Global tourism offers a sophisticated selection of vacation and accommodation choices and Costa Rican tourism has many overlapping options. The vast majority of visitors that come to Costa Rica originate from the internet, are well educated, and aware before arrival of the plethora of things to see and do. “Pedantic visitors” would often be more appropriate than just “tourists”. Only as far back as 1995, we relied almost exclusively on the print media to promote our inn. By 1997, and none too soon, my seventeen year old son (el genius) built our first hotel website, we finally went on line and never looked back.
An excerp from ‘Costa Rica Handbook’ by Christopher P. Baker couldn’t say it better. “Far too many Costa Rican hoteliers are abusive to guests and fail to rectify faults with their hotels. Guests who complain about very real problems are often treated with distain, and many have written to complain about threatening behavior by hotel owners or their staff. Failure to honor reservations is another common complaint. Discounts or refunds are rarely offered, regardless of circumstances. The problem spans all price levels, although deluxe properties are mostly immune, and foreign-owned properties have a better record. Always ask to see your room before accepting it.”
Costa Rica lodging comes in all forms. Apartotels, basically all are in San Jose, are a combination of hotel room and apartment, furnished with a small kitchen, offered by the week or month. Cabinas reflect budget accommodations, though standards and prices vary greatly, and security can be a problem. There are health spas with mud baths and herbal massages, special custom diets, and specialty classes in art, writing and even weaving. There are home-stays or guesthouses where the Tico family welcomes you as part of the family, a great way to experience the real Costa Rica, and bone up on your Spanish. There are small bed and breakfasts with live-in hosts, and fantastic ambience. Throughout Costa Rica, hotels range the full gamut, for severe disappointments to world-class properties. Costa Rica motels are not the North American breed but are implicitly for lovers, and are aimed at providing privacy, behind big walls with private garages for each room. Nature Lodges are found throughout Costa Rica in the jungles or in the mountains. Most have well-informed guides for nature hikes, birdwatching, horsebackriding and other activities. These are heavily booked in the high season.
San Jose Costa Rica hotels come in a wide variety of options, quality and location, and range from sleazy and somewhat dangerous flop houses near the Coca Cola Bus Station, and inexpensive pensiones throughout the city, to refurbished century old mansions converted to bed and breakfast inns near the downtown shopping area. There are a few larger city hotels with casinos, bars and the ever-present ladies of the night. On the outskirts of San Jose partway up the mountains are some pricey, but fine quality hotels that cater to an older crowd that want to conveniences of the city, without the congestion and noise. They may take an organized tour to the rainforests, but generally they want to soak up the wonderful climate, have a dip in the pool, catch up on their reading, and forget about the stressful life they left behind. There are a group of three, four and five star San Jose Costa Rica airport hotels in the Real Cariari neighbourhood used for atleast the first and last nights of a vacation, convenient to both the airport and San Jose, with golf courses, casinos, and convention facilities. Because of their great proximity to the rainforests and active volcanos, rather than going through congested San Jose, they are quite popular.
Further into the perifery of the Central Valley, such as Atenal, Puriscal, Sarchi and Cartago, all sorts of cute, cozy ‘Mom and Pop’ Costa Rica bed and breakfasts are available, each reflecting the personality and tastes of the owners, many with spectacular Central Valley views.
Once you are away from the more populous areas, and out of the Central Valley, there is a wide selection of Costa Rican hotels to choose from. There are beautiful little Costa Rica B&B inns, scattered throughout the country like undiscovered jewels often owned by foreigners chasing their semi-retirement dreams, without a blade of grass out of place. There are several towns on both the Pacific and Caribbean with a vast variety of Costa Rican accommodations to suit every taste and budget. Though no hotels in Costa Rica are actually world-class, there are some beauties, like those overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean high above Manuel Antonio. There are also some Costa Rican rainforest and volcano lodges that cater to those wanting more than just a beach location. Unfortunately the government has allowed construction some mega-hotel projects in some very pristine places like Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula, without many environmental impact studies before project approval. Costa Rica beach hotels seem to do very well in the high season from December to May, but there is fierce competition in the off-season, and rates are often lowered to fill empty rooms. San Jose Costa Rica hotels tend to not have such wide occupancy swings.
Several of the more active Costa Rica hotels market package deals to attract tourists. There are car and hotel packages, Costa Rica honeymoon packages, packages on Costa Rica tours, where accommodation discounts are offered if the guest takes so many tours. Many Costa Rica hotels from varying locations throughout the country have formed a hotel association with each hotel strategically scattered throughout Costa Rica to offer a great diversity. Above all, the internet has transformed the Costa Rica travel marketing landscape well into the future.