Camping is not allowed on the beach. You can camp at Kike’s Place (tel. 506/2653-0834, www.kikesplacecr.com , $5 pp) at Comunidad Playa Grande; it has showers and toilets. Kike’s also has 12 two-bedroom cabinas ($15 pp) with fans and private bathrooms with cold water only; eight rooms sleep six people and lack air-conditioning but have small kitchens. There’s a restaurant, pool, and free laundry. Run by colorful local owner Carlos Enrique “Kike” (pronounced KEE-kay) Chacón, its bar is a lively favorite for locals.
For backpackers, I recommend Playa Grande Surf Camp (tel. 506/2653-1074, www.playagrandesurfcamp.com , $15 pp dorm, $35 s or $45 d cabins), in Palm Beach Estates. It has three small but delightful air-conditioned wood-and-thatch cabins on stilts, plus two A-frames, including a dorm with screened windows. The courtyard has a pool and thatched shade areas with hammocks, plus there’s WiFi, board rental, and surf lessons.
The charming Italian-run Sol y Luna Lodge (tel. 506/2653-2706, www.solylunalodge.net , $55 s/d low season, $90 s/d high season), one kilometer inland of the beach, has eight tree-shaded and thatched cabins (for four or six people) with Indonesian batiks, cable TVs, WiFi, ceiling fans, mosquito nets, verandas, and nice modern bathrooms with whirlpool tubs. All in all, a lovely aesthetic! A rustic restaurant sits beside the pool landscaped with rock-wall hot tub and water cascade. Two smaller cabins are air-conditioned and have king-size beds.
The Playa Grande Surf Hotel (tel. 506/2653-2656, www.playagrandesurfhotel.com , $75 standard, $95 deluxe, $175 suite low season; $125 standard, $150 deluxe, $275 suite high season) belies its name. This modern two-story Spanish colonial–style hotel is among the most stylish around, with a hip contemporary style to its rooms and suites, all with flat-screen TVs, WiFi, and air-conditioning. The Sushiko sushi restaurant is here.
The Hotel Las Tortugas (tel. 506/2653-0423, www.lastortugashotel.com , $15 s or $20 d dorm, $35–45 s/d economy, $50–60 s/d standard, $85 suite low season; $50 economy, $80 standard, $120 suite high season) has lost its edge, but retains the advantage of abutting the main beach and park entrance. Backpackers get eight “student” rooms with bunk beds and shared hot-water showers. The 12 other air-conditioned rooms vary markedly: Some were looking outdated and urgently in need of an upgrade at last visit. The hotel has a swimming pool, plus a whirlpool tub and a quiet palm-shaded corner with hammocks. (Since newborn turtles are attracted to light and adults can be disoriented by it, there are no ocean views to the south, where the nesting beach is.) The restaurant is the highlight, with an outdoor balcony and great food. The hotel rents surfboards and canoes for trips into the estuary ($55 half day) and has horseback riding ($40) and a mangrove boat tour ($25). Louis also rents apartments.
I like the aesthetic at the RipJack Inn (tel. 506/2653-0480, www.ripjackinn.com , $60 s/d standard, $80 s/d cabina low season, $80/100 high season), with eight individually styled rooms upgraded with contemporary touches. The open-air restaurant, Upstairs @ the RipJack, serves nouvelle Costa Rican fare and has ocean views. Yoga fans will appreciate the yoga studio.
Next door and equally handsome, the Playa Grande Inn (tel./fax 506/2653-0719, www.playagrandeinn.com , $50 s/d room, $75 suite) is an upscale surf camp with eight impeccably clean and simply appointed rooms in an all-wood two-story structure. There’s a pool, whirlpool tub, and a lively bar. You can also rent an apartment.
Neighbors to the RipJack and Playa Grande Inn, the lovely Rancho Privado (tel. 506/2653-2682, www.ranchoprivadohotel.com , $90 s, $120 d) opened in 2010 as a charming eight-room boutique hotel. It offers a swimming pool and stylish yet simply decorated rooms with flat-screen TVs and WiFi and heaps of sunlight, plus a sushi bar and cozy entertainment lounge.
Next door, the equally tasteful and convivial BP Surf Hotel (tel. 506/8879-5643, www.bpsurfhotel.com , $65–95 s/d), also has contemporary themed rooms with flat-screen TVs and lovely bathrooms.
I adore the Hotel Bula Bula (tel. 506/2653-0975, U.S. tel. 877/658-2880, www.hotelbulabula.com , $95 s/d low season, $120 s/d high season), in lush gardens adjoining the mangrove estuary, two kilometers south of Las Tortugas. This attractive place is in the hands of two vivacious U.S. entrepreneurs, one a professional restaurateur. Although small, the 10 air-conditioned rooms boast rich color schemes, king-size beds with orthopedic mattresses, batik wall hangings, plus fans, fresh-cut flower arrangements, batik sarongs for use by the pool, and a shady balcony facing a swimming pool in a landscaped garden. It has a stage for live music. The excellent restaurant and bar (with WiFi and loaner laptops) are popular with locals. A free water-taxi to Tamarindo  is available.
The other standout hotel is Hotel & Restaurante Cantarana (tel. 506/2653-0486, www.hotel-cantarana.com , $60 s or $85 d low season, $70 s or $95 d high season), a Tuscan-style sepia-toned two-story lodge with an open-air gourmet restaurant and lush gardens. Its five rooms offer a lovely ambience, with bamboo furnishings, ceiling fans, delightful bathrooms, and shaded patios.
The French-run Hotel El Manglar (tel. 506/2653-0952, www.hotel-manglar.com , $35 s, $40 d) has 10 apartments that surround a lovely amoeba-shaped pool.
For greater intimacy (it’s also great for families), try Casa Verde (tel. 506/2653-0481, www.vrbo.com/20469 , $135 room, or $285 entire house), a lovely modern home with pool. Three simply appointed, air-conditioned rooms with cable TV have glass sliding doors opening to broad eaves shading terra-cotta patios. One room has a king-size bed and kitchen.