Can you travel in Playas del Coco, one of the most expensive places in Costa Rica on a budget? It may not be as cheap as their neighbor Nicaragua but yes you certainly can! Let me show you how you can enjoy Coco for CRC25,000 ($50) a day!
Ahhh Coco. If you’ve never heard of Playas del Coco before, you will once you start researching about where to go in Costa Rica. It’s a popular little beach town that’s known to take pura vida to the extreme and where beach lovers and paradise seekers find their ultimate relaxation getaway. Since it’s close to all sorts of well known landmarks and attractions, visitors station themselves in Coco to enjoy the golden coast of Costa Rica.
Once you begin researching, do know this. Costa Rica is expensive and Playas del Coco is one of the most expensive places in the country because of how touristic it is. However, it is also completely possible to travel here on a budget.
As one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica to visit, it’s a place you can’t miss when you’re in Guanacaste. If you’re on the fence about visiting because of the prices, read my tips on how you can experience this wonderful beach town and keep your wallet happy.
How to travel in Playas del Coco for $50 a day
Best tip: Travel during off season
If you are flexible in travel dates, try to come during green season (April-Dec) as rates are cheaper. I know everyone wants to come during dry season because it doesn’t rain but honestly, I personally adore green season. It’s not as hot, it’s so green and there are way less people!
But if you must come during dry season, just know that dry season rates are more expensive. Try to avoid the weeks of Christmas, New Year and Easter (Semana Santa) as much as you can since they are the most expensive time of the year. Prices can almost double!
- Not ideal for budget travelers but you can find some on Hotels.com or other booking sites. During low season you can find a decent room for around $60 for two people.
- Join couchsurfing.org and you can find a good handful of people who are open to hosting couchsurfers in Playas del Coco. Couchsurfing is a great way to stay for free, meet new people and get advice and tips from a local.
- Renting an apartment is a popular choice in Coco and usually you can find a good deal. On Airbnb ($20 off your first purchase through this link) you can find fully furnished condos for $50 a day and most of them come with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a pool. Read our tips for using Airbnb in Costa Rica first.
Hostels – Walk towards the beach entrance towards main street
- Choices are limited when it comes to hostels in Coco but there are a couple scattered around town offering a bed for around $15. They aren’t the nicest, but it’s a good price when all you need is a place to sleep and shower. If you walk towards the beach from downtown Coco, you will see signs close to the soccer field so if you’re flexible, you can try walking in.
House Sit/Rent a room
- Many of the North Americans who live here are snowbirds meaning they come down for the winter months and go back north during the summer months. Most of them own a condo or a house and then find someone to house-sit for them when they’re gone.
- This a fabulous option if you’re traveling in Coco long term. One of my friends rented a room in a house for $200 a month and he enjoyed the entire property, used the bike and was even able to foster a dog while the homeowner was in Canada. That’s less than $10 a day!
- The best months to do this is rainy season here, so April – Nov. when all the snowbirds are gone. Check out some Facebook groups to get in touch such as House Sitting World. Or sign up for websites dedicated to providing house sitting services like Trusted Housesitters (get 15% off through this link).
It’s OK if you don’t like Costa Rican food. Actually in Coco, there are only a couple sodas and the rest serve various cuisines like American, Italian and seafood so you have a few choices.
The prices for eating out in Coco are the same as what I experienced in the States, about $10 a plate. Even the sodas here are expensive! It’s hard to find a place that sells food for less than that but there a couple around town that are cheap and very good.
Best tip: Avoid restaurants on the beach. Those are automatically $$$.
Our favorite places to go are:
- This is a Lebanese place that sells plates starting at 2000 colones (~$4). This is one of my new favorite places to eat. They have great dishes like falafels, wraps and now they’re serving baklava, yum! It’s cheap and will definitely fill you up.
- You can find breads, pastries and sandwiches and you have to try a potato enchilada or empanada here (not the Mexican ones). They are so addictive! You can get a couple of pastries and fill up easily for a few bucks.
- This little soda is inside Super Compro (one of the supermarkets) and they serve traditional Costa Rican food. You can get breakfast here for as low as $3 and it comes with a big plate of gallo pinto, eggs, toast and coffee. Lunch specials are around $5 with various dishes.
If you want to enjoy a beer or a cocktail, most of the bars offer Happy Hour from 11 AM to 7 PM. A beer is around 1000 colones ($2).
One of our favorite sodas is Los Pelones but it’s not super cheap at $7 for breakfast and $8 for lunch/dinner.
To check out the supermarkets in Coco, we have a grocery store comparison article. You can read about the four supermarkets and their variation in prices.
If you’re not renting a car, you can get around Coco fairly easily. Luckily it is a small town where most things are within walking distance. If you don’t feel like walking due to the heat or laziness, you can rent a golf cart, a bike or a scooter. High season rates for golf carts are $45 for 24 hours and are considerably cheaper in green season. Bike rentals run about $10 a day.
There are plenty of taxis available which you can find all lined up by Auto Mercado and throughout downtown Coco.
I have never hitchhiked before but it’s not uncommon in Costa Rica. You can try it out, in fact I’ve seen lots of tourists do it! Just keep in mind these safety tips for hitchhiking.
Want to rent a car? For our readers we have a discount to save 10% and more on their car rental. That will definitely help you keep under $50 a day!
Activities and Tours
This is what’s going to burn a hole in your wallet. Tours are expensive, especially if you don’t have a car or any form of transportation which makes it way harder to maximize your time and limit your budget.
If you’re truly on a budget and can’t afford to spend $50 – $100 on a tour, then your best bet is to do what’s available and free: go to the beach.
- Coco beach is very suitable for swimming but not snorkeling. You can also lay down a blanket, relax on the sand, read a book, have a picnic, take photos or walk along the beach since it is fairly long (3 km).
- You can buy basic fishing gear at the Jobo on the road to Ocotal including bait, the reel and line and try your hand at shore fishing.
- You can rent kayaks on the beach for about $10 an hour. One place is Cafe la Playa
- On certain nights, it’s common for bars to have live music so you can grab a drink and enjoy some tunes. Also on some days, there are music performances or shows in the park.
- Ocotal is another beach fairly close to Coco. You can bike there or grab a taxi which costs a few dollars.
- You can rent snorkel gear (snorkeling is good here), kayaks, canoes and other equipment
- These are two beaches about a 10 minute drive from Coco. Both beaches are similar to Coco with calm waters to swim in. You can take a little beach hopping day trip by taking the bus and both beaches have fabulous views to watch the sunset.
- If you like art, there is the Hidden Art Gallery near Coco (about 15 minute drive) and they have various exhibits of Costa Rican artists. On Saturdays they have a vendor fair where you can buy specialty foods, beauty products and more. The entrance fee is free but if you don’t have a car, you’ll need to take a taxi here as the fastest and easiest option.
Yoga or Zumba
- Yoga is the hot trend right now and doing it on the beach is even more popular. On certain days, there are open yoga sessions and zumba classes at the park.
SUP (stand up paddle boarding)
- SUP is pretty fun and is super popular. If you’ve never done it before, it’s a great activity that’s also a good workout. To try it out, Pacific Coast SUP has 1 hour lessons for $30 at Coco beach
Unfortunately, there are very limited options when it comes to tours less than $50. There is one boat tour called Arroyo Adventures that has a cruise for $40. It’s actually a great price since it’s all day including snacks and drinks, taking you around the Gulf of Papagayo. Other cruises run around $70 or $80 for half day tours.
If you really want to see some of the local hidden beaches but don’t have $$ to shell out for a private beach hopping tour, check out the Coco Water Taxi. Since it has a flat fee of $75, if you can find 5 other people to go with you, you’ll pay $15 for the taxi to take you to various beaches in the Papagayo Gulf.
Enjoy Coco without spending too much
You can perfectly travel in Coco spending less than $50 a day and still have an awesome time. There are a couple things about Coco you should definitely try to take advantage of such as scuba diving or boating around the Gulf of Papagayo. There are plenty of secret beaches here and many opportunities to see some marine wildlife.
It’s great to travel on a budget but sometimes it’s completely worth every penny to do something you would never have the chance to do otherwise. Costa Rica is a wonderful country with so much to see and it’d be a shame to miss out on a great experience.
Budget your trip wisely, do the proper research before you come and you will see that your money can stretch out further than you’d imagine.
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