Saving Money in Costa Rica

How To Save Money on a Costa Rica Vacation

First of all, I will be the first to admit that its not always easy to save money while on a family or solo trip to Costa Rica. Its said that today’s travelers to Costa Rica are deciding to spend their money on experiences such as white water rafting or zip lining instead of trinkets and toys

With this in mind, I have found that if you take the time to do some pre planning and work around a few obstacles, you will find that you can make your vacation to Costa Rica go a lot further then you thought.

Over the many years that I have been traveling to Costa Rica I have come up here with short list of things you can easily do that will save you money on your next trip.

Some may take little planning and while others can be done on the fly. So without much further ado, here are 10 of my favorite ways to save money the next time you travel to Costa Rica without having to sacrifice the quality of your vacation.

10 Ways to Save Money on a Costa Rica Vacation

If you’re a budget traveler and want to go on vacation to Costa Rica, there are alot of ways to save money.

1. Fly to Costa Rica with Budget Airlines!

Instead of traveling on the bigger and often more expensive carriers try to check with airlines such as Spirit. The way these airlines work is they give you a cheap base fare and then basically charge you for everything else.

What does this mean? You need to travel light! If you are someone that travels with a lot of stuff then this might be for you as you as once you add everything up, you will probably spend just as much as one of the largest carriers.

Therefore, travel light and save! Oh and 1 last point about this, be flexible with your dates and times. The more flexible you are the more money you can save.

2. Travel To Costa Rica During the Shoulder Season!

Now a lot of people may suggest that you should go in the low season to get the best prices, which, basically is true however I would recommend that instead of traveling in the low season, instead go in the shoulder season. Shoulder season is the short window between low and high season’s. For Costa Rica that means the months of May and November.

The reason I suggest that you go at this time is because you will still get low prices but you will have much better weather and places that may have been closed during the low season will now have just opened or if you are going at the end of a high season, have not yet closed.

I always liked going to Costa Rica at this time as you seem to get the best of both worlds.. good weather and still plenty to do but without the crowds or high prices.

3. Don’t Try and See Everything!

There are some people who like to travel to as many places as they can in the shortest amount of time. For example, 5 different areas of Costa Rica in 5 days that sort of thing. Oh, how this is a dreaded way of traveling. You never really see anything nor get to experience what makes Costa Rica so unique or what “Tico’s” are really like.

The only thing you get out of this, I think, is you get to tell everyone all the places you went to. Instead, just go to fewer places and spend some time in each one. This will save you alot in travel expenses and you will get to experience Costa Rica the way its meant to be

4. Instead of a Hotel – Use AirBnB

House Sitting on Vacation |Budget Airfare

You can really save a lot of money here, especially you are a family or a group of friends traveling together. The cost of the place you rent generally will be less expensive then the same amount of time in a hotel. Plus you can eat some meals at “home”.

You also kind of force yourself to go to different places that you might not have if you stayed at hotel such as markets and grocery stores.

However, if you decide to go with a hotel, try to find a hotel that has at least a microwave and/or refrigerator or even better a small kitchen. Also just get the most basic room, as really, how much time are you really going to spend in it?

Also when checking on hotel prices, check the usual search engines such as and then call the hotel direct. When you call or check with them ask them about AAA rates and any other discounts or specials or see if they will match the online price.

If you would like to know more about the differences between Airbnb and hotels in Costa Rica, you check out this post I wrote.

5. Try Housesitting in Costa Rica!

What is that you might be asking? This is where you live in a person or families house and look after it while they are away. It can work a couple of ways where you stay for free in exchange for taking care of the house and sometimes there pet. Depending on what is asked of you, it could even be a paid position.

Here are some websites you can check out if you think this might work for you such as:

  • Trusted Housesitters
  • Nomador
  • House Carers
  • Mind My House
  • Match Stay

It can be difficult to get started doing this most people who are looking for house sitter with some kind of past reviews so you may want to start looking well in advance of your departure

6. Staying at the Town Next Door!

Instead of staying in the center of a famous city, stay in town that close by subway or train. For example, instead of staying in the center of San Jose, get a hotel or Airbnb at the town of Alajuela! Its about a 1/2 hour by car or taxi to downtown San Jose and the prices can be much lower and with more amenities.

Also you will find these “outer” town much less touristy and therefore less expensive for everything from food to drinks. This comes with a small bit of inconvenience as you will spend some additional time going back and forth but the saving are huge!

7. Avoid the Chain Places!

Not that there are alot in Costa Rica and the majority of those are in San Jose, but when you do decide to eat out, try to find more local family run businesses. These are generally much less expensive then chain restaurants or stores and more interesting to experience.

Of course, you give up that consistency that you get with the chains but hey isn’t that what travel is all about to go outside your normal routine and experience something new?

Also by meeting the locals you can hear about different places to see that you might not have known about or about a local event that may be happening.

8. Use WI-FI and Pre Paid Sim Cards

Getting a SIM card in Costa Rica is not as complicated as it use to be and is actually very easy today. Use WI FI hot spots whenever possible and get an unlocked phone (if yours isn’t already) as well as a SIM card at the San Jose airport or at a computer store nearby.

You could also get one before you go to Costa Rica but its not as necessary anymore.

The added benefit of having WI FI access in Costa Rica is that you can use apps such as google maps and road trippers to find highly rated or traveler recommended spots to eat at or visit without paying a fortune in roaming charges.

If you are from the USA and use T Mobile they currently offer free international mobile so you can keep your same number .

9. Check out the Costa Rica Bureau of Tourism

Once you get to a city or even better before you go, contact the Costa Rica Tourism Board and see what discounts they are offering for tourists. Usually these offices reach out to local businesses and ask for discount offering that they can pass along to visitors.

This helps promote Costa Rica and also offers some good and free advertising for the local business. Also remember if you travel in low or shoulder season, the discounts are often more generous.

You can also check out Groupon and Living Social before you go and see if you can save on any of the “must do” activities or sites you want to see while in Costa Rica.

10. Get A Credit Card with Rewards!

Often there are offers out there that just by signing up will give you enough points to get a free ticket! You have to look but they are out there! Of course you have usually spend a certain amount by a certain time but its usually not a very high number. .

Also, the deals are similar try to sign up for a card that is not airline specific so you are not tied to that one airline. Cards such as Chase Ultimate Rewards will allow you to transfer to an airline that you usually travel with.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to save money on vacation to Costa Rica doesn’t have to be brain surgery and you don’t have to give up on many of the things that are important to you. Contrary to what many people think you don’t have to sleep in basic places or look for places where your friends live so you can stay with them.

I have only listed a few but as hopefully you can see there are many ways to save money when going to Costa Rica. With a little planning and so careful research you can have a fantastic vacation and spend the money you are saving on the things that matter to you without selling house and home.