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.

Costa Rica Life

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&am

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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

Laurel and Tony,
The both of you were fantastic with us throughout the property search and purchase process. As we had mentioned, two other attempts to find thorough, attentive, responsive agents to work with in Tamarindo were failures. I expect that we are more work to deal with than many others as we asked a lot of thorough and analytical questions and expected responses to all of them. You two never failed to deliver. The organization and execution of our condo shopping trip in January was excellent and the fact that you two devoted 2 full days to us, around our schedule, to get this deal done was key to our success. The selection of properties that Laurel planned out, including a few places above and below our target zone helped us to refine our interests. We truly appreciated your interest in our success. This could easily have been very stressful for us, and yet, it wasn’t. Thank you very much.
As a side note, when we walked into the Coldwell Banker office randomly with no appointment in November had we not found your office staff patient and accommodating from the start we would have simply walked on to the next agency. Your staff deserves special mention for getting us interested in the agency to begin with.
We will give you some advance notice before we make our first trip down so that we can plan to get together for lunch or dinner. We are tentatively planning on somewhere in the last 2 weeks of May, as soon as our son gets out of school for the summer.

Dan Batliner, Costa Rica

We are- UNHAPPILY- home safe. Would much rather be back in Tamarindo. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING you did to make our stay a joy ! We look very much forward to seeing you on our next trip to Costa Rica. PURA VIDA !

Steve Perry, Costa Rica

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

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