At Cabinas El Tesoro (tel. 506/2750-0128, www.cabinaseltesoro.com , $11 pp dorm, from $21 s or $41 d private rooms), about one kilometer from Puerto Viejo , 11 simply furnished rooms have orthopedic mattresses, screened windows, fans, and private baths with hot water, plus patios with hammocks. Three more upscale rooms have earth-tone stucco, cross-ventilation, cable TV, refrigerators, and large walk-in showers; two have air-conditioning. There’s also a his-and-hers surf dorm at the back, with a communal kitchen, toilets, and showers. The place is well run by Charlie Wanger, a friendly, in-the-know American. There’s free Internet, coffee, and parking, and free movies are shown nightly on a wide-screen television.
La Casita (in Jamaica, tel. 876/974-2870, fax 876/974-2651, info [at] harmonyhall [dot] com, $300/350 weekly low/high season), just north of the soccer field in Cocles, is a delightful albeit rustic log-and-thatch casita set in lush gardens with forest all around. It’s just you, the monkeys, and the geckos. A path leads to Playa Cocles  and a grocery store and restaurant are a short stroll.
In a similar vein, I like the German-run El Tucán Lodge (tel. 506/2750-0026, www.eltucanjunglelodge.com , $33 s, $44 d) in the heart of the forest 800 meters uphill from Seahorse Stables. With charming decor, it’s a lovely spot to lay your head in stylishly simple wooden cabins on the edge of the Río Caño Negro, at Cocles.
La Costa de Papito (tel. 506/2750-0080, www.lacostadepapito.com , $48–73 s/d low season, $54–84 s/d high season, including taxes), at Playa Cocles, is run by Eddie Ryan, a New York hotelier who has conjured 10 simple yet tastefully decorated bungalows at the jungle edge of a lush five-acre garden. Each has ceiling fan, leopard- or zebra-pattern sheets, exquisite tiled bathrooms, and shady porches with hammocks under thatch. Four smaller cabins have polished hardwoods and outside “rainforest” bathrooms. There’s a laundry and massage, plus bicycle, surfboard, boogie-board, and snorkel rentals. Hearty breakfasts are served on your porch and in the restaurant. There is also a full-service spa.
The 20-room Italian-run Totem Hotel Resort & Restaurant (tel. 506/2750-0758, www.totemsite.com , $65 s or $80 d standard, $100 s/d suite) is a reasonable option on Playa Cocles. It has two types of accommodations in effusive gardens. Standards in a thatched stone-and-timber two-story structure, although dark, have colorful decor and spacious gray-tile bathrooms. Suites boast huge lounges with terra-cotta floors and screened glassless walls opening to a walk-in pool with cascade. Two wheelchair-accessible rooms have been added, along with six bungalows and six suites. There’s an outdoor games room with WiFi, a large thatched bar with TV, plus a surf shop. The Mediterranean restaurant doubles as an oyster bar by day.
I highly recommend Aguas Claras (tel. 506/2750-0131, www.aguasclaras-cr.com , $80 s/d one-bedroom, $150–185 two-bedroom, $260 three-bedroom) nearby, with five adorable casas on well-groomed grounds. Each is a different size, accommodating 2–6 people. Of a delightful Victorian style, they have gingerbread trim, bright tropical color schemes, ceiling fans, modern tiled bathrooms with hot water, large full kitchens, and shady verandas with rattan furnishings; there is also WiFi. Miss Holly’s Kitchen is here.
The Jardín Miraflores Lodge (tel./fax 506/2750-0038, www.mirafloreslodge.com , $50–85 s/d rooms, $75–95 suites), at Punta Cocles, appeals to nature lovers. Choose from double rooms with shared bathroom or private bathroom and balcony with hammock, and suites with king-size beds, private bathrooms, and living areas. Downstairs rooms have kitchenettes and king-size beds plus two sofa beds. Mosquito nets hang above the beds. It also has a basic six-bed dormitory with outside bathrooms for groups only ($10 per person). The wood and bamboo hotel is adorned with Latin American fabrics, masks, and art, and vases full of fresh tropical blooms, plus WiFi throughout. Upstairs, cool breezes flow through the rooms. Health-conscious meals are served in a rustic rancho. Tours are offered. Rates include breakfast.
Playa Chiquita Lodge (tel. 506/2750-0062, www.playachiquitalodge.com , $60 s/d low season, $75 s/d high season), three kilometers south of Punta Cocles, is appealing for its jungle ambience. Eleven colorful and spacious “bungalows” offer murals, small sunken bathrooms with hot-water showers and lovely tropical details, fans, WiFi, and leather rocking chairs on a wide veranda. You can dine alfresco under thatch in the restaurant. The lodge arranges diving and snorkeling, boat trips, and bike and horse rentals.
The endearingly tropical Italian-run Pachamama B&B (tel. 506/2759-9196, www.pachamamacaribe.com , $55–65 s/d bungalows low season, $55–75 bungalows high season, $75–110 casitas and casas) enjoys a marvelous riverside forest setting amid trees festooned with epiphytes. It has two one-bedroom bungalows featuring pastel color schemes including sponge-washed floors, simple furnishings, mosquito nets, ceiling fans, pleasing tiled bathrooms with hot water, and hardwood decks. A spacious wooden one-bedroom house is a charmer. The two-bedroom casa has a lively color scheme.
I also like the charm of Cariblue Bungalows (tel. 506/2750-0035, www.cariblue.com , $95–110 s/d bungalows, $250 s/d house year-round), one kilometer south of Puerto Viejo, with 15 handsome, spacious hardwood cabinas amid shaded lawns. Some have king-size beds. All have colorful sponge-washed decor, bamboo ceilings with fans, private bathrooms with mosaic tiles, and sliding doors opening to delightful porches with hammock. There’s boogie board and bike rentals, plus a gift shop, TV lounge with WiFi, and a free-form pool with whirlpool tub and wet bar. An Italian seafood restaurant serves meals under thatch. Rates include tax and buffet breakfast.
Next to Cariblue and almost identical, Azánia Bungalows (tel. 506/2750-0540, www.azania-costarica.com , $70 s/d low season, $85 s/d high season) is another beautiful property on lush grounds. Eight thatched hardwood cottages with large decks with hammocks are delightfully simple and have batik blinds on all-around screened windows, queen beds plus singles in a loft, and handsome bathrooms with colorful tiles, drop-down walk-in showers with sauna seating, and huge windows. It has WiFi and a comma-shaped swimming pool and rents bikes. The restaurant specializes in Argentinian fare.
Of similar standard, Casa Camarona (tel. 506/2750-0151, www.casacamarona.co.cr , $65 s/d low season, $70 s/d high season) is well run by a Tico couple and offers 18 modestly furnished, air-conditioned wooden rooms with tile floors and hot water. It has an intimate breeze-swept restaurant, La Palapa, decorated in Jamaican style. There’s also a gift store, beach bar, laundry, safe parking, bicycle and kayak rental, and tours. The facilities are wheelchair-accessible.
At Punta Cocles, the upscale Villas del Caribe (tel. 506/2750-0202, www.villasdelcaribe.com , $79 s/d standard, $89 s/d junior villa, $109 s/d villa low season; $89 s/d standard, $99 s/d junior villa, $119 s/d villa high season) has a superb location in the cusp of the bay. It has 12 colorfully furnished rooms in a two-story complex in landscaped gardens 50 meters from the beach. Fully equipped kitchen, hot water, and fans are standard. It has a restaurant and bar with WiFi. The hotel is eco-conscious—even the soaps and toiletries are biodegradable. Rates include breakfast and tax.
Another Caribbean-cabin-style entity, Hotel Kashá (tel./fax 506/2750-0205, www.costarica-hotelkasha.com , $80 s/$110 d, $106.50 s/d all-inclusive) offers all-inclusive packages in addition to rack rates. This place has 14 handsome hardwood bungalows set back from the road amid the forest. The units are spacious, with plenty of light, screened windows, ceiling fans, two double beds, and pleasant bathrooms with heated water and beautiful Italian ceramics. Some units are for two people; others are for four people. The hotel’s high points are its two restaurants, including Magic Ginger for gourmet fare, plus the Morpho Bar. It also has a small pool with water cascade. Rates include tax and breakfast.
French-run El Colibrí Lodge (tel. 506/2759-9036, www.elcolibrilodge.com , $50 s, $65 d), south of Punta Uva, has a lush jungle setting. Its four concrete cabins lack natural ventilation and get hot, but they boast ceiling fans, hardwood floors, nice color schemes, and modern bathrooms with hot water. Trails lead to the beach. Monkeys hang out in the trees overhead, and an adjacent lagoon harbors caimans. The owners also rent a two-bedroom house. Rates include breakfast.
Blue Conga (tel. 506/2750-0681, http://blueconga-gb.blogspot.com , $55–80 s/d low season, $65–90 high season) is set in a lush garden and combines contemporary styling and tropical touches, such as rough-hewn timbers and nature-themed mosaics. Its owners (three couples, one each from Belgium, France, and Canada) offer spacious bedrooms with king-size canopy beds, ceiling fans, and balconies with forest views.
French hosts Ingrid and Erwin run Korrigan Lodge (tel. 506/2759-9103, www.korriganlodge.com , $70 s/d including breakfast), at Punta Uva. It offers four cozy bungalows reached by paths that wind through lush gardens and rainforest.
For simple elegance, you can’t beat El Nido (tel. 560/2756-8274, www.puertoviejocabinas.com , $85 s or $100 d low season, $105 s or $120 d high season), with five spacious hardwood cabins around a small swimming pool. All have king beds with quality linens, plus TV and DVD players. Your delightful hosts are Gail and her daughter, Maitreya, from Canada.
Another pleasant addition is Exotica Lodge (tel. 506/2750-0542, www.exoticalodge.com , $30 s or $40 d low season, $40 s or $50 d high season). The bargain-priced Physis Lodge House (tel. 506/2750-0941, www.physiscaribbean.com , $35 pp including breakfast) has four rooms with a gorgeous Asian-inspired aesthetic.
You get good value at Shawandha Lodge (tel. 506/2750-0018, www.shawandhalodge.com , $95 s/d low season, $115 high season), one kilometer farther south at Playa Chiquita. It has 12 spacious, thatched, WiFi-enabled hardwood cabins, each marvelously furnished with simple yet beautiful modern decor that the Spanish owners—Maho Díaz and Nicolas Buffile—call “neo-primitive,” including four-poster beds, screened windows, and large verandas with hammocks. The bathrooms boast large walk-in showers with exquisite tile work. The restaurant is one of the best around, and there’s a splendid open-air lounge with contempo decor. Rates include American breakfast.
Part safari camp, part boutique hotel, the lovely but overpriced Almonds & Corals Lodge Tent Camp (tel. 506/2271-3000 or 2759-9056, www.almondsandcorals.com , $235 s or $300 d suite, $315 s or $400 d master suite), three kilometers north of Manzanillo, has a lonesome forested setting a few leisurely steps from the beach. Each of 24 tent “pavilions” connected by lamp-lit boardwalks is raised on a stilt platform and features two singles or one double bed, a locker, night lamps, table and chairs, plus mosquito nets and deck with hammock—a touch of Kenya come to the Caribbean. Very atmospheric! Separate junior suites and suites are even nicer and verge on luxe. Each cabin has its own shower and toilet in separate washhouses. Raised walkways lead to the beach, pool, snack bar, and restaurant serving Costa Rican food. You can rent kayaks, bicycles, and snorkeling gear. It earned four leaves from the Certification for Sustainable Tourism program, but in 2008 was accused by authorities of illegally clear-cutting protected forest for an expansion.
Eclectic in the extreme, Tree House Lodge (tel. 506/2750-0706, www.costaricatreehouse.com , $200–390 s/d depending on the unit, 3- to 7-day packages from $1,153 d), at Punta Uva, is a rustic yet upscale place with a fabulous Middle Earth feel. Having recently expanded, it now offers four individual and irresistible units with forest or beach setting. The original all-wood two-story Tree House is built in and around a huge tree, with separate elements connected by a steel suspension bridge. Two bedrooms share a bathroom; a spiral staircase leads to a loft bedroom with king-size bed. The Beach Suite features a Tolkien-style dome bathroom (owners claim it’s the largest in the country) with stained-glass windows and a huge whirlpool tub. Fantastic!
In 2009, the region gained its first deluxe boutique hotel, Le Caméléon (tel. 506/2582-0140, www.lecameleonhotel.com , from $225 s/d). This chic retro-contemporary pad changes the entire tone, tempting a new breed of traveler-fashionistas to the region with its all-white vogue decor. Even before it opened, it was selected as a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. This avant-garde hotel integrates its public and outdoor spaces into the encroaching jungle with appropriately tropical styling. The rooms (in four types) are gorgeous, although too urbane to fit a coast known more for reggae, Rastas, and reefers. Rooms are Ikea-styled, draped floor to ceiling in white, white, white, and set off by cushions and swirling artwork in primary colors (the color themes are swapped daily). Amenities include WiFi, air-conditioning (now there’s a first on this coast), and flat-screen cable TV, plus white-marble bathrooms. The superb open-air lounge-bar-restaurant is on a raised wooden deck and can get lively with sybarites toasting with their mojitos. It has a spa and beach club.