Most Unique Costa Rica Wedding Destinations
As the photographers for Arenas Foto Wedding Photography, we can honestly state Costa Rica is a marvelous country for a destination wedding or elopement. Its Pacific Coast beaches in Guanacatste, Tamarindo, Puntarenas, Herradura, Manuel Antonio, and further south in Ojochal are simply amazing, with some appearing to have never been touched by man. The lush, dense, tropical rainforests that cover most of the country and the cloud forests found in higher elevations that are home to innumerable species of exotic animals, plants and flowers are breathtaking. The Arenal Volcano, Poas Volcano, Tenorio Volcano, and El Rincon de La Vieja Volcano are sights to behold that dot the Costa Rica landscape with volcanic mountains that lunge upwards reaching for the heavens. As if that were not enough, the La Fortuna Waterfall, Bajos del Toro Waterfalls, the La Paz Waterfall, Río Celeste Waterfall and Río Celeste, Nauyaca Waterfalls, are natural wonders that will leave you breathless.
With all these beautiful places to elope or to get married, how is one to decide where to tie the knot? Well, we hope to simplify finding the wedding venue that will make your dream of having an amazing Costa Rica destination wedding a reality.
As of 25 October 2017, we have traveled to La Fortuna, Poas, and Bajos del Toro where we have discovered and documented the most unique locations for a wedding. In the coming months – this is an extensive and time-consuming project – we plan to travel to Tamarindo, Guanacaste, Herradura, Puntarenas, Manuel Antonio, Tenorio, and El Rincón de La Vieja to do the same.
At each participating resort, we interviewed the wedding planner or the marketing executive who gave us a tour of their locations for elopements and wedding ceremonies, receptions, and dinners, the common areas, the amenities, and showed us the best views and who provided us with access to a dedicated honeymoon suite and standard accommodations for friends and family. We organized the information we gathered and the photographs we took and articles from the perspective a couple to help you find the right venue for your magical Costa Rica dream wedding.
We organized the following resorts by location and provided a brief description of the region, its location in relation to the Juan Santamaria Airport, the weather, and natural attractions and activities. For each resort, we wrote a brief paragraph summarizing the features of most interests to couples and provided a link to our comprehensive article with photo galleries in case you want to read further.
La Fortuna – A Rainforest Wedding Destination
Location and Description
La Fortuna is located approximately 3 hours northwest of the Juan Santamaria International Airport in one of Costa Rica’s largest tropical rainforests. For most of the drive, it is a two-way highway that passes through various mountains as well as a number of smaller cities and towns.
The center of La Fortuna is packed with all sorts of restaurants that serve typical Costa Rican dishes to Italian food and Sushi, among other international flavors. There are a number of sports bar-type establishments serving American-style bar food, with one that serves a wide variety of great craft beers. There is also a local place that serves unbelievable gelato using Costa Rica fruits and cocoa (chocolate).
Since it is an international vacation, sightseeing, and wedding destination, La Fortuna is one of the more developed areas in Costa Rica whose livelihood is derived in great part from tourism and weddings. As such is one of the safer cities for tourists in Costa Rica, especially when at a resort. Regardless, we advise you to use common sense to ensure your safety.
The days in La Fortuna are generally warm to hot with high humidity, especially in the rainy season, so it is especially important to use the best possible makeup for your wedding. Once the sun sets – it sets between 5:30 - 6:00 – it cools off quickly and the nights are usually cool with a light breeze. In La Fortuna, it can rain at any moment given its tropical climate. The wettest months are from August to December and the driest ones are March and April. When it rains, it is light rain usually in the afternoon and at night that can last for hours.
Probably the most notable natural attraction in La Fortuna is the Arenal Volcano in Arenal National Park. When one images a volcano, an enormous cone-shaped mountain that towers over all else and consumes the horizon comes to mind. The Arenal Volcano is the archetypal volcano. There is no confusing it with any other landmass.
The La Fortuna Waterfall is another major natural attraction. Located about15 minutes from downtown La Fortuna by car, it sits at the base of the now dormant Chato Volcano and is fed by water from the Arenal River that plunges over a 230 drop into a small lagoon surrounded by large boulders polished by the waterfall and time, making it one of the tallest and most dramatic waterfalls in Costa Rica.
La Fortuna abounds with activities. There is something for everyone, from kayaking, river rafting, rock climbing, rappelling, nature hikes in the rainforest, thermal springs, horseback riding, hot balloon rides, coffee and cocoa (chocolate) tours, bird watching, ATV tours, canopy tours, cave tours, among others.
Unique Wedding Destinations in La Fortuna
La Fortuna is known worldwide as a premier wedding destination given its natural beauty and handful of truly unique resorts that cater primarily to international couples looking for a truly special place to say I do.
1. The Springs Resort & Spa
30 minutes from downtown La Fortuna, The Springs Resort & Spa is the largest resort and wedding venue in the area. This 5-Star, world-class, resort, secluded deep in the rainforest near the base of the Arenal Volcano, is an unbelievable elopement or wedding venue. They can accommodate up to 1-2 elopements and smaller weddings per day, or 1-2 larger weddings per day depending on when each is scheduled. The Springs has10 distinct open-air, covered, hybrid, or indoor venues for wedding events that are either multifunctional or single-function, meaning some sites are for wedding ceremonies only, whereas others are for the ceremony, reception, and dinner.
The resort also has wide variety of accommodations all of which are equipped with air conditioning and have a brilliant view of the Arenal Volcano and rainforest. Their tastefully furnished and well-designed rooms range from quite large standard rooms to dedicated honeymoon suites, from deluxe rooms to penthouse-type apartments, as well as a freestanding house and a Presidential Villa that will leave you and your wedding guests breathless and wanting to stay longer.
Their amenities range from a variety of restaurants that serve delicious and exquisitely prepared international dishes, a world-class spa, and extensive workout center to numerous natural hot springs located throughout the resort. Onsite, Club Río offers many activities such as kayaking, river rafting, hiking, rock climbing and rappelling, and a wildlife sanctuary amongst others. If interested in any excursions and activities in La Fortuna, they can organize it for you via the local tour company they rely on.
2. Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa
Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa, 20 minutes from downtown La Fortuna, is a 5-Star boutique resort located in the lush tropical rainforest near the Arenal Volcano. Internationally recognized for its thermal springs, Tabacon also has a reputation as a unique destination for weddings and elopements given its beautiful natural surroundings and views. They have 5 venues for your wedding day events – the ceremony, reception, and/or dinner – suitable for weddings or elopements of up to 7 people or larger weddings of 60 people total.
Their accommodations range from basic rooms to various types of suite as well as a dedicated honeymoon suite, all of which have air-conditioning and views of the rainforest and/or Arenal Volcano. All their rooms are elegantly designed, some with a more modern touch while others with a more traditional flair, and are furnished with high quality natural wood furniture, stone tiles, and wood floors depending on the room. Whichever of their 42 guest rooms you and your guests choose for your wedding, you will be assured an unforgettable experience.
Tabacon’s primary attraction is its thermals springs underneath the resort, which are the largest in La Fortuna. As such, its numerous naturally heated thermal springs found throughout the resort are its most notable amenity in addition to its impressive and elegantly designed world-class spa and internationally inspired restaurants. If you happen to tire of the resorts beauty and being pampered in its spa, there are numerous activities and other natural attractions in La Fortuna that Tabacon can arrange for your.
3. Lost Iguana Resort & Spa
Nestled in the lush tropical rainforest near the base of the Arenal Volcano and 30 minutes from downtown La Fortuna you will find Lost Iguana Resort & Spa. This 4-star resort is a uniquely distinct La Fortuna wedding destination due to its secluded location on a 120-acre rainforest preserve where its 42 guest rooms are scattered on hillsides. Lost Iguana can accommodate 1 wedding per day ranging in size from 8-90 guests and it has 4 locations for your wedding ceremony, reception, and/or dinner, most of which have breathtaking views of the Arenal Volcano.
Though considered a 4-Star resort, its accommodations and spa would make you think otherwise. Its honeymoon suite simply beautiful, from its scrapped solid wood floors and furniture, wood rafters and ceilings, to its outside hot tub in gorgeous surroundings next to the balcony from where you can almost touch the Arenal Volcano. Its other rooms, which are equipped with air conditioning as well, are just as lovely, from its basic room to its spacious deluxe rooms, suites and houses that are enmeshed in the rainforest. Once you check in, though, you might not want to check out.
The amenities and attractions at Lost Iguana is their remarkable first-class spa and the hiking trail that wanders about its 120-acre reserve where you can see exotic flora and fauna. For offsite activities, the resort can organize any excursion available in La Fortuna.
Want to know more about Lost Iguana Resort & Spa? Read the full article here.
4. Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens
By all accounts, Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens appears to be a top wedding destination in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. We contacted the resort and the Sales & Marketing Director declined to participate. As such, we were unable to interview their wedding planner or photograph its locations for wedding ceremonies, receptions and dinners, its accommodations or views, or to experience its customer service or ambiance. Despite not participating, Nayara Resort may be a viable option for you. From what we gathered from other sources, Nayara Resort & Spa in more interested in presenting itself as a honeymoon destination, not a destination for weddings.
Poas– A Cloud Forest & Waterfall Wedding Destination
Location and Description
The center of the Poas is about a 1-hour drive north from the Juan Santamaria International Airport and is in the high mountains and expansive cloud forests surrounding the Poas Volcano. On the mostly two-way highway you will see lost of pastures with cows for small dairy farms, some crops, and many mountains and dense forest, and lost of signs for strawberries (fresas) – the climate is ideal for growing delicious strawberries. While traveling through the mountains, you may see enormous fronts of fog passing over the mountains and filling the valleys that is so dense it at times whites out everything. Poas is an internationally recognized location for nature vacations, sightseeing, and weddings and, is it is a safe area for tourists.
The climate in Poas is cool due to its high elevation and has high humidity, which can make if feel cooler that it is. After sundown, which is between 5:30-6:0, it gets cooler. It may rain at any time, especially from September to December. The sky can be clear in one moment, completely cloudy the next, and then clear again in a matter of minutes due to its being in a cloud forest. The mornings are generally clear with the clouds and rain generally coming in the afternoon especially in the rainy season, the peak of which is from August to early December.
Natural Attractions and Activities
The Poas Volcano, located in the Poas Volcano National Park, its beautiful cloud forests, and its numerous waterfalls, are its primary natural attractions. There is also the flora and fauna at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens Natural Park where there is an animal sanctuary with primates, birds, reptiles, and felines, as well as a butterfly and hummingbird garden.
Unique Wedding Destinations in Poas
There are quite a few resorts and hotels in Poas, but there is only one truly unique resort for weddings where couples from all over the world go to get married.
1. La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Peace Lodge
La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Peace Lodge is one hour north of the Juan Santamaria International and is situated on one of the hills surrounding the Poas Volcano. La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Peace Lodge are separate entities on the same property that although they have different functions cooperate
La Paz Waterfall Gardens’ international fame is derived from its park that has an animal sanctuary, aviary, butterfly observatory, hummingbird garden, 5 waterfalls, exotic flora and fauna and the surrounding cloud forests, whereas Peace Lodge is recognized for its boutique accommodations and customer service. Weddings are handled through La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Peace Lodge tends to you lodging needs. Together, they are an internationally recognized wedding destination having 7 spectacular venues for elopements and wedding ceremonies up to 30 guests, and one additional site for wedding parties up to 80 guests.
Although limited in number, Peace Lodge’s 18 guest rooms situated on a hillside are astonishing. They have dedicated honeymoon suites, standard and deluxe accommodations, and large suites for families, all of which are designed beautifully and have direct views of the Poas Volcano and cloud forest. No guest rooms have air-conditioning due to the cool climate.
The primary attractions are the sites, animal sanctuary, and trails in La Paz Waterfall Gardens. They can organize trips to offsite attractions in Poas or in La Fortuna. There is also a spa that offers only basic spa treatments due to the limited number of guest rooms at Peace Lodge.
BAJOS DEL TORO - A Waterfall & Cloud Forest Wedding Destination
Location and Description
Bajos del Toro is about 1.5 hours north of the Juan Santamaria International Airport in the highland mountains and cloud forests due south of the Juan Castro Blanco National Park. Once out of the greater metropolitan are, the road is reduced two a two-lane highway that traverses mountains and crosses wide ravines. As you approach Bajos del Toro, one of the more remote areas in Costa Rica, the highway turns into a narrow twisting road with steep inclines with amazing view of mountains and cloud forests, and a dense mist depending on the time of day.
Bajos del Toro is a small town where you can experience a genuine representation of rural Costa Rican culture. Its economy is based primarily on agriculture and in part on tourism due to its magnificent waterfalls and mountainous terrain. It is a safe area for tourists due to its isolation and its kind people.
Climate & Weather
Due to being in a cloud forest and to having a high elevation, expect Bajos del Toro to be humid, damp, and cool. The temperature tends to hover in the mid 60s (Fahrenheit) during the day, and can drop quite a bit after sunset. If there is wind, which is common, it can make it feel even cooler, so be sure to bring appropriate clothing. Though the rainy season is from May to December, with September and October receiving the most precipitation, it can rain at any time. When it rains, it’s a gentle rain that can go on for hours, usually in the afternoon and at night.
Bajos del Toro is most known for its abundance of unbelievable and diverse waterfalls – Catarata del Toro, Las Gemelas, and Tesoro Escondido among others, some of which hypnotizing blue water and other with striking backgrounds.
Many activities and sites are based on waterfalls and extinct volcanoes, such as rappelling the face of a waterfall, hiking to waterfalls and extinct volcano craters, and nature hikes. There is also horseback riding, bird watching, canopy zip-lining, and tours of a coffee and cocoa (chocolate) plantation and factory.
Unique Wedding Destinations in Bajos del Toro
Given its bountiful beauty, cool climate, and isolated location, Bajos del Toro is truly distinct wedding destination for Costa Ricans and couples from all over the world.
1. El Silencio Lodge & Spa
Located in the southeast tip of Bajos del Toro, El Silencio Lodge & Spa is the area's most and only truly unique wedding destination. It is a boutique, luxury 4-Star wellness retreat hidden deep in the Bajos del Toro cloud forest that has its own organic farm. The lodge can accommodate 1 wedding per day with up to 60 guests, has 7 unique covered, open-air, or indoor venues that can accommodate in part or all of your wedding events, and 22 luxury guest rooms spread out over the lodge – from standard suites to villas – for your and your family and friend’s lodging needs that have excellent views of the cloud forest and mountains. For your dining needs, they have a main restaurant that is the more formal dining experience with internationally-inspired dishes with a cloud forest and river view, and a second, less formal restaurant with similar views.
As for amenities and activities, there are many things to do at the lodge. For starters, there is a first-class spa, a large covered yoga platform, classes on wine tasting, cooking traditional Costa Rica dishes, the history of coffee in Costa Rica, and on painting mandalas for ox carts. There is also a hiking trail in the cloud forest with a hanging bride over a river, a walk in a hummingbird garden, and a one-hour hike to waterfalls on their property. For activities and sites beyond the lodge, they can arrange them for you via a local tour operator.
Guanacaste – Costa Rica Beach Wedding Destinations
Location and Description
Guanacaste is one of Costa Rica’s largest provinces located in the northwest of the country. It contains many miles of pristine Pacific Coast beaches and unique resorts, making it one of the more notable locations for a destination beach wedding in Costa Rica. Guanacaste is also known for its abundance of mountains and plains, dry and wet rainforest, inland wetlands, and several national parks – some of which have volcanoes, waterfalls, and an abundance of exotic flora and fauna.
There are two extreme seasons in Punta Islita, as well as in most of Guanacaste: the dry season and wet season. The dry season is usually from the end of November to the end of April and can be quite hot and arid, commonly causing drought. Most foliage turns brown, especially in the drier areas, and many trees loos their leaves, as do trees in the winter, while some blossom. The wet season stretches from early may to late November, with the most precipitation occurring from August through September, which does vary depending on the area, transforming the once baron-looking landscape into a dense, deep green, dry rainforest bursting with flowers and mangos that seem to be everywhere.
Guanacaste has many wondrous natural attractions, among them its virgin beaches. It would be an understatement to call them spectacular. The dark sand, the green of the palm trees and forests covering the hills lining the beach, and the deep blue of the sky and ocean create the perfect contrast of colors that enchant the senses. Moreover, the ocean is calm, the water is translucent and temperate, and there is a constant tranquil sea breeze making it a paradise.
The national parks in Guanacaste – Rincón de la Vieja National Park, Guanacaste National Park, Palo Verde National Park, and Parque Nacional Barra Honda – are likewise awe-inspiring. Depending on the park, there are volcanoes, waterfalls, rivers, rain forests, cloud forests, and an unimaginable variety of unbelievable beautiful creatures, plants, and flowers.
Unique Guanacaste Wedding Destinations
Guanacaste has over 125 miles of Pacific coastline and spectacular beaches, many of which are bordered by rainforests-covered mountains with breathtaking ocean and beach views. As such, Guanacaste has quite a few unique wedding destinations located in its different towns – Nosara, Papagayo, Potrero, Punta Islita, and Tamarindo, among others.
In the title for the following Guanacaste wedding destinations, we included the name of the town. The order in which the venues appear in the list does not denote superiority. They are arranged according to we wrote each article.
1. HOTEL PUNTA ISLITA - PUNTA ISLITA, GUANACASTE
Hotel Punta Islita is 5-Star hotel located in a small, remote ranching town situated in the mountainous dry rainforest on the Pacific Coast of the peninsula forming the southwestern tip of the province of Guanacaste. The town has a long stretch of virgin beach on the Pacific Ocean and extends inland into rainforest-covered mountains and open plains.
The hotel can manage weddings with up to 200 guests and can accommodate up to two wedding per day depending on the size and schedule of each wedding. There are 6 primary sites for wedding day events – ceremonies, receptions, and dinners – that are either open-air, covered or a combination, from their beach, spacious lawn, to a small wooden deck with beach and ocean views. The hotel has 34 guest room scattered about mountains, ranging from standard suites to private 3-bedroom villas, and has two restaurants – a casual one at its beach area and a more formal restaurant at the reception building next to its infinity pool, as well as two sunken bars, all of which have beach, ocean, and mountain views.
There are also many unique activates at Hotel Punta Islita and in town, such as culture-based and other learning activities, cooking and art lessons, nature hikes and adventures, bird and animal watching, horseback riding, zip-lining, and water-based activates. For activities beyond Punta Islita, the hotel can arrange excursions and transportation to any destination in Costa Rica. The hotel also has a world-class spa in a large separate building in the rainforest that has private rooms with hot tubs for massages and spa treatments.
2. Bahía del Sol Hotel - Potrero, Guanacaste
Bahía del Sol Hotel is a 4-Star beachfront hotel located on Potrero Beach in the small town of Potrero, Guanacaste. The hotel can manage weddings with up to 250 guests and has three sites for ceremonies, receptions, or dinners – a spacious, beachfront lawn area, a pavilion with beach views, and their beach. They can accommodate up to 100 guests in their 35 guest rooms ranging from standard rooms to family suites, all of which have beach access, air-conditioning, views of their botanical garden, and some with beach views.
Their gourmet restaurant that serves tantalizing and elegantly designed internationally-themed dishes is centrally located, ensuring you have unobstructed beach views. Adjacent to the restaurant is their pool area that has a sunken bar where you can sip tropic drinks while taking in the views.
At Bahía del Sol, there are various activities that will keep you entertained and let you experience the beauty of Costa Rica before and after you say “I do”, from jet skis to catamarans to snorkeling to horseback riding on the beach. The hotel can also arrange excursions to amazing national parks in Guanacaste and in other provinces in Costa Rica, as well as to coffee and cocoa (chocolate) plantations and factories among many others. They also have a spa where you can have massages and other spa treatments, as well as prepare for your wedding day if you prefer not to prepare in your own room.
3. Andaz Resort - Papagayo Peninsula, Guanacaste (Coming Soon)
4. Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort - Nosara, Guanacaste (Coming Soon)
La Paz de Rio Celeste – A Rainforest & Waterfall Wedding Destination
Location and Description
La Paz de Rio Celeste is a small rural town located on the northern border of the Tenorio Volcano National Park in Alajuela province. It is situated in a very mountainous region covered by dense rainforest that has a picturesque waterfall and river that has sky blue water.
The closest international airport is Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR), in Liberia Guanacaste. Another option is Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO), which is between 3.5 – 4 hours from the town.
La Paz de Rio Celeste is known for its volcano, sky blue waterfall and river, rainforest, mountains, and abundance of exotic flora and fauna, as well as an authentic cultural experience that is relatively unaffected by tourism as are the other more visited destinations tourist in Costa Rica.
Given its isolated location, La Paz de Rio Celeste is a less traveled Costa Rica wedding destination and a very safe, tranquil, and stunning venue to tie the knot.
The climate in La Paz de Rio Celeste is cool and humid year round. After sunset, between 5:30 – 6:00 p.m., it becomes cooler. There is also frequent precipitation, especially during the rainy season, which basically is all year, with January through May receiving the least rainfall. When it does rain, it is generally a light rain that can last for hours. In the more elevated areas in the mountains areas, thick fog is frequent and can show up at any moment.
The most salient attractions in and near La Paz de Rio Celeste are its volcano, waterfall, river, flora, and wildlife. Tenorio Volcano National Park is home to the Rio Celeste Waterfall – whose water is a hypnotizing sky blue –, the Tenorio River, whose sky blue water flows for miles, a large volcano, and exotic plants and creatures, from orchids to howler and white-faced monkeys, and toucans among others.
Activities in La Paz de Rio Celeste and Nearby
Most activities are nature-based – bird watching, nature trails, natural attractions such as the volcano, waterfall, and river – and happen in Tenorio Volcano National Park. There is also tubing, river rafting, kayaking, a river safari, paddle boarding, cave exploration, and horseback riding, as well as volcanic thermal springs and mud baths in Rincón de la Vieja and La Fortuna for activities further beyond La Paz de Rio Celeste.
Unique Wedding Destinations in Bajos del Toro
In La Paz de Rio Celeste, there is only one unique wedding destination, which might very be one of the most unique wedding destinations in Costa Rica, given its isolated location, luxury accommodations, gorgeous wedding venues, superb cuisine, and amazing staff.
1. Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel
Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel is a 4-Star boutique hotel situated in the rainforest-covered mountains in La Paz de Rio Celeste. The hotel’s 26 luxury guest rooms – individual casitas – are spread about the property and hidden in the surrounding rainforest and hotel gardens. The casitas have either a garden or forest view – from some, you can hear the river flowing below – either one king canopy bed for a honeymoon suite or two queen beds for wedding guests, and an outside private shower in addition to the one in their spacious bathroom.
The hotel is ideal for weddings with between 50 – 60 guests, as well as elopements, and can accommodate 1-2 weddings per day depending on the size and schedule of each event at any of its amazing wedding venues – a rainforest mountain pavilion, a river deck and riverbank location, a private enclosed salon, your room’s private deck with a garden or rainforest view, and pool a area with a sunken bar. It’s also possible to have your wedding ceremony at the Rio Celeste Waterfall terrace at Tenorio Volcano National Park, 1.5 kilometers from the hotel.
The primary activity at Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel is its Sendero Armadillo (Armadillo Trail) where you can walk to the Tenorio River – whose water is sky blue – cross another river on a hanging bridge, and see exotic plants and wildlife. The hotel also has a marvelous pool area with several hot tubs and a sunken bar that are surrounded by gardens and rainforest.
Costa Rica Destination Wedding Planning Services
If in need of wedding planning services for your wedding at any of these resorts, we highly recommend Megan Cox from Mil Besos Costa Rica or Larissa Banting from Weddings Costa Rica. They have years of experience planning weddings in venues all across Costa Rica for international clients, and have stellar reputations as top-notch wedding organizers.