Cost of Traveling in Costa Rica

Traveling to Costa Rica might cost more than you think. A lot of people expect that because Costa Rica is in Central America, it will be extremely inexpensive. While the price of some things is low compared to what you’re probably used to paying back home, lots of other things are about the same. But don’t fret. If you’re on a budget, it is still possible to visit Costa Rica without making too many sacrifices. In this post, we’ll break down the different types of expenses you’ll have on your trip to help you estimate the cost of traveling in Costa Rica. We’ll also give you some tips for easy ways to find accommodations and save money.

 

Cost of Traveling in Costa Rica | Info on cost of hotels, restaurants, and activities, plus tips to help save you money

Accommodations

Costa Rica’s infrastructure for tourism is very developed, which should be no surprise since tourism is the country’s number one industry. In major tourist destinations, you’ll sometimes find 50 if not more than 100 different hotels. From backpacker hostels, eco-lodges, treehouse lodges, and surf camps to modern bungalows and luxury resorts, Costa Rica has something for everyone when it comes to accommodations.

Here’s what you can expect to pay for accommodations in a major tourist destination:

Hostel: $10-15 for a bed in a shared dorm room.

Budget Hotel: $50-75 for a simple, but clean and comfortable room. For this price, you can typically get a room with a private bathroom, air conditioning, and hot water for the shower (via an electric, on-demand hot water heater).

Mid-Range Hotel: $100-200 for a room with more space and amenities. For this price, you will have all the basics like A/C, hot water, TV, and wifi, as well as additional amenities like a hearty complimentary breakfast, in-room mini-fridge and coffee maker, and a nicely landscaped property with a view and pool.

High-End Hotel: Starting around $250 a night for a well-appointed room with all the amenities. Costa Rica has a range of higher end hotels. Some are more classic, larger hotels with big rooms, an infinity pool, and ocean or jungle views. Others are boutique style and may have less than ten rooms, each uniquely designed with an eye for style and comfort. High-end lodging ranges from around $250 all the way up to $500+ a night for the very best luxury resorts.

 

Cost of Travelling in Costa Rica | Typical hotel with AC for under $100
Deluxe room at a hotel we’ve stayed at, Tirimbina Lodge. Around $100/night gets you a fairly spacious room with A/C and a private terrace.

 

Ways to Save Money on Lodging in Costa Rica

  • Travel during the low season: Rates for hotels are the lowest during the rainy season (months of May through November). You might even be able to find a special 3×2 rate if you stay in a hotel for more than two nights during this time of year. If you do travel during the busier months, try to avoid dates around Christmas, New Years, and Easter. This is when locals take their vacations and high demand drives prices up even more.
  • Visit less touristy areas: Prices are highest in well-established tourist towns. This includes many beach towns like Tamarindo, Nosara, Jaco, and Manuel Antonio, as well as popular towns in the mountains like La Fortuna/Arenal and Monteverde. Lesser known areas tend to be less expensive because the locals want the business.
  • Look for homestay-type lodging: Locals who live in tourism hubs are starting to open up their doors to travelers in an effort to make a little money on the side. If you’re looking for the best deal in town, a homestay is the way to go. People often have completely separate spaces that they rent out too, so you’ll have plenty of privacy. We recently did a homestay in Drake Bay with a local family and saved a ton of money.
  • AirBnb and VRBO: Vacation rentals are located throughout Costa Rica and can be a great way to save money. Recently, we needed a place to stay for just one night near the Papagayo Peninsula. All of the hotels in the area were very expensive or booked up but we managed to find a cute and spacious condo on Airbnb in Playa Ocotal for just $50 a night, about half the normal rate for hotels in the area.

Check out our Costa Rica Travel Discounts page for exclusive discounts on airport hotels, boutique hotels, shared shuttle service, and more.

 

Best Way to Find Lodging in Costa Rica

Hotels in Costa Rica are listed on a variety of booking sites but the one we like the best and use ourselves is Booking.com. Booking.com seems to have the largest selection of hotels and is very user friendly. You just put in your search parameters like where you’re going and your travel dates, and a list of available hotels pops up, ranked by customer satisfaction. You can also narrow your search based on your budget and there’s a map, which is great for figuring out how far a hotel is from a town center or tourist attraction.

The reason Booking.com is such a great tool specifically for Costa Rica is because of the difficulty of using hotel websites. Often times, hotel sites are very simple and don’t have a reservations system, forcing you to use a contact form or call them to find out about availability. We like Booking.com because you can find out right then if a hotel has rooms available and make a reservation at the same time.

 

Cost of Traveling in Costa Rica | Booking websites compare prices and show availability
Screenshot of Booking.com

Transportation

The main ways to get around in Costa Rica are by public bus, rental car, shared or private shuttle van, and small plane.

Public Bus: The bus is by far the cheapest way to get around and can get you almost anywhere in the country. You can expect to pay from $2 to go from one town to the next or to up to $20 to go across the entire country.

Rental Cars: The cost to rent a car is often higher than travelers expect. It’s more expensive than in the US and some other countries, predominately because of mandatory insurance, which you cannot decline by law. Expect to pay around $400-700 per week for a mid-size SUV with four-wheel drive and $300-500 per week for a four-door sedan. Prices are lowest during the rainy season and tend to go down the longer you have the car.

[box type=”bio”] If you’re renting a car, be sure to check out this special discount for our readers to save 10% or more and get free extras.[/box]

 

Shared Shuttle Vans: Several companies offer shared service in air conditioned vans that hold between 8 and 19 passengers. A shared shuttle costs between $40-75 per person depending on how far you’re traveling. We offer a 10% discount on two or more Interbus transfers here.  

Private Shuttle Vans: Private shuttle vans are a good option for families or large groups who don’t want to rent a car. Rates vary significantly depending on your itinerary. You can see a list of the most common routes and book through our Private Shuttle Van page.

Small Planes: NatureAir and Sansa offer domestic flights to some destinations in Costa Rica, which can often save you an entire day of travel. Flights typically cost between $50 and $125.

Tip: Book your small plane flights as far in advance as possible to save money. The companies have different fares available and once the less expensive tickets are sold out, they’re gone. You can see this on the NatureAir website with their three fare options, which range from the least expensive locos option to the most expensive flex option.

 

Cost of Traveling in Costa Rica | Small planes can save time and be affordable
NatureAir small plane. One of the 2 companies in Costa Rica with small-plane service.

Restaurants

Like lodging, eating out in major tourist destinations will be more expensive than in lesser known towns with mostly locals. At a mid-range restaurant, you can expect to pay around $8-12 per person for lunch and $10-20 per person for dinner (including tax and service). While the price for food is comparable to the US, luckily, drinks are a lot cheaper. Many restaurants, especially in beach towns, run 2×1 happy hour specials on cocktails and local beers are just $2-3 a bottle.

Tip: A great money-saving option that will also give you insight into the local culture are sodas. Sodas are the name for local mom and pop restaurants that serve typical, Costa Rican cuisine. They’re a bargain compared to the restaurants that cater to tourists so you’ll definitely want to follow the locals to the busiest one if you’re on a budget. Expect to pay $5-8 for a big plate of food, like the one below, and a fresh fruit smoothie.

 

Cost of Traveling in Costa Rica | Local restaurants give big portions at inexpensive prices
A casado with the house special, smoked ribs

Tours and Activities

The cost for tours depends on the activity, but here are some examples to give you a sense. Keep in mind that most tours include transportation (pick up and drop off at your hotel) and a meal.

Zip-line tour: $50-85

Rafting tour: $70-130

Kayak tour: $50-75

Snorkel or dive tour: Snorkel- $80-100; dive- $120-150

Coffee tour: $15-35

Guided tour of national park or reserve: $25-65 per person 

National Park or reserve (self-guided): $10-16

 

We hope that these estimates help you budget for your trip. Costa Rica may be more expensive than some other Central American countries but don’t let that deter you. If you are like many travelers, one visit will have you coming back again and again.

Have a question about something that we didn’t cover? Ask it below.

Post Updated: June 12, 2017

Interested in learning more about how to handle money for your trip? Check out our post Money Matters: Currency, Exchanging Money, and Tipping in Costa Rica.

 

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98 Comments

  1. Hi Matt and Jenn, Thank you for the information you provide on your website and in your blogs. I planned our family trip to Costa Rica based on the awesome, detailed information I received at your site. We decided to rent a car to get around. We are a group of 7, my husband , myself and 5 of our 6 kids ranging in age from 16 to 28. We are flying into San Jose (I am hoping that airport is near the town of Aleluia which is where our hotel is). We are staying at Hotel La Guaria Inn and Suites (1 night) . Then we are going to La Fortuna and staying at Hotel Villa Fortuna (5 nights) . We plan on doing a guided tour of the volcano, swim at the waterfall, the hot springs, hanging bridge and take a day trip to Rancho Margo for a tour and lunch. Do I need to book the tours in advance or can I wait and book at our hotel? Are there any tours out of La Fortuna that we should be going on that I did not list? Our next stop is Playa Hermosa at Hotel Mangaby for four nights. We will dive and snorkel for one day there and then I don’t really have anything else planned. Do you have a ‘can’t miss this’ suggestion for the Playa Hermosa area? Our final stop is Monteverde where we will be staying at Savegre Inn Monteverde for three nights. We were going to do a zipline tour here and a tour of the biological reserve. Do you have any other suggestions? Thanks in advance for your help and ideas. I greatly appreciate your website; I used it for much guidance for planning our trip!
    Laurie Minardi

    1. Hi Laurie,
      Glad to hear you are finding our site useful. Sounds like you have a great trip planned for your family! You can definitely wait to book some tours until you get here. Not sure when you’re traveling but if it’s during the high season, it’s best to book anything you don’t want to miss in advance just in case. If you’re visiting during the rainy season, you have a lot more flexibility and can wait until you get here. If you want help with activities for La Fortuna, Playa Hermosa, and Monteverde, we offer itinerary planning services and can plan day trips as well to point you in the right direction and help with logistics. There’s more information here. Also, if you haven’t booked your car rental yet, you might want to check out the discount we get through Adobe Rent a Car. It’s usually between 10-25% off. Have a great trip!

    2. Hello Matt & Jenn, your website has a lot of great information! This will be my wife and I’s first trip to CR; we’re planning on renting a car while we’re there. We’ll be in CR for just over 2 weeks and plan on surfing for 3-4 days then would like to check out Arenal Volcano. I’ve been reading in a number of different places that the roads can be unreliable/unpredictable in October (when we’ll be there). We’re thinking of heading from San Jose to Santa Teresa to surf then heading from Santa Teresa up the coast and back inland towards the volcano on our way back to San Jose. We’re pretty flexible, but would like to have an idea of what to expect… have you done this or a similar drive? How is it in your experience? Would we be better off doing the volcano area first?

      1. Hi Jonathan, Usually the drive to Santa Teresa isn’t bad as long as you do it during the daytime and have the right car (you need a 4×4 with higher clearance most times of year). But like you said, rainy season can be unpredictable. We actually just heard that a giant gaping hole formed the other day across the main road to Santa Teresa and Montezuma from the rain. They may have it repaired by now but it just goes to show that you never know. It wouldn’t hurt to ask your hotel in Santa Teresa about current road conditions before setting out. Should be fine but better to be cautious. The ride up to La Fortuna should be okay. Just be sure to go back the same way you came in, via 21 on the eastern side of the peninsula. The other way up the coast via Playa Hermosa, Playa Coyote, etc. is NOT a good idea most times of year and especially in October. Hope you both have a great trip!

  2. Good post. I think a lot of people get surprised at the prices here. It’s not a cheap destination. Another thing people should keep in mind is the exit tax. More than a few have been caught of guard by it.

    1. Yes, that $29 tax does catch a lot of people by surprise. Luckily, though, airlines are starting to incorporate the fee in ticket prices so people should check their tickets to see if it’s already included. Nice to hear from you again, Siggy!

  3. Great Post! I think with these tips, tourists can navigate the country a little easier. There are so many different ways to travel, and opening oneself up to new experiences is the best way to do it!

    On a side note: My car is leaking oil guys, it’s on life support. I hope yours is doing better!

    1. Thanks for reading, Nadine. Bummer about your car- we can totally relate. Ours has been in the shop for 2 weeks now and we’re looking at at least one more. Adventures in Costa Rica sure do take a toll on cars!

  4. our “big trip” for next year will be Costa Rica. I have wanted to make this trip for about 10 years. I am torn as to renting a car and doing tours from the hotels, touring on our own, or to go as a part of a small package tour. I would appreciate your thoughts. Of course, I want to see everything, and all of the animals :).
    Thank you

    1. Hi Belinda, If you’re comfortable with driving, we always say that exploring on your own is the best way to see the country. Costa Rica is very spread out and you have a lot more flexibility to stop at different sites if you have your own car. Of course a lot of planning goes into an independent trip, especially for Costa Rica, where destinations can be several hours apart on bumpy dirt roads. If you would like any help putting it all together, we do offer itinerary services and could help make you a customized itinerary. There’s more info here: https://twoweeksincostarica.com/itinerary-help.

  5. I was wondering where the restaurant you have a picture in your website with this caption A casado with the house special, smoked ribs. I would love to stop in for ribs. We are going to be in Costa Rica 3 nights Arenal area, 4 nights Tamarindo area and 7 nights at Manuel Antonio. Would you have a couple suggerstions for Casados to try?

    1. Hi Pilar, Those ribs were amazing! We got them at a little restaurant called Los Gallitos. It’s in a small town called San Miguel on the way from San Jose to La Fortuna if you go the longer way by Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. If you aren’t planning on traveling up that way, there are some great sodas to try in the other towns you’ll be visiting. In Arenal, try Soda Viquez just a few blocks from the central park in La Fortuna. In Tamarindo, there’s Dona Rosa, a lady who sells great local food right out of her car on the beach. And in Manuel Antonio, there are lots of good choices in neighboring Quepos (town where a lot of locals live). Our favorite is probably Restaurant Junior across from the bus station. Most of these places will have a few different kinds of casados to choose from, with beef, chicken, fish, or pork, along with sides like rice and beans, salad, plantain, etc. Enjoy!

  6. Hi!

    Thanks for all the info! We are going to Costa Rica next week (whoo!) and I’ve been looking up car rental information. I’m seeing $100-$160 for a whole week for a mid-sized SUV. This is much lower than the prices you quoted. Could this be real!? Haha. It is the off-season I suppose…

    Also, would you recommend purchasing car insurance from the rental place? I think it is almost doubles the price. Have you ever needed it?

    Thanks again.

    1. Hi Lindsey, It sounds like those rates you found don’t include insurance because that’s far below the going rate for a mid-size SUV, even in the low season. Basic liability insurance is mandatory for rentals in Costa Rica- you can’t rent a car without paying for it through the rental company. Sometimes companies and also the booking sites like Orbitz, Travelocity, etc. seem a lot cheaper but it’s just because they’re not including the insurance. Once you get here, the rental company will add it in so make sure to take that into consideration. If you haven’t already, be sure to take a look at our Rental Car page. We get a discount through one of the companies here that usually works out to 10-25% off. They include the basic insurance in their quotes too so it’ll give you a good sense of what to expect for insurance costs no matter which company you go with.

      1. If you have a letter from your insurance company confirming you have worldwide coverage including CR and you can get collision waiver coverage from many rental car companies then we should be ok right? According to Fox Rent a Car, they said they would accept that?

        1. Hi Cheryl, That’s probably enough if the letter specifically says Costa Rica. We’ve never heard of Fox Rent a Car but if they said they would accept that, you should be alright.

  7. I am planning a trip to Costa Rica in the spring, for a week to ten days, probably April and one of the reasons is that I am really interested in retiring there! So with that in mind I was wondering the following; do you think I should visit the Pacific or Caribbean coasts? From what I have read the Pacific is definitely more accessible, and built up for tourists but the Carribean coast looks very interesting as well. What are the “must see” suggestions you have. Any and all information, names of hotels, itineraries you might suggest will be greatly appreciated. I don’t want to do the “classic” vacation but at the same time I am not a great “adventurer either. Not fussy though, just prefer to do something a little different than the normal tourist.
    I am mostly interested in the wildlife, snorkeling, swimming, beaches etc. Less intereted in surfing, zip lining, etc.
    I am on a budget (trying to keep the trip to around 1500 including air) so I am not interested in the high end hotels, more interested in the Budget or mid range hotels you talk about, and certainly open to Air BNB, (have already used it in France and loved it) and we will be either two people or maybe four (a friend and then possibly my daughter and one of her friends)
    Also, I don’t love flying so small planes isn’t going to happen for me, definitely will be doing the bus or shuttle options.
    Hopefully I have given you enough info to help me out?
    I am in my early fifties, as is my friend and the daughter is early twenties, up for hiking, but not ten hours of it!
    Thanks, looking forward to hearing from you,
    Jennifer

  8. Hi Jenn,

    I really enjoyed reading your posts!! My husband and I are planning our seated honeymoon for this Spring and are wanting to go to Costa Rica. I have been reading books, posts, etc about it and my main concern is transportation with luggage. If we are staying for at least two weeks, planning to stay in three main regions (Arenal, Central Pacific Coast, and Nicoya Peninsula), I’m not sure if there are any restrictions with luggage size/amount to bring. I’ve read that the small planes have a 20lb limit. What advice do you have if we chose to do the shuttles? (Buses are not of interest due to travel time). Or, if you have any general luggage tips that would be much appreciated!!!

    Thank you!
    Brittany

    1. Hi Brittany, First off, we always recommend trying not bringing too much. Costa Rica is a very casual country so you won’t want too many dressy clothes. If you haven’t read it yet, there’s lots of good info on what to bring in our Packing blog post. As for luggage restrictions, Nature Air has different weight limitations depending on the ticket you buy. They range from 15 to 40 lbs. You can also bring one carry-on of up to 10 lbs. What we do is shift the weight around and put some heavier stuff in our carry-ons if we’re close to the limit. There’s more info on Nature Air’s website. As for shuttles, the two biggest carriers in Costa Rica, Interbus and Grayline, allow one suitcase per person and a carry-on. Weight isn’t as big of a deal and we don’t think they have specific restrictions so you should be fine with whatever you would bring for two weeks.

  9. Helpful info. We are looking to travel to Costa Rica for our honeymoon first 2 weeks of May. So far we are looking at flying into San Jose on 30th April staying overnight before heading on to Tortuguero for 2 nights, then maybe 1 night in Sarapique, 2 nights Arenal and 2 nights Monteverde before heading to Manuel Antonio to relax on the beach. We are looking for the wildlife more than the extreme sports and would like to include boat tours/nature hikes/volcano hike/coffee tour and volunteering at Proyecto Asis. Does this sound doable or are we not giving ourselves enough time/too much travelling?

    Can we expect a lot of rain in Manuel Antonio at that time of year and if so would we be better heading to Guanacaste for our beach stay?

    1. Hi Michelle, The itinerary is doable but you might want to add time in a few places. Tortuguero and Monteverde for 2 nights is good. 1 night in Sarapiqui might be rushed, considering it takes a little while to get from Tortuguero there by boat, so maybe add a night or scrap it and add the time to another leg of the trip. We’d add a night in La Fortuna because of all the activities there (many on your list). Manuel Antonio shouldn’t be too rainy in May because that’s the very beginning of the rainy season so I wouldn’t change your plans. If you want more info on what to expect weather-wise, we have a whole post about it: Weather in Costa Rica- What You Need to Know.

  10. in your article you talking about renting car ? how about guide with a car ? what should be the cost for 10-11 days in Cost-Rica for couple who want to stay in good hotel either renting car and take guided tour or private tour guide with car
    $1000 per person for 10 -11 days sound enough if not what is the cost you think we should aim for ?

    1. Hi Moti, you could probably expect to spend around $150-250/day on a private driver although the exact amount will depend on your itinerary and where they will take you. This is just the cost for a driver, if you wanted some type of private guide to take you on tours that would be extra. For hotels, the ranges we give above should give you a pretty good idea for what to expect for cost. $1000 per person is definitely doable for 10 or so days as long as you aren’t going to too many places. A rental car would definitely be cheaper overall. If you decide to drive, make sure to use our rental car discount to make it even more affordable.

  11. Jenn/Matt:
    Excellent info; thanks!! We will be in Manuel Antonio at Tulemar for a week but want to spend time in San Jose on either end of the trip. Also, we plan to leave the resort regularly to explore Quepos and surrounding areas ( thanks to your blog!). Do we need an SUV to get to MA from San Jose? Also, planning to check out Nauyaca waterfalls thanks again to you! Do we need the 4×4 option?

    1. Hi Karen, You don’t need an SUV/4×4 to get from San Jose to Manuel Antonio and you don’t need one to get around locally in MA/Quepos either. For the Nauyaca, though, you do need 4×4 if you plan on hiking (but not if you’re doing the horse tour). The office where the tour leaves from is right on the main road, but to get to the trailhead for the hike, you need to drive down a steep dirt road that requires 4×4. There’s more info on hiking to the Nauyaca here.

  12. A group of us are renting a house in Dominical next year. We will be buying our own groceries and I’m trying to find out how much we should each budget for food for 10 days. I know it’s dependent on what we buy, but can you please give me an idea of what things cost? (e.g., a loaf of bread here in Vancouver, Canada is $4 CDN, a 4L jug of milk is $3 CDN, 1 ribeye steak is around $10 CDN.)

    1. Hi Melissa, Your options for markets in that area is either the BM in Uvita (next town down the highway) or the Dominical Market right off the highway across from the main town entrance to Dominical. Dominical Market looks small but he has just about everything you need and it isn’t much more expensive than the BM. Expect to pay about the same for groceries as you do in Canada. Anything imported will be more- bring any snacks you want, as nuts, granola bars, etc. are a lot more here. Produce will be a lot cheaper (and better). Dominical has a great farmer’s market on Fri. mornings that you might want to check out.

  13. Thanks a million for your awesome website and book. I’m not familiar with Costa Rica at all so your 2-week itinerary is especially helpful to start my planning. I plan on spending 14ish nights arriving on June 28. I’ll be traveling with my 2 daughters who will be 10 and 12. I will be renting a car so I like the idea of a few days at Arenal and several at Manuel Antonio. The part that I have questions about is Drake Bay. If I have a rental car, what do I do with it since you take a boat to get to Drake Bay? And considering the ages of my kids, would you recommend a different destination for a few days? Also, any other places we should add? We could stay a couple nights more, but 14 sounds ideal. And, finally, where would you recommend for ziplining and whitewater rafting? Thanks again.

    1. Hi Stephanie, That sounds like a great trip itinerary for your family. Arenal, MA, and Drake Bay are all good places to bring kids your age. Make sure to check out the Tracie the Bug Lady night tour in Drake Bay- it’s really cool. One destination that you might consider adding since you’ll already be in Manuel Antonio is the Costa Ballena (Dominical-Uvita area). This region is less developed and filled with rainforest and wildlife. We have a blog post with more info here.

      As for what to do with the rental car, the easiest thing is drop it off in Sierpe then take the boat to Drake and fly on a small plane from Drake back to San Jose after. A few of the rental car companies allow drop offs in Sierpe, including the company we work with, Adobe. There’s just a $20 drop off fee (more info on our discount through Adobe here). You can also leave the car parked in secure parking at Sierpe if you want to drive back afterwards. Check out our Drake Bay post for more info on that.

      We’ve answered your zip lining-rafting question before. Here’s a link to a forum post with the answer: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/question/rafting-ziplining-manuel-antonio-la-fortunaarenal/. Have a great trip!!

  14. Hi Matt and Jenn!

    This is great and very helpful! My boyfriend and I have a trip planned for the end of August and are so excited. I know it will be rainy season, but I hear the rainforests and animals really come to life this time of year. We are flying into San Jose and are thinking of heading to the Caribbean Coast….from what I’ve seen the weather should be a bit less rainy there? Maybe? Is this a good idea? It sounds laid back and less touristy which I really like. We don’t mind the rain but would obviously love some sunshine. We love to explore and want to do some hiking around, zipline tour, hang out at water falls, all of the great outdoor adventures costa rica has to offer. Would you recommend having a “home base’ and adventuring out from there? What would be a good region for this time of year? Thank you so much for your insight and help!

    1. Hi Megan, Late August is a great time to visit the Caribbean Coast. You’re right that it is usually less rainy there that time of year than on the Pacific Coast. The Caribbean side has its best weather in September so end of August is perfect. Here’s our weather post with more info if you haven’t seen it already. There are three major destinations on the Caribbean side- Tortuguero to the north and Cahuita and Puerto Viejo to the south. Tortuguero is more remote (only accessible by boat or plane) so your best bet for a home base is either Cahuita or Puerto Viejo. Both have what you’re looking for in terms of laid back vibe, things to do, etc. but PV has a little more going on as far as restaurants and activities and in our opinion has the best beaches. Here’s a post with more about PV: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/puerto-viejo-caribbean-cool-in-costa-rica/.

  15. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    What would you recommend for carrying/spending cash, take Colones, US dollars a mix of both?
    We are heading there soon on a 15 day trip.

  16. Hi Matt and Jenn,

    I need your advice. I would like to visit Costa Rica in July 2016, and I am wondering what would be the most economical and safest way to tour Costa Rica. G Adventures tours include some independent and escorted tours, these tours include accommodation, transfers and some meals, but does not include airfare. Also, I might have to share accommodation with a stranger of which I am not too comfortable with. If I book an all inclusive vacation package, it will cost around $1500.00 including taxes and fees. Then I can plan my tours once I get to Costa Rica with the local tour operators such as Guanacaste Viajes & Tours. I want to tour most of Costa Rica visiting the volcanoes, hot springs, popular beaches, rain forest etc in places such as San Jose,Manuel Antonio, La Fontuna, and Monteverde etc. What option would be the cheapest and safest for a single female traveler.

    1. Hi Liztra, The $1500 all inclusive you found seems like a pretty reasonable price. Is that for a week? That would be a good option if you just wanted to explore Guanacaste, but since you want to visit other places, isn’t the most practical. Manuel Antonio, La Fortuna, and Monteverde are quite far from the beaches of Guanacaste so you would be spending a lot of time in the car visiting them from there. You would be better off traveling independently and staying in a couple of different places that are more centrally located and using them as home bases to explore. Maybe La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio? Costa Rica is very safe and a lot of people tour solo, including women. If that is something you are comfortable with, it will definitely be the most economical and practical option, plus you won’t have to share a room with a stranger! Check out our One Week Itinerary for a Fortuna-Manuel Antonio itinerary. If you want more customized help, we also offer itinerary services and could help you figure out the best way to get around, where to stay, and how to book tours, etc. Here’s a link with more info: https://twoweeksincostarica.com/itinerary-help.

  17. Hi Jenn and Matt!

    This is such a great site and very informative! My husband and I just planned a night trip to Costa Rica for our 5 year anniversary at the end of September, we are doing an all inclusive package at the Dreams La Mareas El Jobo on the North Pacific Coast. However, we are flying in to San Jose (about a 3.5/4 hour drive away!) would you recommend we set up at private transfer prior to arriving (Prices range from $270-$300 from the quotes I’ve received) or just take a taxi from the airport?

    1. Hi Michelle, Definitely arrange transportation before you arrive. A taxi would be very expensive, a lot more than you have been quoted. Around $300 seems pretty standard for a private driver since it’s a long trip. Another idea would be to look at flying on a small plane. It’s a lot faster and often very reasonably priced when booked in advance. The two carriers are Sansa and Nature Air. Have a wonderful anniversary!

  18. Hi! Im planning on heading down to Costa Rica for two weeks in January. I was budgeting 1,500 USD, planning staying in Airbnb and Hostels. Do you think that will be enough money or should I plan to bring more?

    1. Hi Ella, That budget should be totally doable if you stay in cheaper places and don’t do a ton of tours. Costa Rica doesn’t have to be expensive. We used to backpack and spent around $1,500-2,000 for a two week trip between the two of us. We usually got a simple private room, took the bus, and didn’t do too many tours. Where we splurged was eating out but we still had plenty of room in our budget…luckily there are lots of places with happy hour!

  19. My family plan to visit Costa Rica on Dec 21-29. Since it covers Christmas period, do you think there will be any activities? Will it be easy to find land tour/day trip at the hotel instead of renting a car to drive ourselves? Do they drive the same side as in the US? We would like to see the volcano, the beautiful beach, the national park. Is it possible to go there by shuttle bus or gray line? What do you recommend to visit for 9 days? Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Susan, You could take a look at our One Week Itinerary for some ideas. Keep in mind that it will be busy, especially at the beach, over Christmas and the following week. They do drive on the same side of the road as in the US. Many of the driving customs are the same but there are differences. We have a post about driving with more info. Shuttles are also possible between destinations and usually cost around $50pp per leg.

      If you don’t want to drive, many tours include transportation from your hotel. Almost all tours still run over the holidays so you shouldn’t have any trouble. If you want to book anything in advance, let us know and we can help. We’re now booking tours for people- our email for that is bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com. We would recommend that you book your lodging ASAP because hotels are already filling up for that time of year.

  20. Hi there my husband and I will be flying in to Liberia at the end of Feb. 2017.
    We will be staying for 8 days. We don’t want to rent a car. Can you tell us the best way to get to the major animal viewing areas and outdoor activities in the Guanacaste region.
    We thought we would start small this trip and before adventurous on our next visit. We are both in our 60’s. Thanks so much. We are really excited about this adventure

    1. Hi Laura, Most tours include shuttle transportation from your hotel so that would probably be easiest if you won’t have a car. Sometimes tours are a lot more expensive, though, so if you’re feeling adventurous, you could think about renting a car just for the day when you get here to get to things like national parks and waterfalls. Most of the parks and wildlife viewing areas in Guanacaste are an hour or more from the beach, if you’re staying there.

  21. Hi there,

    I’m travelling to Costa Rica in a couple weeks and very worried about mosquito borne diseases. I have seen a lot of pictures of travellers wearing shorts/singlets and jandals – is that what most people do? I want to avoid using strong, DEET-y mosquito repellent if I can because its so strong that it can’t be very good for you.

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Emma, Because most of the country is fairly hot, people usually wear shorts snd sandals. Repellent helps and if you’re in a very buggy area, you could wear lightweight hiking pants. Not sure if you have seen it yet, but we have a whole article on mosquitoes in Costa Rica and ways to prevent bites. Here is the link. We talk about some Deet-free repellent options in there. In our Packing Your Daypack post, we also give some natural repellents that we’ve tried more recently. Keep in mind too that the dry season has started so mosquitoes shouldn’t be as bad when you visit. Rainy season is the worst time for mosquito-borne illnesses.

    1. Hi Michelle, There are dive sites near there but you would be better off going elsewhere as visibility isn’t always great and we don’t know of a reputable tour operator. Northern Guanacaste has some great dive sites, though, and so does the Southern Pacific (Caño Island). If you’re traveling to any of those places and want help booking a dive, let us know. We know of some good shops in those areas.

  22. We are a couple looking for the best option to visit Costa Rica.
    I would like to know more about EAFN (eafnature.org), does anybody travelled with their card? I have seen it is
    possible to save 60USD per night
    with their card (it costs less than 10 USD), and they are no travel agency. Thank you for your info!

      1. Hello Jeen, Matt.

        Thank you. I have done a deep research about this, I hope this information will be helpful for other travellers: I have contacted three hotels that were in the EAFN list, they explained me about the agreement with EAFN and then I made a reservation with them. The EAFN Amigo Card cost is 13.20 USD for 2 people and 3 days (the three nights I am going to spend in the 3 hotels I reserved), the discount in the hotels is 20, 20 and 10%, obviously it is well worth.
        If I get more info I share it. Thank you.

  23. I only drink red wine that is not sweet, like Malbec or Cabernet, but I would like to drink plenty of it while I’m on vacay. Is this type of wine readily available (it would not be in the U.S. at the beach or in the country) or should I buy some in San Jose to take to Playa Blanca and Dominical?

    1. Hi Sarah, This is my favorite question I’ve seen in a while! We are into wine too. Don’t worry, you will be able to find plenty of good stuff here, including Cabernet and Malbec. Most of it is from South America. The best places for the most variety and prices is duty free at the airport or the Automercado grocery store off Highway 34 in Herradura (not far from Playa Blanca). Auto Mercado is on Google Maps. In Dominical, your best option is the BM grocery store. There are two, but the second one (farther south) just opened up a new wine room. Convenience stores sell it in a pinch also. Most restaurants have Cabernet as their house red. Hope that helps!

  24. Im am going to be near Liberia for two days. I wonder whether it is worthwhile to visit San Juan in Nicaragua, it is about 4-5 hours away by car. Does anybody know?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi again Luis, We have been to San Juan del Sur and enjoyed it. It’s a beach town much like what you would find in Costa Rica, but culturally, Nicaragua is a lot different so it’s worth going if you have time. We would recommend at least two nights because it is a bit of a drive to get there and the border crossing process can take a while.

  25. Hi Matt and Jen;
    I wish I would have read all your info before booking our trip to Costa Rica. Unfortunately, we booked and made reservations through a tour company. Although, I have to say, the person we dealt with was very nice and accommodating for everything we needed or things we wanted to do. I will be traveling this time with 2 ladies, (the Golden Girls), but if I like it enough, hopefully I will come back with my husband, (who unfortunately had an accident and is not able to travel now). My husband and I had the trip planned before his accident, and since he could not go & we did not want to loose the money, I asked 2 friends. But thank you so much for all the good tips and detailed information. It still will help me prepare for the trip in early May. And I do have one question. Is the water safe to drink at the hotels and restaurants? And can you fill a water canteen/bottle at the hotel facilities? Thank You again for your info!!!

    1. Hi Gail, Wish you would have found us before because we do vacation planning too. Glad you found a company that was helpful, though.

      The water is safe to drink just about everywhere in the country. A couple of exceptions are Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast and some of the beach towns in Guanacaste. Some people do bottled in these areas. If your hotel is in an area with water problems, they almost always have filtered available. But if you’re not sure, just ask them. Hope you and your friends have a fun girls getaway. And if you and your husband ever come back, we’d love to help you with the planning. Safe travels!

  26. Hello, I have just come across your site which is fab but we are in the very early stages of planning a trip…planning for January 2019 (I know it’s ages away). A couple of questions, Is January a good season, weather-wise, to travel? (we are restricted by British school holidays). We will have 3 children ages 7 (just), almost 5.5 and 2.5, are we mad to come with these ages of children? We are quite confident travellers having travelled lots pre-children but we have not done much post-children travelling (youngest is only 7 mths at the moment). We are desperate to visit Costa Rica but wonder if we are being too ambitious with 3 young children. We will be travelling from the UK. We are not at the stage of booking accommodation etc but any general ‘food for thought’ and tips re children related do’s and don’ts in CR would be much appreciated.

    Also a rough estimate of cost – we would plan to go for 2 weeks in Jan, family of 5, mostly mid-range hotels with a perhaps a couple of nights at homestays or more ‘authentic’ accommodation, would plan to spend on trips and probably hire a car for at least half of the trip. Wouldn’t plan to eat in expensive restaurants but me and the children are vegetarian so that will have its own limitations.

    Many thanks in advance for any useful info that you can give.

    1. Hi Charlotte, You are not crazy for considering a trip to Costa Rica with young children. It is a very kid-friendly place and the culture loves children. Your youngest will be a bit older by the time you get here, but you should read our Traveling with a Baby post to get a sense of what it will be like with a toddler. Our son is 16 months old now and we love traveling with him. My advice would be to limit the number of destinations you visit to avoid jumping around a lot.

      And, yes, January is a good time to visit. That is dry season. Just avoid the first week of the month when it is very busy. You can read our post Best Times to Visit Costa Rica for more info.

      As for what to budget, we don’t like to give estimates because it differs so much person to person. But if you add up the different costs you will have based on the information we give in this post, you will have a general idea. Best of luck with the planning!

  27. Hello! I’ve been on looking at this page for quite some time now. A couple of friends and I will be traveling over there in about a month (not in a hotel but in a vacation home therefore, we will need to buy food). I’m wondering how much money USD per person should we buy for groceries and how much is the produce and meat over there? I’m trying to gather an estimate for that and money to go out to eat (sodas and also a nice restaurant to celebrate a friends birthday). Your help would be very much appreciated. Greetings.

    1. Hi C, Groceries prices for most things are comparable to North America. If you shop at a local farmers market, produce is one item that is a lot cheaper. Meat is usually less expensive at butchers than grocery stores, but budget what you normally would at home. I think we covered the cost at restaurants in here. Hope you and your friends have a great trip!

  28. We are torn between bring cash or a mixture of both. Question, is there a fee if we withdraw money(colones) from our debit cards at an ATM?

    1. Hi Cat, Most banks do charge a fee for taking out foreign currency like colones. It’s a currency exchange fee and is usually a percentage. If you take out US dollars, you will only have the ATM fee and would avoid this one.

      1. Is it best to bring colones or US dollars if you we to choose? We will be there for 7 days and all of our large transactions like hotels and tours are already paid for!

        1. We cover this in our Money Matters post (read here), but it is easiest to bring US dollars and then either get change back in colones or exchange the dollars for colones at a bank here for the best exchange rate.

  29. Hello, thank you for a very helpful website:-) However the more I read the less I am sure what not to miss. We are a family of 5 (3 boys 12,14,17) and we come from the Czech republic – so Costa Rica sounds like a paradise to us. We plan to spend 3 week in CR and would like to see the “best of” (the itinerary does not have to be crammed with activities, just walking or driving around will be more than enough for us)
    Could you please help us with
    a) come Oct 23 – Nov 12 or end of January beginning of February
    b) a week spent on the beach (nothing special, just walking up and down the sand and a bit of snorkeling) – which area would you recommend? (preferably some local spot, we don´t need any “tourist” equipment)
    c) activities not to miss (love to experience: the wildlife, zip-line, volcano, boat tour – we can paddle on our own)
    d) is it a good idea to spend e.g. 4 days in a car just driving around the country to see the remote villages, deserted places, “normal” CR etc? (we quite enjoy car travelling)
    In comparison to US visitors, our budget is a bit more tight, but we don´t mind eating spaghetti for a week in exchange for the experiences:-)
    Thanks a lot for any advice
    Sabina

    1. Hi Sabina, You should check out our guidebook, Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries. That has a lot of different ideas for how to arrange your trip to see the best of Costa Rica. You might like a combination of the Best of chapter for the zip lining, volcano, etc. and the Authentic chapter, to see more of the “real” CR. We also have some more off-the-beaten-path destinations in the Eco-Trekking chapter (e.g. San Gerardo de Rivas and the Costs Ballena region). This last area, especially Rivas, would be great to explore for a couple of days by car if you’re interested in seeing remote villages. Also, FYI- Costa Rica generally isn’t great for snorkeling right offshore. The best places are Cano Island off the coast near Drake Bay and Northern Guanacaste where it is more touristy. If this is important to you, go with Drake, which is a little more expensive because it’s harder to get to, but is absolutely beautiful and can be done on a budget with some careful planning. Good luck!

  30. Hi! How long do buses run? My partner and I are staying in San Jose but want to go to the beach (recommend any?) and also some exploring in nature/ forest/ anywhere near water, volcanoes. thanks!!

    1. Hi Karina, The public bus runs regularly to many towns in Costa Rica and does run later in the day. You can use this website to check the schedule once you know where you’ll be going. If you plan on visiting a beach as a day trip from San José, look at Playa Herradura, Jaco, or Playa Blanca, which are the closest to SJ. Jaco is the easiest to reach by bus. If you rented a car for the day, that would make doing it as a day trip much easier. Cars are fairly inexpensive for one day rentals.

      For other day trips near SJ, you could visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens, take a coffee tour, or hike Braulio Carrillo National Park.

  31. Hi Guys!
    We are planning a trip to Costa Rica from the UK in January and are so excited! Our plan is to spend a couple nights in San Jose, then (somehow) get to La Fortuna for 4 night, then Arenal for 4 more nights and finally back to San Jose to stay in a fancier hotel for our last 2 nights!
    I’m a little worried that because we’re staying is such touristy areas it will be very expensive, eating and doing things out there, as well as getting too and from each place.
    Can you give any advice on how much spending money (including food and everything other than accommodation) we should bring for 2 weeks? We wanna enjoy it as its our honeymoon but don’t wanna break the bank! Also are there nice, accessible, free of charge beaches for us to visit?
    Thank you so much!
    x

    1. Hi Sophie, Budget is really person-specific but you can get an idea of what you’ll spend on restaurants, activities, and transportation using this post. If you don’t do a lot of tours and focus on free or inexpensive activities like going to the beach, hiking, visiting waterfalls, etc., you will be able to stay on a budget. Also be sure to stay in town in La Fortuna and figure out the bus because that area is more spread out and taxis can get expensive.

  32. Hi Matt and Jenn! Thank you SO MUCH for all of the information you have provided! This is an incredibly detailed blog, but I’m still very overwhelmed! Haha! I’m a mom of two boys, ages 3 and 7, and my husband and I have decided we want to travel to Costa Rica for 2 months during our kids summer vacation (June and July) I would like to do one month in the mountains/jungle, and one month at a beach. I’m a stay at home mom and we will definitely be on a budget, but I would like to see as much as possible while we are there. Here is the tricky part- my husband will be working remotely while we are there, so we will need to be in a location where we can have great high speed internet, and I would like my kids to have the opportunity to take Spanish classes during the week and if possible volunteer somewhere like an animal rehabilitation center. I saw that you make itineraries. How much would you charge to plan our trip? Thank you so much again for the time you take not only to respond to all of these comments, but also for making all of these cites as well, it has been So helpful!!
    Pura vida,
    Jamie

    1. HI Jamie, Our current standard rate for a 3 week itinerary is $650 so we would need to charge at least that to help you on a more limited basis to figure out the two best home bases for your two months here. If you have some time, you can probably figure out a lot of it on your own anyway. For the mountain time, we would definitely recommend somewhere in the Central Valley (San Jose area) since the Internet is best there. For your time at the beach, you could take a look at our post Where We’ve Lived in Costa Rica. We talk about our experience with internet in some of the places we’ve spent time in. We also recommend joining some of the CR Facebook groups for expats. You can find links at the bottom of this post. Most of the bigger beach towns (and some smaller ones too) have Spanish schools so that shouldn’t be a problem. Hope that helps and if you would still like Itinerary help, you can contact us through this page.

  33. Hi Matt and Jenn,

    Many thanks for all the info. you have so thoughtfully provided (and patiently repeated here). I am in the process of planning a trip for 2019 and have just bought your Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries for my Kindle which I’m looking forward to reading. I’m sure all my questions will be answered in the book but may come back to you here.

    Thanks again.

    1. Hi Sue, Yes you would drive from Samara to Sierpe (via Nicoya, Caldera, Jaco, Quepos, Uvita, etc.) then take the boat taxi in Sierpe to Drake. See our Drake Bay post for info on the boat taxi. Sierpe is quite far from Samara so if you have found someone to take you there for $65 a person, that is a very cheap option. It’s about a 6-hour trip. If you’re coming during high season, we would book this in advance. It’s not a common route so could sell out.

  34. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    I’ll be in Costa Rica for two weeks with my daughter, SIL and two vegan grandchildren. Don’t know the itinerary yet, but would like to know about the availability of vegan/vegetarian when eating in restaurants. Also, are food markets common throughout the country? We’ll be there over the winter school break in Dec.-Jan. Thanks.

    Jackie

    1. Hi Jackie, Most major tourist destinations have at least a couple of vegetarian/vegan restaurants. In regular restaurants, a lot of the local cuisine is meat based but there’s also a lot of fish (see our post on Traditional Foods). They should know how to ask in Spanish for no meat (sin carne). You will find international restaurants in tourist destinations too – lots of Italian and sometimes Middle Eastern, French, etc.

      Some people make up a card, which is a good idea because there’s less chance of a miscommunication. If they are strict, be careful with beans because a lot of times they are cooked in pork.

      Yes, farmers markets (ferias) are held in many communities and are a wonderful place to buy fresh produce and get to know the culture.

  35. Hi there,

    I have been following your blog and have gotten a lot of great information during my planning of Costa Rica! We are visiting in July and counting the day! We will be there for close to 4 weeks. (july 3rd-27th) and plan on visiting mid-north, west and south side for the beaches.

    We already have our accommodations payed for as well as our car rental and we were wondering how much we should bring for activities, eating out, and going to markets. I read your posts saying that Sodas are much cheaper and thats what we would do for a part of the trip but with driving every 3-4 days we would cover lunches in ‘picnic form’. We want to go zip lining and visit parks. It is going to only be the two of us. Would you say 3000USD would be enough for food, activities and gas?

    Thanks for your amazing blog!!

    1. Hi Patty, $3000 should cover you for a month if you mostly want to visit parks and not do too many tours. Tours are where it can get expensive. If you cook for yourself, you’ll save money too. Be aware that it is a little hard to eat out of grocery stores here. It can be done, but you have to be creative. Things like deli meat are not great quality-wise and there isn’t much for ready-made foods. We have done it ourselves, though, when we’ve needed to. Go to the bigger grocery stores whenever you can for the best variety. You could also pack some of your own food- my mother in law does this when she visits. Hope that helps!

  36. Hello,

    Lots of excellent information! When eating out at restaurants with a group, say three couples, is it possible to request that the bill be divided between each couple (split three ways)? Or would it generally be easier to pay the one bill and worry about the division amongst ourselves? Thanks!

  37. Hi, I didn’t read all the old questions, so I hope I’m not asking for readily available info: What is the tipping custom in Costa Rica? And how much cash in colones should we carry (I read that some hotels don’t take credit cards!). Thanks!

  38. Hello! I am going to Costa Rica soon with my school, and I was wondering if there was anything specific that would be good to bring for coming in their dry season?

    1. Hi Mariana, With that site, you have to find the right name of the recognized pickup location. So in this case, Liberia Airport isn’t an option and you have to type in Liberia and wait for the site to recognize the location…then it will pop up and you can select it. Then when you hit Search Connection, bus times will pop up. The city of Liberia is west of the airport (this is where the bus originates), but we think the bus does stop on the highway outside the airport to pick up people. Hope that helps!

  39. I am traveling with my husband and 3 kids ages 6,13, and from 7/27-8/10. The first week we will be at a language school in Tamarindo. Wondering what our best bet would be for 8/3-8/10 in terms of less touristy, animal viewing, rain, and ease of travel from Tamarindo. I was considering Tortuguero, Uvita or Manuel Antonio.

    1. Hi Marcia, We know you’re already in Costa Rica, but please let us know if you need any help booking activities for your time after the language school. Happy to help! Just send us an email at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com.

  40. Hello! We are a family of five including three young children (1-3 years old). We will be spending four weeks in Costa Rica, from late October to late November. I’ve done a bit of research and think we will split our time as follows:
    – five nights in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
    – two nights Tortuguera
    – three nights La Fortuna
    – eight nights Monteverde
    – ten nights Manuel Antonio
    Does this sound like a good use of time, bearing in mind that we have such young children? For example, I love the idea of a canal boat through Tortuguera but I don’t know if they have a minimum age limit? Our kids love the beach and seeing wildlife so I’m sure they will be in their element. However they aren’t great at walking long distances so I don’t know if any of the treks etc will be possible this time. At the moment my husband and I can’t agree whether to hire a car or use taxis/shuttles to get around. From your post I suspect driving ourselves would be more cost effective, but would it be feasible to get everywhere without a hire car?

    1. Hi Catherine, That itinerary looks reasonable. We’d just suggest adding on a night in Tortuguero since it takes a while to get there. There is no minimum age for the boat taxi. You will be able to do some treks and may just have to go slow and turn around if needed. If you’d like help figuring out what activities would be best with your young children, we could help through our Tour Booking Service. We have 2 very young kids ourselves so know how it is. We’d highly recommend a rental car with young children but you probably don’t need it until after Tortuguero. Some of those drives are long and you will want to go at your own pace. The company we work with, Adobe, has an office near La Pavona and could deliver the car to you after you get off the boat taxi. Here’s the link to our rental car discount page with more info.

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