There is no doubt about it, Costa Rica is made for fun seekers. If adventure your thing, this will be a paradise playground for you. If adventure is not your thing, that’s OK too! There are plenty of fun budget activities in Costa Rica for everyone.
We selected these budget activities in Costa Rica based on our experiences and suggestion from friends we trust. Some of these activities may be a bit more pricey than you’d like to pay, but I can ensure you that if they are expensive they are the best of the best that we have found.
Here are our favorite budget activities in Costa Rica at a variety of (inexpensive) price points and locations….
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Go Deep Sea Fishing
Deep sea fishing is not cheap, but if you’ve ever had an interest in deep sea fishing, Costa Rica is the place to do it! It’s an awesome experience that shouldn’t be missed. It can be super expensive to go deep sea fishing with a tour.
We suggest asking locals if they know anyone with a boat that would be willing to take you out. We did this in Tortuguero and found a nice local man who took us out on his boat with fishing poles for $100 for six people.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Eat a typical Costa Rican breakfast
Breakfast here is most likely completely different from your home country. You can expect to have a mix of rice and beans (called Gallo Pinto), a piece of squishy cheese, and scrambled eggs. It’s tasty! We suggest trying to stay at hotels which have breakfast included.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Take a surf lesson
If you’ve ever thought about surfing, Costa Rica is the place for it. Most beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts offer surf classes. Our personal fave is Pato’s Surf School in Samara because they have the most affordable prices and good packaged deals. Also if you take lessons with them you can use their surfboard for free for five days.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Explore a national park
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.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Tour a coffee plantation
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.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Tour a coco farm
I went on a chocolate tour in La Fortuna and loved it. The tour not only taught the history of chocolate and how chocolate is made but we also got to eat as much fresh chocolate as we wanted. We could then infuse our 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 this one.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Relax in a hot spring
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 about $40 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 like Termalitas de Arenal and Termales Los Laureles.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Go sea kayaking
The waves can be a little rough out there and if you often get seasick, I’d stay away from this 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 was at Playa Biesanz near Manuel Antonio where 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!
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Go snorkeling
Often locals try to make a little money by renting snorkeling equipment on the beach. It is usually relatively cheap and so worth it! We love snorkeling here. If you want to save some money we suggest packing your own snorkel mask so you can snorkel anytime, anywhere!
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Relax on the beach
Costa Rica has so much to do, but sometimes you just need a break from all the action. The beaches here are great for relaxing and at many beaches you can rent a beach chair and umbrella for the day. Guanacaste is a great area to go for long stretches of beautiful white sand beaches.
One of the many awesome things about Costa Rica is that all beaches need to have public access by law. This means if you are up for a little exploring you can find some really amazing empty beaches.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Check out a waterfall
One of our favorite things in Costa Rica is discovering new waterfalls! There are so many amazing ones. If you get a chance definitely visit Nauyaca Waterfall in Dominical, La Fortuna Waterfall in La Fortuna, and this lovely waterfall pictured above near Liberia called Llanos de Cortes.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Check out a farmers market
Every Saturday we go to the farmers market near our house. These markets are located all throughout the country and they are so fun! One of the many things we love about living here is buying unusual fruits we’ve never seen before at ridiculously cheap prices.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – See a volcano up close and personal
There are some fabulous volcanoes you can check out while in Costa Rica. Our favorite is Poas, but at the moment it is closed because it has been erupting. 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.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Play with hundreds of dogs
You may have seen a video of this place that has been going viral recently. Territorio de Zaguates (land of the strays) is located in the valley in Alajuela and is home to hundreds of stray dogs. It is possible to visit this beautiful place and play with the dogs. They do amazing things here so please make a donation if you visit or contact them ahead of time to see how you can help.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Watch turtles lay their eggs
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.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Go swimming
Another thing we love about being in Costa Rica is that the water in the ocean is always a nice temperature for swimming. In some areas you need to be careful about rip currents, so please be aware of that before going for a nice swim.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Eat at a soda
A soda is what ticos call the small restaurants you see everywhere. Typically you can get a decent meal of rice, beans, a meat, and plantains for about $5.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA –Check out a 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)
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA –Go to a show
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.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Enjoy happy hour
Let’s be real, what’s a vacation without some good drinks? Most bars and restaurants offer some type of happy hour special here. If you are getting a mixed drink we find most places use really crappy alcohol for happy hour drinks, but they are cheap so it’s totally your call.
We tend to stick to beers during happy hour because they are cheaper and still the same product as always.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Visit some sloths
You can see sloths in many places throughout the country. We saw a lot in Manuel Antonio. The best sloth sighting we had was this guy chilling on the side of the road in Cahuita. Look at that pose! We were obsessed. Also, if you are in Cahuita we recommend checking out the sloth sanctuary. We haven’t had a chance to make it there yet, but it is high on our list.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Eat a copo
On pretty much every beach in Costa Rica you will see someone pushing a cart around asking if people want a copo. Get one! It’s shaved ice, powdered milk, condensed milk and whatever syrup you would like. I always go for the strawberry. It costs about two dollars usually.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Go Stand up paddle boarding
Personally, I am not a SUP fan. 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 gear or you can go with a tour. Here are some companies you can check out from TripAdvisor.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Go birding
This country is filled with unique birds. Neither of us are big into birding, but even we get excited by the bright colors we see flying around constantly. We suggest checking out San Gerardo de Dota if you are interested in birding. We went there a few months ago for a little mountain getaway and the number of birders was insane! If the words Resplendent Quetzal gets you excited, head to San Gerardo de Dota. Thank me later. 🙂
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Take a wildlife boat ride
Tortuguero is our fave place to take a wildlife boat tour. We paid about $30 per person for this two-hour tour, but we had so much fun and our guide was fab. We saw a ton of monkeys, sloths, caymons, 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.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – See crocodiles
If you rent a car and are heading to the Pacific coast (Manuel Antonio or Jaco area) be sure to stop at Rio Tarcoles. It will be about 1.5 hours into your drive from the airport. You will know it as you cross a bridge and see many people standing on the bridge looking down. Just pull your car off on the side of the road and walk back to the bridge.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Buy some souvenirs
It’s always nice to do some souvenir shopping for family and friends at home. One of the most popular presents people buy is coffee. If you are planning on bringing some coffee to your loved ones we suggest buying it at the supermarket. It will be a lot cheaper (and the same product
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA –Watch the sunrise
Our fave place to watch the sunrise is in Cahuita. The beaches are basically empty and it’s beautiful.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Then watch the sunset
The entire Pacific coast is great for sunsets. In our experience, we’ve had the best luck in Guanacaste, but no matter where you are you should have a nice view.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Get a pipa fria
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA –Try a Costa Rican beer
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.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Take a language class
If you’ve ever thought about learning Spanish, Costa Rica is a great place to make that dream a reality.´There are many language schools throughout the country that offer intense programs.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – 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 and find one of Google maps near you.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Take a night tour
We took a night tour in Monteverde and paid $20 per person for a few hours. I think the price was a little high, but our guide was great and we saw cool things like this cute froggy. If you are in Monteverde just ask at your hotel and they can usually get you a discount on a tour with transportation.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Go stargazing
No matter where you are in the country (except for the cities obviously) you can get a nice view of the stars when it is not cloudy. Our favorite place to do some stargazing is on the beaches on the Pacific coast. There is something that is just so beautiful about watching the night sky while waves crash in front of you.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Watch the planes take off
OK, this terrifies me, but it’s so cool. At the San Joe airport planes take off right over the fence. What I mean is the runway ends, there is a fence, some grass, and then a road. So you can literally have planes taking off right over your head.
We like to go here around sunset and sit at the end of the runway in the grass. It’s actually a pretty popular activity with locals here. It’s a terrifying crazy rush to watch planes go right over your head. Bring some earplugs. It is pretty loud.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA –Take a yoga class
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.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Go hiking
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Explore San Jose
Alright, we live in San Jose. We don’t love it, but it’s not as bad as some people make it out to be. I wouldn’t say it’s a must-see. Definitely, don’t plan your trip around visiting San Jose, but if you find yourself with a day or two to kill near the airport, explore! There are some really cool historic buildings downtown. Also, there are some great restaurants. Check out Barrio Escalante if you want a really cool hipster vibe neighborhood. Just note that San Jose is not the safest city. You will be fine probably, but don’t walk around flashing expensive jewelry, cameras, phones etc.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Check out some churches
There are some amazing churches and cathedrals in Costa Rica. We particularly like the ones in downtown Cartago. The church pictured above is called Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles. In August people from all over the country pilgrimage here and some choose to approach the last several kilometers on their hands and knees. It’s really pretty inside and free to go into, so if you are in the Cartago area check it out!
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – See a movie
I know, you didn’t come all the way to Costa Rica just to go to the cinema, but sometimes you might find yourself wondering what to do on an unfortunately rainy day. We like to catch a movie because they are actually reasonably priced here, are almost always in English with Spanish subtitles, and all the latest hits that are showing in your home country will be showing here.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Enjoy dinner with a view
We love finding restaurants on the water. I find that when we go out to eat here we tend to do the early bird thing and try to eat around 5pm so we can enjoy the sunset while having dinner. Just be sure to bring bug spray because the second the sun goes down the mosquitos come out.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Go skinny dipping
Shhhh don’t tell anyone, but it is totally possible to go skinny dipping on quiet beaches here. Or, you can be like us and go skinny dipping late at night on one of the busiest beaches in the country.;) Total rebels over here.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Find an empty beach
One amazing thing about Costa Rica is that all beaches need to have public access. This means there is no such thing as private beaches here. If you know where to look you can find some beautiful almost empty beaches.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Check out a bright blue river
Ever hear of Rio Celeste? It’s this crazy bright blue river located in Guanacaste. This phenomenon happens because Rio Celeste is the place where two other colorless rivers meet. One river has a high acidity and the other has a high presence of aluminosilicate. When these two things mix they create a turquoise river. We haven’t been there yet because we’ve heard that during rainy season it is not the best walk. As soon as we go we’ll report back!
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Go clubbing
If you are into the party scene check out Jaco, Tamarindo, Puerto Viejo, Playa del Coco, and San Jose. We aren’t huge into the party scene and tend to go to more house parties, but we’ve been to a few clubs here and think it is definitely an experience to try out.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Check out the butterfly conservatory
The Butterfly Conservatory near Lake Arenal 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.
BUDGET ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Go Caving
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.
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