Beautiful beaches, stunning national parks and breathtaking waterfalls-anyone hoping to take a vacation in the current economy has probably resorted to seeing these things only in their dreams. You will be surprised to learn, then, that you can actually see these things in person and for a reasonable price too. Last-minute flights to Costa Rica on can run as cheap as $500 with a layover through Atlanta. Of course, as with any vacation, if you plan in advance you can get a plane ticket even cheaper.

A CNN article affirms that once you’re in Costa Rica, you actually won’t pay ridiculous prices for food and entertainment, believe it or not. Cost of living in the Central American country is much lower than in the U.S. Roadside stands serve as restaurants in Costa Rica, offering cheap but good meals. Two popular dishes include gallo pinto-a mix of rice, beans and various spices-and chicharrones, a typical fried meat dish. Because of the low-price ingredients in these meals, visitors to Costa Rica can enjoy the local cuisine and feel like a native while saving precious money, making for a low-budget but not low-quality vacation.

When it comes to exploring the country, you can get to the beach or any other tourist attraction without having to rent a car. Most people have vacation nightmares about being on a rickety school bus in the middle of a completely unknown territory, but you must get these negative thoughts out of your head if you want to save cash. Costa Rican buses are cheap and trustworthy-not at all like stereotypical third-world country transportation options.

Once you’re on a bus, you have a world of fantastic options for where to go. San Isidro, a small city in southern Costa Rica, located near Chirripo National Park, is a great place for first-time visitors to the country to hit. It’s a bustling, exciting town with an old-town feel square of shops, restaurants and stands selling localized items. There is also the Central Market, open every day except Sundays. Here you can buy empanadas and ceviches-two more local dishes-or the simple but safe rice and beans at cheap prices.

For the ultimate waterfall experience, you have to go to Don Lulo’s Nauyaca Waterfalls. You can take a horseback ride through a rainforest before reaching the falls. It only costs $45 for the ride, including an escort and food. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll get batidos, a popular drink in Costa Rica consisting of fruit blended in water or milk.

Even though times are tough, if you’re really determined to take a vacation-and to a gorgeous locale at that-Costa Rica is one of your best bets. Affordable flights, cheap transportation and low-cost but high-quality eats make it a spot everyone should at least consider visiting at some time in their lives.

Zach Pontz, “Rich experiences a bargain in Costa Rica.”