How to find affordable vacations in Costa Rica

A colleague of mine and I both traveled out of Costa Rica for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. He to Western Europe and I to the western United States. What we both found when people learned we lived in Costa Rica was surprising. Everyone said they either loved visiting Costa Rica or wanted to go there; but many also commented on how expensive it was to travel to Costa Rica.

It’s true.

If you plan to vacation in Costa Rica for a couple of weeks, and only stay at all-inclusive resorts or medium to high-end hotels without some sort of travel discount, you’ll spend a small fortune on accommodations and food, let alone tours and transportation. Costa Rica is popular around the world, and that means big name hotels have moved in charging big-name prices, thereby spiraling other tourist prices upwards. But this is mostly in the high-volume tourist destinations.

There is a way to find affordable vacations in Costa Rica.

First, look to explore the less-traveled areas. You’ll find lower prices, better deals, and Costa Rica is beautiful everywhere, so you won’t be disappointed. You can still visit those popular destinations, but choose to stay outside of the tourist hustle – close enough to visit the chosen attraction with your rental car or a hired van or taxi for the day, but away from high prices.

Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica

Second, vacation rentals in Costa Rica are a booming business. Why? Because hotels can be really expensive, especially if you’re a family of four or more and you need at least two rooms. With a Costa Rica vacation rental, you can have an entire two- or three-bedroom house or condo, with probably two or three bathrooms, all to yourselves and for less than the cost of a hotel. You usually have more space and amenities, plus a kitchen in a vacation rental.

Casa de Paz vacation rental Portasol Costa Rica

Eating out can be expensive in Costa Rica, especially in hotels and touristy restaurants. In your vacation rental’s kitchen, you can prepare a bountiful breakfast for a few dollars. Costa Rican coffee is some of the best on the planet; pick up a package at the supermarket for $5 that will last you your entire vacation. The abundant selection of exotic fruits and vegetables is amazing in Costa Rica, and for an astonishing fraction of the price you would pay in North America or Europe – because it grows here. Plan to eat one main meal out in a restaurant every day, and the rest you can whip up in your vacation home kitchen. Save your money for those fun tours and attractions!

A good example of completely affordable travel in Costa Rica is the Portasol Rainforest & Ocean View Living eco-community on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast.

Portasol Rainforest & Ocean View community in Costa Rica

The unique eco-development is located perfectly between the beautiful but very touristy Manuel Antonio National Park, and the popular surf town of Dominical on the southern Pacific Coast. Like it says in point #1, you are close enough to easily visit in less than an hour’s drive, but out of the hustle and high prices.Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica

The award-winning environmental residential development is set in a little river valley of beautiful rainforest. Most of the 1,335 acres are preserved in a pristine state, offering great wildlife viewing opportunities and an amazing rainforest experience with private trails, waterfalls and swimming holes. Less than 15 minutes away are beautiful uncrowded beaches at Playa Matapalo.

Astua Waterfall at Portasol Living in Costa Rica

Portasol offers a varied selection of vacation rentals, from jungle bungalows to luxury vacation houses.

Casa Cedro

The newest vacation rental at Portasol is Casa Cedro. The vacation home has two bedrooms, each with its own master bath, and can sleep up to eight persons. A large fully-equipped kitchen opens to an outdoor living and dining area. The best part is the huge spacious covered terrace where you can relax in comfortable chairs and sofas or lounge in a hammock surrounded on all sides by the rainforest right next to you, listening to the amazing sounds of exotic nature and the bubbling of the Portalón River.

Casa Cedro, Portasol eco-community in Costa RicaWhile you are relaxing, you might even get a visit from a toucan, hummingbird, electric blue Morpho butterfly, brilliant rainforest frog, sloth, coati, or even an anteater in the giant rainforest trees and flowering plants right off the terrace. There is high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the house, and cable TV in the living area to stay connected.

Casa Cedro is located close to the development’s front gate with 24-hour security and plenty of parking. You have spectacular views of the Portalón River, rainforest and mountains. Waterfalls with natural pools are an easy 5-minute walk away on a nature trail, and you’ll find easy access to the community swimming pool, lounge and BBQ area located behind the house.

Swimming pool at PortasolMeals

Local farmers’ markets: In the town of Quepos (35 minutes), the farmers’ market right in front of the ocean runs on Fridays from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and again on Saturday morning from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Dominical (20 minutes) has an organic farmers’ market from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Fridays in Plaza Pacifica at the entrance to the town.

Farmers market Costa Rica

By Portasol in the village of Portalón: Buy hydroponically grown vegetables from a local family or shop at two mini-markets, called pulperias, and a tiny supermarket that sells a little of everything from food to personal hygiene and clothing items.

Best restaurant in the area: A 10-minute drive from Portasol is La Langosta Feliz, where you can get the freshest fish and shellfish for lunch or dinner for between $10 and $15 per person with drinks. With advance notice, Portasol’s lovely cooks can make you fresh typical Costa Rican meals at affordable prices right at your vacation home.

What to do

Plenty of tours and attractions are happening in the area around Portasol – from the Manuel Antonio National Park to catamaran sailboat tours, surfing, snorkeling, whitewater rafting, the Ballena National Marine Park, wildlife tours and beach time.

The Envision Festival is taking place Feb. 25 to 28, 2016 just down the coast in Uvita.

Sloth at Portasol Rainforest in Costa RicaGetting there

You can get to Portasol on a local flight to Quepos, by renting a car, or with private or shared transportation.

Contact Portasol for information and reservations.

Article by Shannon Farley

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