Our Costa Rica Vacation for Only $800 Per Person

A few weeks ago my girlfriend and I visited San José Costa Rica. We were inspired to take a vacation there for a number of reasons, including the really cheap airfare; it proved to be a great trip! We drove a rental car all over the place (an adventure on it’s own), hiked in the rainforest, ziplined, toured a coffee plantation, visited the beach, and attempted to absorb as much as we could in a week.

Because this blog is financially focused, this post is my place to brag about the low cost of the trip! It turns out, all of this travel hacking is totally worth it :) We were able to afford the trip due to dilligent credit card bonus hacking over the past year, including earning the Southwest companion pass last year. The major expenses: airfare, hotel, and rental car were mostly covered by reward points.

Costa Rica Vacation Costs

Flights $105 (Fees) & 19,460 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
Hotel $0 & 49,000 American Express Membership Rewards Points
Cab Ride, Rental Car, Fuel, Tolls $361 (after $190 credit card rewards reimbursement)
Food & Drink $637
Tours & Entrance Fees $277
Misc. Tips $18
Gifts $132
Exit Tax (they charge tourists to leave the country!) $58
Airport Parking $69

We spent a total of $1,657, which is almost exactly what I estimated before we left. We ended up spending a lot less than I anticipated on rental car fuel, and a bit more than anticipated on tours. I’ve never really been comfortable spending so freely on food and drink, but because it was one of our only large costs for the trip, it was fun to let go and splurge a little. One of my favorite things about the country are the plentiful small restaraunts that you can find basically anwhere, called sodas; they are run by friendly people and serve “typical food” – traditional Costa Rican fare that is very good. We ate at a number of sodas for lunch when we were on the road.

We’d love to go back to Costa Rica at some point – despite the brief and somewhat hectic visit, we really enjoyed our time and have a lot of ideas about what we might do on a return trip. For now, we’re saving our travel dollars for a few domestic trips later this year (including Camp Mustache!) that will use the rest of our Southwest rewards points.

Have you ever visited Costa Rica? What did you do on your trip?

Posted in Musings
  • I have never visited, but is one of the destinations the wife and I have jotted down on our list … along with New Zealand, China and Tanzania. Clearly leveraging points worked well for you. Good stuff!