These budget categories should give you a good general idea of what it will cost to travel in Costa Rica in 2016/2017. The per day costs include food, lodging, activities and transportation within Costa Rica assuming double occupancy.
The total cost per person for a week or ten days shown in italics also includes a reasonable guesstimate of what you’ll pay for airfare.
These are average prices and you can probably expect to spend about 5-10% less in low season (May-Nov), 5-10% more in high season (Dec-April) and up to 50% more for the peak travel times around Christmas, Easter and New Years.
$25 a person per day – Rock bottom
If you plan to stay pretty much in one place, just want a dorm bed each night ($10-18), a couple of plates of rice and beans ($3-5) each day and can entertain yourself by walking along the beach you can probably get by for around $20 to $40 a day.
$660 to $800 for ten days (after adding super cheap airfare – usually requires very flexible travel dates)
$45-80 a person per day – Backpacker
I traveled the continent in the era of Arthur Frommer’s Europe on $5 a day and the exact same trip would be closer to $80-$100 per person per day now. Backpackers do a bit better in Costa Rica but five bucks won’t get you through the first couple of hours of an average day.
If you’d like to try a canopy tour ($70), rent a surf board ($15), take a hike through a National Park ($7-$25 entrance + $25 to $40 pp for a guide), add a couple of beers ($2-$4) with your evening meal ($8-$15 to step up from rice and beans) and hop on the public bus ($4-16) to check out a few different areas you should double your budget to at least $50 per person per day.
$820 to $900 for seven days…$970 to $1,215 for ten days (after adding cheap airfare – requires flexible travel dates)
$90-150 a person per day – Economical
Move up to a private room and a hot water shower ($50-$150 double), a guide with a spotting scope to point out the birds while you’re hiking in the National Park ($25 to $40 pp), a couple of days with a 4×4 rental ($45-$80 per day depending on location, duration time of year and insurance options) to check out an off the beaten path destination and a white water rafting trip ($60-$100) and you’ve about doubled the money again.
$1,180 to $1,565 for seven days…$1,400 to $2,025 for ten days (including reasonable airfare)
$170-225 a person per day – Superior
A budget of around $200 per person per day buys you a great vacation in Costa Rica with superior lodging ($125-$225) in unique settings, comfortable transportation (either chauffeured or rental SUV) and enough tours and activities to discover the best of Costa Rica and get back to the lodge happily exhausted each night.
$1,790 to $2,140 for seven days…$2,370 to $2,910 for ten days (including reasonable airfare)
$275-500 a person per day – Deluxe/Luxury
Double your budget one more time and you’ve bought yourself luxurious surroundings and pampering, a day of deep sea fishing or scuba diving to add to your activities and a domestic flight to give you an extra day on the beach instead of in the car.
$2,475 to $3,700 for seven days…$3,300 to $5,050 for ten days (including reasonable airfare)
There are a few things we haven’t included in the dollar amounts above either because they’re unpredictable or avoidable with good planning.
- Souvenirs and shopping. Even t-shirts can run $25 so if you have children, grand kids, nieces and nephews it can add up fast.
- Alcohol. The upper price ranges above include a beer or glass of wine with a meal, but if you’re going to spend an entire afternoon sipping $16 Piña Coladas under a palm tree or order $200 bottles of wine then increase your budget accordingly.
- Cell phone. If you can live without it you can save a lot. Otherwise there are international calling plans that range from free to $10 per phone per day.
- Rental Car Insurance and damage waivers. We always use the insurance included with our credit card because for us it gives the best possible coverage and it’s free. If you decide your best option is the insurance and/or waiver offered by the rental agency it can add between $25 and $95 a day.
- Excess banking fees. Using airport ATMs and paying international transaction fees could add up to 10% to your total cost so we recommend avoiding them with these tips.
- Travel Insurance or Emergencies. Travel insurance can run from 5% to 15% of the total trip cost depending on how much you want covered and how liberal the payout policies are. An emergency room visit and a last minute ticket home because of a broken leg could cost thousands.
- Splurges. If you decide to take a helicopter ride along the coast or upgrade to a beachfront suite you could spend an extra few hundred bucks in a few minutes.
- Mistakes. Mistakes can be very costly so give our list a quick read and avoid the most common ones.
- Nickle and Dime. Little costs can add up to between $50 and $600 per couple (airport taxi or car service $80 x2, public transport to airport $8 x 4, airport parking $120 per week, one checked bag each RT $50 x 4, one carry-on each $25 x 4, seat assignment $25 x 4, wi-fi $5 x 4 hours etc.)
Another Way to Estimate
The categories above should give you a pretty good idea of what you can expect to get based on how much you have to spend but we’ve also looked at figuring a budget. Use the average cost of lodging, transportation, tours & activities, add in food & drink costs then see our suggestions on how to get the cheapest airline tickets to come up with a total cost of travel for your family or group.
International Airfare to Get There
One of the most variable numbers in your budget will be the cost of international airfare to get there (see tips on saving). We consider anything between $500 and $600 round trip pretty reasonable from the U.S. and that’s what we used for the total trip costs for seven or ten days shown above.
Most direct flights from the U.S. to Costa Rica originate in Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles or Denver. We’ve seen round trip tickets priced from $250 to $850 from these gateway cities to the main airport in San José Costa Rica (SJO) for 2016. Flying into the other international airport outside Liberia (LIR) near the northwest beaches of Guanacaste is typically $100-$200 more expensive round trip.
If you’re not flying from one of the cities with direct service you’ll pay an additional $100-$200 for the first leg of your flight so anything under $500 round trip to SJO and anything under $600 round trip to LIR from cities like New York or Chicago is a great deal.
Because it’s so easy for individuals to find their own airfare bargains, travel packages almost never include airfare. Most custom agency planned vacations start when you’re met by a driver at the airport in Costa Rica and end when you’re dropped off for your departing flight. If you don’t have a favorite flight searcher (or even if you do) we recommend kayak.com for quick comprehensive searches of dozens of airlines lowest fares with flexible dates.