How to travel to Costa Rica on a budget

Olga Sitnitsa

written by
Olga Sitnitsa

updated 15.01.2024

Ready to see some of the world's most unique natural sites without going broke? Welcome to our guide Costa Rica on a budget. Discover this Central American gem with a focus on budget-friendly tips, affordable excursions and hidden treasures. Plan your perfect trip and experience the beauty of rainforests, pristine beaches and vibrant culture that Costa Rica has to offer.

How much is a trip to Costa Rica?

The cost of a trip to Costa Rica can vary depending on factors such as travellers' preferences, duration and activities. On a moderate budget, travellers can expect to pay between £40 and £120  per day, which covers accommodation, food, transportation and some activities. A mid-level budget can range from £120  to £235, and luxury can exceed £235  per day. 

However, these estimates are rough averages and actual costs may not necessarily be the same. You can optimise your expenses yourself by choosing low-cost accommodation, and local restaurants and exploring free or low-cost attractions, ensuring an unforgettable Costa Rica on a budget adventure.

Cheap places in Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers various budget-friendly destinations that allow travellers to enjoy its natural beauty without straining the wallet. We have selected a few of these affordable destinations:


Nestled along the Caribbean coast, Cahuita boasts a national park teeming with wildlife and pristine beaches. Affordable accommodation options and a laid-back atmosphere make it an ideal destination for a trip to Costa Rica on a budget.


A surfer's paradise, Dominical offers affordable accommodation, a relaxed beach atmosphere and colourful sunsets. Enjoy the waves, explore nearby waterfalls and soak up the coastal charm.

Village of Cahuita with the National Park in the Caribbean of Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Village of Cahuita,  Costa Rica © Shutterstock


Montezuma, located on the Nicoya Peninsula, is a bohemian haven with cascading waterfalls, affordable hostels and a laid-back atmosphere. Ideal for nature lovers on a budget, to explore lush landscapes, relax on pristine beaches and immerse themselves in an artistic and vibrant community, making it the ultimate budget-friendly adventure destination.

La Fortuna

Set against the backdrop of the iconic Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna offers budget accommodation options with easy access to hot springs, lush trails and mesmerising volcanic landscapes. With a variety of affordable options, you'll be able to explore natural wonders, take in stunning views, and experience the beauty of Costa Rica on a budget.

Puerto Viejo

Experience the atmosphere of the Caribbean in Puerto Viejo, known for its stunning beaches and inexpensive guesthouses, creating the perfect combination of relaxing and budget exploring.

Find the cheapest time to go to Costa Rica

The most economical time to travel to Costa Rica is during the rainy season, known as the "green season", which usually lasts from May to mid-November. Although rainfall is more likely, especially in September and October, this period has several advantages for budget travellers. 

Accommodation prices tend to be lower and popular attractions are less crowded, allowing you to get a closer look at the country's lush landscapes and diverse wildlife. Travelling at this time provides an opportunity to see Costa Rica's vibrant flora and fauna amidst the tranquil beauty of rain-drenched forests. 

However, it's worth planning activities and itineraries according to your preferences, and as weather conditions can vary from region to region we recommend you check out our detailed guide to the best time to visit Costa Rica.

Marino Ballena National Park, Punta Uvita, Dominical, Puntarenas, Costa Rica  © Stefan Neumann/Shutterstock

Marino Ballena National Park, Puntarenas, Costa Rica  © Stefan Neumann/Shutterstock

How to save on transportation?

When embarking on a trip to Costa Rica on a budget, you need to choose your transport wisely. Discover budget options for exploring this beautiful country.

Cheap flights to and around Costa Rica

Finding budget airfares to Costa Rica requires careful planning. Use online price comparison platforms, book your tickets well in advance and be flexible with your travel dates. Consider budget airlines for domestic flights within the country, and research nearby airports as they may offer more affordable options.

Cheap car hire in Costa Rica

You can save money on transport in Costa Rica if you choose your car hire wisely. Compare prices from different car rental providers, book in advance to get better rates, and choose small, fuel-efficient cars to keep costs down. If possible, opt for shared rides, and for a full understanding of the rental process, read our detailed guide on how to rent a car in Costa Rica.

Costa Rican buses

Costa Rica boasts an extensive and cost-effective bus network, making it a great choice for exploring Costa Rica on a budget. Buses connect major cities and popular tourist destinations, offering an affordable and scenic way to experience the country. By choosing to travel by bus you can enjoy beautiful views along the way while saving on transport costs.

Public transport

Travelling around Costa Rica's cities is convenient and economical thanks to public transport. Local buses are an affordable option and taxis are readily available. Knowing the local transport system and routes ensures that travelling around the city is efficient and cost-effective.

Montezuma beach, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Montezuma Beach, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Eat well on a budget in Costa Rica

Embarking on a culinary adventure in Costa Rica doesn't have to strain your wallet. Navigate the vibrant food scene by exploring local markets and street stalls offering a rich variety of flavours at affordable prices. Stop by 'sodas', small family-run restaurants serving authentic and inexpensive Costa Rican dishes. Immerse yourself in traditional casados, the quintessential plate that harmonises flavours in one economical dish. 

To save money, also buy fresh produce and snacks from local grocery shops - it's both a delicious and economical way to fuel up while travelling in Costa Rica on a budget. This welcoming country offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the pura vida lifestyle without sacrificing the culinary experience.

Free activities in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is teeming with natural and cultural treasures and offers plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in its beauty without spending a fortune. Here are some delightful free activities that will allow you to make the most of your holiday in Costa Rica on a budget:

Explore National Parks

Costa Rica boasts a treasure trove of biodiversity in its national parks, offering free access to lush rainforests, diverse ecosystems and mesmerising wildlife. Experience the natural wonders of parks such as Manuel Antonio or Arenal Volcanoes National Park without spending a dime.

Relax on beaches

Costa Rica's unspoilt coastline is dotted with stunning beaches, and many of them are freely accessible. From the tranquil shores of Playa Conchal to the surfer's paradise of Playa Grande, make the most of your beach holiday in Costa Rica on a budget without compromising on budget.

Arenal volcano in Costa Rica ©Shutterstock

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Visit waterfalls

Embark on a journey to discover Costa Rica's enchanting waterfalls hidden in its rich landscapes. Enjoy the majestic beauty of waterfalls such as La Fortuna or Llanos de Cortes, admission to which is often free, allowing you to enjoy the natural splendour at no cost.

Enjoy hot springs

Immerse yourself in nature's therapeutic embrace by soaking in Costa Rica's natural hot springs. Although some resorts may charge a fee, there are affordable hot springs, such as those near the Arenal Volcano, where you are free to enjoy the warmth of geothermal waters.

Hiking and walking trails

For nature lovers, Costa Rica offers many free hiking trails through lush forests and mesmerising landscapes. Explore the diverse landscapes of places like Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve or Rincon de la Vieja National Park, where the beauty of nature is open to all, inviting you to travel and discover at no cost.

Planning your trip to Costa Rica on a budget

Planning a budget trip to Costa Rica can be a daunting task due to the abundance of opportunities this breathtakingly beautiful country has to offer. This is where our tailor-made travel service comes to your rescue.

You can choose from our existing Costa Rican itineraries or contact our local experts who will take into account all your wishes and preferences and create a unique trip customised for you. Also, our Rough Guide to Costa Rica will help you learn in great detail all the features of the country and start planning your unforgettable trip.

Olga Sitnitsa

written by
Olga Sitnitsa

updated 15.01.2024

Online editor at Rough Guides, specialising in travel content. Passionate about creating compelling stories and inspiring others to explore the world.

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