Everything You Need to Know to Plan Your Costa Rica Travel Budget

Allow us to let you in on a little secret. Costa Rica is not cheap. OK, maybe it’s not a secret, but it certainly isn’t a widely known truth.

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Visitor’s expectations of low prices for goods and services in Costa Rica are often shattered the second they step foot into a grocery store, look up accommodation rates, or try to order a meal at a restaurant.

Despite the fact that Costa Rica ranks just 76th in the 2017 GDP rankings, its prices are often comparable to those of developed nations like the US, Canada and parts of Europe. So what’s driving Costa Rica’s high cost of living?

Some say, the exchange rate is to blame, others attribute it to supply and demand. Costa Rica is a popular travel destination for North Americans and Europeans that are happy to pay a premium for some time in paradise. And the locals are happy to charge it.

Costa Rica Travel Budget: Everyone knows Costa Rica is beautiful, but they don't realize paradise comes at a premium
Everyone knows Costa Rica is beautiful, but they don’t realize paradise comes at a premium.
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But don’t let us discourage you. You don’t need to spend a fortune on your Costa Rica travel budget. With a few tips and useful advice, you can visit the country on a decent Costa Rica travel budget. And bonus – there are many simple ways to remain environmentally responsible on your trip to Costa Rica without sacrificing luxury or excitement!


Accommodation options vary greatly in Costa Rica. Here, you’ll find anything from cheap and cheerful hotels charging $10-15 per night to glamorous 5-star resorts charging well over a few hundred dollars per room.

On average you’ll be looking at spending $60-100/night for a hotel room in touristy areas. If there are two of you, that’s only $30-50 per person. If you are traveling in a bigger group and are willing to share a room with more than 1 person, it can often be cheaper to get 1 room with 2 double beds to share between 4 people. You’ll get the same experience as staying in the hostel but with added privacy and amenities of the hotel.

Expect to pay more if you are visiting in High Season (December-January), especially between Christmas and NYE and be prepared to commit to a 3-5 day stay over NYE.

Top Tip: Read our guide to help you pick the best time of year to visit Costa Rica for your budget

Costa Rica Travel Budget: A basic but lovely room in Monteverde Rustic Lodge. 1-2 queen beds for just $70/night
A basic but lovely room in Monteverde Rustic Lodge. 1-2 queen beds for just $70/night

READ NEXT: Best Places To Stay In Costa Rica

Eco-Friendly Accommodation

We are really passionate about sustainable travel, so eco-friendly accommodation is at the top of our list when we are traveling. Often travelers are required to pay a premium for these types of accommodation but the benefits far out weight the additional cost.

Costa Rica Travel Budget: Going green is worth the premium!
Going green is worth the premium!

By booking with eco-friendly hotels you are helping to conserve our precious natural resources, and often empowering the local community. Here are a few examples of prices you can expect to pay at Green Hotels across Costa Rica.  

Costa Verde, the famous “Airplane Hotel” located in Manuel Antonio charges $100-$150/night for their basic rooms and $300-$525/night for the Fuselage 727 home.

Lapa Rios is the most sustainable hotel in Costa Rica. They offer packages that start at $780/night per bungalow.

Latitude 10 Resorts plastic-free property is located in Santa Teresa. They charge $220-$720/night depending on the room type and season.  

The award-winning Harmony Hotel in Guionas Beach, Nosara begins charging $360/night for a basic room and $760/night for a suite.

Finca Bellavista’s treehouse community near Piedras Blancas offers their Casa del Sol Cabin for $50-$100/night depending on occupancy, and 300/night for their luxurious Castillo Mastate treehouse.

Lapa Rios the leader in sustainable tourism in Osa Peninsula
Lapa Rios Hotel the leader in sustainable tourism in Costa Rica

Money-Saving Costa Rica Travel Budget Tips

Tip #1: Consider traveling to Costa Rica during the shoulder season

(October-November and March-April) You’ll save on accommodation and avoid the crowds at parks and along the beaches. There might be a rain or two as you get closer to the rainy season (July-October), but it won’t ruin your trip.

Tip #2: Stay in an Airbnb!

There are tons of houses available on Airbnb that are especially suited for those traveling with a family or a bigger group.

Tip #3: Stay for longer.

Hotels and B&Bs are often willing to give you a better rate or give you a discount if you commit to staying for a few weeks.

Tip #4: Go without hot water and AC.

Just like in many other developing countries, hot water is a hot commodity in Costa Rica (pun intended). And AC is even hotter. You’ll always be charged extra for these “luxuries”. So if you want to save, go without.

After all, who needs to shower in hot water on a hot day anyway? And if it’s not a hot day, well then you won’t be needing that AC either.  Plus, skipping out on the CO2 emissions an AC emits will help preserve the beautiful green landscape that surrounds you in Costa Rica!


The most common way to get around Costa Rica is by car. Renting a car for the duration of your stay in Costa Rica will give you the flexibility to explore the country with ease. However, renting a car is definitely not the most eco-friendly to get around Costa Rica. Especially if you are renting the car for just yourself, or with one other person.

Unlike a USA road trip, most people here tend to rent 4×4 jeeps, or SUVs to navigate Costa Rica’s treacherous roads, and they are far from fuel efficient. Consider using local transportation instead.

However, if your itinerary includes going off the beaten path where getting around by local bus and shuttles may not be an option, these are some ways you can save on car rental.

Tip #1: Prebook in advance

If you choose to rent a car, pre-book it well in advance, especially if you plan on traveling during the high season. One week car rental during high season will cost anywhere between $400-$600 per week, depending on the type of car and insurance package you select. It’s a great deal if you are traveling with 2-3 others, but an expensive investment if there are just two of you.

Tip #2: Travel in the shoulder season

Car rental outside of high season is significantly cheaper, often as cheap as $15-20 per day plus insurance.

Tip #3: Use a premium credit card

If you own or were thinking of applying for a platinum credit card, check the included benefits, as many premium cards offer complimentary overseas insurance that would help you save lots of car insurance in Costa Rica.

Just remember to be wary while driving, many roads in Costa Rica are paved and are fairly easy to drive on. However, Costa Rica is still a developing country so you will come across unpaved roads, lack of signs, as well as people, cows, horses, lizards, etc in the middle of the road.

A local taxi in Paraiso, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
A local taxi in Paraiso, Guanacaste

READ NEXT: Buying Property in Costa Rica: What You Need to Know

Save on Transportation in Costa Rica by Going Green

Tip #1: Use Local Transportation

If you’re looking for a greener option than renting a car, use public transportation!

Public buses are the most sustainable way of getting around Costa Rica. Imagine all the emissions saved if everyone jumped on a bus instead of taking their own vehicle!

Local buses aren’t quite like chicken buses, especially along the major routes. They can be comfortable, and air-conditioned. A ticket from San Jose to Tamarindo, for example, will only cost $10 for a 4-hour journey. Not a bad deal!

Busses run all across the country, and while you can’t reserve seats online, you can do so in person at any bus stop in the country.

Costa Rica Travel Budget: It's easy getting around Costa Rica with local buses
It’s easy getting around Costa Rica with local buses

If you don’t buy a ticket ahead of time, you will simply pay the driver when you board the bus. The price is listed on the bus window or above the driver’s seat in Colones.

The destination of the buses are written on the front of the bus but if you are stopping before the final destination ensure you follow your journey using a Navigational app like Waze or Maps.me then pull the string or press the button just before you are planning on jumping out. Otherwise, ask the driver if he would be willing to let you off at your stop.

The Bus Schedule provides up to date information on transportation routes all over the country, including to major tourist destinations. Or get advice on the best route from your hotel or hostel.

Tip #2: Use Bikes or Golf Carts to Get Around the Area

Once you get to your destination, you can use bicycles (sometimes supplied by the hotels) or hire golf carts to get around the area.

Costa Rica Travel Budget: Use local transportation to get from A to B
Use local transportation to get from point A to point B


Costs of food and drinks in Costa Rica will probably be the biggest surprise of all. It’s hard to grasp how someone on a $3/day salary (average salary in Costa Rica) could possibly afford to spend $10-20/meal at a restaurant in Costa Rica. But that’s exactly what you will find in most touristy spots in Costa Rica.

Food is good and there are lots of great dishes to try, but even something as simple as a local “Casado”, a basic dish consisting of rice, beans, a few veggies, and a small piece of meat will cost on average $4-5. Anything more elaborate will set you back by $8-15 per dish. Beer is reasonably cheap at $2-3/can, and cocktails are, of course, more at $4-6.

Costa Rica Travel Budget: Delicious fish dish at a beach side restaurant in Tamarindo. Costa Rica
A delicious fish dish at a beachside restaurant in Tamarindo. $10/meal

Saving on Food and Drink in Costa Rica

Tip #1: Eat where the locals eat.

It is absolutely true that locals can not afford to eat in most restaurants suitable for tourists. So instead, they dine in small local spots called “Sodas”, which are similar to our fast food restaurants. Soda menus aren’t elaborate but they will always have a great Gallo Pinto and Casado on offer for under $3.

Costa Rica Travel Budget: Inside a "Soda" in San Jose, Costa Rica
Inside a “Soda” in San Jose
Costa Rica Travel Budget: Gallo Pinto $2 at a Soda, in San Jose.
Gallo Pinto $2 at a Soda, in San Jose.

Tip #2: Drink Local

Imperial will also be cheaper than Heineken and other imported beer brands. Rum will always be cheaper than vodka and if you want the cheapest way to have a good time try Cacique. This local version of sugarcane liquor is definitely not the best tasting drink on earth, but its cheap as chips and will certainly do the job.

Tip #3: BYOB

Beers at a local grocery store will be half the price or even cheaper than the local bar. Liquor is VERY cheap when purchased at duty-free upon arrival. Enjoy an alcohol-free meal then enjoy cheap drinks on the beach, at home or in the common room of the hostel you are staying in.

Costa Rica Travel Budget: Eat and drink local in Costa Rica
Eat and drink local in Costa Rica


Activities in Costa Rica can really break the bank. The thing about activities in Costa Rica is that all of them are either designed for the tourists or charge a tourist price, leaving you with very few options to save.

Costa Rica Travel Budget: Zip lining in Costa Rica
Zip lining in Costa Rica

Here is an example of what you should expect to pay for certain activities in Costa Rica.

Ziplining: $30-$60 for 2-3 hour activity
Horse Back Riding: $50 for a few hours and goes up from there
Surfboard hire:  $10/day (some hostels will offer these for free)
Coffee Plantation Tour: $30 for 2-3 hour tour
Bird Watching Tour: 4 hours for USD $38
Monteverde Cloud Forest: $20 entrance fee plus $20 for a guided tour
Night Cloud Forest Tour: $20
Arenal Volcano National Park entrance fee: $15/person
Arenal Hot Springs: $60/per day
Barbilla National Park entrance fee: $5/person.
Barra Honda National Park entrance fee: $12/person

Costa Rica Travel Budget: Budget your activities accordingly
Plan your activities according to your budget

Saving on Activities in Costa Rica

Tip #1: Enjoy the beach!

It’s free, it’s beautiful and it’s one of the best attractions in Costa Rica. Grab a ball, a frisbee, buy some beers from the supermarket, and stick them in a bucket of ice and combine them with the above-mentioned beach games for a day of fun in the sun that doesn’t break the bank.

Costa Rica Travel Budget: Playa Avellanas, Gaanacaste
Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste

Tip #2: Go off the beaten path.

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Arenal Volcano National Park, and Manuel Antonio National Parks are the most famous parks in the country, but they are also the busiest and the most expensive destinations to visit in Costa Rica.

Luckily, there is a long list of other national parks in Costa Rica and many more protected areas that you could visit instead.

Many of them charge less than the $15-17/person entrance fee you’d be paying at Monteverde, Arenal or Manuel Antonio.

Costa Rica Travel Budget: Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of the most expensive national parks in Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of the most expensive national parks to visit in Costa Rica

Consider these lesser known options:

Entrance Fees $12

  • Barra Honda National Park entrance fee: $12/person
  • Braulio Carrillo National Park (Quebrada González and the Barva Volcano) entrance fee: $12/person
  • Las Baulas National Park entrance fee: $12/person
  • Marino Ballena National Park entrance fee: $12/person
  • Palo Verde National Park entrance fee: $12/person
  • Tenorio Volcano National Park entrance fee: $12/person
  • Turrialba Volcano National Park entrance fee: $12/person

Entrance Fees $6-$10

  • Agua Juan Castro Blanco National Park entrance fee: $10/person
  • Carara National Park entrance fee: $10/person
  • La Amistad National Park entrance fee: $10/person
  • La Cangreja National Park entrance fee: $10/person
  • Los Quetzales National Park entrance fee: $10/person
  • Piedras Blancas National Park entrance fee: $10/person
  • Tapantí National Park (Macizo de la Muerte) entrance fee: $10/person

Entrance Fees $5 and under

  • Barbilla National Park entrance fee: $5/person
  • Cahuita National Park entrance fee: $5/person
  • Diriá National Park entrance fee: $5/person
Costa Rica Travel Budget: Costa Rica's national park have lots of wildlife viewing opportunities
Costa Rica’s national parks have lots of wildlife viewing opportunities

Tip #3: Take advantage of the free nightly light show.

This is another Costa Rican specialty that costs absolutely nothing. Grab a few beers from the supermarket, head to the nearest beach and enjoy some of the most incredible sunsets you have seen in your life.

Costa Rica Travel Budget: Sunset in Playa Tamarindo. Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Sunset in Playa Tamarindo. Guanacaste, Costa Rica


If you are traveling as a couple or with another friend, choose to stay in mid-range hotels, eat out 2 times a day, get around by car and take part in lots of activities. Your daily budget for Costa Rica may look like this:

Comfortable Costa Rica Travel Budget:
Hotel: $50
Food: $30-40
Transportation: $30-40
Activities: $30-40
Total: $140-170/day

or like this:

Basic Costa Rica Travel Budget:
Hostel: $15-20
Food: $15-20
Transportation: $10
Activities: $0-10
Total: $40-60/day

So the decision is yours. If money is holding you back from traveling to Costa Rica, then I follow some of my money saving tips, try to stick to more of a local way of experiencing Costa Rica and a week-long Costa Rican adventure could end up costing you less than a weekend of partying in North America (plus flights)!

So who’s planning a trip to Costa Rica this year?

Like this post? Pint in for later!

Allow us to let you in on a little secret. Costa Rica is not cheap. OK, maybe it’s a not a secret, but it certainly isn’t a widely known truth. Costa Rica’s steep prices was one of the first things I noticed on our trip there in 2014. But don’t let us discourage you. You don’t need to spend a fortune to visit Costa Rica. With a few tips and useful advice, you can visit Costa Rica on a decent budget.

** Read Next **

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica From Above 

Ultimate Guide To Visiting Arenal Volcano In Costa Rica

The Best Way To Visit The Nauyaca Waterfalls In Dominical, Costa Rica

Costa Verde Hotel- A Destination Worth Visiting in Costa Rica

12 Reasons To Visit Costa Ballena: Uvita, Dominical, & Ojochal

Things to do in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: A Surfers Paradise in the Nicoya Peninsula

19 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know to Plan Your Costa Rica Travel Budget”

  1. Natasha Nesrine

    Hi Oksana!

    Thank you for writing this VERY informative post. It really helped me get a sense of what I should do during my visit to Costa Rica. I have a few question that I would love your expertise on:

    • You said: “A ticket from San Jose to Tamarindo, for example, will only cost $10 for a 4-hour journey.” and I’m wonder what bus company is this with and where are we picked up and dropped off? I’m trying to find as much infomation as possible on the public transit in Costa Rica but there doesn’t seem to be much information out there.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Natasha, there are a number of different bus companies that go from San Jose to Tamarindo. You can use this website: to find info on bus schedules in Costa Rica. Type in your departure city and arrival city and you’ll be able to see what bus companies you can use and click on the little map icon to see exactly where you’ll be picked up and dropped off. We talk about this service and share lots of other helpful tips in our post: Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Costa Rica. Enjoy your trip!

  2. Hi! This is amazing. I was thinking about staying next year for the full month of February and was wondering if it was safe for me to go by myself. I’m 27. And if you have any tips on hostels in the Cahuita area (which is where I’ve been thinking about spending most of my time) that would be great!

  3. I tend not to write a comment, but I glanced through some comments here What to Budget for Your Trip to Costa Rica.

    I actually do have a couple of questions for you if you tend not to mind.
    Could it be only me or does it look as if like a few of these remarks appear as if they are left by brain dead individuals?
    😛 And, if you are posting on additional online social sites,
    I would like to keep up with everything fresh you have to post.
    Would you make a list of the complete urls of your shared sites
    like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

    1. Hi Audra,
      We try to monitor the comments closely, but spammy comments do slide through the crack sometimes. Happy to hear you want to follow our posts. If you scroll to the bottom of any page on our blog, you’ll find links to all of our social media channels in the bottom right hand corner. Thanks! Hope to hear from you again!

  4. Hi Oksana! I enjoyed reading your article and you tips are on point. Traveling to Costa Rica is actually no longer as inexpensive as before, so your tips help a lot. Sticking with the local way is really the best way to save, and you even get to enjoy the company of lots of wonderful people!

  5. Good info but Costa Rica is the most expensive place. Please tell also best ways to enjoy Costa Rica on a budget.

  6. Hi, Oksana!

    All your posts about Costa Rica are amazing! Actually it was never a country we had considered, perhaps because we had heard how expensive it is.
    When did you visit? How long would you recommend for a couple to stay?

    We like visiting places off-season, is so much more enjoyable 🙂

    1. Hi Telma,

      We actually spend a lot of time in Costa Rica. It’s our semi home base right now so in total over the last 2 years we have probably spent 6-8 months here and are still finding new places to discover. If you have the time, 3 weeks or more would be great, but I would say plan for a minimum of 1 week.

  7. Hi Oksana! Awesome post to help us budget. We are 2 couples travelling in November/December and want to hire a car in CR. However, we’d like to go across the border into Nica (San Juan Del Sur, Ometepe etc) and back into CR. Have you done this border crossing by car? Its seems really annoying doing it by bus, and very expensive flying around, so if we can jump between countries with a rental that would be perfect. Any advice on this?

    Love your work!

    1. Wouldn’t recommend taking a rental car across the border. So much hassle and to be honest i’m not even sure if car rental companies will let you do that. We have a car in CR and when we crossed the border, we didn’t even take our across. Too much hassle. Getting a taxi to San Juan del Sur was really easy and from there you can get anywhere using busses.

  8. Terry Davenport

    Learning that the cost of living is pretty much the same as in the States is disheartening. I’ve been read international living magazine and they’re constantly saying that a couple can live like kings and queens on less than $1800 per month. I do realize tho that they sell real estate. I guess I need to look elsewhere. Thx for info.

  9. Margreet Hagens

    Hello Oksana, thank You for the tips, About 5 weeks we are going to you’re country. We are from the Netherlands and love to go. But saw the prices of the tours very high prices . We read about the water in bottels do they have high prices to?
    Greetings Margreet

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