Imagine this: You wake up at 5 am to your alarm for your early morning hike to the Arenal volcano. You’re a little bit cranky, craving coffee and just want to get back into bed instead of attempting your sweaty hike up a mosquito filled, rainforest shrouded volcano. When you open your eyes, however, your view is filled with the volcano you’re about to climb and someone is gently knocking on the door with a cup of freshly brewed coffee that you can already smell and advising that the breakfast you ordered the night before will be ready for you just before you leave. This is just what you can expect when pairing a luxury vacation with an adventure location.

If you’re looking for luxury accommodation with the jungle, beach and volcanoes at your back door, then Costa Rica is a perfect destination. Maybe you’re planning a honeymoon, destination wedding or just need some special time away, a splurge on a trip to Costa Rica will open up the best of Costa Rica luxury homes, villas and resorts. The following guide gives you all the information you need to plan the perfect luxury vacation without the need of a travel agent.

I'm always giving you advice on how to budget for travel and how to find the best deals but what if you just want to have the best possible vacation you can for a week or two? I am not usually lucky enough to experience this type of scenario but on occasion it is so nice to treat myself, and one of my favourite places to do this is in Central America. You get so much luxury for much less than you would back home.

Luxury Trips To Costa Rica

Safety in Costa Rica

If you’ve never visited Costa Rica, then the first thing you’re probably asking is, “Is it safe???” Out of all countries I’ve visited in Central America (and I’ve been to them all), I would consider Costa Rica to be the safest. The country is so centred around tourism and ensuring they have first class services for visitors that you will feel safer than wandering around your own city.

While pick pocketing and thefts of opportunity take place in the bigger cities, like San Jose, violent crime is rare and in all the time I have traveled around the country, I have only been witness to one theft - someone leaving their day pack in the rack above the seats on a local bus. Not a smart move anywhere and if you’re taking private transport, like the many shuttles available, or renting a car, then you will be fine.

Here are some things to avoid to make sure you stay safe:

  • Avoid driving after dark. Some roads can surprise you and turn into a rough dirt road when you’re not expecting it.
  • Don’t leave your belongings unattended in your rental car.
  • Stay away from deserted areas, like the beach, at night.
  • Be mindful when visiting the ATM. Stash your money safely and head straight from the ATM back to your hotel.
  • Be careful where you swim. Check with your hotel for advice on the safest places to swim. The surf can be rougher than you’re used to at home and accidents can quickly happen even if you’re a strong swimmer.
  • Avoid crowded areas and protect yourself against pickpockets.
Luxury trips to Costa Rica

Costa Rica Budget

Costa Rica is a great destination for all budgets. I’ve traveled there as a budget backpacker and also forked out when I needed a more luxury vacation. For those looking for a luxury vacation in Costa Rica you’ll be surprised at how affordable your holiday can still be.

For tours, accommodation and meals all together, a good estimate is $275 - $500 per person per day. This budget will allow you to stay in the best hotels or resorts, private shuttle vans and daily activities like scuba diving and snorkelling trips, private tours and some pampering time.

With this higher end budget you can afford to fly to different destinations around Costa Rica. This is a great option to get to the remote but so worth it, Osa Peninsula.

My Top 7 Costa Rica Activities

These are some of my favourite activities around Costa Rica. You could spend weeks here and still not see everything but if you drill down on what you’re most interested in, then you could definitely fill a one or two week itinerary. Whether you’re into nature, want some adrenaline-fuelled adventure or just want to see a cute sloth up close, Costa Rica really does have everything.

Corcovado National Park and Cano Island

Sloth in Costa Rica

With so may activities available in the Osa Peninsula you could easily spend your whole vacation right here. The highlights, though, are a hike in the Corcovado National Park and a snorkel or dive trip to Cano Island. I could write a while post about the Osa Peninsula (and will soon) but basically expect to be surrounded by so many animals that you will eventually get bored of monkey and sloth spotting and start checking out the other smaller critters crawling around. 

On this trip, I saw three different species of monkey, sloths, a giant family of coati (these guys literally surrounded my group and we had to wait for them to pass. Animals get right of way in the jungle!), crocodiles, birds, giant insects and tapirs.

On the way to my snorkelling trip around Cano Island, my boat spotted whales and also had some friendly dolphins play around our boat. During the snorkel I spotted a whole bunch of fish (I never know what they’re called) and turtles! If you’re into wildlife, then trust me and head to the Osa Peninsula. You’ll even get to see animals when you’re back at your hotel. It’s so remote that there really is no boundary to where they go.

White water rafting

There are a few different options for rafting in Costa Rica but my personal favourite is white water rafting on the Pacuare River. A one day trip will test your skills against 52 rapids with the opportunity to spot some unique wildlife along the river. Exploradores is a great company with an excellent safety record that offers single day and multi day rafting trips along the river.

Zip lining

Did you know recreational zip lining was invented in Costa Rica?? Even if you’ve tried it before, zip lining is a must do in Costa Rica and there really is one for everyone. For the timid and first timers, you can try an aerial tram, where you are safely enclosed on all sides. For the adventurous travelers, you can go one step further and try a super man style zip line.

Volcano Hike

Costa Rica is filled with some epic hikes but there’s just something about being able to surmount a volcano that makes me feel all Indiana Jones. One of the best volcano hikes is the Arenal volcano in the La Fortuna area. During the hike you get to walk over old lava flows and through primary rainforest. It’s an often elusive one to see but when you do catch it not snuggled up to the clouds, it’s makes the wait worthwhile.

Arenal Volcano

Swim in a waterfall or lounge in a hot spring

Central America is the land of waterfalls and if you’ve travelled enough through the region, you might find yourself suffering from what I diagnose as “Waterfall Fatigue”. Pick your waterfalls carefully and don’t let this happen to you! One of my favourite waterfalls is also in La Fortuna, the La Fortuna Waterfall.

One of the best things about this waterfall is that it’s accessible so that anyone can view it from the highest viewpoint.  You can see the water spouting out from the base of the dormant Chato volcano, fall 70 meters to a tropical pool below. Once you’re had enough of the view and if you’re feeling game, you can take the staircase that’s carved into the hillside and go for a swim.

You can also find thermal hot springs around the Arenal area and if you plan it well enough, your hotel might be built around a hot spring. There honestly was nothing better than relaxing in the evening in a mini pool filled with thermal water from the volcano, cocktail in hand (from the swim-up bar) while catching glimpses of the Arenal volcano with the moon overhead.

Canoe trip Tortuguero National Park
Canoe Trip in Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero canoeing

Touring through the canals in the remote Tortuguero is a peaceful opportunity to explore the Tortuguero National Park. I saw the most wildlife on this trip, including getting up close and personal to a timid caiman. As you glide smoothly and quietly through the rivers and narrow channels you will spot lots of birds, frogs, monkeys and huge lizards. I recommend getting in touch with Victor Barrantes from Tortuguero Infocenter for tour packages.

I could go on and on about things to do in Costa Rica but you’ll soon find out that the sky’s the limit here. Costa Rica also has some great yoga and meditation retreats, surfing spots for beginners to learn or the advanced to get a challenge, stand up paddle boarding, horse riding on the beach, spelunking and you get the idea.

Where to Stay

Now the fun part! Where should you stay? Costa Rica has a slew of resorts, villas, hotels and also some more adventurous options that still provide a luxury experience. Here are some of my favourites around the country.

Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa

The Tabacon is located in the town of La Fortuna where you can find the Arenal volcano and also the La Fortuna waterfall. All rooms have rainforest views and some have views of the volcano but the best part of this resort is that there are 18 hot springs on the property for you to enjoy. Rooms are large with a modern design and the resort prides itself on its eco-friendly approach.

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Ylang Ylang Beach Resort

Ylang Ylang is Montezuma's only resort right on the beach. Think white sand beach and lush gardens surrounding the property with the chance for spotting monkeys in the trees. 

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Rio Perdido

A perfect mix between authenticity, nature and luxury, Rio Perdido is in a location like nothing you have seen before. They actually have an adventure playground on their property with wold-class trails for biking, zip lining over their own canyon, a variety of hikes and white water rafting. You could honestly spend your whole vacation right here.

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Waterfall Villas Wellness Retreat

A beautiful Balinese-style paradise in Costa Rica, Waterfall Villas is the perfect place to let your creative energy flow, with special workshops on topics such as Chinese Watercolor Painting, Astrology, Tai Chi, and Feng Shui. Dominical is a great spot to base yourself in Costa Rica because you have easy access to the stunning and remote Osa Peninsula.

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Playa Cativo Lodge

I've saved the best for last. Playa Cativo is so exclusive that you can only access it by private boat. All rooms have stunning ocean views in a natural setting. Not only do you have a private beach to laze around in but you also have gardens (filled with butterflies!), lush pool and a dedicated air-conditioned library. When I think of luxury in Costa Rica, Playa Cativo is the first that comes to mind.

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Disclosure:  Please note that some of the links included are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase.


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