Look, we’re realists. And we know that budgeting is a big part of any vacation: How much will it cost? Where can you save money? And, what’s worth the splurge? The good news is, your Costa Rica travel costs are largely dependent on you; of course, you can splash out on luxury digs and fine dining, but you can also save a fair share by planning carefully and budgeting well.
As we mentioned in our Costa Rica accommodations budget breakdown, your lodging (hotel or vacation rental) will account for a large portion of your overall budget. So, we handled that separately. And now, we’re digging into the balance of your Costa Rica travel costs: activities & attractions, food & drink, transportation, and miscellaneous.
Here’s the breakdown:
Costa Rica Travel Costs: Activities, Attractions & Things to Do
What kind of traveler are you? If you’re the lounge-by-the-pool, walk-in-the-sand and do-nothing-else kind of vacationer, then you’re going to love it here. Simply book a Tamarindo vacation rental with private pool, and you’re golden.
That said, we do recommend adding a little zest to your Costa Rican vacation. Immersion in nature. A punch of adrenaline. Some cultural spice. In other words, a few activities to pump up your stay and create memories you’ll carry with you for a lifetime.
The great news is that Costa Rica is a pro at tourism (it’s our biggest industry!). And that means, we have the infrastructure to match: from natural explorations to heart-pounding adventures, from total relaxation to wildlife encounters, there’s an activity for everyone.
So, let’s start with the ultra-basics of the activities budget:
- Equipment Rentals: From bikes to surfboards, there’s a lot of gear available for rent in Tamarindo. Depending on the length of your rental (a week works out to less per-day than a single day’s rental), you’re looking at about $20-$50 per day, per item (a sea kayak is more expensive than a banana bike).
- National Parks: National park entry fees hover in the $10-$12 per person range. On guided tours, this fee is usually included in your tour fee. (And we’ll let you know if it’s not.)
- Tour Transportation: Many tours include pick-up and drop-off as part of their cost. You can save $10-$20 if you drive yourself, but beware there are downsides: If you get lost or are late, you may miss the tour altogether. In some cases, like meeting at a well-marked canopy tour, driving yourself is a money-saver; in others, it’s easier and less stress to hop aboard the tour’s transportation.
- Food: Many half- and full-day tours include a snack or full meal – anything from fresh fruit and water after a kayaking tour, to a delicious sunset dinner at the end of a daylong excursion.
- Tour Costs: Most tours fall into the $55-$150 per person range, with $55 for a single-excursion tour (e.g. a canopy tour) and $150 for a day packed full of varied activities (e.g. a canopy tour + horseback riding + hot springs + whitewater rafting).
Here’s our basic rule of thumb: We recommend setting aside a minimum of $200 per week, per person for activities; this will give you enough latitude to reserve a few must-do activities, without breaking the budget. Pad the budget for pricier activities, including deep-sea sport fishing and scuba diving.
If you’re incredibly active, proudly frugal, or simply want to pack everything into a short trip, book a full-day, multi-destination excursion. The cost usually breaks down to much less than its individual components: for example, our All-Day Adventure Package includes a canopy zipline, horseback riding, rappelling, rock-climbing, hot springs + mud baths, rafting or tubing, and lunch – all for $135-$150 per person. Individually, each of these tours come in at $55+.
If you have any questions or need help booking a tour, get in touch via email or call us at (754) 222-1884. Our dedicated, in-house concierge, Cris, is happy to help with information or bookings – absolutely free of charge!
Costa Rica Travel Costs: Food & Drink
Your food, drink and restaurant budget is totally dependent on you: What kind of food do you prefer? Do you plan to eat out for every, or almost every meal? Or, will you whip up a few meals in your vacation home’s kitchen?
Let’s break it down further. Rice and beans are the foundation of budget meals in Costa Rica, so if you like these two staples, you can always find an inexpensive meal at a local soda, or diner; order the casado for about $5-$8, and you’ll get a full plate of rice, beans, salad, a veggie, sweet plantains, and your choice of fish, chicken, beef or pork, plus a fresh fruit drink. Sodas represent a great deal on very filling and delicious homestyle meals.
Moving into the next tier of Tamarindo restaurants, you’ll find your beach shacks, pub-grub, and various iterations of fast food (pizza, roasted chicken, etc.). Typically speaking, you’re looking at around $8-$15 for a fruit/soft drink and some hunger-sating, great-tasting casual fare (burgers, fried fish, and huge salads); the higher you go on price, the better you’ll find the building-block ingredients.
As you move into beach-casual and fine-dining restaurants, you’re looking at a more refined dining experience, starting with the basics: perfectly ripe produce, expensive cuts of meat and fish, top-shelf liquors, and other quality ingredients. Often, these establishments also offer beachfront or ocean-view seating, table linens, candlelit evenings, live music and other small details to elevate your dining experience. All told, you’ll pay around $25-$60 per person, for an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and perhaps a glass of wine.
Remember that in Costa Rica, your restaurant bill always includes 13% tax and 10% tip. You may add additional tip, if you feel that the service merited it.
Frugal Food Tip: Hit the Grocery Store!
If you want to save on your food budget – or simply reserve your funds for a few special meals – especially if you’re traveling with a group, consider whipping up some easy breakfasts, lunches and dinners in your vacation rental’s kitchen.
Our homes all offer well-equipped kitchens with everything you need, so feel free to hit the farmer’s market (feria, held on Saturdays and offering a wide range of organic produce), the beach (to purchase the catch-of-the-day) and supermarkets, and enjoy a home-cooked meal served on your private patio.
Costa Rica Travel Costs: Transportation
Again, this is a budget category that depends on you: Will you rent a car, hire a private driver, walk everywhere, or hop in a taxi?
All are viable and popular options. Let’s start with Tamarindo airport transportation: there are five basic methods, from a private driver to the public bus, but we do recommend our coordinated private airport transportation ensures the smoothest arrival possible, with flexible schedules, door-to-door pick-up/drop-off, and all the special attention (stop for photos, whenever you please!) you deserve, en route to Tamarindo.
Once you’re in Tamarindo, we can have a rental car delivered to your vacation home. This runs about $30-$75 per day + mandatory insurance ($30-$40/day) for a mid-sized car or small SUV; large minivans or luxury SUVs can double or triple that number.
Alternately, if you’re traveling with a group of 4 or fewer, taxis are a great way to get around Tamarindo. And, if you stay in town (Tamarindo, Langosta, or Flamingo), a taxi-pedestrian hybrid is a great form of transportation: walk to the beach and nearby restaurants, and taxi to destinations further afield. And remember, many tours offer transportation to and from attractions.
Costa Rica Travel Costs: Miscellaneous
In Costa Rica, your travel costs are largely based on your accommodations, tours and attractions, food and restaurant consumption, and transportation. Beyond that, here are a few additional costs to consider:
- Guides: If you visit a national park or private reserve solo, you may want to hire a guide to walk with you. And, we highly recommend this option; trained eyes will see what yours never will. Established tour-guide rates are usually priced per person – around $10-$15 per person, depending on the length and detail of your tour.
- Souvenirs: Costa Rica, and especially Tamarindo, offers much in the way of great (and often, useful) souvenirs. From flowy dresses to incredible home goods crafted from tropical hardwoods, the local souvenir stores overflow with the kitchy, the cool, and the handy. Expect to pay anything from $2 for a cheapo nothing, to $50 for a hand-crafted cutting board, to $hundreds for one-of-a-kind art.
- Water: Don’t splash out on bottled water! Unless you’re told otherwise, the water in Costa Rica is safe to drink. So, save your wallet and the environment, and fill up a refillable water bottle.
- Spa & Wellness: There are several spectacular spas in the Tamarindo area, as well as yoga classes and other wellness purveyors. Spa treatments usually fall in the $25-$100 range (pedicure to massage), and yoga classes can be found for $10-$15 per class.
- Photography Sessions: One of the best souvenirs to take home with you is a family photo session, engagement photo shoot, or other special something, snapped to the backdrop of our incredible scenery (and sunsets). Plan on $250-$500+ for a session, depending on various factors.
We hope that’s cleared up your travel budget questions. And, remember, if you have any questions or need help booking a tour, get in touch via email or call us at (754) 222-1884. Our dedicated, in-house concierge, Cris, is happy to help with information or bookings – absolutely free of charge!