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Best Towns in Costa Rica for Aspiring Expats: From Budget to Luxury

Updated: 3 days ago

Costa Rica, a jewel in Central America, boasts an irresistible combination of natural beauty, friendly locals, and a laid-back lifestyle. For those considering making the move to this paradise, choosing the right town is crucial. Whether you’re on a tight budget or looking for a bit of luxury, Costa Rica has a town that will suit your needs. Here’s a guide to the best towns in Costa Rica for aspiring expats, from budget-friendly gems to luxurious havens.

1. Tamarindo: The Surfer's Paradise (Mid-Range to Luxury)

Tamarindo, located on the Pacific coast in the Guanacaste Province, is a vibrant beach town known for its stunning sunsets, lively nightlife, and world-class surf. This town is perfect for those who crave an active lifestyle and enjoy a social atmosphere. While Tamarindo has a range of accommodations, it leans towards the mid-range to luxury spectrum with its upscale condos, boutique hotels, and gourmet restaurants.

Cost Range:

  • Rent: $800 - $3,000 per month

  • Dining: $5 - $40 per meal


  • Excellent surfing conditions and surf schools.

  • A variety of dining options, from local sodas to fine dining.

  • A bustling expat community with social clubs and activities.

  • Proximity to Liberia International Airport (about an hour's drive).

2. Grecia: The Affordable Gem (Budget)

If you’re seeking a more budget-friendly option without sacrificing comfort, Grecia is a fantastic choice. Nestled in the Central Valley, this town offers a cooler climate and a slower pace of life. Grecia is known for its charming town square, the iconic red metal church, and its friendly, welcoming locals.

Cost Range:

  • Rent: $400 - $800 per month

  • Dining: $3 - $20 per meal


  • Affordable cost of living with lower housing and utility costs.

  • Fresh produce and local goods available at the weekly farmer's market.

  • Safe, family-friendly environment.

  • Easy access to San José (about an hour’s drive) for city amenities.

3. Atenas: The Perfect Climate (Mid-Range)

Atenas, also located in the Central Valley, is famed for having one of the best climates in the world. This picturesque town is popular among retirees and families looking for a tranquil yet connected place to live. The town offers a good mix of local and expat communities, making integrating and making friends easy.

Cost Range:

  • Rent: $600 - $1,200 per month

  • Dining: $5 - $30 per meal


  • Mild, spring-like weather year-round.

  • Close-knit community with many social and volunteer opportunities.

  • Proximity to beaches and mountains, perfect for weekend getaways.

  • Convenient access to San José and the international airport.

4. Escazú: The Upscale Haven (Luxury)

For those looking for a touch of luxury, Escazú, often referred to as the "Beverly Hills of Costa Rica," is the place to be. Located just west of San José, this town offers high-end amenities, top-notch healthcare, and a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Escazú is ideal for expats who want the comforts of modern living combined with the charm of Costa Rican culture.

Cost Range:

  • Rent: $1,500 - $4,000 per month

  • Dining: $10 - $50 per meal


  • Luxurious housing options, including gated communities and modern apartments.

  • High-quality international schools and healthcare facilities.

  • Upscale shopping centers, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

  • Stunning views of the Central Valley and easy access to the capital.

5. Puerto Viejo: The Caribbean Dream (Budget to Mid-Range)

On the Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca offers a unique blend of Afro-Caribbean culture, beautiful beaches, and a laid-back vibe. This town is perfect for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy a more relaxed, bohemian lifestyle. With a range of affordable to mid-range living options, Puerto Viejo attracts a diverse mix of expats, from young backpackers to retirees.

Cost Range:

  • Rent: $500 - $1,200 per month

  • Dining: $4 - $25 per meal


  • Beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters and coral reefs.

  • Rich cultural scene with music, dance, and local cuisine.

  • Plenty of outdoor activities, including snorkeling, hiking, and wildlife spotting.

  • A welcoming, multicultural community.

6. Nosara: The Yoga Retreat (Mid-Range)

Nosara, a tranquil town on the Nicoya Peninsula, is famous for its yoga retreats and wellness centers. It's an excellent choice for those seeking a peaceful, health-focused lifestyle. The town’s community is a mix of locals and international expats who share a love for nature and well-being.

Cost Range:

  • Rent: $800 - $2,000 per month

  • Dining: $6 - $35 per meal


  • Numerous yoga and wellness centers.

  • Unspoiled beaches with great surfing spots.

  • A close-knit, health-conscious community.

  • Sustainable living and eco-friendly initiatives.

7. San Ramón: The Gateway to the West (Budget)

San Ramón, often called the "City of Presidents and Poets," is a charming town in the Alajuela Province. It's known for its cultural heritage and is an excellent choice for those looking to experience authentic Costa Rican life on a budget. The town is surrounded by lush coffee plantations and offers a cooler climate.

Cost Range:

  • Rent: $400 - $900 per month

  • Dining: $3 - $20 per meal


  • Rich cultural and historical heritage.

  • Affordable cost of living.

  • Beautiful natural surroundings with coffee plantations and mountains.

  • Proximity to both the Pacific coast and the capital, San José.

8. Manuel Antonio: The Nature Lover's Dream (Mid-Range to Luxury)

Manuel Antonio, located on the central Pacific coast, is home to one of Costa Rica's most famous national parks. This town is perfect for nature lovers who want to be close to both the jungle and the beach. The area offers a range of accommodations, from cozy eco-lodges to luxurious villas.

Cost Range:

  • Rent: $700 - $2,500 per month

  • Dining: $5 - $40 per meal


  • Proximity to Manuel Antonio National Park with its diverse wildlife.

  • Stunning beaches with turquoise waters.

  • A variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, zip-lining, and water sports.

  • A lively expat community and a range of dining options.

9. Montezuma: The Bohemian Hideaway (Budget to Mid-Range)

Montezuma, on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, is a laid-back town known for its bohemian vibe, beautiful beaches, and waterfalls. It's ideal for expats looking for a relaxed lifestyle in a creative community. Montezuma attracts artists, writers, and free spirits from around the world.

Cost Range:

  • Rent: $500 - $1,200 per month

  • Dining: $4 - $25 per meal


  • Stunning beaches and scenic waterfalls.

  • A vibrant arts and music scene.

  • Eclectic shops and local markets.

  • A welcoming and diverse community.

10. San José: The Urban Experience (Budget to Luxury)

San José, the capital city, is a bustling metropolis offering a wide range of amenities and conveniences. It's perfect for expats who want to live in the heart of the action with access to top-notch healthcare, international schools, and a variety of cultural activities. The cost of living can vary significantly depending on the neighborhood.

Cost Range:

  • Rent: $500 - $2,500 per month

  • Dining: $3 - $50 per meal


  • Diverse dining and entertainment options.

  • Excellent healthcare and educational facilities.

  • Rich cultural scene with museums, theaters, and festivals.

  • Proximity to international airports and major highways.

Costa Rica offers a diverse array of towns that cater to different lifestyles and budgets. Whether you're a budget-conscious expat or someone seeking a luxurious escape, there's a perfect spot for you in this beautiful country. As you plan your move, consider what's most important to you—be it the vibrant surf culture of Tamarindo, the cool climate of Grecia, the perfect weather of Atenas, the upscale amenities of Escazú, the laid-back charm of Puerto Viejo, the wellness focus of Nosara, the cultural richness of San Ramón, the natural beauty of Manuel Antonio, the bohemian vibe of Montezuma, or the urban experience of San José. Pura Vida!

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