If you’re planning your spring break in Costa Rica – and especially if you’re planning spring break 2023 – then it’s time to get moving. Spring is just around the corner and accommodations are filling up, activities are selling out, and travel is kicking into high gear.
No stress, though. We’ve pulled together a few of our favorite tips for spring break on a budget: what to do (and what not to do), what free + low-cost activities to enjoy, and where to stay – yes, even if you’re looking for availability this year! So, let’s get started.
Budget Tip #1: Skip the Rental Car
There’s no other way to say it: Rental cars can be a major expense in Costa Rica. (Think: $100-$250+ per DAY, including insurance.) So, if you’re on a budget and don’t plan to travel up and down the coast every day, then you may want to skip this one in lieu of a few more budget-friendly alternatives.
So, what are those alternatives? We recommend starting with a combination of airport transportation, private drivers/taxis/Uber, public buses, bike rentals, and walking, depending on where you’re headed. Or, if you’re truly an independent, adventurous spirit with a need to feel the wind in your hair, ask our concierge, Cris, to find you an all-in rental car price to fit your budget. Get in touch and we’ll be happy to help you figure it all out!
Tamarindo, Guanacaste is one of Costa Rica’s most visited towns. You wouldn’t be the first to wonder if it’s also affordable.
Turns out, it is! While there are certainly plenty of tours and experiences you could splash out on, there are also plenty of budget-friendly Tamarindo things to do. From surfing and beach-hopping to sea turtle nesting and partying, Tamarindo offers up a full menu of free and inexpensive sights, experiences, and things to do for budget travelers.
Here are a few of our favorites:
It’s no secret that Tamarindo’s surf is epic, so it’s also no secret that this is a must-do activity while you’re in town.
What you may not know is that surfing can also be a budget activity in Tamarindo, Guanacaste, thanks to inexpensive board rentals: Offered up and down the beach for about $10-$20 a day, you can grab a board of your very own and catch the waves to your heart’s content. Be sure to check out these top beginner Tamarindo surf breaks and intermediate/advanced surf breaks.
Food and drink are one of the greatest joys of travel: New flavors, new ingredients, and new takes on the flavors and ingredients you already know and love. And yet, it can be challenging to narrow down your options to the select few you’ll have time to sample while visiting. With that in mind, these Tamarindo restaurants and happy hours represent some of our favorites in and around town.
Tamarindo is a veritable smorgasbord of world cuisines making your personal choice from among the best restaurants in Tamarindo all the more challenging. To get you started on your way to guaranteed deliciousness, here are a few of our favorites.
If you’re planning a Costa Rican vacation, getaway, or escape, you’re likely also wondering what to do in Tamarindo Beach, Guanacaste. Or rather, what, of all the many things you might like to do, you absolutely should not miss. Because there’s a lot you’ll do here, but much more that you won’t. (This is why we recommend a second, third, and tenth visit…)
You’ve heard of Costa Rica’s stellar ecological reputation, but did you know that much of our success is due to exceptional conservation efforts? In fact, more than 25% of Costa Rica is protected within wildlife refuges, nature preserves, and private parks – an entire one-quarter of our biodiversity that can only be explored within our parks.
And so, we make our first suggestion: Carve out a day or two to explore the national parks that most spark your imagination. They’re rugged, they’re breathtaking, and they’re wildly different from the parks you have at home. And, did we mention, they’re a great deal at just $10 per person? Explore to your heart’s content!
Did you know that more than a quarter of Costa Rica is protected by national parks, wildlife refuges, and nature preserves? It’s one of the nation’s primary conservation efforts and, over the last four decades, this push has transformed the country’s landscapes. And you can explore much of it, right here at these wildly diverse national parks in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
They’re rugged. They’re breathtaking. They’re educational. And they’re memorable. They’re also a great deal, at about $10 per person. So you can explore, as much as you’d like. Enjoy!
In alphabetical order:
Barra Honda National Park
When you think about national parks, we’re betting you envision hikes and waterfalls and scenic vistas. And Barra Honda has those. But that’s not why you’re here.
Welcome to Costa Rica’s subterranean national park. That’s right: Barra Honda’s most treasured sights lie not above, but below the earth’s surface. Here, where 70 million years of shifting tectonic plates nudged ancient coral reefs and force soft limestone to mold and form, creating an underground cave system you’re now free to explore.
Fair warning, though – this isn’t the developed caving tourist experience you might be used to. This is true spelunking and unpolished caving: an authentic, real, and wholly exciting experience that, heads up, can also be challenging and raw. We highly recommend booking a guided caving tour, which will take you down into three of the park’s most explored sites: the Trap, Terciopelo, and Santa Ana caverns.
When it comes to Tamarindo rentals, activities, restaurants, and more, there’s not always a lot of focus on budget options. And yet, plenty of travelers enjoy Tamarindo on a budget.
From the tightest budgets to more of a we-have-a-specific-budget approach to travel, Tamarindo is very accommodating. Because here, there are tons of free, almost free, and inexpensive things to do. Things you’ll love to do. There are lots of tips to lower your food costs (while still enjoying the heck out of your vacation eats). And there are plenty of Tamarindo condos for rent that invite you to enjoy the good life without spending a fortune.
Here are a few of our on-the-ground, we-have-budgets-too suggestions for enjoying Tamarindo on a budget:
In our experience, food is one of the greatest and most enjoyable features of travel. And if you’re anything like us – from a casual taster to full-on foodie – then you’re going to love all the Costa Rica tropical fruits that are in store!
Keep in mind that Costa Rican fruits are highly seasonal and, despite how small our country is, fruit seasons do vary by region. So, while you may hear about dozens of fruits you’d like to try, know that only a third to a quarter of them will be available in a single region, at any given time.
The only solution: Visit again. And again. And again! Until you’ve hit on all the seasons and sampled all the Costa Rica tropical fruits. And now, a few of our favorites to add to your list:
Jocote (Red Mombin)
Also known as purple mombin and hog plum – so appetizing, we know! – jocote (pronounced hoe-coe-tay) are a cousin of the cashew (who knew?!) and one of Costa Rica’s favorite fruits!
Have you ever heard that Costa Rica is not a “budget destination”? You’ve heard right. But what that usually means is that Costa Rica is a challenge to shoestring budgets because traveling Costa Rica on a budget is possible. And not just possible, but very doable.
Certainly, you’ll have to get a little creative. And you may have to make a few swaps of this for that. And you’ll more frequently choose a free beach day or a $10 pp national park hike over a $150 pp tour day. But you can and will travel, explore, and enjoy the wilds and wiles of Costa Rica on a budget.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Tip #1: Always Read the [Menu] Fine Print
In Costa Rica, all restaurant service taxes (13%) and a basic tip (10%) are supposed to be included in the prices listed on the menu. In other words, if a dish is listed at ¢5,000 (about $7.50), then the final price should be ¢5,000 – not ¢5,000 + 13% service + 10% tip.
That said, some restaurants list their prices without the service and tip. So, do your budget a favor and always check the menu (usually at the bottom/footer) for text along the lines of “Los precios incluyen I.V.I.” (Prices include I.V.I., or the service + tip tax) If you see something along the lines of “Los precios no incluyen I.V.I.”, then the 23% additional is not included. Some restaurants will include the 13% service fee but not the 10% tip; in this case, the 10% tip is not optional and will always be added onto your final bill.
Sometimes, the hardest part of your vacation is simply choosing where to vacation. So, while you’ve likely narrowed down your country of destination (Costa Rica, hurray!), you haven’t yet gotten so far as to whittle down the regions, towns, or places you’d like to stay. Let us offer some inspiration (and a few Guanacaste, Costa Rica rentals to consider).
We’re here to help. Because, while Costa Rica appears small by map standards, the country is vast: From high-montane cloud forests and river headwaters to coastal beaches and tropical dry forests, you could spend a lifetime exploring Costa Rica’s diverse sights, enormous biodiversity, and varying terrain.
You have to start somewhere, though. And, as residents of the great province of Guanacaste, we’d like to recommend right here: on Costa Rica’s famed Gold Coast, home to pink shell-strewn beaches and howler monkey-filled forests, world-class surf and some of the world’s best sunsets.
So, let’s get right down to it: 10 beachy destinations to submit for consideration. From north to south:
Tamarindo is the kind of place that families love. In addition to great dining, incredible scenery, and plenty of family-friendly vacation rentals in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, our corner of paradise offers much for families to see, do, and experience together.
Because, whether you’re the kind to tackle adventures – everything from zip lines and volcano-climbing to surfing and ocean kayaking – or more the type to relax at the pool together, Tamarindo is just the kind of place for your family.
And with that in mind, here are a few of our favorite things. Which will become a few of yours?
There’s nothing as quintessential to Tamarindo as surfing. And, while Tamarindo is one of the world’s favorite surfer spots, it’s also surprisingly welcoming to beginners and kids, too. Because yes, there are great challenges to be found but there are also gentle waves and sandy ocean bottoms perfect for your first ride or your hundredth practice. And there’s nothing like seeing the expression on your kid’s face when she catches her very first wave!