For anyone planning on coming to Costa Rica, cost is a big concern. We get these questions very often: How much does a trip to Costa Rica cost? Is Costa Rica expensive to visit? Since Costa Rica is known for being fairly expensive, it makes it tougher to travel on a budget and 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. This post will give you an in-depth look and a well rounded idea of your Costa Rica travel expenses but remember, much of it also depends on the type of vacation you’re looking for.
Here is a breakdown of your Costa Rica travel budget. Click the section to skip to it. Prices quotes in USD and per adult unless otherwise stated.
How Much Does it Cost to Fly to Costa Rica?
Now with COVID, you can find cheap plane tickets to Costa Rica no matter the time of year. Many airlines are throwing promos nearly every weekend and in general, prices are cheaper since the travel industry got hit hard for the pandemic.
For example, my flight from Seattle to Liberia in December 2020 was $242.58 with Alaska Airlines (one way) and this was right during the holidays. Normally it’s at least twice that much to fly during Christmas and New Years.
Regardless, do keep in mind that North American summers and the Christmas holidays are more expensive. Before COVID, we paid $700 USD for a round trip from Seattle in July. I once paid $1000 USD for a Seattle – LIR roundtrip flight during Christmas. In September, we’ve gotten flights for $500 USD on the saver fare (basic economy).
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 airport. Liberia is generally more expensive than San Jose because the airport is much smaller with less flights. I generally find flights to be around $100-200 cheaper into San Jose but they are very comparable during certain times of year 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
As Costa Rica is a very touristic country, you will find all types of accommodation options. You have your standard hostels and hotels, but you can also find all-inclusive resorts, tree houses, eco-friendly lodges, camp sites, yoga retreats and surf camps.
Depending on what your budget is and what kind of vacation you want, you can spend as low as $15 a night to $500 a night per person. Touristic areas usually have a ton of options so you’ll be able to find one that fits your needs.
Average Prices for Hotels in Costa Rica
- Hostels: $10-$15 for one bed in a dorm. Not guaranteed to have hot water or AC, usually no breakfast included. Couples can have a private room in a hostel for around $45-60 a night per person (sometimes they will charge more for AC, usually $10 more).
- 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 $200 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 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 10-15%! 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. Expedia is also another popular one but we don’t use Expedia much personally.
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 or decide on a price before you get in the car. Here are Yeison’s tips on taking a taxi in Costa Rica.
- Uber: Uber is very common in San Jose and is 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 during high season (December – April and July). You really need to do your research when it comes to car rentals companies to make sure that they include all the mandatory insurance fees in their final quote and decide if you really want to rent a car for your trip.
- 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 Aerobell. Depending on the time of year and route, flights range from about $70-$250 one way.
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 is to take the bus or even hitchhike but it’s not the most efficient option for those here for a short period of time and don’t want to be sitting on a bus for most of their trip. If you want to rent a car, pick destinations and hotels that do not require a 4wd so you can rent a cheap compact sedan. If you can drive a stick, rent a manual as they are a tad bit cheaper than automatic cars. Work your itinerary so that you can take the bus on some days and rent a car or book shuttles on others.
If you plan to fly on the local airlines, make sure to book asap. If you decide to rent a car or book a shuttle, we recommend to pre-book it. You can usually get one at the airport when you land but generally it’ll be much more expensive. Comparison shop and be aware that prices differ whether you book online, over the phone or in person.
We have some discounts on transportation that will help save money.
Many activities like going to the beach or hiking you can do on your own but 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 certainly skip tours to save money but the trip won’t be quite as fun. It’s always worth it to do at least one tour.
You’ll miss out on a lot of amazing experiences since some natural attractions and landmarks are only accessible through tour companies, especially if you love adventure.
Average Cost of Tours in Costa Rica
Most tours include hotel pick up and drop off and a meal (usually lunch or breakfast). Prices are for adults.
- 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 dive: $115 per adult
- Combo adventure tour (zipline, horseback riding, lunch, mud baths, hot springs, tubing): $100 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
Bargain in low season (September and October) especially for big groups (doesn’t work that well for 1-4 people). For big groups, ask for a group discount or for group prices. Groups are usually 5-10+ people, depending on the company. We’ve saved up to $40 per person by negotiating for big groups.
If you have your own form of transportation (car rental), you can save money by going on your own instead of going with a tour company. Most of the times you can contact the company running the tour and coordinate the time to show up. For example, we drove ourselves to the Buena Vista Combo Tour and got the whole day tour for around $80 per person where normally with a tour company, it goes around $140 per person. Additionally, do self guided hikes instead of guided tours. That way you just pay for the entrance fee and not a full tour.
There are definitely free things to do too, it just takes a bit of research to find them. 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 slightly in the country, depending on where you are. Touristic areas are no doubt more expensive than local or rural areas but even that depends. When we lived in Playas del Coco, we couldn’t get anything at a soda (typical Costa Rican restaurant) for less than $8 to save our lives. In Jaco, an equally touristic beach town there are local restaurants where you can get lunch for $5!
Average Cost of Food in Costa Rica
- A smoothie: ~$1.50 (800 colones)
- Local beer: ~$2.25 (1,200 colones). Depends if you go for happy hour or if you get beer at the supermarket. 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
My best advice for those looking to save money on food? Walk away from the touristic areas at least half a mile. I know that most blogs say that the best tip is to eat only at sodas which is true, but even if you eat at sodas in touristic areas, it can still be expensive.
One more option if you’re sick of sodas is to look for a bakery or panaderia. You can get empanadas, enchiladas and sandwiches for $1-2.
Book a hotel with hot breakfast included (standard in Costa Rica).
One more way to save money on food is by drinking the tap water. Tap water in Costa Rica is actually safe to drink contrary to popular belief but if you are worried or have a sensitive stomach, save money (and help the environment) by bringing your own insulated water bottle and a filter.
You can find Costa Rica souvenir stores everywhere but you can easily spend a lot. 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 and shop at the supermarkets. Many supermarkets in Costa Rica like Maxi Pali have their own small “souvenir” section with cute Costa Rica trinkets and other things. Also do not shop at the airport if you can help it as the airport souvenir shops are expensive!
You can read all about tipping in Costa Rica in this post but basically, tips are not mandatory here, it is not part of the Costa Rican culture. However, since Costa Rica is a touristic country and many locals are used to receiving them from Americans and Canadians, it is kind of expected (but you don’t have to if you don’t want to). The locals do greatly appreciate it though, especially with COVID as many locals who depend on tourism for their livelihood have been out of work for several months.
If you decide to tip, the standard percentage is 10%. You will see this in restaurants under “service tax” which is what they call their tip.
Overall Cost of Traveling in Costa Rica
You can certainly travel in Costa Rica on a budget but as you can see in our breakdown, if you want to have a more exciting trip, it costs a bit more.
Here is an idea of what your trip will be like according to a very general budget (not including airfare) per person:
- For $30-$50 a day, you have to travel quite minimally. Sleep in a bed in a dorm or couchsurf, eat at bakeries or local restaurants and walk around the beach. No tours.
- $75-$100 a day, spend a bit more to 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 mid-range hotel, a few tours and renting a cheaper car like a sedan. Includes meals at places other than sodas and more cocktails or even some craft beer.
- $200-375, you’re looking at nice digs, 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
You will see that I quoted everything in USD in this post and this is because 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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