In Search of the Best Eco Lodges in Costa Rica.
There are few countries in the world that conjure a stronger image of ecotourism, perhaps, than Costa Rica. Home to howler monkeys swinging between tree top canopies, macaws colourfully displaying their rainbows of feathers, and iguanas cleverly blending in – there’s no denying that the natural landscape of Costa Rica is phenomenal. Not only that, but well worth protecting – with over 250 mammal species
Costa Rica is a gem for the conscious traveller with plenty of places to stay that care about their footprint as much as you do, but with the rise of the “eco trend” unfortunately not all eco-lodges are as eco as they may claim. Here, we cover some of our favourite (truly) eco lodges and eco resorts that we experienced on our recent trip to Costa Rica and some recommendations from a few of our blogging friends!
What's In this Guide:
- Ecotourism in Costa Rica – A Little History
- Costa Rica Eco Lodges by Region
- Eco Lodges in Osa Peninsula (Puntarenas)
- Eco Lodges in Manuel Antonio (Puntarenas)
- Eco Lodges on the Nicoya Peninsula (Puntarenas)
- Eco Lodges in Guanacaste
- Eco Lodges in Limon & The Caribbean Coast
- Eco Lodges in La Fortuna, Alajuela and San Jose (Alajuela)
Ecotourism in Costa Rica – A Little History
Costa Rica is unique not only for it’s number of beautiful wildlife species, but also for the fact that it has nearly 30% of its land reserved as national parks and wildlife reserves, thus protecting the land from future development.
Ecotourism in Costa Rica is one of the big draws, and has been since the 1960’s when Costa Rica opened its first National Park. In addition to the government protected National Parks there are many privately owned reserves that are run by environmental groups and not for profit organisations. It was this dedication to the national park system that created the opportunity for Costa Rica to become the natural sanctuary for wildlife that it is today: prior to the 1960’s the country was set on the same path as the rest of the central American region, with wide scale logging and deforestation taking place.
Since the 1960’s and 70’s Costa Rica has established a reputation as the destination for Ecotourism. As a nature lovers’ paradise it’s natural that ecotourism is a strength of the travel industry in Costa Rica. Part of the draw is Costa Rica’s diverse landscape, topography, and seasonality: from Volcanoes to desert, to rainforest, the country has varied terrain as well as coastline stretching along both the Pacific and Caribbean oceans.
As such there is plenty to do for the responsible traveller visiting Costa Rica (which aren’t limited to wildlife watching) and there is one of the best range of sustainable accommodation, perhaps anywhere in the world. Here are some of our favourite eco lodges in Costa Rica and more upmarket eco resorts.
Costa Rica Eco Lodges by Region
We’ve divided our favourite ecolodges up by region so you can plan your trip to Costa Rica with the best sustainable accommodation options in each region!
Eco Lodges in Osa Peninsula (Puntarenas)
The Puntarenas district spans the western (Pacific) coast of Costa Rica from the Nicoya Peninsula in the North, down to the remote but beautiful Osa Peninsula in the south. Dry season runs from October to May and monsoon is in the summer months.
Amazonita Lodge, Osa Peninsula – Contributed by Nicole of Third Eye Mom
This Osa Peninsula eco lodge is located in Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre, a remote part of the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. Amazonita about as sustainable and off the beaten path as you can find for a Costa Rica eco lodge. The Amazonita is run by a local woman named Zulay, who is not only the manager and caretaker of the lodge but also a masseuse.
The property is set up against the border of the Corcovado National Park and is surrounded by lush tropical jungle. There are three open-air cabins that can each accommodate a family of six or more depending on the cabin you get. All the cabins are complete with a large open-air kitchen and dining area, a queen bed and bunk beds, and a bathroom. There are no walls enclosing you. Instead, the casas are open to the splendors of the jungle- bugs, noises, animals and all. Staying with no walls in a beautiful casa in the jungle is perhaps one of the most magical experiences that you can have in Costa Rica.
La Luna Lodge, Osa Peninsula – Contributed by Cristina of Travel for Wildlife
Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica is one of the best-known parks in Costa Rica. Both the challenge and its beauty lie in its remoteness: the park is only accessible by plane, boat, or on foot. Staying in a neighbouring property will work to your advantage when planning your trip to the Corcovado National Park.
La Luna Lodge sits just over the hill from Corcovado and its small cabana porches overlook the rainforest with uninterrupted views. Wake up in the mornings with the howler monkeys and fall asleep to the songs of frogs. This Corcovado eco lodge is proud to minimize their footprint in every single area. The lodge grows their own vegetables in their organic garden and they compost their organic waste with the help of their worm farm. The electricity is turned off at night, and only the main building dim lighting works with a generator to minimize disturbance to nocturnal wildlife. Even their swimming pool is solar heated.
While at the lodge you can go on a waterfall hike, take a guided night walk to learn about the nocturnal Costa Rica wildlife of the area, do yoga in their studio overlooking the rain forest, or go on a 7-hour hike to Corcovado National Park. Whatever way you occupy yourself during your stay, you’ll be sure that your impact has been minimized by the lodge’s green initiatives!
Lapa Rios, Osa Peninsula – Contributed by Vicky of Earth Changers
Lapa Rios is one of the most incredible, eco-friendly, and nature-immersed Osa Peninsula eco lodges, and in the world: It is certainly one of our favourites.
Here we are talking serious sustainable luxury on the Osa Peninsula, on the western Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This 930-acre private nature reserve exclusive to guests is Central America’s last remaining lowland dense tropical rainforest, that acts as a wildlife corridor to Corcovado National Park and is home to 2.5% of the whole world’s biodiversity probably – being so dense, it is not even known exactly how many unknown species there are!
The luxurious 17 private bungalows and shared areas are all designed in harmony with the environment, built with locally harvested materials and open-air screen sections even allow you to experience the sounds, sights and smells of the rainforest and ocean as you shower inside. Ecotourism here is academically proven to make a substantial contribution to local livelihoods and environmental conservation, including the highest rates of reforestation in the peninsula – which you can support by planting your own tree!
Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puerto Jiminez – Contributed by Alya & Campbell of Stingy Nomads
Staying at Bolita Eco-hostel near Puerto Jimenez was one of the highlights of our month in Costa Rica. By the time we arrived there we’d already visited several National parks and didn’t expect to be surprised by wildlife and biodiversity anymore, but we were.
The hostel is located on the border with one of the best National parks in the country – Corcovado National park where you can see many endemic animals and plants e.g. jaguar, anteater, howler monkey, tapirs, otselot, scarlet macaw, tucan, many hummingbirds, red-eyed tree frog and more. If you stay at the Bolita hostel you’ll get a chance to spot all of them. The hostel is located quite far from the nearest town or the road, walking is the only way of getting there (it’s a steep climb up-hill).
Everything from building material to food and gas is carried by people. The idea of the hostel is to make as little impact on nature as possible. Only natural and bio-friendly materials are used in the construction. There are no artificial lights, after the dark you can use a headlamp or candles. You can charge your devices only during the day – they use small solar panels to get electricity. The same with hot water there are no boilers, water gets warm in a tank from the sun. Rubbish and waste are sorted out very carefully; plastic, metal, glass and organic. Organic waste is used for fertilising soil around the hostel. The water used for washing and shower is not wasted either, it goes through special filtration system and back to the tap. There are 15km of trails around the hostel where nature lovers can enjoy stunning scenery identical to Corcovado park. Bolita hostel is a perfect example of successful co-existence of people and nature.
For us, people of big city, it was an amazing experience to have dinner at night with candles surrounded by pristine jungle, watching the stars and listening the sounds of the nature.
Eco Lodges in Manuel Antonio (Puntarenas)
Postcard Manuel Antonio in the central pacific region receives much tourism attention – some would say too much attention – as visitors have soared to record numbers and the Manuel Antonio national park has become crowded. Animals in the park are thought to be becoming negatively impacted as their diets of fruits and leaves is replaced with cookies and chips unwittingly left behind (or snatched from) visitors.
The park is also one of Costa Rica’s smallest, and daily visitor limits at the park are being pushed (if not exceeded – read more about local reports here). That being said, there is some good happening in Manuel Antonio – at the likes of the beautiful Si Como No Resort (below). And if (like us) you love the views out to the pacific coast including Manuel Antonio – then Santa Juana could be the option for you.
Si Como No Resort & Spa, Manuel Antonio
If you want to be in the thick of Manuel Antonio, one of the original ambassadors of ecotourism in Costa Rica, the founders of Si Como No Resort (Greentique Hotels) have since become recognised leaders in sustainable hospitality. Set amidst its own private nature reserve, Si Como No is a luxury eco resort in Manuel Antonio that is focused on reducing their carbon footprint through sustainable and organic horticulture, waste and water management.
Santa Juana Mountain Lodge
If you’d rather be away from the crowds but still have views out over the pacific and on to Manuel Antonio, Santa Juana Mountain Lodge may be a better choice. Also owned by Greentique hotels, the lodge supports a number of reforestation programs; allowing guests to “adopt a tree” and support local community initiatives in the surrounding district of Quepos. Should you want to take a trip to Manuel Antonio, it’s 30 minutes drive away from the lodge.
Eco Lodges on the Nicoya Peninsula (Puntarenas)
Easily accessible from the Guanacaste province, the Nicoya Peninsula is a 5-6 hour drive from San Jose, making it easy to access without the need for internal flights. The driest time of the year to visit is between November and April, but come in shoulder season or during the rains for the best value deals and fewer fellow visitors to share the sunsets with!
Nammbu, Playa Carillo
Just outside the seaside town of Samara, lies the hidden gem of Carillo on the Nicoya Peninsula. Set in a “blue zone” (an area where people frequently live beyond the ripe old age of 100), Playa Carillo is an off the beaten path spot to enjoy the crashing waves of the pacific ocean, evening stalls on the beach, or just a chance to “get away from it all” for a few days.
Nammbu is a new and contemporary resort set a few steps back from Playa Carillo. Owned by a local family, the hotel is investing in energy and water management systems.
Eco Lodges in Guanacaste
Located in the North West of Costa Rica, Guanacaste is home to some of Costa Rica’s off the beaten track gems and eco lodges.
Drift Away Eco Lodge, Playa Avellenas – Contributed by Oksana & Max of Drink Tea Travel
Drift Away Eco Lodge in Playa Avellenas, Guanacaste meets at the crossroads of comfort and sustainability. It was opened in the later part of 2018 by owners who were frustrated by the plethora of hotels in Costa Rica that position themselves as sustainable, while only doing the bare minimum. Drift Away Eco Lodge aims to do more than just tick the basic boxes and hopes to become one of the leading sustainable boutique hotels in the region.
Nearby there are three beautiful beaches, including Playa Avellanas, one of the best beaches on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The lodge works closely with local suppliers, tour operators, and community members to offer guests an authentic Costa Rican experience that makes a positive impact on the entire community.
Many materials used in the construction of Drift Away Eco Lodge were locally sourced and/or of natural recycled material. The majority of the staff at the lodge are locals, many of them have stepped into their roles without much prior experience and are being up-skilled while working at the lodge. Biodegradable and natural cleaning products are used exclusively and biodegradable toiletries are provided to guests.
Drift Away works to conserve water and electricity at every turn and have instituted a UV and ionization cleaning and filtration process minimize the use of harmful chemicals in their pool. Plus, the property is completely free of single-use plastic! Guests are given plenty of suggestions for sustainable activities nearby.
Rio Perdido, Bagaces
For a Costa Rica Eco Lodge with wow factor, look no further than luxurious Rio Perdido. Literally translated as “Lost River”, Rio Perdido has a thermal river running through the heart of its land: its crystal clear waters are warm, rich in minerals and perfect for a fully natural spa experience. The resort also uses the river’s warmth and energy to provide much of the heat and water throughout the property.
The resort is set in a 600 acre private reserve in the heart of Guanacaste province, in an area which is largely undiscovered, even by locals. The grounds include the thermal river and is an adventure-lover’s paradise with canopy bridges, hiking and mountain biking trails, zip lining and tubing all onsite. Rio Perdido is proud to say that 90% of its staff come from the nearest town of Bagaces, making it truly of benefit to locals. Natural, healthy and locally sourced food is served in the restaurant and there are plans for a larger organic vegetable garden in the future.
For an extra special experience we recommend the “centre bungalow” rooms which had just been finished when we stayed. Black on the outside they cleverly blend in to the jungle and feature some of the most amazing dual outdoor showers you’ve ever seen.
Eco Lodges in Limon & The Caribbean Coast
Often overlooked, the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica (the district of Limon) is a great option for exploring a little more off the beaten track and also experience a culturally diverse region of Costa Rica. The Caribbean Coast is also a great option to visit during the rainy season in the rest of Costa Rica (May – October) as the Caribbean coast enjoys a different climate to central and Pacific Costa Rica. Some parts of Limon are remote and take perseverance getting to: but your efforts will be rewarded!
Samasati Nature Retreat, Puerto Viejo
Set amid a 250 acre nature reserve outside Puerto Viejo, Samasati is a retreat for those who want to re-connect with themselves and nature. Built over 20 years ago, Samasati was one of Costa Rica’s first Eco Lodges. Along with Yoga, Ayurveda, adventure packages, the retreat also offers cultural immersion excursions to learn more about the vibrant and varied culture of this part of Costa Rica. And perhaps our favourite: “Rainforest Therapy” – just being surrounded by rainforest is a therapy all on its own…
Samasati was built largely using “green wood” (wood that has fallen naturally) and today uses rainwater harvesting and filtering as its main water source. Composting on site has been introduced along with recycling and a custom made sewage treatment system for the property. The retreat was built in such a way as to maximise ventilation and minimise humidity and heat – therefore removing the need for energy guzzling air conditioning while making the most out of the rainforest views, sounds and breeze for guests. Samasati is chemical free and uses only organic and natural cleaning products.
Along with being a sanctuary to unwind and see wildlife, the retreat offers yoga retreats and yoga teacher training packages too.
Pacuare Lodge, Bajo Tigre
Nestled deep in the rainforest inland from the coastal city of Limon, Pacuare Lodge is a destination in its own right. The resort is one of the most self-sufficient in Costa Rica, producing its own electricity through solar panels and a hydro plant in the river that runs through the lodge’s grounds. Perhaps one of the most special things, though, is that you won’t need much electricity. Come evening, the lodge is lit with lanterns and candles, creating a truly unique environment.
Sustainability runs at the core of everything Pacuare does: from organic fruits and vegetables to biodegradable soaps and shampoos provided in the bathrooms, to low impact construction, to solar water heating, there are too many eco-friendly measures to list here. The lodge also supports local communities through a range of projects, and intentionally hires rafting guides and lodge staff from the nearest villages.
As well as staying at this beautiful lodge, day trips are also possible to raft on the river’s rapids, canyon, experience their canopy trail, or go on a hike with the Cabecar, one of Costa Rica’s largest indigenous groups to learn more about their culture.
Eco Lodges in La Fortuna, Alajuela and San Jose (Alajuela)
Finca Rosa Blanca, Heredia – Contributed by Lola of Miss Filatelista
Finca Rosa Blanca is one of the most genuine slices of eco-paradise in Costa Rica due to their rigorous and innovative dedication to environmental and social sustainability. The nature sanctuary is an idyllic place to recuperate and tap into the transformation that responsible travel so often creates.
Morning walks around the property and adjacent organic coffee plantation are not to be missed. Through reforesting the area with over 7,000 indigenous trees over the last 25 years the grounds of Finca Rosa Blanca have become home to many other guests–130 different species of birds!
All of the employees are from the surrounding barrios and learn about sustainable living as a part of their training so they can implement conscious consumerism at home as well. Finca Rosa Blanca often holds community meetings to discuss solutions for recycling, water quality, and other public health concerns such as support systems for senior citizens and a meaningful relationship with the Children’s Food Bank for 20 years.
Don’t just take my word for it. The Costa Rica Tourism Board is one of the first in the world to create a prestigious sustainability certification program and Finca Rosa Blanca has received the highest possible score of 5 leaves. They’re also accredited by the Rainforest Alliance and have been recognized by National Geographic as a Unique Lodge of the World.
Rancho Margot, near La Fortuna
For an off the grid, self – sufficient experience, look no further than Rancho Margot. We fell in love with this ranch, located about an hour’s drive from the adventure hub of La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano for its rustic luxury, simple organic food, and rushing streams running through the ranch right next to the open air yoga shala.
Rancho Margot is in many ways an experiment to see how we can live with creating as small a footprint as possible. The sustainable ranch comprises high end bungalow accommodation (or a bunkhouse for those on a budget), yoga and wellness programs, natural swimming pools, a permaculture project, organic farm and sustainable ranch with chicken, cows and pigs and acre after acre of beautiful rainforest grounds. Wake up to the sounds of the jungle clad hills around you each morning, or take a short hike for a stunning view out over Lake Arenal.
The ranch makes their own organic soaps, detergents and cleaning products and even furniture! The ranch serves food direct from their farm (as much as possible) and is also a working learning centre for those who come to learn and volunteer about permaculture and sustainable living.
This is the perfect place for those who want to “get away for it all” and seek inspiration from an impact-conscious way of living.
Tacacori Eco Lodge, Alajuela – Contributed by Nadine Rich of Nriched Content
Just 15 minutes away from the international airport at San Jose, a garden retreat awaits. Many tourists come to stay at touristy areas on the Pacific coast but we highly recommend you to come to the Central Valley when visiting the country, the views are magnificent, the locals are all about the “Pura Vida” and you can really experience the “real” culture.
One of our favourite places to stay is the Tacacori EcoLodge, Alajuela. This eco-friendly lodge is the epitome of sustainable with its 4 private villas that are made of natural materials such as bamboo, rattan, cotton. Hot water is provided by solar energy and natural light is used throughout along with energy saving lamps and LEDs. Tacacori’s owners, who are French, are committed to impacting the environment as little as possible which they have proven since the beginning. No trees were cut down to integrate the villas and they were designed specifically for maximum natural lighting. Biodegradable soaps and organic shower gels are among their offerings here.
One thing people always go on about when staying at Tacacori are the gardens! They are breathtaking and well, transformational! You will feel at one with nature and the experience will quickly put everything back into perspective. You’re likely to see a vast array of wildlife including birds such as toucans, hummingbirds, parakeets, motmots…the list goes on. Costa Rica is home to a quarter of the world’s known butterflies so have your camera ready to see how many you can capture.
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Which is your favourite Costa Rica eco lodge? Let us know in the comments below!
A Londoner by birth Ellie has lived in the UK, Netherlands, India and now Canada. Prior to blogging, she worked for 12 years in hospitality and online travel. Ellie started this blog during a sabbatical trip in 2015 around South Asia, to help conscious travellers find the best inspiration for their next sustainable trip. When not travelling, she is happiest with wine, pasta and a good (travel) book. Ellie is also Founder of Soul Travel Consulting which helps travel brands communicate their sustainability initiatives.