Costa Rica is home to beautiful beaches and some of the finest coffee in the world. Whether you are planning to go to Costa Rica for the first time or are returning once again to this coastal Central American country, you’ll want to be in the right accommodations that will best suit your stay.
With AirBnB, Costa Rica benefits from having well-known international hospitality companies like Marriott, as well as its own array of specialized hotels, so there’s something for everyone.
If you’re unfamiliar with AirBnB, we’ll give a brief background on this relatively new online marketplace before diving right into the pros and cons of using it, as well as hotels, when visiting Costa Rica.
A Closer Look at AirBnB
AirBnB is an online marketplace that acts as a broker between those looking to rent short-term stays and those that have properties available. People are able to list their own properties on the site, such as apartments, cottages, homestays, and so forth.
AirBnB does not actually own any of the property which it rents out, but rather collects a service fee with each booking. Its an international service with listings in over 190 countries, and to date, over 300 million check-ins have been made. On any given night, it is host to over 2 million people using its service.
Essentially, if you’re looking to stay somewhere other than a commercialized hotel for your next vacation, then AirBnB is the go-to source of tons of people who are willing to rent out their properties. Besides helping you easily find accommodations,the service is designed with safety in mind.
Both hosts and guests have to pass a number of background checks in order to use the service. Globally, this means passing sanction, regulatory, and terrorist watchlists, and in the US, there is an additional background check.
After each guest stays at a property rented out via AirBnB, they can leave feedback on both the host and the property. This feedback will help you distinguish between good and bad properties, people that might be a hassle to deal with, or places that might look too good to be true.
The feedback is key to help you ultimately make the decision on whether a location in Costa Rica is worth going to, as its usually unbiased and pretty accurate.
Benefits of AirBnB in Costa Rica
When you’re going to Costa Rica, there can be a number of benefits to using AirBnB compared to going with a traditional hotel. AirBnB allows you to define the search parameters to find exactly the type of property you are looking for, similar to a fare aggregator for hotels like Booking.com.
For example, you can break down each property by room type, price, size, host language, and even include special keywords. This will allow you to find exactly the type of property you are looking for, whether it is an inexpensive cottage in a secluded town or a penthouse condo overlooking the beach.
Besides being able to find the property that fits your price range for your stay, you can also use it to see if they have the amenities you want. If you’re going on business or still need to get work done, having WiFi could be crucial.
Likewise, if you’re traveling with pets, you’ll want to make sure your accommodations are pet friendly. Being able to select properties by the amenities that they offer makes AirBnB easy to use when traveling to a distant location like Costa Rica.
Once you find a property suitable for your stay, other advantages will start to uncover themselves. Namely, you’ll get a more real experience as your living quarters won’t be confined to a commercialized space. Hosts – who may or may not be present, and are something you can search for – can acquaint you with the culture, local spots, and so forth.
Having someone that knows the area well to explain what spots are good (or even what to avoid) can prove to be extremely useful, and can beat the information you might find on the internet.
In each listing, hosts will usually leave a small description on how present they are when they have guests. Some stay local, while others might live in another part of the house. There are pros and cons to having your host with you during your stay so that is one consideration to have if you’re going with AirBnB.
The security measures that AirBnB provides can be particularly useful when staying in another country like Costa Rica. First, they act as an intermediary between your payment and the person you are renting the property from, in that they don’t release payment until 24 hours after check in.
This helps ensure hosts comply with giving what they advertised, and also gives you a window to file a dispute if anything is wrong. In addition, AirBnB has a resolution center where a dedicated team member will be given in order to help figure things out.
There’s a number of AirBnB-specific locations you can rent in Costa Rica that would otherwise be very difficult to find, especially at a reasonable price. For example, villas, beachfront properties, downtown apartments, and other ocean-accessible homes are common.
With hundreds of properties to choose from in Costa Rica on AirBnB, it can be easy to overlook the great hotels in the area. Next, we’ll cover some of the benefits that hotels come with in.
Benefits of Hotels in Costa Rica
With all the positive experiences that an AirBnB can bring, sometimes nothing will cater more to your needs than a hotel. For those that are wary about what kind of experience you can get with AirBnB, hotels provide a sense of comfort in that you know exactly what to expect.
Hotels have strict guidelines and rules to follow and usually have more ways to cater to your needs.
Concierge may be able to arrange a taxi for you, stewards are able to bring you extra supplies if needed, and you may even be able to switch to another room if you’re unhappy with your current arrangement.
You can always be assured that a hotel room is going to be clean and sanitary when you get there; an AirBnB’s rental cleanliness is dependent on how actively involved the owner is or if they hire a good cleaner in-between each visit.
For all the remote benefits that an AirBnB can give you when it’s far away from town, that can also present its own set of problems: long traveling times.
Some rentals might be an hour or more away from major cities or the ocean, meaning long drives each way when you want to get out. Most hotels are located in major cities or tourist destinations like San José, Puntarenas, Playa Grande, and Tamarindo.
Pros and Cons for AirBnB vs Hotels
- Price is one of the biggest differences when it comes to AirBnB vs. hotels, especially in Costa Rica. With AirBnB, you can secure accommodations for under $100. Even beachfront properties or entire houses will often go for considerably less vs. hotels. If there are a few people going along with you, AirBnB will almost always be cheaper as you can split the price as the cost of the property remains the same; meanwhile, hotels will almost always charge you for each guest over two.
- AirBnB will allow you to gain a more cultured appreciation for what Costa Rica has to offer. Rather than being stuck in a major city like San José, AirBnB will give you the opportunity to get away from the main tourist scene and really enjoy your own private getaway in a more remote location if you choose.
- Hotels will give you the familiarity that you have back at home. Big chains, like Marriott Resorts or the Radisson, have a certain standard operating procedure that you might be accustomed to – such as clean sheets everyday, lots of amenities, continental breakfast, early check-in, and so forth.
Most Popular Airbnb and Hotel Locations
The most popular locations in Costa Rica that might leave you looking for a hotel or AirBnB are as follows:
Corcovado National Park and Drake Bay:
Located right on the water, this national park is full of diverse wildlife. It’s a great getaway spot to embrace nature, beautiful sunsets, and the ocean.
Arenal Volcano National Park:
Consider an AirBnB in La Fortuna, a small town at the base of the volcano, to see the beautiful volcano that is called Arenal. It used to be one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica. Caution should still be kept, as scientists say the volcanio is currently resting, but not dead.
Playa Langosta and Playa Grande:
Located in Tamarindo, these two beaches attract a lot of tourists for their crystal clear turquoise waterfront properties. AirBnB and hotels are both good options here depending on what you’re looking for and the price range you have in mind.
Manuel Antonio National Park:
This small national park is full of beaches and dense forestation, making it another getaway perfect for the nature inclined. It is an abundant source of wildlife and birds. With its easy accessibility, it can get a bit crowded, so be sure to check out both AirBnB and hotels ahead of time to see the best price.
Montezuma is a popular place among young people for its laid back atmosphere and long stretches of white sand beach. Its surrounded by Romelia Wildlife Reserve, Playa Grande, and even boasts its own waterfall, which is full of natural pools and cascades.
Santa Teresa and Malpais:
This is the go-to spot for surfing, being one of the favorite spots of one of the most successful surfers of all time, Kelly Slater. The surf conditions are great at all times of the year and you can be sure to find plenty of places for lessons if you are a first timer. If you plan ahead, you might just catch one of its many international competitions it holds year round.
Tortuguero National Park:
Part of Limón province, Tortuguero is home to half of the world’s marine sea turtles and is their choice of breeding ground. It is also home to the endangered, giant, West Indian manatee. With over 400 species of trees and 2,200 species of fauna, its perfect for the nature enthusiast who wants to get lost in its charm.
Making the Choice: AirBnB or Hotel
Ultimately, the question of whether you should go with a hotel or AirBnB for your trip to Costa Rica boils down to a number of factors, and what you ultimately decide on is based on your preferences. Do you want a more authentic feel ingrained in the culture?
Renting out a small villa will deliver that. Do you want a luxurious resort with plenty of amenities and service? While there’s no doubt that you may be able to find that somewhere on AirBnB, a high end hotel is guaranteed to provide that kind of atmosphere.
When it comes down to quality and a good experience, research will be your best friend. Just like there are good hotels and bad ones, the same can be said for AirBnB.
For hotels, be sure to read customer reviews and their overall rating, especially on different sites like Yelp and Booking.com.
For AirBnB, looking at a host’s overall rating can help determine if they are a good fit and can help you determine if you would have a good stay.
If you want an entire home to yourself, to see how local people live, and stay in a place that feels like home rather than a standardized room, AirBnB is the way to go.
AirBnB is the place to go for the semi-adventurous person who wants a bit more assurance than couch surfing but more authenticity than a hotel.