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.
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.
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!
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