Golfing in Paradise
by Feature Writer Jay Trettien
Costa Rica has just recently been
discovered’ as a fabulous golf destination.
Within the Central Valley near the capital, San José, there are
four courses, and there are now four or five courses on the Pacific
Because the golf scene has been changing
so rapidly, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest information.
Keep in mind that accessibility to a course and prices can vary,
particularly depending on the season. The knowledgeable travel consultants
at Costa Rica’s Travel Web
are able to provide updated information to help enthusiasts make
their choice of where to golf in Costa Rica.
Also, as major international hotel chains
absorb some hotels and the affiliated golf course, the names change.
For the golfer who spends considerable time in Costa Rica, it pays
to inquire about green fees. GolfCostaRica.com is
your gateway to this information.
Golf is not a sport with a mass following
in Costa Rica, so a visitor will be pleasantly surprised to find
courses uncrowded. Usually a tee time unnecessary. Most of the golfers
you will meet on the 19th hole will probably be local
businessmen, members of the diplomatic community, the foreign -
mainly American - community, or tourists. The conversation will
probably be in English. All the club pros are bilingual. In fact,
do not be surprised to have your caddy line up your putt or give
the distance to the pin in English.
The oldest golf club in Costa Rica is the
Costa Rican Country Club in the suburb of Escazú. Its a private
club but short - what most North Americans would describe as an
‘executive’ course. If you choose to play this nine-hole
course, which boasts the most beautiful clubhouse in Central America,
it’s best to either go with a member or, if you are a member
of some club in North America, sometimes membership reciprocity
will get you out. But call the pro first.
If you’re staying at one of Costa
Rica’s major hotels, the
hotel front desk can usually get you a tee time. Expect a round
of golf to run you about $25. P.S.: This last bit of advice is really
applicable to all the courses we mention.
The next oldest club is the Cariari or
Meliá Cariari. The Cariari has hosted many international tournaments
and has been the crown jewel of Costa Rican golf for many years.
The Cariari’s policy for guests can be confusing at times,
so it’s important to get some local knowledge before
The Cariari is a narrow, challenging course.
Several international professionals say some of the holes are the
most challenging and beautiful they’ve ever played. The Cariari
is the course you pass while coming in to San José from the airport;
it’s a definite must visit for the visiting golfer. Expect
a round, after a few beers, to run about $70 (green fees run at
$40 per person; a caddie - $20 - is obligatory). For certain access
to the course, visiting golfers will have to stay at the Herradura Resort
and Conference Center; otherwise, if you don’t know a
current member of the Cariari, you might be out of luck..
Giving the Cariari a run for its money
now is the new Parque Valle
del Sol, near Santa Ana west of the capital. This is a spectacular
course, and the last nine holes are just opening. Since it is not
as mature as the Cariari, all the trees have not filled out, but
it is beautifully designed.
Valle del Sol has benefitted from seeing
the Cariari’s mistakes, particularly when it comes to drainage,
and therefore is eminently playable even during some of Costa Rica’s
rainiest months. The club has a very courteous, helpful staff, with
one or two of the country’s best teachers. Why not try to
get a lesson on a visit. Maybe a Latino assessment of your swing
is just what your game needs? A round with cart is about $30. The
course is public but within a gated community. Just tell the guard
you’re going to the golf course.
For the golfer who wants to be surrounded
in luxury, there are two five-star hotels relatively near Valle
del Sol. One is the Hotel AltA
on the old road to Santa Ana. This hotel’s 23 super-elegant
rooms and suites are all individually designed. The AltA also boasts
La Luz, one of Costa Rica’s superior restaurants.
No less elegant is Martino’s Resort
and Med Spa in lovely La Garita de Alajuela. It is built
in the best European tradition of classical good taste and commitment
to service and excellence. This is a luxury hotel with special attention
to every detail. The wonderful restaurant at Martino’s will
delight the traveler searching for the finest of haute cuisine.
Also in the Central Valley, but slightly
further out of town is Los Reyes. It boasts just nine holes, but
is certainly a legitimate test of golf. There are no electric carts
but caddies are always available. Gaining entrance to the club is
much like getting out at Valle del Sol, because it’s in a
gated community. A round with caddy will cost about $25.
About an hour’s drive from San Jose
on the Pacific near Jaco is a new course, Los Sueños. It’s
a beautiful course and well worth the drive for the avid golfer,
but it is associated with the Mariott group. Players are expected
to be guests of a Marriott. Of course, a smile and acting the dumb
tourist will usually get you out, but call ahead. A round with cart
will be about $80.
The most beautiful course in Costa Rica
is the Meliá Conchal in Guanacaste near the beach community of Tamarindo
This is certainly a spectacular layout meandering along the Pacific
cliffs. Visiting international pros tend to describe it as one of
the most beautiful and well maintained courses they’ve ever
For the serious golfer, Conchal is a must.
No one walks away from a round without raving about the course.
And because it’s new and in a relatively remote area, it is
no surprise to see maybe only 10 or 12 golfers on the course all
The flight from San José is about
40 minutes and there are hotels throughout
the area for every pocket book..
The course is open to the public. A round
for a tourist during the high season will cost about $120 and can
be booked through either Costa Rica’s Travel Web or
Keep in mind that Guanacaste can get very
warm, so most golfers should try to get out early in the morning
or late in the afternoon in the sunny season.
Also in that area is the Las Colinas Country
Club. This club has recently been going through management/owner
changes, so maintenance may be suffering right now. If you do intend
to play there, it’s best to have us check the scene out ahead
Las Colinas is a legitimate test of golf.
A round is less expensive and nearer to Tamarindo then Conchal.
Due to the management change, the name of Las Colinas will probably
Also on the Pacific coast, but across from
the port of Puntarenas on the Nicoya Peninsula, are two courses
near Playa Tambor: Barceló Los Delfines and Tango Mar.
Each is just nine holes, and each is associated with the respective
hotel, although open to the public. They’re both definitely
well worth playing if you happen to be in the area.
Keep in mind the Costa Rican golf scene
is in its infancy and changing rapidly, but always for the best.
There are at least two new clubs scheduled to open shortly, each
designed by an international professional. It’s only going
to get better and better.
Golf packages and vacations designed
for enthusiasts of the game are available through Fly Latin America.com.
To speak to a travel consultant, call 1-888-246-1431 toll-free.
Costa Rica has just recently been ‘discovered’ as a
fabulous golf destination. Within the Central Valley near
the capital, San José, there are four courses, and there are now
four or five courses on the Pacific coast.
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