Costa Rica boasts one of the highest densities of biodiversity of any country in the world and much of its wildlife can be enjoyed without having to leave the confines of your hotel resort. From sloths to sea turtles, as well as more birds than you can shake a pair of binoculars at, the success of Costa Rica’s animal species can partly be attributed to the country’s world-leading attitudes towards ecotourism, with many of its leading hotels positioning themselves on the cutting edge of wildlife conservation and reforestation projects. These Costa Rica hotels put sustainability first and offer the best and most unique opportunities to experience the country’s incredible wildlife.
Arenas del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort — Puntarenas
In Manuel Antonio National Park, a jungle paradise on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, lush vegetation rich in flora and fauna spills out onto some of the country’s most spectacular white-sand beaches. For the quintessential Manuel Antonio experience, stay at Arenas del Mar, the only rainforest resort in the area with premium beach access direct from your lodging.
Wake up to the sound of the waves lapping against the shore of your own beach or join the early birds on the 6:00 am birdwatching tour and listen as the dawn chorus brings the jungle to life while you explore Arenas del Mar’s eleven acres of secondary forest with one of their resident naturalist guides. Wildlife abounds at this luxury beach resort, so don’t be surprised to see sloths and any one of the four types of monkey swing by during breakfast and your evening beachside barbecue at the Playitas Restaurant on the resort’s private beach.
Price: From $294 per night
Laguna Lodge — Limon
The murky brown waterways of Tortuguero National Park are a haven for wildlife, and the Laguna Lodge places you right in the heart of this wetland wilderness. Accessible only by boat, this ecolodge rests on a spit of sand that separates the Caribbean Sea from one of the many canals and lagoons that make up the labyrinth that is Tortuguero. It’s one of the most beautiful — and private — of Costa Rica hotels. Take advantage of the full repertoire of activities that Laguna Lodge has on offer: expect to see caimans, crocs, sloths, howler monkeys, and even river dolphins on the boat tour or discover the park’s under your own steam on the guided kayak tour.
Tortuguero’s main draw, however, is the sea turtles. This tiny stretch of sand is one of the most important turtle nesting sites on the whole Caribbean coastline. Laguna Lodge runs night tours in its own backyard during nesting season (July to October) and hatching season (September to November). Visit in October and you might be privileged enough to experience both.
Price: From $116 per night
Nayara Gardens, Nayara Springs, and Nayara Tented Camps Resorts — La Fortuna
At the foot of Arenal, Costa Rica’s most famous volcano, lies a once-barren landscape that’s been laboriously restored into verdant rainforest by the efforts of the Nayara Resorts group. Their hotel complex consists of three separate collections in one location, but while the lodgings in the Nayara Springs (adults only) and Nayara Gardens are exquisite, Nayara’s jewel is its Tented Camp.
Here you can watch in awe as macaws and toucans flash overhead while you enjoy a floating breakfast from your own private infinity pool at one of Nayara’s safari-style luxury tents. Later, roam the rest of the Nayara complex on the lookout for more animals, especially from the forest’s hanging bridges where in-house expert naturalists are always on hand to name for you a particular bird or butterfly or point you in the direction of the nearest resident sloth.
Price: From $280 per night
Parador Resort and Spa — Punta Quepos
Parador Resort and Spa was one of the early standard-bearers for sustainable luxury in Costa Rica. Located at the edge of Manuel Antonio National Park, Parador is a veritable haven for tropical birds, monkeys, and especially sloths – the hotel’s extensive grounds are a popular release site for the Sloth Institute, a non-profit that works tirelessly to rehabilitate injured animals. For the best wildlife watching, join one of Parador’s knowledgeable on-site naturalists on a tour of the two-kilometer “monkey trail” that loops through the dense secondary forest preserved on the hotel grounds.
Here, sightings of the impudent white-faced capuchins are guaranteed – but you’ll most likely have already caught them sipping from one of the hotel’s three infinity pools. At the end of the day, savor the sunset over the Pacific from your suite terrace before heading down to the outstanding restaurant to sample chef Rodrigo Salazar’s world-class menu, served up using only the very best locally sourced foods.
Price: From $189
Chachagua Rainforest Hotel and Hot Springs — La Fortuna
Chachagua Rainforest Hotel and Hot Springs is folded into ninety-four acres of exquisite forest which serves as part of a biological corridor for some of the country’s most exciting animal and bird species, including the elusive puma. The resort offers a broad range of excursions in partnership with small, locally run tour operators as well as two excellent on-site tours on the wild grounds themselves.
The Night Hike Frog March brings you up close and personal with Costa Rica’s iconic red-eyed tree frog and other creatures of the night, while the day tour follows a meandering trail that will see you strafing waterfalls and fording bubbling brooks on the hunt for wildlife. At the end of the tour, children are handed the opportunity to plant their own tree on the hotel’s grounds: a neat metaphor for Chachagua’s commitment to preserving the rainforest for future generations.
Price: From $97 per night
Rancho Pacifico — Uvita
Rancho Pacifico is an award-winning blend of eco-tourism and luxury living perched in the foothills of Uvita’s coastal mountains and overlooking the famous Whale’s Tail beach on the Pacific Ocean. Regularly touted as one of Costa Rica’s most romantic retreats, this adults-only five-star resort is about more than just fine dining and spa treatments: it is also one of the best places in the country to spot humpback whales.
For the best chance of seeing them, visit during the peak months of September and October and join a whale-watching tour organized by the hotel. After a day on the water, retire to your luxury treehouse lodgings where the floor-to-ceiling windows bring the jungle into your room. Then take to your private decking for a soak-in hot tub, cocktail in hand, and keep your eyes fixed on the ocean horizon to catch another glimpse of those extraordinary mammals.
Price: From $395 per night