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Is Costa Rica Expensive? Actual Costs To Visit In 2024

Is Costa Rica Expensive? Actual Costs To Visit In 2024


Costa Rica is a beautiful country to visit, especially if you’re in the mood for pretty beaches and jungle adventures. It has become the place to visit in Latin America over the past 10 years, and for good reason. Of course, with that popularity comes an increase in prices. Costa Rica has become quite pricey compared to its neighboring countries, but it’s still cheap compared to popular tourist destinations in North America and even Western Europe. 

After visiting the country several times and traveling by a lot of different means, we think we have a good idea of the actual costs of travel in Costa Rica. Heck, we even have good friends who moved down there and are loving it, as well as other friends who owned and ran a hotel in Costa Rica for years. This is first-hand information.

So, how much money do you need to travel to Costa Rica, and is budget travel in the country even possible? Let’s dive into the budget breakdown for a Costa Rica holiday. 

Is It Expensive To Visit Costa Rica? 

Is It Expensive To Visit Costa Rica
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Costa Rica is kind of an expensive country to visit. It’s more expensive than other Central American countries, but it’s still generally affordable compared to the United States and Western Europe. If you’re coming from a country with a high cost of living, I doubt you’ll find Costa Rica very expensive. 

Also, there are tons of ways you can save money while traveling Costa Rica. Skip the guided tours and explore as much as you can on your own, and try to avoid restaurants that cater specifically to English-speaking tourists. Most tours and restaurants that aim to attract as many English-speaking visitors as possible have special prices for tourists and charge them three times as much as they do locals. If there’s at least one fluent Spanish speaker in your group, it should be easy to avoid the inflated tourist prices when visiting Costa Rica. 

On top of that, it will be significantly cheaper to visit the country in the off-season. Plan a trip between May and November, and you can save a lot of money on flights, accommodation, activities, and even food. As long as you don’t mind that it’s the rainy season (but still warm), you can still have a ton of fun in Costa Rica. 

Common Questions About Visiting Costa Rica

Costa Rica Expenses
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Costa Rica Expenses
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Is Costa Rica Expensive For Holidays? 

Costa Rica is an expensive holiday destination compared to other countries in Central America. But if you choose your hotel wisely, enjoy the free attractions, and be smart about where you eat, a trip to Costa Rica doesn’t have to break the bank. 

What Is The Average Cost of a Trip to Costa Rica?

The average cost of a trip to Costa Rica is $800-1,300 USD for mid-range travelers. It’s possible to travel to the country with a smaller budget of around $500, but that doesn’t include the cost of a return flight. 

How Much Does An Average Meal Cost in Costa Rica? 

An average meal in Costa Rica costs $15. Plenty of cheaper and pricier options are available, but $15 should get you a nice meal in most restaurants. 

How Much Money Do You Need For 7 Days In Costa Rica? 

You need at least $1,200 for seven days in Costa Rica with accommodation and a return flight (from the US). Although the country can be explored on a smaller budget, it’s not quite as enjoyable if you miss out on fun activities for the sake of saving money.

Cost Of Accommodation 

Accommodation cost in Costa Rica
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Accommodation cost in Costa Rica
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Costa Rica is a good destination for anyone because the accommodation options range from $20 dorm beds to all-inclusive resorts that are $1,000+ per night. Whether you want to travel cheap or live it up, you will find plenty of options in your price range. 

Budget travelers are most likely to stay at private apartments, hostels, or cheap hotels. The average Costa Rican hostel charges $20 for a dormitory bed, so the weekly budget for accommodation in Costa Rica can be as low as $120. I will say that if you’re traveling with another person, renting an apartment is probably the best budget-friendly option. 

For about $350-400 per week, you can rent a spacious one-bedroom apartment for two, where you will have a private bathroom and kitchen. Because you’ll have access to a kitchen,  you can cook most of your meals and save quite a bit of money on food. And that’s on a budget of $170-200 per person for an entire week.  

A mid-range budget in Costa Rica means you can stay in virtually every type of accommodation in the country, barring a fancy beachfront resort with all-inclusive service. With a budget of $70-100 per night, you can afford the bulk of the accommodation in the country. 

This fantastic five-star hotel is just $150 per night for two,  and this lovely cabin in the mountains is even cheaper. That’s a budget of $400-700 per person for an entire week. 

Luxury travelers might choose to stay in an all-inclusive resort. They’re abundant in Costa Rica, but their cost varies quite a bit depending on the location. An all-inclusive resort with direct beach access will often run you $400-500 per night per person. But choose a resort without direct beach access, and you’ll pay nearly half that amount for the same level of service. In general, expect five-star hotels and all-inclusive resorts to cost $300-500 per night, per person, so about $1,800-3,000 per week. 

Hotel costs in Costa Rica
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Hotel costs in Costa Rica
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How much you spend on the hotel depends quite a bit on where exactly you’re staying in Costa Rica. The Caribbean coast is more affordable than the Pacific coast, largely because the towns there aren’t quite as popular with tourists. 

If you’re just looking for a place where you can have a relaxed vacation, Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast is an equally good option. There are plenty of hotels and resorts where you can enjoy lounging on the beach and sipping cocktails, and you’ll be saving money compared to the resorts on the other side of the country. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that when is just as important as where. Travel to Costa Rica in May or June, and you’ll get the best hotel deals. It’s the beginning of the wet season, so the tourist crowds are minimal, but the weather is still dry enough. Hotels are often up to 50% cheaper in the off-season.  

Mid range hotel in Costa Rica
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Mid range hotel in Costa Rica
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Budget:

Budget travelers can find accommodation in Costa Rica for as little as $10 per night. That’s if you want to camp in a tent on the grounds of a hostel; if you prefer to have a bed in a room and access to a shared bathroom, you’ll need to spend at least $20-25 per night. Double rooms in budget hotels and private apartments are $50-100 per night, and some of the hotels I’ve seen that offer double rooms for $80-100 per night are easily in the mid-range category. 

Mid-Range: 

The options for mid-range travelers range from secluded mountain cabins to five-star hotels. If you can budget about $600 per person for accommodation for the week, you’ll have your pick of hotels and apartments all over Costa Rica. 

Luxury: 

All-inclusive beachfront resorts are the epitome of luxury in Costa Rica. Spend your days relaxing on the beach or by the pool, getting cocktails delivered to your lounge chair. The resorts start at roughly $600 per night for two travelers, with many options that exceed the nightly rate of $1,000. 

Cost of Transportation

Bike Transportation in Costa Rica
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Bike Transportation in Costa Rica
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If you’re not pressed for time and prefer to save money, I say avoid the tourist shuttles at all costs and stick to good old public transportation. Sure, they’re a bit faster than the local buses, but they are also significantly more expensive. A tourist shuttle from Monteverde to San Jose is roughly $50-70, while the public bus is just $7. The shuttle is only an hour quicker, so it’s generally not worth it to spring for this mode of transport, especially if you’re trying to visit Costa Rica on a budget.  

For shorter trips, Uber is preferred to taxis. Local taxi drivers are sometimes sketchy and might try to rip you off; Uber is much safer as you agree to a price beforehand. Uber is also a good option for transfers between two cities that are relatively close to one another, as it can be significantly faster than the bus but not extremely expensive. 

So, what should you budget for transportation? 

It really depends on your travel style. If you don’t plan to spend too much time outside your resort, then you just need to budget for the transfer to and from the airport. 

A rough daily budget for Costa Rica would be $15 for budget travelers, $40 for mid-range travelers, and around $80-100 for luxury travelers. And that’s because you don’t really need to go somewhere far every day of your stay; take one day to walk around the city, or spend a day relaxing on the beach. 

Also, if you plan to go on guided excursions to national parks, split the cost of the activity between the budget for entertainment and transportation. If you can organize the excursion on your own, it will be a lot cheaper, but it’s understandable if you prefer to have a guide with you in a foreign country. 

The cities and towns in Costa Rica are generally walkable, so you don’t need to budget much to explore the tourist attractions. If you stay in downtown San Jose, you’ll be able to walk to every major attraction in the city. I just wouldn’t recommend walking alone after dark, because some areas of the city can be a bit sketchy in the evening. 

Car Rental In Costa Rica

Car Rental costs in Costa Rica
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Car Rental costs in Costa Rica
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Renting a car is generally not a budget travel tip, but it can save you quite a bit of money in Costa Rica. If you’re planning to visit the national parks and travel to more secluded destinations, car rental is by far the cheapest option for getting around the country. 

Car rental is $55-60 per day, including gas and insurance. That’s cheaper than the tourist shuttle per person, and if you’re traveling with more than one other person, it’s a no-brainer. Having a car in Costa Rica also gives you the ultimate freedom to explore the country and allows you to skip guided tours as you don’t need to worry about transportation. Plus, you don’t need it every single day; rent a car for four days of a week’s stay, and that comes out to a transportation budget of $18 per person for the entire week. 

Driving in Costa Rica is generally very safe, and the main roads are in good condition. Roads off the beaten path are not quite as smooth; often, there’s no asphalt, and the potholes can be quite big. If you’re considering car rental just for easy transfers between cities, you will be fine with smaller vehicles. But if you want to explore nature and visit national parks, you’ll encounter rougher roads, and I suggest a vehicle with a high ground clearance. These are usually priced at $75-85 per day. 

Flights to Costa Rica

Flying to Costa Rica
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Flying to Costa Rica
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The bulk of your budget for transportation in Costa Rica will be allocated towards the flight to the country. If you’re coming from the United States, you can usually get a good deal on return flights to Costa Rica. Spirit Airlines offers round-trip flights from Miami that are under $200 per person, which is dirt-cheap compared to the cost of flying out of Europe. 

The cheapest round-trip flights from Europe I’ve seen were around $700, and those were rare. The average cost of a return flight from Europe to Costa Rica was $850, although you might be able to get a better deal if you travel in the off-season. 

Cost of Food

Cost of food in Costa Rica
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Cost of food in Costa Rica
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Eating out in Costa Rica can be pricey if you aren’t familiar with the local tricks. The main thing to know is that many restaurants have menus in Spanish and English, with higher prices on their English menus. These restaurants are tourist traps, and the food is rarely as good as the price would indicate. 

While $30 for a main course isn’t an outrageous amount, it is expensive in Costa Rica, where the average cost of a restaurant meal is $10-20. A $30 meal is almost a luxury treat at a good local restaurant, not just a burger and some fries at a tourist joint. 

The key to eating good but cheap in Costa Rica is to seek out sodas. These are small, family-owned, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that usually don’t even have a menu in English. It’s where all the locals eat, and you can usually have a really nice meal for just $10. You get to eat the best local food and pay the same prices as the locals, which is key for Costa Rica on a budget. 

Food in Costa Rica
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Food in Costa Rica
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Also, it’s important to keep in mind that eating out in San Jose, Tamarindo, and La Fortuna is generally more expensive than in the smaller towns. Destinations off the beaten path will offer better deals both for accommodation and meals, and it’s another reason why you should consider staying in a town that’s not included in all the tourist guides for Central and South America. 

No matter where you stay and how much money you are able to spend on food in Costa Rica, here are some foods that you should aim to try, even if it means you have to splurge: 

Casado is a Costa Rican dish consisting of rice, plantain, black beans, tortilla, salad, and optionally meat. It’s usually $6-10 in a restaurant, depending on whether it includes meat.   

Gallo Pinto is another traditional Costa Rican dish based on beans and rice. It is traditionally served for breakfast with fried eggs and usually costs 3,500-4,500 CRC ($7-9). 
Arroz con leche is to Costa Rica what Tiramisu is to Italy. It’s the best local dessert that you can find in virtually every restaurant, and it’s so delicious that you’ll want to eat it after every meal. The sweet rice pudding is usually priced at 1,300-2,000 CRC, which is roughly $3-4. 

Grocery Shopping In Costa Rica

Grocery Shopping in costa Rica
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Grocery Shopping in costa Rica
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Budget travelers are unlikely to eat out for every meal in Costa Rica. You can save a fair amount of money if you shop for groceries and cook meals, especially on longer trips. Local grocery stores in Costa Rica are abundant in affordable fresh fruit and vegetables, and you can often get great deals from locals selling produce at stalls on the side of the road. Even just 1,000 CRC ($2) goes a long way in Costa Rica and is enough for a home-cooked meal. Pineapple is really cheap in Costa Rica, and you can usually get three pieces for about $2. 

A weekly budget of 25,000 CRC ($50) is enough to cover breakfast and dinner for two, as well as drinks. It’s best to shop at local supermarkets; Maxi Pali even has an online shop where you can check out the prices and availability of ingredients in the closest shop to you.

Also, many grocery stores in the bigger cities in Costa Rica have a prepared foods section. Meals are usually priced at 2,000-3,000 CRC ($4-6), and the portions are very generous. It won’t be the tastiest food you eat in Costa Rica, but it will keep you full, and it’s cheaper than eating out. 

How Much To Budget For Food In Costa Rica

Food Budget for Costa Rica
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Food Budget for Costa Rica
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Budget travelers who shop for groceries and eat out only a couple of times can easily get by with a budget of $50 per week. Eating a few vegetarian meals will be even cheaper, as fresh produce is generally very affordable in Costa Rica. 

Mid-range travelers might do one grocery run and then eat out for one meal per day. If they stick to sodas, a budget of $100-150 per week for one person should be enough. Some days, you’ll spend a little less, and others, you’ll spend a little more, but that amount of money should be enough to cover all meals and drinks in Costa Rica. 

Luxury travelers are more likely to eat for every meal unless they’re staying in all-inclusive accommodation. Fancy restaurants in Costa Rica are quite expensive, and the price of main courses ranges from $25-40. A tasting menu in San Jose’s fanciest restaurant is around $110 per person without wine pairings, so you could easily spend north of $1,000 just on food if you wanted. 

But say you eat breakfast at the hotel, go to a more affordable place for lunch, and splurge for dinner. That’s a budget of $300-500 per week for food and drinks. 

Cost of Activities

Hiking in Costa Rica
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Hiking in Costa Rica
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How much money will you spend on sightseeing and activities while you’re in Costa Rica? That largely depends on what you like to do; there are many free things to do in Costa Rica, and you could easily explore a good chunk of the country without spending anything. Discover the hiking trails, swim in the sea, and walk around San Jose, marveling at the architecture and the local vibes. 

But if you want to visit a popular place like Arenal Volcano National Park, or enjoy an afternoon of deep-sea fishing, the costs quickly add up. I like how Costa Rica is good both for travelers who prefer to explore the free activities and for those who want to experience those bucket list adventures. The latter is going to be the pricier alternative, but worth it for the experience. 

One thing to note is that many of the touristy things to do in Costa Rica have special prices for foreigners, which allows them to keep the costs low for locals. It is a bit infuriating to pay $20 for something that’s free for most other people, but that’s just part of traveling to Costa Rica. 

Jungle trekking in Costa Rica
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Jungle trekking in Costa Rica
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Budget travelers are likely to stick to free activities and enjoy 2-3 paid excursions during their stay. A rough budget of $20 per activity gives you a wide variety of options, as it covers everything from kayaking to national park entrances and access to waterfalls. A weekly budget could be as low as $50, but I recommend increasing it because the activities are the best thing about Costa Rica. If you can manage a weekly budget of $100 for entertainment, you can even squeeze in one of the pricier experiences like ziplining in Monteverde or La Fortuna’s hanging bridges. 

Mid-range travelers will probably want to do something fun every day of their stay. A weekly budget of $150-200 should be enough to discover Costa Rica’s natural beauty and have fun the entire time. 

Luxury travelers are most likely to spring for pricey activities like scuba diving or white water rafting. If you’re doing something that costs $100 every day, you can easily spend $600-700 for a week in Costa Rica. 

Budget For 1 Week in Costa Rica

One week budget for costa rica
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One week budget for costa rica
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Here’s a breakdown of a mid-range budget for one week in Costa Rica: 

$600 for accommodation 
$150 food
$250 for transportation 
$200 for activities 
$200 (US) – $850 (Europe) for flights 

That’s around $1,200 per person for an entire week, not including the return flight. And keep in mind I’ve allocated a higher budget for food and activities; if you were to spend a couple of days enjoying the free things to do in Costa Rica and eat out less frequently, you could easily get by with a budget of $1,000 per week. 

Budget travelers can experience Costa Rica for $400-500 in a week, while luxury travelers will spend at least $2,500. I must say that, for luxury travelers, booking an all-inclusive resort drastically reduces the budget for food and drinks. 

Budget For 2 Weeks in Costa Rica

Two week budget for Costa Rica
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Two week budget for Costa Rica
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A two-week budget for a mid-range traveler in Costa Rica is pretty much just double the weekly budget: 

$1,200 for accommodation 
$300 food
$500 for transportation 
$400 for activities 
$200 (US) – $850 (Europe) for flights 

Budget travelers can make do with $800-1,000 for two weeks, while mid-range travelers need $2,000-2,500 for the best experience. Luxury travelers are likely to spend at least $5,000 for an all-inclusive two-week vacation in Costa Rica.   

Costa Rica is definitely one of our favourite countries in Latin America. It doesn’t really matter if you are a backpacker on a budget or someone looking for luxury; you are guaranteed to have an amazing trip. While it is true that Costa Rica is not the cheapest destination in Central America, that doesn’t mean it will break the bank either. If you follow our suggestions above, you will be able to travel Costa Rica knowing that you can keep your budget where you need it and have a great time as well.



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