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30 Things to Do in Costa Rica on a Budget

things to do costa rica

If you like action and adventure, Costa Rica will be a paradise playground for you. If adventure is not your thing, that’s OK too! There are plenty of fun budget things to do in Costa Rica for everyone.

We selected these budget Costa Rica activities based on our experiences. Some of these things to do may be a bit more pricey than others, but I can ensure you that if they are a bit more expensive they are the best of the best that we have found.

Anyway, here are our favorite budget activities in Costa Rica at a variety of (inexpensive) price points and locations….

1. Go fishing beach fishing costa rica

Fishing is not usually cheap, but if you’ve ever had an interest in fishing, Costa Rica is the place to do it! It’s an awesome experience that shouldn’t be missed. One way that we save a lot of money while fishing is to go out on boats with locals rather than taking expensive deep sea fishing tours.

We have a complete post on how you can fish on a budget.

2. Go surfing

If you’ve ever thought about surfing, Costa Rica is the place for it. Most beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts offer surfing lessons. Some popular spots are Tamarindo, Samara, Nosara, and Dominical.

If you already have some experience surfing you can’t rent a board at almost every beachfront town throughout the country for sometimes as low as $10 a day.

3. Explore a Costa Rica national park

hiking in costa rica

There are so many national parks in Costa Rica! Most tourists flock to Manuel Antonio National Park, but our personal favorite is Cahuita National Park because it is absolutely beautiful and not overly filled with tourists. We also created a guide to our favorite places to hike in Costa Rica. This will definitely help you find the best national parks (including some you have definitely never heard of).

4. Tour a coffee plantation

cr coffee

If you find yourself in the Central Valley, find a coffee plantation to tour. There are a few good ones on the way to Poas volcano. We recently went to Cafe Britt with my family and had a great time filled with wayyyy too much free coffee. We all felt a little caffeine drunk afterward. There are also TONS of smaller coffee plantations throughout the country which offer tours.

5. Tour a cacao farm

We love the chocolate tour with Rainforest Chocolate tour in La Fortuna. This tour not only teaches the history of chocolate and how chocolate is made but also allows you to eat as much fresh chocolate as you want. You can then infuse your chocolate with a variety of tasty ingredients. Yum! There are several chocolate tours throughout the country, but if you are heading to La Fortuna I recommend Rainforest Chocolate Tour.

6. Relax in a hot spring in La Fortuna

If you are heading to La Fortuna it is definitely worth checking out the hot springs. There are a lot of hot springs geared towards tourists where you can expect to pay up to $100 for admission. These hot springs are nicely maintained and look absolutely beautiful. If you are looking for a more local experience check out the smaller hot springs which cost about $10 per person.

We have a complete guide to our favorite budget hot springs in La Fortuna here.

7.  Go sea kayaking

The waves can be a little rough out there and if you often get seasick, I’d stay away from this Costa Rica activity (or at least take some sea sickness pills before). A lot of beaches will have a place where you can rent sea kayaks. Our favorite spot is definitely at Playa Biesanz near Manuel Antonio. We rented a nice two-person sea kayak for only $12 an hour. Also, Thomas is dying to do some sea kayaking and fishing in Guanacaste. We’ll report back on that!

Note: This picture was taken on Lake Arenal. Although it is obviously a lake and not the sea, it is also a great place to rent kayaks.

8. See a concert

Not a lot of musicians tour in Costa Rica, but maybe you will get lucky and a musician you love will be playing while you are visiting the country. The cool thing about seeing a concert in Costa Rica is that sometimes the tickets are way cheaper than in your home country. For example, I saw Justin Bieber at the national stadium for $35. I know, I know, please don’t judge me, I’m not a fan of the Biebs BUT it was cool to see a concert at the national stadium just for the experience. And no, he didn’t sing Despacito. And yes, the crowd was outraged.

Anyway, if you would like to see a concert in Costa Rica, just check on SongKick.

9. Check out a waterfall in Costa Rica

One of our favorite things in Costa Rica is discovering new waterfalls! There are so many amazing ones. We just can’t decide a favorite so check out our guide to the best waterfalls in the country to help you out.

10. See a volcano up close and personal

There are some fabulous volcanoes you can check out while in Costa Rica. Our favorite is Poas Volcano, but at the moment it has limited open times due to eruptions last year. If you would like to go to the top of a volcano we suggest Irazu. It’s a nice little day trip from San Jose. We have a complete guide to visiting Irazu.

11. Watch turtles lay their eggs / Take their first steps

It is possible to see turtles laying their eggs on both coasts, but we personally love seeing them in Tortuguero. Try going in autumn for the best chances of seeing them. All you need to do is ask at your hotel if you can take a tour that night. They will arrange the rest for you.

It will cost about $20 per person for a two-hour tour. Please do not try to check out the turtles on your own. The tours are led by trained professionals who know how much distance is needed from the turtles.

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The picture above was actually taken in Montezuma in September. We had no idea that it was even turtle season there, but we got lucky! You never know when you’ll see wildlife amazingness in Costa Rica!

We have a complete guide to seeing sea turtles in Costa Rica.

12. Check out a museum in San Jose

costa rica museum

San Jose has tons of great museums for you to explore. We suggest checking out The Gold Museum ($9 entry), The Jade Museum ($8 entry), and The Children’s Museum ($5 entry). You can even make a nice full day of it and explore all of them! Also, this is a great rainy day activity if you are visiting Costa Rica during the rainy season.

13. Go to the theater in San Jose

costa rica national theater

Our favorite place to catch a show is the National Theater in San Jose. We saw Alice in Wonderland as a ballet there a few months ago and really enjoyed it. Ballet is not typically our thing, but the theater is beautiful and sometimes it’s nice to have an excuse to dress up fancy and go out. Just keep in mind that most shows are in Spanish, but honestly I didn’t feel like I really needed a good grasp on the Spanish language while watching Alice in Wonderland.

You can check out a complete schedule of upcoming events at the Costa Rica National Theater.

14. Go stand up paddle boarding

Do you like SUP? I feel like it’s one of those love or hate types of activities. I’m horrible at it, but I know some people live for SUP. If that is you, have no fear, you can definitely fulfill your SUP dreams in Costa Rica! There are several places that rent boards or you can go with a tour. Here are some companies you can check out from TripAdvisor.

15. Take a wildlife boat ride in Tortuguero

Tortuguero is our favorite place to take a wildlife boat tour. In fact, I definitely consider this a must do Costa Rica activity if you are visiting Tortuguero.

We have gone on this tour a few times and have always paid about $30 per person for a two-hour tour. We have always had wonderful guides and we’ve seen a ton of monkeys, sloths, caymans, and more!

If you are visiting Tortuguero just ask at your hotel about doing one of these tours and they’ll set it up for you. You do not need to reserve anything ahead of time.

16. Try a Costa Rica craft beer (or 20)

beer in costa rica

Alright, I’ll be honest. National Costa Rican beer is pretty much the equivalent of BudLight, but on hot days there is nothing I enjoy more. If you are into the craft beer scene like we are, have no fear! The craft beer culture is slowly making its way into Costa Rica and it is possible to find breweries in most tourist destinations. Two of our favorites are Fuego Brew Co. in Dominical (that is where the picture above was taken) and Wilk Craft Beer in San Jose.

17. Check out a trucha

Oh how we love truchas! This is one of those hidden gems of Costa Rica that most tourists don’t experience, but totally should. The concept is you go to a place with a small freshwater lake. An employee will give you a line with a little piece of bait on the end. You then stand around the lake and try to catch a fish (usually trout). Once you catch a fish for every person in your group you will go into the restaurant located on the property and they will cook up your fish for you.

You can expect to pay about $10 for your fish and some side dishes (usually rice, beans, salad, and fried plantains). It’s a great way to spend a few hours. There are many truchas in the Central Valley area of the country. Just search “trucha” on Google maps and you’ll find a lot of places.

18. Take a night tour in Monteverde

We love taking night walking tours while in Monteverde. There are multiple companies that offer tours, but the best way to get a good deal is to reserve your tour through your hotel. The hotels in the area typically partner with local night tour companies and they can get you the best deal with transportation to the tour included. On your night walk you will see a lot of wildlife including cool frogs, tarantulas, sloths, snakes, and more!

We have a complete guide to Monteverde night tours.

19. Take a yoga class in Costa Rica

Because Costa Rica is such an eco-destination there are also several eco-lodges that offer yoga classes or yoga retreats. You can also just out onto the beach and practice alone. It’s free and so peaceful. You can find yoga classes in almost every town, but some popular destinations are Nosara, Samara, and Dominical.

20. Check out a Costa Rica butterfly garden

There are a few great places to check out butterflies in Costa Rica. Our favorites are in Montezuma and near La Fortuna

The butterfly spot in Montezuma is called Mariposa Montezuma Gardens, and it is wonderful! The people that run this place are the best. They also have a small hotel on site, have a cute restaurant, and brew their own beer. If you visit Montezuma you have to go here!

The Butterfly Conservatory near Lake Arenal in La Fortuna, is a really nice place to spend a couple of hours. You’ll see some really cool butterflies and reptiles, take a nice nature walk and meet some very knowledgeable people who work there. You could combine this with a hike on the Arenal 1968 trail or a kayak trip around the lake. They are all located close together.

21. Go caving in La Fortuna

About 45 minutes from downtown La Fortuna there is a place called Venado Caves. It’s $25 per person for a tour of the caves which lasts about 1.5 hours. It’s seriously intense and if you don’t do well with tight spaces this is not an activity for you. I thought I would freak out, but once the adrenaline kicked in I was good to go.

22. Walk on a hanging bridge

There are multiple places in Costa Rica with hanging bridges. Our personal favorites are Mistico Hanging Bridge Park in La Fortuna and Selvetura Park in Monteverde. Get ready for amazing views from really high up!

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23. Check out a Costa Rica beach bar

beach bars in costa rica

Anybody else love beach bars? There is nothing better than enjoying a tropical cocktail with a perfect beach view while on vacation. We like beach bars so much that we created a complete guide to the best beach bars in Costa Rica.

24. Eat dinner with a view

I mean, who doesn’t love dinner with a nice sunset view, am I right? One of our absolute favorite places to enjoy dinner with a view is in Manuel Antonio. we like Manuel Antonio because there are a lot of restaurants up on the hills. This means you get the perfect sunset viewing spot. Just a warning though, bring plenty of bug spray. The second the sun goes down it gets super mosquito-y.

25. Go Costa Rica souvenir shopping

costa rica gifts

There are some surprisingly amazing souvenirs in Costa Rica. I’m talking things that actually have a use and are not overly kitschy. Even if you don’t have to buy souvenirs for anyone, it can still be nice to browse the various items at souvenir markets. This picture above was taken in Dominical. Artists always set up their stands along the beach here and it is a nice place to check out handmade items.

We have a complete guide to buying Costa Rica souvenirs.

26. Go bioluminescent kayaking near Montezuma

You can see the bioluminescence year round in Paquera (near Montezuma). There are several companies from Montezuma that offer tours, but the cheapest company we found is actually Bahia Rica in Paquera.

In all honesty, we did this tour and weren’t overly impressed because it was kind of expensive just to paddle around a bit for an hour. However, when else in your life will you get to experience bioluminescence? For the experience alone, I guess it’s worth it.

27. Go tubing in La Fortuna

tubing la fortuna

We took our families with us for our tubing adventure in La Fortuna with Arenal River Tubing. I’ve got to say, it was so fun! However, this is not a relaxing float down a river. There are multiple spots where things get a bit crazy. The guides are wonderful though and will make sure you are safe and keeping up with the group.

28. Slide down the Uvita waterfall

Ummm how cool is this? Yeap, that’s Thomas living his best life sliding down a waterfall. Also, yes, I was too wimpy to try it. Anyway, this is the Uvita waterfall. If you are visiting the Uvita area, this waterfall is 100% worth a visit. Admission was only about $2 and the walk to the fall was only about five minutes long. Go here. You won’t regret it.

Here’s a map so you can find your way here.

29. Enjoy the nightlife in Costa Rica

costa rica nightlife

If you would like to do some partying while in Costa Rica, have bo fear! The nightlife scene is great here. Some popular party destinations are San Jose, Jaco, Tamarindo, and Puerto Viejo.

30. Go to a soccer game

soccer costa rica

If the Costa Rica national team is playing during your visit, it can be so fun to go to a game. They play at the national stadium near San Jose, and it is definitely an experience!

As I mentioned in the beginning, we created this list of activities in Costa Rica with budget travelers in mind. However, there are plenty of other amazing things to do in Costa Rica that will be a bit of a splurge on your budget. For example, we think that zip lining in Costa Rica is a must do activity, but it is not so budget friendly. If you are interested in zip lining we suggest going to La Fortuna or Monteverde for the best views.

Also, if you are on a very tight budget, we also have a list of 20 amazing free things to do in Costa Rica.

Let us know if you have any questions about any of these activities in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out. Also, if you know of a great budget activity in Costa Rica, let us know! We are always happy to hear about new fun things to do!

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There are so many fun things to do in Costa Rica while sticking to a budget! Costa Rica is a cool activity paradise. Find out how you can go fishing on a budget, see a volcano up close, and more! #CostaRica #CentralAmerica There are so many fun things to do in Costa Rica while sticking to a budget! Costa Rica is a cool activity paradise. Find out how you can go fishing on a budget, see a volcano up close, and more! #CostaRica #CentralAmerica

About Us

We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica. It was a spontaneous decision to move here, but it was the best decision!

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8 Responses

  1. Hi Sarah,

    I am tentatively planning a family vacation to Costa Rica in May 2020. A few questions for you… (1) Is late May a bad time due to it being the start of the rainy season? (2) Our children are adrenaline junkies and fearless. We’d be looking for great waterfall hikes (where they can cliff jump – they did this in Maui and loved it). (3) What other activities are a “must do” for an adventurous family (kids are 14, 12 and 11)? We loved Maui because it gave us a taste of everything from the beach to the rain forest to the volcanos to exploring quaint Hawaiian towns. We’re looking for a similar experience in Costa Rica. What area would be most practical to stay to accomplish this? (4) Finally, I read an article on “what NOT to do in Costa Rica” and it was frightening! It talked about the poisonous snakes, frogs, spiders, disease ridden mosquitos, etc. I’m all for an outdoor adventure, but definitely don’t want to come across these deadly creatures. Was the article exaggerating?!? Thanks in advance for any guidance/ideas you can offer.

    1. Hi Betsy!
      1. No, May is great! You may have some afternoon rain but it shouldnt be too bad. Plus you won’t have as many tourists and prices tend to go down.
      2. Oh, Costa Rica is great for adventure! The one waterfall I know you can jump off of is Uvita waterfall. However, I’d suggest going to two spots. I would pick a beach spot and a jungle spot. For jungle, La Fortuna would be perfect. You can rappel down waterfalls, go zip lining, go white water rafting, etc. For a beach town, Uvita might actually be a great choice for you. It is a bit of a drive (maybe about 4.5 hours from La Fortuna, but you can go mangrove kayaking, snorkeling, slide down the uvita waterfall, hike to Nauyca waterfall, and more!
      4. There are for sure some poisonous critters, but really you shouldn’t worry. Just stay on paths when hiking. snakes freak me out so bad, but I have only seen a few here and only when guides point them out. Frogs will hop away before you get a chance to get close to them, and spiders you wont really see. Also, yes it is possible to get diseases from mosquitos. There is dengue and Zika here, however, in my four years here I have only known one person to get Dengue and nobody who has gotten Zika. In La Fortuna mosquitos are not usually a problem (its too high in elevation) but on the beach you normally only need to worry about them once it starts getting dark out. Just load up on bug spray and you will be fine.
      Let me know what you decide and I can give you more info if you need. 🙂

      1. Hi Sarah,

        Thank you so much for the reply. Since I originally posted we BOOKED our trip (May 2020). We will be staying in La Fortuna area as a “home base.” We’ve shown our kiddos some pics and they are SO excited. I’ve read your blog on car rental and feel it would be best for our family – even with the mandatory insurance fees and deposit. Once I’m ready, I’ll book through your site (hopefully that helps you). I work for a global company and with a simple call can add international calling to my Verizon plan. Will my GPS then work? I was reading what you wrote about the SIM cards but was slightly confused. When we were in Canada, the signal was hit or miss at times. If I am driving in Costa Rica, I want to be sure I have GPS at all times. Driving in Maui was easy, but that’s the US, so I’m sure it will be different.

        Our resort (Los Lagos) appears to offer horseback riding. We’ll probably do that one day. We’ll also plan to do the Mistic Bridges, a waterfall hike/cliff jumping (thanks for the suggestion on Uvita) and possibly ATV riding (I’ve seen that offered). I believe there are hot springs at our resort, but Tabacon looks beautiful, so that may be an activity as well.

        So, my question for you at this point is if we forgo the rental (although I’m leaning toward it), is there a private transportation company you suggest? The resort sent me some transfer prices to/from SAN José airport, but they seemed much higher than costs I’ve seen in Costa Rica discussions.

        Any thoughts/ideas are much appreciated!
        Betsy

      2. Hi Betsy,

        Yes, having a car will give you the flexibilty of getting around easier, but you could always just rent a car from Adobe for a few days while in La Fortuna if you would prefer that. They will even deliver the car for you for free at your hotel if you would like. The drive from San Jose is not bad, but if you would like to look at shuttle companies, our go-to is Interbus. They tend to be the most reliable/reputable for that route that we know of. However, you are right. For the whole family, the shuttle can be pricey. It may come out cheaper to rent a car for your whole trip instead.
        You should be totally fine using your phone with Verizon international plan. My mom did that last time she was here and had no problems with getting a signal and using Waze for directions during her whole trip.

        Let me know what other questions you have. 🙂

  2. We are wanting to take our son and daughter to Costa Rica for our son’s senior trip this coming March, but I am feeling completely overwhelmed with trying to plan it. I have read we should split our time between Arenal and Manuel Antonio. Would you agree with that? And should we try and get a hotel or VRBO? There is so much that I don’t even know where to start. Would appreciate any help you could offer. Thanks.

    1. Hi Christy! How long are you planning to come for and what activities are on your “must do” list?
      Arenal and Manuel Antonio are great for a mix of beach and jungle with tons of activity options. Also, I suggest Airbnb for places to stay. That way you can get a whole house just for your family and have the flexibility of cooking your own meals when you want and you’ll have privacy. You can usually get great places on Airbnb that aren’t too pricey.

  3. Thank you. Going in July with my son staying by in La Fortuna and of course we are on a budget!!
    This article was quite helpful.

    1. Oh good! Let us know if you have any specific questions as you finish planning your trip. We are happy to help you out. 🙂

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