1. LAPA RIOS
Costa Rica’s best-known luxury ecolodge has the maximum five stars in the government’s Certificate of Sustainable Tourism, principally for its low-impact presence and protection of lowland tropical rainforest packed with rivers and waterfalls. The lodge has sixteen bungalows with sensational views of the forest and Pacific.
2. PACUARE LODGE
The most thrilling way to arrive at this lodge is by rafting the Pacuare River – one of the best white-water rivers in Central America. The lodge consists of thirteen cat-tail-thatched wooden cabins (made by local Cabécar Indians) in the heart of the Talamanca Mountain Range, where you can explore the rainforest on foot or on horseback. Pacuare supports primary-school programmes and has helped to reintroduce howler monkeys to the forest.
3. LUNA NUEVA LODGE
Just 16km from the Arenal Volcano, this good-value ecolodge on an organic herbal farm is at the edge of a 200-square-kilometre conservation area of primary rainforest. Climb up an observation tower for views of the volcano, then join guided walking and horse-riding tours into the rainforest (including day-tours outside of the Arenal volcano area). Afterwards return for a soak in the natural spring-fed swimming pool or solar-heated hot tub before an authentic Costa Rican dinner looking out over the lush tropical gardens.
4. LA CUSINGA LODGE
La Cusinga offers eleven simple, elegant cabins bordering 2.5 square kilometres of private rainforest reserve and the Ballena Marine National Park, established to protect humpback whales. There are locally guided trips into the forest while at the coast you can go snorkelling, surfing, kayaking, scuba diving or dolphin- and whale-watching.
5. FINCA ROSA BLANCA COUNTRY INN
Sustainability and conservation go hand-in-hand at this luxury inn above the forests of the Central Valley, just half an hour from San José. The nine artistically decorated rooms, including two villas, have views of the coffee plantations and spring-fed swimming pool below. The Finca’s certified guide, Manolo, runs naturalist walking tours; other activities include horse-riding and white-water rafting.
6. BOSQUE DEL CABO
A great pick for wildlife enthusiasts. On the lodge’s doorstep – where the rainforest meets the Pacific – is the Osa Peninsula, home to flocks of macaws, parrots, monkeys, coatis and sloths. Choose between ten solar-powered thatched bungalows or two houses along the bluff of Cabo Matapalo. Jungle cats (including pumas and jaguars) have been spotted on the property, so keep your eyes peeled.
7. DANTA CORCOVADO LODGE
The highlights here include the Osa Peninsula rainforest and the Golfo Dulce (a tropical fjord). Run by a local family, this simple lodge is sited within a farm in Guadalupe, just 8km from the Los Patos sector of Corcovado National Park, and the closest place to the Guaymi Indigenous Reserve. Activities include kayaking through the mangroves and jungle walks by night.
8. COSTA RICA TREEHOUSE LODGE
An intricately designed treehouse – built for up to six people – in and around a sangrillo tree behind Punta Uva beach, just south of Puerto Viejo in the province of Limón. Guests can explore the wilderness of the Gandoca-Manzanillo wildlife refuge by dugout canoe with indigenous guides or just lie in a hammock perched among the trees and admire the ocean views, deep in nature.
9. CERRO ESCONDIDO
The best way to arrive here is to arrange a horseback ride from Montaña Grande. Deep in the Karen Mogensen Reserve on the Nicoya Peninsula, this lodge has four simple teak cabañas from where guests can try guided birdwatching tours and excursions to the spectacular waterfall at Velo de Novia (“Bride’s Veil”).
10. RARA AVIS RAINFOREST LODGE AND RESERVE
The only way to reach this remote lodge (other than to walk in 15km) is to ride for three hours on a tractor-pulled cart from Las Horquetas de Sarapiquí, a 90min drive from San José. Guests choose between a two-room riverside cabin or an eight-room lodge, in rustic rooms (each with a hot-water bathtub and balcony), a 5min walk from a waterfall in the heart of a thousand-square-kilometre tract of virgin rainforest. The reserve is home to bitterns, snowcaps, umbrella birds, great green macaws, parrots and toucans.