Costa Rica Backpacker Guide: Best hostels and restaurants

So you’re backpacking through Costa Rica – where should you sleep and eat? Here are some budget accommodation and restaurant tips, from backpacker to backpacker.

All recommendations are based on my ten day trip to Costa Rica in 2014. You should also read my ultimate Costa Rica Backpacker Guide which includes an itinerary for 10 days and tips for how to get around Costa Rica.

 

Accommodation

  • San José: Hostel Pangeás, they also offer a shuttle pickup service from San José airport (30 min drive) which is highly recommended especially if you arrive during the night. It might seem a little dingy, the breakfast they offer in their rooftop bar isn’t the greatest but the vibe during the night up there is quite good. Shuttle and dorm room cost us CRC 13,800/person.



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  • La Fortuna: We had originally planned to go to another hostel but as we were approached by a guy named Mario on the bus to La Fortuna, we got a much better deal. He took us to Cabanas Jerry where we had our private room with en-suite bathroom for $10/person. Very clean, extremely friendly owner and quiet during the night.

La Fortuna Volcano Hike-costa-rica-backpacker-travel-guide

  • Monteverde: We stayed in the dorm at Monteverde Backpackers (CRC 5,500 or $10/person). We needed to move the next day as they were booked out and ended up in a much better hostel with a much better deal: Monkey Hostel (CRC 4,500/person for a private room). The owner or manager was a young, fun guy and he really took great care of all guests. Can really recommend Monkey Hostel very highly.

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  • Montezuma: Pura Vida Hostel! It’s cute with friendly owners and you can see the beach from the balcony upstairs. At CRC 5,500/person for a private room it was also the best deal we could find.

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  • Playa Santa Teresa: Very popular among backpackers: Tranquilo Backpackers. It’s free pancakes in the morning, chilled atmosphere during the day and fun get-togethers in the evening. Great for meeting people. A dorm bed costs CRC 5,100/night if you stay 3 nights or more.

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Food

  • La Fortuna:
    • Chocolateria Café: A little pricey for backpacker standards but delicious sandwiches and a mouth-watering selection of cakes and chocolates. Good coffee as well. (Sandwich & coffee: CRC 6,500)
    • Soda La Parada: Where the locals go, a cheap eat. Traditional dishes like tamales, also try the Papaya root salad with potatoes. The banana bread pudding is a delicious, but high calorie, dessert (Total meal: CRC 2,000). They also serve traditional breakfast: Eggs, beans, avocado and plantains with toast and coffee (CRC 2,000-3,000).
    • Lava Lounge: Probably one of the priciest options but great if you crave some Western comfort food. Pizzas, pastas, burgers, salads,… Expect to pay around CRC 11,000 for a main course plus alcoholic beverage. Very lively place during the night with sometimes live music.

4 - La Fortuna Hot Springs-1

  • Monteverde:
    • Soda El Campesino: It’s a small, unpretentious place but serves delicious food. Try the traditional Casado Carne en Salsa. It’s a huge portion and such tender beef for only CRC 4,100.
    • Taco Taco: Good for a quick snack before a tour.
    • Soda La Amistad: You wouldn’t go there (or find it) unless someone tells you. Lucky us that our hostel owner recommended it. I had a traditional Casado Vegetariano which was served with a complimentary freshly baked banana bread (CRC 2,900 – what a deal!).

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  • Montezuma:
    • Organico Café: Alright food. If just the price wasn’t so high. But that’s Montezuma, we looked at several menus and Montezuma prices are just higher than most other places.
    • Bakery Café: We went here for breakfast and were looking forward to some delicious home-made bread – which was not available all week… But the omelette (CRC 3,600) and fruit salad with granola were quite good. And the waiter entertaining!
    • All the Italian places looked great – mouthwatering pasta and pizza. I’m sure you can’t go wrong here.
  • Playa Santa Teresa:
    • Taco: Some people just can’t get enough of these tacos and burritos – they are super delicious and great value for money.
    • The Bakery: Better than Starbucks. Go for comfort food. Delicious breads, cakes and also a great lunch menu with pizza, pasta, sandwiches. The cheesecake is to die for (CRC 2,800).
    • Marisquería: It’s a quiet place and it didn’t seem very inviting (quite empty). But please, go there! The food is so good. Fancy seafood? Just tell them how you like it and it’s done. Want pasta that’s not on the menu? They’ll make it. For such a good price. I had a mixed seafood platter a la plancha (from the grill) with salad and plantains for just CRC 7,700.

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