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The Cost of Living on Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula

Nov 08, 2013

The Cost of Living on Costa Rica

Downsizing, saving more, spending less and stretching your income or pension are among the top reasons why people consider a move abroad. But easy accessibility, safety and quality healthcare are the icing on the cake when you move to Costa Rica! Of course year-round warm weather and stunning flora and fauna are mixed into the decision too somewhere… but is it all possible for less then in, say, North America?

The quick answer is yes. It really all comes down to your lifestyle. Don’t get us wrong… it’s possible to live on Costa Rica’s stunning Nicoya Peninsula in an extravagant way! But for the majority of the local and expat population, that’s not what this area of the country is about.

Today we’re going to outline some of the common expenses an average retiree or person/couple/family, living on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula can expect… 

Health Care 

We know that for folks looking to move abroad, healthcare ranks very high in importance… especially if you have an existing medical condition. Thankfully, not only is healthcare much more affordable in Costa Rica then the US, but it’s also first-rate in terms of service and facilities. In fact, medical tourism is becoming a fast-growing trend in Costa Rica, thanks to world-class hospitals in San Jose such as CIMA, Clinica Biblia and Hospital Catolica… all located in the capital, San Jose. Folks travel here for dental procedures – including implants – cosmetic surgery and all kinds of joint and back surgery… all at a fraction of what it would cost in North America. (Go HERE to read more about healthcare in Costa Rica) 

Although the services on the Peninsula are limited to what you can find in San Jose, there is no shortage of clinics that can perform basic procedures. If something major is needed, a 25 minute flight from the Tambor airstrip will get you right to San Jose; or an air ambulance can easily be dispatched. 

Food & Entertainment 

Grocery store items and restaurants have the potential to be much less than in North America… but by how much really depends on how you choose to live. If you eat out a lot or buy imported grocery items, you’ll likely find it quite pricey by Costa Rican standards. However, if you stick to local fruit and veggies, hit up the farmer’s markets and buy common grocery store items, it can be extremely affordable. Also, by eating at ‘Sodas’ – a distinctive Costa Rican restaurant – you can order a ‘typical plate’ or ‘casado’ for $5 - $7. Although the options on the plate may vary from place to place, you will always find a piece of meat (or fish), rice, beans and salad. Even at high-end restaurants you will find a ‘casado’ on the menu for much less then a ‘foreigner-friendly’ meal.

Entertainment on Costa Rica’s southern Nicoya Peninsula can range from pricey to free. It really comes down to what you enjoy and how much you’re prepared to spend! There are a variety of golf courses and yoga retreats that will set you back as much as you’d expect to pay in North America. Or, take your mat down to the beach and let the gently lapping ocean water inspire you to create your own ‘ohm’ moment. If you’re up for spending a bit of cash, $4 will rent you a surfboard for an entire day… not a bad price for playing in the warm waves! Of course, if you’re looking for a bit of culture or an urban escape, a 25 minute flight to San Jose will provide an evening or weekend of affordable fun; museums, movie theatres, night clubs and live theatre are all available in this culturally rich city.


Although you may not have a gardener or personal chef in your native home, these are options to you when you live in Costa Rica! For $2 - $4 an hour, you can hire help to clean your pool and house, leaving more time for you to get out and enjoy all that the Nicoya Peninsula has to offer! 


The tax situation in Costa Rica is more upside then downside. The downside is that there are still taxes… they’re definitely less then what you may be used to though, which is the upside! Property taxes are 0.25% of what your registered property value is. So, that means that a house that’s worth $100,000 will cost you $250 a year in property tax. Not such a bad deal! Taxes on goods and services, also referred to as the value added tax (VAT) is charged nationally at 13%.

Miscellaneous Items 

Imported items, such as cars and electronics (TV’s, cell phones, etc.) are much more expensive in Costa Rica, because they’re not made locally and carry a high import tax. Car maintenance can become very costly if you don’t take it easy on some of the roads (many roads are paved and in good condition, but many are gravel and although drivable, can get rough), because you’ll end up frequently visiting the mechanic. The parts and service are affordable; it’s the frequency that will get you. Most folks opt for 4X4 vehicles, usually diesel, for fuel efficiency. 

Often times we’re asked specifically, “how much does it cost to live in Costa Rica?” Based on what you’ve read above, you can see that it’s a tricky question to answer! On average, though, $500 a month (per person) is a pretty good number to run with… this doesn’t include a home mortgage, but bills, food & beverage, entertainment and help around the house are considered in this. Of course, this amount can go up if you run your air conditioner 24/7 or hire a personal chef… and it can equally go down if your entertainment is taking advantage of all the free activities (swimming, surfing, hiking, etc) or you have your own fruit and vegetable garden (possible when you buy with our developer on the Nicoya Peninsula, who have acreage lots available).

Consider your cost of living where you are now, and put it in line with your lifestyle. Does it make you happy? Do you feel refreshed and rejuvenated at the end of the day, or even at the beginning of the day? Your personal frame of mind and how you feel on a daily basis are aspects that can take a big toll on your life – ultimately costing you. Don’t forget to take account of these aspects when considering what it will cost you to live in paradise… 

Discover Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula on a Discovery Weekend! Go HERE now to learn more.

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