San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tourism season kicks off in Costa Rica despite high costs for travelers

John Cross was enjoying his first day in Costa Rica, but the Bath, England native was already showing the early signs of a sunburn on his brow.

“We came to Costa Rica for the nature,” Cross said in the Plaza de la Cultura in downtown San José. “It’s quite popular in England right now.”

But when the conversation steered toward the costs of traveling in Costa Rica, Cross was doubtful that he would have made the same decision if he knew how expensive the country was.

“It’s similar to prices back home, so we kind of realized that it wasn’t cheap,” he said, noting that after traveling in Asia, he was surprised by the prices here.

Statements like these are what worry Tatiana Cascante, executive director of the Costa Rican National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR). Cascante told The Tico Times in a telephone interview that high operating costs, especially electricity, were a threat to Costa Rica’s reputation as an affordable tourist destination.

The high cost of doing business in Costa Rica is a national problem, Cascante said, not just something affecting the competitiveness of the tourism sector. More than 61 percent of Costa Rican businesses agree, according to the latest quarterly business confidence survey. The Union of Private-Sector Chambers and Associations’ third-quarter survey showed that 61 percent of Tico businesses surveyed saw a significant increase in their cost of doing business, especially when it came to energy prices.

Flora Ayub, executive director of the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels, told The Tico Times that up-and-coming destinations like Nicaragua and Cuba posed a serious threat to Costa Rica’s ability to continue attracting tourists from the United States, the country’s most important market, she said.

“Costa Rica is expensive,” Ayub said in a telephone interview, but added that for the moment the country still holds an edge over its Central American competition when it comes to safety and customer service.

When The Boston Globe published a list of its top destinations for 2015 with the snarky advice to “Forget Costa Rica” in favor of Nicaragua, national media wailed that Costa Rica was on the verge of losing a chunk of its $2.2 billion tourism industry.

The Costa Rican colón has depreciated roughly 10 percent against the dollar in the last year. This news might catch the eye of some thrifty travelers trying to maximize their dollar, but Cascante noted that many tourist businesses denominate their prices in U.S. dollars, eliminating potential savings in the exchange rate.

Christoph Wolf, who had been traveling across Costa Rica with his wife and two daughters for the last three weeks, enjoyed the afternoon’s sun and breeze in Parque Morazán when he spoke with The Tico Times. Wolf said he had traveled to Belize, Honduras and Guatemala before this trip to Costa Rica and agreed the country was more expensive but still cheaper than his native Switzerland.

Backpackers and others might bemoan the rising prices, but Wolf saw a premium, especially for families: “I like that Costa Rica is a quite safe country. The standard of living is high enough that there’s not a lot of criminality, so I’d say it’s a fair tradeoff.”

Contact Zach Dyer at

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I took my brother to the Fancy resort in Puntarenas the other day to have a look around.

$280 per night for a single person
Owner jaws both dropped.

My brother said I will have to eat a lot of burgers, pizza and draft beer to justify this.

$80 -$100 seems average for a clean comfortable room we have found well he has been traveling here.

We had 2 bad coffees and 1 bottle of water yesterday=$8.

$1 per minute is the average cost of a pirate taxi here now.
$60 per hour and they insist on this price non negotiable on price.
$2000 wreck and they get a buck a minute.

I have seen rooms triple in price over the past few years.
I have asked the owners how they can justify the increase and reply is tourist pay it so why not charge this.

Power costs are a factor yes but there are solutions to save energy.
I don’t see many investing in energy saving lights or water heaters.
Government charges this high rate and owners pay it for a kilowatt of power.

greed is the biggest factor in this equation.

$100 can get a decent room in North America or Europe.

I agree with others.
Costa Rica will have to re invent and sooner than later.

Cuba will change tourism and hurt this billion dollar industry here.

The cookie will crumble and this golden egg of tourism is about to end.

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Roy Henderson

Have been visiting Costa Rica three or four times per year for the last seven years. The most striking change has been the extensive land development projects, modeled after South Florida. NOT a good model in the best interest of Costa Rica, or individual citizens. As noted elsewhere in this commentary, land development projects are rife with fraud, and free to operate at will.

Franchising of U.S.A. operations has done little to enhance Tico life. Rather a credible argument can be made that “franchising” business models of any nature is a significant contributor to increased tourism costs, and a drain of the Costa Rican economy.

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Costa Rica was a great destination in 2014. Eleven of us rented four wheel drive vehicles and toured the La Arenal, Monteverde Cloud Forest and Manuel Antonio. Colombia is an up and coming destination that will pose the greatest challenge to Costa Rica. The rental car industry needs regulation and background checks for its employees. We met many wonderful people in the hotels, restaurants and tourist areas. We met many wonderful Ticos who depend on tourist dollars to feed and support their family. I don’t mind paying more if I have a safe destination. The only bad experience happened about fifteen minutes after we rented our car from Hertz in San Jose. Our tire went flat and we had to change the tire. Later in the trip, we found out that our tire had two slashes on the sidewall. This incident tainted our experience.

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Banana Man

I agree on one important item described in the article. The cost of living and just having fun. When Cuba opens its borders to tourism, Costa Rica will lose a large part of their toursim due to proximity and cost of having fun. The electric rates impact everyone doing business, they in turn have to raise their prices to offset. This impacts everything from beer prices, to room costs, and even fuel for an airplane to depart Costa Rica. Costa Rica has to wake up and match the cost of living to the average earnings of its people or anarchy will follow. Lost jobs due to business’s relocating. Theft just to support their families, etc. The government does not have long to reinvent themselves before its too late.

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I agree completely with MANDINGO_32 The Costa Rican government would love for everybody to believe that this country is so safe, so honest, not corrupt, and a tourist heaven. They have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to get this message out there. It is really too bad that they have their heads in the sand. Crime is on the rise and rampant in most areas of this country, fully 30% of all real estate transactions are fraudulent, all levels of government have issues of corruptness – from the Municipal level all the way up to the Federal level. When cases of fraudulent developers and/or development are exposed the government does little – if anything to bring the guilty to justice, and this includes foreign developers. One has to pay the local and federal levels of police to even show up to a crime scene. I believe that the “tourists” who come to this country and fall in love with Costa Rica and their people are sorely taken advantage of by the propaganda put forth by this government. Newspapers such as the Tico Times which caters to english speaking readers really have a duty to put forth the true story of Costa Rica to it’s readership. Not the “fluff” the government would have you write

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Carmen Jimenez Blanco

High prices are a little bit our fauld as well, because we keep paying for expensive things even if we cant afford it. Thats a culture issue I believe,so we keep paying…they keep charging the same way.

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This is a great example of how the government’s news paper; The Tico Times slants it’s reports.

1. You interview those who are not in a position of knowing anything.
2. Then there is the Tico Times double talk, in one article you point out the rise in crime; the robbing of the city buses, the smashing of windshields at the rotondas to rob the now in shock motorists, the robbing of tourist, breaking into the rental cars of tourist, people disappearing, the real estate scams, home invasions, motorcycle bandits, police corruption, bribes within the government at all levels, the list goes on while for the government’s purposes, your so called news paper tries to minimize the rising crime rate.

3. The criminals are empowered by law and the lack of enforcement.

4. Then an overriding issues, very few crimes are solved.

Costa Rica is by far not a safe destination.

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