While there are many ways to travel frugally in Costa Rica, most travelers agree that Costa Rica is more expensive than the average tropical destination. Depending on your itinerary, a week-long vacation in Costa Rica can cost between $1,800 to $4,500 per person. The trip price will be affected primarily by the types of accommodation you choose and the kind (and number) of activities included in your tour. Meals and transportation can also affect the cost of the trip, but to a lesser degree.
This article will break down the average costs of a trip within Costa Rica (not including the cost of airfare). All prices used in this article are USD.
Is Costa Rica Expensive? It Depends on Your Itinerary
On average, a week-long trip can cost under $2,000 per person (not including airfare) if it includes mid-priced accommodations and only a few popular activities, such as zip-lining or nature hikes.
However, as you add more premium requests to your itinerary, such as beachfront lodging, multi-bedroom suites, or exclusively chartered activities such as deep-sea fishing, your trip can quickly increase to over $3,000 per person per week.
Another factor that can affect the total cost of your trip is the time of the year you choose to visit. For example, most lodgings and tours increase their prices during Costa Rica’s high season (December to April), when there is a high demand for services due to increased tourism. Within the high season, there are a few peak season weeks around Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter when national tourism increases the demand even further, and prices are the most expensive. However, during Costa Rica’s green or rainy season (May to November), costs flatten out again. Learn more in our article, Best Time to Visit Costa Rica.
How much does a round-trip flight to Costa Rica cost?
Costa Rica’s two international airports (SJO in Alajuela/San Jose and LIB in Liberia) receive flights from upwards of 25 different airlines from more than 38 destinations worldwide. On average, around 450 weekly flights come to Costa Rica from the Americas and Europe. The total amount of flights grows during the high season between December and April.
With so much availability of flight itineraries, if you can keep your dates flexible, you can typically find good deals on a flight to Costa Rica.
The cost of a round-trip flight to Costa Rica depends on the origin city. Tickets can begin at $400-$500 for itineraries out of southeastern and Atlantic-coast towns in the US like Miami (MIA), Houston (HOU), Dallas (DFW), Charlotte (CLT), Washington, DC (DCA/IAD), and New York City (LGA, JFK).
Round-trip flights from cities in the US midwest like Chicago and Denver, the Pacific coast like San Francisco or Seattle, and the major cities in Canada are generally more expensive, with ticket prices starting at $700-$900.
Flights from other Latin American countries vary widely as flights from popular itineraries such as Mexico City or Panama start at $200, but flights from major South American cities such as Lima or Buenos Aires begin at $800.
Round-trip airfare from Europe usually begins at $1,000-$1,200 minimum, but this is where date flexibility can help as there are often special deals for major cities like Madrid, Frankfurt, or London for as little as $600.
How much does lodging cost in Costa Rica?
Because Costa Rica has dedicated so much to creating an excellent tourism industry, there are lodging options for everyone’s taste and budget.
You can find everything from hostels that only cost a few US dollars per night to hotels and luxury lodges that cost more than $650 per night.
It is generally possible to find pleasant, quality lodging for around $150/night (double occupancy) in most of Costa Rica’s major tourist destinations.
This article explains more about Casual, Premier, and Upgraded accommodation options.
How much does food cost in Costa Rica?
The high cost of food in Costa Rica surprises many foreigners. Both in grocery stores and restaurants, the cost of food is significantly higher than in other Central American countries and is even comparable to typical US costs. The average person in Costa Rica spends $221 a month on food, just behind Canada at $231 and the US at $256, and significantly more than nearby Honduras at $59.
How much you spend on food will depend on where you decide to eat since there is a wide array of options. In the capital and in major tourist destinations such as Manuel Antonio or Arenal, there are fine dining options whose costs will be comparable to the prices in a place like New York City.
However, it is entirely possible to eat healthy and satisfying on a budget, and the best advice we can give you is to “eat like a Tico,” which means having a small breakfast, a large midday meal, a coffee break or “cafecito” in the afternoon, and a light dinner.
A great way to keep costs low and tummies full is to choose accommodations that include breakfast. Most hotels go all out on these breakfasts and include freshly prepared rice and beans, scrambled eggs, tortillas and bread, various fruits, juices, coffee, and some US comfort foods like cereal and yogurt. Even if you book an early morning tour, the hotel will typically package up a breakfast box for you to take if you ask ahead of time.
Most Costa Ricans prioritize a large lunch as the main meal of the day, and the most common dish you will find in homes or restaurants is a “casado.” A “casado” typically includes ample portions of rice, beans, salad, “picadillo” which is a small vegetable dish, and a protein such as chicken, beef, or fried cheese. With a fresh glass of juice on the side, a “casado” costs around $10. Learn more about Costa Rica’s traditional cuisine.
In the afternoon, around 3 pm, most Costa Ricans will take a break to drink coffee with their family or colleagues. This “cafecito” typically includes freshly brewed coffee and a sandwich or pastry and it is usually so filling that many Ticos will consider it their last meal of the day.
If you are in a major tourist destination, you will have many options for dinner locations.
Depending on what you order, the meal cost can vary from $15 to $40 a plate, sometimes a bit more if you eat a dish that includes lobster or imported products.
One thing that is important to mention is that alcohol, in general, is expensive in Costa Rica. For example, a beer at a bar can cost from $2 for local beers to $6 for artisanal and imported beers.
If you want bottled water, a 12 oz bottle can cost $1.50.
Service and gratuity costs are included in all restaurant bills, so no tipping is necessary in Costa Rica.
One very affordable thing (and also delicious) in Costa Rica is fruit, especially the fruit that is in season. For example, mangos are in season from March to May, and you can find them in local markets for as little as $0.40 per pound.
How much does transportation cost in Costa Rica?
There are many ways to get around Costa Rica: buses, taxis, local flights, shuttle buses, private drivers, and rental cars. Learn more about each option in our Costa Rica transportation article.
The transportation options you choose will determine the cost.
In general, public transportation is very affordable and will slowly but surely get you to your destination. A bus fare from a large city to the beach or a major tourist destination can cost between $10-$20 one way.
Private drivers can cost, on average, $150 a day. In general, this is well worth the investment for honeymooners, families, or small groups who want to travel safely and efficiently between two locations while also learning from the driver about their knowledge of the country.
How much do activities cost when traveling in Costa Rica?
The cost of activities in Costa Rica will depend on the type of activity you choose.
More popular activities like zipline/canopy tours, hanging bridges, guided tours of national parks, or visiting wildlife rescue centers can cost around $50 per person for a 2-4 hour tour, including a snack. Other activities that take longer (4-6 hours) and require high technical expertise, such as white water rafting, can cost about $100. The longer tours typically include a meal.
Private chartered boats will begin at $500 for a day of fishing with a captain.
Entrances to national parks and biological reserves cost between $5 and $18 per day and should be purchased online beforehand.
How to save money during your trip to Costa Rica?
You can absolutely save money during your trip to Costa Rica! Here are some suggestions:
- When it comes to flights, start researching on sites like Kayak or Travelocity to understand which/when flights are cheaper. And don’t forget to visit the airline site itself. Southwest Airlines, for example, does not share its flight information on Kayak but does often have excellent deals if you are willing to travel on its limited schedule.
- For lodging, the earlier you can reserve your spot, the better since room types fill up fast. Also, try to avoid peak season travel when national tourism increases the demand for hotel rooms. Finally, some hotels allow you to purchase rooms using credit card points.
- For activities, you can choose public tours over semi-private options. You can also factor in more time in your itinerary at the beach, where kids are happy and costs stay low. Before you head out to the beach, stop by the local “super” or grocery store and buy some fresh fruit and sandwich makings so that you can stay at the beach all day. Likewise, if you just want to hike and explore, there are many opportunities to go to National Parks without a guide. And while you may not learn as much as you could with a guide, you will still enjoy being in nature.
And here’s a final word to the wise: The average salary in Costa Rica is $31,000 versus $59,000 in the US, so if you are looking for ways to save money during your trip in Costa Rica, pay attention to how your fellow Tico travelers are getting around, where they are eating, and the type of activities they are participating in!
How much cash should you bring?
While credit cards are commonly accepted at most restaurants, hotels, and activity centers, it is smart to have some US dollars and Costa Rican colones on hand for incidentals, taxis, tips, and street vendors. We suggest that you travel with a couple hundred dollars and around 150,000-250,000 colones (equivalent of $300-$500).
To get colones, you can either exchange dollars at the airport or you can simply take the colones out at one of the ATMs all over Costa Rica. The leading banks are Banco Nacional de Costa Rica and Banco de Costa Rica. However, make sure to tell your bank ahead of time that you will be traveling outside of the country so that they will not flag your card and can also tell you about any additional fees for using your card outside of the country.
How much do different types of trips to Costa Rica cost?
As mentioned above, the cost of a trip to Costa Rica depends on the lodging you choose, the activities you include, and the time of year you visit. Here are some considerations for the most popular trips to Costa Rica.
How much does a Family Vacation to Costa Rica cost?
Average Trip Cost: $1,670+ per person (for 7-10 nights)
If you need to keep your trip more affordable, schedule in a lot of time at the beach, where sand, sun, and water will keep everybody happy and busy. We have a few suggestions for The Best Beaches in Costa Rica for Families.
If you find that you have more of a budget for your trip, you will want to add in some adventure activities to make the trip memorable! Read our article on Things to Do in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Honeymoon
Average Trip Cost: $1,610+ per person (for 7-10 nights)
Honeymoons in Costa Rica are incredibly delightful and romantic but know that they can be costly if you want to indulge yourself (and you should).
We love to plan honeymoon trips, and we ensure you can enjoy as much time as possible with your loved one in paradise.
Even though Costa Rica is such a popular destination in the world, there are still places where you can have a very secluded experience while also being surrounded by great luxury. Visiting those parts of Costa Rica can be a bit more costly, but it will make your trip even more special.
Costa Rica Destination Wedding
Average Trip Cost: Contact for a quote
Destination weddings can be expensive, mainly depending on the type of accommodations you decide to use and the kind of wedding you want.
Costa Rica has a very established destination-wedding industry. You can choose to celebrate your wedding at beach resorts, reducing costs using the resort’s amenities. Or you can have a very exclusive and tailored wedding in private villas with an event created just for you.
Solo Adventure Trip to Costa Rica
Average Trip Cost: Contact for a quote
Costa Rica is a land of diverse wildlife and landscapes. Therefore, you can enjoy all kinds of adventures here, from mountain biking to white water rafting to sports fishing. These adventures are more costly than other popular activities, so this trip can have a higher price tag.
If you want more details about your Costa Rica trip, we would be happy to help you plan, save, and organize your itinerary to ensure you get the best possible trip available! Contact us below.
John Rabenau has been working in the eco-tourism & adventure travel industry in Costa Rica since 2002. He has worked in a variety of capacities from Outdoor Educator & Principle Guide to Itinerary Design Manager & Business Owner for numerous organizations. He has grown Costa Rica Escapes into one of the most reputable Costa Rica travel agencies since its creation in 2006, hosting more than 5,000 people with custom vacation itineraries.