Whether you crave delicious food, beautiful beaches, relaxing hot springs, rainforest hikes or urban adventures, Costa Rica is a vacation spot for every gay traveler’s must-visit list. The friendly locals and breathtaking views make gay Costa Rica worth seeing again and again.
Not only is Costa Rica one of the most stable democracies in Central America, it’s one of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries there. It’s also one of the biologically diverse places in the world, making it an ideal place to play and explore.
Gay Costa Rica is also about more than just bars and saunas, so our guide covers day-trips and ecological adventures that represent the welcoming, modern-day spirit of gay Costa Rica.
Fun facts about Costa Rica
The country’s sparse population helped it avoid the ravages of Spanish colonization during the 16th and 17th centuries. And after its 44-day civil war in 1948, Costa Rica abolished its military, ushering in an era of internal peace which has lasted ever since. The country has nationwide LGBTQ protections with legalized marriage equality quickly on its way, and is believed to have 50 times more wildlife than Brazil.
These days, Costa Rica prides itself on its first-rate hospitality, healthy living and ecotourism, making pura vida (pure life) a national motto and way of life. Over 10% of its residents speak English, many of its businesses accept dollars, and tourists can quickly travel between its urban centers and countrysides via plane or van upon its verdant, winding roads.
Because of its equatorial location, Costa Rica really only has a dry “high” season (December to April) and a rainy “low” season (May to November). Hotels and resorts lower their prices during the rainy season, knowing that the greater likelihood of humidity and storms will keep some visitors away. But its more crowded dry season also makes a great tropical escape during the northern winter months.
The country’s unpaved roads and long distances between different areas can make it difficult for even experienced travelers to navigate. So we suggest coordinating with Gay Costa Rica, a gay-owned LGBTQ-inclusive agency that can coordinate travel and lower rates no matter your destinations.
Must-visit local attractions
While many visitors start their travels in the capital city of San Jose, LGBTQ visitors will definitely want to start their visit of gay Costa Rica by checking out Barrio Escalante, the hip neighborhood full of restaurants, boutiques and gay bars.
If you’re looking for a relaxing stay or some delicious and reasonably priced dining, consider dropping by the Hotel Grano de Oro, a charming and distinctive 34-room hotel that’s like staying at a wealthy friend’s Victorian hideaway. The hotel has a lush rooftop garden terrace with two hot tubs, and its restaurant is one of the best locally, offering indoor and courtyard seating with a delectable array of quintessential Costa Rican fare.
To soak up some national history and culture while in San Jose, stop by The Gold Museum with its breathtaking collection of pre-Columbian art, or, if you prefer you visual arts, The Museum of Costa Rican Art or The National Gallery of Contemporary Art and Design, both of which offer artistic views of Costa Rica through the years.
La Fortuna: Your destination for hot springs and outdoor adventures
Some gay Costa Rica travelers prefer the Pacific oceanside Manuel Antonio National Park for a stay stay in the Villa Roca gay clothing-optional resort. But we suggest visiting the Arenal Volcano area near La Fortuna with its nearby rainforests, thermal spas and ecological adventures.
You can relax in the eco-lodges of the Hotel Montaña de Fuego or enjoy the spacious rooms and private springs offered by the more upscale Hotel Arenal Springs. Both have tropical surroundings, rooms with breathtaking views of the Arenal Volcano, on-site spa services and an array of outdoor activities through their concierge services.
For ultimate relaxation in a beautiful jungle setting, consider a visit to the Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa where you can stay on the quiet, elegant property or buy a day pass to its extensive network of flowing hot springs. Its waterfalls and hidden areas are perfect for a long-relaxing soak followed a fresh meal at the on-site restaurant.
If you’d like to explore solo, visit the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park where you can take a stroll through its two-mile trail of lush rainforests and suspended bridges by yourself or with a trained nature expert. They also offer early morning birdwatching tours and nighttime tours for lovers of nocturnal creatures.
Guanacaste: The place for beachside resorts and ecological explorations
If your idea of a gay Costa Rica vacation includes hiding away on a stretch of semi-private beach, check into the Hotel Andaz Papagayo whose first-rate rooms include balcony seating and indoor-outdoor showers. Its actual property includes several infinity pools, great restaurants and a private beachside area where monkeys often play.
There’s also the W Hotel Reserva Conchal whose upscale luxury and laid-back ambience includes mangrove-filled oceanic views from each rooms’ day bed balconies. It also has an open air restaurant and bar near a 140-foot black tile pool and rentable beachside cabanas with complimentary minibar and hourly cocktail and food service.
An adventure junkie should also check out the Diamante Eco Adventure Park, which offers safe yet heart-racing zip-lining over their mountainous ocean view.
If you’re more of a nature lover, check out Diamante’s cultural botanical garden, animal sanctuary filled with sloths, wildcats, toucans and butterflies and beachside playground offering activities like paddle boarding, snorkeling and kayaking.
One hour and a half south you can also visit the friendly beachside town of Tamarindo, filled with bars, restaurants, boutiques perfect for day tripping.
Before you leave, check out the Capitán Suizo boutique hotel. Located at the end of a sandy blue beach, it has a pesticide free tropical landscape, a restaurant who dishes include veggies grown at their next-door organic garden, solid wood furniture created across the street and a shallow beach ideal for ocean lovers who aren’t strong swimmers.