The Ultimate Guide to Living in Costa Rica

The Ultimate Guide to Living in Costa Rica

The Ultimate Guide to Living in Costa Rica
When compared to prices in the U.S., living in Costa Rica offers good value for money, and you can expect to live comfortably on anything upwards of $1500. Expats will also enjoy a simple visa application process and access to the universal healthcare system (CCSS).


You don't need to be a fearless adventurer to enjoy the Pura Vida. In fact, living in Costa Rica as an expat is not only easy to do but also a great way to upgrade your standard of living without breaking the bank. With just a little effort and organization on your part, you'll be repaid with miles of glorious coastline, acres of lush rainforest, majestic volcanoes and breathtaking plains. Additionally, most existing expat communities take advantage of Costa Rica’s enviable climate, providing around 10 to 11 months of idyllic weather and plenty of sun.


Happily, there are already plenty of vibrant expat communities that you can tap into and, alongside the wealth of natural wonders on your doorstep, you can expect a warm welcome with plenty to keep you occupied. Yoga retreats are particularly popular thanks to Costa Rica's famous laid back lifestyle. Surfing and white-water rafting are also big draws for many expats living in Costa Rica; and so too other outdoor activities such as mountain biking, hiking and wildlife spotting. Put simply, the wealth of activities and entertainment on offer means there’s something for all ages.


In a country that prides itself on its low crime rates, clean neighborhoods and highly educated population, including a significant proportion of English speakers, many people see Costa Rica as something of a paradise. However, there's still plenty to think about before relocating, so read on and discover the pros and cons of living in Costa Rica.


Moving to Costa Rica

Moving to Costa Rica means expats can enjoy many of the same rights as nationals. American Citizens only need a valid passport to enter, while 90-day tourist visas are available for citizens of many other countries. Additionally, applying for residency is relatively simple process.


Whether retiring, searching for the perfect holiday home, or looking to set up shop and start a business, moving to Costa Rica is much easier than in many other countries. For example, expats moving to Costa Rica from the US do not require a visa to enter the country, and a validated passport is all that is needed for up to 90-days. This is the ideal option for anyone buying a second home and who wishes to take regular vacations in Costa Rica (to find out more about buying a property in Costa Rica check out our new guide).


An alternative option for expats relocating to Costa Rica on a permanent basis is one of the many residency application programs. Happily, the application process is relatively straightforward and there are a number of options for expats moving to Costa Rica depending on your specific requirements and financial circumstances. These include but are not limited to:


  • - Pensionada Program - For anyone retiring in Costa Rica and who can provide proof of income of at least $1000 per month from a recognized entity. IRA and 401k plans are excluded from this program and you will not be able to work as an employee, although you may receive dividends from a company or business.

  • - Rentista Program - The Rentista program requires proof of income of at least $2500 per month or a $60,000 deposit in a national bank. This program is aimed at retirees moving to Costa Rica without a fixed income from the aforementioned recognized entities.

  • - Inversionista Program - For individuals who want to invest $200,000 or upwards in property, then the Inversionista program may apply to you. However, remember that this residency program only applies to the investor and does not include family members.

  • - Representante Program - This program is designed for individuals moving to Costa Rica through a company. To qualify, you must be employed in some type of managerial role and you must also employ a certain number of Costa Rican nationals. Again, residency through this program only applies to the individual in question and does not include family members.

Cost of Living in Costa Rica

The cost of living in Costa Rica is still a major draw for expats, with some estimates pricing places such as San Diego, California, up to 73% higher. Additionally, the cost of property means you can buy a beachside home for much less.


The cost of living in Costa Rica compared to the US is often cited as a deciding factor in anyone's decision to relocate. Even today, most American, Canadian, and European expats find that they can save a significant amount on their day-to- day expenses. This, when combined with the price of real estate, can help you enjoy a better standard of life at a lower cost.


Having said this, depending on your financial circumstances, Costa Rica also has the potential to very quickly drain your funds, so it is worth drawing up a budget to help you manage your money and make plans for the future. Here we've created a sample breakdown of what it might cost to live in Costa Rica in a desirable beachside home.


2 bed apartment 4 bed house with pool
Rent/Income Potential $2500 $7500
HOA $300 N/A
Property Tax $60 $60
Maintenance $100 $300
Electricity $250 $500
Water $50 $150
Internet/TV $50 $50
Groceries $150 $300
Domestic Help $100 $200
Healthcare $60 $150
Total $3620 $9370


For homeowners, Costa Rica living costs are further reduced since monthly rent prices can be deducted from your budget. Additionally, expats who are planning to rent out a property for part of the year can expect quite lucrative returns on their investment. Property management and maintenance can be handled by a third party and, as an experienced and trusted realtor, Coldwell Banker is happy to help you in this respect. Simply contact us to discuss your requirements.


One final thought for vehicle owners; your budget should be designed to include gasoline prices (comparable to the US), registration, and maintenance. However, public transport in Costa Rica is a viable alternative to car ownership, and many expats enjoy cheap and reliable transportation by using the bus.


Best Places to Live in Costa Rica

Choosing the best places to live in Costa Rica depends very much on your lifestyle. Try:

  • > Tamarindo - Beautiful beaches/surfer's paradise

  • > Playa Flamingo – Championship golf/sports fishing

  • > Grecia - Close to the airport/San Jose

  • > Ojochal - Great restaurants/vibrant expat community

  • > Heredia - Business center/mountain peaks


Wherever you look, Costa Rica holds a rich and diverse appeal, and choosing where to live in Costa Rica is simply a matter of narrowing down your priorities. Discover the wealth of real estate opportunities currently available here and narrow down your search using the information below.


Tamarindo and Playa Flamingo are found within the province of Guanacaste on the northern Pacific coast, and both offer popular beachside getaways at affordable prices. Guanacaste is among the driest places in Costa Rica and you can expect near perfect weather for most of the year. Here, you'll find many water sports and other outdoor activities which will keep you busy. Additionally, many of these desirable locations lie within easy reach of the airport, which is ideal for vacationers who spend just a few months a year in Costa Rica.


The Central Valley is huge and includes towns such as Escazu, Cariari, Heredia, and Santa Ana; all of which provide excellent access to the airport, a variety of expat schools, and excellent healthcare. The Costa Ballena, on the other hand, is home to some of Costa Rica's most beautiful beaches, and towns such as Uvita and Ojochal boast thriving expat communities.~

Living in Costa Rica as an Expat

Living in Costa Rica as an American, or an expat from any other country means you'll already have access to a broad knowledge base and expat-oriented services. Additionally, you'll find that almost everyone speaks English to a very high level.


Living in Costa Rica as an expat doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, you'll find plenty of information, knowledge, and support from the many expat communities that already exist within the country. Additionally, tapping into the Pura Vida is easy, with friendly locals and a sense of laid back beach-living everywhere you look. So, whether you are looking to purchase a holiday home, invest in the property market, or you want to move wholesale to Costa Rica, our guide is on hand to help you navigate the property market and purchase your dream home.


One point to remember, for expats who need to work while in the country, the average wage reflects the lower cost of living and is generally quite low. However, this has the knock-on effect for business owners who can employ highly educated Costa Rican nationals or other expats for much less than they would back home.

Retiring in Costa Rica

Retiring in Costa Rica has its pros and cons. A lower cost of living and more free time will help you embrace luxurious beachside living. However, it is important to live within your means, especially with so many activities on offer for retired expats.


The cost of living to retire in Costa Rica is already well documented, and you can expect to live very comfortably on even a small retirement fund. However, if you are living on a budget, you may find that some luxuries are more expensive in a relative sense. Having said this, even on a shoestring, you'll probably be able to afford domestic help that may improve your standard of life immeasurably, plus, there’s always the beauty of Costa Rican coastline to enjoy for free.


Finally, retiring in Costa Rica means immersing yourself in the Pura Vida, and with many Costa Rican retirement communities offering broad and diverse activities and opportunities for retirees, it's easy to discover a true sense of belonging that you might not find in your own country. Discover how to retire in style and enjoy the very best of Costa Rica in your own slice of paradise.



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We had so much fun at Buena Vista. Thanks for arranging that with Memo.
I also want to say many thanks for all that you have done. We have enjoyed Costa Rica and I have found you so helpful with everything and a pleasure to deal with that it was a very stress free vacation. When I do come back here hopefully you will still be doing what what you do.
Our last couple of days will be spent enjoying the sunshine and eating at great restaurants. Sincerely,

Tara, Kevin and Roy., Costa Rica

While my computer is still running here, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank you for your help during our stay.
When we first came to your office, we were in dire straights and in desperate need of assistance. Andrea was extremely compassionate, spoke with candor, and had a "can do attitude" that was of immense help.
In addition, Andrea has put us in contact with Steve, with whom we are working, preparing to view a little property that might be just what we are looking for at this particular time.
In addition, having gotten to know Andrea personally as well as professionally has been our great pleasure. I wanted to let you know what a tremendous asset she is to your company. She is a great treasure -- a one in a million.

Tina Parker, Costa Rica
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