Demand is high in Puerto Viejo ; make your reservation in advance or secure a room as soon as you arrive. Beware touts who await as the bus arrives and try to entice you to specific lodgings—they’re known to tell lies to dissuade you from any specific place you may already have in mind. The following are the best of dozens of options.
Soda y Camping Miss Elena (tel. 506/2750-0580), on the southwest side of the village, charges $5 per person low season, $10 high season with your own tent ($2 pp extra for tent and cushion rental). Miss Elena is a charmer and offers storage, baths, hammocks, parking, and American breakfasts.
A great option for backpackers, Rocking J’s (tel. 506/2750-0665, www.rockingjs.com , $5 hammocks, $6 tents, $7 pp dorm, $20 private room, $25 tree house, $50–60 suites, $350 house) is a splendid and well-run backpackers’ hammock hotel landscaped with ceramics and seats roughly hewn from tree trunks. You can pitch your tent at one of the sheltered campsites beneath shade eaves, or sleep outside at the “hammock hotel,” with hammocks under shade canopies. It also has two dorm rooms, plus private rooms in varying configurations with lofty bunks and desks below; rooms share two solar-heated showers and five cold-water showers. Other accommodation options here include a tree house, suites, and a three-story house. Guests can use a community kitchen, plus there’s laundry, the @ E’s grill-restaurant, free WiFi, and secure parking, and an upstairs bar with live music midweek and wild full-moon parties. Kayaks and bicycles are available for rent. There are numerous reports, however, about cleanliness being an issue.
The German-run Pagalú Hostel (tel. 506/2750-1930, www.pagalu.com , $10 pp dorm, $20 s or $22 d shared bathroom, $25 s or $28 d private bathroom) elevates the concept of hostel accommodation to a whole new level with its beautiful contemporary design. It makes great use of space, with a huge open-air lounge with kitchen. All rooms have ceiling fans, and super clean and tasteful bathrooms with glass-brick walls and plenty of hot water, plus thoughtful extras such as bedside halogen reading lights and plenty of shelving. One room is wheelchair-accessible, and there’s secure parking.
Another great, albeit relatively Spartan, bet, Sunrise Backpackers Hostel (tel. 506/2750-0028, www.sunrisepuertoviejo.com , $3 pp own tent, $4 pp tent rental, $5 pp dorm, $7 pp shared bathroom, $25 s/d private bathroom) has an upstairs tent deck, plus a dorm and 13 private rooms (some are singles, others are doubles), all with particle-board walls. It has a pleasant café and Internet café, plus bike rentals.
Hotel Puerto Viejo (tel. 506/2750-0620, $8 pp shared bath, $10 pp private) is your last resort, with its 72 small, Spartan rooms with fans, mosquito nets, and shared tiled bathrooms (upstairs rooms are preferable). It has a community kitchen.
The Hotel Maritza (tel. 506/2750-0003, fax 506/2750-0313, $35 s, $40 d cabinas), on the beachfront, has 14 clean rooms with ceiling fans, double and single beds, and private baths with hot water. On weekends, the bar and disco make the walls throb. There’s parking.
I love Jacaranda Hotel & Jungle Garden (tel./fax 506/2750-0069, www.cabinasjacaranda.net , from $20 s or $28 d low season, from $25 s or $32 d high season), where a wonderful hostess, Vera from Trinidad, offers 14 cabins set in a compact and exquisite garden, all with WiFi and private bathroom and hot water. Furnishings are basic but delightful, with subdued tropical walls and colorful mosaic floors throughout. Japanese paper lanterns, mats, Guatemalan bedspreads, hammocks, and mosquito nets are nice touches. A garden massage is offered, and there’s a communal kitchen. Charm and simplicity at its best!
For heartfelt hospitality and positive vibes, I recommend Kaya’s Place (tel. 506/2750-0690, www.kayasplace.com , $14 s or $21 d shared bath, $20–55 s, $30–65 d private low season; $19 s or $27 d shared bath, $25–60 s, $35–70 d private high season), a two-story stone-and-timber lodge supported by tree trunks washed up from the beach. It has 26 rooms of varying sizes and types, all charmingly if simply furnished with hardwood beds and furniture, screened windows, and walls in Caribbean pastels. Some rooms have huge double bunks. It has an Internet café and WiFi. Parking, a swimming pool, and a sunset mirador (lookout) were planned.
For out-of-town seclusion I like Chimuri Beach Retreat (tel./fax 506/2750-0119, www.retreat.chimuribeach.com , $39–55 s/d), west of town, with three nice log-and-thatch cabins set on pleasant grounds. Each is a different size; one, in Caribbean style, has a colorful gingerbread motif and a loft bedroom plus kitchenette, hot water, and WiFi. A three-person unit also has a loft bedroom. Two have kitchens. Owner Mauricio Salazar, a generous, genteel host, offers guided day trips into the Kèköldi Indigenous Reserve . A minimum four-day stay is required.
In the village, the delightfully artsy, bargain-priced, Italian-run Cabinas Guarana (tel. 506/2750-0244, www.hotelguarana.com , $28 s or $33 d low season, $33 s or $41 d high season) is entered by a charming lobby with bar. It has 12 simple but clean and tastefully decorated rooms with colorful sponge-washed walls and ethnic fabrics. All have fans, tile floors, mosquito nets, and private bath with hot water, and there’s free WiFi. Larger cabins have louvered windows and patios with hammocks. They’re set in a lush garden with a tree house. Guests get use of a kitchen, and there’s a laundry and secure parking.
The Swiss-run Casa Verde Lodge (tel. 506/2750-0015, www.cabinascasaverde.com , $28–42 s, $30–48 d low season; $32–48 s, $34–62 d high season) is set in nice grounds with secure parking. It has six cabins, five double rooms, and two single rooms, each simply furnished and with ceiling fans and a fridge, plus hot-water shower and wide balconies with hammocks. Sponge mattresses and tiny TVs are a negative. There’s also a small bungalow, romantic as all get out, plus the two-bedroom, two-story Casa Topo ($42 s or $48 d low season, $48 s or $62 d high season). Features include a gift store, a laundry, secure parking, a tour booth, a café with WiFi, and a beautiful landscaped swimming pool with raised whirlpool tub. The lush garden includes a poison-frog garden.
Nearby, the German-run Cabinas Tropical (tel. 506/2750-0283, www.cabinas-tropical.com , $30 s or $35 d low season, $35 s or $40 d high season) has eight pleasing rooms: clean and airy, with ceiling fans, free WiFi, huge showers with hot water, mosquito nets, and wide french doors opening onto little verandas. Smaller single rooms are dingy; three newer rooms are larger and have refrigerators and balconies. It’s quiet and secure. It has parking and the owner leads nature tours.
I always enjoy resting my head at Coco Loco (tel./fax 506/2750-0281, www.cocolocolodge.com , $30–45 s/d low season, $40–55 s/d high season), where eight handsome Polynesian-style cabinas are raised on stilts amid lawns. The log-and-thatch huts are simply furnished but crafted with exquisite care. They have mosquito nets over the beds and hammocks on the porches. Simple breakfasts are served on a raised deck. Two two-room bungalows with kitchen are also available. The Austrian owners offer tours.
East of the village, Calalú Bungalows (tel. 506/2750-0042, www.bungalowscalalu.com , $35 s or $40 d standard, $50 s/d with kitchen) has five handsome and distinct A-frame thatch cottages, plus a two-story bungalow ($60 s/d) in a compact garden, each cross-ventilated through screened louvered windows, with large walk-in showers and porches with hammocks. Three units have kitchens; all have fans and hot water, plus huge hand-carved wooden beds. It has a small yet attractive pool with sundeck. A surcharge applies for credit cards.
Olaf and Kathy’s Vista Verde (tel. 506/2750-0014, http://vistaverdehospedaje.weebly.com , $17 s or $20 d shared bath, $22 s or $25 d private bath), set in a lush garden, is a charmingly rustic, no-frills delight. Light and airy cabins feature lively fabrics and patios with hammocks. Guests have use of an open kitchen.
The Cabinas Los Almendros (tel. 510/2750-0235, www.cabinaslosalmendros.com , $40 s or $60 d rooms, $120 up to six people for apartments) is a modern structure with 10 rooms, four cabins, and three apartments around a courtyard with secure parking. The clean, spacious rooms are cross-ventilated and have both front and back entrances, double and single beds, ceiling fans, tile floors, WiFi, and private bathrooms with hot water.
El Pizote Lodge (tel. 506/2750-0027, www.elpizotelodge.com , $55–93 s/d standard, $76–95 s/d cabin, $66–152 s/d bungalow), inland of Playa Negra, is set in nicely landscaped grounds complete with giant hardwoods and sweeping lawns—a fine setting for eight small but clean and atmospheric rooms with four shared bathrooms with huge screened windows. There are also cabins, plus six bungalows and two houses. Four luxury bungalows have air-conditioning, refrigerators, and hot water. The lodge even has a swimming pool, volleyball court, and a pool table. The breeze-swept restaurant gets good reviews.
About 400 meters east of town, the Italian-run Escape Caribeño (tel./fax 506/2750-0103, www.escapecaribeno.com , $65–75 s, $70–80 d) has 11 attractive hardwood cabins with double beds (some also have bunks) with mosquito nets, plus clean bathrooms with hot water, minibars, fans, and hammocks on the porch. They’re widely spaced amid landscaped gardens and reached by raised wooden walkways. It also has brick-and-stucco bungalows with kitchenettes, plus a wood-paneled house for four people ($65 per day, one-week minimum). The greatest asset here is the fun and erudite hosts, Gloria and Mauro Marchiori.
Yoga practitioners may like La Perla Negra (tel. 506/2750-0111, www.perlanegra-beachresort.com , $40 s or $45 d low season, $80 s or $100 d high season, $120 suites year-round), on Playa Negra. It specializes in yoga packages and has 24 spacious rooms in a two-story all-hardwood structure that are cross-ventilated and have sparse furnishings, glassless screened windows, and charming albeit minimally appointed bathrooms with large walk-in showers. There’s a lap pool, sundeck, and bar, plus tennis court and basketball. Rates include breakfast and tax.
I love the eco-conscious Cashew Hill Jungle Lodge (tel. 506/2750-0256, www.cashewhilllodge.co.cr , $90–150 s/d), secluded on a hill south of the soccer field. Seven simple cottages have heaps of charm thanks to lively Caribbean color schemes and other endearing artistic touches. They vary from one- to three-bedroom units, but all have screens, mosquito nets, broad decks with lounge chairs and hammocks, plus WiFi; some have kitchens. The lush grounds attract wildlife; some critters like to swim in the gorgeous plunge pool. This offbeat charmer is the creation of Erich and Wende Strube, your delightful hosts, aided by their two English mastiffs and other pets. Wende prepares organic meals on request.
Samasati Nature Retreat (tel. 506/2756-8015, U.S. tel. 800/563-9643, www.samasati.com , $98 s or $190 d guesthouse, $185 s or $270 d bungalows, including meals and tax) is a holistic retreat hidden amid 100 hectares of private rainforest on the mountainside one kilometer inland of Hone Creek. It specializes in yoga and other meditative practices, but anyone is welcome. Accommodations are in 10 handsome yet ascetically furnished Japanese-style log cabins with ocean and jungle vistas, all with verandas, loft bedrooms, and tiled walk-in showers. Larger units have mezzanine bedrooms with wraparound windows. There are also five simpler rooms in a guesthouse with shared bathrooms, plus three two-bedroom casas with living rooms and kitchens. Vegetarian meals (and seafood) are served buffet-style in a handsome lodge open to the elements. It has a whirlpool tub. You’ll need a 4WD vehicle for the rugged climb up the mountain.