The Affordable Luxury of Costa Rica

Tabacon Resort Grounds

In the last few years, it seems like everyone I know has flocked to Costa Rica on vacation. For a while, I thought it must have been the flight prices or the fact that it’s only 5 hours from Los Angeles International Airport, and that there are a high proportion of English speakers. While these are all true about Costa Rica, I didn’t realize quite how magical the country was, until I went for myself. One of the biggest draws for me was the affordable luxury available in Costa Rica. Arguably, Costa Rica is already expensive compared to its neighboring countries of Nicaragua and Honduras. However, the prices are still a bargain compared to other luxury destinations. Since my trip in late April, I’ve been telling everyone I know that they have to go now and here’s why.

1. Endless Adventure

Have you ever Googled “activities in Costa Rica?” No? I urge you to do so. It is truly incredible just how many adventures there are to be had year round all over Costa Rica. White water raft across Costa Rica’s 14 major rivers or ride horses through the forest and across beaches. Zip-line through some of the most incredible jungles in the world and go canyoning in the deep forests made up of thousands of waterfalls. A simple Google search and you’ll find the perfect activity for your preferences and time frame. The best part is a huge majority of them will pick you up at your hotel and drop you off, all included in the very reasonable prices.


Picture this: you start your day early, with a 7 AM pickup by a local tour company. After a short drive, you spend the morning on a leisurely horseback ride, winding through the Costa Rican rainforest. After a couple hours, you arrive at a picturesque grouping of waterfalls, where you get the chance to cool off in the cold, clear pools, and cliff jump off the towering cliffs. Now that you’ve built up your appetite, lunch is ready to be served! Enjoy picnicing at the base of a looming volcano, while delighting in fresh sea bass ceviche and an assortment of local fruits.  After lunch, you forgo the horses, and instead hop on ATVs, for a thrilling ride back through the jungle. You arrive back to your hotel just in time for a cocktail and a short repose, before being whisked away for a sunset sailboat cruise. This is just one example of the limitless opportunities available to you in Costa Rica. There are endless tour companies that do similar tours at reasonable rates.  

2. Vibrant Wildlife

Costa Rica is very well known for having some incredible diversity when it comes to wildlife. To give you some perspective, National Geographic estimates that Costa Rica contains nearly 5% of the global biodiversity in the world, despite covering only .3% of the earth’s total surface area. A number that only seems surprising until you arrive in middle of the vast and luscious rainforests. I personally was overwhelmed by the beautiful birds, and colorful flora and fauna. Some of our more interesting neighbors included monkeys, who were perched on the trees just outside our hotel windows.


Costa Rica also offers incredible seasonal wildlife opportunities, including whale watching nine months out of the year, and the chance to witness the annual sea turtle hatching March through July every year.   

3. Volcanic Hot Springs

In Costa Rica, there are 14, active and inactive volcanoes for you to explore. One of my favorite days in Costa Rica was spent at Arenal, which sits just 2 hours north of San Jose.  

Arenal is famous for its geothermal hot springs, that are naturally warmed by the volcano itself. At the base of Arenal are dozens of hot springs resorts that cater to the locals and tourists who are looking to spend a day lounging in beautiful, perfect, warm water pools. Where most natural hot springs smell strongly sulfuric, these pools are formed through  heat given off underground by the active lava, and thus remain unscented and clear.

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Our favorite luxury hot spring resort was the Tabacon Thermal Resort. At Tabacon, the springs range in temperature from 77-122 degrees Fahrenheit and each individual pool is labeled with the temperature. Most properties offer day passes to tourists, a great opportunity if you visit the area for a hike or are just passing through. We spent the day running between the naturally hot thermal pools hidden around the vast property, and a ‘cold’ pool located near the resort’s swim-up bar.

4. Pura Vida lifestyle

The locals in Costa Rica are some of the friendliest, happiest and most laid back people I’ve ever met.  You’ll often hear the phrase “pura vida” uttered when you greet someone or say goodbye. “Pura vida” literally translates to “simple life” or “pure life”, but it’s so much more than just a phrase, it’s a way of life in Costa Rica. People embrace the good in every day and are grateful for everything they have in life.  

It’s almost impossible to not feel the positive energy in Costa Rica, so much so, that I really believed in this by the time I left the country and vowed to embrace it in my everyday life.  The lifestyle of joy and happiness was present in every interaction we had with locals during our time in Costa Rica and was a huge part of why I loved the country so much.

5. Inexpensive luxury hotels

Luxury hotel

Last, but certainly not least, luxury hotels in Costa Rica are an incredible value.  You can get a stunning five star hotel for about half the price of most resort destinations around the world.  Head to Papagayo, in the Northwestern region of Costa Rica and stay at a luxury beachfront property for $200-300 a night. Experience incredible service, excellent food and beautiful beaches for the price of a fancy dinner in San Francisco. Hotel brands are building all over the coast line, making now a great time to experience ultimate luxury at an affordable price.

Costa Rica is a true gem, with easy flights from all over the world.  The diversity in activities, wildlife and luxury accommodations make Costa Rica an excellent choice for even the most discerning traveler.


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Article and photos by Maren Engh. Find her on Instagram  and her website, voyagerguru.com. Also, check out our other travel articles.



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