How Much Does It Cost to Travel Costa Rica on a Budget? [Infographic]

Costa Rica is not a cheap country to travel, although it is possible to travel Costa Rica on a budget.

We’ve kept our travel budget really low here in Costa Rica thanks to house sitting, but during our travel breaks we have to be more conscious about what we’re spending. Our travel budget is near to the rock-bottom expenditure for a night’s accommodation, 3 meals per day, local transport, and minimal costs for activities. This travel budget does not include flights.

Cost of Travel Costa Rica on a budget - Charlie on Travel

Where we Travelled

All of our travels in Costa Rica have been during green season, which is off-peak here. We spent a couple of days exploring San José, took a short trip to Arenal and travelled along the Pacific coast through Quepos and Manuel Antonio. In October, we were extremely lucky to be in Ostional for the sea turtle arribada.

Charlie and Nate in Manuel Antonio NP - Charlie on Travel

Budget Accommodation in Costa Rica

Budget accommodation in Costa Rica is quite good, but usually means sharing a dorm room in a hostel. For the most part this also means cold showers and no breakfast included.

Fill Up in the Sodas

I actually love eating at sodas, which are cheap local eateries that serve up typical Costa Rican dishes. The only drawback is that the food on offer is often very similar and being vegetarian limits your choice even more, but veggie options are available. We would nearly always eat a vegetarian casado which made up of three staples – rice, black beans and eggs. Casados sometimes also include extras like salad, vegetables, fried plantain, cheese or tortillas.

Chaz eats more and more gallo pinto - travel costa rica on a budget
Me eating more and more gallo pinto.

Activities During Our Travels

National parks are always a good budget option. Once you’ve paid your entry fee (usually around $10) you can spend the whole day walking and wildlife spotting. I highly recommend Manuel Antonio National Park to anyone travelling to Costa Rica.  We had a brilliant time tree climbing at Hacienda Baru, and touring the eco-farm and kayaking through the mangrove forests at Isla Violin. Our most awesome travel adventure in Costa Rica was hands down the turtle arribada in Ostional, however this only occurs at very specific times of the year so make sure to research before you go!

Arenal volcano - Charlie on Travel
Me at the Arenal Volcano viewpoint (apparently).

It’s not a cheap country for travelling, but I’m not the only travel blogger to say that it is possible to travel Costa Rica on a budget. Without breaking the bank, we ate delicious local food, hiked in some amazing places, and saw some incredible wildlife.

Are you travelling to Costa Rica soon, or maybe you’ve been before? I’d love to hear if you managed to beat our travel budget!

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

21 thoughts to “How Much Does It Cost to Travel Costa Rica on a Budget? [Infographic]”

  1. Oh the veggie casado – my savior in CR! We were also pretty disappointed by the prices in CR (compared to what we were getting) which is why we left so early. Great post laying it all out!
    Polly recently posted…July in PhotosMy Profile

    1. Mine too! Yes, the prices aren’t great for what you get, that’s for sure. But Costa Rica has some incredible nature and places to see, so we’re still here! House sitting has really helped us stay here for longer though.

      I’m interested to see how travelling in Nicaragua will compare!

  2. Yes, Costa Rica was actually surprisingly cheap for us! We went in with really inflated ideas of how much everything would cost, but it really wasn’t bad. It’s more expensive than most of its Central American neighbours, but not excessively so.

    It’s also awesomely cheap because so much stuff is outdoors and free. We spent a week in Puerto Viejo, and there’s so much to see and do there that doesn’t require any more than a bus fare. Even the tours and excursions weren’t too expensive- £15 for the sloth sanctuary (although I paid a LOT more for the Insider Tour there), £10 for the Jaguar Rescue and about £15-20 for a kayaking trip down the river etc.
    Jo recently posted…Sloths of Costa Rica- A Trip to the Sloth SanctuaryMy Profile

    1. Yes, the same happened to us! We heard it was comparable to the US/UK/Europe, but the cost of eating in sodas was so low that we saved plenty. Though we did have to search around for accommodation a bit.

      We were just in Granada, Nicaragua and didn’t find the prices much different. I’ll be interested to see what other (less touristy) places are like in other Central American countries for sure.

      Yes! So many incredible natural places to walk etc. We’re planning to head there for sure sometime in the next 6 months, That’s sounds amazing! Thanks for those tips, definitely going to visit the jaguar rescue centre :)

    1. I think you’re right! And thanks, we had to work reasonably hard to make travelling in Costa Rica cheap though.

      No cockroaches! We saw one in a restaurant the other day, which was unfortunate because they had a drain running through their courtyard, but never in accommodation. They were everywhere in SE Asia, just because of the climate and they were looking for heat from buildings when it was cold.

  3. Ahhh, I’d love to go to Costa Rica so much right now. I’d never given South America a thought at all but the last few months I’ve been really wanting to head that way. Thanks for the info here!

    1. I hope you make it some time! The nature is amazing here. I’ve still not made it to South America, but there’s so much to see in Central America that I’m not sure I will for quite a while…

  4. The prices of accommodation are not as high as I thought and the food is so affordable! Added to my bucket list :). I see you’re always happy when eating – so much like me!!

    1. It takes a bit of searching to find well priced accommodation, but there are sodas everywhere, so finding affordable food is a breeze!

      Jaja, I’m always happy when I’m eating healthy, veggie foods. I actually get really moody eating fried or greasy foods haha :/

  5. I was in Costa Rica briefly in February on my way to Nicaragua and am now thinking if I should go back to Costa Rica or perhaps Guatemala next winter..And travel costs play a big part in decision making!! I don’t really like to ‘rough it’ anymore but I would love to see more Costa Rica. And not spend tons of money. I know, it’s a challange :D But at least I found that in Costa Rica you get what you pay for, usually anyway!
    Annika – Live Laugh Explore recently posted…A story about tourism and community developmentMy Profile

    1. Costa Rica is incredible for nature for sure, though we were pretty much as roughing it as you get during our travels without camping or cutting out 2 coffees per day haha.

      I’ve not been to Guatemala but was just reading about it today. We’re hoping to head north next year, after some more time in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. We’ve not been to the Caribbean side here yet, so that’s a must!

  6. So happy I have found your blog! Off to Costa Rica and Nicaragua in october – have a flight home after a month but looking to see what happens and stay longer! This has made me excited indeed!

  7. I love your infographic! It’s definitely possible to travel Costa Rica on a budget, it just takes a little bit more careful planning. As you probably know not all information about CR is online so a lot of it you can find when you’re there – but a lot of people don’t like to show up without a hotel booked at least which costs more. We found that it’s fairly easy to travel (and live) in CR on a good budget, even in the beach town we’re at which is considered one of the most expensive in the country. It’s definitely not as cheap as Nicaragua but that’s just how it is.
    Samantha recently posted…Happy Holidays from Yeison and Samantha!My Profile

    1. Thanks, Samantha! I hope that you and Yeison are keeping well :) Did your travels in Taiwan go well? Are you back in CR yet?

      I agree, travelling in CR means really paying attention to your budget but it is possible – and I definitely agree that going online isn’t the cheap way to find hostels or hotels here. House sitting really made a massive difference to us and I don’t think we’d have been able to stay in CR for so long and enjoy such awesome places without it actually. I don’t include the money we save from house sitting in the budget infographics though, otherwise it’d make CR look crazy cheap haha!

    1. It is really expensive and staying on budget took a lot of conscious effort! We’ve managed to spend a lot of time in Costa Rica thanks to house sitting (not included in our travel budget costs), but I have to say that if we didn’t have house sits we probably would’ve been stressed out trying to stay on budget. Are you travelling in CR now?

  8. Hi Charlie, nice entry. I had a great time traveling in Costa Rica with my girlfriend, we spent less than $20 per day each and had a great time! My favorite place was Corcovado National Park, we spent a week here.

    Our budget for Costa Rica: $512 (270 479 CRC) in 26 days, thus $19.69 (10 400 CRC) per day, including accommodation, food, transport and activities and we had an amazing time. Biggest money savers, we stayed away from alcohol, drank the tap water, no taxis and the biggest one, food we bought food at supermarkets and cooked ourselves.

    Break up of our budget:
    Transport: CRC 29 377 ($55) avg CRC 1129 ($ 2.11) per day
    Food (shopping): CRC 71 850 ($135) avg CRC 2763 ($5.20) per day
    Accomodation: CRC 146 886 ($276) avg CRC 5321 ($10) per day
    To see what we did, where we stayed, what we ate and for a break up of our budget

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