Did you know you could potentially save yourself a lot of money by traveling as a group in Costa Rica? Invite all of your family and friends for a getaway in paradise! Costa Rica group travel will be amazing with our travel tips.
Costa Rica Group Travel – Our Experience
Not only have I basically become a travel agent by running this site, but now I have also become a travel agent for about thirty of our closest friends and family. We have planned a lot of travels in the past for our family and friends that have come to visit, but now we are planning for a much larger group.
Thomas and I are getting married in July in Tamarindo. Our guest list includes about fifteen people coming from the US and fifteen people coming from Germany to celebrate with us. It means so much to us that everyone is using their precious vacation time, taking long flights, and spending a lot of money just to be there for us. Because of this, we want everyone to have the best travel experience possible, so we decided to do a group travel with whoever wanted to join us after the wedding.
This has turned into eleven people traveling with us across the country to a few of our favorite spots. Our plan is three nights in Tamarindo, two nights in Monteverde, three nights in La Fortuna, two nights in Cahuita, and then down to Bocas del Toro, Panama for four nights before returning to San Jose.
It’s been a bit stressful planning it all out, but I’ve learned a lot along the way and also managed to save us all a good chunk of money as well.
Let’s start with what I learned about organizing your group travel in Costa Rica….
Costa Rica Group Travel – Organization
Organizing a travel of this grandeur is bound to be a logistical disaster show. Everyone plans to arrive on different flights, leave on different days, want to see different things etc. Here’s how we suggest going about making your Costa Rica group travel work out.
The travel crew
First things first, you have to figure out who you plan on traveling with. Once you have a list of people you would like to join you, you have to invite them and get a finalized number of who is coming.
We decided to create a spreadsheet which includes every person who is joining us on our travel, their flight info into Costa Rica, which parts of the trip they are joining us on (some people are coming on part of the trip before branching off to do their own thing), and their departing flight info. This spreadsheet has helped a lot when trying to keep track of everyone’s plans.
Once you have your list, you should delegate tasks to everyone. We opted not to do this because we know way more about planning a travel in Costa Rica than our friends or family do. However, for you, it probably makes sense to give everyone a job. Some things you can delegate people to organize are accommodations, activities, transportation, and meal ideas.
Because we are organizing everything ourselves we have paid for most things up front. This means we have had to keep track of who owes us what and if they have paid us. To do this we made another spreadsheet. Yeap, I’ve become ridiculously organized for this trip! On this spreadsheet, I included every person’s name and what they owe me for each part of our trip. I also have a column for the total amount they owe. Once they pay, I put a check mark (✓) next to their name.
Costa Rica Group Travel – Accommodations
We had no idea that it was possible to save so much money by staying with a large group of people until we started to look at places that could fit all our family and friends in one space.
Rent a villa
Four great websites to check out are Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway and TripAdvisor. All four of these sites have various sized homes available to rent for short term. Just be warned, you will definitely have some overlap in listings (some people list their home on more than one site). So, definitely compare because sometimes the price fluctuates as well depending on the site.
Some other great sites to check out are Luxury Retreats, Stay in Tamarindo, Tulemar Resort, and Escape Villas. All of these sites are run by the property management companies for multiple villas in Costa Rica.
We love the idea of renting a villa because it means you have an entire place just for your group and don’t have to worry about dealing with other hotel guests.
Just be sure to look into what is included before reserving anything. Some places include a chef, maid, concierge etc and some do not. Also, you need to check the taxes, deposit etc. Sometimes it may look like a really good deal, but once everything adds up it can be expensive.
Many of the villas in Costa Rica have a minimum stay length. A lot of places require you to stay for at least seven days. This is great if you want to do a big group retreat in one spot, but obviously, if you plan on traveling around the country this is not ideal.
Rent out a hotel
If you have enough people to fill out a hotel, you can rent out the entire place. This means you get to enjoy all the amenities of a hotel without the problem of other guests. Just be warned, you may have to book a place really far in advance to guarantee you have the whole place to yourselves.
We were able to do this in Monteverde. We found a hotel that looked decent on booking.com and then I also found the same hotel on Airbnb. It was half the price on Airbnb as on booking.com I couldn’t believe it would be so cheap, so I contacted the owner to double check. She assured me the rate was to rent out the whole hotel with breakfast included. I immediately booked it. It has come out to $17 per person per night. Ridiculousness!
We also did this in La Fortuna by contacting a hotel directly. The rate on booking.com again seemed a bit high to us. The owner of the hotel made a special rate for us because we rented out all of the rooms. We are traveling in July which is not a busy travel time in La Fortuna so the owner was happy to charge us a lower rate because at least it meant his whole hotel was booked out.
Share a hostel room
If you want to really travel on the cheap it is always possible to reserve a large hostel room for your group. This can be really fun and makes staying in a hostel a whole new experience.
Make a spreadsheet
I’m back at it again with the spreadsheets haha. I created a spreadsheet in Google Drive to keep everything organized as far as possible rentals. We researched a lot of villas before settling on the place we would get married and stay in with all our family and friends. It helped so much to be able to visualize all of our villa options in one spot.
I made a column for the name, the website link, the location, the type of place (hotel, villa etc), how many people it sleeps in how many bedrooms, cost per night total and per person, minimum stay length, dates available, and other notes. In the other notes column, I included things such as if a chef was included in the price, how close it was to the beach, if meals were included etc.
Here is a picture of my spreadsheet ↓ so you can get an idea of how I set it up.
Costa Rica Group Travel – Transportation
You have tons of different transportation options for your Costa Rica group travel. This is something we really struggled with when planning our own Costa Rica group travel. Let’s go through your options.
Rent a large vehicle
If you rent with our favorite rental car company in Costa Rica, Adobe, you can rent a nine-passenger van for travel. We looked into renting this vehicle and decided that although the van is large (it technically actually fits twelve people total) if we put that many people in the van there would not be any space for luggage. With luggage and to sit comfortably it is best to rent this for six to maximum nine people. Adobe is great and will remove the back seat for you to allow maximum space for your luggage.
Pros: You can save money. It is cheaper to rent this than to rent several smaller vehicles. Also, having one large vehicle means finding fewer people who are willing to drive.
Cons: It limits your flexibility. By having fewer vehicles more people have to do the same thing at one time and can’t go off to do their own thing as easily. Also, this vehicle is great for going to most places but it might be a bit scary and difficult to drive this to someplace like Monteverde.
Because we love Adobe we contacted them to see if they would give our readers a discount. They said they’d love to help you all save some money. Yeay!
If you book with Adobe through us you get a 10% discount, a free second driver, a free cell phone to use, and more great perks. You can find out more about this great deal here.
Rent several cars
You could also opt to rent several smaller cars or SUV’s from Adobe. They have a large fleet with several options.
Pros: You will have more flexibility for people to do different things.
Cons: You have to find more people who are willing to drive. It will also likely cost you more money.
Rent out a private shuttle
If your group travel consists of going to one place and staying there, your best option is probably to take a private shuttle directly to the location. I, unfortunately, don’t have a company that I can strongly recommend to you. We have not personally used a private shuttle service here. If you use a service and have great experience please tell us about it. We’d love to pass on your suggestions to our readers.
Pros: It can be cheaper to rent a private shuttle than to rent a car. Nobody has to worry about driving in a foreign country.
Cons: You are left without a car to explore the area you are staying. This means you will have to depend on pre-packaged tours which can be expensive.
What we did
We opted for a mix. We have four people in one SUV, three people in another SUV, and six people in the big van. I think this will give us enough flexibility that we can still do things together or we can split up and do different things. I’m a bit worried about taking the big van up to Monteverde. I’ll report back to you on how that goes.
Costa Rica Group Travel – Activities
Everyone has different ideas of what they want to do on their vacation. I find planning activities to sometimes be the most difficult thing to plan if trying to please everyone.
– Take advantage of your concierge. If you are renting a villa with a concierge service for your Costa Rica group travel, take advantage of it by using them to arrange your activities. We are budget travelers and we find that usually, the concierge prices are a lot higher than if we planned something ourselves. This is because they suggest really high-quality companies who specifically cater to foreign tourists. We tend to go with more budget-friendly local companies.
However, in this type of situation, it will make your life a lot easier if you connect all your travel buddies with your villa concierge and don’t try to find the best deal for everyone. It will save you from doing more work.
– Try to plan everything before your trip. When you have some type of schedule and plan which everyone agrees to ahead of time you are less likely to have problems with disagreements during the trip. We try to keep things organized but with a lot of space for flexibility and downtime. You can start planning by looking at our favorite activities in every location in Costa Rica.
– Use Viator. Recently we have been booking a lot of our activities on Viator. We like that they usually have good cancellation policies and we are able to support local companies while enjoying the security of booking through Viator.
Costa Rica Group Travel – Food
Food is a tricky one when traveling with a large group. Everyone has different dietary needs, likes different things, has different prices they are willing to spend, is hungry at different times etc.
If you rent a house with a kitchen for your Costa Rica group travel, you can save some money by cooking. We like to try and cook breakfast when possible to save a bit of money and then go out to dinner as a group so everyone can choose their own thing to eat.
I recently traveled with my dad, sister, and some friends in Florida. Every morning we would make enough hard boiled eggs for everyone. We then had English muffins, cheese, and cut up melon in the fridge. This made it easy for everyone to just get their own breakfast as they woke up.
Costa Rica is filled with amazing restaurants for every budget and food desire. I suggest checking out our destination guide to whatever places you are visiting to get a better idea of your food options. With a group, I find it really helpful to have restaurant ideas ahead of time. If you wait to make a decision together as a group spontaneously it can take forever for everyone to agree on something.
I find it is best to have at least a tentative plan ahead of time. This way every person can be aware of the food plan and there are no surprises.
Costa Rica Group Travel – During the travel
– Make sure to take time for yourself. I don’t know if any of you are like me, but I need my alone time. I love hanging out with my family and friends but sometimes I need to decompress. If you are the same, don’t feel guilty about it. You have to do what will keep you sane and happy.
– Respect other peoples space. On the other side of the above statement, if you are overly extroverted you need to understand that some people like to be alone sometimes. Try not to take it personally when your family or friends say they want some time alone. It has nothing to do with you (hopefully).
– It is OK to do different things. If five people want to go zip lining and two people want to relax at the hot springs, just split up for the day. You don’t all have to do the same at the same time.
– Compromise is key. While traveling with other people you will need to compromise. Sometimes you may want pizza for dinner while everyone else wants to go to a fish restaurant. I find for sanity purposes it is best not to get frustrated and just go with it.
– Sign up for our email list. If you sign up for our email list (at the bottom of this article) we will send you our Costa Rica travel planning packet which includes a printable daily schedule which you can fill out to keep track of your daily activities and food ideas. Once you fill it out you can email it to all your travel crew so everyone can have a clear idea of the travel plans.
If you have any questions or would like to add some tips for group travel in Costa Rica, please leave them in the comment section below. We love to hear from you!