With vast expanses of pristine coastline, it’s no wonder that Costa Rica is home to some of the world’s finest seaside resorts. But actually, there are fewer options right on the beach than you might expect (or hope for, anyway). The country has a law that prevents development anywhere near the high-tide line, which means most hotels are set back from the shore.
Despite the strict regulations, in Guanacaste on the northwestern coast and on the Nicoya peninsula just south, a few large-scale resorts have managed to challenge the line. And in addition to easy beach access, these sumptuous hotels offer things like personal golf carts, paddleboard rentals, private chefs, and elaborate spa facilities. Additionally, they’ve all been around long enough to work out service kinks that plague some of the newer resorts. If you’re aiming for beach relaxation, an even tan, and absolute pampering, pack your sunhat for one of these luxurious establishments.
Hotel Arenas del Mar
Manuel Antonio is replete with upscale hotels, but none are closer to the beach than Arenas del Mar, a five-star 11-acre property within walking distance of Manuel Antonio National Park. The balconies here are massive, the rain forest hiking trails are extensive, and the entire place is carbon neutral, which earned the resort a coveted Five Sustainability Leaf Award.
Latitude 10 Beachfront Resort
For a more remote and intimate option, Latitude 10’s five open-air casitas land guests just few steps from the crashing waves of Playa Santa Teresa. The jungle setting on the property’s five acres and the top-notch service define this exclusive boutique resort, which features a chlorine-free pool, beachfront dining, and a private chef. The hotel also provides free bikes to guests silly enough to want to leave the property.
Recreo is a well-kept and opulent secret just a short golf-cart ride from two secluded and picturesque beaches, Playa Rajada and Playa Jobo. The unique and tastefully adorned villas accommodate parties of all different sizes and are stocked with local art, state-of-the-art kitchenware, and private pools. Tip: Request Villa 6, which has the best sunset view.
JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa
Marriott hotels have never been my style—maybe there are just too many of them—but this laid-back and well-placed resort won me over. Located within the exclusive vacation home community of Hacienda Pinilla, the JW Marriott’s highlights include comfy hammocks, an intricate system of pools, a nearly deserted beach, and mouthwatering ceviche served in a coconut. Furthermore, the spa is basically heaven.
Hotel Punta Islita
A collection of lavish villas and hotel rooms spread over 300 acres near Playa Sámara, Hotel Punta Islita is a one-stop, high-end beach escape. The property features its own canopy tour, executive golf course, and tennis courts, along with a beach club and the requisite infinity pool. Also available: sunset cruises, cooking lessons, and private dinners by candlelight.