Costa Rica Gay Travel
wolfyy’s Costa Rica gay guide to hotels & resorts, things to do, beaches, gay bars, & local gay life.
The Gay Travel Experience: Costa Rica
A beautiful country known for exotic wildlife and stunning natural landscapes, Costa Rica attracts straight and gay travelers for many of the same reasons.
However, with growing local gay scenes in places like Manuel Antonio and the fact that Costa Rica ranks among Central America’s top gay-friendly nations, more and more gay travelers are booking vacations here.
I traveled around Costa Rica with a few of my closest gay friends and had such an unforgettable experience. Along the way, I got a chance to meet some gay locals as well as a few ex-pats who are working or have started businesses in Costa Rica.
Discovering Costa Rica’s Gay Life
The best place to experience Costa Rica’s gay life is Manuel Antonio, a popular laid-back coastal town. It’s a beautiful tropical hotspot with the country’s most prominent gay hotels.
San José has a ton of gay life, but with a much more local vibe. The city has a considerable population of LGBT locals, but gay nightlife during the week is quite subdued. For the best experience, I’d recommend visiting San José over a weekend.
Meeting other gay travelers and locals is possible in other parts of Costa Rica, too. Don’t limit yourself to towns with notable gay scenes. I met a gay couple in La Fortuna, which goes to show that you can find LGBT travelers anywhere that’s popular with tourists.
Gay Costa Rica: Hotels & Where to Stay
Most travelers choose to stay in a few different areas of Costa Rica, segmenting their trip to explore as much of the country as possible.
San José is the typical entry point into Costa Rica, so tourists often book a hotel for one night on either end of their journey. The city also has a noteworthy gay resort, ideal for anyone looking to meet other gay travelers.
The section below covers all you need to know about Costa Rica’s mainstay gay resorts. Afterward, I’ll recommend some places for LGBT travelers to stay in Monteverde and La Fortuna.
Costa Rica Gay Hotels & Gay-Friendly Resorts
Hotel Villa Roca (Manuel Antonio)
Hotel Villa Roca tops the list of distinguished gay hotels in Costa Rica. They’re popular for a prime location in the heart of Manuel Antonio, unbeatable views from their infinity pool, and a multi-level sexy hangout area called “La Roca & Enchanted Forest.”
The pool and hot tubs and pool are open 24 hours—a great chance for some night swimming. Neon lighting in the hot tubs makes for a sexy vibe at night, too.
Room types range from economy-size to spacious suites with ocean views. Largest of all is the 1000 square-foot “La Villa” apartment-style suite, consisting of two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a private terrace, and more.
While Hotel Villa Roca is indeed a gay hotel, it is not male-only. There will likely be some female guests. Hey, they can be LGBT, too!
Villas Jacquelina (Manuel Antonio)
I stayed at Villas Jacquelina during my time in the Quepos-Manuel Antonio area, attracted to their unique treehouse-style villas and gay-friendly atmosphere.
Sharing their open-air penthouse apartment with a few friends was an experience I’ll never forget. We woke up to golden sunrises that made our villa glow, along with the lovely sounds of birds chirping in surrounding trees.
The staff and owner Esteban were incredibly friendly and made us feel right at home. With yoga & meditation sessions, daily breakfasts, and lots of common spaces, there was a wonderful sense of community.
I particularly loved spending time perched on elevated the outdoor net, taking in the beautiful views while lounging in the shade. Villas Jacquelina also has a lovely pool area, plenty of hammocks, and a kitchen area for guest use.
See wolfyy’s gay travel guide to Manuel Antonio for more gay-friendly hotel recommendations.
Vacation rentals in Manuel Antonio are particularly stunning. Considering how affordable some of these are, you have to take a look!
Colours Oasis Resort LGTBQ (San José)
Colours Oasis is the premier gay resort in Costa Rica’s capital of San José. And with 27 rooms, they’re the country’s largest!
Take advantage of the heated pool, rooftop sun deck, and full-service restaurant. Wherever you relax, wear your sexiest gay swimwear!
The staff at Colours Oasis makes everyone feel genuinely welcome, which can be a breath of fresh air after a long international flight! They also offer massage services, airport transportation, and can help you arrange tours.
Getting to the SJO airport from Colours Oasis is relatively quick. Located outside of central San José, you’ll be able to avoid the delays from downtown traffic.
See wolfyy’s gay travel guide to San José for even more local hotel recommendations.
I stayed at Selina Monteverde for a portion of my Costa Rica adventure as my friends and I geared up to explore the local cloud forest. They offer four different accommodation styles ranging from typical hostel bunk beds to spacious private rooms.
Things I loved most about staying at Selina were the community feel, the cozy yet functional coworking space, and the convenience of having an on-site restaurant and 24-hour snack bar. I also enjoyed a bit of time in the hot tub at night!
Below are a few more affordable hotels I recommend in Monteverde that are well-located for daily excursions into the cloud forest.
Campos Arenal (La Fortuna)
I stayed at Campos Arenal Hotel for a few nights while visiting El Arenal and La Fortuna. It was a nice balance of affordability, location, and comfort.
The staff was incredibly kind to us. Even after breakfast had ended on our first morning at the hotel, they happily prepared us a plate of hot food along with a smoothie! I appreciated the refreshingly strong air conditioning too, a factor definitely worth considering while browsing local hotels.
Below are a few more of my recommended places to stay in La Fortuna.
Costa Rica Gay Travel Experiences
Costa Rica is full of adventurous activities, exotic wildlife, and incredible natural landscapes. Most importantly, I suggest booking at least one or two guided tours wherever your travels take you. Local guides are incredibly experienced and can lead you to some of the most beautiful things Costa Rica has to offer.
Below are several subsections highlighting my recommended things to do in Costa Rica’s popular destinations of Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, and El Arenal/La Fortuna.
Tour Manuel Antonio National Park
Sloths, monkeys, and beautiful butterflies are just a few creatures everyone loves seeing in Manuel Antonio National Park. I highly recommend a visit, both for the wildlife and the stunning local beaches that are only accessible from inside the park.
Booking a guided nature tour is the best thing you can do. Tons of tourists strolling the trails miss out on seeing hawks, sloths, bats, and other animals because they can’t spot them on their own.
A guide will bring a telescope on a tripod for the group so you can see the high-up and camouflaged wildlife. Be sure the tour description explicitly states the guide will bring a scope (like the one linked above)!
Pro-tip for those driving to Manuel Antonio National Park: before you reach the entrance, you’ll encounter locals in the street posing as park officials. Their sole intention is to funnel you into overpriced parking.
Even though it feels strange (they yelled aggressively at our car), you should ignore them and continue driving. Further down the road, there are inexpensive parking lots.
Costa Rica’s Gay Beaches
The only official gay beaches in Costa Rica are found in Manuel Antonio. While they’re not as busy as others around the world, they do exist!
Some travel resources will mention Playa Espadilla as a local gay beach, but this is overgeneralized. If you’re going to find any gay locals or other LGBT travelers, it’ll be at Playa Playitas.
Playa La Mancha is known to be a clothing optional gay-friendly beach located toward the northern end of Manuel Antonio. It’s much more secluded and you’ll need to hike down a trail to reach from the main road to reach the beach, which takes around 20 minutes.
As always, wear some of your best gay swimwear to attract some attention by the water!
See wolfyy’s full Manuel Antonio gay guide for more things to do.
Wildlife Night Tours in Monteverde
Exploring the amazing wildlife on a night tour in Monteverde was one of the most memorable experiences of my entire trip to Costa Rica. Considering the relatively low cost of night tours compared to other activities, it also felt like I got the most for my money.
A few hours after sunset, a local guide will quietly walk you through the jungle, pointing out beautiful creatures along the way. I saw forest frogs, Glass Wing Butterflies, a Viper snake, and a massive Tarantula among other critters.
Go Bird Watching
Costa Rica is famous for exotic birds like Toucans, Scarlet Macaws, and the legendary Resplendent Quetzal. Bird-watching tours are extremely popular, especially because spotting these gorgeous animals without a professional guide is difficult.
The going rate is generally between $70 and $100 USD depending on the length of the tour and what’s included. The least expensive options will be 2-hour Curi-Cancha tours, as opposed to the more common 4 to 6-hour excursions.
Also, beware of tour listings that don’t include the park entrance fee. Some offers will do this to show an artificially low price.
Bird-watching tours start early in the morning, typically around 6 AM, so make sure to get a good night’s sleep beforehand. Try to book at least one to two days in advance since bird-watching tours tend to sell out quicker than any other activity
Explore Selvatura Park in Monteverde
This place totally exceeded my expectations. It was my favorite of all the parks within the cloud forest. I personally don’t think you’ll need a guide for Selvatura (unless you’re going climbing or zip-lining). All you’ll need is a hanging bridge entry ticket to access the trails.
Walking the entire hanging bridges trail took about 2.5 hours, which was much more than the 1.5-hour estimate the staff gave us! If you’ll be doing any of the time-specific activities at Selvatura, do them first so you don’t have to worry about missing them.
Hike to the Continental Divide
The best part of hiking the trails of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve is reaching the continental divide! At the easternmost end of the preserve, you can visit a place where the cloud forest ends and meets bright, sunny blue skies.
It felt surreal to experience the transition from windy trails shrouded in clouds to the warm and bright Sendero La Ventana lookout point with its expansive views.
Entry tickets are available online, but to buy them the day of, you’ll need to go in person. Prepare to wait in line for a bit—I found the clerks to be incredibly slow.
Eat Lunch at Stella’s Monteverde
Stella’s Monteverde is a restaurant well-known for having all sorts of wildlife roaming around the outdoor seating area. On the rear patio, you’ll see white-faced monkeys, colorful birds, squirrels, and butterflies all while you enjoy a healthy lunch.
The monkeys in the area don’t seem to bother anyone, which was surprising considering all the food around!
Sunset at Mirador Django in Monteverde
Monteverde has several great lookout points, but I loved Mirador Django the most because it’s both gorgeous and lesser-known. There were only three other people quietly watching the sunset here when I visited.
There’s a small metal deck with a bench here, where you can get a view of the coastline in the distance, as well as the fringe of Monteverde’s cloud forest behind you.
Another popular sunset lookout is Mirador Valle Escondido Preserve, arguably the most well-known in the area.
Dinner & Drinks at Treehouse Restaurante
Treehouse Restaurante is another one of Monteverde’s well-known restaurants. But even though all the tourists know about it, I’d still recommend going.
The entire multi-story restaurant is built around a massive tree. There are a ton of tables, many nestled in cozy private nooks. It’s the perfect spot for dinner or cocktails. My friends and I ordered the Tablita Típica to get our fill of traditional Costa Rican meats!
Relax at Hot Springs in Arenal
The volcanic region between Lake Arenal and the town of La Fortuna is known for its thermal springs. Especially after several days of trekking through the jungle, a long warm soak feels so relaxing.
I liked both, but Paradise was my favorite for its intimate feel and tucked-away high-temperature pools. I even met a few other gay travelers here!
Tabacón Hot Springs is the most luxurious thermal bath experience in all of Costa Rica. I would have loved to try it but getting a day pass for Tabacón typically requires making reservations weeks in advance. This spot is super popular!
The El Choyin Public Bath is a free, public thermal spring area that you can hike to from the main road. I didn’t get a chance to go, but El Choyin is popular and highly reviewed.
Walk the Hanging Bridges at Mistico Park
Mistico Park has the best local hanging bridges, jungle trails, and a variety of guided tours and activities. It’s also the top spot for epic views of the Arenal Volcano.
I visited specifically for one more chance to cross some hanging bridges, which are way wobblier than the bridges in other parks. They’re, still fun to cross, though! Entry is relatively cheap, too. Grab yourself an Arenal Hanging Bridges Walk ticket.
The weather in the area can be unpredictable, so be sure to bring a thin raincoat in case of a passing shower.
La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall is a hugely popular attraction–it’s your chance to swim in and around an impressively large waterfall in Costa Rica!
Entry costs $18 USD and it takes about 15 minutes to descend from the parking area to the waterfall itself. Before you buy a ticket, ask to make sure swimming will be allowed. Swimming is restricted on some days if the currents are deemed to be too rough.
Costa Rica Gay Bars
Almost all of Costa Rica’s gay bars are in the capital city of San José. While there is one main local gay bar in Manuel Antonio, there’s not much of a nightlife scene there.
If you want to experience gay nightlife in Costa Rica, stay in San José over a weekend. Even with so many gay bars around, locals tend to stay home on weeknights. Thursday nights can be lively, but Friday nights through Sunday evenings is prime time to experience the gay bars.
Read wolfyy’s San José gay guide for all the essential information on Costa Rica’s best gay bars and clubs.
Costa Rica Travel Tips
The Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
Most tourists prefer visiting Costa Rica during the dry season, which runs from December through April. However, don’t limit yourself to these months alone.
Plenty of tourists visit during the wet and shoulder seasons too, especially those who find the intense bouts of rain to be a magical experience.
Renting A Vehicle in Costa Rica
Unless you have the time to navigate Costa Rica by public transport, you’ll want to rent a vehicle to get the most out of your trip.
Renting a vehicle at SJO airport is pretty easy since there are various agencies to choose from like Hertz, SIXT, Avis, and Budget. But, what’s not so easy is dealing with Costa Rica’s strict insurance rules.
No matter which car rental agency you choose, you’ll be forced to purchase either Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI) or Third-Party Liability (TPL) insurance. These policies don’t cover you or your vehicle—they insure damage to other individuals and their vehicles.
Tourists often ignore this, believing that their personal credit card benefits will satisfy Costa Rica’s car insurance requirements. But, purchasing one of these plans is required by law, and they can cost just as much as the rental car itself!
So, long story short, approach this situation with the mindset of spending significantly more than the rate listed on the rental agency’s site.
Mountainous Regions Get Chilly
Coastal areas of Costa Rica enjoy a warm and steamy climate, so most travelers pack a ton of tank tops and bathing suits. But if you’ll be visiting any of the higher-altitude mountainous regions like Monteverde, you’ll also need to pack for colder nights.
Temperatures drop as low as 60 degrees F (15 degrees C). That may not seem too bad, but when combined with frequent wind and rainstorms, it’ll definitely feel cold.
For activities like evening wildlife tours, pair them with some long socks for extra warmth and mosquito protection.
The Meanings of Flashing Headlights in Costa Rica
For most of us, an oncoming car flashing its headlights is a signal that we forgot to turn our own headlights on. But in Costa Rica, there are more reasons for flashing headlights to be aware of.
I first noticed cars flashing their headlights during the day when there were animals actively crossing the road. They’re signaling to you to slow down so you don’t hurt or startle the wildlife!
Cars will flash their headlights to alert fellow drivers about a number of different dangerous situations, like slippery roads or a roadside incident. Pay extra close attention to your surroundings if you find yourself being “flashed at.”
Taxis & Uber at San José (SJO) Airport
Walking out of the San José airport, you’ll be met with the cacophony of taxi drivers asking if you need a ride. Not only is it jarring, but they will charge you three times the typical price of a taxi ride and require payment in cash.
I recommend getting a ride using Uber. My ride to central San José was only about $10 USD. Uber drivers will only pick up passengers at the departures entrance though, so you’ll need to head to the upper level across the street from the arrivals door.
Costa Rica Gay Rights
Public opinion of the gay community in Costa Rica is over 60%, and along with the gay-welcoming ex-pat community living throughout the country, LGBT travelers tend to have phenomenal travel experiences.
Need more ideas for gay destinations? Explore wolfyy’s full list of gay travel guides.