This guide to a one month in Costa Rica budget gets right down to it to help would-be travelers to the home of roaring Pacific surf breaks and cone-shaped Arenal Volcano understand how much they’re likely to spend on a full 30 days of adventure.
It delves into the cost of everything from hotels in Costa Rica to the price of food, offering insights into what you’ll spend in the swankiest establishments but also the places suited to more shoestring backpackers. We’ll also offer info on how much you’ll need to book your flights to the country from various origin points and what you’re likely to spend on activities while on the ground.
The good news is that we think a month is a cracking amount of time to be in Costa Rica for. It’s long enough to see the mainstay reserves that make it such a biodiversity hotspot, and for stints in the surf towns of the Pacific and the adventure hubs of the central highlands alike. It’s going to be a trip to remember, folks…
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What do I need for a one month in Costa Rica budget?
Overall, we think you’d need about $4,900 for a whole month-long trip to Costa Rica. It’s important to note that’s an estimation based on staying in midrange hotels that cost no more than $60 a night and spending a grand total of $1,500 on food. There’s also some budget in there to allow for activities and flights to Costa Rica in the first place, though expect the amount to crank up if you’re planning on flying in from Europe, the Far East, or Africa.
Let’s break it down a little further…
The cost of getting to Costa Rica
First thing’s first…you gotta’ get to Costa Rica before you can start that month-long odyssey through the volcano-topped national parks and the sloth-filled rainforests. Thankfully, that’s now both easier and cheaper than ever before. See, this country has been riding the crest of a tourism boom in the last 10 years or so that’s seen it become unquestionably the easiest part of Central America to get to from the USA, Canada, Europe, and even the Far East.
Thing is, the amount you pay for your flights depends LOADS on where you’re coming in from. Let’s take flights from New York to San Jose as an example. Airfare collator and booking portal Momondo reveals that they range in price from around $266 return in January to just over $485 return in the peak season just prior to Christmas. At the same time, connections from London to San Jose range from close to $700 a pop to over $910 in the middle of the winter peak.
Here’s a look at what we think you can expect to pay for flights to Costa Rica from different parts of the world:
- From the USA – Between $250-500 return
- From Europe – Between $650-1,100 return
- From Asia – Between $1,300-1,900 return
- From South America – Between $210-500 return
One month in Costa Rica budget: Transport
The next step to planning out that budget for Costa Rica should be transport. You’ve got quite a few options here, some more expensive than others….
More and more travelers these days are opting to rent a car. That’s probably on the pricier side of the spectrum, mainly because there are often loads of hidden surcharges added onto the daily rate to cover compulsory insurance and whatnot. Factoring those in, you’re usually looking at paying something in the region of $300 a week in the normal season and around $600 a week in the peak season. There are likely to be cheaper vehicles on the menu, but we’d certainly urge you to stick with SUVs and 4X4s that can handle the potholed and winding roads a little better.
If that all sounds a whole load too expensive, then don’t worry. Costa Rica has a truly fantastic bus network. It’s made up of public and private operators who combine to offer connections to just about anywhere from anywhere, provided you don’t mind the occasional changeover in San Jose along the way. The cheapest type of buses are the slower ones used by the general public. They will rarely cost more than $10 a pop for ANY journey. Then you have the private shared shuttles that can cost upwards of about $40 per journey but take about half the time and often have air conditioning to boot.
Overall, we’d say expect to spend over $1,200 for a car rental for a month in Costa Rica. Those going on public transport can usually get by on a budget of about $250 over 30 days.
One month in Costa Rica budget: Accommodation
Accommodation is likely to be the single biggest expense of your whole month in Costa Rica. Sadly, you’re likely to find that stays here are nowhere near the bargains that they can be in other Central American mainstays like Nicaragua or Guatemala. Nope, Costa Rica is by far the dearest of the bunch in this corner of the world, though we would say that the quality of accommodation is generally very high to match.
Once again, the amount you’ll spend depends a whole load on your expectations. Want deluxe honeymoon suites with Pacific views and infinity pools outside the door? You’re going to pay more than the average hostel-going backpacker who just wants a dorm within walking distance of the beach.
Here’s a look at some examples for the average price of hotels in Costa Rica across the spectrum:
- Monteverde Lodge & Gardens ($$$) – An eco-lodge perched on the mountains of Monteverde between the iconic cloud forests, complete with spa and chic swimming pools. A stay here is around about – brace yourselves – $470 a night.
- Lua Villas ($$-$$$) – A very nice set of stylish villas close to the surf mecca of Santa Teresa beach. One of these will set you back about $85 a night in the shoulder season.
- Lucky Bug Bed And Breakfast ($-$$) – A cheap but charming guesthouse in the adventure mecca of Arenal, costing something like $50 a night.
One month in Costa Rica budget: Food
Just when you were thinking Costa Rica might not be as cheap as you expected it to be, the welcoming soda restaurants come to the rescue. Yep, these local cantinas serve up hearty, uber-filling grub for next to nothing. They’ve long been a favorite of the backpacker crowd but, to be frank, are also some of the top places to sample the unique kitchen of Costa Rica, so you’ll want to drop in even if you do have dollars to splash. A meal of gallo pinto or something else from the national kitchen should set you back no more than $7 a pop.
It’s possible to fork out a lot more for food in these parts, though. Take the new wave of hipster drinking spots and eco eateries that’s taking major surf and yoga destinations like Tamarindo and Santa Teresa by storm. They can charge $2 for just a coffee, and over $10 for a smoothie bowl. Hotel restaurants that do international food can be even more again – think in the region of $30 a head, more if you want wine.
For a 30-day stay, we’d say you’d need something in the region of $1,500 for your whole food budget, working out at an average of $50 per day.
One month in Costa Rica budget: Activities
Costa Rica is positively brimming with bucket-list activities. This is a land where you can hike trails for days on end searching for sightings of endangered sloths in the trees, where you can surf some of the finest breaks this side of Hawaii, where you can witness volcanos spurting smoke from lookout points above collapsed calderas. To put it another way, you’re going to want to set aside a portion of the budget to cover all the things you want to do.
Here are just a few examples of the sort of outgoings you can expect to come across as you travel:
- A group surf lesson in Tamarindo – $45/hour
- Entry to the famous Manuel Antonio National Park – $18.80
- Full-day tour of the Arenal Volcano – $80 per person
- Paos Volcano and coffee plantation visit from San Jose – $150 per person
Naturally, there will be days when you don’t want to do anything in Costa Rica, which will help reduce the average you spend on activities across the whole month. That’s why we think a budget of about $500-700 total would actually be pretty good here.
One month in Costa Rica budget – our conclusion
So, there you have it, your one month in Costa Rica budget. Totaling the lot up, we think you’re looking at a spend of about $4,900 if you’re happy to eat and stay midrange and are flying in from the USA. Of course, it’s very possible to spend five times that if you really want luxury, but you can also spend half if you’re happy with the backpacker life.