The Ultimate Guide To Costa Rica All-Inclusive Resorts (Where You Can Totally Unwind)

Jun 25, 2019

Are you looking to unwind and relax in Costa Rica without lifting a finger or opening your wallet while here? If so, chances are you’re looking for an all-inclusive. Here’s a list of Costa Rica all-inclusive resorts to give you an idea of what we have here.

Question for you. What’s your favorite type of vacation?

Some people like adventure and hiking and all that stuff. Some like bed and breakfasts in towns where they can check out local life and cuisine. Costa Rica is perfect for both types of vacation.

But other people like to unwind in a resort by a beach with a big pool and all food and drink included. That way they need not leave their sun lounger or wonder about where to buy their next meal. Sometimes pure relaxation comes from not needing to do anything.

As a travel agent for Namu Travel for many years, I’m aware of how many people look for an all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica. Lots of them. In fact “Costa Rica all-inclusives” is one of the most frequent search terms people use in relation to Costa Rica.

For a long time, I couldn’t understand them. I mean, Costa Rica is all about getting out there and exploring, right? It’s all about eating in local restaurants and staying in boutique, tiny hotels.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate the charms of doing nothing. Of having everything for you on tap. If you work hard all year, it’s nice to not to think. And all-inclusive resorts are perfect for that.

A good compromise is to mix things up.        

You know, a week exploring followed by a week in an all-inclusive, or a few days depending on time and budget. That way you get the best of both worlds and can finish your vacation with some true relaxation.

So which resorts would we recommend? Well, there aren’t too many of them around, to be fair. Costa Rica isn’t Mexico or Cuba or the Dominican Republic where all-inclusive is the norm. Most Costa Rica all-inclusive resorts sit on the side of upscale, although as you’ll see below, not all are.

We’ve included some of the more midrange places in this list, too. In fact, we think we’ve included every all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica. If we’ve missed any, let us know.

There are aren’t too many, but there are enough to give you a decent choice depending on your preference. That goes for whether you’re coming down on vacation or live in Costa Rica and want to get away for a weekend.

So let’s check them out.

Westin Golf Resort & Spa

 

 
 
 
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Once upon a time the Westin was the most luxurious all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica. This hotel still ranks, for sure, but now exist a lot more contenders to keep the Westin on its toes.

Wherever the Westin now ranks now, it was a trailblazer in the world of Costa Rica all-inclusive resorts. It’s operated under a few names over the years, but now the Westin is what it says on the tin: A golf resort and spa.

But we’re talking more than that. The closest beach, Playa Conchal (between Tamarindo and Flamingo) in Guanacaste could be Costa Rica’s most beautiful. Think pink sands and turquoise waters and magenta sunsets.

And the amenities. The Westin has everything. We already mentioned the golf and spa. There are eight world-class restaurants (10 if you include the poolside bites places) with international themes plus great options for families, kids, and adults.

If you’re looking for the ultimate in luxurious all-inclusive resort living, this place still contends. Still packs a punch.

Villa Buena Onda

 

 
 
 
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I wondered whether to include Villa Buena Onda in this list. I mean, with only eight bedrooms, VBO is more of a boutique hotel than a resort. But they include food and you can, if you like, book a full all-inclusive option (meaning booze too). So I took an executive decision and included this hotel. Why not, right?

Semantics aside, Villa Buena Onda is a magical place and sits with the best hotels in Central America. Adults-only, it’s perfect for couples and those looking for a private, romantic getaway to relax in.

You’ll find Villa Buena Onda in the hills above the town of Playas del Coco, overlooking the Gulf of Papagayo. Make sure you do find Villa Buena Onda. You won’t regret doing so.

Planet Hollywood

 

 
 
 
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Planet Hollywood might be more famous as a restaurant opened by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Demi Moore. But that’s so 90s.

Nowadays Planet Hollywood is a global hospitality and lifestyle giant with resorts in Vegas, Cancun, and Goa. And now, since October 2018, in Costa Rica too. Planet Hollywood Costa Rica is the brand’s first all-inclusive resort.

On the ultra-exclusive Papagayo Peninsula, Planet Hollywood urges you to “vacation like a star” in all its Hollywood-themed glory. Not much authentic Costa Rica about this place, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. Sometimes all you need is a little escapism, right? And the service is phenomenal.

Once upon a time, in all my earnest glory, I disapproved of places like this. But then I grew up and realized one doesn’t need to “stay authentic” all the time. A little fantasy and luxury is good for us all. And you get both in spades here. Come check Planet Hollywood out.

Secrets Papagayo

 

 
 
 
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At the end of a road on Culebra Bay, which separates the Papagayo Peninsula from mainland Guanacaste, is a beautiful beach called Arenillas. We’re talking sandy and tranquil and perfect. And next to that beach is a place called Secrets.

Once the old Hilton Papagayo, the Secrets brand takes this place to another level. The name “Secrets” says everything. A luxurious, adults only resort. “Unlimited luxury for all-adult romance” is the blurb on their site.

Unlimited luxury means no wristbands, limitless a la carte restaurants with no reservation required, 24-hour room/concierge service, and a host of other perks. This place is top end.

Is Secrets the best all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica for couples and honeymooners? Could well be.

Dreams Las Mareas

 

 
 
 
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If you could choose one word for Dreams Las Mareas, it would be “remote”. This all-inclusive resort sits at the tippy-top of Costa Rica, near to Nicaragua, near Salinas Bay on a beach called El Jobo (which is gorgeous and secluded). In fact, this place almost needs to be all-inclusive because getting anywhere to eat isn’t easy. Which is okay. You have eight restaurants here, all open around the clock, and all delicious. You need not go anywhere. You’re good.

Dreams Las Mareas is the perfect getaway for families, friends, and couples. Come here for a high-end experience away from everything.

Occidental Papagayo

 

 
 
 
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Once upon a time this was the Occidental Grand Papagayo. Then the Barcelo Group took over Occidental, and they took the “Grand” out. A pity, because this is a grand, grand all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica.

The Occidental Papagayo sits on the Gulf of Papagayo, like a few other places we’re talking about here. It’s a high-end all-inclusive for adults only. That’s right, no kids allowed, which can be a blessing, right?

With two a la carte restaurants (included in the all-inclusive but you need to make a reservation) and a regular all-inclusive buffet style eatery, The Occidental Papagayo is perfect for couples who want to switch off and relax together or even for groups of friends who want to do the same.

El Mangroove

 

 
 
 
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When you imagine an all-inclusive resort, what comes to mind? Often it’s that cruise-ship on land vibe, a massive place full of buffet meals, plastic cups, and staff-provided entertainment. And that’s okay.

But El Mangroove isn’t like that. El Mangroove is like a chic, modern boutique resort. In fact, the all-inclusive aspect is optional, but we recommend it because the food is great. The food is great. The vibe is great, everything is, well, great.

El Mangroove sits on the Gulf of Papagayo, with the Papagayo Peninsula visible across the bay. The ocean is here perfect for stand up paddling, swimming, and playing. Away from the beach, the pool offers guests private cabañas.

The other great thing about El Mangroove is its accessibility. This resort is the closest all-inclusive to an international airport in Costa Rica, being only 20 minutes from Liberia. That’s fantastic for this country, believe!

If you’re looking for a boutique hotel experience with a modern flair, then El Mangroove is for you. The all-inclusive aspect is a bonus.

Margaritaville

 

 
 
 
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One of the newer Costa Rica all-inclusive resorts, Margaritaville represents Costa Rica in Jimmy Buffett’s hospitality empire since it morphed from the old Flamingo Beach Resort.

Flamingo Beach in Guanacaste is one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches, all white sand and blue sea. Margaritaville sits here like it belongs, across the street from the ocean, 30-seconds walk away. It offers about as pure a beachfront resort experience as you can get.

And the 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar is solid for those tropical sunsets listening to, well, listening to an “island style” Jimmy Buffett tune.

Great for families, couples, and single travelers, Margaritaville is a welcome addition to the Costa Rica all-inclusive resorts collection.

Barcelo Tambor

 

 
 
 
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At the bottom of the Nicoya Peninsula, after a flight or a ferry ride, you’ll find the Barcelo Tambor on a massive bay.

The Southern Nicoya Peninsula is my favorite part of Costa Rica although Tambor is my least favorite part of the Southern Nicoya Peninsula. The beach ain’t too pretty (for Costa Rican standards) and compared to Montezuma or Mal Pais, Tambor doesn’t compare.

But the Barcelo Tambor is the only all-inclusive around here and offers access to some of the best that Costa Rica offers. If you seek a cheap and cheerful all-inclusive in a beautiful part of Costa Rica, this place might work for you.

Fiesta Resort

 

 
 
 
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Once the DoubleTree, this is the closest all-inclusive to San Jose, less than an hour out of the city if the traffic’s good. We reckon the Fiesta is better for a getaway weekend from the city than as a place you’d travel thousands of miles to get to. Indeed, more locals than foreigners tend to come here.

With a big pool and the black sand beach of the Gulf of Nicoya steps away, the Fiesta offers a cheap way to do nothing but eat, drink, and swim for a few days. And party. I mean, Fiesta, right?

Best Western Jaco

 

 
 
 
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I always find it a little weird to stick an all-inclusive resort in the middle of a town full of bars and restaurants, but hey, who am I to judge? The Best Western Jaco sits in the middle of Jaco (or enough of a short walk away to make no never mind) but I imagine guests there don’t care.

For me, this is a place, like the Fiesta, to come for a weekend out of San Jose. Jaco is close enough for a night or two by the beach. As a result, the Best Western Jaco gets crowded at weekends. If you don’t mind that, cool. If you do, come midweek and you’ll find a spot to relax.

Riu Palace / Riu Guanacaste

 

 
 
 
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These twin resorts sit next to each other on Playa Matapalo in Guanacaste, together but separate but together. The Riu Guanacaste came first, followed by the more luxurious Riu Palace. Guests at one hotel can share the amenities of the other, except for eating. If you’re in the Guanacaste, you eat in the Guanacaste and if you’re in the Palace, you eat in the Palace. Otherwise what would be the point of the price difference?

If you’re looking for something more casual, stay at the Guanacaste. For more elegance (dress codes for dinner, etc), the Palace is your place.

Either way, with over 1,200 rooms between them, the Riu properties combine to make the biggest resort in the country. If that’s your thing, you’ll have a blast here. If you want smaller, more intimate, then you won’t.

Occidental Tamarindo

 

 
 
 
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Once the Barcelo Langosta, this hotel on Playa Langosta south of Tamarindo finds itself rebranded as an Occidental property since 2015. Not that that should make much difference to you, the guest.

This small resort does not receive great reviews, I’m sorry to say. And I’ve been here long enough to remember the controversy surrounding its construction. But if you’re looking for a cheap all-inclusive on a great surfing beach, check this place out.

Have I missed anything?

Let’s be clear. The hotels listed above – except for Villa Buena Onda – are all resorts. They’re all places designed to provide a complete vacation within their walls. You could leave none of these places if you so wished and still have a wonderful time.

There are plenty of other hotels and eco-lodges with meals included.

Most of the time because they’re so remote in the jungle or whatever. I’m talking about places in the Osa Peninsula here in particular. Places like Lapa Rios or Copa de Arbol.

Do these count as all-inclusive resorts? I don’t reckon so, but the jury is open.

So if you think I’ve missed anything, maybe it’s because my definition of an all-inclusive resort is different to yours.

With that caveat, what are your favorite Costa Rica all-inclusive resorts? What are your least favorite? We’d love to hear from you so let us know in the comments below.

James Dyde is the editor of CentralAmerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.