Resorts in Central America: World’s Best 2021


This year’s World’s Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.

Once again, Costa Rica led the pack of winners for the best resorts in Central America, securing half the spots on this year’s list. Belize was right behind, with four hotels earning high marks from T+L readers. Interestingly, each of the four is located in a completely different part of the country, demonstrating that travelers have broadened their explorations of the beautiful nation.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

While the beaches of Central America are certainly beloved, it was the rain-forest properties that dominated this year’s list of reader favorites. Copal Tree Lodge, a Muy’Ono Resort, in Toledo, Belize, came in at No. 9. “Lovely resort nestled in the jungle of Belize. Wildlife is everywhere,” raved one reader. Other fans praised the attentive staff and creative activities. Last year’s winner, Nayara Gardens, may have ceded the top spot, but voters still loved the “flawless hotel,” as one person called it. Another wrote, “When we first entered and saw the view of the Arenal volcano from our personal deck, I had to pinch myself to know it was real.”

Nayara Tented Camp, terrace pool, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica.
Brice-Ferre-Studio/Courtesy of Nayara Tented Camp

Some properties give guests the best of both worlds, affording views of and access to the rain forest and the beach. Case in point: No. 3 Casa Chameleon at Mal País on the Puntarenas peninsula in Costa Rica is tucked between the famous surf breaks of Santa Teresa and the Cabo Blanco Nature Preserve, a thick jungle full of wildlife. “The best views I have ever seen,” extolled one reader, while another loved that it’s “off the beaten path.”

But stellar views also abound at Nayara Tented Camp — the property that earned the top spot in this category, as well as No. 2 in the world. Keep reading to see the whole list.

1. Nayara Tented Camp, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

Nayara Tented Camp, hotel, guest room, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica.
Brice-Ferre-Studio/Courtesy of Nayara Tented Camp

This ultra-luxurious property — the newest in the Nayara family — is definitely more glamping than camping, with permanent cliff-top tents overlooking lush rain forest and the imposing Arenal volcano. “An African safari in a tropical heaven,” summarized one reader. In practice, that means private decks with hot-spring fed pools, spacious bathrooms with soaking tubs, indoor and outdoor showers with double shower heads, and four poster beds. Another voter lauded the privacy and seclusion, writing that “you feel like you’re in a treehouse alone in the world.” Aside from relaxing in their glamorous tents, visitors can spot sloths and toucans, take a dip in the spring-fed mineral plunge pools, and indulge in pampering treatments at the spa.

Score: 99.58
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2. Nayara Gardens, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

Nayara Gardens, hotel deck, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica.
Courtesy of Nayara Gardens

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 98.13
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3. Casa Chameleon at Mal País, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Casa Chameleon,terrace pool, Mal País, Costa Rica.
Courtesy of Casa Chameleon Mal Pais

Score: 97.05
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4. Nayara Springs, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

Nayara Springs, hotel guest room, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica.
Courtesy of Nayara Springs

Score: 96.56
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5. Gaïa Riverlodge, Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Belize

GAÏA Riverlodge, hotel guest room, Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Belize.
Celia Spenard-Ko/Courtesy of GAÏA Riverlodge

Score: 96.25
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6. Matachica Resort & Spa, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Matachica Resort & Spa, hotel, property view, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Adrien William/Courtesy of Matachica Resort & Spa

Score: 95.76
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7. Casa Palopó, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Casa Palopó, decorative hotel blue wall, Atitlan, Guatemala.
Courtesy of Casa Palopó

Score: 95.03
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8. Blancaneaux Lodge, Cayo District, Belize

Blancaneaux Lodge, hotel guest room, cabana interior, Cayo District, Belize.
Al Argueta/Courtesy of Blancaneaux Lodge

Score: 94.15
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9. Copal Tree Lodge, a Muy’Ono Resort, Toledo, Belize

Copal Tree Lodge, hotel guest room, Toledo, Belize.
Courtesy of Copal Tree Lodge

Score: 93.82
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10. JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa, hotel guest room terrace, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
Courtesy of JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa

Score: 93.73
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See all of our readers’ favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World’s Best Awards for 2021.


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