I was happy to learn that there are many laws in place to protect endangered animals and that, laws aside, locals really do care about their fellow inhabitants. Not surprising, this respect for nature seeps into businesses large and small, including the hospitality industry.
Costa Rica’s: Best Eco-Lodges & Hotels
Finca Rosa Blanca
If you’re a fan of coffee (and even if you’re not), Finca Rosa Blanca will curb your craving. Since it’s about twenty minutes from the San Jose international airport—don’t worry, it’s so quiet you will never know—I suggest adding this to the beginning or end of your trip.
There’s a little bit of everything here, and you can really feel the personality of the owners throughout the space.
Fun fact: one of them is an artist by trade and designed all the metal work you see in the rooms and in the common areas. Besides a definite art-focus, Finca doubles as a coffee plantation so you’ll get to drink lots of good coffee during your stay. I opted for the half-day coffee plantation tour and tasting to get familiar with the area and better appreciate my morning cup of joe.
It is one of the best eco-lodges in the country — they have villas, so it’s beyond a lodge really. I stayed in one of their villas, which felt like a mini home, with my own kitchen, two terraces and complimentary coffee.
There’s also a really nice spa on-site (their Pura Vida Coffee Detox package is pure bliss), a pool and jacuzzi area, the El Tigre Restaurant that features indoor and outdoor seating and, my personal favorite – a fireplace area to warm up on cold nights.
ECO HIGHLIGHTS: The majority of their drinking water comes from banana trees on their finca. I had no idea how much water these trees, but it’s pretty incredible. There’s also a garden on-site and they grow only Arabic coffee.
My experience at The Retreat truly surpassed my expectations and I’m already plotting my return trip. It’s a bit more modern than the Cayuga Collection properties—but still very “Zen” and eco-friendly.
There are different packages available but mind included all meals and non-alcoholic drinks, twice-daily Yoga and a signature spa treatment. I also stayed four nights here, which allowed me to totally connect with my surroundings and not feel the pressure of packing up soon after arriving.
The best part of The Retreat is the food. Award-winning lifestyle author, Diana Stobo, runs the place so this is to be expected and no surprise that is one of the best eco-lodges in Costa Rica. Seriously though, I don’t think I’ve ever had food this good. Bonus points because it’s healthy.
All meals are gluten-free, dairy-free, and only use natural sugars like agave. They do serve meat but only when ethically sourced.
In terms of a wellness reset, you’ll get one. I learned on my second night that the property is actually built on gold and crystal and as such, many guests experience a “shift” during their time here. Between yummy food and Yoga, I felt lighter both physically and mentally.
ECO HIGHLIGHTS: There’s an on-site garden where they grow just about every herb and plant that makes it onto your plate. The Retreat is more like a house, so just ask the chefs if you want to go foraging.
Arenas del Mar
I have such love for Arenas del Mar. Located mere minutes from Manuel Antonio National Park, this was my first real jaunt with Costa Rican nature. If you’re doing the tourist track, you’ll likely fly into San Jose and then work your way to Quepos—the closest city to the park.
Oddly enough, the same owners of Finca Rosa Blanca opened Arenas del Mar and both are part of the Cayuga Collection of eco-friendly lodges across Costa Rica and in Nicaragua.
My favorite aspect of Arenas del Mar was the location. My room had a really spacious outdoor patio that overlooked both the crashing waves below and the thick forest overhead.
Then there were all the animals I spotted! I saw two sloths, a couple monkeys in the trees on their semi-private beach, a raccoon outside my door and plenty of birds. Basically, I felt like a five year-old the entire time.
As a budget traveler, I also really appreciated their complimentary “Tico bar,” in each room. Every day, it’s re-stocked with local Costa Rican slacks like chocolate-covered dried pineapples and plantain chips. There’s even Kombucha! Speaking of the food, it’s pretty good. Breakfasts were included with my plan and with all the free snacks in my room, I only made it to lunch once.
ECO HIGHLIGHTS: They serve bamboo straws with any drink (as do many other properties in Costa Rica) and have ample eco-tours to choose from, like a guided excursion to Manuel Antonio National Park. We love this and one of the reasons why it makes one of the best eco-lodges.
Beach bummers unite! I was probably most excited about Latitude 10 because I’ve heard amazing things about Santa Teresa, the surf town where it’s located. Getting here can be a little tricky, especially because Lat 10 doesn’t really have a sign outside their doors. That’s the whole point though; they want you to feel like you’re “home” and not at a hotel…..another reason that makes it one of the best eco-lodges.
For me, the biggest perk of staying here was direct access to the beach. Since it’s on the outskirts of Santa Teresa, it’s super quiet and even though there were other guests around, I usually felt like the only one there.
Rooms are open air and windowless. Don’t worry; there are mosquito nets on the beds and shades to draw at night. That said, it’s not for everyone. There will be bugs and when it rains, it will sound like fireworks in your ears. Personally, I loved it!
A 20-minute walk on the beach gets you to Hermosa Beach, which is the best place to surf. I took a class on my last day and it’s seriously stunning. As for complimentary activities, there are regularly scheduled activities like Yoga, mojito-making classes and the like. I found the food to be on the pricy side here, but there’s always the option of going into town; they even provide free bicycles to guest.
ECO HIGHLIGHTS: They source their fish from local fishermen, use bamboo straws and don’t have air-conditioners in the rooms. Eco-greats make it one of the best eco-lodges and is a cut on our list.
Villa Buena Onda
This boutique hotel surprised me in the best of ways. First off, it’s in a great location. Guanacaste is the fastest-growing region of tourism in Costa Rica despite the high number of travelers, VBO feels worlds apart. Plus, it overlooks the ocean and is all around very tranquil.
Since Villa Buena Onda is an adults-only hotel, you’re going to see lots of couples. As a solo female traveler, dining alone can feel a little awkward but the couples I interacted with were really nice.
Everyone keeps to themselves, whether chilling at the infinity pool, drinking at the bar or lounging outside on your hammock. I was on the second floor, so I had a private balcony that overlooked the grounds. These rooms are a little more expensive but worth it in my opinion.
Now might be a good time to mention that VBO is also all-inclusive. I know! Having only stayed at large all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, I was not expecting this. Meals are served three times a day and portions are large. I found the food really flavorful and there was a wide selection at each meal. Alcoholic drinks and snacks in between meals are an added cost, as are treatments at the spa. Again, definitely well worth the splurge! Try their 90-minute Swedish massage.
ECO HIGHLIGHTS: VBO doesn’t necessarily market themselves as “eco’ per se, but they do make every effort when possible. You might notice LED light bulbs and glass bottles, along with as environmentally friendly toiletries, another reason it makes the list of the best eco-lodges.
Kura Design Villas
I had a bittersweet experience at Kura Design Villas. While it’s undeniably gorgeous aesthetically, I was sick during about 90% of my time there…partly because they didn’t properly communicate my mango. That said, if I were to choose a place to be sick, Kura isn’t a bad choice. It’s 5-star, so the staff was really attentive. The views are unreal, and between the pool lounge area and my room, I had many nap choices.
Despite the (very) high price tag, there are some complimentary features. Breakfast, for example, is included in the room rates, as are daily activities on rainy days. I participated in a spice demonstration tasting one day and a tutorial on how to make “sweet water” the next.
Finally, there’s a free daily shuttle to the nearby beach offered each morning (and the return is in the afternoon). Unfortunately, my only outings were to the doctor in town.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in relaxation and privacy, Kura is it. There’s a spa on-site, as well as ample room to lounge about in your room. Speaking of rooms, they are some of the best I’ve seen. My favorite was the in-room binoculars and the oversized purple hammock on my balcony.
ECO HIGHLIGHTS: Kura is probably the most eco-friendly and sustainable of the bunch. They run entirely on solar panels, meaning electricity, water, etc. There are also LED lights you’ll see at night. No surprise that this easily makes the list as one of the best eco-lodges in Costa Rica.
It was actually my husband discovered this place but I quickly became hooked myself. Unlike the other resort-style hotels on this list, Finca Bellavista is a little less glamorous but more community focused. For one, it’s a treehouse community, so don’t expect to get maid service every day…or at all. It’s kind of like you’re renting a vacation home for a week. Meals are also a-la-carte or you pre-purchase groceries.
Below is a picture of our treehouse, Casa Estrella. As you might notice, it’s not a true treehouse but there are many throughout the property that are. The grounds are really spread out, so we chose one that was very close to basecamp, had a strong wifi connection, a working kitchen and electricity.
That said, there are many other casas more remote and with less amenities. It all depends on your travel style and what you hope to gain from this experience.
While the heavy rains do set in around 12 or 1 pm, you have the whole morning to explore. There’s a hanging bridge that connects you to the creek as well as three different trails. My personal favorite was the “green” trail that leads to a gorgeous waterfall and natural pool.
ECO HIGHLIGHTS: As mentioned above, many houses don’t run on electricity. Where electricity does run, solar panels are used. It’s also very self-sustainable. Oh, and there are ziplines to get around! It is up there as one of the best eco-lodges because of their commitment to sustainability. Bravo.
Have you ever stayed at an eco-lodge or sustainable hotel? Tell us in the comments below!