Almost all of our accommodation was booked early – in January (for July), and the options were limited when I moved some plans around in March, so this was worth doing. Most options had free cancellation until much nearer the time which was reassuring. The prices were also much higher nearer the time, which would have priced us out of some of these options.
When looking on Costa Rica forums, there seem to be two types of people – those who have hundreds to spend, and those who are backpacking and staying in hostels. We don’t fit into either of these extremes and were looking for economical accommodation (<$150 a night for the four of us) that offered privacy, convenience (without a car), a pool when appropriate and most importantly a bed for each of us. Here’s what we chose: (links and photos to follow, please get in touch if you need more details before I get around to doing this).
This was a brilliant AirBnb and a great introduction to Costa Rica. Unfortunately the AirBnb system had a time limit on submitting a review, which had passed by the time we got home to do it. There was plenty of room for us, a great pool and very reassuring security gates. It was 10-15 minutes walk to the national park (and centre of Cahuita) and 5-10 minutes walk to the nearest supermarket. Easy! Air conditioning was effective, great outdoors seating area, comfortable beds and amazingly supplied bug-repellent-lotion which we missed once we’d moved on! Yordi, the caretaker, doesn’t confidently speak English but his English is massively better than my Spanish, and we got by using WhatsApp and Google translate. Yordi liaised with Marco to allow us to check in slightly earlier than expected after our disastrous 40-hour start to the holiday, so that we could get settled. Yordi also spoke to the delivery agents for my bag when they arrived, to facilitate the delivery of that. He was very helpful and friendly.
Like everywhere we found in Costa Rica, the kitchen sink didn’t have hot water and the toilet paper needed to be put in a bin, not flushed away. Also like everywhere else, there was a microwave and hob, but no oven.
We needed another night in Cahuita after I changed the Tortuguero dates (which I probably shouldn’t have done, now I think about it, but then my bag would never have reached me, so who knows…). Sadly, Casa Coralita had a booking straight after ours and despite me checking repeatedly, that one night never came available. Ena (not sure of spelling) at Cabinas Surf Side was SO friendly. Again, security was clearly a high priority and we felt safe. The kitchen facilities were basic but did us fine for an unexpected meal (we’d intended to eat out that one night but then didn’t want to). Rooms were also very simple and not as comfortable as the airbnb but were fine for one night. These cabinas are what are in the featured photo for this post – very colourful!
This hotel is available on booking.com but was booked for us as part of our package through Roots. We had two rooms, with air conditioning, each with a double bed and a single bed. The rooms were immediately next to each other and opened directly (within a couple of feet) of the pool. Breakfast (banana pancakes or gallo pinto) was included on the first morning, but we didn’t have it on the second morning (and didn’t ask, as we were dealing with Megan being unwell). Friendly staff, comfortable rooms, easy walk to the centre of the village.
Ah, we loved Hotel Bijagua! The pool was brilliant, the spaces outside was good. We had a ‘villa’ (a room with a kitchenette and two double beds) and a separate room (with two double beds). I did ask for the rooms to be close together but they were on opposite corners of the site, but it’s a very small site and the girls are old enough to be that far away, so it was fine. Air conditioning again, and no problems with it.
However, the main positive point of Hotel La Bijagua was David, the co-manager. He gave us great advice, sorted out tickets for tours we wanted and our onward transport, took us to the cash machine and gave us lifts when Uber were unreliable instead of calling us a taxi! He even went home and lent me his screwdrivers when I needed a tiny glasses one. So kind and definitely made our stay. Unfortunately, he was worried about being sacked and after telling us he was working every day for the next 6 days, suddenly vanished, so if he’s no longer working there, things will be different. Nobody spoke to us, and the receptionist didn’t speak English, when he wasn’t there.
Hotel La Bijagua is positioned conveniently on one end of La Fortuna, next door to a great supermarket and a good restaurant and ice cream shop. I was a bit worried when we arrived in La Fortuna, that it was very big, noisy, bright lights and touristy which was our first impressions as the van drove through, but we were out on the quiet edge and felt safe (more security gates!) and didn’t ever venture back into the noisy part we’d driven through.
This was a bargain booking that had everything we needed and a super American-style fridge with an icemaker! I had a lot of worries beforehand as trying to pin Diego down on where the house was was very difficult. Even when we had the instructions that it was ‘opposite the high school’, there were three other houses and we didn’t recognise the one we’d booked from the photos and what we could see. Once we got to the right place, it was comfortable (a bedroom each!) and well equipped (TV and Netflix!). It was noisy though, being on a main road and next to a mechanic’s garage. I’d spent a lot of time looking for places with better views and locations in Monteverde, and hadn’t come up with anything near enough to Santa Elena. I think having a taxi number beforehand would have given me the confidence to book further away from the centre, although it was very convenient to be able to walk (2 minutes downhill) into the centre of Santa Elena.
Don’t underestimate how hilly Santa Elena is! We did one walk to the supermarket (20 minutes) to cover our full stay, whereas in La Fortuna we’d been doing a daily shop instead.
6. Adventure Inn, San Jose (Direct)
This was our only relatively last-minute booking. It is available on booking.com but we were given a better price on contacting them directly with questions. The shuttle service to the airport is useful – as is the packed breakfast offer. I was disappointed with the pool / hot tub – they were both dirty and not of the standard we’d had elsewhere in Costa Rica. The rooms were noisy too, with staff conversations clearly heard long after the 8pm ‘quiet’ time. The beds were comfortable and bedrooms spacious with a connecting door, but I was told we were booking two rooms, each with two queen beds yet on arrival, one of them had a single and a queen, so we didn’t get what we paid for. There’s a list of rules in each room, dictating that if you had any criticisms, you shouldn’t be traveling in the first place, which seemed unkind and unnecessary, especially given the clientele for this hotel are probably almost exclusively first-time Costa Rican visitors and trying hard to adapt to unexpected differences. The hotel is located conveniently, walking distance, from a shopping mall (an interesting experience as it was nothing like what we expected and very deserted!) and an area with restaurants and a supermarket. The restaurants here were the best we’d had in Costa Rica, so that was a positive against an otherwise disappointing accommodation experience.