Costa Rica Travel Budget: How Much Does It Cost?

Costa Rica on a Budget

Budget Travel Guides

Is it possible to travel in Costa Rica on a budget? Learn how much it cost me to backpack in Costa Rica — along with my favorite travel tips, accommodation, and activities.

Travel Guide: Costa Rica (2016)

Everywhere I traveled in Central America, I kept hearing the same thing. “Skip Costa Rica” they said. “It’s expensive and touristy”. But one lesson I’ve learned in my travels is to never believe everything you hear from others.

Costa Rica surprised me in a good way. Sure, there were plenty of expensive tourist-friendly types of activities that other backpackers warned me about. For example: I’ve never seen so many advertisements for zip-lining!

But I soon found out there are a variety of ways to experience the best of the country even on a backpacker’s budget.

You just need to dig below the surface a bit.

Costa Rica Travel Guide

The Rich Coast

Named the rich coast (Spanish: Costa Rica) by Spanish conquistadors, Costa Rica is one of the planet’s most biologically diverse places. From stunning beaches and incredible rainforests to the charm of small towns nestled between volcanoes, Costa Rica is a nature lover’s paradise.

The country’s system of national parks and reserves protects approximately 25% of the country, one of the highest in the world.

Here are a few budget travel tips and some useful advice about traveling in Costa Rica that will help you plan your trip.

Costa Rica Travel Tips

Budget Travel In Costa Rica

Costa Rica may be more expensive than some other Central American countries, but you can certainly experience the country on a backpacker’s budget if you take the time to investigate low-cost sleeping options like camping, hostels and small eco guest houses.

Budget travelers can survive on around $30 – $50 USD per day.

Costa Rica’s unit of currency is the Colon (520 – 550 colones / $1 USD).

While US dollars are widely accepted, changing your currency to colones is recommended to avoid overpaying for things in dollars.

My Costa Rica Travel Budget

TOTAL DAYS = 34

TOTAL SPENT = $1,100 USD

DAILY AVERAGE = $32 USD

When I spent 34 days traveling through Costa Rica in 2011, I spent a total of $1100 for an average of $32 USD per day. This was possible by staying in hostels, camping, using public transportation, eating cheaply, and avoiding organized tours as much as possible.

READ MORE: Travel Banking Tips

Costa Rica Accommodation

Where to stay in Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers a wide range of accommodation, so everyone can find a perfect place to stay. Prices of accommodation vary depending of the region (prices are highest in well-established tourist towns such as San Jose, Manuel Antonio, Arenal and Tamarindo) or time of the year.

Here are some examples to help you plan according to your budget.

Costa Rica Food

Food In Costa Rica

Rice and beans are the foundation of most low-cost Costa Rican meals. If you never get sick of eating it over and over again, this will help you save on food.

You can buy a hearty plate of beef, pinto, & fried plantains for about $3 at small local establishments. Yuca (also known as cassava) is another inexpensive starchy root vegetable that is served frequently.

A great money-saving option that might give you insight into the local culture are sodas – local family run restaurants that serve typical Costa Rican cuisine for as little as $5 – $8 for a gigantic plate of food.

They’re a bargain compared to restaurants that cater to tourists, so you’ll definitely want to follow locals to the busiest spots if you’re on a budget.

If you want something a little more fancy, meals at the best restaurants begin at around $20 USD. Most restaurants already include a 10% gratuity fee, so there’s no need to tip more.

Costa Rica Transportation

Costa Rica Transportation

The main ways to get around in Costa Rica are by public bus, rental car, taxis, shuttle minivan or small planes. Public buses are the cheapest option, but they aren’t always convenient.

While the buses aren’t luxurious, the ride is definitely doable. You can expect to pay around $3 to go from one town to the next or to up to $20 USD to travel across the entire country.

You can rent a car in Costa Rica for about $300 – $700 USD per week.

Shuttle buses cost about $40 – $80 USD per person from one town to another.

If you’re short on time and willing to spend some extra money you may want to travel using small domestic planes from local airlines NatureAir and Sansa. You can get a flight starting around $30 by booking in advance.

Visa Requirements

Citizens of the United States and most European nations don’t need a visa to visit Costa Rica unless the length of your stay exceeds 90 days. Visitors must pay a Costa Rican departure tax of $29 when leaving the country.

Costa Rica Travel Photos

Things To Do In Costa Rica

Costa Rica has plenty of less-traveled towns and national parks that offer travelers numerous adrenaline-fueled or wilderness activities – and they won’t break the bank either.

Tortuguero National Park

Ever dreamed of sea turtles? Tortugero National Park is the place to go, because endangered green turtles are breeding on the beach here. Tortugero is also home to many birds, crocodiles, monkeys, sloths and manatees, so if you’re a fan of the jungle you’ll love it! Boat or kayak tours through the jungle will cost you between $40 – $60.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde is one of Costa Rica’s most popular natural parks with a lot of activities, such as walking through the tree canopy, zip lining ($50 – $90) over the forest, coffee plantation tours ($10 – $30) or hiking and wildlife spotting. The park is gorgeous and shouldn’t be missed. It’s easy to hike Monteverde on your own and save money.

Arenal Volcano (La Fortuna)

Costa Rica is home to many active volcanoes with Arenal being the most visited one. Volcano hiking is a must, but unfortunately you can’t see lava oozing out of the volcano anymore. There is also whitewater rafting ($70 – $130), relaxing hot springs, or walking through the treetops on suspension bridges ($60 – $80).

Playa Tamarindo

Lively Tamarindo is a hyped-up surfing and water-sports beach with wild nightlife. Most visitors come here to surf and learn Spanish. The beach is gorgeous and shouldn’t disappoint you.

Corcovado National Park

Corcovado is for adventure lovers, where you can hike through the jungle searching for unique Costa Rican wildlife like tapirs, toucans, and pumas. The largest of Costa Rica’s parks, it covers one third of the Osa Pensinsula. While you can’t hike the park on your own anymore, it’s possible to hire a local guide to show you the way.

Costa Rica Snakes

Budget Travel Tips

If you’re on a strict budget in Costa Rica, consider bringing your own tent for camping, instead of paying for a bed every single night. Campsites in Costa Rica are cheap (about $5) and the landscapes are often gorgeous.

You could also look into homestay style lodging, as locals are starting to open up their homes to travelers in an effort to make a little extra money.

Off The Beaten Path

For an off-the-beaten path experience in Costa Rica you might want to check out Cocos Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site located 300 miles southwest from the Pacific coast. Cocos is part of the same chain of underwater volcanoes as the Galápagos Islands and activities include scuba diving with dolphins, hammerhead sharks, giant rays, or exploring over 200 waterfalls.

High/Low Seasons

Costa Rica is rainy pretty much all year round, so make sure to bring a light rain jacket or poncho no matter when you’re planning to visit.

December through April are generally considered dry season, but this is also high-season and the most expensive time to visit, so keep that in mind if you’re on a budget.

However, visiting during the rainy season between May and November is a wonderful way to experience Costa Rica’s best nature reserves without large crowds – if you don’t mind occasional wet hiking conditions.

The busiest times to travel to Costa Rica are during Christmas break, as well as the week leading up to Easter Sunday (also known as Semana Santa). It’s also the least economical time to travel, as accommodation prices are high.

Costa Rica Roads

Challenges In Costa Rica

San Jose isn’t the safest city in the world, and taxi scams are rampant (especially the “broken meter” scam). Some national parks, such as Manuel Antonio, can be flooded with tourists at peak times/seasons.

Keep in mind that during the rainy season many unpaved roads could be impassable for regular cars, making getting to remote places more difficult.

Internet & Cell Phone Service

If you have an unlocked cell phone, you can purchase a local Costa Rican SIM card and pre-paid data package with 4G coverage/internet. The airports in San Jose and Liberia both have cell service booths from the country’s largest carriers — Kolbi and Movistar.

Useful Things To Know

Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica, but English is widely spoken. You might want to consider learning some Spanish while there and sign up for a language course. Costa Rica is one of the most popular destinations to learn Spanish as people speak slowly and their dialect is easy to understand.

Costa Ricans are extremely polite and quick to shake hands and greet you with a kiss on the cheek. Spanish polite form used is used almost exclusively and it’s considered impolite to address anyone with tu (like you would in Mexico) or vos.

Family is important in Costa Rica, so don’t be surprised when you’re constantly asked by everyone about your marital status and family!

Costa Rica Photography

Click Here For More Photos Of Costa Rica

 

Adventures From Costa Rica

Planning to travel to Costa Rica soon? Browse all my blog posts from Costa Rica to get ideas & recommendations for your own adventures.

Read My Travel Stories From Costa Rica

 


Suggested Books & Movies

Costa Rica Books

Costa Rica Movies

Enjoy Your Trip!

Despite what you’ll hear about Costa Rica being expensive, you can certainly experience the country on a backpacker’s budget if you use low-cost sleeping options like camping, hostels, and small guest houses. Spend a few weeks exploring the diverse biology, mountains, beaches, and rain-forests of Costa Rica and I promise you won’t be disappointed! ★

More Information

Costa Rica Blog Posts: Read My Stories From Costa Rica
Accommodation: Click Here For Deals In Costa Rica
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Costa Rica

READ NEXT: My 30 Best World Travel Tips

Do you have any budget travel tips for Costa Rica?

Any Questions Or Comments?

Thanks for leaving a comment, I appreciate your feedback. However please use your real name only and treat everyone with respect. Lets have a meaningful conversation!

100 Comments

  1. Great Post! I’m actually thinking about traveling to Costa Rica this summer. I read it’s one of the safest countries in central america but I am still a little scared so I haven’t decided yet if I should actually go. It just sounds like a really amazing country with a lot of activities to do :)

  2. Hi. Thanks for the post. I am thinking of traveling with my 6 and 8 year old – just the 3 of us. Is it safe to travel in CR? What are the best areas to go visit for that age range? Thanks!

  3. I’m always happy to ready your posts, Matt! It’s very detailed, this summary/break down you do is really helpful for travelers like myself to create our own budget plans. Looking forward to read more of your posts!

  4. Question: is it best to buy a universal sims card before I get to CR? We want to be able to use Facebook regularly! Thanks for any input!

    1. Hi Carolyn.

      There is a small Kolbi-ICE shop in tha airport, very easy to find. You can buy a SIM card there while you wait for the luggage. A one week internet data plan with local calls cost about 15 USD. Remember to use an unlocked mobile!

      Have a nice trip!

  5. That’s so true that traveling on your own is not only cheap, but more fulfilling. I agree with you so much. We have been traveling independently since college and this year we started a travel blog finally. Our budget is quite similar to yours. Hope to go to Costa Rica soon!:)Thanks for the tips.
    Good luck!

  6. We are a couple looking for the best option to visit Costa Rica.
    I would like to know more about EAFN (eafnature.org), does anybody travelled with their card? I have seen it is
    possible to save 60USD per night
    with their card (it costs less than 10 USD), and they are no travel agency. Thank you for your info!

    1. Hi Luis, I am also one-half of a couple looking to visit CR March or April 2017 – specific dates not set yet – but let me know if you’d like to possibly chat more or meet up! (Or others in similar boat!)

      1. Hello Jessica, sure! We could chat more and share the information about the travel in order to find the best option, I think I have now a clear idea about the planning. Let me know if it is possible to share a email or we can do it through the forum.

  7. I have been living in Costa Rica for over 2 years and I will say that it is not the cheapest place to live. The best tip I can give for food is to buy fruit at the local fruitarias and eat at the sodas. Tours are expensive usually around $65 but if you ask for deals I bet they will give you one. Locals don’t pay the full price for tours so its worth it to ask. If your in Jaco you can ask for a deal at Jaco Ropes and we will help you out.

  8. This blog post has been an absolute God-send! So many facts about this awesome Latin American country accompanied by such breathtaking pics.!

  9. Hey!! My wife and I want to backpack around costa rica. We are planning to get to San Jose then liberia and then tortuguero. We are going for about 10 to 12 days. We are planning on staying in hostels when we are there. I’m thinking of taking $100 p/p per day should that be enough?? Roughly $1,000 p/p. We are planning on staying about 3 to 4 days in each place

    1. Yeah that’s plenty of $ to not rough it. With that budget, you can stay in guest houses, eat at some touristy restaurants and do a few tours. The tours are what will get you if you do them everyday.

  10. Thanks Matt. Any tips on the proof of return ticket when entering for someone who is traveling one way from country to country, with no time frame? Is it enforced in CR or is it an airline thing?

    1. Hello,

      We crossed the border today with Tica bus.

      Tica bus checked our passport, onward travel and also our yellow fever when we checked in at Panama City (I think the yellow fever was because of the previous countries we had visited and not standard).

      There was no check at the actual border, maybe if you got a local bus to the border crossing you would be fine.

      Hope this helps.

  11. Awesome blog! Will definitely be following some advice from here. :) I will be backpacking for the first time in Costa Rica, I’ve been there before but went with a travel company so this time it will be more raw. Thank you for sharing! :)

  12. How is CR for disabled travellers? My son wants a once in a lifetime experience, he hasn’t got a huge amount of time left, and wants to see the amazon rainforest. The canopy bridges look amazing, but he would struggle with ladders, he can walk but slowly, and not well on uneven ground.

    1. Hello,

      Have you considered a boat tour of the Amazon. We did one in Bolivia and from the boat we saw howler monkeys, small monkeys, sloths, dolphins, lots of different birds etc.

      Not sure if this helps but would cut down the walking.

  13. Hi Matt! Just stumbled across your blog. I live and work in Monteverde as a Naturalist guide and I can’t resist making a little correction: that bridge you have a picture of in the cloud forest is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a private reserve managed by an NGO called the Tropical Science Center. It is not a National Park, as many people mistake it to be :)

  14. I am currently traveling Costa Rica and have been here for 5 months, with one month to go. I took the route of volunteering for the first 6 weeks. Worked 36 hrs a week for room and board and ended up spending $200USD on little things over that time.

    After volunteering I headed to the beaches in Guanacaste where things got more expensive. Rent averaged about to about $600USD per month for from a house or just a room. Depends on the place and time.

    Food averaged out to between $5-$15USD a day. I ate at restaurants and picked up lots of fruit from stands along my way. Traveling by public bus is cheap but takes some time to get where you are going, but not overly difficult.

    Traveling as a Canadian it was a bit more expensive due to the currency exchange. On average I would say I’ve spent $40 USD per day. More than I would have liked to but was worth it.

    I’m sure if you camp, hostel, prepare your own meals, you could do it for much less.

    Happy travels.

    1. Hey Ben! Thanks so much for sharing your experience in Costa Rica traveling on a budget. I’ve heard it’s become more expensive since I was there in 2011, so updates like this are super helpful.

    2. Hi Ben. i m also interessted to travel on volunteer basis. do you remember which place in CR it was where you had been? thank you sven

  15. hi, the comments above really did help….

    we were thinking of visiting Costa Rica in may for 15 days and had in mind the following:

    Limon 2N, Arneal (la Fortuna) 2N, monteverde 2N, manuel antonio on the way to Ojochal, Ojochal 2 nights, Bhaia Drake 1 night

    what are your opinions about the stays?

    hotels we were calculating approximately €1000 for 2 ppl

    so San Jose only is not safe in the evening please?

    for traveling from one place to another, would you recommend taxis or something else?

    thanks a lot

      1. You forgot to mention that Uber is, … well, ubiquitous, … in the Central Valley also, so you can avoid those beat-up, pricey red taxis if you have a smartphone.

  16. I just saw the image on Pinterest. I live in CR. So here are some tips:

    1- yes CR is expensive, it’s is for us and even more for tourists!
    2- If you want to exchange money go to a bank. (BCR,BN,popular, BAC)
    3- take care of taxis. Official ones are RED, any other color are mostly illegal (can be dangerous by the way). All of them should have a small screen in the front with the total for your trip (don’t pay more!)
    4- If you go San Jose avoid taking pictures in every corner, for sure some people will be next to you asking for money.
    5- Avoid walking at night in San Jose downtown (about 7:30 – 8pm) at least you have some tour or local going with you.
    6- We are not used to give Tips….. people usually expected from tourist but for sure is not rude not to give it.
    7- You can do almost everything by yourself.Tours are usually very expensive
    8- Visit “el mercado Central” you will find nice souvenirs (you can always ask for a discount!)
    9- Look for “Arteria” stores. There are nice & Funny tshirts with CR idiomatics
    10- If traveling late December or January go to Zapote or Palmares party…they are very fun!
    11- Britt Coffee tour are interesting
    12- Look for local stores…. You can find very nice souvenirs at good price
    13- Visit Jazz Cafe / el Sotano for good local music
    14- Visit Barrio Escalante for delicious food
    15- Visit “la casa de doña lela” for the best local food

    Enjoy!

  17. I had a great time traveling in Costa Rica with my girlfriend, we spent less than $20 per day each. Thanks for your advice on starting a travel blog, ours is finally running.

    Our budget for Costa Rica: $512 (270 479 CRC) in 26 days, thus $19.69 (10 400 CRC) per day, including accommodation, food, transport and activities and we had an amazing time. Biggest money savers, we drank the tap water, no taxis and the biggest one, food we bought food at supermarkets and cooked ourselves.

    Break up of our budget:
    Transport: CRC 29 377 ($55) avg CRC 1129 ($ 2.11) per day
    Food (shopping): CRC 71 850 ($135) avg CRC 2763 ($5.20) per day
    Accomodation: CRC 146 886 ($276) avg CRC 5321 ($10) per day

  18. COSTA RICA IS THE WORST PLACE TO GO ON VACATION!!!
    I feel like I’m getting ripped off everywhere i go… People here try everything in there power to empty your pockets i made a reservation for a car online and paid all the extras + insurance and when i got there they wanted an extra $250 and $3000 deposit in case something happened, on top of that when I complained to the managers they called cops to escort me out and l lost most of the initial money i gave its been a nightmare!!!!

    1. Pura Basura is more like it. You might as well go anywhere in the United States for what is costs here in Costa. Nothing is cheap here… Nothing. Don’t fool yourself

      1. Total nonsense. Have been living here for 8 years. Some things are more expensive, sure, but many other things are cheap. You just have to be smart and stay away from the Central Valley. It’s clean, safe and much of the country is still unspoiled. Try the Southern Zone next time.

    2. Hi, just because you had one bad experience at one car agency does not mean an entire country is a bad place to travel. Maybe it was your sunny attitude and great opinions of them. I’ve been there seven times, including one 8 month trip, and I never experienced this. Costa Rica is an incredible, amazing place to travel. DO NOT LISTEN TO CRANKY PANTS “Ricky”!!!!!!

  19. Can you tell me more about where you slept? The minimum prices I finf are twice what you did and I am looking at nothing but hostels. What is your secret? thanks

    1. I’m in Costa Rica right now. Jaco to be exact. I brought my family with me and every time we have slept in a hostel it’s been garbage. No hot water (not a big deal) “Beds on Bohio” there has been music until 1:30-2:00 every night. (kids cannot sleep) every time we book and then check in it cost more than what we booked. They say Effectivo solomente ( cash only) after we booked with a credit card so that they don’t have to kick money back to the booking sites. says kitchenette ( no fridge, cooking surface, microwave.) Most (not all) cab drivers will try to rip you off (they all have different meters in them) Most areas are dangerous for United States citizens to be out at night. No air conditioners in the summertime here is awful, you can only be in the Ocean so much. Take my advise and DO NOT STAY AT THE GARBAGE HOSTELS. It’s well worth the few extra dollars you will pay for a hotel. There’s a flip side to all this bad stuff though It’s really beautiful here. Just expensive. Don’t think you’re not going to spend money here. Everything is expensive. Food is ridiculous unless you really shop around but that takes time away from enjoying yourself here. Rice and beans with eggs is comida Typica. It really is good and cheap but you will need a way to cook it for yourself. Many of the people on this blog are saying like $500-$1000 dollars a month. easily double to triple that is reality.

  20. Hi Matthew, nice blog. I recently traveled in Costa Rica for about a month with my girlfriend and thought I would post my 2015 budget. We were in Costa Rica for 26 days; between Monteverde, Montezuma, Jaco, Dominical and Corcovado. We spent $512 thus $19.69 per day (usd) per person. A couple of days around Corcovado was the highlight. Referring to Matt’s comment, eating out of rubbish bins were not necessary, but eating in restaurants not really possible! (or necessary). You are welcome to take a look to see how we kept our budget so low. Thanks!

    1. Awesome trip and you had some great experiences too, especially for less than $1100 US and 34 days. Prices must have skyrocketed since your trip though because the Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge you stayed in list on their own website at starting a $1600+ US for 7 nights.

  21. Thanks for this informative post!! For travelers who love the thrills of riding waves, Costa Rica surfing is some of the best in the world and you’ll find plenty of surfer hostels.

  22. Nice tips there. My friend just arrived from CR and gave pretty much the same feedback than you! Thinking of starting to draw a plan for next year!!

  23. Hi Matt,
    I’ll be in Costa Rica with a friend for about two weeks, staying at a borrowed house in Atenas. Would you recommend us to rent a car? A private driver, maybe? We would like to make the most out of our visit and I’m afraid being so far from the capital will make it complicated to move around.
    Thanks!

  24. Hi Matt, thank you for this very informative website…
    I’m arriving at the end of June and am a little concerned about some of
    the diseases and horror stories that seem to be prevalent in various websites
    about the mosquitoes and bugs there. Any advice on this matter would be
    greatly appreciated. Im planing on a three month stay, and quite frankly am
    a little lost as to what to expect..

    1. Hi there, Did you end up going? I am thinking about going at the end of this year. would love to chat and see how you liked it!

  25. Hi Matt,

    I am visiting Costa Rica for a few months, and am searching for a small, budget priced, self contained cabin or loft – alternatively a private room in a hostel, in a safe area. I am considering the Tamarindo area for the surfing and local services.

    I would appreciate any suggestions please.

    Thanks !

  26. Hello Matt (and everyone else!)
    I am planning a trip to Costa Rica in Feb and need some advice on travel expenses the two areas that we are most interested in are the monteverde/ arenal area and on the other side of the country puerto veijo/ bocas (panama) areas. Is a bus worth the money or is renting a car better? I would also love advice on free things to do and cheap places to stay =)

    1. I am in San Jose for just a few days, and I would really like to have the real experience. I am on a budget, but would like to explore some of the nearby beauties. Do you have any tips, suggestions or advice?

    2. Hi,
      2 friends and I will be coming to San Jose beginning of February. We will be on a rather small budget as well and don’t want to fall for all the tourist traps. Do you have any suggestions what to do and what to look out for? also, one minor problem is that none of us can speak spanish…
      I would love to hear from you.

    3. Hey there, how are you?

      I’m from Canada and looking at a possible two-week backpacking trip with a buddy of mine. I’m basically looking at what my options could be and seeing a lot of conflicted information on what todo and see. We’re pretty well open to anything and although this will by my buddies first backpacking trip I have done some parts of Europe before this way.

      I believe him and I are on the same page of wanting a good mix of nature and relaxing, adventure, and some partying. So far I’ve liked the looks of this http://costarica.com/itineraries/15-day-backpackers/

      Any advice or information would be greatly appreciated as we are only in the planning stages at this point and deciding between this, Portugal, and Thailand.

      My email is jeffgrassie08@gmail or you can contact me on Facebook as “Jeff Grassie”

      Thanks again.

    4. Hi There,

      My Girlfriend and I are coming to CR in January….

      Is there a local car rental company You recommend, maybe rent a 4×4 from…..

      Any recommendations You have for LOCAL Food and Adventure I would greatly appreciate!

      Thanks!

  27. Hi. I will be going to CR next month. I want the real cr not the tourism one and I’m doing it in a bougyet. Are there any suggestions please. My email almalrr78 @gmail.com

  28. I couldn’t sleep so I started checking social networks, and I ended up googleing what kind of reputation does my country has, pretty nice I gotta say, so I just wanna say, if you need any tips or info about it (San Jose and Limon mainly, capital and Caribbean side respectively), I can help you, yes the taxi drivers are scammers, we hate them too, and yes, if people see you wearing flip flops or Hi-Tecs, big backpacks and blonde hair, the prices will go up, but then again I can help you with locations and stuff!

    1. I’m planning on Puerto viego, arenal, and monteverde. How long for each stay? Is La fortuna worth it to see rainforest or stay longer at monteverde instead?

  29. Hi Matt,

    excellent images! I have to agree that Manuel Antonio is a joke. The beach was nice and that was it. I really loved the strawberry poison dart frogs pics you have!

      1. Hi Matt,

        I’m going to CR in about 3 weeks and have been reseaching things to do, I have found a driver willing to take us around, but the prices he quoted were really high and did not even include meals, entrance fees, etc. I’m looking for better ways to do things.. How was the bus system? We are staying in Atenas. Also, why is everyone saying avoid to Manual Antonio? I want beach and national forests, where would you recommend?

        1. You might enjoy Manuel Antonio, but it’s not very authentic. More like a tourist trap. A very small scrap of “National Park” surrounded by a touristy town. It’s more like a zoo, the animals are trapped there by development on all sides. There are much better National Parks in Costa Rica. It’s a nice beach town though.

          The bus system is good, but basic. You don’t need a personal driver. You could also rent a car.

  30. The elite families that control the government in Costa Rica have imposed massive import taxes on virtually everything that enters the country. For example; Automobiles are more expensive in Costa Rica than anywhere else in the world. The import taxes on items like refrigerators are approximately 80%. Homes suitable for Gringo inhabitation are grossly over priced “thanks to other Gringos”, and groceries cost the same as in North America, with much less selection. Electricity is so expensive that people have stopped using their air conditioners. The lowest priced car lease you can get in Costa Rica is $700. per month with insurance. You can lease a new Nissan car in North America for $150. per month. Many teachers down here haven’t been paid for six months, now that should tell you how the economy is doing. I’d like to see Costa Rica recover, but it’s not looking good.

  31. Hi Matt! Thank you for your very helpful post! I will be traveling to San Jose Costa Rica in the next coming weeks. You mentioned that the rainy season wasn’t so bad…exactly what should I expect in terms of rain/thunderstorms each day? I’d love to see this beautiful country in all of its sunshiny splendor, but also am realistic about that not being a possibility since I am only able to travel during the rainy season.

    Thanks!
    Corinne

  32. I am going at the end of July for just over 2 weeks. I have been doing a bit of research, but I would love to to almost exactly your trip. I would love suggestions. Where to fly into. What hostels you liked. What activities to do. I’ll do anything. I’m leaving San Francisco for a bit because I need some fresh air. My Facebook is bernal7691@hotmail.com or email bernal7691@gmail.com
    Thank you so much. It would be much appriciated.

  33. We’ve actually gotten the cost down to about $1000 a month for two people. We walk a ton, take the bus every now and then, and stay in the places a few kilometers off the main road, where the bugs invade every crumb you leave out and the bats fly through the kitchen at night, only rainwater systems to wash with, and no windows. (We love it!) We know enough locals now that we can don’t don’t have to pay jacked up tourists costs, even our SCUBA Instructor calls us friend and doesn’t charge us for anything except tank refills. The big cost, as always, the flight there, but I’ve got that down to a science on when and where to buy, and the friggin’ taxis in San Jose. We’ve actually started advising people on how to go in a cheap and still super safe way, and they always come back thrilled that our advice gave them the real experience and a trip of a lifetime! Love that you have been doing this already! Keep it up!

    1. The last time I was in Costa Rica was in 1995. I bought my R/T ticket and went with $350.00. I was there for 6 weeks and came back to the states with $70.00. My guess is that that can’t be done now. Back then you could camp just about anywhere you wanted. Is it somewhat the same today? What are the laws about camping? I’m going solo. My intent is to fly into San Jose.Stay a day there. There was a really inexpensive Pension, Otoya near the Central Plaza. Wonder if it’s still there. After San Jose I want to make it to Papagayo and hike from there to Cabo Blanco stopping along the way to visit different sites and camp eventually ending up in Montezuma and from there take a bus back to San Jose. Any Idea what the distance is fom Papagayo to Cabo blanco? I’m going to be in country from Jan. 24 until April 6. If there is anyone out there who is as out there as I am and would like to take an adventure like this I can be contacted at abbajon @hotmail.com.

      Thanks,
      Abba

  34. We are going to Costa Rica at the end of March. We am looking for a two or three day hike with guest houses to at the end of the day. We are strong hikers that like nature what do you suggest.

  35. Just got back from Terraba, CR, where you can really do something different. My grad students are helping the indigenous tribe there develop a small tourism industry, and you can stay there, with full room and board for less than $20. They grow their own food, will brew you medicinal teas from their plants if you want it, and will guide you in the jungles to secret waterfalls and the like. We even made our own chocolate, grinding cacao beans on an ancient metate. Amazing, inexpensive, and very different. We’ll have a website up for them end of Jan. 2014, but for now, here’s some info. http://cnn.it/1kCEgXS

    1. Hii Amanda!! I’m super interested with this opportunity. Could you give me some infos if I would like to come a spend time with the tribe? I’ll be going in april and may. Here’s my email: avill013@uottawa.ca
      Thank you so much! :D

  36. Hii Matt :) Thanks for you post. I have been dreaming to go to Costa rica and live in the jungle. It’s almost there, I’m going to costa rica next summer but i want to live with my backpack and hammock for the whole time. Is it possible/safe to live in Costa Rica with an hammock only ?

    Thanks
    Alice :)

  37. I wish I had this kind of info when I first went there ten years ago. I go back to CR often, there is something about CR! The fist time I went there, I spent a lot of money because I was getting info from taxi drivers and the like – Bad idea!
    These days when I go, I spend very little and always have a great time. here are few suggestions for your readers:
    1- Skip the tour guides for National parks. They are expensive, aggressive and unnecessary.
    2-There are nice hotels in San Jose that are cheaper than most hostels. The hotel I have stayed last few times was only $10 a night. It costed me $300 for the whole month I was there and it was far better the the ones that charge $50+ per night.
    3- In Costa Rica, taxis are mostly scam artist. If you have to take one, make sure the meter is working, and keep your eye on the meter since they have a way to speed it up. Take the public transportation, buses are nice and very cheap. After almost 10 years visiting CR, taxis still find a way to scam me here and there.
    4- Eat at small family owned places (Sodas), they are cheap and great.
    5- Unless you are buying an item with a price tag on it, it is always better to let your Tico friends to deal with sellers. As soon as the sellers know you are a foreigner, the prices get to double.
    6- CR is very save and fun place to see. Take the travel precautions just like anywhere else and have fun.

  38. Hi there! Thank you for your post! I’m leaving for Costa Rica in April, and will spend almost the entirety of a month in San Jose since I am doing an external rotation for my university masters program. I would love to see what Costa Rica is all about during my stay there, and will allocate weekends for this purpose… but given my internship is unpaid, I am working with a small budget! Any suggestions regarding what things I must do or places I must see would be very much appreciated :) Thank you!

    1. Sure Karen, take a look at my previous blog posts on Costa Rica to find some ideas. The national parks (like Tenorio) are cheap to visit and you don’t need a guide. The volcanoes in the area are fun too, another activity you can do on your own. Getting around by public bus is easy.

  39. Thank you, looks great. I plan to go in the region of Golfito, Corcovado National Park and make a tour in the east part until San José. Any special recommendations? Food will be ok, I presume, rice, beans and lots of fresh fruit surely.

  40. Thank you so much! I bought RT tickets + hostel stay for 13 days at $820. I’ll be heading out towards the end of May. I didn’t do much planning but I was thinking $1.5-2k will be enough for two months, and your post is the reassurance I needed!
    -Adil

  41. Your correct about Costa Rica.

    I loved Monteverde (despite the ads for ziplining) and the rain was no big deal as long as you had a kick-ass pair of waterproof hiking shoes and a great rain coat. One thing to keep in mind next time is to get a waterproof backpack or a waterproof bag for it.

    Arenal was a town to avoid although it had one of the best hikes ever (Cerro chato, crater lake to swim on top)

    jake

  42. It’s worth noting that it isn’t the rainy season May through November on the Caribbean Coast – lots of great coast and the Talamanca mountains to explore in relative dryness…

  43. Thank you thank you thank you!

    I got here through Sean Ogle’s tweet and am so glad I did- I’m leaving for Costa Rica (Tamarindo) a week from tomorrow, and will need all the tips I can get about keeping it cheap! I’m excited to dig deeper into your Costa Rica posts!

  44. Nice summery Matt. I agree with your final thoughts. Off the Path is often better ;) I’ve been to Costa Rica couple of years ago when all this eco-travel was still not that developed.

      1. Except if the tour is a natural history hike with a professional guide…because you can see parts of the forest and its inhabitants that you never would have noticed alone, and most importantly, LEARN a ton about where you are- the culture, the country, the language, and the absolutely enthralling ecosystem :)