If you’re planning a move to Costa Rica, choosing a place to live can be the most crucial decision, especially when your budget is tight. And although the country is known for being generally affordable, it still has higher than average prices compared to other countries in Latin America. Therefore, you need to select a place to live wisely, and we are here to help you do just that.
The Top Cheapest Places To Live in Costa Rica are (monthly costs in USD):
- Grecia – $1,000-$1,500
- Liberia – $700-$1,000
- Limón – $750-$1,000
- Tamarindo – $1,000-$2,000
- Playas del Coco – $1,000-$2,000
- Lake Arenal – $800-$1,200
- Uvita – $1,000-$2,000
Costa Rica has long been an established destination for tourists, retirees and location-independent folks. That is because the country has built an excellent infrastructure for them. So let’s get to know the locations above that are providing a great environment for relocation.
The Cheapest Places To Live in Costa Rica’s Five Regions
Costa Rica is divided into five regions: the Central Valley, Arenal, the Gold Coast, Central Pacific and the Southern Zone. The latter is where the country’s capital San Jose is located, and it is one of the cheapest capital cities in the world.
Larger expat communities can be found in the Central Valley, the Gold Coast and the Southern Zone.
Cost of living for a single person per month: $1,000-$1,500.
With a population of 17,000, Grecia is located in the Alajuela province of Costa Rica. Grecia is the perfect place to retire as it’s not a typical coastal town, and it is situated in the middle of the country. It offers some of the most incredible scenery, such as waterfalls and natural parks.
Grecia provides an excellent lifestyle for those exiting the rat race of the US and looking for a slower pace of life. It also helps that the expat community in Grecia is large and active.
The cost of living in Grecia
Grecia became a popular destination with retirees because the cost of living there is about 25% cheaper than it is in the more popular Tamarindo on the Gold Coast.
The current cost of living in this mountain town is between $1,000 to $1,500. You can even rent a three-bedroom apartment for $625 per month. Yet, the average price for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home is around $800.
Just keep in mind that Grecia is small. Hence, you will be a bit limited in choices when it comes to apartments and daily activities. $1,000 is a good baseline for a single person moving to Grecia.
Cost of living for a single person per month: $700-$1,000.
Guanacaste is one of a number of provinces in Costa Rica. With a population of about 400,000 people, it covers the whole northwestern section of the country. It borders the Pacific Ocean, as well as the country’s northern neighbor Nicaragua.
A benefit of Guanacaste is that it is the driest area in the country, so you would experience the least amount of rainfall living there.
Liberia, with a population of around 50,000, is the largest city in Guanacaste. It has an international airport, so moving to Liberia could be a good idea if you plan to travel frequently.
Besides that, Liberia is close to resorts and beaches on the Pacific Ocean, such as Papagayo Gulf, Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, Tamarindo and Playa Conchal.
Expats can choose between three beach towns to enjoy life in Guanacaste on a budget: Brasilito, Flamingo and Potrero.
The scenery and free time activities in Guanacaste province are great for its stunning beaches and views. It also boasts many restaurants, international schools, resorts and a new marina.
The cost of living in Liberia
The monthly price for a home with two-bedrooms and two-bathrooms ranges from $750 to $1,200. Furthermore, in the Gold Coast, you can find a variety of housing and amenities for expats.
However, the cost of living in Liberia is lower than on the coast. So you can rent a three bedroom apartment for just $320 per month.
Cost of living for a single person per month: $750-$1,000.
Limón, also commonly known as Puerto Limón, is both a district and the capital city of the central hub of Limón province. It has the largest port in the country and receives around 80% of all international shipping. Limon is the seventh largest city with a population of over 55,000 people.
Limón is by far the most culturally diverse province and city in Costa Rica. You can see a significant number of those belonging to the indigenous population (Créole), as well as the black population. The city of Limón is more known for museums and architecture than it is for a beach lifestyle.
Moreover, like most places in Costa Rica, Limón offers various outdoor activities such as hiking, snorkeling, surfing, scuba diving, biking, bird-watching, mountain climbing, angling, white-water rafting and so much more.
However, do keep in mind that statistically speaking, Limón has some of the highest crime and unemployment rates in the country per capita.
The cost of living in Limón
The cost of living is indeed low in Limón. Expats can rent a two-bedroom apartment for under $500. For a single person, the estimated costs per month are $716.
The Gold Coast
Located about five hours from San José, near the Nicaraguan border, the Gold Coast is popular among expats, especially those that are beach lovers. Here, you can meet digital nomads, remote workers and retirees from all around the world.
The most popular expat communities on the Gold Coast include Tamarindo and Playas del Coco. These places share the same laid-back lifestyle, where people prefer to enjoy cocktails on the beach and surf occasionally.
Cost of living for a single person per month: $1,000-$2,000.
Tamarindo is yet another town in the Guanacaste province, which is very well known among expats and tourists as it’s very well-developed. People mostly come here for surfing due to beaches like Playa Tamarindo and Playa Langosta possessing strong winds for the sport.
The city offers something for everyone interested in an affordable, peaceful and simple beachside retirement or remote work life. Tamarindo also has one of the best climates in the country, and you can enjoy direct sunlight nearly every single day of the year.
However, since Tamarindo is so popular among North American and European expats, the cost of living there has been steadily increasing in the last few years.
The cost of living in Tamarindo
The cost of living in Tamarindo is about 25% higher than in the small mountain town of Grecia that we mentioned before. Thus, the most significant part of your budget will go to housing.
The rent in Tamarindo ranges anywhere from $400 to $3,000 a month, depending on your preferences. Hence, it’s still possible to live frugally on around $1,000. Plus, you can enjoy various Western amenities and options.
Playas del Coco
Cost of living for a single person per month: $1,000-$2,000.
Located in northwestern Costa Rica, near the Nicaraguan border, Playas del Coco is a beach town that is popular among expats and locals. Furthermore, it’s one of the oldest and most popular beach communities in the Guanacaste province. Playas del Coco is located just 30 minutes away from the Liberia international airport.
The expat community in Playas del Coco consists of older retirees, remote workers, digital nomads and occasional travelers.
Luckily, you don’t even have to speak Spanish in Coco, as many locals speak English. The same applies to Tamarindo mentioned above. But unfortunately, when it comes to the cost of living, beach towns in Costa Rica aren’t the cheapest places to live overall. Particularly, housing prices tend to be higher than they are inland. Plus, you will spend additional money on air conditioning.
The cost of living in Playas del Coco
The rental prices start at $400 for a one-bedroom loft in a nice neighborhood, though you can find cheaper options further away. This price won’t include services like security, laundry, water, electricity, internet or cable. The electricity bill will be around $80, so calculate at least $600 for a basic place.
When spending wisely, you can eat out on $150 per month and cook most meals at home. Thus, it’s possible to live comfortably on as little as $1,000 a month.
Cost of living for a single person per month: $800-$1,200.
Lake Arenal is located in the Arenal region and it is the largest lake in Costa Rica. It is perfect for expats who prefer rural and quiet areas for living. Currently, Lake Arenal has just around 8,000 inhabitants.
The lake is beautiful and relatively untouched by tourists. Therefore, you will have this incredible nature with magical views to yourself.
When choosing a base, the city La Fortuna de San Carlos and Nuevo Arenal are two hotspots for expats who enjoy the thrill of living near its volcano.
La Fortuna de San Carlos is a small town about three hours away from the airports for San Jose and Liberia. It’s also only 10 kilometers from the Arenal Volcano. Despite the large number of tourists visiting the volcano every year, the cost of living remains low.
The cost of living in Arenal
Rent is cheap in this part of the country, so expats can rent a one-bedroom apartment for just $320 and a three-bedroom apartment for $640.
Cost of living for a single person per month: $1,000-$2,000.
Utiva is a small beach town located in the Southern part of the country. It takes around three hours to get there from San José. The region is generally more popular among locals and expats than it is for tourists.
Despite it being a small village, it has become a home base for many retirees and expats. Life in Utiva is reasonably relaxed, with vibrant music festivals, food and various outdoor activities.
The cost of living in Utiva
Utiva has a wide range in regards to housing prices. Rental houses start from $500 to $4,000 per month for a family-size unit.
When you add utilities and other bills, it can go up to $900 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. Food, transportation and free-time activities cost extra. Nonetheless, Uvita can be more affordable than other beach towns mentioned in this article.
The Cost of Living in Costa Rica
Although Costa Rica seems to be very inexpensive from an American perspective, the cost of living is high when compared to other Central American countries. This can be explained mainly due to taxes on imported and consumer products.
Furthermore, inefficiency in the infrastructure sector, exchange rate instability and high prices of goods regulated by the government make life in the country more expensive than it should be.
Below you can see some data about the cost of living in Costa Rica:
|The estimated monthly expenses for a family of four are $2,527.
|The estimated monthly expenses for a single person are $1,141.
|The cost of living in Costa Rica is more expensive than in 69% of countries in Latin America.
|The cost of living in Costa Rica is cheaper than in 62% of countries in the world.
|The cost of living in San Jose is 37% more expensive than in Bogotá, Colombia.
|The cost of living in San Jose is 49% more expensive than in Medellín.
|The cost of living in San Jose is 8% more expensive than in Mexico City.
|The cost of living in San Jose is 9% more expensive than in São Paulo.
|Yet, the cost of living in San Jose is 52% cheaper than in Seattle.
Rental prices in Costa Rica
Renting an apartment in San José and many other Costa Rican cities ranges anywhere from $400 a month for a furnished one-bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood to $3,000 for luxury houses or apartments. A regular three-bedroom apartment in a city center costs around $800 without utilities.
Depending on the location, expats can find affordable apartments for $200 in rural non-touristy areas, or luxury beachfront villas for more than $5,000 per month.
Paying Bills in Costa Rica
Electricity is expensive in Costa Rica. Expect to pay between $70 to $100 for a three-person household, plus the following other utilities:
- Water – around $15
- Satellite TV – between $60 and $70
- Internet broadband and 3G mobile service – between $30 and $60
That’s a total of $175 on the lower end.
Groceries in Costa Rica
Supermarkets can be up to 30% more expensive than local markets or local grocery stores. Imported products, such as cheese, or some meats, are very expensive in Costa Rica. The monthly budget for groceries for a single individual can be around $300 – $400.
Eating imported products on a daily basis will be pricey. They are almost 50% more expensive than local ones. Therefore, you will need to change your diet if you want to save money. Expats can benefit from local prices by shopping at farmers’ markets for fruits and vegetables.
A three-course dinner at a mid-range restaurant can cost between $15 to $30 per person. However, there are also small local restaurants called Sodas where you can get a meal for around $5.
The menu’s special of the day at any cheap bar or restaurant will cost you about $7.60, and dinner will run at about $17. Sure enough, fast food is more affordable, and places like KFC or McDonald’s won’t cost more than $7.40.
Alcohol is relatively expensive in Costa Rica. Local draft beer in a bar costs $2 or $3. It will be significantly more expensive in the tourist areas too.
Good news! Transportation is pretty affordable and you’ll save money there. Public buses are very cheap and widely used by locals. A 4-hour trip can cost just $6. Private health care insurance will cost you between $600 to $1,300 a year, which is still a huge bargain compared to the US.
Here are some total estimates for the cost of living in Costa Rica for expats and digital nomads:
|Rent (furnished, two-bedroom apartment)/One bedroom apartment
|Electricity (varies widely with A/C usage)
|Healthcare (four $50 visits to a doctor per year for two people + monthly Caja payment)
|Transportation (owning a car)
|Food/groceries (including alcohol)
|Entertainment (dining out eight times a month, movies, concerts)
|Miscellaneous (unexpected expenses)
|The monthly total for a couple:
|The monthly total for one person:
How much money do you need to live comfortably in Costa Rica
Regardless of which city you decide to live in, the overall cost of living is relatively low when compared to the United States and much of Europe. Most expats in Costa Rica can live comfortably on $1,000 to $1,500 USD per month.
Costa Rica for expats, digital nomads and retirees
Costa Rica is one of the best places to work remotely in the world. Currently, over 50,000 foreigners live in the country as digital nomads, remote workers or expats.
There are also around 489,000 foreign nationals with residency status in Costa Rica.
Overall, the country is home to just over 4.5 million people–24,000 of which are US citizens, and 3,600 from Canada. Therefore, most expats and retirees are from North America. It’s also home to around 20,000 Europeans, mainly Germans, Spaniards, Italians and th French. Yet, the majority of the foreign population comes from Nicaragua (around 330,000 citizens).
How to get residency in Costa Rica?
It’s easy to obtain residency here as Costa Rica now offers a digital nomad visa. It’s available to those with foreign income or substantial savings.
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