Top 10 Costa Rica Eco Lodges

Courtesy Lapa Rios: Gregory Basco/Deep Green Photography

Costa Rica’s forests hold an array of flora and fauna so vast and diverse that scientists haven’t even named thousands of the species found here. The country covers less than 0.03% of the Earth’s surface, yet it contains nearly 5% of the planet’s plant and animal species. What better way to see all this wonderful country has to offer, and help to keep it green by supporting sustainable tourism, than to stay at one of Costa Rica’s best eco lodges.

Courtesy Lapa Rios: Gregory Basco/Deep Green Photography

Lapa Rios: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience

Why It's Green: Lapa Ríos is the premier eco-lodge in Costa Rica. Along with providing top-notch, sustainable hospitality, the lodge's mission is to protect the 1,000 acres of forest in its private preserve edging Corcovado National Park. Its main weapon is education, through local school programs and community involvement. The lodge owners spearheaded the building of the local school and provide direct employment to more than 45 area families. Lapa Ríos was the first area lodge to offer a free sustainability tour, highlighting innovative eco-friendly practices, including feeding organic waste to pigs to produce methane fuel. As a guest, you'll be thankful for the absence of motor noise—gardeners work exclusively with manual tools.

Full Review: The most spectacular eco-resort in Costa Rica, Lapa Ríos has won numerous awards for its mix of . . . Read more.

Courtesy Arenas del Mar

Arenas del Mar: Chic, Elegant & Very Green

Why It's Green: One of the newest hotels in the Central Pacific region, the luxury Arenas del Mar has an impressive eco pedigree. It is the brainchild of Teri and Glenn Jampol, owners of Finca Rosa Blanca in the Central Valley, one of the first lodges in the country to achieve five-leaf status in the Certificate of Sustainable Tourism. Their goal here was to create a five-star luxury resort that is also a five-leaf sustainable hotel. The first most obvious eco-aspect guests encounter is the reception center in a forest clearing, where you leave your car behind and ride an electric golf cart to the main open-air lobby. You may also not be able to see your room for the trees. For 20 years, the Jampols reforested and allowed these formerly farmed slopes to regenerate before they began building, often wrapping terraces around established trees. The result is a totally natural landscape, home to lots of wildlife.

Full Review: What you don't see is what you get at this new eco-luxury hotel: no cars, no crowds . . . Read more.

Courtesy Almonds & Corals Tent Lodge Camp

Almonds & Corals: Camping That’s Far From Rustic

Why It's Green: Almonds & Corals scatters its comfortable platformed bungalows unobtrusively throughout its forest property along the coast and connects them with each other and to its restaurant, reception, and the beach by softly lighted paths. That and the myriad of environmentally themed activities conducted by local guides really do give that "get away from it all" experience with a bit of simple luxury.

Full Review: Buried in a dark, densely atmospheric beachfront jungle within the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge . . . Read more.

Courtesy Harmony Hotel

Harmony Hotel: An Oasis of Tranquility

Why It’s Green: Steps from Playa Guiones in Nosara, this former surfer hotel has been transformed into a luxury resort with a sustainable mind-set. From permaculture-inspired landscaping with native plants and the use of biodegradable cleaning products and toiletries, to solar-heated hot water and conscientious recycling and waste-management policies, the Harmony Hotel owners cover all the sustainable stops. Hotel employees, most of them local hires, also volunteer in the town schools, mentoring and teaching English classes and computer literacy.

Full Review: Surf's up. Upscale, that is. This formerly frayed surfer's haunt has been reborn as an . . . Read more.

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Courtesy Finca Rosa Blanca

Finca Rosa Blanca: One of CR’s Top Green Splurges

Why It's Green: The hotel on this eight-acre working coffee plantation just outside Heredia is one of just four properties in the country to have achieved the coveted "Five Leaves" status in the Certification for Sustainable Tourism—a perfect score in this regard. In addition to all the amenities you'd expect from one of the Central Valley's most sumptuous accommodations, you can also take Finca Rosa Blanca's unique Sustainability Tour for a behind-the-scenes look at what a hotel does to be more eco- and community-friendly. What other tour in Costa Rica lets you take in the workings of the laundry room, the solar panels, and the compost pile?

Full Review: The spacious two-story suite is out of a fairy tale, with a spiral staircase leading up to a . . . Read more.

Courtesy Casa Corcovado

Casa Corcovado: Refillable Bottles & Tropical Drinks

Why It's Green: This jungle lodge, bordering Corcovado National Park, gets top eco-marks for its energy-saving solar and microhydroelectric systems, and its recycling and waste-management leadership in the area. Casa Corcovado financed the building of a recycling center in nearby Sierpe, and all the area's glass and aluminum is now recycled. Guests receive a refillable bottle to use throughout their stay. Owner Steve Lill is cofounder and president of the Corcovado Foundation, a major supporter of local initiatives to preserve wildlife on the Osa Peninsula.

Full Review: A prime location on the edge of Corcovado National Park, luxury accommodations, and first-class service. . . . Read more.

Courtesy Lagarta Lodge

Lagarta Lodge: A Stylish Sanctuary

Why It’s Green: Perched high on a hill, Lagarta Lodge has a wonderful view of distant Ostional National Wildlife Refuge bordering the Pacific. With only 12 guest rooms, the hotel minimizes its environmental impact by keeping a sharp eye on its consumption of water and energy, as well as on waste management and recycling. Its eco-friendly hospitality practices have garnered it three leaves in the national Green Leaf sustainability program. By far the most salient eco-aspect of the lodge, though, is its 90-acre private Nosara Biological Reserve, with trails crisscrossing a huge mangrove forest bordering the Nosara River and snaking through primary forest on the steep slopes leading from the lodge down to the river.

Full Review: A birders' and nature lovers' Valhalla, this magnificent property . . . Read more.

Courtesy Rancho Naturalista / Dawn Pando

Rancho Naturalista: A Birders Paradise

Why It's Green: Some 450 species of birds live on the property—few lodgings can make such a claim, let alone one so close to the metropolitan area. But the fittingly named Rancho Naturalista near Turrialba has fast become the birding center of the Central Valley. From the bird checklist in the welcome packet in your room, to the resident professional birding guide, to the delightful deck where you can continue to bird-watch even after trekking around the grounds for the day, this is one of Costa Rica's premier locales for bird-watchers of all experience levels.

Full Review: The two-story lodge is upscale modern with rustic touches, as are the separate cabins . . . Read more.

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Courtesy Vilseskogen / flickr

La Selva: Wildlife Watching Without Roughing It

Why It's Green: You would expect any lodging that functions as a working biological station and where research biologists make up the primary clientele to be eco-friendly. La Selva does not disappoint. The Durham, North Carolina–based Organization for Tropical Studies operates the facility along with two other similar stations in Costa Rica, and offers a fascinating program of nature-themed activities for you, the nonprofessional guest. Keep one caveat in mind, though: scientists take priority in procuring space in the rustic but comfortable cabins.

Full Review: La Selva packs about 420 bird species, 460 tree species, and 500 butterfly species into just . . . Read more.

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Courtesy Si Como No

Si Como No: Family-Friendly Eco-Lodging

Why It’s Green: From its meticulous recycling policy and energetic reduction of waste and energy consumption to its innovative conservation programs, Sí Como No has led the way in sustainable tourism. Perched on a hillside in the center of developed Manual Antonio, this luxury hotel is not a classic eco-lodge. But owner Jim Damalas has worked hard to minimize the hotel's environmental impact. Guests may notice another more ephemeral but no less important policy here: good-natured hospitality. By creating a harmonious workplace, the hotel has retained well-trained, happy staff, who in turn do their best to make guests happy, too. The hotel's most notable contribution to local ecotourism is the nearby Butterfly Garden and a 30-acre wildlife refuge. Sí Como No also promotes local culture in Quepos and its surrounding farm villages. The hotel is a member of the Green Hotels of Costa Rica and has attained the country's highest sustainability award: Five Green Leaves.

Full Review: This luxury resort goes to great lengths to be eco-friendly, and has earned a level-five . . . Read more.