It is no secret that Costa Rica can be an expensive country to visit. However, in the end, it can be worth the price you pay for its diversity of landscapes and exotic wildlife. From chilling cloud forests to sunny days at the beach, Costa Rica has a wide variety of activities to choose from.
Sure, some of the fun adventures are going to add up setting you back a bit, and are a good investment during your stay. However, there are still plenty of things to do in Costa Rica that won’t cost you much. These are 10 budget-friendly things to do of many throughout Costa Rica.
1.Tarcoles Crocodile Bridge
Pull off to the side of the road and make your way out to the middle of the Tarcoles Bridge. It is famous for what lies beneath and is about half an hour outside of Jaco.
Underneath you can see plenty of American Crocodiles out on the shores basking in the sunshine. If the rains haven’t been too strong you can see them out in the middle as well on the raised patches.
There’s no fee to walk out onto the bridge. Just be cautious of traffic and cognizant of your vehicle locking it up and not leaving valuables out on display. It is a very popular stop attracting a lot of attention for these magnificent creatures that have made the bridge so renowned.
Even when passing by bus you can look out and often get a quick glimpse of the crocodiles below. The views are beautiful out in the distance around the bridge and are just as photo-worthy.
2. Explore San Jose Central Market
Visiting the iconic San Jose Central Market will introduce you to the culture of Costa Rica and its roots. First established in 1880 it continues to be one of the most important markets in the capital.
Sprawling across a full block you can spend all the time you want walking through the colorful aisles tasting the typical foods of the country. Soda Tapia is the oldest from 1893 and one of the many great spots to try out traditional plates.
Handicrafts and souvenirs line the way with flags hanging from above, there is a buzz and energy in this historic market. Tropical fruits, vibrant flowers, seafood, meats, and cheeses, there is so much to see and experience within.
Here you can get a feel of what Costa Rica is all about and is an amazing way to spend half a day.
3. Find a Waterfall
Costa Rica is well known for all of its cascading waterfalls many of which fall within paid sites. There are some that you can find that don’t come with the high entrance fee, especially if you are traveling as a family which can add up quickly.
If in the Guanacaste area, a little over half an hour from the Liberia International Airport is Llanos del Cortes Waterfall in Bagaces. It has a small entrance fee to get in and the walk to the falls is only about 5 minutes. You can also swim in the pooling water, cooling off and relaxing.
Montezuma Waterfall is another cost-friendly waterfall, you only need to pay for parking. It is a bit more of a walk to reach the waterfall. Having to traverse across rocks in the river, through the trees, and hang onto a rope rail but it’s all part of the adventure. It’s best to not visit with the rain as it can be a bit risky and the cascading waters are very powerful. Swimming at the falls can become dangerous and the color is very murky.
4. A Day at the Beach
The beaches of Costa Rica are free to visit unless they are part of one of the country’s national parks or private reserves. Some of the favorites like Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Espadilla Sur are within a national park however, there are plenty more that have public access.
Guanacaste’s white sand beaches attract people from all over the world and the Caribbean’s laid-back beach vibes are just as beautiful. The coasts are laden with tropical beaches, many of which aren’t overly populated. Visit as many as you can since it won’t cost you a thing. The money you save can be spent on cold pipas under the shades of the palms.
5. Paseo de los Turistas in Puntarenas
The port town of Puntarenas is one not to be passed over. The never-ending sidewalk all along the water is scattered with vendors, seaside sodas and restaurants, street food, and tall palm trees. There is something special here.
Stop for a Churchill or their infamous vigorones and sit on one of the many benches lining the way. It is a beautiful spot to watch the town and life go by.
An evening stroll brings some outstanding sunsets and is absolutely gorgeous when a breeze finally rolls through. Gather at the end to see the prominent lighthouse or rest out on the rocks to see the fishing boats go by and the ferry dock.
6. Rent a Bike
Renting a bike is a fun and relaxed way to get to know a place. Not in a rush, you can discover all the side streets that are so often missed. Seeing and experiencing Costa Rica like a local is truly the way to understand and appreciate the country. This is how you can come across those off-the-beaten-path places that you will come to remember most from your stay.
Prices are typically very reasonable for rentals and some can start as low as $5 depending on the town. The beach towns are the most popular for bike rentals so you can get around a lot easier.
7. Visit Cahuita National Park
With a donation as your entrance admission, Cahuita National Park is a must. It’s not common to find this throughout Costa Rica. And if you want to use the money saved on your entry, you can use it on a guide to help spot some of the wildlife if you want to know more about what lives within.
With walking trails, gorgeous beaches, and the Caribbean Sea full of wildlife it is a wonderful place to visit. Capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, sloths, raccoons, toucans, butterflies, and an array of birds are here in the park, many of which are on your checklist to find.
8. Learn About Turtles
Stopping into a turtle rescue is a wonderful way to learn about sea turtles and their endangered existence. Many have websites and social media pages letting you know when they have upcoming presentations or reach out and ask about a tour.
During hatchling season, you can find posts of upcoming turtle events. Tortugas Bahia Tambor (Tambor Bay Turtles) is one example of those throughout Costa Rica. You can find announcements for exhumations and final audits of the nests in the turtle nursery, learning all about sea turtles, their eggs, and hatchlings.
Watch a hatchling release as these remarkable little creatures head out into the waters for their incredible journey. It is one of the memorable and heart-moving activities to be a part of. Donations are always welcome as they are run by volunteers. Turtle nests can be adopted in your name, even getting updates on their progress if you want.
9. Soak in Local Hot Springs
La Fortuna is a destination that draws masses for its hot springs and with that comes its price tag, some averaging quite high for its desired commodity. If you are wanting to see what it is all about without staying the night at one of the resorts then head to the local hot spring.
It isn’t going to come with all the perks and ambiance of the paid springs but it is still worth the experience. Laying in the waters of Rio Chollin surrounded by nature is true beauty. It gives you a feel of what the hot springs are like before deciding if you want to invest in a hot spring’s getaway.
10. Admire the Architecture of the Churches
The churches throughout Costa Rica are gorgeous and striking. The country has a large Catholic population and the abundance of churches reflect this. The areas surrounding San Jose also have many beautiful churches throughout their towns with Cartago’s being one of the most notable.
When visiting or passing through you don’t have to only look from the outside. Typically, you can have a quiet look within and are welcome to leave a donation for your time.