Cost of Traveling in Costa Rica

Last Updated: April 17, 2024

Traveling to Costa Rica may cost more than you think. A lot of people expect that because Costa Rica is in Central America, it will be 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 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


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:


$10-20 for a bed in a shared dorm.

Budget Hotel

$50-100 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 (sometimes 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 10 rooms, each uniquely designed with an eye for style and comfort.

High-end lodging ranges from around $250 all the way up to $1,000+ a night for the very best luxury resorts.

Cost of Travelling in Costa Rica | Typical hotel with AC for under $100
Deluxe room at Tirimbina Lodge in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. Around $100/night gets you a fairly spacious room with A/C and a private terrace overlooking their nature reserve.

Ways to Save Money on Lodging in Costa Rica

Travel During Low Season

Rates for hotels are the lowest during the rainy season (May through November). You may 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. Combine that with more foreigners traveling due to holiday breaks, and prices are really driven up.

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.

Here’s a link to our post 9 Off-the-Beaten Path Destinations in Costa Rica to give you some ideas.

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.

Back in our backpacking days, we did a homestay in Drake Bay with a local family and saved a ton of money. It was a great cultural experience too.

AirBnb and VRBO

Vacation rental homes are located throughout Costa Rica and can be a great way to save money. Our family stays in vacation rentals quite regularly to have more space and the price is almost always lower than staying in a traditional hotel.

Here’s the link to our post on Finding Vacation Rentals in Costa Rica with some tips and key things to look out for.

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 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. This is great for figuring out how far a hotel is from a town center or tourist attraction.

The reason 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 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


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, mainly because of the mandatory insurance, which you cannot decline by law.

Expect to pay around $400-1,000 per week for a mid-size SUV with four-wheel drive and $300-700 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.

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.

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. 

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

We currently aren’t recommending small planes in Costa Rica due to safety and reliability concerns.


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 $10-15 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 $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 $6-8 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 snack or meal.

Zip-line tour: $50-85

Whitewater Rafting tour: $70-130

Kayak tour: $50-75

Snorkel or dive tour: Snorkel- $80-100. Dive- $120-150

Coffee or chocolate tour: $25-45

Guided tour of national park or reserve: $55-65 per person 

National park or reserve (self-guided): $10-18


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.

Last Updated: April 17, 2024

Looking for more information to plan your trip? Check out these posts:

Money Matters: Currency, Exchanging Money, and Tipping in Costa Rica – Learn about how to handle money for your trip. 

Packing for Costa Rica: Get a list of essentials to bring.

Why You Should Get Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is a good idea in case your plans change or anyone needs medical attention. Read our post for more info and recommendations for travel insurance companies.


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