In Short, the best golf courses to play in Costa Rica are the Cariari Country Club, Parque Valle de Sol, La Iguana Los Sueños Marriott, Reserva Conchal, Hacienda Pinilla and The Four Seasons Golf Club
However, the question you need to ask yourself is should you be playing golf in Costa Rica while on vacation?
I mean to say that instead of playing golf, maybe you should reserve your time in Costa Rica for things in which Costa Rica is famously known for, like spotting a Quetzal in Monteverde or looking for Turtles in Tortuguero. Yeah…..Right, who are we kidding here?
If your a golf fanatic then you just have to play when you are on vacation ( or at any time) no matter where you are.
Now the wife and kids might not like it but really, how often do you get a chance to play golf on courses designed by players like Robert Trent Jones II, Mike Young, Arnold Palmer, Ron Garl, Tracy May and George Fazio in beautiful tropical setting?
With that said, I have listed below the golf courses I would recommend for anyone looking to go golfing in Costa Rica. There are three in the Northwest coast province of Guanacaste, two in the Central Valley outside the capital city of San José, and one on the Central Pacific Coast.
Although there are other nice nine hole (and some 18 hole courses) but these in my opinion, are the best 18 hole championship courses in Costa Rica. As new courses open up I will add them if I feel they are worthy of being included in this list. Of course that I means I will have to go play them and check them out so I can let you know what there like! (its a tough life!)
History of Golf in Costa Rica
A VERY brief history on golfing in Costa Rica. The first 9-hole course in the country appeared at the Costa Rica Country Club outside San Jose in 1944 and it remained the only course in the country until 18 holes were constructed at in the 1970s.
The substantial increase in tourism in the 1990s resulted in a number of top notch courses arriving on the golfing scene. Among them are the well known course of today including Garra de Leon, Hacienda Pinilla,
Royal Pacific, Los Suenos and Valle del Sol with more being added. This and for many other reasons is making Costa Rica a world class golfing destination.
The Golf Courses of Costa Rica
Cariari Country Club
The Cariari Country Club, long considered to be the best course in Central America, is a natural to play when arriving in Costa Rica. Situated on land that was once a coffee plantation, the Cariari was designed by golf course architect George Fazio and built by his now famous nephew, Tom Fazio.
This par 71 course measures 6,577 yards from the Championship tees, but plays much longer. The course is heavily wooded, the fairways are narrow with few fairway bunkers, and the greens tend to be on the large side with sand traps throughout. Carts are available and caddies mandatory.
Location: San José, Par: 72, Yardage: 6,577, Architect: George Fazio
Parque Valle del Sol
In 1994 golf course architect Tracy May renovated the original nine hole course and added the final nine. The results achieved by May are an outstanding 18 hole championship golf course. May, with the assistance of the on-site construction supervisor Mark Dinan, has designed the layout to be challenging and fair under most conditions, and downright tough when the winds come swirling down from the surrounding mountains.
The rolling hills, mature trees, and the surrounding mountains create a great setting for golf. Parque Valle del Sol was the first course in Costa Rica to be an Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Carts are available and you can also walk the course.
Location: San José, Par: 72, Yardage: 7,011, Architect: Tracy May
The Reserva Conchal Course is an ocean course that wants to replace the Cariari Country Club as the number one golf course in Central America. Therefore no expense was spared to create a course on par with the spectacular resort it surrounds.
Beautiful vistas, sweeping fairways, large undulating greens, mucha agua – – simply put, a beautiful golf course. Carts are mandatory and included in the green fee.
Location: Playa Conchal, Guanacaste, Par: 72, Yardage: 6,956, Architect: Robert Trent Jones, II
This Mike Young designed course is a coastal layout with wide, open fairways and the prevailing winds come into play on just about every hole. The bump and run is recommended for most approach shots as the greens are hard and fast.
A truly distinguishing characteristic of Hacienda Pinilla is the many well-located pot bunkers that are cleverly placed around most greens. It is challenging and will reward conservative play more often than not. You will be playing in dry tropical forest leading to an unforgettable round of golf. Carts are mandatory and included in the green fee.
Location: San José, Par: 71, Yardage: 6,577, Architect: George Fazio
The Four Seasons Golf Club
Designed by Arnold Palmer, this 18-hole, par-72 championship course was designed with the resort golfer in mind. Spanning over 50 hectares (125 acres), this beautiful golf course sits on the tip of Peninsula Papagayo, nestled in the mountainside along the Pacific Ocean.
Twelve holes of the course feature spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. The course plays 6,788 yards from the championship tees for the low-handicap golfer, but is accessible to golfers at all levels, with four other sets of tees.
For example, from the forward tees the course plays only 4,880 yards. Keep in mind you have to stay at the Four Seasons Resort in order to play the golf course.
Location: Peninsula Papgayo, Par: 72, Yardage: 6,577, Architect: Arnold Palmer
Central Pacific Coast
La Iguana, Los Sueños Marriott
La Iguana is all we can expect from a Ted Robinson Jr. designed course and its commonly referred to as “Costa Rica’s Gem In The Tropical Forest”.
Robinson Golf, Inc. has designed more than 150 courses around the world and Ted has given us a course that few in the world can match for its natural beauty and challenging golf.
Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on one side and rainforest on the other makes it a difficult task to concentrate on your golf game. La Iguana has a forecaddie that accompanies each group. The term “guide” is appropriate in this case as so much is to be seen besides the break of a putt.
Carts are mandatory and included in the green fee.
Location: Puntarenas, Par: 72, Yardage: 6,956, Architect: Robert Trent Jones, II
Taking Your Clubs to Costa Rica
I have to tell you that I always take my clubs with me wherever I go play golf as I really don’t like to rent clubs. So the question for me is not if I am going to bring my own club or rent them but what is the best way to get them to where I am going.
To get them to Costa Rica, You basically have 2 options:
If you take your sticks with you every airline is going to be slightly different but I would highly recommend that you fly to Costa Rica on a NON budget airline such as American Airlines or similar because of there checked luggage policies.
For example, American Airlines will take golf clubs place of a regular piece of checked baggage, and will apply just the standard baggage fees. Those fees are the same as the 1st or 2nd baggage charge that is normally done these days. Keep in mind that they will limit you to 50lbs but they won’t they won’t charge you a oversize baggage fee.
Now there are particulars if you really want to get picky such as how many clubs you can take, how many balls (yes that’s right) etc but in all the times I have travelled with my clubs I have never had anybody check this.
If you fly to Costa Rica on a budget airline, for example, Spirit, then beware because as my brother likes to say “cheap is expensive in the end” and that great deal you got for flight will quickly disappear as they currently charge $100.00 for clubs weighing over 40lbs or larger then 62 inches.
In this case you may want to check into shipping them instead to see which way is less expensive.
Whether you ship your bags or take them with you, make sure you or have a quality travel bag ( I like the Bag Boy – T-750) that you get on Amazon if you don’t already have one,
with lots of padding to ship them in and even with this, wrap those clubs with say your golf jacket or a towel or 2 just to be on the safe side. I would also recommend that you get travel insurance in order to protect not only your clubs but your trip as well.