These budget categories should give you a good general idea of what it will cost to travel in Costa Rica in the style you’re accustomed to. These price ranges include food, lodging, activities and transportation within Costa Rica assuming double occupancy but do not include the cost to get to Costa Rica which is outlined below.
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 per 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.
$45-80 per 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.
$90-150 per person per day
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.
$170-225 per person per day
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.
$275-500 per person per day
Double your budget one more time and you’ve bought yourself luxurious surroundings and pampering, a couple of days 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.
International Airfare to Get There
One of the most variable numbers in your budget will be the cost of international airfare to get there. 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 2015/2016. 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.