How to Visit Costa Rica on a Budget

costa rica

Home to lush jungles and pristine beaches, Costa Rica is a nature lover’s dream. Whether you want to lounge on the beach or explore the cloud forest, there’s something for everyone in this Central American paradise. Best of all? Despite its rise in popularity, it’s still possible to visit Costa Rica on a budget.

As a growing adventure and eco-travel destination, prices in Costa Rica have skyrocketed – but there are still some deals to be had. Read on for our best money-saving tips in this budget travel guide to Costa Rica.


Costa Rica on a budget: Know before you go


It’s probably not as cheap as you expect

While it’s definitely possible to visit Costa Rica on a budget, it’s significantly more expensive than other Central American countries. Especially when it comes to things like eating at restaurants (check out our tips below to save on meals out!).


Bring a bottle, save your money

In many parts of Costa Rica, aside from rural and remote areas, bottled water is safe to drink. Do your research or ask around to see if you can save money and plastic on bottled water.


US Dollars are accepted, but it will cost you

It’s almost always better to pay in the local currency, Costa Rican colón, to avoid overpaying.


Alcohol is fairly expensive

If a “dry” or limited drinking trip really isn’t something you’re interested in, you’re allowed to bring a whopping 5 liters (!) of wine or spirits into the country to cut down on costs.




Free and cheap things to do in Costa Rica


Monte Verde Cloud Forest

Among the lush verdant canopies and hazy mist of Monteverde Cloud Forest, you’ll find a stunning array of plants and wildlife, from toucans and howler monkeys to the stunning resplendent quetzals, only found in the cloud forests of Central America.

Take one of the many hiking trails inside the preserve, such as the one leading to the Continental Divide. And if you prefer the view from above, you can walk the hanging bridges or join a zipline tour, if you’ve got the budget for it.


costa rica sunrise


La Fortuna

This small town serves as a gateway to some of Costa Rica’s most stunning landscapes, with the Arenal Volcano serving as the star of the show. For the best views of Costa Rica’s most famous and most postcard-worthy volcano, hike the trails in Arenal Volcano National Park or take in the view from “The Nest” – an observation tower at the Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa.

After checking out the volcano, unwind in one of the many surrounding thermal hot springs or take a refreshing dip under La Fortuna Waterfall.


costa rica waterfall



There’s a reason both surf addicts and beach bums have fallen in love with Costa Rica’s shorelines. The country boasts countless incredible stretches of beach, no matter your style.

Jaco is the closest beach area to the capital of San Jose, and that metropolitan energy seems to spill over into the town a bit. While there are chill surf spots and plenty of natural attractions here, you’ll also find a healthy dose of luxury hotels and fairly vibrant nightlife.

If you’re looking for something less hectic, check out the laid-back town of Tamarindo, where you can find popular spots like Playa Tamarindo and Playa Langosta.




Unwind in Uvita

If you’re looking to truly relax and unwind, Uvita is the perfect getaway. Located on Costa Rica’s pacific coast, it’s home to some of the best beaches in the country – but unlike Costa Rica’s more popular destinations, Uvita is quiet year round, with no crowds to obstruct the breathtaking sunsets. As part of Marino Ballena National Park, hunting and fishing are strictly prohibited, making it an ideal place to spot wildlife both above and below the waves.

The sleepy, local village offers beachfront accommodation on a budget. Spend a few days enjoying the tranquility, and sampling the many water activities. Or take a yoga class on one of the beaches and experience a whole new level of zen.




Take a coffee tour

Costa Rica is one of the world’s premier coffee growers. Touring one of the many farms is a great way to support the local economy – and one of the best things to do in Costa Rica on a budget! You’ll learn about the process from seed to cup (and try a few samples too).


Hit the waves

Costa Rica is one of the world’s best surfing destinations, and it’s a great place to learn without breaking the bank – affordable surfing lessons are a dime a dozen here. Try Tamarindo, Jaco, Dominical or Nosara for the best waves and cheap lessons. For the more experienced surfer, check out Witch’s Rock, Salsa Brava, and Playa Hermosa.




Where to stay in Costa Rica on a budget


You’ll find budget-friendly hotels, hostels, and guesthouses all over Costa Rica, particularly in the most popular destinations. If you’d rather keep it to one brand on your trip, popular digital nomad hub Selina has hostels throughout the country that range from private rooms to tiny teepees. Otherwise, check out some of the great budget hotels in Costa Rica below!


La Botella de Leche Hostel

As the very first hostel in Tamarindo, La Botella is a well-established institution in Tamarindo. The place is family owned and quiet, with comfortable spaces and a yoga studio available for guests to use.


Tamarindo Backpackers Hostel

Another great budget-friendly option, Tamarindo Backpackers Hostel offers a no frills place to lay your head. Choose from shared dorms, family rooms, or a private room with its own entrance. Best of all? Rates start at just $10 USD a night.


Selina La Fortuna

If you’re looking for a social vacation, check out Selina in La Fortuna. With regular events and digital nomad meetups, you’ll have no problem making friends. There are also plenty of organized activities to choose from, including yoga, hiking and mixology classes.


Arenal Hostel Resort

Budget accommodation doesn’t have to mean roughing it! Arenal Hostel Resort in La Fortuna offers free wifi, a swimming pool, and even a spa service. Three fully equipped kitchens, an onsite restaurant and private parking round out the amenities. There are several different rooms types to choose from, making it easy to find something that suits your budget.


Hammock House

Hammock House Hostel offers a convenient location downtown Monteverde, making it an ideal base to explore the surrounding jungle. Guests especially love how easy it is to book excursions at the front desk (think: zip-lining, canyoning, and rope bridges through the treetop canopy).


Camino Verde Bed & Breakfast

Just a five minute walk from downtown Monteverde and 15 minutes from Santa Elena National Park, Camino Verde Bed & Breakfast is the perfect base for your jungle adventure. A full breakfast is included, along with parking and high speed wifi – all at an affordable price point!


Stray Cat Hostel

Located in the heart of San José, the Stray Cat Hostel is perfect for budget minded travellers visiting Costa Rica’s capital. With a social atmosphere and central location, it’s easy to get around on foot or by bus. The common areas are cozy and the rooms are more than comfortable. Artists and musicians can even stay for free if they perform or create something for the hostel!


costa rica


Cheap flights to Costa Rica

Recently, Dollar Flight Club members have saved between 70-90% on cheap flights to Costa Rica. On average, our members spent $$$ on their tickets and saved over $$$ per ticket. Here are a few samples of cheap flight deals that Dollar Flight Club members have received recently.

New York City (JFK) to San José (SJO)

Price with Dollar Flight Club: $$$

Average Price: $$$

Boston (BOS) to San José (SJO)

Price with Dollar Flight Club:$$$

Average Price:$$$

Los Angeles (LAX) to San José (SJO)

Price with Dollar Flight Club:$$$

Average Price: $$$


costa rica food


Where to find cheap eats in Costa Rica


Restaurant meals, particularly non-local ones, will be one of your biggest expenses in Costa Rica. A meal in a “nicer” or non-local place can easily set you back $20.

Of course, your best option is to rent a hotel, hostel, or Airbnb with some sort of cooking space. Many hostels have a shared kitchen for communal use. Then, hit the local market where you’ll find an abundance of fresh tropical fruit, vegetables, and staples like rice and beans.

Your main budget option for eating out will be local food spots called “sodas”. These small restaurants are usually family-owned and serve a variety of Costa Rican eats, including Casado, a heaping plate of rice, beans, plantains, salad, and meat all for roughly $5.


palm tree sunset


Start planning your trip to Costa Rica


Ready to pack your bags? Despite its booming tourist industry, Costa Rica remains a great budget destination. Save money by staying in affordable guesthouses and eating local food – you’ll be amazed at what you can experience in Costa Rica on a budget!

Make sure sure to save this budget travel guide and sign up to receive cheap flight deals, so you can start planning your trip today!

  • Zach Anderson

    Zach was a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helped 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.

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