Costa Rica is a tropical paradise and a must-see for anyone who loves blue skies, tropical forest and sun. The country offers an array of activities from national parks, deep sea fishing, rainforest tours and white water rafting. Whether you want to relax on white sands or hike through jungles, Costa Rice will be the perfect place for you.
But, how can you explore the amazing sights of Costa Rica on a budget? When you see the stunning photos that are taken in this dreamy location, it is hard to imagine ever experiencing a place like this for cheap.
This guide will give you a complete rundown of how to have the perfect holiday in Costa Rice on a budget. You don’t always have to break the bank to have the holiday of a lifetime!
Things to do in Costa Rica on a budget
A holiday can be expensive! Luckily, a trip to Costa Rice doesn’t have to use up all of your savings. There are plenty of great ways to enjoy yourself in this beautiful country on a budget. Just because these experiences are cheap doesn’t mean that they are not fun! The beauty of Costa Rica is that paradise sits at every corner, so you never have to spend much money to have a good time.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of Costa Rica’s most popular National Parks and home to 2.5% of the world biodiversity. In fact, 10% of the plants that live in the cloud forest cannot be found anywhere else in the world! The reserve has rightfully been named by local people as one of the country’s seven wonders and is located on a mountain that brings glorious forests to the clouds.
This exquisite national gem is a treasure trove of wonderful plants, animals and views that leave you breath taken. The park is open to everyone and will not disappoint! If you like to have action-packed holidays, why not try a hiking tour through the canopy? For those who want to relax, you could take your favorite book to a quiet spot and read amongst the clouds. Or, if you are interested in learning about the many species that are native to Costa Rice, you could try out bird watching as you stroll through the trees.
When exploring this stunning location, be prepared for rain! The weather in this National Park is cooler than most other parts of Costa Rica and sees an impressive 97 inches of rainfall each year. This weather helps to drive the beautiful forest and is worth experiencing for the stunning views of Monteverde. The reserve does come with an entry fee of $25 – but 100% of this gets put back into the forest. It is definitely worth the price and is a must-see for any Costa-Rican tourist.
La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Picture yourself in a quaint town, with beautiful blue skies and pretty churches. If that sounds like bliss to you, then you will fall in love with the little town of La Fortuna. This pretty location is on the doorstep of Arenal Volcano National Park and is home to many beautiful waterfalls, hot springs and pretty flowers that provide the perfect backdrop to a romantic day of adventure.
Despite the towns small size, you will not run out of things to do in this pretty corner of Central America. One of the most popular attractions in the town is the hot springs, which are dotted around at the base of the famous volcanoes. Hot-springs are an experience that you will never forget! They use energy from the earth’s core to generate heat which creates a natural bath of hot, relaxing mineral water. The springs are meant to have many health benefits and can be enjoyed by anyone- plus they are free to use as much as you would like!
Another popular activity, for those who don’t mind heights, is zip lining from the Arenal Volcano. From the ziplines, you will be able to take in the breathtaking views of La Fortuna and feel a rush of adrenaline as you speed to the bottom of the volcano. There are many other great attractions in La Fortuna and, many of them cost no money at all! This is the perfect location for an enjoyable day out in Costa Rica on a budget.
Surfing in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the best-surfing destinations in America. The country offers clear waters, white sands, luscious waves and hot sun – everything required for a day of catching waves. Whether you are a complete newbie or a pro surfer, having fun in the waters of Costa Rica is by far one of the best experiences that you will get in this amazing country.
Costa Rica’s waters are both Pacific and Carrabian – making them crystal blue and perfectly warm! Some of the best surf beaches include:
- Playa Santa Teresa – Located in the northern pacific coastline, great for beginner surfers!
- Playa Cocles – A lively beach surrounded by jungle and banana plantations.
- Playitas – Home to some very friendly locals and on the doorstep of one of the country’s best National Parks.
- Playa Tamarindo – Perfect fast-breaking waves, friendly locals and golden sands.
Costa Rica is proud to be one of the friendliest countries in the world which makes surfing here even better! The locals will all be very happy to guide you to the hotspots for surfing and to teach you their tips and tricks when it comes to the waves. It costs nothing to enter the water and boards can be hired for a very small price per day from local towns.
When you are traveling in Costa Rica, you definitely need to experience surfing! It is one of the best activities to do on a budget in this magnificent country.
On a budget but still want to travel? Costa Rica is listed as one of 20 affordable destinations in 2020 by @outsidemagazine.
— Visit Costa Rica (@Visit_CostaRica) February 2, 2020
Scuba Diving in Costa Rica
Another great way to make the most of Costa Rica’s pristine waters is to have a go at scuba diving! The oceans surrounding Costa Rica are famous for their abundance of coral, marine life and sea-plants.
The best locations for scuba diving in Costa Rica is Cano Island. Cano Island is part of a biological reserve of healthy coral reefs and thriving marine life. This means that a dive into these waters will never be a disappointment – you will be able to experience the true beauty of Costa Rica. If you have experience in diving as well as your own equipment, this is an activity that is completely free! Perfect for exploring Costa Rica on a budget. If you don’t feel quite as comfortable in the water, you are able to book scuba diving lessons or even tours that are held by professionals and great for leaning your way around exploring the sea. Prices usually start at $195.
A taste of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a vibrant, lively country with many beautiful beaches, tropical rainforests and pretty towns to explore. On top of all of this excitement, you will need to find some good food to enjoy that will satisfy your tastebuds and give you the energy needed for your travels.
Costa Rica has plenty of delicious food on offer. Cooking with traditional recipes and ingredients, many dishes include rice and beans along with a variety of flavored meats or meat substitutes. Rice and beans may sound a little boring at first but, the people of Costa Rica do not skimp on flavor and will turn the simplest of ingredients into something incredible!
A very popular dish that is on offer is the ‘Casado’ (meaning ‘married man’). This dish takes traditional rice and beans and adds sweet fried plantains for an exciting, new flavor. This dish is the perfect mixture of savoury and sweet and will satisfy any tastebuds.
Another Costa Rican food that you must try is Patacones. These are green plantains that are peeled, chopped and boiled. The boiled slices are then fried and chopped with lime and salt to satisfy your cravings and create a world of flavor in your mouth. These delicious traditional delicacies are served in most restaurants and street food stands around the country and is a favorite of many.
The simple ingredients of most Costa Rican dishes mean that food is very affordable here – you are bound to be able to try some great restaurants whilst exploring Costa Rica on a budget. The food in this country is amazing, and we can guarentee you won’t go home disappointed.
Traveling around Costa Rica
With so many amazing destinations on offer in Costa Rica, you will need to travel between locations affordably. Luckily, Costa Rica has some excellent transportation options for tourists that can get you from place to place for a very budget friendly price.
One of the most popular transport options in Costa Rica is to rent a car. This is a good option for solo travelers who may not want to be waiting around for public transport alone in a new country. Cars are fairly cheap to rent and are a very reliable way to get around. To rent a car, you will need to have a drivers licence from your home country.
Buses are also a common and affordable way to get around Costa Rica. Buses run frequently through almost every part of the country and the service onboard is always excellent. Getting a bus to the sights of Costa Rica will also give you a chance to meet some local people and get a real taste of what it’s like to live in this beautiful part of the world.
Where to stay in Costa Rica on a budget
With the rainforest just a stone’s throw away from each town and beautiful beaches on every doorstep, it’s to no surprise that Costa Rica offers some amazing places to stay. Luckily for you, many of these places are affordable and perfect for a low-cost holiday to this dreamy location.
Volcano Lodge Hotel
Volcano Lodge hotel really is as luxurious as it sounds. This beautiful hotel offers spectacular volcano views providing a taste of natural beauty right outside your door. Located in La Fortuna, you will not be disappointed on your visit to this hotel. The best part about this retreat? It starts at just $106 dollars a night! For exploring Costa Rice on a budget, this hotel may seem a little pricey, however, it could be the perfect spot for just a couple of nights of relaxation in the midst of your adventures through South America.
The hotel provides a thermal spa in which you can indulge yourself in the luxuries that this volcanic town offers. Even if it’s for only a night or two, you have to experience this beautiful place whilst visiting Costa Rica.
Los Pinos Cabanas Y Jardines
If you are looking for a peaceful jungle retreat that will bring you to the heart of nature, these cabins will be the perfect place for you. Located on the edge of Monteverde reserve, you will be able to easily walk to some beautiful hotspots- including the forest in the clouds. This is the perfect retreat for couples who want to escape everyday life or for keen nature lovers hoping to take in the biodiversity of Costa Rica.
Staying in a cabin provides you with your own personal retreat that you can use to relax in after a bust day of activities in the surrounding area. All cabins come fully furnished with everything that you will need for your trip and are a great home away from home.
Hostels in San Jose
If you’re staying in Costa Rica on a budget, San Jose city is the perfect place for you! It is in the centre of the country so slightly further from natural hotspots than other popular areas in Costa Rica but, this means that accommodation is cheap. You can easily get to all popular attractions using rent a car business that are dotted around the city or by using public transport.
Hostels are a great, cheap alternative to a traditional hotel. Hostels will still provide you with furnished rooms and washing facilities but are shared with other travelers. This gives you the opportunity to meet like-minded people and make valuable friendships whilst you travel. Being such a busy city, San Jose has many Hostels to chose from.
Capital Hostel De Ciudad
This accommodating hostel prides itself on the friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere. Anyone will feel at home in this clean, well-furnished place that provides the perfect space to rest throughout your cultural experience in South America.
The staff in the Capital Hostel are all incredibly friendly and pay attention to every detail of your stay. From cleaning the rooms to checking that you are okay- they will always welcome you into the lively city. Private rooms start at just $39 per night and shared dormitory beds are even cheaper at just $13 dollars per night. That means a whole week in the hostel could cost under $100!
Stray Cat Hostel
As you might be able to tell from its name, Stray Cat hostel invites all kinds of keen travelers who are exploring the bustling city of San Jose. The hostel itself is located between bus stations and the largest park in the city, making it convenient for your daily activities and enjoying the wonders that San Jose has to offer.
Stray Cat Hostel offers both private rooms and shared dormitory to suit whatever your needs may be. The rooms are fully furnished with modern, rustic furniture that will make you feel at home in the heart of the city. All of the facilities are cleaned regularly by the friendly staff. Private rooms cost $23 per night and shared dormitories $12 per night of your stay. This is a great option for exploring Costa Rica on a budget.
How much should I budget for a trip to Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is the perfect place for a luxurious vacation, without the costs that usually come with luxury. You can comfortably indulge in the tropical rainforests, golden sands, crystal clear waters and blue skies that this country has to offer without breaking the bank.
Many of the attractions in Costa Rica are completely free of charge. Places of natural beauty can be found around every corner and don’t cost a cent to experience whilst the beaches are easily accessible and welcome anyone who wants to recline on the glorious sands and listen to the sound of the waves. The food in this country is also highly affordable. Costa Rica is famous for offering an array of delicious cuisine for low prices that can be found in every city.
So, how much exactly should you budget for a trip to Costa Rica?
The amount of money that you will need entirely depends on your individual wants and needs. Some people don’t mind sharing cheap dormitories in hostels and would rather spend money on adventure tours and experiences. Others want to find a peaceful retreat with spectacular views but don’t mind skimping on food or activities. Whatever the case, Costa Rica can definitely be visited on a budget.
For a week of exploring Costa Rica, it is recommended that you budget at least $850. This will allow you to experience this part of the world fully whilst knowing that you have a bit of spare cash if you need it.
The best way to stay within your budget is to plan out your daily activities and set aside the money that you will need for each day. You should also make the most of markets and small business- they will often sell food and other goods for cheap prices. By doing this, you will also be able to fully experience the cultural landscape of Costa Rica.