Budget Travel in Costa Rica on the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts

Welcome to Costa Rica, the land of breathtaking beaches, awe inspiring waterfalls, lush rain forests, beautiful mountains and a diversity of wildlife that is sure to amaze you.  The words translate to Rich Coast and once you visit the coast lines of both the Pacific and Caribbean you will understand why. Costa Rica is such a beautiful country. I came for a vacation and decided to make this my new home.  I decided to take a vacation while working with firstsecurityservices.com, rented a house with vacationrentalscostarica.co and they gave me a very good price.  After staying for 3 months I was hooked even though it wasn’t the cheap prices that attracted me here; I have found some great money saving tactics that will lead to Costa Rica budget travel or a cheaper expat life.

Costa Rica Budget Travel Tips

Sunset on Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica. Costa Rica Budget travel.
Sunset on Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica. Flickr: Norm Lanier / CC BY-NC 2.0

Accommodation and Transportation

Costa Rica is not as cheap as it used to be; the word caught on about this magical place and the prices naturally got higher; but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy Costa Rica budget travel. Who needs a 5 star hotel with plush bedding and a hot shower, when you can settle for a hostel bed and a rinse in the ocean or waterfall?

The country is well designed for tourism and backpackers will have plenty of options of hostels to choose from.  The prices for hostels range from $10 to $25.  Some of the hot spots for backpacking are Montezuma, Monte Verde, Tamarindo, Jaco, Playa Hermosa, Tortuguero, Nosara, Manual Antonia, La Fortuna Dominical and San Jose.

The fact is that flights in to Costa Rica are not that expensive; you can check to see if flights are cheaper to San Jose or Liberia.  Whether you fly in to Costa Rica or bus in from Nicaragua or Panama; once you get here the bus system is fairly cheap.  From Liberia and San Jose you can get just about anywhere by bus. Car rental will cost between $30-$100 per day depending on the time of year you travel, insurance coverage and where you rent, touristy areas are always more expensive to rent from when demand is high.

An average bus ticket in Costa Rica will cost about 2500 colones or about $5 and the buses are not that bad.  The public bus systems don’t have air conditioning but the breeze from all the windows being open is refreshing.  If you need air-conditioning and more comfort for a long trip then look to Tica Bus and Trans Nica for a more enjoyable experience and still affordable prices.

Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Costa Rica budget travel
Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Flickr: kansasphoto / CC BY 2.0

Budget Tours For Priceless Adventures

The best time to visit Costa Rica on a budget is during the rainy season which is August to the end of November.  Be prepared to get rained on and when I say rained on I mean be prepared to get drenched.  In many locations the weather is nice during the day and it will cloud over in the afternoon so don’t worry you will get some sunshine plus the cooler temperatures are refreshing.

You will want to take part in some of the tours while visiting; Costa Rica is well known for eco-tourism tours and you don’t want to miss out.  The tours are not cheap, an average price will be around $50 depending on the activity.  A few sites that offer deals on hotels, food, tours and more are Titi Cupon and CR Cupon; these sites are similar to Groupon if you’re familiar with it.  I would always suggest to just ask for a deal if the prices are too high for you; it never hurts to try; I own a ropes course/zip line tour in Jaco and I am always open to giving discounts.  Usually locals don’t pay the full price for tours and if you’re on Costa Rica budget travel so why should you?

Zip line tour in Jaco.Costa Rica budget travel
Zip line tour in Jaco

The Beach Is Always Free

Perhaps the best free thing to do for Costa Rica budget travel is to just relax at the beach, find some shade and chill.  If you are an avid surfer and have a surf board then you will want to bring it along.  The cost of renting a board for the day will be around $20; so if you don’t go surfing very often then it will not be worth it to pay the airline and bus fees.

Surfing at Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Costa Rica budget travel
Surfing at Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Flickr: Mike Vondran / CC BY 2.0

Choose Local Markets Over Grocery Stores

Food in Costa Rica can be expensive; the import taxes are very high so food in the grocery store from other countries is especially expensive.  Your best bet for cheap food is to eat at one of the sodas, which is a buffet style restaurant; the meals are huge and average around $5-$6.  Rice and beans are a staple for families here, and if are looking to save money then rice and beans it is; or beans and rice; or pinto, which is rice and beans.

The next best deal is at the frutarias, where you can buy fresh local organic fruits and vegetables; stay away from buying fruit at the grocery stores which are owned by Walmart and a lot of the produce is imported.  Another place to find cheap food is at one of the bakeries or panerias; there is convenient store called Musmanni that has some great deals on pastries.

Tuna and Rice Dish. Costa Rica budget travel
Tuna and Rice Dish. Flickr: Chris Goldberg / CC BY-NC 2.0

To sum it all up if you’re looking for an incredibly cheap place for budget travel, then Costa Rica might not be the best selection; but if you are looking for an incredible place to visit on a $30-$50 per day budget; then Costa Rica budget travel is a must for the bucket list.  The country is named the happiest place on earth according to the happy planet index.  A popular saying that all the locals live by is “PURA VIDA”; this translates to pure life and there is definitely something pure about life on Costa Rica.

manuel-antonio-monkey. Costa Rica budget travel

About Jason Mueller

Website: http://www.jacoropes.com

Jason is a hard working Canadian entrepreneur currently living in Costa Rica who lives to travel and meet new people. When he is not behind the screen of a computer working you can find him out on an adventure somewhere.

Other posts by the Author

3 Responses

  1. 7 Money Saving Travel Tips For Your Next Vacation | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] in Costa Rica, my wife and I found free hot springs that were beautiful and uncrowded – saving us $50 each […]

  2. Avatar for Jason Mueller


    Thanks for the tips! The pictures are amazing!


Leave a Reply