Hotels in Costa Rica

Tourism in Costa Rica has grown incredibly in the past several years. While you can avoid crowds even in high season in this small country, doing so now requires planning and usually reservations some months ahead.
One day in March when I looked at six hotels in central San Jose, they had a total of three rooms available for that night! New hotels are being planned and built, several thousand rooms in the next three years. New tours are offered daily. Roads are being improved so buses now reach places that required 4-wheel drive until recently.

Reservations: High tourist season coincides with the dry season, December through April, plus the two weeks in July when there's usually a break in the afternoon rains. Christmas and Easter Week are peak times when Costa Ricans as well as tourists head for the beaches. If you can, make reservations five months ahead for holiday weeks and three months ahead for high season in San Jose, Monteverde, and at the beaches. Rental cars should also be reserved well ahead.

Most beach hotels and some in San Jose have low season rates 25-40% lower than their high season rates. Reservations are easier to get then for hotels, tours, and rental cars. While your choice of timing depends on when you can come as well as what fishing or birding you may want, I recommend November. The country is green and bright after the rainy season, hotels aren't crowded, and low season rates generally apply.

Internet: Costa Rica has adopted internet recently. Most hotels with more than 15 rooms have it, . I recommend you ask for a confirmation of your reservation by e-mail and carry it with you when you check in. Some hotels have overbooked, and this is your best defense.

Some hotels, especially at the beaches during high season, won't make reservations for only 1 or 2 nights. Others do. This can limit your flexibility to travel around even mid-week. Do make reservations and call ahead.

If you make reservations, you should make every effort to keep them or to cancel well ahead. A hotel with very few rooms may have turned away business to hold your reservation, put on extra staff, or laid in more food. This is especially important for groups, but should be done by individuals as well.

Accommodations in each town are described as I found them so you can know what to expect in each place. Some travelers want any clean, inexpensive room so they can make their dollars stretch for a longer trip. Some want luxury and can afford to pay for it. I inspect for cleanliness, noise level (very important in a Latin country where locals equate noisewith having fun), and hospitality. A recommended hotel is not only clean and attractive, but has a very hospitable staff and represents an exceptional value in its price range. It may not be the most luxurious hotel in the area. If you want more facilities or service, it may not be the one you would choose. Our tastes vary. I admit preferring the hospitable 6-40 room hotels Costa Ricans build and operate so well, with natural areas nearby. Big, impersonally staffed hotels that depend on concrete shade after they've removed all natural growth aren't my favorites, though more are being built.

Bougainvillea Santo Domingo, on attractive landscaped grounds near San Jose.

Costa Rica has all types of hotels, some luxurious and some basic where farm workers stay when they come to town on weekends. In between are many inexpensive to moderate hotels with very considerate staffs. You can decide not only what you're willing to pay, but how much luxury you want. Do you want to stay in a ticos hotel, where you feel the character of the country and some of your fellow residents are Costa Ricans, or do you want to relax in the same atmosphere you'd find in Hawaii or Palm Springs? Or would you like some of each for variety?

For this moment, I inspected over 500 hotels all over the country, priced from $8 to $450 per night, double. I looked at almost all the moderate to luxurious hotels. However, when I found clean hotels in good neighborhoods for less than $8 double, I felt I could do more for you than spend days wandering the red light districts of San Jose and Puerto Limon inspecting the cheap ones there. Some of these are listed in Hotels, B & Bs

The Mexico and Central America Handbook and Central America on a Shoestring chapters on Costa Rica. Some hotels, inspected at quiet midday, may prove to have a cantina pounding nightly in the block behind.

Costa Rica has many small hotels, often far from major towns. Most hotels in San Jose or the surrounding hills don't have air conditioning as nights are cool at that altitude. On the coasts, most travelers from temperate climates want at least a fan or a building designed to catch every breeze. Many inexpensive places at the beaches don't have hot water, but the tap water is lukewarm. Some have hot water only at the shower head, not in the basin. TV without satellite or cable is usually in Spanish only. Cable TV usually has at least one English language channel.

Electricity is 110 volt 60 cycle A.C. throughout Costa Rica. At rustic lodges using generators, you should ask, though it's usually the same.

Hotels rated moderate and higher usually cash traveler's checks, a real help when there's no bank in a resort town. They usually take major credit cards. Some have reservation agents abroad whom your travel agent can call free. For hotels which dont, you may have to make your own reservations. Hotels in higher ranges usually have someone behind the desk who speaks English. Tour representatives in the lobby can book sight seeing tours. Some hotels offer courtesy transportation, which may or may not be free, but may be the easiest way to get there. Several beach hotels run buses from San Jose.

In less expensive hotels, you're likely to be more on your own if your Spanish is limited, though the manager will often go to amazing lengths to help you. On the East Coast practically all the blacks speak English. You should inspect the rooms offered you in budget/basic hotels before checking in to see if they're what you want. Everyone has his own definition of basic.

Wheelchair accessibility is noted for hotels, though not all rooms may be stairless. Bathroom doors tend to be narrow. Tropical architects have always depended on stairs as an obstacle to dirt, insects and other crawlies Custom changes slowly. San Jose sidewalks have high steps.

Hotels are listed with each town later in this book. Since I inspected, the colon has been devalued several times, but most hotels have ap-plied for rate increases with the ICT that more than match inflation. If you find hotels listed in our tables out of alphabetical range order, it's because of price changes after we set type. Expensive hotels give their prices in dollars which they don't decrease with changes in the exchange rate. Inflation will cause some rates to rise.

For the current exchange rate when you travel, you can call the nearest
Costa Rican embassy or consulate or call the ICT office in Miami toll-free from the continental U.S., 1-800-327-7033. Some coastal hotels include meals with the rate, and most have a high season rate for December through March. The price a hotel licensed by the ICT may charge for a room is posted in the room.

This scale refers to price for two people in U.S. dollars before the 16.3% sales and tourism tax that will be added to your bill (about 1/6) and does not refer to features of the hotel which may include a swimming pool in the budget range. Some hotels have no rate for singles and simply charge a rate for the room. A room or cabin for 4 may be a real bargain for a group or family if not for a single.

Couples should ask for their preference in twin or double beds when making reservations. Hotels often have rooms with either. Many budget hotels have some rooms with bath and some without. Expensive hotels usually have deluxe rooms and suites at higher rates than the range we show for basic rooms. Beach hotels often have some rooms with air conditioning and some with fans. In San Jose and at higher elevations you don't need it, but down on the coasts you probably will need at least a fan. Fan or generator noise can make earplugs welcome.

?Apartotels" and " Cabina " are terms you'll see often. An aparthotel has rooms with kitchen facilities, often suites, and usually has weekly and monthly as well as daily rates. There are several in the San Jose area and a few elsewhere. They can be economical for families and very convenient if one is following a diet. "Cabina" means cabin but often means a motel-style connected row of rooms, and occasionally even is a room in a multi-story building. A "pension" is an inexpensive to basic hotel which usually does not serve meals even if it formerly did. A "motel" in Costa Rica (none listed here intentionally) is a hotel with discreet entrance and staff used by couples not married to each other.

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