Summer vacation may be coming to an end for many North Americans but if you’ve got a little time left, we have a few ideas for how you can still visit Costa Rica for two weeks, carrying just one bag and spending less than $1000. Here’s our plan and loose itinerary:
Depending on where you’re flying from, airfare could be even cheaper than this. Based on a round trip flight from Los Angeles to San Jose on Spirit Airlines, carrying only their allowed one free “personal item”, which is actually a good sized backpack, this time of year you’ll pay about $400 total. Take a few snacks, your own water bottle and pillow and you won’t have to shell out more for those little amenities on-board. See this blog for how to pack light but cut out as much as you can to make sure your items fit in a bag you don’t have to pay for!
Hostels will be your cheapest option for accommodations and will average about $15 per night for mixed gender dorms. Many also offer free breakfast so take full advantage of this to help save on your food costs, then maybe you can splurge on a nice room at the end of your trip. Costa Rica Hostel Network is a good source for information on nice hostels throughout the country.
This is assuming you eat like a local and budget roughly $10 per day on food. An easy way to keep costs down is to again, take advantage of free breakfasts at hostels/hotels, or buy fruit, bread and snacks from small shops or grocery stores for breakfasts. Larger lunches or dinners of casados (rice and beans with a meat like chicken, fish or beef) around Costa Rica will run about 3000 colones or $6 at the smaller sodas (small restaurants). It will give you plenty of food to fill up then you can just eat snacks or another small meal later on.
Our two week budget itinerary would be something like this: Alajuela (SJO airport) to Poas, to Arenal, to Monteverde, to Nicoya Peninsula (Montezuma/Santa Teresa), to Manuel Antonio and then back to the airport in Alajuela. It is very possible to take buses to all of these areas and carrying only one bag will make your travel a lot easier. It would take a whole other blog to explain how to take the bus to and from each of these places (stay posted and I’ll try to get one up soon), but they’re the cheapest way to go averaging around $5 for each leg of your trip. Splurge on a shuttle to save time from Arenal to Nicoya Peninsula and keep JC’s key phrase in mind when taking buses; “preguntando se llega a Roma” or “asking will get you to Rome”. In other words people are willing to offer information on bus routes so just ask and ask many people and you’ll get to where you need to go.
*Send us comments for questions on specific bus routes or options and we’ll do our best to answer.
Be selective in what tours you do. Tours can get very pricey very fast but budgeting $150 here for a nature tour, zip line or something adventurous plus a couple cultural activities or hikes in National Parks should be enough to keep you entertained. Of course we’re biased, but we also think a bird watching tour like our Bird Lovers’ Morning is great this time of year. Finding free things to do might be challenging but being in another country is entertainment in itself so take it all in and enjoy every step of your journey!
Additional tips: Budget for the exit tax at the airport approximately $30, bring your own reusable water bottle and drink tap (yes, it’s potable), and if you must buy souvenirs make it something you don’t have to check an extra bag for on your flight.