If you want to travel to Central America and you are gay, Costa Rica should be your first stop!
We found it to be one of the most welcoming and open countries in Central America for gay travellers both in terms of laws, attitudes and a surprisingly large gay scene.
As a destination, it has been one of our favourites.
We have never seen such a diverse range of stunning wildlife in such a short amount of time.
From sloths to red eyed tree frogs, tarantulas and spider monkeys, we can almost guarantee that wherever you go you will be immersed in wildlife.
Not only that but you’ll find beaches (inc gay beaches), rainforests, cloudforests, dry forests and of course the city, a little something for everyone’s tastes.
When we started to look into the Costa Rica gay scene, we were very surprised (for good reasons)! Here is our travel guide to gay Costa Rica! We hope you enjoy!
(If you want to skip ahead and book you own gay trip to Costa Rica, check out Gaycations here and submit an enquiry today!)
- 1 Gay Costa Rica: The Ultimate Travel Guide
- 2 Where is Costa Rica?
- 3 Costa Rica: Gay Life, Rights and Laws
- 4 Gay San Jose, Costa Rica
- 5 Gay Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
- 6 Gay Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
- 7 Gay Tortuguero, Costa Rica
- 8 Gay Costa Rica Travel and Tours
- 9 Gay beaches in Costa Rica
- 10 What to pack for Costa Rica?
- 11 How to get to Costa Rica?
- 12 How to Get to Panama from Costa Rica
Gay Costa Rica: The Ultimate Travel Guide
Where is Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a small country within Central America. It borders Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.
As a result, Costa Rica boasts a Pacific coast to the west and Caribbean coast to the east meaning you can experience both kinds of beaches when you visit.
The main areas tourists will visit are San Jose (the city), Manuel Antonio (rainforests/beaches), Monteverde (cloudforests), Tortuguero (tropical rainforests) and Puerto Viejo for some Caribbean beach time.
Having so much diversity in one country is one of the many reasons we loved Costa Rica.
Costa Rica: Gay Life, Rights and Laws
During 2018, gay marriage was a hot topic for the presidential elections.
One candidate was strongly pro gay marriage and the other strongly against it.
In the end, the candidate that supported gay marriage, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, won which is a very positive step for LGBTQ+ people in Costa Rica.
Fast forward to May 2020 and Costa Rica has become the first country in Central America to legalize same sex marriage (yay)!
“Today we celebrate liberty, equality and our democratic institutions. May empathy and love be the compass that guide us forward and allow us to move forward and build a country that has room for everyone.” Carlos Alvarado Quesada
Previous to this, in December 2018 the President announced new legislation to improve LGBTQ+ rights in Costa Rica.
This includes the recognition of trans gender identities on residency cards and declared hormone treatment “in the public interest,” which allows patients to receive the appropriate comprehensive care via the country’s health services.
Same sex relations have been legal since 1971 and it sounds like Costa Rica really in moving forward. Discrimination protections have been in place since 1998.
In general, you will find in most touristy places no one has a real problem with the LGBTQ+ community.
The same can be said for the younger generation, whereas some of the older generations are more conservative.
There are lots of progressive steps happening and they do have pride with ”La marcha del orgullo” once a year. They also are teaching gender theory in schools, which we think is very progressive indeed.
We recently interviewed 23 year old student Gabriel about what it was like to be gay in Costa Rica.
Read the interview in full here.
Gay San Jose, Costa Rica
Like any country, if there is going to be a gay scene it is going to be the biggest in the capital city.
If you are flying to Costa Rica, you are likely to be flying in to San Jose. Most people move straight on, but we think it is worth spending the weekend here first.
Its relatively modern by Latin America standards and is said to be one of the safest and least violent cities in the region. We felt perfectly safe while we were here and at night, used Uber to be extra safe.
Costa Rica Gay Bars: San Jose
We had one of the craziest nights out yet in San Jose. A lot of bars have the concept that you pay your entry fee and then its an open bar. Here is our list of gay bars and clubs in San Jose:
This was our best night. Club Venue has different rooms for different genres of music and it gets packed!
When we arrived, it was one of the longest queues we had seen in a long time. We had no idea that there would be gay clubs so big and so busy in San Jose. The queue was well worth the wait.
It costs $15 entry and that included all drinks for the night. The measures are very (too) generous, the music was great and it was open until 6am.
Crowd: Young crowd
Music: Mixed, different rooms for pop, electronic, house etc
Location: Diagonal to Taco Bell de San Pedro(Route 39), San Pedro, Costa Rica
This is a long running (since 1979) gay bar and disco.
It plays diverse music, runs shows, and special events. On Sundays it has Latin evenings!
Crowd: Mixed crowd
Music: Salsa, samba and merengue and pop chart hits
Location: Calle 1, Avenida 8 & 10, San José, Costa Rica
Club El Teatro
This is another larger dance club.
Here you can expect to find drag shows, themed nights such as Glitter & Glam and then dedicated night to celebrities Beyonce and Demi Lovato.
This costs $15-$20 to enter depending on the night and the time you arrive but includes an open bar.
Crowd: Mostly younger mixed crowd
Music: Pop, house, electronic, remixes
Location: Av 16, San José, 10103
Bocho (Bo Club)
This is a smaller but still very busy gay bar. The have a stage for acts and shows and describe themselves as a club aimed at the fun and open minded. This is very busy on Saturday nights.
Crowd: Mostly younger male crowd
Music: Dance, mixed.
Location: Av 10, San Jose
This is a Lesbian-owned bar. It is open every night and naturally attracts more women.
Crowd: Mixed women
Music: Mixed, Spanish
Location: Avenida 14, Calle 7 & 9
Oráculo, Bar and Grill
This is one of the more risqué clubs you will find in San Jose. Its open every night and you can expect strippers, gay erotic naked shows, gay darkroom, shows, underwear nights, naked nights etc.
Crowd: Mixed ages, fetish
Music: Mixed (People probably don’t go for the music)
Location: Calle 11, Av 8 & 10, upstairs
Similar concept to Oraculo. Expect strippers, erotic shows, leather nights and an anything goes atmosphere.
Crowd: Mixed ages, fetish
Music: Mixed (People probably don’t go for the music)
Location: Calle 11, Av 8 & 10
In the daytime this place is a café. During the night it becomes a trendy upscale dance club and lounge. They have shows and themed parties.
Crowd: Trendy young mixed.
Location: Avenida 14, Calle 9
Gay Hotels San Jose, Costa Rica
San Jose has its fair share of gay owned, gay friendly and just outright gay hotels.
Casa 69 is owned by Steven and his 2 business partners. Many years ago it was a gay hotel but then someone else took it over and took away its ‘gay label’.
Steven has owned Casa 69 for a few years but has done fantastic work in that time. His emphasis is clearly on bringing Casa 69 “back out of the closet” and reinstating its label as a gay-friendly hotel.
We stayed here and it was a great, homely and very budget friendly place to stay in the city centre. Read more about it here.
Price range: $44-$68
This is a luxury boutique style hotel in San Jose.
It’s gay and straight friendly welcoming all. They have a pool, private terraced sundeck and secluded hot tub spa. There is an on-site restaurant, lounge and pool bar.
Price range: $89-$179 per night
Casa Rainbow Canyon
Casa Rainbow Canyon is a small B&B with 5 rooms, a pool and a terrace area. It’s located between the airport and the city centre. As such you can get some peace and quiet while still being able to access the city.
Price range: $100-$160
Hotel Kikoldi Garden
This is an art deco style hotel with a nice little interior garden where the breakfast is served. There are 10 rooms in total and it is gay friendly.
Price range: $59-$79 plus taxes
Gay Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
San Jose may be where the bigger gay party scene is, but Manuel Antonio is known as the gay mecca of Costa Rica.
Manuel Antonio is on the pacific coast of Costa Rica and is best known for its beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park. It’s a relatively small seaside town, immersed in lush jungle and with the offer of lots of adventure activities.
The harbour area has seen a lot of development and it has been tagged as the Miami of Costa Rica!
From talking with the locals, Manuel Antonio became a gay mecca by accident. There was no plan to have so many gay hotels, it just happened by coincidence and so did the higher population of LGBT tourists.
It has a few gay bars, gay Sunday events, gay tour operators and even a gay sailing trip. This combined with the fact it is a truly beautiful place, makes it a must visit while you are in Costa Rica.
Gay Scene in in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio has a slightly more chilled gay bar and club scene to that of the city. However during peak times you can still expect to find these places packed.
This is a gay (and straight friendly) bar in Manuel Antonio! It is the place to be at the weekend with live DJs, dancing, outdoor patios and themed parties. It is a great place to relax and have a fun night.
Karma is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8pm to 2:30am.
This is a gay managed popular bar and restaurant.
If you are looking for a sunset view, this is the place to be. It also has weekly karaoke, games, and open mic nights, live music, dancing, etc).
MoGamBo is open 7 days a week from 4pm to midnight.
Gay Sundays – Sunday Session and Pool Party
This is a weekly event hosted by Gay Tours Costa Rica. It is between 4-8pm at Poolside Z Bar, with no cover, and a happy hour.
It’s a nice chilled out event to meet other LGBT locals and tourists.
Gay Hotels in Manuel Antonio
There is no shortage of hotels here, from top end luxury, to budget and to long term stays to (you might not want to leave).
Tico Tico Villas – Adults only
Tico Tico Villas is gay owned and run by Eugene.
We stayed here when we were in Manuel Antonio and loved it. All the villas are unique, and are set up for mid to long term stays. We could have easily seen ourselves living there.
It’s next to the road but you are surrounded by jungle so it’s very peaceful. The pool area is lovely to relax in and they even have a BBQ area.
You can read more here.
Price range: $89-$263 per night but with considerable discounts when booking mid-long term.
Hotel Villa Roca
Hotel Villa Roca is one of the best-known Gay/LGBT resorts in the area and is of course open to everyone (not just LGBT). It is an adult only hotel, gay owned and operated and has 12 rooms plus 4 apartments. This is a clothing optional resort, with a 24 hours pool, jacuzzi and poolside bar.
Price range: $75 – $345 including breakfast
Coyaba Tropical is another adults only bed and breakfast which calls itself ‘straight friendly’. Their staff are very diverse and you can just be yourself here and relax.
The bed and breakfast is set in two renovated Spanish Colonial buildings, it has 5 rooms, a pool and a jacuzzi.
Price range: $145-$190 with discounts for multiple nights.
Gay Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is without doubt, an adventure destination. However if you are coming on vacation you probably want some down time too.
Puerto Viejo is the perfect place to end your trip and sit back in a hammock drinking a coconut on a Caribbean beach.
It does not have an ‘official’ gay nightlife scene like Manuel Antonio or San Jose. However, the nightlife that is on offer does have a laid-back attitude and a young crowd who are pretty open minded.
Gay Hotels in Puerto Viejo
Hotel Banana Azul
We stayed at Hotel Banana Azul and can’t say enough good things about it. It ranks number one on Tripadvisor for good reason!
We would describe Hotel Banana Azul as a ‘relaxed luxury’ style hotel. All the services and features of a luxury hotel are there, but there remains a cool and relaxed Caribbean vibe.
There are 22 rooms in the main hotel and 4 new stunning villas (Villas Banana Verde). Over the next few years Colin plans to create more of these villas which would be perfect for groups of friends or two couples visiting
You can read our full review here
Price range: $109-$175
Casa Las Brisas
Casa Las Brisas is operated by the Banana Azul group and offers three different room options including a beachfront apartment. You are able to use the common facilities of Banana Azul while staying here.
Price range: $54-$99 depending on the season
Playa Negra Guesthouse
Playa Negra Guesthouse is a boutique style propety located at Cahuita’s Playa Negra, 1km north of the centre of town. This has two Caribbean cottages and three guest rooms, a pool and pool house. It is close by to Cahuita National Park.
Price range: $74-$107
Gay Tortuguero, Costa Rica
If you are looking for a jungle adventure, head up to the Northern Caribbean jungle paradise of Tortuguero National Park.
The national park is a rainforest that meets the Caribbean coast. The area is well know for its sprawling freshwater canals and wetlands and (if the name has not given it away) for the many green turles that nest on Tortugueros sandbars.
The forest and surrounding canals are is home to the likes of jaguars, tapirs and manatees.
There are many beautiful hotels nestled into the jungle, with stunning pools from where you can see lots of local wildlife.
During our time we stayed at the beautiful Hotel & Spa Aninga.
Gay Scene in Tortuguero?
You won’t find a gay scene in Tortuguero but that it not why you would come here anyway.
Tortuguero is a truly wonderful and immersive rainforest experience and should 100% be part of your Costa Rica Itinerary.
Gay Costa Rica Travel and Tours
As a result of everything we have discussed so far, there are now a few Costa Rica gay travel companies to book trips with. We recommend seeing as many different places as possible.
However, we had a bit of trouble getting from place to place. There are plenty of organised buses and transfers available, but they are very expensive. The distances between places are quite large and there aren’t any trains.
If you only have a couple of weeks (or less) we highly recommend letting someone else do all the organising for you!
You will see more, be less stressed and probably save money because these type of companies have better rates with hotels, activities and transport.
Gaycations Costa Rica
We came across Gaycations Costa Rica when we stayed at the gay owned and gay friendly Banana Azul. If you are looking for a Costa Rica gay travel company we highly recommend checking these guys out.
What we loved about Gaycations was their trip planner.
Just tick exactly what you want and submit to their team.
This includes your budget, transport preferences, what activities you like and what places you want to visit.
They will come back with a perfectly tailored tour. Check out the trip planner below to submit an enquiry today!
Gay beaches in Costa Rica
When it comes to gay beaches in Costa Rica you will want to head to Manuel Antonio.
Manuel Antonio offers three gay beaches (or sections of beaches). You should go and explore:
- Playa Espadilla
- Playa Playitas
- Playa La Mancha
What to pack for Costa Rica?
Check out our full packing list for everything you might forget:
How to get to Costa Rica?
The most likely route to entry will be flying into San Jose, the capital.
However if like us, you might be planning a trip through Central America then you will enter from Nicaragua or Panama.
Here is our advice for travelling between these three countries.
How to get to Costa Rica from Nicaragua
When we were planning on travelling from Nicaragua to Costa Rica we had a bit of a challenge.
We wanted to go to Monteverde first. This was not very straightforward. However, if you are going to the capital, San Jose, then this will be easy. Here is our advice for both scenarios:
Managua, Nicaragua to San Jose, Costa Rica
We would recommend using the Nicabus.
They have a set route from Managua to San Jose (and vice versa). Departures from Managua to Costa Rica leave 05:30 and 09:30. Departures leave San Jose at 04:00 and 06:00 (at the time of writing).
The cost is $35 each way. They buses are very comfortable, have TVs, refreshments and bathrooms.
The main benefit of the bus was the border. They do everything for you. They will collect your passports and go and get them stamped. It is odd because no one actually sees your face to compare you to your passport, but that’s Central America for you.
Stay by the bus and then they will call your name from your passport to get back on.
There is also the TicaBus, however we suggest looking at the Tripadvisor reviews for this one. They are very mixed and mention scams. Our experience with Nicabus was great.
Managua, Nicaragua to Monteverde, Costa Rica
Everything is as above; the only issue was that the Nicabus does not got to Monteverde.
However, the company were very helpful. They told us that they could drop us off at Sardinal and this would be the closest point.
We found that there was a very cheap local bus that would pass by the place we were going to be dropped of at.
We waited nervously but it came on time and we paid less than a $5 to take the 1 hour journey from Sardinal to Monteverde.
Managua, Nicaragua to San Jose, Costa Rica – Fly
The quicker and easier, but more expensive option is to fly.
The flight should be around an hour and will be with either Avianca or Copa Airlines. You should expect to be paying $200-$500 one way depending on the time of the year and how far in advance you book.
How to Get to Panama from Costa Rica
Whether you are travelling North to South or vice versa, you will not want to miss out on Panama, specifically Bocas Del Toro and Panama City.
Costa Rica to Bocas Del Toro
Bocas Del Toro is a beautiful Caribbean island and is quite simply paradise. It is easily accessible from Costa Rica by bus or by flight.
San Jose/Puerto Viejo to Bocas Del Toro by bus – Caribe Shuttle
You can get a bus directly from San Jose to Bocas Del Toro or, we recommend spending some time in Puerto Viejo first to make life easier.
From Puerto Viejo, you can get to the island of Bocas Del Toro in 4 hours.
We highly recommend using Caribe Shuttle. They drive you to the border, you exit the van, cross the border, enter a new van and they drive you to the dock. From here they put you on the boat/ferry to Bocas Del Toro.
Once on the island you can get a taxi wherever you need to go.
If coming from San Jose, Caribe Shuttle can also organise this in one longer journey. Equally, this journey can be done in reverse.
San Jose to Puerto Viejo costs $52. Puerto Viejo to Bocas Del Toro cost $35.
San Jose to Bocas Del Toro by Air
You can fly with Air Panama.
The flight takes about 6 hours because you have to change flights in Panama City and it can be very expensive compared to overland travel. Expect to pay up to $550 one way depending on the time of year.
Costa Rica to Panama City
San Jose to Panama City by bus
This is a very long journey at 14-19 hours.
Your options for a bus are either the Tica Bus (for which we mentioned the reviews on TripAdvisor aren’t great) or the Expreso bus.
The cost is between $30-$75 which is significantly cheaper than flying.
If you have time, we highly recommend going to Puerto Viejo, then Bocas Del Toro and then to Panama City.
San Jose to Panama City by Air
The airlines that fly this route are Avianca and Copa Airlines.
A direct flight from San Jose will take 4-5 hours and will cost between $120-$400.
Whether you are travelling to Costa Rica for an action packed adventure, a romantic getaway to celebrate your honeymoon or anniversary, or you are a solo traveller Costa Rica has something for everyone.
Book you own gay trip to Costa Rica! Check out Gaycations here and submit an enquiry today!
For more about Costa Rica, make sure you check out:
- Gay Costa Rica: Local Gay Stories
- Costa Rica Packing List: Everything you will forget!
- 10 Day Travel Itinerary: Costa Rica
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