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Tropical Island for Less: 5 Budget Friendly Experiences in Costa Rica

With many airlines offering direct flights and with the influx of expats, Costa Rica is quickly becoming an accessible and very affordable destination. Stretch out those vacation funds even further by opting for these five budget-conscious options within the island.

Playa Ocotal

Take a respite from all the island thrill with an adventure of a different sort in Playa Ocotal. This small beach, roughly a third of a mile long, is home to one of the quietest and most secluded stretches of shoreline in Costa Rica. Green hills provide a lush backdrop while the Catalina Islands float magically in the distance. The clear waters are ideal for a variety of activities. Try snorkeling or scuba diving where you can spot Manta Rays, turtles, sharks, and tropical fish. The beach also offers the ultimate setting for sailing, fishing, horseback riding, and good old-fashioned R&R. Start this relaxing adventure at one of these budget-friendly lodgings3.


Over the years, Tamarindo has progressed from a fishing village into an affluent and accessible neighborhood. Tourists flock to these shores for a variety of reasons including its lavish resorts, fine dining, and eclectic shopping. But most significant of all, Tamarindo is known for its surfing. The area accommodates surfers of all levels, making it an ideal destination for beginners and experts alike. Experience the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica on a surfboard. Many companies offer surf trips for various rates, but boards are available to rent for as low as $10 a day. Avoid paying luxury prices for hotels by booking these alternatives.

Manuel Antonio

Although often congested with crowds, there is enough inspiring coastline to go around in Manuel Antonio. Turquoise waters, soft sands, and jungle surroundings draw attention to this area. A National Park of the same name sits within the boundaries and is home to many species of plants and wildlife. Among these are four types of monkeys: spider, howler, white-faced, and squirrel. Keep cameras close by for that priceless moment you see one or an army join you on the shores. Consider taking the drive to Manuel Antonio via Coastal Highway 34 to view the sheer cliffs plunging into the deep Pacific. And stay at one these budget-friendly lodgings.


The natural beauty of Costa Rica is at its peak in Papagayo. Think postcard pictures of unspoiled shores, aquamarine waters, and palm trees swaying in the breeze, and you’ll have some idea of this area’s treasures. Papagayo is also surrounded by lush tropical forests teeming with waterfalls and wildlife. But picturesque beaches is what this area is famous for. Its shores are home to most of Costa Rica’s resorts all varying from ultra-exclusive to very affordable.

La Fortuna

La Fortuna hides a breath of fresh air behind its small-town charm. Just beyond the boundaries, you’ll find a playground in the rich green landscape. There’s whitewater rafting, ziplining, and hiking to start. Find trails of all levels in the Arenal Volcano National Park. A short trek to La Fortuna Waterfall is a must. Expect to see wildlife along the way. You might even be tempted to swim in the refreshing waters. Cap off your La Fortuna experience with a dip in the area’s hot springs and a stay at these inexpensive options.

Cover photo via Flickr by Steve Jurvetson

Tamarindo photo via Flickr by Christian Haugen

Manuel Antonio photo via Flickr by Martin Garrido

La Fortuna waterfall photo via Flickr by Dave Lonsdale


Profile photo of Erika Alc

Although I may not be the best photographer, I believe as a writer I can equally capture the ugly, the beautiful, and the sublime. I'm a recent English graduate, a regular contributor to a local Florida magazine and a member of Lonely Planet Pathfinders. On the side, I craft creative fiction inspired by my singular experiences as a traveler, focusing on the human condition. The world is full of amazing people, places, and things, after all. Most importantly, I value cultural relativism. Without it, life experiences would not be the same.

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