Top Budget Costa Rica Vacation Tips

Yes, you can travel to Costa Rica on a budget!!  I’m going to show you how we did it with our Top Budget Costa Rica Vacation Tips.  During our month-long stay in Costa Rica, we came across many things to do and know when visiting this beautiful country. When most people think of vacationing in Costa Rica one of the first things that come to mind is the cost and how expensive it can be.

While it’s true you can spend a lot of money in Costa Rica; we found we could stay within our budget just by making a few changes and finding those hidden gems off the beaten path. I’m going to show you how you can get the most out of your Costa Rican vacation without breaking the bank.

We traveled through Costa Rica for 1 month, starting in La Fortuna in the northern region, then staying in Montezuma on the Nicoya peninsula, then going east to Quepos near Manuel Antonio, and lastly ending our trip in Cahuita on the Caribbean side of the country.

 La Fortuna

La Fortuna is one of the most visited areas of Costa Rica, and for a good reason. We loved La Fortuna, for its small-town quaint village appeal, along with its never-ending supply of things to do. We spent 10 days in La Fortuna, and we never ran out of things to experience even on a budget. If you want to know specific things to do and places to eat check out our La Fortuna blog posts for detailed information.

Best La Fortuna Restaurants
Best Things To Do In La Fortuna

Consider renting bikes or a moped in La Fortuna. The taxis can be quite pricey in this area, and although the tour companies offer transportation with their tour packages, it can make the cost of your vacation more expensive. We found most tours in the La Fortuna area will run you between $50 to $180. We decided to rent a moped to have the flexibility of visiting the sights on our timeline.

Another option is to rent bikes. There are many bicyclists in the area so don’t worry it is a great place to ride and it seemed safer than some of the other regions of Costa Rica for riding bikes or mopeds. Most of the roads are paved and in good shape.

If you are in the La Fortuna area be sure and check out the free thermal hot springs and the free river. Another low-cost thing to do in La Fortuna is the day pass for the thermal water pools at couple locations near La Fortuna. For the names and descriptions click here.

We really liked our Airbnb in La Fortuna, and we would encourage anyone to stay there if you’re in the area. It was a two bedroom, one bath unit within walking distance of the downtown area. The kitchen was fully equipped, there was air conditioning in 1 bedroom, many fans, and free coffee. If you want to check it out, it’s called La Fortuna Downtown Apartment WiFi A/C #2. It’s roughly $35 per night if you stay longer than a week its even less.  

Airbnb Link:    By using our link you will get $40 off your 1st stay.



Booking.com

Montezuma Transportation

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Travel To Montezuma

After La Fortuna, we headed to Montezuma, and I have to tell you that it was a long 9-hour journey by public transportation. It was an adventure which saved us a lot of money because we used the bus system but it’s not for the faint of heart. Lol, There are shuttles to take you the entire way if you’d rather not spend that much time traveling by bus in no air conditioning.

Transportation from La Fortuna to Montezuma

Here is a summary of our journey:
Bus from La Fortuna to San Ramon 2350 colones ($3.90) per person 2 1/2 hour long ride
Walk around the corner to another bus stop
Bus from San Ramon to Puntarenas 1350 colones ($2.24) per person 1 ½ hour long ride
Ferry from Puntarenas to Paqueras 810 colones ($1.33) per person 1-hour long ride
Bus from Paqueras to Montezuma 1000 colones ($1.65) per person 1-hour long ride
Montezuma found a taxi to our hotel  1000 colones ($1.65) total for 3-minute ride

If you are interested in checking buses schedules and costs, we have found this website to be the most helpful. Click here

Cost for a shuttle is approximately $60 per person – Travel time 5 hours.

In hindsight or if we come to Costa Rica again, we will take the shuttle. The trip to Montezuma using mostly public transportation was long and hot as the buses did not have air conditioning when we did this in March of 2019.

Montezuma

Montezuma is a laid back bohemian beach town with darling shops, bars, and restaurants all located within walking distance of each other.

Walk the miles of beautiful deserted beaches and enjoy the gorgeous sunrises. Montezuma feels somewhat removed from the busier areas of Costa Rica; it’s an area where yoga, relaxation, and meditation seem to go hand in hand.

Montezuma Waterfall

Hike to the Montezuma waterfall right off the main road into Montezuma. We have a blog post and video of our day at the waterfall which describes what to expect, and how to get there. It’s free to hike to the falls, and it was a fun day.

We chose the Nya Hotel in Montezuma as the hotel for our Couples Getaway Series.  Be sure to check it out if you considering visiting Montezuma, you will find information on the hotel along with specific things to do in Montezuma.

Cahuita

Cahuita is on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica; it’s approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes from San Jose or a 4-hour bus ride. We took the bus from Quepos (Manuel Antonio area) to San Jose and then on to Cahuita. The trip from San Jose to Cahuita was beautiful, and I highly recommend it. The bus was comfortable, air-conditioned and the drive through the mountains was spectacular.

Cahuita National Park

If you are near Cahuita, make sure you visit Cahuita National Park, the first National Park in Costa Rica. There are two entrances into the park, one in Playa Blanco beach through the town of Cahuita and the second is through Puerto Vargas. The fee through Playa Blanco is on a donation basis, and the cost through Puerto Vargas is $5 for foreigners and 1000 colones for nationals.

We started at Playa Blanco beach because we stayed down the street; in hindsight, it would’ve been a better idea to take a taxi to Puerto Vargas and walk to the Playa Blanco entrance because there are few taxis at the Puerto Vargas end so you may have to walk there and back. That would be at least a 4-hour walk. We stopped many times throughout the hike to watch the white-faced monkeys, congo monkeys, sloths, raccoons, birds, butterflies, blue crabs, and to admire all the plant life. You will find covered picnic tables in many areas where you can walk to the edge of the jungle towards the beach.

There are guides available for hire at both entrances, along with restrooms, showers, and water for purchase.

*** TIP: Be sure to bring plenty of water, wear comfortable clothing, and bring bug spray. I don’t usually get bitten too bad, but Joel and I probably had ten mosquito bites after this hike and our daughter had 25 mosquito bites. Also, if you plan to snorkel please wear biodegradable sunscreen to protect the coral.

Visit the Farmers Market in downtown Cahuita if you are there on a Sunday.  It’s the best time to purchase fruits and vegetables, as we found the grocery stores to be lacking when it came to produce.  If you aren’t there on a Sunday, there is an organic fruit and vegetable store near the bus stop, adjacent to the grocery store behind the bus stop.

Puerto Viejo

Farmers Market in Puerto Viejo for crafts, souvenirs, Vegetarian/Vegan food, excellent fruits, and veggies. They even had an espresso or cappuccino for $1. After the farmers market, you can stroll around the town of Puerto Viejo where you will find many shops and restaurants.

Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo; its mission is to rehabilitate and house injured or orphaned animals, and then to reintroduce them back into their natural habitat if possible. The cost was $20, but worth it. The money goes back to fund the center and the guides are all volunteers so be sure to tip well.  This price includes a tour guide, and you will see animals up close. We saw baby sloths, a crocodile, snakes, birds, monkeys, agouti, margay, baby deer, just to name a few.

Cahuita National Park and Beach

We loved Cahuita and its National Park! Its a 5 minute walk from downtown and could be the best National Park in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Tips

Food

Eat at the Sodas. You can find sodas throughout Costa Rica, our favorites were in La Fortuna, but that could have been because we stayed there the longest, so we had plenty of time to meet locals and try many Sodas.

Buy the local fruits. The pineapple was without a doubt some of the best we’ve ever had, and it’s one of the few food items that’s cheap. Some of the other local fruits we loved are passion fruit, mangos, bananas (of course – super cheap), and granadilla (fabulous).

Go to Musmanni Bakery for your fresh-baked bread and pastries. Musmanni is a chain throughout Costa Rica that sells reasonably priced bread items. We found the selection of bread in the grocery stores to be lacking so it was nice to have an alternative.

We have a blog post on the Best Restaurants in La Fortuna with more to come from our Costa Rican trip.

Transportation

If you are on a budget take the public buses. We took public transportation throughout Costa Rica, and we felt very safe. They were comfortable air-conditioned buses except for our trip from La Fortuna to Montezuma. We also took a bus from Manuel Antonio on the Pacific side to Cahuita on the Caribbean side, with a stop in San Jose. The buses were comfortable and air-conditioned. Actually, the trip from San Jose to Cahuita went through the mountains, past the banana groves and then along the ocean and it was beautiful!!

Take Uber if you can it’s less expensive than a taxi. Uber in Costa Rica is not widely accepted because the taxi drivers are in an uproar. For instance, if you fly into San Jose airport, Uber is ⅓ the cost of a taxi. The only thing is you need to meet them in departures rather than arrivals when landing in San Jose.

Water

Buy a water filter before your Costa Rica vacation. Supposedly you can drink the water in most areas of Costa Rica, except for the rural areas. I personally tried to drink the water for the first week of our trip, and my stomach started hurting within a couple of days of drinking tap water, so I started running my drinking water through our Sawyer mini filtration system and that helped me a lot. Joel seemed to be okay, so everyone is different.  The filter is inexpensive and compact which makes it great for travel or to have in your home in case of a natural disaster.

Money

Get a Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account if you don’t want to pay ATM bank fees. This checking account has saved us so much money while traveling. I would say it’s saved us at least $35 per month as full-time travelers. The account is free, and they reimburse ALL ATM fees. It’s a no brainer if you travel a lot.

Biodegradable Sunscreen

Bring your own biodegradable sunscreen. If you can fit sunscreen in your checked suitcase pack it! The typical bottle of sunscreen cost $15 to $20 a bottle. We found most bathroom type items were considerably more expensive in Costa Rica.

Costa Rican Coffee

Be sure and try the coffee. If you are a coffee lover like myself, you will be in heaven. Thanks to its fertile volcanic soil the coffee is fantastic, and it’s inexpensive so you may want to take some back in your suitcase. I found excellent coffee in the store for just over $2.

Pura Vida

Pick up a Pura Vida souvenir. Pura Vida means “pure life,” and you will see this saying everywhere in the souvenir shops from shirts, mugs, pens, etc.

Consensus

We found Costa Rica to be one of the more expensive countries we visited in Central America especially in regards to grocery shopping and restaurant prices. Hopefully, some of our suggestions will help you to save a few dollars on your trip to Costa Rica. We saw more wildlife during our month stay than we have ever seen in our lives. It’s a beautiful country with vast rain forests, cloud forests, and beaches to explore.

 

Urban Adventure Tours

More 2 Traveling Lovers Article & Video links from Costa Rica:

We spent a month traveling throughout Costa Rica.  If you’re interested in visiting the area, we hope you will find our articles and videos helpful.  All of our posts have a video included, and we have more videos on our YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel too so you won’t miss a video. Subscribe here.  

Below are a few articles and videos from our stay in Costa Rica:

Top Costa Rica Budget Vacation Tips

Cost Of Living For A Couple In Costa Rica

10 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Montezuma Costa Rica 

Best La Fortuna Restaurants In Costa Rica

Honeymoon/Couples Getaway Resort In Costa Rica   

Cost Of Living For a Couple Living in The Dominican Republic

8 Best Things To Do In La Fortuna Costa Rica

2 Traveling Lovers Videos ONLY on YouTube

Best FREE Excursions – La Fortuna

La Fortuna Waterfall

 Top Things To Do In La Fortuna

A Day In Montezuma

Costa Rica Transportation

Jaguar Rescue Center In Puerto Viejo

Accommodations

These are areas in Costa Rice we have traveled to and we recommend staying in these areas based upon our personal experience.  Click on the town to be referred to the booking.com link to each city.

La Fortuna   

Montezuma

Manuel Antonio

Quepos/Puerto Viejo

Closing Words

 

I hope you found our Top Budget Costa Rica Vacation Tips to be useful and you are excited to visit Costa Rica.    

Our Mission

Our goal while traveling the world is to help couples find the best cultural experiences in every country while keeping costs very reasonable. We have become experts in planning travel and not breaking the bank!!

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Travel Resources

If you are interested in checking hotel prices for Costa Rica we have found booking.com to have the most competitive prices, for Airbnb deals click here for a $40 credit off your stay.

All of our video footage is taken with GoPro HERO7.  It’s a waterproof digital action camera for travel with a touchscreen.  We use this camera daily, and we love it. If you are interested in checking it out here is the Amazon link:  Click here.

The drone we use is the DJ Spark with Remote Control Combo.  We like this drone because it’s compact, it’s effortless to take on trips, it’s easy to fly, and it shoots 1080p.  All of our drone footage on our blog posts and youtube videos are taken with this drone. We highly recommend it. If you are interested in checking it out here is the Amazon link:  Click here.             

Another item we use daily is our Primocean Backpack with an insulated cooler bag.  We use this as Christie’s carryon bag on the plane and as our cooler at our final destination.  We used to use a different backpack and we switched to this one because it’s better made of durable material with quality zippers.  We love this backpack!! The cooler section is smaller; however, all the compartments and the quality of the backpack make it a much better choice for basically the same cost.  We wish we would have thought of this item a long time ago. If you are interested in checking it out here is the Amazon link: Click Here.  

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