For anyone planning on coming to Costa Rica, cost is a big concern. How much does a trip to Costa Rica cost? Is Costa Rica expensive to visit? Since Costa Rica is known for being fairly expensive, many people wonder exactly how much is the cost of traveling in Costa Rica and how much they’ll spend.
Here is our detailed guide to the cost of traveling in Costa Rica from food, activities, transportation, lodging and more for an idea of how much your Costa Rica travel expenses will be.
Prices quotes in USD and per adult unless otherwise stated.
How Much Does it Cost to Fly to Costa Rica?
Because of COVID, deals on flights to Costa Rica are not uncommon. Many airlines are throwing promotions often and you can snag a good deal.
Flights normally run around $500-1000 USD roundtrip depending on your origin destination. For example, Seattle – Liberia is around $650-800 USD normally with Alaska Airlines. Sometimes you can even find flight deals for $500 roundtrip from Seattle.
The cheapest time to fly to Costa Rica is May, September and October. The most expensive times are December through April, July and August.
I recommend signing up to your preferred airline’s mailing list because they’ll send promos to their email subscribers first. Since my family is in Washington state, I am an Alaska airlines member and am on their mailing list to get their promos first.
Tips for Finding the Best Airfare to Costa Rica
- Try to be flexible on your dates. Google Flights has a calendar to see prices and you can sign up for alerts. Some low season dates with cheap airline tickets are after Thanksgiving to mid December, January after New Years, September and October.
- Check both Liberia airport and San Jose International airport. Liberia is generally a tad more expensive than San Jose so check both airports. You can read this post to see which international airport in Costa Rica to fly into for your itinerary.
- Sign up to Dollar Flight Club. This website finds cheap flights and mistake fares. They occasionally have some to Costa Rica and Central America. Definitely worth the upgraded membership. Scott’s Cheap Flights is another one.
- Basic economy (saver fare): all airlines are offering a type of basic economy ticket price. It’s the cheapest fare but with limitations like no choosing seats, board very last, etc.
Read more on how to get cheap flights to Costa Rica in this post!
Costa Rica Hotel Prices
In Costa Rica, we have all sorts of accommodation. We have everything from standard hotels, camping sites, glamping resorts and all inclusive resorts.
Depending on what your budget is and what kind of vacation you want, you can spend as low as $20 a night to $500 a night per person.
Average Prices for Hotels in Costa Rica
- Hostels: $15-25 for one bed in a dorm. Not guaranteed to have hot water or AC, usually no breakfast included. AC usually costs more ~$10
- Basic/budget hotel: $35-$75. This includes a private room with hot water, AC and private bathroom. Some may also have private rooms with shared bathrooms.
- Mid-range hotel: $90-150. Mid range hotels usually include hot breakfast, AC, hot water, Wi-Fi, cable, coffee maker, a mini fridge and basic bathroom amenities.
- High end hotel: Starting around $250 and up. These high end hotels usually have a great view, an on-site restaurant, hot water, hot breakfast included, fridge, coffee maker, full bathroom amenities and an infinity pool. Not all high end hotels are built the same – some are boutique and locally owned, some are international chains.
- All-inclusive resorts: Starting around $250 per person, all inclusive resorts have a variety of food choices from buffets to a la carte restaurants, multiple pools, night time entertainment, a gym, shopping center, child care, business center and day time activities.
- One week surf camp: $800-8000 per person depending on the camp and what they include (meals, transportation, other activities, type of room, etc.) For example, Surf Expedition Costa Rica charges $1750 USD per person for a beginner 1 week surf camp with basic accommodation. Surf Simply in Nosara charges $6562 for a solo person, 1 week all-inclusive camp in a luxury resort. Flights to Costa Rica are never included in surf camps.
Tips to Save Money on Accommodation
- Many standard hotels in Costa Rica offer hot breakfast included.
- Travel during the off/rainy season (generally May to November). However, the first and second week of July is considered high season because the schools have two weeks off for mid summer break. August to October doesn’t see many US/Canadians but it is a popular time for Europeans on the Caribbean side. September and October are the cheapest months since they are the lowest months in tourism.
- Like the hotel’s Facebook or Instagram. Many of them throw promotions exclusively on their social media platforms, especially now with COVID.
- Look on VRBO or Airbnb for alternative lodging options. You can find many apartments/condos/rooms for a similar or cheaper price and you can save money by cooking and eating in. Read our guide to using Airbnb in Costa Rica
- Use our Costa Rica hotel deals to save money! Check our deals page here for the promo codes.
Best Hotel Booking Sites for Costa Rica
We personally use a few different sites when we’re looking for a hotel such as Booking.com, Hotels.com, Hotelscombined and Trivago.
One of the advantages of using a hotel booking site is that hotel websites in Costa Rica aren’t usually the most informative or easiest to navigate if it’s not a chain. But hotels in Costa Rica are getting more tech savvy, their websites are becoming more friendly for direct bookings and sometimes they will offer discounts for booking on their site. However, not ALL hotels offer cheaper prices on their website so make sure to check the search engines and compare. For example, we have found a couple of hotels in Monteverde that were considerably cheaper on Booking.com than their own website!
One more thing to note is that some hotels may not show up on hotel search engine websites, so browse around on Google Maps first to get an idea of hotels in the area.
Read more tips on finding accommodation in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Prices for Transportation
There are a few ways to get around Costa Rica.
- Public transportation: The bus system in Costa Rica is very wallet friendly though not always super timely or convenient. It is an adventure though! You can hop on a city bus for $1 (500 colones) across town or cross the country for around $10 USD (~5,00 colones). Read our tips for taking public transportation in Costa Rica here.
- Taxis: A good option for short trips, definitely not for long ones. Make sure they use the meter. Here are Yeison’s tips on taking a taxi in Costa Rica.
- Uber: Uber is very common in San Jose and also found in Quepos, Jaco, La Fortuna, Liberia, Playas del Coco and Tamarindo. We’ve never had a problem calling one at 4 AM in Heredia to go to the airport and we’ve found the prices to be very reasonable.
- Shuttle: Shared and private shuttles in Costa Rica are a good way to get around. Shared shuttles are about $59 USD per adult and private shuttles can be anywhere from $90 – $350 USD depending on number of passengers and destinations.
- Car rental: Renting a car in Costa Rica can get very expensive and unfortunately prices have gone up due to COVID. Do your research to see what kind of car you need for your trip and the total price you’ll pay.
- A one week car rental for a Hyundai Accent automatic (4 door sedan) can run around $400-500 and a 4wd/4×4 SUV can run around $700-800 a week. Prices vary depending on time of year, type of transmission, insurances, fees, taxes and extras which are not reflected in the examples above.
- Flying: There are several domestic airlines such as Sansa and Green. Depending on the time of year and route, flights range from about $70-$250 one way per person.
Tips for Saving Money on Transportation in Costa Rica
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole you can do on saving money in this aspect. The cheapest way to get around Costa Rica is to take the public bus but it’s not an efficient option for those here for a short period of time.
If you want to rent a car, pick destinations and hotels that do not require a 4wd so you can rent a sedan which is much cheaper than a 4wd. If you can drive a stick, rent a manual as they are a tad bit cheaper than automatic cars (but make sure you’re a proficient manual driver).
You can also combine methods of transportation if you don’t want to rent a car for the entire period. Some people will bus or shuttle to their destinations, and then rent a car for just a couple of days.
We have some discounts on transportation that will help save money.
Costa Rica car rental discount and extra freebies
If you want to do something like ziplining, white water rafting or sailing, you need to book a tour. I always tell visitors that you can skip tours to save money but the trip may not be as fun or fulfilling. It’s always worth it to do at least one tour.
Average Cost of Tours in Costa Rica
Most tours include hotel pick up and drop off and a meal (usually lunch or breakfast).
- Ziplining: $55-85 per person. Usually no meals or snacks included.
- 1 day White water rafting: $80-129 per person including lunch.
- Sunset sailing: $70-115 per person for a half day tour which includes lunch, snacks, drinks and snorkel equipment.
- Half day sport fishing: $500 including equipment, snacks (depending on type of boat)
- 2 tank certified dive: $115 per adult
- Combo adventure tour (zipline, horseback riding, lunch, mud baths, hot springs, tubing): $105 without transportation and guide, $140-185 per adult with transportation and guide.
- Canyoning (waterfall rappell): $100-115 per person.
- National Park entrance fee: $6-$18 per foreign adult. Cahuita National Park is free!
- Guided hike with transportation and guide: $59 per person depending on the destination.
- 2 hour surf lesson: $40-60 per person including board rental. A 24 hour rental costs around $25 without insurance.
- Horseback riding: $60-90 per person depending on the length and location.
Tips for Saving Money on Tours
For big groups, ask for a group discount or for group prices (usually 5+).
If you have your own form of transportation (car rental), you can do self guided hikes and walks. For example, you can drive yourself to Rincon de la Vieja National Park, pay the national park fee and do a self guided hike to the waterfall.
Find free things to do. For example, check out our 5 free things to do in Monteverde post to find cool local spots like the El Arbol Hueco!
Food costs vary in the country. Touristic areas are no doubt more expensive than local or rural areas. An average lunch is a touristic beach town can be around $10 USD including taxes and a drink.
Average Cost of Food in Costa Rica
- A smoothie: ~$1.50 (800 colones). A milkshake or special fruit smoothie can be a bit more (2000 CRC).
- Local beer: ~$2.25 (1,200 colones). Craft beer costs much more, around 3-4,000 colones per beer (~$5-7)
- Traditional breakfast: ~$5 (3,000 colones)
- Traditional lunch: ~$7 (4,000 colones)
- A 1750 ml bottle of water: ~$2 (1,000 colones)
Tips for Saving Money on Food in Costa Rica
You can save money on food in Costa Rica by buying groceries and cooking your own meals if you have a kitchen. Another way is to eat only at the local restaurants (called sodas).
One more option other than eating at local restaurants is to look for a bakery or panaderia. You can get empanadas, enchiladas and sandwiches for $1-2.
Additionally, book a hotel with hot breakfast included.
One more way to save money on food is by drinking the tap water. Tap water in Costa Rica is actually safe to drink in most locations. Just make sure to ask your hosts as some places in Costa Rica like Osa Peninsula and Tortuguero do not have drinkable tap water.
You can find Costa Rica souvenir stores everywhere. A t-shirt is around $15-25, a painted cup is around $15, a little trinket like a wooden toucan statue is around $10-15.
If you’re buying several items, you can usually get a discount. Most of the time I’ve been given around 10% off, more if I’m buying a handful of stuff and paying in cash at the souvenir stores.
Another tip is to avoid the souvenir stores in the airport. They are definitely more expensive.
A cheap place for souvenirs is the supermarkets. Many supermarkets in Costa Rica like Maxi Pali have their own small “souvenir” section with cute Costa Rica trinkets and other things.
Read all about tipping in Costa Rica in this post but basically, tips are not mandatory as they are not part of the Costa Rican culture. However, since Costa Rica is a touristic country, it is very much appreciated to tip something as a tourist.
The standard percentage to tip is 10%.
Overall Cost of Traveling in Costa Rica
Here is an idea of what your trip will be like according to a very general budget (not including airfare) per person:
$30-$50 a day, you have to travel quite minimally. Sleep in a bed in a dorm or cheap hotel, eat at bakeries or local restaurants and walk around the beach. No full day tours.
$75-$100 a day upgrade to a private room in a hostel, have a couple beers, take a tour or surf lesson or two.
$150-175 a day, you’re looking at a nice mid-range hotel, a few tours and renting a car. Includes meals at places other than sodas and more cocktails or even some craft beer.
$200-375, you’re looking at a very nice hotel or resort, guided tours, renting a car or hiring a private shuttle and dinners at more expensive restaurants.
$400 and up: At this price, you will probably be staying at an all-inclusive or a very upscale, luxury resort, having nice dinners and booking many tours.
Handling Money and Prices
USD are readily accepted in Costa Rica and items in tourism are quoted in USD. These are tours, hotels and shuttles. Even some souvenir stores quote their prices in USD. You can read more about handling money in Costa Rica in this post.
So there you have it, the breakdown of costs of traveling in Costa Rica and you have a better idea of how much a trip to Costa Rica costs. For more of an idea, check our 1 week Costa Rica travel budget breakdown to see how much we spent.
Want to read more Costa Rica travel tips? Here you go!
Tips for driving in Costa Rica
This post has affiliate links.
Hi Sari, there are a lot of tours you can do that aren’t too crazy. There are a lot of easy and short hikes in Costa Rica (there aren’t that many long hard hikes), nature walks in the national parks, boat rides and safari floats to see wildlife and local towns you can sightsee. Some recommendations that come to the top of my head are these:
La Fortuna river safari float wildlife watching tour
Palo Verde National Park wildlife watching boat ride
Hacienda Baru: they have an electric chair that goes through the forest
Rainforest Adventures Atlantic: they have a really nice aerial tram, hummingbird garden and easy hiking trails
Things to do in San Jose: best place for museums and culture
Tortuguero National Park: wildlife watching boat rides through the national park
Zarcero: cute local town with a church and topiary gardens
sari goldman says
Thank you for the wonderful info. We are in our late 70’s. in good health and active( not for zip lining) What can you recommend for people our age. We are past the long hikes stage. Love museums, animals, beautiful sights, ethnic food and people of all ages. All help would be appreciated. Most tours are geared to eco adventures and thrills. We can spend weeks if needed. country looks beautiful.
Love your blog–most informative one that I can find re: Costa Rica 🙂 My husband and I are headed to CR for 5 nts in a few weeks. How much should we expect to pay for a massage? And is this negotiable too?
TIA! Pura Vida!
Hi Angela, it will depend where you get your massage. If you go to a resort like Hilton or Westin or a high end hotel, massages can get pretty like $100 or more depending on the type. If you go to a spa or beauty salon, it could be around $60 an hour. If you go to the beach and get a massage from a local, it is around $35 for an hour so it all depends.
Hi Colleen, the water in the hot springs in Arenal are either natural (Tabacon, Nayara) or it goes through a filtration process, it depends on which facility you go to. Water quality in the touristic areas is usually pretty good, for washing clothes I don’t see or know of any problems from that. As for drinking tap water, it is safe in touristic areas and cities, you can bring a filter if you have a sensitive stomach though.
Colleen Dunaway says
Hello! We are going next month to Tamarindo, Arenal, and Manuel Antonio. I have a question regarding the hot springs and the safety of the water. I know that some springs have bacteria and can cause some trouble. Also, we are renting houses that have washers. Can you speak to the hot springs and bacteria in the Arenal area and the washers?
Hey Sammi,hey yeison,
first of all I really love reading your blog,it helped me a lot planning our trip to Costa Rica .
In this article I saw your recommendation for the Canyon de la Vieja Lodge. During our trip we stayed there for 2 nights and it was by far the worst accommodation we had on our trip. People are really nice ther I will not doubt that,but the lodges had their best times long ago..
Our lodge was not clean at all..the bed had stains I don’t really want to know what it was. The whole area seemed as if nobody really cares about and the breakfast also was prepared halfhearted.
I just wanted to let you know..
Yours Nadia from Germany
Hi Nadia, thanks for your feedback! We went there in 2014 and that’s unfortunate to hear about the hotel because it wasn’t like that when we went :/ it is in a nice location and they have great activities on site but the rooms did seem like they needed more tlc. Thanks for the update and I’ll be sure to include it in the post.
Leaving in 7 days for a 2 week trip. So excited 🙂
Do you recommend I take US or Colones?
If I pay US, will they give the change in Colones or US?
Thanks for the tips!!! Your blog has been very helpful while planning our trip!
Hi Anne, you don’t need to exchange currency to colones before your trip, USD are readily accepted in Costa Rica. You can use USD at the supermarket, restaurant, souvenirs shops and they will give you your change back in colones.
We love the article, excellent advice! By contacting hotels directly and making a reservation directly on their website, you are helping small independent business and not a global company such as booking.com to which they have to pay commission. Perhaps you could recommend people to check directly on the hotel website as a growing number of hotels do actually have their own reservation systems with secure methods to store credit card information, and by supporting them you are keeping more of your tourist dollar within Costa Rica!
I am traveling to Manuel Antonio solo traveling . Staying at hostel Selena Antonia . Hostel got great reviews .
I like to party and drink and eat. Just wanna sit at the beach relax meet some people and explore the country side maybe do a waterfall adventure of some sort . I’m on a tight budget arriving around 1pm to San Jose .
My plan is to try and share a cab to the bus terminal then take bus to the hostel, is that recommended ?
Also little concerned about the cost of food and drinks, perhaps I can get some groceries from a market and they have a kitchen at hostel. Plus hostel offers breakfast every day for 5$ extra .
I just hope eating will not be really expensive as I want to spend 2-300 for the 7 days I’m there (not including my accommodations) I want to know if this is a reasonable budget ? Any advise would be much appreciated !! Thank you!
You can take Uber if you have Internet in San Jose (cheaper than a taxi) and then grab a bus to Manuel Antonio. Manuel Antonio is not a cheap destination since it’s super touristic so you may find it to be too expensive for your budget.
Since your budget is $70 a day per person, you can rent a car but you’d have to rent a smaller car like the compact ones to stay within your budget. I don’t know if you guys are staying at hostels or hotels or where you guys are, but in most touristic areas like Manuel Antonio or Fortuna, the roads are well paved and maintained so you can get around with a sedan or compact, you won’t need a 4×4. Manuel Antonio National Park is an easy to get to, convenient and very pretty national park as well as Arenal Volcano and Poas. There is good hiking at those places and Manuel Antonio has beaches too (here is our guide Manuel Antonio National Park). Most national parks that are easy to get to are touristic but since you have a strict budget that doesn’t really have any room to rent a 4×4 or take tours, it’ll be hard to get to the less touristic ones like Corcovado National Park.
I want to spend a month near the beach and jungle learning Spanish. I would like to hang out with expats to see if I want to move there in 2 years. I’m in my mid 50’s very active and a school teacher. I might teach English a little while I’m there. I will travel solo, but want to connect with expat groups.
Sounds like a great plan! Have a great time Beth!
Is there a bank in Tamarindo where we can pay our exit tax before going to the airport? I heard the airport line can be very long.
Hi Kris, the exit tax has been included in airplane tickets for awhile now so if you bought your ticket within the last year, the exit tax should be included. There is a large bulletin board inside the airport that will say which tickets need to pay it and since the exit tax has been included in tickets, the line is pretty much empty now.
Love your Blog! It’s a wealth of helpful information.
I’ll be traveling to Playas Del Coco for the month of February, and would like to book a few tours. One of which is the day or overnight trip to Nicaragua. I see that I might possibly be able to book through you. Could you also help me arrange other tours. I enjoy beach, zip lining, hot springs, national parks, yoga, local festivals, social gathering spots. I was there last March for a couple of weeks, so I have a little bit of familiarity. However, I’ll be traveling solo, this time, and want to ensure a safe, fun time.
Hi Rosetta, I just sent you an email 🙂
Hi Karla, here’s our post on things to do in Guanacaste:
We are headed there in February and I am enjoying reading your tips. We have no idea what to expect. We are only there for 3 full days. Are there any recommendations you can give me on a must do? We are not the zip line, water rafting type:) It is an all expense paid vacation other than personal expenses. We are staying in Guanacaste.
Hi Sam, tried to checked into airbnb and claim your $35 but not sure how it works.can you pls direct me?Thank you,just made some reservation but not ure how to claim friends referral fee.
Hi Katerina, you have to sign up with a new account when you click this link: https://www.airbnb.com/c/sw39 ($20 credit, Airbnb controls how much the credit is) so unfortunately if you already made an account and reservation, you won’t be able to get the credit. It’s for new sign ups so you’ll have to make a new account.
Do you have any suggestions for hiring a private driver? We would love to just relax and enjoy the country while someone else navigates.
Hi Lauren, hiring a private driver is a great way to relax and not have to worry about driving. You want to go with a bigger tour/transportation company as they cover more of the country, Jacamar is an excellent one as they have offices and shuttles throughout all of Costa Rica.
Evelyn Slater-Shew says
This is THEE most helpful article I have seen on Costa Rica…period. I truly appreciate you posting this! I am going in December! 😀
Thank you Evelyn! I put a lot of time into the post so glad to hear it is helpful. Hope you have an awesome time in CR 🙂
Marissa & Alain says
My husband and I just came back from a 16 day tour in Costa Rica, we enjoyed it very much and your tips are really very helpful. Thanks for accepting me as your mytantfamily .. We will for sure come back . People are so friendly, fruits are so fresh except the road we took . It was unpaved, long and winding road, I guess we missed the turn and ended up climbing on the top of the mountain .. Overall it was an adventure that we will always treasure .
Thanks to you Sam and yieson for the helpful advise !
So happy to hear you had a great time! Also glad the blog is helpful! Thanks for being a loyal reader 🙂
Considering I already have tours and hotels paid, and 3 tour already includes breakfast and lunch, so the money is going to be only for food, drinks and some souvenirs…
How much money do you think I’ll need?
It all depends where you go to eat and drink there are cheap an expensive places every where you go, you can pay $6 for a “casado” in a Costa Rica Restaurant or you can go to a tourist fancy place and pay $50 for lunch. It is hard to say how much you will spend. Most of the places here take credit cards.
Steph of Big World Small Pockets says
I love Central America, one reason being it’s still so cheap to travel there. If you’re coming from Europe however, airfares can be expensive. However, a great tip for bringing this cost down is to look for flights with companies that deal with package holiday groups a lot – they often sell off spare seats at ridiculously cheap prices. JetBlue are a great airline in this respect and I’ve heard of many people getting crazy bargains on flight from UK-Liberia
Jetblue is a great airline! I know that Thompson has been throwing promos and direct flights from the UK to Liberia, we’ve been seeing a lot more British people here recently. More flights are opening up from everywhere, I think there is even direct flights from Spain!
Thanks for posting these are all tips helpful!
I am definitely pinning this for later. I’ve been dying to get to Costa Rica and am planning a trip in the next year or so. Thanks for posting these are all incredibly helpful!
Hi Madi! You’re very welcome and glad to hear it is helpful!