Best Places In Costa Rica For Expats

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Here are the best places in Costa Rica for expats to live in.

Foreigners who are looking for a cheap place to retire, particularly those from the USA, love Costa Rica.

Which place in Costa Rice would you like to settle in and why? Although not very large, the country is diverse.

Best Places In Costa Rica For Expats

1. Uvita

The Costa Ballena’s Southern Zone’s largest town is Uvita (Whale Coast), one of the best places in Costa Rica for expats. It is positioned halfway between Ojochal and Dominical, to the south. This region of the country is popular with tourists because it is always verdant green.

When you see brochures for Costa Rica vacations, this is the kind of place you picture. Waves crashing, parrots flying, and chattering monkeys can be heard on deserted beaches in a mountainous rainforest.

You won’t find the high-rise condos and fast food restaurants here. Even though the Southern Zone coastal road has increased in popularity over the past ten years, this area is still regarded as one of the best places to unwind and get “off the grid.”

Two-bedroom homes in the neighborhood start at under $250,000, and more expensive ones start at $1 million up in the hills with expansive views of the Pacific.

Additionally, you’ll discover BM, a sizable grocery store, as well as other essentials like banks, restaurants, and small medical facilities. Dominical, which has a fantastic surf scene, and Ojochal, which has a surprisingly vibrant food scene, are both only a 15 to 20-minute drive away.

You can find everything you need in San Isidro de El General, which is just an hour’s drive up the mountains, including other government offices, car inspection stations, hospitals, and bigger box stores.

There is more rain in this region of the country than in most others. However, the best biodiversity is a welcome trade-off, and there are no worries about drought, which Guanacaste can encounter during the dry season.

Best Places In Costa Rica For Expats
Uvita Waterfalls. Image from Paradise Catchers.

2. San Jose

San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, affectionately referred to by locals as “Chepe,” would unquestionably come in last place in any beauty contest. It is not a beautiful city; the skyline is dominated by numerous buildings from World War II, ugly commercial buildings, and crumbling pavement.

Unfortunately, San Jose, one of the best places in Costa Rica for expats, cannot boast much of the old colonial architecture that is typical of other Latin American nations because the city is still relatively young.

It does, however, have a vibrant, dynamic life that is full of vigor and drive. San Jose is the nation’s cultural center; here, theaters, museums, and galleries flourish and draw visitors from across the country.

There are many wonderful restaurants, as well as, of course, coffee shops.

The soil and climate are some of the best for growing coffee in the Central Valley. Because of this, the small village of San Jose gained notoriety in the 18th century and began to grow into the region’s coffee capital.

Since then, coffee has played a significant role in both the history and economy of Costa Rica. The “Grano de Oro” (golden grain) industry now draws tens of thousands of tourists to the country with its amazing coffee tours and variety of coffee.

3. Manuel Antonio and Quepos

On the nation’s Central Coast are the sister cities of Quepos and Manuel Antonio, both are best places in Costa Rica for expats. There is a good reason why expats are drawn to this region of Costa Rica because it is breathtaking. Pez Vela, a top-notch marina in one of the most breathtaking settings on earth, is located in Quepos.

It provides both dry docks and 195 wet slips that can accommodate ships up to 200 feet. Due to the numerous international amenities, this region draws international yachts, deep-sea competitors, and anglers.

Quepos is a family-friendly neighborhood with warm weather all year long (leave your coats at home) and a range of housing options, from modest apartments to luxurious homes. A two-bedroom condo in this location is still available for under $100,000.

Two and a half miles down the road is Manuel Antonio, the location of the most popular national park of the same name. The biodiversity is astounding, just like in all national parks.

You can find some of the nation’s most beautiful, pristine white-sand beaches and breathtaking scenery here. The main road into downtown winds and turns with breathtaking scenic glimpses of the ocean as you travel from a higher elevation to sea level.

Outside of the San José region, it is where the largest LGBTQ+ community is located. Manuel Antonio is a viable option if you’re looking for a different way of life with gay-friendly activities. 

There are many restaurants in Manuel Antonio, as well as a thriving arts scene. However, when it comes to real estate, you probably won’t find any “steals.” Over the past ten years, real estate prices have significantly risen as a result of popularity.

The distance between the two cities and San José, the country’s capital, which has major medical facilities, government buildings, shopping malls, etc., is about 2.5 to 3 hours. However, this region has everything you need for day-to-day living.

4. Escazu

Look at the suburbs of San Jose if you are not particularly taken with the urban feel of the city (some expats are not), but still want to be close to its amenities.

Escazu and Santa Ana’s western suburbs are drawing more and more foreign residents.

Escazu, one of the best places in Costa Rica for expats, is undoubtedly one of San Jose’s trendiest and most affluent suburbs. While the town is close to the capital, its residents appreciate the quiet, laid-back atmosphere of the place.

Escazu offers everything needed for a luxurious lifestyle, including upscale dining, hotels, spas, gyms, and the exclusive Costa Rica Country Club, which features an 18-hole championship golf course.

There are several foreign embassies there as well as the homes of the American and British ambassadors. Additionally, there is a sizable English-speaking expat population.

Additionally, it is only a one-hour drive to the Pacific Ocean from the coast.

5. Playas del Coco

Just called Coco or Coco Beach. The northwest region of Costa Rica, in the province of Guanacaste, is the best location for you to be if you enjoy a lot of sunshine.

Most of the year, it is sunny and consistently warm to hot 95 F temperatures, rarely falling below 78 F at its coldest. There are numerous sunspots throughout the entire “rainy” season.

As far as international airports go in Costa Rica, Coco is the closest beach town. Toes in the sand can be reached in about 30 minutes after leaving Daniel Quirós Liberia International Airport.

Due to its close proximity to Liberia’s provincial capital, expats can enjoy the beach while still being close to big-box retailers, car dealerships, private and public hospitals, government offices for obtaining driver’s licenses and immigration documents, and other necessities for daily life. removing the tense four-hour drive to San José.

As more flights continue to arrive into Liberia, this region of Guanacaste, known as the “Gold Coast,” has experienced an explosion in development over the past ten years.

Flamingo and Tamarindo are two southern towns that have increased in price, but Coco has managed to keep its cost-effectiveness.

Condos in various price ranges, including some that occasionally have listings in the $100,000 range, homes that can be walked to the beach (in the $300,000 range), and more opulent homes ($750,000) scattered across the hillside with sweeping views of this lovely beach town are all for sale.

With a wide variety of restaurants and bars, Coco, a Gold Coast beach town that is thought to be larger, also has a lot to do. In addition, it is home to Auto Mercado, one of the best grocery store chains in the nation, where you can find some well-known grocery items from the United States.

Due to its smaller waves, Coco isn’t a surfing town, but there are many surfing beaches nearby. In addition, Coco provides access to other fantastic water activities like deep sea fishing and diving off the Catalina Islands.

Best Places In Costa Rica For Expats
Playas del Coco. Image from Krain Luxury Real Estate.

6. Santa Ana

Although Santa Ana, one of the best places in Costa Rica for expats, is a smaller town than Escazu, it is becoming more and more popular among expats who appreciate the balance of local charm and tranquility with modern amenities and cultural entertainment.

Santa Ana is a beautiful, green city with flower-filled streets lined with local shops alongside opulent hotels and dining establishments. One of the best places to live is close to Multiplaza, the largest shopping mall in the nation, and the capital with all of its amenities.

Some of the most expensive properties in Costa Rica can be found in Escazu and Santa Ana. The wealthiest locals and expats are drawn to these areas because they are close to shopping malls and upscale restaurants and offer a simple commute into San Jose.

7. Atenas

Atenas, one of the best places in Costa Rica for expats, recently received the AARP designation as “One of the Best Places to Retire in the World.” Therefore, it would be negligent of me to leave it off of this list. Residents who are expats say the title is well deserved. Atenas checks off a lot of boxes.

One reason is that San Diego’s wonderful weather tempts people who would like to live there but cannot afford to do so. You are not alone if you think that weather with highs in the mid-80s F and lows in the 60 F is ideal.

Beautiful weather and stunning views are guaranteed by the elevation of 2,290 feet. Nestled in the mountains, coffee plantations, sugar cane fields, and lush greenery are visible from every vantage point.

Atenas residents enjoy the best of both worlds thanks to its central valley location less than 45 minutes west of San José on an expressway.

Living in a smaller town but being close to all that the capital has to offer There are performances, ballets, museums, upscale dining, world-class hospitals, and Juan Santamaria International Airport, which is located in the nearby suburb of Alajuela.

The closest beach, in Jaco, is also about an hour or so away if you want to spend the weekend at the beach. The necessities are all close at hand, though, if you never want to leave the city.

Despite having a small town (7,500 residents), there are many different housing options available, ranging from hillside mansions costing $1 million to affordable homes in the city costing as little as $150,000. Even with today’s inflation and higher costs, many expats claim they can survive on $3,000 per month.

The expat community in this city is vibrant and friendly, just like every other city on this list. You don’t need to look far to find activities to keep you busy, including art classes, Thai chi, yoga, and water aerobics.

The pace is slower here, in contrast to the more boisterous and touristy beach towns, and this is where retired foreigners feel most at home.

8. Jaco

A coastal resort town called Jaco is not far from San Jose. One of the first communities in Costa Rica to benefit from a tourist boom was this one.

Jaco, one of the best places in Costa Rica for expats, has experienced ups and downs since then, but today it is a very popular seaside town that draws tens of thousands of foreigners, retirees, developers, surfers, and partygoers.

It’s not a place for introspection and quiet observation; instead, it’s all about savoring every moment.

Playa Jaco, which stretches for 2.5 miles (4 km), is the focal point and the lifeblood of the region. It features some of the best surfing in the world and is surrounded by lush tropical forests.

There is an abundance of entertainment options available both during the day and at night. The restaurants and shops are international and excellent, the daytime activities are incredibly adventurous, and the nightlife is vibrant and complete. Living in Jaco is a great option if this is what you’re after.

9. Tamarindo

A small town in the Guanacaste region called Tamarindo, one of the best places in Costa Rica for expats, is well known for its excellent sportfishing, diving, and surfing.

Its closest beach, Playa Tamarindo, is a broad, sandy expanse that stretches all the way up north to the Tamarindo River estuary.

Excellent surfing waves and strong currents can be found close to the estuary, particularly during an ebbing tide. The waves can reach heights of up to 12 feet in November and December.

The sand empties into the ocean in a very gradual slope on a soft, golden beach. If you don’t surf, you can rent a boogie board or spend the day lounging in the sun reading.

From October to May, hundreds of nesting leatherback turtles congregate at Playa Tamarindo and Playa Grande, two beaches located just across the estuary. This is a delight for turtle enthusiasts to witness. If you have the patience, you can watch the hatchlings come out and dash for the water.

Since there is no bridge across the estuary, there is no direct route from Tamarindo to Playa Grande, but dozens of small boats run back and forth every day and will take you there for a small fee.

Tamarindo is a charming small town where many foreigners who want to live by the coast choose to settle. Beautiful beachfront homes, B&Bs, and five-star hotels abound there.

There are excellent dining options and shopping. There are about 80 restaurants in Tamarindo, and there is a great selection of food there. You can try both international and local flavors.

There is a very pleasant climate there, and even during the rainy season, most days are sunny.

10. Costa Ballena

One of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in Costa Rica is Costa Ballena, with its lush landscape, serene sandy beaches, gushing rivers, and mesmerizing waterfalls.

In this area, nature is everything.

Humpback whales mate in Costa Ballena, which translates to “coast of whales,” from December to April. You can see whales and dolphins out at sea during this time as they migrate. Just past Uvita, a popular expat destination, is where sea turtles frequently visit Ballena Marine National Park.

Clean beaches line the coast, which is also dotted with cozy little towns and beachside communities. The area is developing but not yet populated, so it’s possible to find a nice house on a jungle slope that overlooks the ocean and wake up to the Pacific every morning.

Along the Costa Ballena, there is a small expat community; those expats and retirees who value eco-friendly living consider the area to be the best place to settle down.

The area has its own little centers for shopping, entertainment, and fine dining despite being relatively quiet. There are local hospitals, council services, transportation options, and a few upscale dining establishments, some of which are rated among the best in the nation.

Best Places In Costa Rica For Expats
Costa Ballena. Image from Tudestino.

11. Nuevo Arenal

Nuevo Arenal, a well-liked town, is located on the northern shore of the 33-square-mile Lake Arenal and provides picturesque views of the Arenal Volcano. Expats have been drawn to this region for decades because it is thought to have a better climate than the beach towns.

Nuevo Arenal, one of the best places in Costa Rica for expats, is most likely regarded as the smallest and most rural location among the others on this list. However, it is not unique. Your daily living necessities, such as gas stations, shops, pharmacies, banks, etc., are conveniently located in the city.

As a result of Arenal Volcano’s popularity as a tourist destination, there is no shortage of dining options along the road on the north side of the lake, including everything from fine dining to small family-run establishments serving traditional Costa Rican food.

Large-scale development won’t be present here like it is in some other communities across the nation. A lot of the homes have access to or at least have views of lakes. starting at $300,000 and going up.

Many even have a boat slip available, which is popular with anglers and people who enjoy water sports. Since the lake is never busy, it offers a unique calm that you cannot find in coastal waters.

Numerous outdoor activities are available in the area if you like to stay active. You can go ziplining, hiking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting in and around Arenal National Park. 

The volcano heats many of the streams in its vicinity geothermally. For access to the hot tubs, waterfalls, and pools at hotels, day passes are available. Locals are aware of the location of these stunning hot springs, where you can relax in the rapids while soaking up the healing geothermal waters.

The best kind of rural living is this. However, if you enjoy the bustle of big cities, you might find this place to be a little too quiet. The foreigners who reside in and around Lake Arenal, however, adore the area because they feel completely at one with nature and value tranquility.

Major medical care won’t be available here, to be honest. There are a few modest clinics in the region, and Tilarán, a town right by the lake, is home to some larger hospitals. However, if there are any serious health issues, you will need to travel to Liberia (1.5 hours) or San José (3.5 hours).

Final Thoughts

In Costa Rica, there are many beautiful places, so be sure to get to know one well before deciding to call it home.

This nation is dotted with numerous microclimate regions. While a location only a few miles away is dry, another location nearby may receive a significant amount of rain.

Spending several months to a year renting, exploring, and interacting with locals is the best way to determine whether an area is right for you.

Pained by financial indecision? Want to invest with Adam?

Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 521.2 million answers views on Quora.com and a widely sold book on Amazon and a contributor on Forbes.


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