Costa Rica has a reputation for being the most expensive country to travel to in Central America. I mean, I’m not going to lie to you, it isn’t cheap here! That being said, it is possible to find Costa Rica budget accommodations. In fact, we do it almost every weekend! You just have to know where to look to find the best Costa Rica deals. Which is why we are here to reveal all our deepest darkest secrets about Costa Rica budget accommodations. 😉
Let’s get to it, people!
Costa Rica Budget Hotels
When I hear the term “budget hotels” I automatically picture some small room with a rock solid bed and the constant noise of a leaky faucet in the bathroom. How appealing, right? It seriously does not have to be that way, though. We have stayed at some amazing cheap hotels in Costa Rica.
I highly suggest using Booking.com as your hotel search engine. I know, I know, we are always like, “support small companies” and Booking.com is definitely not a small company, but honestly I have yet to find a better search engine for hotels in Costa Rica. Booking.com has always been excellent to me. However, if you find a hotel search engine that you love, please enlighten me.
Alright, let’s go through how we get the best deals on Booking.com.
The nice thing about Booking.com is that you can search by price per night and review score. I never stay at any place with under an 8.0 review rating. Call me snobby, but I want to stay at a place that I will enjoy. In my opinion, the higher the ranking the better the place will be.
Once I clarify my search filters I will go through and open up all the listings that appeal to me. Sometimes I end up with about 15 tabs open on my laptop, but that’s OK!
I then go through every hotel tab that I have opened and filter through them. I pay attention to things like free breakfast, what the room looks like, reviews, location on the map, and cancellation policy.
Usually after one go through I can narrow my choices down to under five places. I then save all these searches and move on to Airbnb for now. I’ll tell you why in one minute.
Find the perfect hotel. ↓
Budgeting Pro Tip – Sign up for a free account on Booking.com and you’ll get even more great savings. They call them “genius discounts” and you better believe I take full advantage of those discounts! Booking.com a bit annoying with their constant emails, but I just block them.
Before we move to Airbnb I just want to go through some things to look out for on Booking.com.
-Typically there is an added tax to every booking you make. This is standard in Costa Rica. Just keep this in mind while comparing prices.
– On that same note, there are some places that add ridiculous fees to their bookings. You really need to pay attention to it. Booking.com recently changed their site structure so it is much more visible. Here is an example. ↓ We booked this place for two nights and thought we got a great deal. We didn’t notice that the extra fees were so high (this was a few months ago before Booking.com changed their site structure. We then got an email from the hotel with the total we owed and we were like “Oh hell no!” Luckily we emailed Booking.com and they contacted the hotel owner and got our booking canceled right away.
– Pay attention to when you can cancel until. Almost all hotels in Costa Rica on Booking.com offer free cancellation up to a certain date. I sometimes book more than one hotel if I just can’t decide and then cancel later.
– Keep in mind that most hotels in Costa Rica will ask you to pay upon arrival rather than online.
Alright, now let’s talk Airbnb and how to leverage Airbnb and Booking.com to find the best Costa Rica budget accommodations.
Budget Airbnb in Costa Rica
If you are unfamiliar with Airbnb, it is a site that allows people to rent out their home or apartment to travelers. Sometimes it is possible to find amazing accommodations at a really good rate.
Using Airbnb we’ve stayed on a houseboat in downtown Amsterdam, stayed in a beachfront apartment in Miami over New Year’s Eve, stayed in a cabin in the woods of Georgia, as well as staying in plenty of amazing places in Costa Rica. Almost every experience we have had has been excellent.
Pro Tip – We have a complete guide to using Airbnb in Costa Rica here.
So, as I already mentioned, you can use Booking.com and Airbnb together to get fabulous deals. Here is how we do it.
Search on Airbnb for the place and dates you would like to travel. Then, as with Booking.com, weed through the results and narrow down your list to the places that most appeal to you within your price range.
As you are looking, keep an eye out for places that look exactly like the places you saved on Booking.com. This is a little secret money saving tip we discovered. A lot of places in Costa Rica will have their hotel listed on Booking.com and on Airbnb. This is technically not allowed (I’m not sure, but I think it is a rule from Booking.com) so what people do is list their hotel under different names on each site. So, you can not search by the name, but you can usually tell by the pictures and description if a place is the same on both sites.
I’m not going to show you any examples of this because I don’t want to get anybody in trouble with Booking.com or Airbnb, but it is true. Usually, it is not a huge difference in price, but I find that typically, the Airbnb listing is at least a few dollars cheaper.
After searching Airbnb and Booking.com you can narrow down your search and book your favorite place.
Please keep in mind that the cancellation policies are typically better on Booking.com, but definitely check if you book on Airbnb because every host determines their own cancellation policy.
OK, now that we have talked about the most popular ways to find budget accommodations in Costa Rica, I’d like to tell you about a few other creative ways to find affordable places to stay. Let’s start with Couchsurfing!
Couchsurfing in Costa Rica
If you are unfamiliar with Couchsurfing, it is a site that allows you to stay with people for free. There are no signup fees, so it is definitely a great option if you are on a really tight budget. Sometimes you might get lucky and have a bed but other times you may be sleeping on a couch or may need to bring your own sleeping bag. Couchsurfing is kind of a hit or miss, in our opinion. Sometimes you will get a great host that will show you around and give you more of an insider’s view of the location.
Unfortunately, I’m part of many groups for travelers on Facebook and a lot of people have been reporting recently about sexual assaults that have taken place while using Couchsurfing. Please, please, please always read reviews before you stay with anyone. Also, trust your gut. If you meet your Couchsurfing host and you feel uncomfortable, just leave. You may have to pay for a hotel for a few nights but your safety is way more important than saving money.
Along that same note, if you have a bad experience on Couchsurfing please report it and leave a bad review. I met some girls in Nicaragua last year who told me some guy kept trying to get them to sleep with him while they were staying at his house through Couchsurfing, but they didn’t leave him a bad review because “It was nice that he let us sleep there and we felt bad saying anything mean about him.” Yes, this outraged me.
Costa Rica Hostels
There are plenty of hostels in Costa Rica and a lot of them are fairly nice with really cool vibes. We usually like to have a private room, but many hostels in Costa Rica have that option.
One thing we really like about hostels is that most of them have a kitchen which guests are welcome to use. This is another great way to save money!
If you are traveling solo in Costa Rica, hostels are great for meeting some other awesome solo travelers that you can hang with.
We typically use Booking.com to find great hostels. There is a search feature which will allow you to narrow your search down to strictly hostels.
Camping in Costa Rica
From what we have heard from other travelers, it used to be possible to camp almost anywhere in Costa Rica. Now, not so much. If you are planning on doing some off the beaten path traveling or want to explore the national parks, camping may be possible. However, not all of the national parks have campgrounds. From what we know Santa Rosa and Rincon de la Vieja definitely have campgrounds.
For popular destinations, it just doesn’t really make sense. Most campgrounds cost about $15 per person (you could get a place in a hostel for cheaper) and you would have to bring all your gear with you.
However, we have heard of travelers just camping on the beaches or in the woods and having no problems. The police seem to have other things to deal with instead of cracking down on people camping in places they really are not supposed to. The thing I’m a bit hesitant about is the safety aspect of camping out in the open. I would suggest being really cautious about this.
If you do go camping on the beach without a permit in Costa Rica, report back to us on how it went! We are curious if this is actually a Costa Rica budget accommodations option.
Costa Rica Housesitting
If you are interested in staying in Costa Rica on a longer-term basis, you could get a housesitting gig. We suggest signing up for Trusted Housesitters. There is a yearly membership fee of $119 or you can pay monthly at a rate of $9.92. I know it sounds like a lot, but we think it is completely worth it.
After signing up you will be able to search through house sitting/ pet sitting gigs throughout the world. You can then apply for the options you are interested in. If you are selected you will get to stay at a house for free in return for pet care/ light maintenance.
↑Here is an example of some opportunities in Costa Rica. How can you say no to those cute animals?
We haven’t used Trusted Housesitters in a few years because we currently have more permanent living situations, but I must admit that I still have a Trusted Housesitters membership. It’s still fun to just check out all the unique opportunities.
Our Tips for Finding Costa Rica Budget Accommodations
Here are a few other tips to ensure you get the best possible deals on accommodations n Costa Rica…
Travel during low season
During the rainy season, accommodations in Costa Rica tend to go down in price. Yes, you may have to deal with afternoon rain storms, but everything is so green and pretty. Plus the weather on the beaches is a little cooler than usual (which is a good thing). If you want to know more about Costa Rica by season, we have a complete post about it here.
Avoid Costa Rican holidays
It is difficult to find cheap places to stay when the entire country is traveling. We suggest avoiding Costa Rica during the week leading up to Easter, and around Christmas time into the end of January.
Visit less touristy areas
The less touristy the cheaper. We like the Caribbean coast for that reason. It tends to be a bit more difficult to find a cheap place to stay in Manuel Antonio, Jaco, La Fortuna, and Tamarindo.
Check our destination guides
If you want to find some great Costa Rica budget accommodations, just check out our destination guides for the places you plan to visit. We list some of our favorite budget hotel options for each place!
We hope these tips help you find great Costa Rica budget accommodations. If you need any help or have any other tips, leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out and love to hear what has worked best for you!
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