Is Costa Rica Expensive? How Much Does it Cost to Visit in 2024

Costa Rica is a dream destination for many travelers; it has out of this world rainforests, gorgeous beaches, and heaps of wildlife. But the number one question I get isn’t “Where to go in Costa Rica?” or “What activities should I do?” it’s always “Is Costa Rica expensive?”

And trust me, I get it. Costa Rica has a big reputation for being a hot spot for American retirees and tourists, which has led many to believe that it’s an expensive destination. But the truth is, the cost of visiting Costa Rica depends on your travel style and itinerary. It’s more expensive than some other Central American countries, but it’s also possible to visit on a budget.

The country is stunning, and in my personal opinion, it’s worth the slightly elevated prices that you wouldn’t experience in its neighboring countries. Nothing quite compares to the nature of Costa Rica, and I think the price of visiting is on par with what you can experience there.

But let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. How much does it really cost to visit Costa Rica in 2024?

Sand beach and trees at Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

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Flights

Just like anywhere else in the world, the flight price will heavily depend on when you book your trip and where you’re flying from. If you have some flexibility with your travels, try to avoid the high season (December to April) as flights can be crazy expensive during this time.

If you’re flying from the US, you can grab a Spirit flight for as low as $300 roundtrip if you book far enough in advance. But if you prefer to fly with a more popular airline, expect to pay around $800-$1200 round trip.

It’s important to note that there are two international airports in Costa Rica, San Jose and Liberia. If you’re planning to travel to the popular tourist destinations in the north (like Tamarindo or Santa Teresa), flying into Liberia is closer and will save you money on transportation. But San Jose is more central and will give you better access to explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest and the National Parks in the South.

SAN JOSE-COSTA RICA-: Juan Santamara International Airport is the primary airport serving San Jos, the capital of Costa Rica.

Accommodations

Accommodation can be what makes or breaks your bank balance while in Costa Rica, but luckily, there are options for every budget.

Costa Rica is one of the most eco-friendly countries in Central America, offering a lot of sustainable accommodations. You can easily find a lodge that has pitched tents or treehouses set in the rainforest for a unique and affordable experience. (Not my cup of tea in the jungle but hey, if you want cheap, you’ll have to rough it a little!)

If you prefer something a little more comfortable, hostels range from $15-30 per night. And yes, I know this is double the price of the $7 beds in Nicaragua (gasp!), but Costa Rica is more developed and much more popular, so it’s that whole supply and demand thing.

If you’re not into sharing a room with strangers, you can get a private room in a hotel or guesthouse for around $50-100 per night. If you want to treat yourself, luxury resorts can start at around $200 per night and go up to the thousands.

Remember to book accommodations early, Costa Rica is super popular, so beds and hotels fill up quickly. 

Scenic view of Lake Arenal in central Costa Rica and a lodge

Food

Food is another category that can eat away at your budget if you’re not careful (pun intended). After a few weeks of traveling, I figured out all the best ways to save money on food in Costa Rica.

First and foremost, street food is your friend. You can find cheap street eats like empanadas, tamales, and churros from street vendors throughout the country (and they’re delicious). 

When you want something a little more filling, you can always find a Casado for around $5-8.It’s a local dish that has rice, beans, plantains, salad, and a choice of meat or fish. Trust me, it’s so yummy—especially with a local beer, and you’ll be full.

For those who don’t want to eat rice and beans every day, there are also some dang good restaurants in Costa Rica, but they will cost you a pretty penny. But if you’re willing to splurge a little, it’s worth it. 

In Costa Rica, it’s all about balance to keep your budget in check. Enjoy the cheap street food, splurge on a nice meal every once in a while, and maybe even cook a meal or two at home.

Transportation

Unfortunately, transportation is one of those expenses that I can’t sugarcoat. Costa Rica is one of the more developed countries in Central America, which means a lot of the locals have cars and the public transportation system isn’t as developed. This sucks for budget travelers, but there are still a few ways to save money on transportation during your stay.

While the transportation system isn’t great, it’s not non-existent. Buses are the most common form of public transportation and can get you pretty much anywhere in the country. The issue is, that you might have to go a roundabout way to get where you want to go, and it may take longer than expected.

You can also hire private drivers or take taxis, though they can get pricey quickly. If you’re traveling with a group of people, renting a car might be a better option. Just a heads up, driving in Costa Rica is a bit of a wild ride, the roads can be narrow with lots of curves.

Here is a brief breakdown of transportation costs:

  • 4 hour public bus ride – $15
  • 20 minute taxi ride – $25
  • 4 hour shuttle bus – $40-$60
  • Car Rental per day – $60-$80
SAN JOSE COSTA RICA - Afternoon scene of the square in front of the famous National Theater of Costa Rica in San Jose in the night

Tours and Activities

Costa Rica is full to the brim with activities. As soon as you land, you’ll be bombarded with all of the tours and activities available to you. From ziplining through the rainforest to surfing in the Pacific to going on a canopy tour, you will have more than enough options. 

The easiest way to save money on activities is by not doing them all. I know this is a hard one to swallow, but if you’re visiting Costa Rica on a budget, then you might have to just pick one or two activities versus doing them all. 

Another way to save money on activities is to try to book directly with local companies rather than through a third-party agency. And don’t be afraid to negotiate prices; they might say no, but during low season, they might be more likely to give you a deal. Also, try to have cash as a lot of the local agencies won’t take credit cards.

If you’re on a super small budget, there are also loads of free activities. Hiking through national parks only costs around $5-$15 and a day at the beach is completely free. You can also take advantage of the natural beauty of Costa Rica by swimming in waterfalls or just enjoying the gorgeous scenery.

Monteverde Costa Rica - young adventurous man zip lining thru the cloud forest. Monteverde Costa Rica.

Conclusion

I can’t tell you enough that the cost of visiting Costa Rica depends heavily on you and your plans. If you want to go ziplining, whitewater rafting, and sleep in a 5-star rainforest resort, you will spend a lot more money than if you choose to lay on the beach all day and share a 10-bed dorm room. (Don’t knock it til you try it!)

The key to traveling around Costa Rica without breaking the bank is to give and take. Grab a hotel with a free breakfast. Take the bus one day and a taxi the next. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and there are plenty of budget-friendly options available. So whether you’re on your honeymoon or your second month of backpacking, Costa Rica has something for you.

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Author

  • Samantha King

    Sam, a seasoned traveler across four continents and 49 countries, is a leading authority in travel planning. Her website, Travelling King, offers tailored itineraries and expert guides for seamless trips. Sam's expertise in luxury travel, fast travel, and destination guides keeps her at the forefront of the travel community.

    View all posts https://www.tiktok.com/@travellingkng

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