Costa Rica is seemingly the land where all paths lead to majestic beaches, serene waters and incredible jungles. Even when you get away from the marvelous natural settings, you’ll find awesome urban scenes. The capital city, San José, with its Spanish colonial architecture, cultural sites and nighttime entertainment, dazzles and delights year round.
If you’re looking to visit Costa Rica but are concerned about the costs, don’t freak out! Here are 10 ways you can get to Costa Rica without breaking the bank.
A Quick Note
For volunteer, teaching and internship programs in Costa Rica, like the ones discussed in this article, fees usually get cheaper the longer you stay (i.e. it’s much cheaper on a per-week basis if you stay 10 weeks instead of two). Additionally, the vast majority provide free accommodations, and many provide meals.
1. Volunteer For Nature
Costa Rica consistently ranks among the top in the world when it comes to environmental sustainability, according to the World Energy Council index. You can volunteer to help preserve the wonderful ecosystem–and save money on your trip.
From protecting endangered jaguars to helping out with rainforest conservation, there are many ways to experience nature here. Many organizations host great programs. For instance, if you want to volunteer with sea turtles in Costa Rica, Global Vision International (GVI) hosts a sea turtle conservation program at Tortuguero National Park. Prices start from $2,100 for two weeks.
2. Do A Medical Internship
Costa Rica requires assistance in ensuring healthcare facilities for low-income citizens are properly staffed and funded. If you’re currently studying to be a healthcare practitioner (in medical or nursing school), you can gain valuable experience for your career while helping and getting to know the local people.
Additionally, many medical volunteer programs offer affordable ways to visit Costa Rica. These include Maximo Nivel’s medical and healthcare volunteer programs in San Jose. You can assist with medical campaigns, vaccine administration, emergency care and more. Fees start from $680 for one week.
3. Teach English
Costa Rica’s booming trade and tourism industries make learning English a necessity for many children and adults. You can get a short- or long-term position in the country, making your travel much cheaper.
A good program to apply to is one offered by International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ). You’ll teach English to residents in a low-income community. The program costs just $345 for one week.
4. Volunteer For Children
From orphanages and childcare centers to schools, many organizations in Costa Rica need help providing disadvantaged children with the care and attention they deserve. Volunteering for children is not only a great way to improve lives but an investment in the future of Costa Rica, all possible while enjoying an inexpensive vacation.
5. Go During Non-Peak Season
As a Central American nation, weather in Costa Rica is typically most pleasant when it’s cold and snowing in other areas. That’s why tourists flock here from December through April.
But, as the U.S. News Costa Rica Travel Guide notes, May through November is the cheapest time to visit the country, as long as you’re willing to deal with rain. (It’s the wet season!) Go during this time, and flights, lodging, tours and more will be cheaper.
6. Stay At Budget Hotels
Chances are you’re going to spend most of your time exploring the sites and sounds of Costa Rica. Why spend more than you have to on lodging?
Though hotels in Costa Rica aren’t known for being cheap, you can still find great deals. According to data from Lonely Planet, you can stay in a dorm room for $8-$15 per night or book a basic private room at a guesthouse for anywhere from $20-$50. This is much cheaper than mid-range hotels ($50+) or upscale hotels (which easily exceed $100).
7. Build Homes
Why not get your hands dirty? You’ll be doing a lot of good for folks, and you’ll get to immerse yourself in local culture–all for a bargain price!
Love Volunteers has ongoing construction projects that aim to build safe and sanitary homes for impoverished people. What’s also nice is that Love Volunteers’ fees are very low (this program is $709 for two weeks).
8. Find A Cheap Flight
Chances are the flight will be a significant portion of your expenses. Here are few ways to snag a cheap flight to Costa Rica:
- Look well in advance: Data from CheapAir.com proves booking in advance can save lots of money on international flights. For instance, if you’re coming from Canada, international flights are cheapest if booked 75 days in advance.
- Be flexible on dates: Some days are cheaper to fly on than others. It’s that simple. When you search for flights, search over a period of time, rather than on specific dates.
- Search low-cost airlines: There are many low-cost airlines that fly to Costa Rica, like JetBlue and Southwest. Search these!
- Use miles: From credit card signup bonuses to points for shopping, you can accumulate miles with airline offers–and make that flight to Costa Rica cheaper.
9. Find A Package Deal
Vacation packages to Costa Rica offer great savings. In addition to checking bundle deals on sites like Kayak and Costco (yes, Costco), check organizations that actually host their own programs, like Frontier, which offers a range of adventure packages in Costa Rica.
10. Study Spanish
Travel is about having fun and expanding your mind. During your trip, learn Spanish and all about the culture in Costa Rica. Affordable programs are out there. For instance, the Spanish language program by Frontier starts from $745 for one week of instruction (accommodations included).
Making Your Costa Rican Adventure A Reality
Now you know all the affordable ways to have a valuable volunteer or vacation experience in Costa Rica. By establishing a budget and sticking to a plan, you can enjoy Costa Rica on the cheap.
To make your volunteer trip a reality, consider crowdfunding on Volunteer Forever’s platform. Here, you can get the funds you need to reach Costa Rica, make a difference, and have the time of your life.
Nick Callos · Writer
With a BA in English Literature & Writing from Boston College, Nick researches and writes about volunteer, intern, and teach abroad programs worldwide. He has studied abroad and taught English in Chengdu, China, and aims to help fellow travelers make a lasting impact on the communities they visit.