Are you considering a last-minute trip to Costa Rica and wondering if you can get any great deals? Are you also wondering if it is even possible to plan things in Costa Rica at the last minute?
The short answer is, that it is often difficult to get last minute deals to Costa Rica. However, it is not impossible to visit.
We have been living in Costa Rica since 2016 and often book spontaneous weekends or weeks away to different areas of the country. We have become pros at knowing what to look out for, where to stay, and things to do in order to get great deals.
We created this guide to help you plan a last minute trip filled with all the best Costa Rica travel vibes without breaking the bank.
So, let’s get to planning your Costa Rica vacation!
Last Minute Deals by Area of Costa Rica
In our experience, it is often easiest to get great last-minute deals when traveling to less popular towns in Costa Rica. There are some places that notoriously always book out and tend to be more expensive. These are:
- La Fortuna
- Manuel Antonio
- Santa Teresa
- Playa Flamingo
- Playa Hermosa (in Guancaste)
Instead, consider staying in towns that are a bit more off the beaten path and tend to be cheaper in general. Despite being less popular these are still amazing places. I suggest checking out:
- Monteverde: This is a popular town, but it is typically a more affordable alternative to La Fortuna and we have always been able to find a place to stay here at the last minute. This is a cloud forest destination that is perfect for zip lining and hiking.
- Uvita: A relaxed beach town on the southern Pacific Coast. Great for whale watching, surfing, and beach relaxation.
- Dominical: Just north of Uvita, Dominical is a small beach village with easy access to the impressive Nauyaca waterfall.
- Puerto Jimenez: Puerto Jimenez is on the very tip of the southern Pacific Coast. This is a good jumping-off point to explore Corcovado National Park.
- Tortuguero: Tortuguero is a very remote Caribbean Coast village. It is only accessible by boat. You can take a wildlife canoe tour in the Tortuguero National Park and see sea turtles nesting.
- Cahuita: A Caribbean beach town that is home to one of our favorite national parks, Cahuita National Park.
- Samara: Located just south of Nosara on the Pacific Coast this town tends to have more hotel availability but still has great vibes.
- Playa Avellanas: A relaxed surfing village south of Tamarindo.
- Alajuela: The town next to the San Jose International Airport. An area most tourists skip, but the surrounding areas are filled with coffee farms, waterfalls, volcanoes, and amazing valley views.
Best Time of Year for Last Minute Travel
During the high season, it becomes very difficult to book a last-minute vacation to Costa Rica. The high season is also the dry season. This runs from mid-December until early May.
From May until late July, there is still a decent amount of tourism, but not as much. Prices also tend to go down a bit for hotels, transportation, and activities.
From August until December, there are very few tourists, prices go down a lot, and it is much easier to book a last-minute trip. However, this time of year is also peak rainy season. You may have to contend with some very wet days.
Travel Tip: August and September are great months to visit the Caribbean Coast. Prices tend to be lower there and with an opposite rainy season to the Pacific Coast you should have hot sunny days.
There are two international airports in Costa Rica. These are the San Jose International Airport in the capital city of San José and the Liberia International Airport in the northwest corner of the country.
Most people opt to fly into San Jose, but check where you can get a better last minute deal. The Liberia Airport is a great jumping-off point for exploring northern Costa Rica.
To get great Costa Rica flight deals we like the Skyscanner website. They often have the most comprehensive comparison of rates.
I also love Skyscanner for last-minute flights because of their flexible date features. In other words, if you say “I think I’d like to go to Costa Rica in two weeks, but I’m not totally set on that,” you can then search from your departure city to “Everywhere.”
You can also select where you want to go and put in a date range if your dates are flexible. This is super helpful for getting the lowest rate.
Costa Rica Vacation Packages
If you are overwhelmed by planning your vacation yourself and are considering having the whole thing planned for you, a guided Costa Rica vacation package is always a great option.
This takes the stress off of you for planning spontaneously and also is sometimes a lot more affordable than booking things yourself at the last minute.
We went through TourRadar and narrowed down our favorite tours for you. We tried to find tours that run really frequently so that it isn’t so hard to book them at the last minute.
We also gave preference to tours that have instant booking.
And of course, we selected tours that go to amazing places, have a high star rating, and are with companies we know are super reputable.
A few of our favorite guided vacation packages and tours in Costa Rica are:
Costa Rica Quest
This 9 days tour goes to La Fortuna, Monteverde, and the Manuel Antonio area. It is an instant book tour, so no need to wait for confirmation that you can book it.
Some of the highlights include; a coffee production tour, a wildlife hike through a cloud forest, relaxing on pristine beaches, and seeing wildlife up close at Manuel Antonio National Park.
Pro Tip: This tour often has discounts for last-minute bookings.
The Best of Costa Rica, Self-Drive
I like this 10 day trip because it provides more privacy and flexibility than a traditional group tour. This tour includes everything planned for you, but transportation will be with shared shuttles and a rental car that you will drive.
The Best of Costa Rica tour goes to San Jose, Tortuguero, La Fortuna, and Monteverde. Some highlights include; a canoe trip in Tortuguero, volcano views in La Fortuna, and a day trip to a remote tropical island.
Costa Rica Adventure
This 16 day tour out of San Jose goes to both coasts, the lush jungle in the middle of the country, and visits some spots most tourists never have the chance to explore.
Some highlights include; exploring the Manuel Antonio National Park, swimming under the La Fortuna waterfall, hiking in the Monteverde cloud forest, and visiting a coffee cooperative.
Costa Rica Oceans and Waves
This 8 day tour visits La Fortuna, Santa Teresa, Montezuma, and San Jose.
Along the way you will get to; swim under a waterfall, hike at a nature reserve, take a day trip to a remote tropical island, and more!
Costa Rica: See & Experience it ALL
This 11-day tour starts in Tamarindo and ends near San Jose. It’s one of our favorite tour options because it includes so many fun things!
On this tour you’ll get to; go horseback riding on the beach, take a catamaran tour, go zip lining in a cloud forest, rappel down a waterfall, relax in a hot spring, swim under a waterfall, visit Manuel Antonio National Park, take a coffee tour, and more!
Finding Last Minute Hotels
I suggest checking Booking.com for all your hotel needs.
They have the most comprehensive selection of hotels in Costa Rica at a variety of price points.
Occasionally, you can find some decent last minute deals.
If you don’t already have a Booking.com account, I suggest you sign up for one. The more hotels you book the more rewards you will get on future bookings.
Additionally, VRBO is great for finding vacation rentals throughout the country. Sometimes you will have better luck finding vacation rentals instead of hotels with last minute bookings here.
One thing to keep in mind if doing a very last minute booking is that it is best to only search for places that allow instant confirmation on VRBO.
Otherwise, you will have to wait for a response from the owner and it can waste time if you really need to book something for the next few days.
By searching listings that are instant bookings you will limit your search results, but at least you know your booking is confirmed and you don’t have to wait for someone to get back to you.
Pro Tip: Most of the all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica book out far in advance. However, during the low season, you might be able to get a great deal on a luxury all inclusive resort stay with very little prior notice.
Alternatively, look at hotels that are not directly in a town. For example, if you would like to stay on the beach, there is plenty of coastline for you to enjoy throughout the country.
However, most people opt to book places that are near a downtown area for more restaurant and tour options.
Skip the downtown areas and save money/ have more selection.
You have several options for transportation within Costa Rica. If you book a guided tour you likely will not need to worry about transportation.
The other transportation options in the country include:
We think that having a rental car is by far the best way of getting around in Costa Rica. This will give you the most flexibility to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations and to skip day tours.
However, rental cars in Costa Rica can be expensive (especially during the high season). Plus, during the high season, a lot of companies can end up fully booked.
During the low season, it is much easier to get a great deal on a last-minute car booking.
We work exclusively with our favorite rental car company Adobe and have a 10% discount plus other perks to pass on to you.
Private transfers are available from anywhere in the country to anywhere. This is great if you don’t feel comfortable driving in a foreign country.
The downfall is, that you will still need to figure out day-to-day transportation within a location.
If you would like a private transfer price quote you can contact Adobe Transfers (our go-to transfer service) here.
Shared shuttles are available from the major airports as well as most larger towns throughout the country. This is a good way to get from Point A to Point B at a cheaper rate than with private transfer.
Taking a taxi is great if trying to get between the airport and a nearby hotel, getting between two towns that are close together, and for short trips to restaurants or activities.
Please read our guide to taxis in Costa Rica before getting in any vehicles. There are pirate taxi drivers in Costa Rica and I don’t want you to get scammed.
Costa Rica has a decent public bus system. This is great if you are traveling on a tight budget. Plus, for most buses, you don’t need to book anything in advance.
The downside is, the routes aren’t the most comprehensive. Sometimes it can be difficult to get between two destinations without first going back to a major city or town.
Organizing Things to Do
Often it is not too much of a struggle to organize things to do at the last minute here. Day trips don’t frequently book out to far in advance. However, there are a few things you should know.
– Most national parks do not need to booked ahead of time, but a few do. These include Manuel Antonio National Park and Poas Volcano. Manuel Antonio can book out several months in advance depending on the time of year.
– The beaches in Costa Rica are free and have public access. If you find that you can’t book any activities because it is too last minute, there are always beautiful beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts to enjoy.
– We like Viator for booking day tours in Costa Rica. They have the most comprehensive list of activities and we like the security of booking through a reputable company while also supporting local tour companies.
– Check out our list of free activities in Costa Rica. Most of these can be done at the last minute with zero pre-planning
Should You Book a Trip to Costa Rica at the Last Minute?
Typically, I would not advise you to book a last-minute trip to Costa Rica if you are looking to save money. That just is not usually the case here.
Instead, you will usually get the best deal by planning a few months in advance.
The exception to that is if you are completely flexible with where you opt to go. Occasionally you might find last minute discounts on tours or resorts. However, you will then have to book last minute flights, which usually aren’t very affordable.
If cost is not your concern, then a last minute trip to Costa Rica is typically possible if you are somewhat flexible with your transportation and hotel options.
Other Things to Note
– Don’t forget travel insurance. This is great not just for injury/ illness but also for if your luggage gets lost, your flight delayed, etc. We like Heymondo for all Costa Rica travel insurance needs.
– Because Costa Rica is such a popular travel destination it can be difficult to book last minute. If you want great last-minute deals, Panama might be a better place for you to check out.
Conclusion: Last Minute Costa Rica Travel
In conclusion, we do not suggest booking last-minute vacations to Costa Rica, but it is possible to do and still have the trip of a lifetime. Consider off-the-beaten-path destinations and vacation packages to get great deals and make your planning easier.
If you have any questions about last minute deals to Costa Rica, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you plan!
You Might Also Like:
Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know
🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?
Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.
- Save 10% Plus Other Perks with Our Adobe Rental Car Discount
- You might also consider; shared shuttle services or private transfer services
🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?
We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.
🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?
✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?
Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).
🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?
🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?
The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.
💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?
The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas
📞 What is the best way to stay connected?
An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.
🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?
Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.
🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?
Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.