Accommodations



Accommodations at Arrival Points: San Jose

There are plenty of accommodations around San Jose including a Hampton Inn right near the airport. However, almost no one stays in San Jose unless they arrive after 5:00 PM and have no transportation. Most everyone gets out of town as fast as they can, usually staying in quaint hotels if they arrive in late afternoon. There is nothing actually wrong with San Jose as a city. It's actually rather interesting compared to other large cities in the American tropics. It's just that no one interested in natural history would choose to stay there. However, with several airlines arriving at night, there may be good reason to find a place to stay around San Jose.

 Savegre Lodge

If one arrives at the San Jose airport around midday (Juan Santamaria International Airport), it is possible to get either a shuttle or a rental car in which to get to any accommodations that may be 2-3 hours out of the metropolitan area. If one has coordinated a shuttle from Costa Rica Gateway in advance, they will meet the customer at the airport. A shuttle-for-hire can provide a driving service to Rancho Naturalista, Selva Verde Lodge, or some specific destination mapped out in advance. For people renting a car at the San Jose airport, one should add about an hour working through the details of car rental. There's nothing difficult about car rental at the airport, but there will likely a small line of people working through their own paperwork at the car rental counter.

For individuals arriving at night, and for some tour groups, two places stand out. Many people stay at the
Orquideas Hotel in San Jose, not terribly far from the airport and it's more Costa Rican in flavor than, say, a Hampton Inn. For most people, the Holiday Inn Express and the Hampton Inn (both 5-minute drives from the airport) are perfectly fine. Both hotels are in the same area with an accompanying Denny's Restaurant. Both have shuttles to the airport every half hour. 

I also frequently read of birders staying athe more rural, but very nice, Hotel Bougainvillea about a 30 minute drive from the airport (I stayed there myself in the early 90s, but it looks like a better place now).

Monte Azul, near San Isidro - Jim Peterson

A friend of mine has also stayed at the Poas Volcano Lodge and enjoyed his brief stay there - which is about 1 hour from the San Jose airport.

For some of the best birding lodges throughout Costa Rica that cater to birders, I recommend looking over the lodges on the Costa Rica Gateway web site 


Accommodations at Arrival Points: Liberia

Flying into Liberia, Costa Rica, for the average traveler, usually presumes some sort of beach destination since one is only 30-45 minutes away from the ocean. This isn't always the case, but that appears to be the case for most incoming tourists. Birders can take advantage of this too, but they also have other options in the mountains close to Liberia. 

Rancho Armadillo, Playas del Coco - Jim Peterson

If the Liberia flight arrives late, one can stay at the very close Hilton Garden Inn (which has airport shuttles) or the Best Western Hotel Las Espuelas within Liberia and just a cheap cab fare from the airport. There are also a few foothill lodges near Rincon de Vieja National Park, such as Hacienda Guachipelin, which is about 30 minutes towards the volcanic mountain range northeast of Liberia. In addition, there are foothill accommodations near Bijuagua (Alajuela Province) about 1.5 hours from Liberia including the La Carolina Lodge and the Heliconias Lodge. I should also mention La Ensenada Lodge where some birding tour groups go to pick up Guanacaste specialty birds and several wetland species - about 1.25 hours south of Liberia. Of all the places I mention here, only Heliconias Lodge and La Ensenada truly cater to birdwatchers.

If one stays in one of the beach hotels west of Liberia - Playas del Coco, Flamingo Beach, Playa Hermosa, or Tamarindo - the habitat inland will be in dry deciduous woodland habitat. Most coastal accommodations in Guanacaste have gray, basaltic beaches. As one moves south along the Nicoya Peninsula, the habitat will get marginally wetter (and a few more bird species will be added to the possibilities). True white sand beaches are also more common as one moves south into the Nicoya Peninsula to places like Samara or Nosara.

There are literally hundreds of places to stay on the west coast. I've listed a few places near the bottom of this page, but it's hard to give any of them a full endorsement since several of the places I've stayed have changed hands since 2000. Just know that there are plenty to choose from if there is no real demand for a birding lodge. Costs vary, but it's usually between $60-300 a night for a 2-4 star place on the beach. The higher-end places are resorts catering to Americans. Some have golf courses, some casinos, and some cater to families. Needless to say, we avoid the true up-scale resorts. During May-August, it's not particularly critical to have a reservation except at the very best places.


Accommodations: Ecolodges
There is an on-going debate on the exact definition of what constitutes an "ecolodge". 

Bosque del Rio Tigre Lodge, Osa Peninsula

For the sake of simplicity, however, ecolodges are usually community-supported, low impact lodges with basic accommodations. There are also a growing number of upscale ecolodges. Costa Rica has both and most are within close proximity to good birding habitat. A few, like Tirimbina and Heliconias Lodge, I have already mentioned on this site in the "Habitats" section. 

Some lodges are organic farms that include nice accommodations and are suited for groups as well as individuals. A few offer a commitment to birdwatching as part of their programming. Finca Luna Nueva falls into this category.

A few of these ecolodges have been reviewed by travelers who stayed there at one time or another. You can look these reviews up at Trip Advisor.com and type in a search for the particular lodge.

Although some of these lodges are not on any of the larger travel itineraries for birders, I suspect many of them are as good for birding as the more well-known lodges. I have limited personal experience with these places and they are not recommendations per se, but all of them have been mentioned by publications or web-based hyperlinks as potentially good birding experiences. Most are supported by ACTUAR - a part of the tourism industry of Costa Rica which supports rural, community-based accommodations for tourists and travelers. Most (but not all) are less expensive alternatives to other birding lodges mentioned here. A few are upscale alternatives

For the adventurous spirit who is renting a car, these places could be good alternatives to the more mainstream birding locations in Costa Rica. Be alert, however, to road conditions at some of these remote locations.

Caribbean

Laguna del Lagarto Lodge
Hotel Gavilan
Selva Bananito Lodge
El Copal Biological Reserve
Tirimbina Rainforest Center
Mi Pedacito de Cielo
Quebrada Grande
Maquenque Eco-lodge
North Pacific

Hacienda Guachipelin Hotel
La Ensenada Lodge
Curu Wildlife Refuge
South Pacific

Rancho La Merced Refuge
Bosque del Rio Tigre
Esquinas Rainforest Lodge
Talari Mountain Lodge
La Cusinga
Las Cruces Biological Station
Mountains Region

San Gerardo Field Station
Bosque de Paz Lodge
Paraiso del Quetzal
El Toucanet
Albergue el Socorro
Finca Luna Nueva
La Carolina Lodge
Heliconias Lodge
Celeste Mountain Lodge

A website for Adventure Hotels of Costa Rica also lists some more moderate accommodations that could still be within easy depending on the particular destination.

Also of Note: The Costa Rica Bird Route - A driving route created for the low-impact birding tourist. Several important ecolodges are on this route. This is a good website with a variety of resources. Accommodations are sparse at some of these locations and driving conditions vary, but these lodges have been singled out for their birding, their value to the community, and their largely low-impact cost to the environment.


Accommodations: Lodges that Specifically Cater to Birders

The following lodges are fairly common destinations for many birders. Many of them can be seen on almost every birding trip report. Most of them adjoin or are at least very close to good birding habitat. Most of these lodges (as well as most of the ecolodges above) are discussed in detail in the book, Finding Birds in Costa Rica by Barrett Lawson.

Caribbean

Rancho Naturalista

La Quinta Country Inn
Selva Verde Lodge
Central Pacific

Hotel Villa Lapas

Cerro Lodge
South Pacific

Bosque del Rio Tigre Lodge

Talari Lodge
Mountains Region

Savegre Mountain Lodge

Bosque de Paz Lodge
Arenal Observatory Lodge
 

Accommodations: Beaches

For catching some rays and trying to enjoy the Pacific beaches and birds simultaneously, my wife and I have stayed at several places. Places I've stayed and enjoyed include TulemarCosta Verde, and Makanda by the Sea at Manuel Antonio (south-central Costa Rica), Guanamar in central Nicoya, and Hotel Playa Hermosa in northern Guanacaste. These are very different places from each other, but all were close to the beach, fairly quiet, and all had good service. None of them were "resorts" - no spas, no tennis courts, no golf courses, no gambling. Nor did they actually cater to birders. I mention them only because they were fairly quiet with some natural surroundings. In coastal Costa Rica, it is difficult to make recommendations since hotels change hands rather quickly on the beachfront, and hotel construction can be an on-going problem that changes from year-to-year.

Tulemar Properties - Manuel Antonio National Park

I recommend looking through Trip Advisor.com (http://www.tripadvisor.com/) to look at reviews of any hotels in which you are going to stay. Nearly every place has a few reviews from recent customers.

As an example of how things can change, we used to stay at Hotel Ocotal near Playa del Coco about 35 minutes from Liberia. In a matter of three years, it changed from a great place to below-average because of construction and poor service. For all I know, it might be back to being a good place to stay. I would probably rely on the trip advisor web site to tell me that. 



The "Costa Rica Guide" offers an interesting formula for budgeting the cost of hotels in Costa Rica.