The Costa Rican currency is the colón, and it is one of the stronger forms of currency in Central America, a testament to the country’s growing economy thanks to industries like ecotourism. At the time of writing this article, one US dollar would get you 571₡ (or 457₡/$1 CDN), which won’t get you much, but is well on the way towards a beer, or a bottle of water.
Colones are accepted basically everywhere, and while many places will accept US dollars as well, don’t always expect to get a great exchange for them. Most businesses offer a fair exchange, but places such as supermarkets provide rounded down bank rates, meaning you’ll lose a big percentage off every US dollar you spend.
The easiest way to combat this is to pay for goods in the currency advertised, but lots of tourist spots will advertise prices in US dollars regardless. Ideally you’ll want to bring colones, and some USD for backup, but as long as you have one of the two you’ll be able to get by. Canadian dollars are difficult to exchange in Costa Rica, especially in smaller towns like Jaco, so make sure to buy some colones before getting on the plane.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, but digital payments aren’t nearly as popular as they are at home, so don’t expect the convenience factor to really be a thing. Banks are not open on weekends and ATMs can run out of money rather quickly when large amounts of people descend upon a small town, so avoid lineups and frustration by coming prepared.
Prices will obviously vary depending on where you go and what you do, but the bargain tourist can easily get by for under $50 USD (27,000₡) a day. Expect prices to be a little bit less than what you pay back home, but not by any crazy amounts. For a better understanding of what you can expect to spend, here’s a breakdown of the cost of living in Jaco Beach.