Hotels and Restaurants
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Several undistinguished options for bare-bones budget travelers line Calle Real. Expect basic rooms and minimal facilities at Hotel Liberia (Calle Central, Avenida 2, tel./fax 506/2666-0161, hotelliberia [at] hotmail [dot] com, $8 pp with shared bathroom, $10 pp with private bathroom).
A notch up (barely), La Posada del Tope (Calle Central, Avenidas 2/4, tel./fax 506/2666-3876, $15 s/d shared bath, $20 s/d private bath) has 22 basic rooms with fans and TVs; 13 rooms share bathrooms. Of similar standard, Hotel Casa Real (tel. 506/2666-3876, $18 s, $26 d with shared bath), across the street from La Posada del Tope, has the same owners and a restaurant.
The Hotel Guanacaste (tel. 506/2666-0085, www.higuanacaste.com, $8–16 s, $26 d, including tax; 15 percent discount with IYH card) is affiliated with IYH. Truckers prefer this popular option with 27 simple dorms and private rooms with fans; some have private cold-water bathrooms. There’s table tennis, a restaurant, TV lounge, Skype for free international calls, and secure parking. Camping ($5 pp) is available.
For a modicum of comfort, opt for Hotel Daisyta (Avenida 3, Calle 13, tel. 506/2666-0197, www.hoteldaisytaliberia.com, $48 s, $58 d rooms), with 23 air-conditioned rooms and seven villas, two small swimming pools, and a bar and restaurant, plus secure parking and a laundry.
Likewise, consider the venerable and popular Hotel Bramadero (Hwy. 1 at Avenida 1, tel. 506/2666-0371, www.hotelelbramadero.com, $32 s or $44 d low season, $40 s or $58 d high season), a motel-style hotel with 23 air-conditioned rooms with uninspired furniture and cable TV, plus a pool and atmospheric roadside restaurant.
Others in this price bracket to consider are the Spanish-style Hotel Boyeros (tel. 506/2666-0722, www.hotelboyeros.com, $60 s, $70 d), next to Highway 1 at Avenida 2, with 70 air-conditioned rooms with cable TV and telephones, plus a large pool in landscaped grounds; and the modern, motel-style Hotel Wilson (Calle 5, Avenidas Central/2, tel. 506/2666-4222), in a three-story complex around a secure parking lot.
The Best Western Hotel & Casino El Sitio (tel. 506/2666-1211, U.S. tel. 800/780-7234, www.bestwestern.com, from $54 s/d), 150 meters west of Highway 1 on the road to Nicoya, is a modern motel-type lodging with 52 spacious and modestly furnished rooms with private baths. The hotel has atmospheric Guanacastecan trimmings: red-tiled roofs, local landscape paintings, and wagon-wheel chandelier. There’s a large swimming pool and sundeck, plus gift store and tour desk.
In a similar vein, the modest Best Western Hotel Las Espuelas (tel. 506/2666-0144, www.bestwestern.com, from $55 s/d) is set amid tropical gardens facing Highway 1, two kilometers south of Liberia. The 44 spacious, modestly furnished air-conditioned rooms with cable TVs are supported by a country-style restaurant and poolside palenque bar with folkloric entertainment (for groups).
The most appealing place by far, done up in colorful minimalist Ikea style, is El Punto Bed & Breakfast (tel. 506/2665-2986, www.elpuntohotel.com, $60 s, $70 d), occupying a former school on the Pan-American Highway, 200 meters south of the main junction. Here, former classrooms have cleverly metamorphosed into six quirkily furnished studio-style air-conditioned rooms (which get warm, especially upstairs) with a downstairs plus loft bedrooms with orthopedic mattresses, ceiling fans, CD players, gorgeous private bathrooms with hot showers and organic toiletries, and patios with lounge chairs. A common room has cable TV and WiFi. The owner, Mariana Estreda, is an educated charmer and the restaurant is one of the best in Guanacaste. It hosts the Galería 1824 art space.
Out near the airport, the Hotel Hilton Garden Inn (tel. 506/2690-8888, http://hiltongardeninn1.hilton.com, from $119 s/d) opened in 2010. This snazzy five-story entity will be familiar to travelers around the world, as it fits the usual Hilton mold. State-of-the-art amenities in the comfy rooms include high definition 32-inch LCD TVs.
Liberia offers some tremendous options for dining, including Restaurante Jauja (tel. 506/2665-2061, 7 A.M.–11 P.M. Mon.–Sat., 11 A.M.–11 P.M. Sun.), with elegant rattan furnishings and an open patio with a huge tree. Go for the bargain-priced plato ejecutivo lunch ($5), $10 nightly specials (such as chicken salad, dorado with papaya sauce, and apple strudel with ice cream), and even sushi. It also has tremendous baked goods.
For seafood, you can’t beat Restaurante Paso Real (tel. 506/2666-3455, 11 A.M.–10 P.M. daily, $5–15), on the south side of the plaza, a modestly elegant seafood restaurant with options for indoor air-conditioning or patio dining with views over the square. It offers salads, soups, pastas, ceviche, and entrées such as fish with brandy sauce, squid and octopus with seafood sauce, and Mexican-style shrimp jalapeños, plus casados.
Carnivores make a beeline for Restaurante El Zaguán (Avenida Central, Calle 1, tel. 506/2666-2456, 11:30 A.M.–10 P.M. Mon.–Fri., 7:30 A.M.–10 P.M. Sat.–Sun.), which specializes in meats on the grill. It has heaps of yesteryear ambience, lent by its colonial setting.
Taking Liberia into gourmet heights is Casa Verde Restaurant & Lounge Bar (tel. 506/2665-5037, 11 A.M.–11 P.M. daily, closed Mon. in Dec.), at Bed & Breakast El Punto. This super-stylish restaurant boasts walls of glass, chic black leather sofas, glazed concrete floors, and delicious fusion dishes, such as stroganoff ($13), baby-back ribs ($23), and tuna tataki salad ($15). It even has a separate sushi bar, and hosts a five-course dinner with live music on Friday nights. The owners, Israel (Venezuela) and Tania (New Zealand), have concocted a fantastic venue. Go!
The best coffee shop around is Café Liberia (Calle Real, Avenida 4, tel. 506/2653-1660, 10 A.M.–10 P.M. daily), where young Panamanian entrepreneur Radha Toruño serves delicious gourmet coffees in a treasure of a building; note the Raphael cherubs on the ceiling.
Café Europa (tel. 506/2668-1081, www.panaleman.com, 6 A.M.–6 P.M. daily), a German bakery two kilometers west of the airport, is a perfect spot to pick up succulent fresh-baked croissants, Danish pastries, pumpernickel breads, and much more. It has an airy spot to sit and munch, but it can get hot.
You can stock up at the Palí (Avenida 3, Calle Central) supermarket.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition