10 hotels in Nosara that may be calling your name

Karl Kahler | March 2, 2017
Swimming pool at the Lagarta Lodge.

NOSARA, Guanacaste — Nosara has some excellent accommodations, so long as you understand three nosareño idiosyncrasies.

One, there are no TVs in the finest hotels, or if there is a TV, there’s only one, and it’s not in your room.

Two, there are no beachfront hotels with a beach view except the Lagarta Lodge, which is on a hill above a beach. In all other hotels close to the beach, the ocean is completely obscured by vegetation.

Surfing NosaraV2


Three, every hotel in Nosara with any prayer of remaining competitive is compelled to offer yoga and surfing, the two biggest attractions in this town. So even if that’s not your thing, get ready to meet lots of healthy, mindful, flexible, active people in stretchy pants, board shorts and bikinis.


Costa Rica’s Greatest Places

In this series, Tico Times Travel takes an in-depth look at some of Costa Rica’s greatest destinations, with multiple articles exploring their appeal. In February and March, we’ll be looking at all the attractions of Nosara — yoga, surfing, hotels, restaurants, real estate and more.

PART I: Valle del Sol
PART II: Quepos/Manuel Antonio
PART III: The Flamingo Coast
PART IV: Nosara

I spent close to six weeks in Nosara and compiled the following list of the 10 hotels I liked best. They are presented here in alphabetical order.



1. Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort

Bodhi Tree Banner Final


If there’s one hotel in Nosara you could call “spectacular,” it would be the Bodhi Tree. It’s a marvel of design that pays homage to the Buddhist and Hindu aesthetics of Bali and India.

Perched on a hillside in south Guiones, the Bodhi Tree is approached by a long stairway with a waterfall gurgling beside it, creating the illusion of a temple on a hill. It’s decorated throughout with Buddha statues imported from Bali and many other Eastern touches, including the mandalas in the woodwork above the lobby.

Pool at the Bodhi Tree.
Pool at the Bodhi Tree. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

The long swimming pool between the juice bar and dining room comes with an optical illusion — whichever end you’re at, it looks higher than the other. Any way you look at it, it’s a sweet spot.

We stayed in two rooms here, and both were gorgeous — fluffy beds, stone showers, airy living rooms, nice artwork.

Waterfall and stairs at the entrance to the Bodhi Tree.
Waterfall and stairs at the entrance to the Bodhi Tree. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

Yoga, Pilates, TRX and other classes are offered six or seven times a day in exquisitely designed shalas and gyms. There are surf lessons, surf camps, surfboards and a surf shop. There’s a spa, where the massage I got was possibly my favorite 60 minutes in Nosara.

There’s food, there’s drink, there’s live music, there’s natural beauty and a real sense of tranquillity. What more could you ask?

And don’t say television.

A shala at the Bodhi Tree.
A shala at the Bodhi Tree. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times


2. Club Paradise

Club ParadiseV3


I toured a bunch of deluxe homes in Guiones that cost north of $2,000 a week, and then I stayed at Club Paradise near the airport in Nosara centro, where cabinas cost $400 a month.

This struck me as an outstanding deal, considering there was air conditioning, television (!) and a basic little kitchen. Hot water? Not so much, but it’s coming soon. Swimming pool? No, but there’s good Wi-Fi, so if you want you can look up pictures of other people’s swimming pools on your phone.

Room at Club Paradise.
Room at Club Paradise. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

Club Paradise is almost completely unknown, and doesn’t even have a sign in front except an archway with the word “CABINAS.” The name comes from a 1986 movie about a hapless Gringo who buys a dilapidated resort in the Caribbean, and adventures ensue. Fitting.

The five units all have A/C, TV and little kitchens, with a mini-fridge, sink, two-burner hot plate and coffeemaker. Sure, the showers are cold, but you can take a two-minute shower and then watch a two-hour movie on HBO on your flatscreen TV, with beers cooling in the fridge.

Room at Club Paradise.
Room at Club Paradise. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

This is kind of a paradise in progress, with no on-site management and no restaurant or bar, though there’s one next door. There is a rancho with a table, chairs, sink, barbecue and fridge, with lots of outlets to plug in your electronics.

This is more of a longer-term rental than a full-service hotel, but nightly rates are extremely competitive, at $40 to $50 depending on the season. If you can find a better deal at a nicer place, book it.


3. Giardino Tropicale

This is a 3-star hotel in Guiones run by a delightful woman from Chicago named Spacialle Novak who says her first ambition in life was to be an ice cream truck driver or a baseball player.

“But I’m a girl — puberty, you know, I was like 7 or 8 years old when I wanted to do this,” she said. “Then I wanted to be a lawyer, and my aunt lived in Arizona, so I went to ASU to tour the law school, found out how much school you had to go through and thought yeah, maybe not.”

Living room at Giardino Tropicale.
Living room at Giardino Tropicale. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

Nowadays Spacialle, married to a Tico and caring for a large but timid old Rottweiler, runs the Giardino Tropicale, an 11-room hotel just off the main road in Guiones. It’s a great spot, and it was booked full in January, so if you want to visit anytime soon, get in line.

“Every year we’re getting more and more traffic, just because Nosara gets more and more publicity,” she said. “It’s great for tourism, but we’re just kind of like breaking records all over the place — not just us, but the town. I mean, everybody I talk to: more people, more traffic, it’s a busier October than ever.…

Bedroom, kitchen and dining room at Giardino Tropicale.
Bedroom, kitchen and dining room at Giardino Tropicale. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

“It doesn’t matter how fast we build the beds or toilets, they are coming,” she said. “I was booked solid for Christmas earlier this year than I was last year.”

There’s an outstanding restaurant on-site, Le Bistrot, run by a couple of Swiss guys. Breakfast is served by the hotel in a different place, and Spacialle claims to have the best coffee in Costa Rica.

Swimming pool at Giardino Tropicale.
Swimming pool at Giardino Tropicale. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

Most rooms here run about $155 double in the high season, $10 less in the low season and $20 more for Christmas and New Year’s, taxes and breakfast not included.


4. Harmony

Pool at the Harmony.
Pool at the Harmony. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

The Harmony is the best-known hotel in Nosara, thriving year after year on repeat business and word of mouth. With 24 luxury units in a very green space, a three-minute walk from Playa Guiones, the Harmony has a standout healing center/spa, yoga space, juice bar and free surfboards. This place is basically heaven on earth for the right customer, and they come back year after year.

“It was done by a New York designer who tried to keep it very natural, not a super-luxurious design but natural, organic,” said general manager Pamela Carazo.

Restaurant at the Harmony.
Restaurant at the Harmony. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

The Harmony is owned by John Johnson of the Johnson & Johnson family, who also owns Buzzfeed and recently acquired two other hotels in Nosara, the Harbor Reef and Sunset Shack. He met his wife, Susan, surfing here, and is something of a local celebrity, though he shuns publicity.

All rooms here have A/C, fans, Wi-Fi, mini-fridges, minibars and private patios with outdoor showers and seating areas. The hotel currently has three stars from the ICT but is expecting to be awarded four soon, Pamela said. It has five leaves from the Certification for Sustainable Tourism program as a result of its solar heaters, treatment plant, gray water irrigation and its avoidance of plastic bags, bottles and straws.

Bedroom at the Harmony.
Bedroom at the Harmony. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

The extensive yoga program, discussed here, is very popular among both guests and Nosara residents, as are the massages and treatments at the Harmony Healing Centre.

Ten standard rooms called Coco rooms start at $360 a night; 13 larger bungalows start at $400, and the two-bedroom suite starts at $750.


5. Kaya Sol

Kitchen at Kaya Sol.
Kitchen at Kaya Sol. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

The concept here is simple but brilliant: Build a half-dozen hexagonal buildings, paint them yellow, purple, orange and other colors and turn them into hotel rooms. Most are split down the middle by a wall, creating two rooms, but there are a couple of casitas that are one unit, with kitchens.

The effect is like walking around a whimsical little village from a fairy tale, only with palm trees. Even better, the rooms have names like Cabina Piscina painted over the doors.

Cabina Piscina at Kaya Sol.
Cabina Piscina at Kaya Sol. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

I toured La Casita, which has a kitchen and living room on one side and a queen bed, bunk bed, kids’ loft and bath on the other. It was colorfully decorated with cloth prints of hummingbirds and butterflies, and the kitchen was fully equipped.

The swimming pool is a bit oddly designed, with a ramp that starts at the top of the water and descends gradually to the deep part. The guests I saw taking a dip in it were not complaining.

Bedroom at Kaya Sol.
Bedroom at Kaya Sol. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

All rooms have A/C except the shared dorm, which has three fans. Standard rooms and casas have minifridges, safes and hot water. This being Nosara, there are no TVs in the rooms, but that didn’t stop the ICT from awarding the Kaya Sol three stars.

Rates in the current high season are $28 dorm, $118 standard and $158 casas, tax included. The hotel is pet-friendly and welcomes families.


6. Lagarta Lodge

Lagarta Lodge Banner-Use


Our room at the Lagarta Lodge was a dream. (“Un esplendor,” said Guiselle.) I liked the his and hers sinks, like big white bowls on the bathroom counter, in a bathroom big enough to have a small party in. You could fit a third of the guests in the shower, which is lined with pretty tiles that look like stone, with a chest-high window to the outdoors, al estilo tico (only with a screen).

The Lagarta Lodge.
The Lagarta Lodge. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

The bedroom was big enough to make the king bed look small, with a handsome wooden ceiling peaked in the middle so it looks like the hull of an upside-down boat. Bedside lamps made of coconut husks were a charming touch, and along with the lashed-together bamboo in the restaurant made me think of “Gilligan’s Island.”

The balcony was big enough to park four small cars. There was a chaise longue, two nice chairs, two footrests, an end table that doubled as my desk for the night, and two art elements recessed in the wall. And all of the furniture was brand-new.

The third-floor lounge at Lagarta Lodge.
The third-floor lounge at Lagarta Lodge. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

The Swiss-owned Lagarta Lodge reopened in January after two years of remodeling, an expansion from 12 rooms to 26 and a top-to-bottom redesign by a talented architect. It does not aspire to be the top yoga hotel or the top surf hotel, but it has an unsurpassed location, with a panoramic view of Bocas de Nosara, the beach north of Pelada where two rivers empty out, and behind that is a private nature reserve owned by Lagarta alongside the meandering Nosara River.

Guiselle at an overlook at the Lagarta Lodge.
Guiselle at an overlook at the Lagarta Lodge. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

Most of the nice hotels in Nosara are close to the beach but cannot see the beach. Tierra Magnifica and Blue Spirit are the only other hotels I found in this town with an ocean view, but the ocean is distant. Lagarta has a sweeping ocean view, and the ocean is close.

Rates for the three types of suites range from $220 to $499, plus 13 percent tax.


7. Living Hotel

Living Hotel New


The Living Hotel is a really pretty property with a sky-high rancho towering over a nice swimming pool. There are 10 units: one with a king bed, five with a queen bed, and four with a bathroom shared by two rooms.

An organic vegetarian restaurant, Jasmine’s Kitchen, serves breakfast and lunch, and there’s a café and juice bar. (Guiselle, who is something of a coffee snob, said theirs was the best she’d had anywhere in this town.) The spa offers massages and facial treatments, and there’s a yoga studio with a daily class at 10:30. There’s private parking and a saltwater pool.

Living Hotel.
Living Hotel. (Courtesy of Living Hotel)

“It’s a boutique hotel, and the style is a mix of modern, minimalist and rustic,” said the Italian owner, Riccardo Micali, speaking in perfect Spanish. “The principal structure is a marvelous rancho. It’s very simple. The predominant color is white, and there’s lots of wood.”

Living Hotel.
Living Hotel. (Courtesy of Living Hotel)

The hotel is adults only, 15 and up, from Nov. 1 to May 31, though in the low season it opens its doors to families. In the “closed season,” September and October (when many hotels close down for want of business), the Living Hotel has experimented with cutting its prices 50 percent and operating like a “luxury hostel,” with the restaurant and reception closed but with a shared kitchen and room cleaning every other day. That runs about $50 a day.

The rancho at Living Hotel.
The rancho at Living Hotel. (Courtesy of Living Hotel)

Normal rates this high season are $165 double with a private bath, $95 with a shared bath, taxes included. In the low season those prices come down to $120 and $80.


8. Nalu



We found our dream home on our last night in Nosara at Nalu, and my favorite part was learning the Superman punch in Domel’s 90-minute muay thai class.

You jab, cross, right kick, and then feint a right kick but turn it into a powerful right fist, kicking back with your right foot like a mule to pour more power into your punch. Landed right, it’s a devastating blow.

A muay thai class at Nalu Studio.
A muay thai class at Nalu Studio. Guiselle Vidal/The Tico Times

Domel, born in the Philippines and raised in the United States, learned muay thai in Thailand and married a Russian named Mariya who was also raised in the States. Her mastery of yoga is every bit as impressive as her husband’s expertise in martial arts.

They came up with a fabulous concept: Instead of building another yoga hotel, why not build three super-duper homes that could rent for $325 a night and put a yoga/dance/martial arts studio in front? Offer five or six classes a day — hiphop, jazz, karate, yoga — for adults and kids, and pack ’em in. The result of this brainstorm is Nalu, which is brand-new as of December 2016.

Living room at Nalu.
Living room at Nalu. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

Designed by the talented architect Benjamin García Saxe, the homes have two to three bedrooms, two to three bathrooms, private plunge pools, washers and dryers and fully equipped kitchens. There are also gigantic front doors, roughly five and a half feet wide, as if you’re entering a castle.

Our kitchen was a marvel, with a GE refrigerator, a Whirlpool stove, a Ninja blender, a Cuisinart coffeemaker and a Hamilton Beach toaster — all of it brand-new. Clearly this house was not furnished at Pequeño Mundo.

Kitchen at Nalu.
Kitchen at Nalu. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

Bathrooms have indoor/outdoor rain showers, and most of the walls are made of glass. There are ceiling fans inside and out, and innovative ceilings with windows that open just beneath them for ventilation. There’s A/C too if you ever need it, which we didn’t. There’s even a television.

Two-bedroom villas cost $255 a night in the low season, $325 in the high, $425 for Thanksgiving and Easter and $650 for Christmas and New Year’s. All rates are plus 13 percent tax, and there’s a three-night minimum stay.

But nowhere else do they teach the Superman punch better.


9. Olas Verdes

Olas Verdes Banner


This is the first place I stayed in Nosara, and it kind of spoiled me. It opened just a year ago as of December and still has that “new hotel smell.” For any modernist who likes the tropics, it’s more than heart could wish.

My second-story suite had two main rooms with 20-foot-tall arched ceilings made of honey-blond wood, matching the beautiful kitchen cabinets. In the living room/kitchen there was a full-size refrigerator, sink, microwave, coffeemaker, breakfast bar, and elegant, contemporary couch and coffee table, with one all-glass wall looking out on nothing but leaves.

Living room at Olas Verdes.
Living room at Olas Verdes. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

The bedroom had a queen bed with six pillows plus a twin bed, as well as a dresser, desk and safe, with a view of the pool. The bathroom had red tile walls and a half-wall of elaborate stonework serving as a shower curtain.

All bedrooms here are air-conditioned, and all rooms have high-tech, efficient, silent, strong ceiling fans with graphite blades made by a Kentucky provider that actually calls itself Big Ass Fans.

Bedroom at Olas Verdes.
Bedroom at Olas Verdes. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

General Manager Luis Pardo told me that Olas Verdes is the first surf hotel in the world to obtain a platinum LEED certification for energy efficiency.

Speaking of surfing, there’s an on-site surf school called Safari, and Playa Guiones is 150 meters away down a muddy little path. There’s also a good restaurant here called El Manglar, where I dined on jumbo garlic shrimp with mashed potatoes and vegetables, with a couple of two-for-one guaro sours, that set me back only $27.

Pool at Olas Verdes.
Pool at Olas Verdes. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

There’s a curvy swimming pool in the middle of the complex. And another nice plus, a great rarity in this country: free laundry service.

One personal touch that actually touched me: There was a sturdy, blue aluminum water bottle waiting on the countertop with my name, “KARL,” neatly printed on a tag attached to it. It’s a gift that every guest receives to encourage them to avoid single-use plastic bottles.

Most of the 17 suites here go for $225 double in the low season to $315 in the high, plus tax, with breakfast included. And there are three poolside suites for solo travelers or couples that range from $135 to $185 for one person, and a bit more for two.


10. Tierra Magnifica

Tierra Magnifica Banner


With a stunning view of unbroken green hills stretching all the way to Playa Guiones, Tierra Magnifica is a very popular spot for weddings. The bride, groom and their attendants stand on a grassy deck looking out on this view, while guests are seated around the pool.

View from Tierra Magnifica.
View from Tierra Magnifica. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

“We’ve had weddings with 200 people up here for a sit-down dinner, or up to 300 people with a buffet,” said César Pizzy, manager of operations and guest services here. “We have a three-day party.”

Much of the furniture here is imported from Indonesia or Thailand. In the master suite often booked by the bride and groom, striking artwork and beautiful reddish-brown doors and closets complete the look. But like the bride’s dress, rooms here are mostly white, the hotel’s signature color.

Master suite at Tierra Magnifica.
Master suite at Tierra Magnifica. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

Tierra Magnifica specializes in weddings and family celebrations, frequently renting the entire hotel (nine rooms) to one group. But lately it’s branched out more into renting individual rooms to couples or singles.

All rooms have A/C, ceiling fans and all the creature comforts, though there’s neither TV nor Wi-Fi in the rooms. “We want people coming out of the room, not staying in the room the whole time,” César said. Wi-Fi is offered in the restaurant and lounge area of the central part of the hotel. “People come out and hang out here,” César said.

A deck at Tierra Magnifica, with one of three resident bulldogs.
A deck at Tierra Magnifica, with one of three resident bulldogs. Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

Rates for each of the varied rooms here range from $190 to $400, plus tax, with breakfast included.

Contact Karl Kahler at kkahler@ticotimes.net



  1. I find the Nosara theme to be a bit disingenuous in some ways. So many claim to be eco-friendly or spiritual retreats. Yet so many serve foods that are not eco-friendly, sustainable or compassionate. You mentioned the delicious jumbo shrimp you ate. Just north of Nosara is Playa Ostional. Playa Ostional boasts the largest nesting sights of sea turtles on the pacific coast of Costa Rica . The shrimp that is being served at these restaurants are a major reason for the decline of endangered sea turtles. Thousands of sea turtles are caught in the nets of shrimp boats and are either killed by the shrimpers or die from drowning in the nets.
    I am sure most of these hotels also serve beef. \This is another huge problem in the tropics. Most of the Nosara and Guanacaste areas have had their forests cut down to raise cattle at some point in time. This is actually true throughout most of Costa Rica. Water is a precious commodity in the North Pacific of Costa Rica. Cows consume millions of gallons a year. People that come to this area often claim to be spiritual but when it comes to eating other sentient beings they have no problem with the slaughter of them. I wish these hotels would change their attitude and if they really want to be eco-friendly then change their menus to other foods that are stustainable. To bad the hotel ratings of being eco-friendly don’t include the unsustainable food they are serving in most of these hotels and restaurants.

    Comment by Henry Kantrowitz — March 2, 2017 @ 5:20 am

  2. I forgot to mention. It was as very informative and well written article. thanks karl for sharing a bit of Nosara with us all.

    Comment by Henry Kantrowitz — March 2, 2017 @ 5:22 am

  3. What ever happended to the “affordable hotel room”? All of the prices quoted for these hotels are for “rich travelers” only. The old days when Costa Rica was a “nice” and “affordable tropical paradise” are long gone. I live in Florida and I will stay here and save the airfare.

    Comment by William Windsor — March 2, 2017 @ 6:15 am

  4. I have been looking for a nice tropical destination for my family close to the US for a 3 or 4 day vacation and I think that we will go to Nicaragua or Panama. Costa Rica has become expensive and very “gringo-like”. We are trying to get away from the US and go to a place that is truly “authentic”. This town of Nosara and the hotels do not appear to be Costa Rican. Why do we Americans always try to change things wherever we go and make it like “back home”? All of this Yoga and surfing B.S. is not really Costa Rican is it?

    Comment by Mark Cohen — March 2, 2017 @ 6:55 am

  5. I read the article concerning Liberia in Guanacaste by Ellen Z. Golden and I think that this is the place that we will visit in 2018 for the Tope. This is the “real Costa Rica”, not Nosara. Thank God that we “gringos” haven’t ruined that yet.

    Comment by Mark Cohen — March 2, 2017 @ 7:10 am

  6. Mark, you’re correct. Nosara is very nice, not cheap, and definitely not traditional Costa Rica. That said, it’s not ruined, just different. We had a great vacation but you have to enjoy it for what it is. If you want something wildly different than the US, this ain’t it.

    Comment by Phillipe Fernando — March 2, 2017 @ 11:31 am

  7. My personal favorite is the Costa Rica yoga spa….no mention?

    Comment by Stephanie Kostopoulos — March 3, 2017 @ 8:45 am

  8. There are all kinds of places in Costa Rica that are still genuine and tourists don’t know about. We live in a wonderful corner of Costa Rica called Playa Naranjo by the ferry to Puntarenas. There are no hotels, no fancy restaurants, we live literally in the jungle with the monkeys , parrots, toucans and, yes, even jaguarundis. We live in harmony with the ticos, have their dogs neutered and so, control the dog population as best we can and help where we can. There is no yoga, but we have potluck dinners regularly in one of the 26 houses of the property and we are Americans, Canadians, Europeans and Ticos. We live in Roma del Mar, and our tshirts say Follow me to Paradise.

    Comment by Franciska Kilian — March 3, 2017 @ 10:26 am

  9. to the person above who called surfing in Nosara b.s., I have surfed around the world for 50 years, and called Nosara my home for 12 years. Surfing is the reason I’m here, among other reasons. So if you don’t like surfing, or whatever else can be found to do here, go somewhere else.

    Comment by christopher — March 3, 2017 @ 3:45 pm

  10. If you’re looking for an affordable stay in Nosara , my recommendation is the barefoot luxury of the Teak Pacific. The accommodations are exactly what we were looking for with kitchenettes, master bedroom and a common room. The pool and pool area as well as the surrounding grounds are well cared for and the large ranchero is perfect for kicking back. It’s simple living.

    Comment by Jim — March 6, 2017 @ 8:18 am

  11. Thank you for this informative article. I fell in love with Nosara and other places in CR few years ago. And I haven’t found another vacation site that compares. I do feel like Nosara is super expensive compared to other nearby towns. But I rented a home and tried to live like locals as much as possible. Shopping at the Super Nosara and at farmers markets etc. I just love the warmth of the Ticos. Can’t wait to retire here.

    Comment by Kemi from NY — March 19, 2017 @ 3:26 pm

  12. Thanks for the insighful article. How about a similar review on Limon’s tourism offerings?

    Comment by A. Grant — March 27, 2017 @ 11:06 am

  13. Thanks for the suggestion. We will be featuring the Caribbean in an upcoming segment of “Costa Rica’s Greatest Places.”

    Comment by Karl Kahler — March 27, 2017 @ 11:11 am

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