If you’re traveling internationally on a budget, you’ve probably heard that Costa Rica tends to run pretty expensive, particularly compared to other countries in Central America.

But don’t let that deter you! While Costa Rica can be a bit pricy, there are many ways to experience this gorgeous destination on a tight budget, without missing out on any of the magic.

Let’s look at a few pointers!

Getting Around

Taxis and private cars can add up, but they’re a wonderful choice for getting around areas you’re not very familiar with, especially if you’re worried about safety. For jaunts between popular cities and destinations, try a shuttle service—for example, a San Jose to Manuel Antonio shuttle will get you between two of the country’s most-visited areas for much cheaper than a taxi, and you can book in advance.

Inexpensive and Free Activities

Traveling Costa Rica on a Budget: 5 Tips to Help You Save, Not Spend - Manuel Antonio National Park - Frayed Passport

Manuel Antonio National Park – photo by Sarah Stone, Frayed Passport

Costa Rica is a fantastic place to get outdoors and enjoy nature—within just this one country, you’ll find beaches, mountains, and rainforests, all perfect for adventure. A few ideas:

Manuel Antonio National Park: The entrance fee here is less than $20, and once you’re inside, you can take easy and clearly-marked hikes through the rainforest with the chance to see sloths, monkeys, and many types of birds. Plus there’s beach access here, so you can relax and enjoy the sunshine and waves after a bit of exercise!

Arenal Volcano National Park: If your goal is to see the volcano, you can avoid the entrance fee to the park—but if you do venture in, the entrance fee is $10 and there are a number of hiking trails where you can see lava flows from past eruptions, plus you’ll have the chance to see monkeys, sloths, and many other animals.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: The entrance fee here is $26, but this reserve is absolutely breathtaking! Go here for birdwatching, and if you do have a bit of wiggle room in your budget, check out the hanging bridges and zip lines.

Playa Tamarindo: Wonderful for surfing (surfboard rentals are cheap here), both for beginners and experienced surfers. Or just relax and enjoy the beach!

Cahuita National Park: Entrance fees are by donation ($5 usually)—Cahuita is over on the Caribbean side of the country, so less touristy and a bit more wild than you’ll find on the Pacific side, which can be great for snorkeling and a quiet retreat.

Related: Slapped by a Sea Turtle—Volunteering Abroad in Costa Rica

Off-Season Travel

One of the simplest ways to save money while planning your trip to Costa Rica is by scheduling your vacation for the off-season. If you go during the peak tourist seasons from December to April, you will notice much higher rates and prices, especially for accommodations and activities.

During the “green” or shoulder months of the high season, or during the off-peak months from May to November, you will notice significantly lower rates and prices. Many hotels and tour operators will be offering discounts and promotions, so keep this in mind while planning your trip!

Related: Moving to Costa Rica: Digital Nomad & Semi Retirement Guide

Rooms for Everyone

Costa Rica has a place to stay for every type of traveler, from high-priced resorts to low-cost hostels and guest houses. You can easily find nice eco-lodges and shared accommodation for $15—$25 per night. Platforms like Airbnb and similar can also help you find guest houses, vacation rentals, and other places to stay. And of course, depending on where and when you travel, housing prices will vary a great deal—a very popular lodge with tons of amenities might cost a thousand dollars a night, while a comfortable cabin with your basics like a restaurant, wifi, and parking could be $50 per night. Read our housing guide to get an idea of how to choose the right type of accommodation for your trip, whether you’re traveling long-term or looking for a short stay.

Eat like a Local

Dining out can really add up, especially in touristy areas where prices are frequently set to gouge visitors. To help stretch your food budget in Costa Rica, eat like a local and seek out the delicious street food stalls and sodas (small local eateries) found throughout the country. Not only are these meals authentic, but they usually cost just a few dollars. You’ll eat the best food when you try local dishes and eat where the locals cook and share tables!

Over to you—what are your top tips for traveling on a budget in Costa Rica? Share your stories and advice with the Frayed Passport community!

Featured image by Perry Grone on Unsplash

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