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What Do Things Cost In Costa Rica?


by Wilone Still



Welcome to the enchanting land of Costa Rica, a country known for its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and vibrant culture. Whether you’re planning a vacation or considering a move to this tropical paradise, it’s important to have an understanding of the cost of living in Costa Rica. From daily expenses to accommodation costs and entertainment activities, having an idea of what things cost can help you budget and make informed decisions.


Costa Rica offers a wide range of options when it comes to food and drinks, accommodation, transportation, shopping, healthcare, entertainment, education, and other miscellaneous expenses. This article will provide an overview of the average costs you can expect to encounter in each of these categories.


It’s important to note that costs can vary depending on your location within the country. Urban areas such as San Jose and popular tourist destinations tend to have higher prices compared to rural areas. Additionally, certain factors like lifestyle choices, personal preferences, and the exchange rate can also influence the final cost.


So, whether you’re a budget-conscious traveler or planning to settle down in Costa Rica, let’s dive into the details of what things cost in this beautiful Central American country.


Cost of Food and Drinks

One of the highlights of visiting Costa Rica is the delicious and diverse cuisine. From traditional Costa Rican dishes like gallo pinto (rice and beans) and casado (a balanced meal of rice, beans, meat, and plantains) to international cuisines, there is something for everyone’s taste buds.


The cost of food and drinks in Costa Rica can vary depending on where you choose to eat. Eating at local “sodas,” which are small family-run restaurants, can be a budget-friendly option. A typical meal at a soda can range from $5 to $10, depending on the location and the dish you choose.


If you prefer dining at mid-range restaurants, you can expect to spend around $15 to $25 per person for a meal. Upscale restaurants and international cuisines can be more expensive, with prices ranging from $30 to $50 per person.


For those who prefer to cook their meals, grocery shopping in Costa Rica can also be affordable. A week’s worth of groceries can cost around $50 to $100, depending on your dietary preferences and whether you stick to local produce and products.


When it comes to drinks, Costa Rica is famous for its coffee and tropical fruit juices. A cup of coffee at a local café can range from $1 to $3, depending on the city and the type of coffee. Fresh tropical fruit juices can be found at juice stands or local markets for around $2 to $4 per serving.


Alcoholic beverages can vary in price depending on the establishment and the type of drink. A bottle of local beer at a bar or restaurant can cost around $2 to $5, while imported beers or cocktails can cost between $5 and $10.


It’s worth noting that these prices are approximate and can vary depending on the location and the season. It’s always a good idea to check the menu or ask about prices before ordering to avoid any surprises.


Accommodation Expenses

When it comes to accommodation in Costa Rica, you’ll find a variety of options to suit different budgets and preferences. From luxury resorts and boutique hotels to budget-friendly hostels and vacation rentals, there is something for every traveler.


In popular tourist destinations like San Jose, Jaco, and Tamarindo, you can expect to find a wide range of accommodation options. Luxury hotels and resorts can cost anywhere from $150 to $500 per night, depending on the location and the level of amenities provided.


If you’re looking for more affordable options, budget hotels or hostels are available throughout the country. Prices for budget accommodation can range from $30 to $100 per night, depending on the location and the quality of facilities.


Another popular choice for travelers is vacation rentals. Whether it’s a private villa, a beachfront condo, or a cozy cabin in the rainforest, vacation rentals provide a more home-like experience. The cost of vacation rentals can vary widely depending on factors such as location, size, and amenities. On average, you can expect to spend around $100 to $300 per night for a vacation rental.


For even more budget-friendly options, Costa Rica has a growing number of eco-lodges, guesthouses, and camping sites. These alternative accommodations can be a great choice for nature lovers and those who prefer a more immersive experience. Prices for eco-lodges and guesthouses can range from $50 to $150 per night, while camping sites can cost anywhere from $10 to $30 per night.


It’s important to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak travel seasons like Christmas, Easter, and the high tourist season from December to April. Prices can vary during these peak times, so it’s best to plan ahead to secure the best deals.


Whether you’re looking for luxury, convenience, or a budget-friendly option, Costa Rica has a wide range of accommodation choices to suit every traveler’s needs.


Transportation Costs

Getting around Costa Rica is relatively easy, thanks to its well-developed transportation system. Whether you choose to travel by bus, taxi, rental car, or domestic flights, there are options available to suit your preferences and budget.


One of the most affordable and convenient modes of transportation in Costa Rica is the bus system. Public buses are widespread and cover most major cities and towns. The cost of a bus ticket can range from $1 to $10, depending on the distance traveled. Buses are a popular choice among budget travelers as they provide a cost-effective way to explore the country.


Taxis are readily available in urban areas and tourist destinations. The cost of a taxi ride will depend on the distance traveled and the city. In general, expect to pay between $5 to $20 for a short taxi ride within a city, while longer distances or travel between cities can cost between $50 to $100.


If you prefer the freedom and convenience of having your own vehicle, renting a car is a popular option. Rental car prices can vary depending on the type of car, the rental agency, and the duration of the rental. On average, expect to pay around $30 to $60 per day for a basic rental car. It’s important to budget for additional costs such as gasoline and parking fees.


For longer distances or travel to more remote areas, domestic flights are available. Domestic flights within Costa Rica can range in price depending on the distance and the time of booking. On average, a one-way domestic flight can cost between $50 to $150. Domestic airlines offer regular flights to popular destinations such as Quepos, Liberia, and Tortuguero.


Another exciting and adventurous way to explore Costa Rica is by renting a bike or an ATV (all-terrain vehicle). Bike rentals can range from $10 to $30 per day, while ATV rentals typically start at around $50 per day.


It’s important to factor in transportation costs when planning your budget for Costa Rica. Consider the distances you’ll be traveling, the convenience of each mode of transportation, and the specific needs of your trip. With the variety of transportation options available, getting around Costa Rica can be an enjoyable part of your travel experience.


Shopping and Souvenirs

Shopping in Costa Rica offers a delightful mix of traditional crafts, unique souvenirs, and well-known brand-name products. Whether you’re looking for locally made handicrafts or want to indulge in retail therapy at modern shopping malls, there are plenty of options to satisfy your shopping desires.


One of the best places to find traditional Costa Rican crafts and souvenirs is at local markets and artisanal shops. Here you’ll find a wide range of handcrafted items such as wooden carvings, ceramics, textiles, and jewelry. Prices for these items can vary depending on their size, intricacy, and quality. On average, expect to spend anywhere from $10 to $100 for a unique and beautiful piece.


If you’re looking for more mainstream shopping options, Costa Rica has a number of shopping malls and department stores where you can find both local and international brands. These malls often feature clothing, accessories, electronics, and household items. Prices for branded products are similar to what you would find in other countries, although sales and discounts can vary throughout the year, providing opportunities for savings.


Costa Rica is known for its excellent quality, sustainably grown coffee. If you’re a coffee lover, be sure to visit one of the coffee plantations where you can learn about the coffee-making process and purchase freshly roasted beans to take home. Prices for coffee can range from $10 to $20 per bag, depending on the quality and variety.


When it comes to souvenirs, Costa Rica offers a wide range of options suitable for every budget. From keychains and magnets to t-shirts and artisanal crafts, you’ll find something to commemorate your trip. Prices for souvenirs can range from a few dollars to $20 or more, depending on the item and its uniqueness.


If you’re looking to save some money, keep an eye out for duty-free shops at the airport. These shops often offer discounted prices on items such as liquor, perfume, cosmetics, and chocolates.


Whether you’re looking for traditional crafts, unique souvenirs, or branded products, shopping in Costa Rica is a delightful experience. Don’t forget to budget for your shopping adventures and take home a piece of this beautiful country.


Healthcare and Medical Expenses

Costa Rica is renowned for its high-quality healthcare system, making it an attractive destination for medical tourism. The country boasts modern hospitals, well-trained medical professionals, and affordable medical services compared to other countries.


For minor ailments or general medical consultations, you can visit local clinics or private doctors. The cost of a consultation can range from $40 to $100, depending on the doctor and the location of the clinic. Medications prescribed by doctors are often available at local pharmacies, and their prices can vary depending on the specific medication.


In case of emergencies or more complex medical needs, private hospitals provide excellent care. The cost of emergency room visits or hospital stays can vary depending on the medical services required. On average, an emergency room visit can cost around $150 to $300, while a hospital stay can range from $500 to $1,000 per day, which includes accommodation, meals, and medical services.


It is highly recommended that international visitors and long-term residents have health insurance to cover any medical expenses. There are several insurance options available, including local insurance providers and international insurance companies specializing in coverage for expats and travelers.


Additionally, dental care in Costa Rica is well-regarded, attracting many tourists seeking affordable dental procedures. Prices for dental treatments can be significantly lower than in other countries. For example, a dental cleaning can cost around $40 to $80, while more complex procedures like crowns or dental implants range from $500 to $1,500 or more, depending on the complexity.


It’s important to note that while healthcare in Costa Rica is generally of high quality, it’s always wise to be cautious and choose reputable medical professionals and institutions. Speaking to locals or seeking recommendations from expat communities can help guide you to trusted medical services.


Overall, Costa Rica’s healthcare system offers excellent medical services at affordable prices, making it an attractive destination for those seeking quality healthcare without breaking the bank.


Entertainment and Leisure Activities

Costa Rica offers a plethora of entertainment and leisure activities for visitors and residents alike. Whether you’re interested in exploring nature, engaging in water sports, or immersing yourself in the local culture, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


One of the main draws of Costa Rica is its breathtaking natural beauty. National parks, rainforests, and wildlife reserves offer an abundance of outdoor activities such as hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife spotting. Many of these parks charge an entrance fee, which can range from $10 to $20. Guided tours and activities like zip-lining, rafting, and canopy tours are also available and typically cost between $50 to $100 per person.


If you’re a beach lover, Costa Rica’s pristine coastal areas provide ample opportunities for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and sunbathing. Public beaches are free to access, while some private beach clubs may require a daily fee or membership. Surfboard rentals, lessons, and other water sports activities can range from $20 to $100 depending on the duration and type of activity.


Cultural experiences are another highlight of Costa Rica. You can attend traditional dance performances, explore museums and art galleries, or visit historical landmarks. Entrance fees for museums and cultural sites are usually modest, ranging from $5 to $10. Keep an eye out for festivals and local events, which often offer free or low-cost entertainment showcasing the vibrant culture of Costa Rica.


The nightlife scene in Costa Rica is vibrant, particularly in popular tourist destinations like San Jose, Jaco, and Tamarindo. Here you’ll find a variety of bars, clubs, and live music venues where you can enjoy dancing, live performances, and socializing. Cover charges for clubs and nightclubs can range from $5 to $20, depending on the venue and any special events.


Cinema tickets in Costa Rica typically cost around $6 to $10, depending on the theater and location. Multiplex theaters offer the latest international and local movies, while smaller independent theaters often showcase art-house films and documentaries.


It’s worth mentioning that some tours and activities may require additional costs for transportation, meals, or equipment rentals. It’s always a good idea to inquire about any additional fees or packages available when booking your activities.


Whether you prefer immersing yourself in nature, exploring cultural landmarks, or enjoying the nightlife, Costa Rica offers a wide range of entertainment and leisure activities to make your stay unforgettable.


Education and Schooling Costs

Costa Rica has a strong education system with both public and private schools catering to local and international students. The country is known for its high literacy rates and commitment to providing quality education.


Public education in Costa Rica is free and compulsory for children aged 6 to 18. Public schools follow the Costa Rican curriculum and instruction is primarily in Spanish. While education is free, there may be costs for school supplies, uniforms, field trips, and extracurricular activities. These costs can vary depending on the school and the grade level of the student.


For those looking for an international education or a bilingual curriculum, private schools are available in Costa Rica. Private schools may offer instruction in multiple languages, such as English or French, and follow international curricula like the International Baccalaureate (IB) or American curriculum. Private school fees in Costa Rica can range from $3,000 to $10,000 per year, depending on the school, grade level, and additional services offered.


Higher education in Costa Rica is highly regarded, with a variety of universities and institutions offering undergraduate and graduate programs. Public universities offer affordable tuition fees for both local and international students, with costs ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 per year. Private universities, on the other hand, tend to have higher tuition fees, ranging from $6,000 to $15,000 per year.


It’s important to note that the cost of education in Costa Rica can vary depending on the specific school, program, and services provided. Scholarships and financial aid options may also be available for students based on merit or need.


For expat families considering education in Costa Rica, it’s recommended to research and visit schools in advance to determine if they align with your educational goals and preferences. Consider factors such as curriculum, language of instruction, extracurricular activities, and values promoted by the school.


Overall, Costa Rica offers a range of educational options, from free public schooling to private international schools and universities. By weighing the costs and benefits, families and students can find an educational path that suits their needs and aspirations.


Miscellaneous Expenses

Aside from the main categories of expenses, there are a few miscellaneous costs to consider when living or vacationing in Costa Rica.


One such expense is utilities, including electricity, water, and internet. The cost of utilities can vary depending on the location, the size of the property, and the usage. On average, monthly utility bills can range from $50 to $150, although excessive air conditioning usage or high water consumption may increase these costs.


If you have a cellular phone or plan on getting a Costa Rican SIM card, you will have to budget for prepaid or postpaid phone services. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for as little as $5, and recharge cards are available at various price points. Postpaid plans offered by local cellular companies typically start at around $25 to $50 per month, depending on the benefits and service provider.


Regarding banking, there may be fees associated with ATM withdrawals and currency conversion. Most ATMs charge a nominal fee per transaction, which can range from $1 to $5, and additional fees may apply if using an international debit or credit card. It’s advisable to check with your bank regarding any potential fees before traveling or doing transactions in Costa Rica.


If you own a vehicle or plan on renting one, you will need to budget for gas (petrol) prices. The cost of gas in Costa Rica is higher compared to neighboring countries due to importation costs. Gas prices can fluctuate but typically range from $3 to $5 per gallon. However, Costa Rica promotes eco-friendly policies, so electric vehicles and hybrids are becoming more popular, which can help reduce fuel costs.


Another miscellaneous expense to consider is insurance. Whether you’re a resident or a traveler, it’s wise to have insurance coverage for health, travel, or property. Costs for insurance will vary depending on the coverage and/or the provider.


Lastly, don’t forget to budget for leisure and personal expenses such as dining out, entertainment, gym memberships, and personal care products. These costs will vary greatly depending on your preferences and lifestyle choices, but it’s always good to set aside an amount for leisure activities and personal indulgences.


While these miscellaneous expenses might seem minor, they can add up over time. By factoring them into your budget, you can ensure a more accurate representation of your overall expenses in Costa Rica.



Costa Rica offers a unique and diverse experience for visitors and residents alike. From the stunning natural beauty to the rich cultural heritage, this tropical paradise has something for everyone. Understanding the cost of living and expenses in Costa Rica is essential in planning a trip or making a long-term move.


Throughout this article, we have explored various categories of expenses in Costa Rica, including food and drinks, accommodation, transportation, shopping, healthcare, entertainment, education, and miscellaneous costs. It’s important to note that these costs can vary depending on factors such as location, personal preferences, and the exchange rate.


When it comes to food and drinks, Costa Rica offers a range of options from affordable local eateries to upscale international cuisines. Accommodation costs vary depending on the type of lodging, with options available to suit every budget. Transportation costs can be affordable, with public buses and taxis readily available, while domestic flights and rental cars offer convenience for exploring the country.


Shopping and souvenirs offer an opportunity to take home a piece of Costa Rica’s vibrant culture, with traditional crafts and unique souvenirs available. Healthcare in Costa Rica is of high quality and more affordable compared to other countries, with options for both public and private medical services.


Entertainment and leisure activities in Costa Rica are plentiful, with outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and nightlife options to suit every taste. Education options range from free public schooling to private bilingual schools and renowned universities.


Additionally, miscellaneous expenses such as utilities, phone services, banking fees, and insurance should be considered when budgeting for Costa Rica. These costs may seem small individually but can add up over time.


Overall, Costa Rica offers a wonderful blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and affordable living. By understanding and budgeting for the various expenses, you can thoroughly enjoy your time in this captivating country and experience all that it has to offer.