Expat Living: Budgeting Beach Life in Costa Rica - HRG Costa Rica Vacations
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Expat Living: Budgeting Beach Life in Costa Rica


Planning for the Cost of Living in a Beach City in Costa Rica

Many expatriates cite the lower cost of living as one of their primary reasons for buying real estate in Costa Rica and moving here. While it is true that in some areas, costs are significantly lower than the cost of living in the United States, it certainly isn’t the massive difference that it was just 20 years ago.

The reality is, imported food goods, cars, gasoline, utilities and electronics are more expensive in Costa Rica than they are in the United States. Other expenses, however, are much lower. Domestic help and health care are two areas where the considerable difference really makes up for the higher cost of other things, and housing can also be much more affordable in Costa Rica than in the United States, if you are comparing quality, location and amenities.

Here is a short list to break it down:


In Los Sueños Resort and surrounding areas, you can easily purchase 3000 square foot condo that enjoys easy access to a championship golf course, the ocean and marina, and plenty of other leisure activities for around $500,000. A spacious home or villa with the same kinds of amenities can come in under $1.5 million.

Needless to say, a comparable situation in an upscale neighborhood in the U.S. would be twice as costly as it is in Costa Rica.

Abundant nature, ocean views, and easy access to the city are all benefits that come with real estate located on the Central Pacific coastal areas of Costa Rica. Beach towns like Herradura, where Los Sueños is located, Manuel Antonio and Dominical are rife with incredible properties, and though values are rising, there are still some amazing deals to be had. 


I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you. Cars are more expensive in Costa Rica. Be prepared to pay about a 50% mark up when import taxes are figured in. Some people consider shipping their cars down when they come into the country, but I’ve done the math and have found that it’s typically less expensive just to buy a car here. Once you figure in shipping costs, import taxes, insurance for shipping, vehicle technical inspection (RTV) and license plate fees (Marchamo), you’re really looking at a big ticket.

If you do buy a car in Costa Rica, I highly recommend going for something pre-owned. You’ll save a bundle and trust me, once you get those new wheels on the rough roads on this beautiful country, you’ll be glad you didn’t spring the extra few thousand dollars for that shiny new latest model.

Gas, also, is usually double what it costs in the United States. Of course, those living at the beach often enjoy traveling around by foot or golf cart, saving car travel for trips to the grocery store or the city.

Health Care

While Costa Rica does enjoy a social medical system, with public hospitals and clinics available to anyone who pays into the caja, most expatriates prefer to use the country’s abundant private practices and hospitals instead. Still, the cost of medicine and medical care in Costa Rica is about 50% of of the cost in the United States.

Private medical insurance is available to anyone who wants it and every pharmacy has a doctor on staff. In addition to that, most medications are available without a prescription.

Medications that do require a prescription include antibiotics, and those classed as narcotics or psychotropic drugs.  Thus, one can often skip the doctor’s visit (and the bill!) and get what they need at the pharmacy by describing their symptoms to the on-staff doctor or simply asking for what they need.

Domestic help

This is one area of lower cost expenses that many expats find to be a delightful change from up North. One can easily hire a full time nanny, housekeeper, cook or gardener for less than $600 per month.

For the elderly who are retiring in Costa Rica, this can be a tremendous benefit, as assisted living is sometimes needed. In comparison, a full time housekeeper or nurse in the United States can run upwards of $2000 or $3000 a month.


The cost of living, when all said and done, is definitely a bit lower in Costa Rica than it is in the United State, but like anything, it is also highly relevant to circumstance. Location is everything and lifestyle choices can make a very big difference in your budget. Still, if you are accustomed to a certain way of living in the U.S. and you’re bringing that budget with you, I think you’ll find your finances go a lot further here.

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