Places to Stay
Accommodations: Arrivals at San Jose and Liberia
There are plenty of accommodations around San Jose including a Hampton Inn right near the airport. However, almost no one stays in San Jose unless they arrive after 5:00 PM and have no transportation. Most everyone gets out of town as fast as they can, usually staying in quaint hotels if they arrive in late afternoon. There is nothing actually wrong with San Jose as a city. It's actually rather interesting compared to other large cities in the American tropics. It's just that no one interested in natural history would choose to stay there. However, with several airlines arriving at night, there may be good reason to find a place to stay around San Jose.
For those arriving in Liberia, Costa Rica in the northwest, accommodations are easier to manage. Rental car companies can make arrangements to pick you up at the airport, take you back to get your car at the agency, and allow you to take off driving in rather ordinary traffic conditions. Should you arrive at night, taxis can take you to one of several hotels close by. The Trip Advisor and the Costa Rica Guide websites can be helpful introductions to visitors just arriving and those needing to stay in places close to the main airports.
Accommodations: Lodges that Specifically Cater to Birders
The following lodges are fairly common destinations for many birders. Many of them can be seen on almost every birding trip report. Most of them adjoin or are at least very close to good birding habitat. Most of these lodges are discussed in detail in the book, Finding Birds in Costa Rica by Barrett Lawson.
For catching some rays and trying to enjoy the Pacific beaches and birds simultaneously, my wife and I have stayed at several places. Places I've stayed and enjoyed include Tulemar, Costa Verde, and Makanda by the Sea at Manuel Antonio (south-central Costa Rica), Oxygen Jungle Villas near Uvita, and Hotel Playa Hermosa and Rancho Armadillo in northern Guanacaste. These are very different places from each other, but all were close to the beach, fairly quiet, and all had good service. None of them were "resorts" - no spas, no tennis courts, no golf courses, no gambling. Nor did they actually cater to birders. I mention them only because they were fairly quiet hotels with some natural surroundings. In coastal Costa Rica, it is difficult to make recommendations since hotels change hands rather quickly on the beachfront, and hotel construction can be an on-going problem that changes from year-to-year.
I recommend looking through Trip Advisor.com (http://www.tripadvisor.com/) to look at reviews of any hotels in which you are going to stay. Nearly every place has a few reviews from recent customers.
As an example of how things can change, we used to stay at Hotel Ocotal near Playa del Coco about 35 minutes from Liberia. In a matter of three years, it changed from a great place to below-average because of construction and poor service. For all I know, it might be back to being a good place to stay. I would probably rely on the tripadvisor web site to tell me that.
The "Costa Rica Guide" website offers an interesting formula for budgeting the cost of hotels in Costa Rica.