This complete travel guide to Gay Costa Rica will provide you with everything you need to know about Costa Rica as a gay traveller, whether that be the best gay destinations in Costa Rica like San Jose or Manuel Antonio, as well as a the best gay bars, hotels and things to do.
When it comes to gay travel in Central America, Costa Rica is our number one choice.
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!)
Gay Costa Rica: The Ultimate Travel Guide
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
Is Costa Rica Gay Friendly?
The short answer is yes. Costa Rica is one of the most gay friendly countries in Central America.
Here is a little bit of history on why Costa Rica is a gay friendly country.
In the last ten years, 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.
As a result, Costa Rica has become the first country in Central America to legalize same ടex 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
Costa Rica also boasts 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 ടex 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 Destinations in Costa Rica
Like any country, often the most prevalent gay scenes can be found in the capital city. However when it comes to gay destinations in Costa Rica both its capital city, San Jose and the coastal town of Manuel Antonio are on equal footing.
A third option to explore is Puerto Viejo, however please don’t restrict your travel to these places alone, we felt comfortable everywhere during our trip to Costa Rica.
Gay San Jose
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.
It’s a relatively modern city 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.
The gay bars in San Jose were some of the best! (More on that below).
Manuela Antonio is a relatively small seaside town, immersed in lush jungle, home to the most visited national park in Costa Rica (Manuel Antonio National Park) and offers lots of exhilarating adventure activities.
The harbour area has seen a lot of development and it has been tagged as the ‘Miami of Costa Rica’ so perhaps it is no surprise that gay tourists are attracted here! See our gay travel guide to Manuel Antonio for more.
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
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.
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 Bars in Costa Rica
The biggest gay nightlife scene in Costa Rica is in San Jose followed by Manuel Antonio which has a more chilled vibe but rest assured, most bars in Manuel Antonio will be mixed by its very nature of being popular with LGBTQ tourists and locals alike.
We had very little expectations of a big gay night out in Costa Rica but were quickly proved wrong, we had one of the craziest nights out yet in San Jose.
A lot of gay bars in Costa Ricas have the concept that you pay your entry fee and then its an open bar which can be good value but also tricky to manage….
Listed below are the current gay bars in Costa Rica listed by destination.
La Avispa – San Jose
This is a long running (since 1979) gay bar in San Jose and is often open to the early hours of the morning.
They run great drinks promotions and have themed nights including Latin Dance, Reggaeton and Electronica – they simply want you to dance!
Location: Calle 1, Avenida 8 & 10, San José, Costa Rica
Club El Teatro – San Jose
This is one of the larger gay bars in San Jose.
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 normally includes an open bar.
Location: Av 16, San José, 10103
Oráculo, Bar and Grill – San Jose
This is one of the more risqué clubs you will find in San Jose. Its open every night and you can expect strippers, gay erဝtic n*ked shows, gay darkroom, shows, underwear nights, n*ked nights etc.
Location: Calle 11, Av 8 & 10, upstairs
El 13 – San Jose
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.
Location: Avenida 14, Calle 9
CAFE MILAGRO Bar & Restaurant – Manuel Antonio
Cafe Milagro is long noted to be gay friendly. Great quality food and enjoy the bar area before or after dinner. Sing along/dance along to the nightly live music. Excellent wine list and wide selection of craft beers!
Drunken Monkey Bar – Manuel Antonio
When we visited, the was Club Karma, formerly Cockatoo and now ‘The Drunken Monkey’. The location has always been the site of a gay bar so naturally this bar welcomes everyone and is popular with the gay crowd.
Enjoy beers or cocktails, dancing, DJ, drag shows and other special entertainment.
Gay Events with Gaycations – Manuel Antonio
There are weeely events held by Gaycations Costa Rica, pool parties, beach get together etc. These are nice chilled out events to meet other LGBTQ locals and tourists.
Gay bars that are now closed
The following bars appear in search results but are no longer in operation (or at least have no web presence to suggest they are still running):
- Club Venue – San Jose
- Bocho – San Jose
- Buenas Vibraciones – San Jose
- Puchos – San Jose
- Club Karma – Manuel Antonio (now Drunken Monkey)
- MoGamBo BarCafe – Manuel Antonio
Gay Hotels in Costa Rica (& Gay Resorts)
Costa Rica has an impressive number of gay owned, gay friendly and just outright gay hotels and resorts on offer. The majority can be found in either Manuel Antonio or San Jose, however there are a couple of great options in Puerto Viejo.
Colours Oasis Resort LGTBIQ Plus Property – San Jose
This is a luxury boutique style hotel in San Jose.
It’s gay and straight friendly welcoming all but does advertise itself as an LGBTQ property. They have a pool, private terraced sundeck and secluded hot tub spa. There is an on-site restaurant, lounge and pool bar.
Casa 69 – San Jose
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.
Tico Tico Villas – Adults only – Manuel Antonio
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.
Hotel Villa Roca – Manuel Antonio
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 Elegant Adult Guesthouse – Manuel Antonio
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.
Teva Hotel & Jungle Reserve
A modern eco hotel with on-site jungle hiking trails. It is gay owned and very LGBTQ friendly.
They have a great restaurant and a daily happy hour.
It has a jungle-view swimming pool, reliable high-speed internet, and abundant nearby wildlife like macaws, toucans, and monkeys. Sunday afternoons Teva hosts a fun pool party with Gaytours, open to the public.
Hotel Banana Azul – Pueto Viejo
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
Casa Las Brisas – Puerto Viejo
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.
Hotel & Spa Aninga – Tortuguero
During our time we stayed at the beautiful Hotel & Spa Aninga.
Activities for Gay Travellers in Costa Rica
We had an action packed 10 day itinerary whilst in Costa Rica, here are some of the unmissible activities to do during our stay:
Sunset Cruise with GayTours – Manuel Antonio
Every Wednesday and Saturday GayTours run a sailing trip. Pick up, drop off, food and drinks are all included.
This was a fantastic activity, and we were even lucky enough to spot dolphins on our way back to Quepos.
Pedal Boarding – La Fortuna
Something new for both of us – pedal boarding!
This was a great way to see the stunning Lake Arenal and volcano in a completely different way than just regular paddle boarding or kayaking.
The guide was very knowledgeable about the area and the wildlife we saw. He was also super friendly and his instructions were so clear. We had a great time and would love to do this activity again!
Night Tours – La Fortuna
In the evening, we took a guided night-tour out to La Tigra.
This was a great location, in the grounds of a large family home. The family were all so accommodating, and the included dinner was excellent. This was prepared locally, on a traditional wood burning stove – it was nice to have such a local touch! We also saw plenty of wildlife including the famous red eyed tree frog!
White Water Rafting – Wave Expeditions
We were super excited to go white-water rafting with Wave Expeditions– an activity we had been keen to do!
This was really well organised, and led by fun, knowledgeable guides. We spent between 2 – 2.5 hours on the water, which was the perfect length of time.
Ziplining – La Fortuna
On our last day in La Fortuna we got to do something we had wanted to do in Costa Rica since we arrived – ziplining! We were so glad we had opted to do it here, rather than Monteverde, as the views of the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal were just incredible!
There are multiple ziplines and you really do feel like you are flying through the jungle!
Again, this was a really well run activity, with hotel pickup and drop off included, and all the staff were very friendly.
Gay Tours of Costa Rica
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.
Head over to the Gay Trip Planner to put together your ideal itinerary and submit an enquiry (this link takes you to another page, the planner is at the bottom of the page).
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. Typically we would expect you would fly with Aviana, Air Panama or Copa Airlines depending on your direction of travel
However if like us, you might be planning a trip through Central America then you will enter from Nicaragua or Panama.
If not by air, take a look at the routes offered by Nicabus if coming from Nicaragua or Caribe Bus if heading onwards to Panama.
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!
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Monday 24th of September 2018
There is a huge gay community in Zone Sud .. the south pacific coast - Dominical-Uvita-Ojochal.. come for a more chill, tranquilo experience without the crowds of tourists, beautiful beaches, friendly guys.
The Globetrotter Guys
Wednesday 17th of October 2018
Hi Jeffry, thanks so much for this! We will be sure to check out this part of Costa Rica when we return, which we are more than confident we will!