent tours with a definite conservation bent.

Because of the limited availability and /or restrictive use of electricity at these locations, many do not offer TV and almost none offer air conditioning.  Keep this in mind if traveling with children as children may want and need more age appropriate stimulation than these locations can provide, especially after the daytime activities.

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Aparthotels

These establishments are a mixture of an apartments and a hotel, and they come in a variety of combinations. 

When I first moved to Costa Rica, I lived in a very nice aparthotel for about 8 months.  It was fully furnished, had two bedrooms each with private bath.  A half bath near the living room, a dining "L", a living room (with hide-a-bed), and a fully equipped kitchen and bar (with booze!). Maid service was daily. It had high speed Internet, cable TV and air conditioning.  There was a nice swimming pool, a store where I could buy just about anything that would fall under the 'staple' category, and a really fine little restaurant that later closed... mostly due to the fact that the owner never made much attempt to market the thing. 

I paid $1,100 per month but now, it is about $1,700 per month, still not terrible if 4-5 people live there and you can prepare your own meals. Obviously... this varies a LOT, so you must do you own investigating. Aparthotels are available to tourists, business people, long term visitors, or anyone who wants a solid 'base of operations' while visiting Costa Rica.  The one I stayed at was used mostly by executives from Intel, Panasonic and other companies while visiting here. 

These places fill a definite niche as there are many people who are not just travelers here, but are semi permanent residents where a fully furnished lifestyle fits them perfectly! These are also good for those living here a few months to explore Costa Rica with and eye to moving here.

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Hostels in Costa Rica

Ahhhh... Visions of youth... backpacking... shared bathrooms... smelly companions... and traveling for nearly nothing! Yup!  There are a ton of really nice hostels here, and they range from the very nice with decent rooms, clean beds, good security and private bathrooms to fairly crummy near flophouse variety with the bathroom down the hall.

Yes, you will probably have to share a room, and almost for sure the bathroom... but that is pretty unimportant to anyone who ever attended college.  Few have air conditioning (un-needed in the Central Valley at least), and the ones I have seen appear pretty safe and secure.  Many have TV's in a common area and a few now offer Internet service on the premises.

If you are traveling on a tight budget, hostels fill the bill. There are some amazing values!  I know of 2 or 3 near San José that are really very nice places to live for a night or two, and with prices at around $6 - $15 per night, represent a pretty excellent travel bargain.  If you eat at the sodas (small restaurants with often great food), you can get your three meals (good ones!) plus a nice place to sleep and shower for maybe $10 - $15 per day.  Additionally, you will meet a ton of other older teen to twenty-somethings from all over the world.  Many students from the US and Europe make the long backtracking trek the entire length of Central America and beyond.

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Motels in Costa Rica - NOT for the kids!

Costa Rica Motel - Used for clandestine trists - Not for the kids!If you are from the USA, you may think of a something colored roof inn, something court, whatever.  Nice, cheap family type places with a pool and a cute little vacancy sign.  Mom and Pop places for the entire family....  sometimes chain motels that promise to leave a candle burning for you... Video games for the kids... and an often crummy, but inexpensive restaurant... right?

Well you are not in Kansas any more!  Motels in Costa Rica are NOT for families, travelers (though peopel do use them for this), visitors and most assuredly not for the kiddies.  If you drive by one, do not think to register until you have read this. In fact until you read this you will not know how to register!

Motels in Costa Rica are for sex and nothing else.

This does not mean they are dirty, smelly, low-class, disease ridden locations.  Just the opposite!  Most are first rate places with in-room delivery of excellent food.  Sound systems, TVs... etc.  Some have saunas and pools build into the rooms.  All have security and ALL are very private!

So why the sex thing?  Well, it is MOSTLY about culture.  In general (though this is changing slowly) children (read this as children from age 0 to age 45+), live at home with the family unless or until they are married.  If divorced, they return to live with the family.  Obviously, past a certain age, they are dating.  So unless one of the parties is living in an apartment or home where there is some privacy (and this is RARE!),  the motels nicely provide folks with a private location for...well... ummm... privacy. 

What do I mean by privacy?  I mean real privacy!  OK... here is the skinny!

You drive into the motel and are confronted with a LOT of garage doors! Some are open, and that means that room is cleaned and available. You then drive into the garage and shut the garage door with the wall switch. You then enter the room.

In each room is a sort of... trap door dealy for lack of a better term. It is a sliding door kind of thing. Within minutes of your arrival, you will be presented with your bill ranging from about 10,000 to 15,000 colones or $18.00 to $27.00. You never see anyone nor do they see you! You place cash (no credit cards here!) in the sliding tray thingy, and send your money to that person you never see! Minutes later, you get a receipt. If you want food, you call for it and it is delivered and paid for the same way.

There are no windows though many motels have open access at ceiling level for natural light. Sounds like a cell but it is not.

So why are there motels?  Well that is part of the culture... Many of these participants are just young lovers looking for a safe place to be alone for a few hours away from the endless family... but many others are married... just maybe not to the person they are with at the motel! Finally, some of them are just plain moms and dads looking to do the same as all the others... seeking a little romantic (and inexpensive) getaway and again, away from the endless family that defines Costa Rica culture.

 

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