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Six of the best luxury eco-lodges in Costa Rica

Tucked amid hot springs, rainforest and soul-quietening stretches of coastline, these luxury eco-lodges offer memorable interactions with the country’s flora and fauna.

By Jamie Lafferty
Published 25 Feb 2022, 06:00 GMT, Updated 25 Feb 2022, 09:16 GMT
Architectural villa at Origins Lodge, a luxury eco-wellness retreat in the middle of the lush Costa Rican rainforest

Architectural villa at Origins Lodge, a luxury eco-wellness retreat in the middle of the lush Costa Rican rainforest

Photograph by AVABLU/Ryan Forbes

With no shortage of award-winning eco-lodges and hostels to choose from, visitors to Costa Rica are spoilt for choice. These six accommodation options, tucked amid hot springs, secondary rainforest and soul-quietening stretches of coastline, offer memorable interactions with the country’s flora and fauna.

1. Origins

Best for: remote luxury
Due to its location in the far north west of the country, close to the Nicaraguan border, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to question whether the remoteness of Origins makes visiting worthwhile. For anyone willing to make the journey, however, this remarkable lodge offers fabulous views of volcanoes, the jungle and even distant Lake Nicaragua. The raw nature experience has been tamed with more than a little luxury, too: those views can be enjoyed from fire-heated hot tubs, while the food is prepared by French-trained chefs using fresh local ingredients.
From $952 (£720), B&B. 

Dining area with a stunning view at Origens Lodge.

Photograph by AVABLU/Ryan Forbes

2. Hacienda AltaGracia

Best for: mountain air
Reopened in 2021 after a major overhaul, Hacienda AltaGracia is a sprawling estate set amid 180 acres. With sensational views across the surrounding valleys, its two restaurants use almost exclusively Costa Rican produce. While their coffee is currently gathered from nearby fincas, 7,000 coffee trees have also been planted around the property with the aim of harvesting by 2025. Each of the 50 villas offers plenty of space and privacy, while vehicle transport is organised by texting the compás (a sort of personal butler). 
From $1,458 (£1,102), full board. 

3. Pacuare Lodge

Best for: jungle expeditions
There are many high-end lodges in central Costa Rica, but none deal with arrivals and departures as spectacularly as Pacuare. Reached by a whitewater rafting experience, this 20-suite lodge announces its intention to marry adventure and luxury from the moment guests arrive. More rafting, as well as canyoning and canopy walks, are among the adventure options, but there’s also a hike to visit Indigenous communities. Guests can also unwind in the Jawa Juü Spa or lay back in a hammock and relax.
From $1,114 (£843), full board. 

Rafting to Pacuare Lodge.

Photograph by Fernando Acuña

4. Cielo Lodge

Best for: ocean adventures
Looking over the waters of the Golfo Dulce in the country’s south, Cielo Lodge opened during one of the pandemic’s bleakest periods in early 2021. But husband-and-wife founders Keith and Nicole Goldstein had confidence that their remarkable six-suite property in the middle of 380 acres of forest would prove a winning formula. While the lodge is set back from the coast, many of the activities included in the booking price focus on the wildlife-rich waters of the gulf. They include dolphin- and whale-watching, mangrove tours and trips out to Bird Island.
From $738 (£558), full board.

5. Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa

Best for: volcanic hot springs
Like its nearby rivals, Tabacón is partly defined by the mighty Arenal Volcano, an astonishing beacon that draws visitors from around the world. Although the area has a host of volcano-related activities on offer for the enthusiastic traveller, Tabacón isn’t short of attractions of its own, including its outstanding spa facility. The highlight for many visitors is the garden, which has been cleverly designed to let naturally heated volcanic water run through it, gathering in discrete meanders and pools, giving bathers plenty of privacy.
From $420 (£318), B&B.

Lapa Villa at Lapas Rios.

Photograph by Lapa Rios

6. Lapa Rios

Best for: wildlife encounters
The name of this lodge — located near the southern tip of the Osa Peninsula — translates as ‘rivers of the scarlet macaws’. Guests at Lapas Rios will not fail to notice that it lives up to its name, thanks largely to the noisiness and extreme beauty of the bright red parrots swirling above the property. Extra suites have been added in recent years, and during pandemic lockdowns the remarkable treetop walkway linking them was extended with a new viewing platform. Nearby Corcovado National Park is a prize for many wildlife-spotters, but there are also excellent nature walks closer to home, in the hotel grounds.
From $1,342 (£1,016), full board.

Getting there & around

British Airways and TUI fly to Costa Rica directly from the UK. British Airways flies from Gatwick to San José, Costa Rica’s capital, three times a week. TUI flies from Gatwick to Liberia, once a week.  

Average flying time: 11h30m.

Costa Rica’s public bus system is reliable, inexpensive and relatively frequent, even in remote areas. Privately run shuttle buses offer quicker but pricier transfers. Car rental is also popular and it can be worth spending extra on a four-wheel-drive vehicle to cope with rural roads.

When to go

Temperatures range from 21C to 27C all year round. Costa Rica enjoys 12 different tropical microclimates that remain constant throughout the year. The best time to visit is during the dry season, which runs from mid-November to April, when temperatures reach highs of 28C. May to mid-November is referred to as Costa Rica’s ‘green season’, with the heaviest rain falling in September and October. 

How to do it

National Geographic Expeditions offers an eight-night Natural Highlights tour from £1,399 per person, featuring stays in La Fortuna and Monteverde, international flights not included.

Journey Latin America offers a 15-day Costa Rica Wildlife Discovery tour that takes in Arenal and the San José region, as well the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, from £3,700 per person, international flights not included. 

G Adventures offers a 13-day Costa Rica Active Adventure tour that includes hiking, trekking, biking, rafting and kayaking in various parts of the country from £1,299 per person, international flights not included. 

Published in the March 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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