Last updated on August 24th, 2023
If you’re not informed about the prices in Costa Rica, you could be in for a surprise upon arrival. We don’t want you showing up unprepared and having to cancel plans because you’re worried about breaking the bank!
Costa Rica is an amazing, friendly tourist destination, but it’s also one of the most expensive countries in Central America.
Some people consider the country too expensive and are skeptical about finding anything cheap. But others consider Costa Rica a developing country and therefore a budget travel destination.
The reality is that everything depends on the kind of experience you’re looking for. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true! So we have created this article about Costa Rican travel costs and prices as a guide!
Seasons (Dry and Rainy season)
In Costa Rica, we have two seasons that affect tourism and prices: the dry season and the rainy season.
The dry season is the high season for tourism, and it runs from December until the end of April. This is when the weather is best and there’s not much rain at all.
After that, prices drop as we enter the green season, more commonly known as the rainy season. This period goes from May until November, but for about the first and last month or so, the rain isn’t as consistent or heavy, as the season is transitioning.
So coming in May, June, October or November can still be a good idea if you’re hoping for more sunshine than rain.
The dry season is generally considered to be the best time of the year to visit Costa Rica. There’s lots of sunshine and it’s a good time to visit the rainforest. That being said, the dry season is also the most popular (and expensive) time to visit.
Costa Rica Travel Costs
From hostels to resorts, Costa Rica has a lot of accommodation options to offer. To give you a better idea, let’s filter it into these 4 categories:
- Dorm Room/Hostel: You’ll find great prices on hostels, at around $10 – $20 per night in a shared room. Private rooms are between $30 – $70.
- Budget Room: For $80 – $120 per night, you’ll typically get a large bed with a thin mattress, standard furniture, a clean private bathroom, sometimes having hot water showers (depending on the area that you are staying, beaches has cold water).
- Deluxe Budget Room: $120 – $180 typically gets you a more spacious room, with 24-hour hot water, a more comfy mattress, television, breakfast included, hotels with pools and A/C.
- Deluxe Room: For $180 – $220 per night, you can get a nice room, usually still with some marks on the walls and not quite a sparkling bathroom, but with a proper mattress, more furniture, perhaps a desk, large television, air-conditioning and hotel staff that are significantly more attentive. We have all inclusive resorts that weill fit in this category.
This is such a complex topic, in the sense that Costa Rica offers a lot of options for all kind of budgets, but many options tend to offer very little information to help pick the right one for the destination.
- Bus: By far the cheapest way to travel around the country. The range of prices vary between $4 – $16. For the main tourist destinations, there are usually direct buses from San José. However, schedules change all the time and you need to find the bus stop because they aren’t concentrated in one station.
- Uber: Nowadays, this is the way the locals get around in San José. It’s easier and usually cheaper because you don’t have to pay the taxes and fees you normally would with a taxi. But they’re not as commonly found outside main hubs like San José.
- Taxis: In small towns or short trips, their price is normal. They have a system with a meter that will tell you how much it costs for the distance traveled. Some of them have upgraded the payment method and provide the option to pay with cards.
- Rent-a-Cars: The amount of companies available for renting a car is kind of overwhelming. For us, it is the best way to have the freedom to explore the country. A 4×4 car is recommended so you can have the option to visit more places, considering the routes and the conditions of the roads.
- Also, the price that you get on the website might be increased for the insurance that the rent-a-car company needs to add on top of the daily rate.
- Some of them have the policy to require a temporary deposit on your credit card to guarantee any damage that needs to be charged later.
This can be divided into two categories:
– Collective (“colectivo”): The meaning of “colectivo” refers to a shared transportation. The total cost of the trip is split between the number of people. The shuttle companies use this a lot, and in some tourist destinations, we have used these to go from one place to the other. The disadvantage can be the limited schedules since they don’t always reach the minimum of people that they need to operate.
– Private: Hiring a driver is one of the more comfortable options, but not necessarily the most inexpensive one. The driver know where to go and can stop at your convenience. On the other hand, the prices vary from travel agencies or van owners, so you have to research well. We usually get two or three quotes before we commit to one driver.
- Plane: Domestic flights aren’t the most frequent way of transportation for locals. Still, when you see the distance and the 20-minute flights, and the prices that range between $40-$160 each way (there may be additional fees), it doesn’t seem that crazy to consider.
- Most of the flights leave from the International airport or another airport called Tobias Bolaños located in Pavas, San José. There are some tourist destinations that don’t have a landing track.
Rodrigo and I have both worked as employees in tour desks (side note: we met each other in those desks). So we’ve selected the tours that got the most requests in our time there, so you can have an idea of the prices.
There are some random products that you always get on your trip, so the list below is to give a general idea of the prices here. Add a little extra when you are in a tourist town:
- Souvenirs: From $2 earrings up to $1000 types of furniture that can be shipped to the States—just to give you an idea. Buying souvenirs is a great way to support locals as well hold onto small pieces of the experiences you had and the places you traveled!
- Water bottles: Water is drinkable in most places throughout the country, although in many beach towns it’s still not recommended to drink the tap water. For a bottle of water, you can expect to pay around $1.50-$2.
- Alcohol: A beer is about $3 – $5
- Coffee: About $2 for cup of coffee
- Chips (local ones): $2, though a bag of Doritos costs closer to $5. Everything that is imported will be substantially more expensive.
- Shampoo and soap: Always will be more expensive $10 – $15
Tips on how to travel as locals do:
- Ask locals what their favorite places to go are.
- Find out the local holidays, and avoid traveling to the touristy places during those days. For one example, Easter is a big weekend here!
- Buy groceries in a supermarket and avoid spending money in restaurants and touristy areas. Or eat in the local sodas where you see a lot of people. This is always a good sign.
- If you are a student or a volunteer you can show your ID and some tour companies or other places will give you a discount.
- Avoid using US dollars because of the exchange rate that you will get. The exchange rate that people use is usually 500 Colones per dollar and at the bank it is higher, so you lose a lit bit there.
Costa Rica is such a beautiful country. But unfortunately, it’s not necessarily a cheap place to travel. Costa Rica is not like the many countries in Asia where the value of your money goes so much further and everything is ridiculously cheap. Or even like the other countries in Central America, where you’ll likely find much lower prices. Prices are very comparable to the U.S or Canada.
BUT Costa Rica is generally safer and more geared for tourists than the surrounding Central American countries.
And you can find ways to cut expenses and spend your money in places that have a good impact on the local economy!
If you have more questions or tips to add, let us know as we love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading!
- March 2018. Evaluation of prices in websites like booking.com; doubletree3.hilton.com; www.marriott.com
- March 2018, Evaluation of prices website: https://www.adobecar.com; https://www.budget.com/en/home; https://www.sixt.com/car-rental/costa-rica