Camping in Costa Rica
Camping in Costa Rica – everything you need to know before!
Considering a trip to Costa Rica in the near future? Why not try something different and go camping in this beautiful country? Camping in Costa Rica will get you even closer to it´s incredible nature and you will be able to save a lot of money on expensive accommodation.
Whether renting a camper, tent camping or simply putting up a hammock – camping in Costa Rica is amazing!
Curious? I have put together everything you need to know before camping in Costa Rica.
1. Why camping in Costa Rica is a good idea
Now, let´s start with why it is a good idea to go camping during your trip in Costa Rica.
While there are many different reasons, these are some of my favorites:
Be as close to nature as possible
Costa Rica is known as one of the best countries in terms of wildlife in the entire world. There are animals everywhere…Sloths, monkeys, different birds and so many more.
Waking up in the midst of nature in the morning and watching some of these beautiful animals is an amazing experience. Sure, you also get to see a lot of wildlife when visiting National Parks during your trip, but it´s just not the same.
I was able to spot wild macaws, a sloth and many different monkeys as well as hundreds of different birds from my camp spots – such a unique experience!
Also you can wildcamp and almost every beach in Costa Rica. Waking up to the sound of waves below palm trees? Yes, please!
Saving money on accommodation
One of the most convincing reasons why camping in Costa Rica is a good idea – to save money on accommodation.
You probably already know that Costa Rica is an expensive country. Like really expensive…If you are planning to rent a car and sleep in hotels every night, costs will add up very quickly and you will end up paying a lot for your trip.
Camping, either in a tent or renting a camper van or mini camper, can save you quite a bit of money during the trip!
Prices for campers start at around the same price range or a bit higher than regular car rentals, so you basically can cut out accommodation costs entirely by renting one.
Getting to know the country in a different way
When camping your way through Costa Rica, you will experience the country in a different way. Locals here are very friendly and have always been very happy to see me camping, they talk to you or wave at you and it´s a great feeling to somehow be more close them than if you would be staying in hotels in the most touristy areas of the country.
When camping you also have the possibility to stay in much less touristy areas and see sides of the country that you might not see when staying in hotels.
2. Safety in Costa Rica
You´re probably wondering: Is it safe to go camping in Costa Rica?
The short answer is yes! Now even though you should always be using common sense and trusting your gut in case something is feeling sketchy to you, Costa Rica is generally a very safe country.
Probably the safest in Central America and I have felt safe in all of the Central American countries while camping, never had a single bad experience in almost a year of full time camping in Central America.
Of course, something can always happen, but if you are using common sense, listen to advice of locals and do some research, you will be perfectly fine.
I use the app IOverlander on a daily basis to find campspots, but also look out for warnings of thefts or robberies that happened in a specific place, but I have not found anything from recently in Costa Rica at all.
When going to sleep, just make sure to take everything inside the tent / camper and don´t leave anything like tables, chairs or hammock out at night. I´ve been reading quite a bit about things disappearing at night in some places.
3. Renting a camper in Costa Rica
I have not personally rented a camper in Costa Rica, as I am traveling through Central America in my own mini camper, however I have done some research on it, so I can share the information with you.
Camper rental companies
There are quite a few camper rental companies in Costa Rica, below a list of some of the best rated ones:
Camper rental prices
Prices for campers vary quite a bit. Starting prices are around 85 USD per night, with optional add ons such as additional equipment, insurance etc. Also depends on if you are OK with a roof tent or want a fully equipped campervan.
Make sure to get quotes from different companies before deciding which camper you go for.
4. How to find camp spots
As already mentioned, my go to app is IOverlander.
I am using this app multiple times a day, especially to find the best camp spots. You can filter different things including wild camping spots, paid campgrounds and even shower locations, laundries, warnings, police checkpoints and other useful things.
Other travelers add new places to this application and “check-in” to the locations and share reviews, useful information as well as photos.
If you are planning to go camping in Costa Rica – this is the app for you!!
It´s also totally free to use!
There aren´t as many established campgrounds in Costa Rica as you might think, but there are many, many amazing spots for wildcamping.
In case I cannot find anything suitable in a specific area on IOverlander (which is very rare, especially in Costa Rica), I just try to find a place by myself.
Oftentimes, when I pass by a beautiful beach or other place I think would be great for camping and it´s not on IOverlander, I sometimes ask some locals, if it is safe and stay there for the night or just listen to my gut. I never felt unsafe in an area in Costa Rica anyway…
5. Prices for campgrounds
In case you can´t find a suitable wild camping spot in an area or wild camping is just not for you, you might be wondering how much it is to spend a night at a paid campground.
Prices widely vary and depend on multiple factors.
I have personally only spent two nights at a paid campground while in Costa Rica, but I have done quite some research on it.
Prices will depend on location, facilities and much more.
I have seen some campgrounds starting as low as 3 USD per night, per vehicle. But if you are staying at a bigger established campground in a touristy area with facilities like showers, toilets, electricity and maybe even a pool, prices can go up to 20 USD per night, per person.
Paid campgrounds are marked in IOverlander with a tent sign, reviews usually include prices as well, just have a look when the last review was written, since prices might have been increased since the last visit.
Paid campgrounds are a good alternative to wild camping, if you prefer having facilities such as toilets and showers as well as wifi and being in a secured space. However, there are not as many established campgrounds in Costa Rica as you might think. Many campgrounds are just locals offering their backyard for safe parking and some basic facilities such as cold showers and toilets.
Personally, I definitely prefer wild camping tho.
6. My favorite wildcamping spots
There are MANY great wild camping spots in Costa Rica, but I have put together my favorite ones here.
I have spent most of my time in Costa Rica along the beautiful beaches, you can camp almost everywhere. Even though some beaches have a “camping prohibited” sign, you can most likely camp there with a campervan, but not with a tent. I have asked at different police stations and this restriction only seems to apply to tent camping.
The first little beach town, when driving down to Manuel Antonio, coming from San Jose.
I spent a few nights here and LOVED it. The little beach town is not touristy at all and the bay is beautiful with dark sand, some rocks and palm trees.
My favorite thing about this spot was that wild macaws live in this area and snack on the trees opposite from the beach. I have been able to watch them for hours while I stayed here.
The locals here were very friendly and I felt very safe in the area. During low tide, you can walk around the corner of the bay and get some fresh oysters off the big rocks for lunch – they are DELICIOUS!
Even though this beach is a little more busy, I loved wild camping here. This fine sandy beach with an incredible amount of palmtrees, is such a great spot for camping.
The beach is huge and there are many locations where you can park your camper, pitch a tent or just put up your hammock between two palmtrees.
I had a fresh coconut for breakfast here everyday and enjoyed long beach walks for sunrise and sunset. Highly recommend this beach for camping!
A great beach with many trees in the Salinas Bay. Located just 30 minutes drive from the Nicaraguan border.
The water here is very calm and cold, so great for swimming. Even though there are signs that camping is not allowed, this only applies to tent camping, so if you are traveling in a camper, it´s fine. There is a police station right at the entrance of the beach, ask there to be sure it´s still ok.
The police station also makes it a very safe place to stay overnight.
If you have a 4×4, continue the dirt track to the right of the bay until you find your perfect spot for the night.
7. Tips for camping in Costa Rica
I cannot stress this enough -that´s THE APP for you when camping anywhere in the Americas. From wildcamping, paid campgrounds, showers, laundry, warnings, mechanics, police checkpoints – this app has it all!
I use this app multiple times a day and it makes camping in Costa Rica SO MUCH EASIER.
Stock up on insect repellent
Camping in nature in a tropical country means that you will be surrounded by bugs pretty often. Insect repellent works great against mosquitoes, make sure to always have your bottle ready!
Ask locals for advice
If you are unsure, if a place is safe to camp or if it´s allowed to camp, just ask a local! They are very friendly and helpful. As most locals don´t speak English outside of the major tourist destinations, this is a great way to practice your Spanish skills.
Wake up early
For me personally, one of the best things about camping is to wake up for sunrise, have a walk in nature and just take in the surroundings. Wildlife is usually most active in the early morning and a sunrise walk at the beach does wonders for my start into the day!
Trust your gut and use common sense
Even though Costa Rica is a safe country, always use common sense and trust your gut feeling. In case an area feels sketchy, just move on.
8. My personal experience camping in Costa Rica
In short: I loved camping my way through Costa Rica.
There is just something so special to sleep to the sounds of nature, cook in nature, spot wildlife from your home on wheels and the experience is just a totally different one than staying in hotels.
Costa Rica is a great country in terms of wild camping spots, you can camp at almost any beach here and park a short distance from the water, make a campfire in the sand and listen to the sound of the waves.
Even if you have not been camping much before, you can easily camp in Costa Rica. It´s really easy here as there are so many spots and it´s such a safe country.
This has been one of my favorite countries in Central America for camping, simply because there are so many beautiful and easily accessible spots and because of the incredible wildlife.
I HIGHLY recommend camping in Costa Rica. Whether it´s by camper, tent or even hammock.
Ready for the adventure camping in Costa Rica?
Make sure to check out other Costa Rica blog posts to help plan your perfect trip: