6 of the best luxury wildlife lodges in Costa Rica

Famous for its mind-blowing biodiversity and sheer natural beauty, Costa Rica should be on every wildlife enthusiasts bucket list. Thanks to its tiny size, visitors can squeeze in a surprising amount of activities in a short amount of time, from spotting the shy quetzal deep in the cloud forest, to watching a mother turtle lay her precious eggs on the sandy shores. Here we have gathered the ultimate list of luxury nature-focused lodges for those wishing to holiday in this spectacular country.

1. Playa Cativo Lodge

If you are looking for seclusion within the natural beauty of Costa Rica, Playa Cativo could be just what you’re looking for. This boutique hotel is privy to stunning views due to its beachfront location, and it maintains a ‘hideaway’ feel as it is surrounded by an impressive 1000 acres of private tropical rainforest. Just to complete this feeling of escapism, the property is only accessible by boat. There are only 7 rooms at this little hotel; two deluxe, two luxury and two premium, but all are extremely comfortable and only a few steps away from the beach and freshwater swimming pool. Despite the remote setting, the facilities are impressive – WiFi, coffee makers, ceiling fans, cotton bathrobes and biodegradable toiletries are provided in all rooms. For those looking to relax, yoga sessions on the beach are available for guest well-being. Furthermore, the onsite restaurant serves up delicious locally sourced a la carte meals using organic ingredients, and the waiters are more than willing to help you pair your chosen dish with a wine from the extensive list, or perhaps one of the exotic cocktails on offer. Sounds good so far? It’s just the tip of the iceberg for this beautiful Costa Rican refuge. Famed for its biological diversity, Playa Cativo allows guests to experience Costa Rica like never before. The hotel can arrange dolphin and whale watching trips, birdwatching tours, snorkelling adventures, nocturnal rainforest safaris, full day hikes, paddle boarding outings and kayaking excursions to name a few. If you’d rather stay at the lodge, the grounds border the Piedras Blancas National Park meaning it is possible to spot all 4 species of monkey that live in Costa Rica, along with coati, deer, kinkajou, sloths, agouti and many species of colourful bird just minutes from your room. Playa Cativo is without doubt, a very special place for luxury holidaymakers.

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2. Kura Design Suites

When an architect and a biologist blend their ideas and inspirations, the outcome is always going to be exciting. With a shared commitment to the natural world and modern art, Martin Wells and Alejandra Umana have created a breath-taking property in the heart of the Costa Rican jungle. Sheer glass walls and clean lines are in perfect contrast to the wonderfully wild rainforest and ocean views which surround the hotel. Guests can sink into a surreal world of tranquillity, luxury, privacy and comfort which will not fail to seduce even the most well-travelled guest. Kura is not just lavish in its looks, it also offers guests incredible service and an exclusive experience. Each of the jungle villas benefit from a beautiful open-floor design with amenities including; twin rain showers with an ocean view, spacious private terrace, a king size bed with luxurious 400-thread count organic cotton sheets, complimentary Wi-Fi, an iPad, minibar, expresso coffee machine, bathrobes and, uniquely, a pair of binoculars for studying the panoramic views. If you can tear yourself away from this well-appointed room, Kura also has a fabulous infinity pool, a restaurant offering culinary masterpieces and the staff will be more than happy to arrange activities in the local area. Take surf lessons nearby, snorkel the many reefs offshore or simple stroll along the romantic Pacific coastline. Whatever you decide to do, Kura Design Suites will be an unforgettable luxury holiday.

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3. El Silencio Lodge and Spa

With views of the Gorrion River, and a backdrop of a tree lined canyon, El Silencio is a retreat like no other which has earned it a place in the Relais and Chateaux collection. Its unique design has captured the natural beauty of Costa Rica whilst maintaining a luxuriant feel. A very special home-from-home atmosphere makes this an ideal place for a luxury holiday with the whole family, private and tranquil, it is perfect for all ages. Considering the remote mountainous location of the lodge, the facilities here are superb. Each suite boast spacious lounging areas including viewing decks with rocking chairs, ultra comfort king-size beds, high speed complimentary Wi-Fi, satellite TV, toiletries from the Aromas Para el Alma eco-friendly range and for an extra touch of pampering, an outdoor heated whirlpool. Away from the accommodation itself, the lodge has plenty to offer visitors including Las Ventanas – the onsite restaurant which prides itself on a local farm-to-table dining experience. Diners can enjoy traditional Costa Rican dishes with an international twist, and ingredients that have been grown on the lodges very own organic mini farm. There is also a coffee lounge, spacious deck with a cosy fire pit, gift shop and ‘The Esencia Spa’ which can pamper guests with massages, facials and body wraps using locally sourced natural products. For visitors wishing to experience more of the local area, the hotel can organise bird watching trips, hikes to nearby waterfalls, horse riding adventures, coffee and wine tastings, white water rafting, mountain biking and even a cooking lesson. This idyllic setting combined with contemporary facilities makes El Silencio a beautiful destination.

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4. Arenal Nayara Hotel & Gardens

This gorgeous boutique hotel is not only located in one of the most beautiful parts of Costa Rica, but it has also been said to be one of the most romantic places in the world. As a 5-star member of ‘Small Luxury Hotels of the World’ it comes as no surprise that Nayara offer visitors impeccable service, incredible excursions, outstanding cuisine and a stunning full service spa. All this is uniquely located within lush tropical gardens making each guest feel like they’ve stepped into a slice of paradise. There are no rooms, only tastefully appointed freestanding bungalows, each of which benefits from state of the art facilities including a private plunge pool, minibar, environmentally friendly toiletries, TV and DVD player and of course, stunning views of the majestic Arenal Volcano. Every detail has been thought of, and a twice daily maid service, personal host, a la carte breakfast and a fruit cocktail upon arrival confirm this. In addition, guests will appreciate the many complimentary amenities such as Wi-Fi, soft drinks, laundry and movies. There is even a yoga pavilion with free yoga classes. Onsite, the entire property is decorated in traditional Costa Rican style making it colourful and warm, and this is reflected in the 4 dining options. Guests can choose Costa Rican and international cuisine at Altamira Restaurant, Latin and Asian fusion at Asia Luna, delicious tapas and wine at the Nostalgia Bar or for those poolside days, snacks and drinks are served at the Kali Pool Bar. Alternatively, for a unique dining experience, the hotel can organise romantic private 5 course dinners with wine.

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5. Punta Islita

This hotel is a perfect combination of modern luxury and traditional values. Set overlooking Guanacaste bay, it boasts one of the best ocean views in Costa Rica. This panorama is best enjoyed whilst lazing around the edge of the stunning infinity pool, which also features a swim up bar that has been voted as one of the world best-view pool bars. The great thing about Punta Islita is that everything is taken care of – if you want to take part in any of the many activities on offer, they are all included in the price. Guests can take cooking lessons or enjoy yoga classes, play golf or take nature walks and for the more adventurous there is zip-lining, horse riding and turtle tracking. There are also more unusual options such as cocktail mixing, painting classes and pilates. There are two restaurants to choose from, the Pacifico Restaurant which offers sublime culinary delights and outstanding views, or the Los Cocos Restaurant for a more informal dining experience. As you would expect for a hotel next to the ocean, fresh seafood features heavily on the menu of both. For guests needing to unwind, the Casa Spa can organise massages, body scrubs, skin nourishing wraps and aromatherapy baths. The rooms themselves are simple, airy and very comfortable or visitors can choose to upgrade to a suite or private villa – there are five categories of room in total. Each has a unique and charming design with hints of colonial art mixed with Costa Rican influences. For laid back luxury, this is the place to stay in Costa Rica.

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6. Pacuare Lodge

Our final luxury property in Costa Rica is Pacuare. This stunning eco-lodge is situated in the rainforest with spectacular views across the Pacuare river – an area which was named by National Geographic as one of the most scenic rivers in the world. If you decide to stay here, chances are you will get to see the water up close, as guests can choose to take an exhilarating white water rafting trip down to the river to arrive at the hotel! But don’t worry if rafting isn’t your thing – the lodge is accessible by a small road too. Sustainability and eco-tourism are a way of life at Pacuare Lodge, and the importance of this is reflected in its values. For example, no trees were cut down when the hotel was being built, and the materials used have been sourced from a nearby reforestation project. 95% of the staff that work at the lodge are from the local region and everything from the textiles to the spa treatments are sourced from organic and natural farms in Costa Rica. Just 12 authentic style bungalows are available for guests, and each has a charming thatched roof, spectacular views, canopy beds and teak flooring which adhere to the sustainability credits. Romance is in the air at Pacuare Lodge as couples can enjoy candlelit dining in the onsite restaurant, appropriately called ‘The Nest’ as it is situated within a 60-foot-high kapo tree! Organic ingredients ensure that the traditional dishes show off the best flavours of Costa Rican cooking. If that isn’t enough – the spa can cater to couples looking for a relaxing afternoon after taking part in one or more of the activities available. Canyoning, white water rafing, hiking, canopy tours and visits to waterfalls are all on the menu. For an eco-conscious luxury holiday, Pacuare Lodge is a fabulous choice.

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Simon Williams is Director of The Bespoke Travel Group.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Owen says:

    Gosh there are so many place to choose from here. If you had to choose just one, could I ask which one it would be and …why. Thank you.

  2. Simon Williams says:

    Tough choice! My personal favourite is Pacuare. The fact that you can raft to the lodge makes it extra special!

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