How to save money on your trip to Costa Rica

A trip to Costa Rica can be a wonderful adventure, but it can also be costly.  Many people dream of heading down to this beautiful little country in Central America but cannot imagine having the money to make the trip a reality. After traveling through many Central American countries, Costa Rica is indeed one of the most expensive, but there are ways to help the budget.

After living in Costa Rica for 5 years I came to realize numerous cost saving techniques that can be used for a range of things in the country. Travel expenses (trust me take the buses, they are fabulous and much cheaper then the cost of renting a car), accommodation, and eating can all be done in a way that will greatly reduce your spending.

Choosing when you go to Costa Rica can be as important a decision as any.  Costa Rica enjoys just 2 seasons; dry and wet (green, rainy).  If you go during the wet season you can expect to enjoy at least 1/3 off of everything, including lodging and restaurant costs.  The great thing about this is that the wet season is also called the green season because everything is so much more lush.  In my opinion, this makes it a better time to visit anyway.

Look at all that green!
Now you might say, "but it will be raining all the time. Won't that ruin our vacation?".  The short answer is NO!  The rainy season in Costa Rica starts off very slowly in May and continues through November.  October is only month that I would suggest not heading to CR, but other then that you will most likely get rain only for an hour or so and usually at a predictable times in the afternoon. Very rarely will you get a full day of rain unless you're deep in the jungle!  So head down between May and November and you will automatically see a savings, even on your flights!

If you are a single traveler there are dorm-style options in many of the most desirable towns, particularly on the beach.  These will offer you the most bang for your buck, although admittedly it won't be all that much bang. When you are busy exploring the amazing surroundings though, it may not matter much!

View from one of my amazing vacation rentals (Nosara)
If you are traveling with a family or a larger group of people, I would search around for vacation rentals.  In a house or condo you will have more space allowing many people to share and split the costs.  It is also a added benefit to have a fridge and be able to do some light cooking.  Food from a grocery store is usually far cheaper then eating out every meal.  If you bargain hard, particularly in the rainy season, you may end up with quite a great deal.

You can also try house swapping, house sitting, and couch surfing.  Woofing (volunteering on farms in exchange for free lodging) can also be an option out in some of the more rural areas.

Food will most likely be the area where saving money is the most difficult.  If you can hit up a local feria (farmers market) in any town you will be able to get lots of fresh produce inexpensively, and that may help tide you over.  But for meals, your best bet is to try and stay simple.  Visit the local sodas where food is far less expensive then the normal tourist joint.

Local farmers market
Also follow any normal cost saving measure in regards to eating; avoid alcoholic drinks, eat locally, stay simple with your meal choices.  If you can get a hotel that offers free breakfast that can save you on 1 meal a day.  But splurge once in a while as the food can be divine!

Extra tips:  Eat where you see the locals packing in.  Those will be the best spots.  You can also inquire around town, if your Spanish is up to speed!  FYI...the water is safe to drink throughout the country, so save on the bottled water, bring a reusable bottle and fill up, for free, anywhere!

The only way I know of to save money on activities is to try and avoid the over commercialized options.  Often times if there are hot springs or zip lines near by, there will also be a local's type place offering the same activity at a fraction of the cost.  Bargaining, again, especially in the rainy season can also be done with some success.  Never hurts to try!

EcoThermales, the locals hot springs!
Also skip the tour guides in national parks. If you ask, they can give you a map and send you on your way. Much cheaper and I like it because you are on your own time frame anyway.  There are plenty of beautiful spots to take a free hike.  And remember the beaches are basically owned by the country, (meaning there are no private beaches, including for any hotels on the beach) so as long as you don't venture into some one's lawn you can walk along the beach as far as you want or are able to.

Also see our posts on the Best Beaches in Costa Rica or the Best Places for Kids in Costa Rica.

Have any other cost saving tips?  Add them in the comments below!

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  1. I am just planning my next travelling adventure and definitely considering a stop off in Costa Rica. Looks like my kind of place!

    1. Well it is an incredibly beautiful and diverse place to visit. Happy to answer any questions you may have as you get closer! We spent quite a bit of time there:)

  2. You can take tips from this post on the way to save money while traveling. Useful information

  3. You can learn the way to save money on your trip to coastal region.useful post

  4. Money saver tips and yet you make a great trip