Costa Rican Flag on Cerro la Asuncion

Best Places to Live in Costa Rica | 10 Cities for Expats & Digital Nomads

Costa Rica is a country with incredible biodiversity – containing 5% of the world’s species. Life revolves around Pura Vida (‘pure life’). Additionally, there are plenty of beaches, good healthcare, and great business opportunities.

Be aware though, it’s not all breezy. It can be dangerous to drive here as there are undeveloped roads. Also, Costa Rica is known to have rainy seasons and many earthquakes.

Don’t worry though, as we’ll be sure to guide you through various options of where to live.

Tip: Here’s some other places to visit in South America!

Best Places to Live in Costa Rica for…

  1. Expats: Grecia
  2. English Speakers: San Jose
  3. Digital Nomads: Puerto Viejo
  4. Solo Travelers: La Fortuna
  5. Couples: Samara
  6. Groups: Jacó

Top 10 Places to Live in Costa Rica

1. San Jose

 Best Place to Live for English Speakers

View of San Jose buildings with Volcan Irazú in background

Cost of Living: $$$

San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica. As such, you can expect many amenities. This is the cultural hub of the country with many galleries, museums, and theaters scattered throughout. Additionally, it offers many options for shopping such as ferias (farmer’s markets), Avenida Central for souvenirs, and Avenida Escazu for higher-end shops. Good areas to live in are Escazu or Santa Ana.

Tip: Visit Lankester Botanical Garden to see some of the country’s flora.

Who Would Like to Live There: English Speakers and History Buffs

Pros:

  • Many restaurants, bars, and clubs
  • Fastest Internet
  • Very good infrastructure

Cons:

  • Can be quite noisy and crowded
  • Most expensive city
  • Transportation can be a hassle

2. Puerto Viejo

Best Place to Live for Digital Nomads

View of Puerto Viejo and its surroundings

Cost of Living: $$

Puerto Viejo is a beautiful spot that is often compared to Bali, due to its white beaches and exquisite waters. It’s popular for surfing, snorkelling, and other water sports. Additionally, it’s a great place for remote working – just consider buying a mobile data plan as Wi-Fi can be spotty.

Tip: Apply for the Digital Nomad Visa to avoid border runs.

Who Would Like to Live There: Digital Nomads and Solo Travellers

Pros:

  • Very safe for solo travellers
  • Slow pace of life
  • Close to beaches and Panama border

Cons:

  • Co-working spaces are more expensive than San Jose
  • Very humid weather and lots of bugs
  • Low quality roads

3. Samara

Best Place to Live for Couples

View of Samara Beach

Cost of Living: $$$

Samara is one of CR’s most romantic spots. It’s full of stunning beaches and a vibrant culture, so it’s a great place to experience authentic Tico life. Life here is very laid back and people are friendly. It is quiet year round and does not attract as many tourists due to its location, but it still has a few expatriates.

Tip: Visit the Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy for affordable massages.

Who Would Like to Live There: Couples, Beach Lovers, and Expats

Pros:

  • Strong expat community
  • Affordable living
  • Beautiful location

Cons:

  • Not as easy for loved ones to visit you
  • Limited access to medicare
  • Quite a small town

4. Atenas

Best Place to Live for Coffee Lovers

Costa Rican coffee bean tree

Cost of Living: $$

Atenas is a town situated 45 minutes from San Jose. As such, it still has the amenities of the city while being quieter. It’s known for its coffee, which is high quality. Additionally, it boasts a temperate climate which is mosquito-free. It has brilliant views of Central Valley, without the price tags of the inner-city suburbs.

Tip: Visit El Toledo, a coffee farm, to see how it’s produced and to try some.

Who Would Like to Live There: Coffee Lovers and Expats

Pros:

  • Not far from Escazu and San Jose
  • Fantastic temperatures year round
  • Minimal crime

Cons:

  • Shipping for online shopping is expensive
  • Language barrier can be tough
  • Quite rural

5. La Fortuna

Best Place to Live for Solo Travellers

Photo of La Fortuna Waterfall

Cost of Living: $$$

La Fortuna is great for adventure seekers with its jungle-hiking, zip-lining, and horseback-riding.  It’s surrounded by national parks but still has all the amenities needed for a comfortable life. It’s also home to some hot springs, which are rumoured to have medicinal benefits. Hiking up the Arenal Volcano is a great way to get a view of your surroundings.

Tip: Here’s more places to backpack in Costa Rica.

Who Would Like to Live There: Solo Travellers and Adventure Seekers

Pros:

  • Maintains local charm while having everything you need
  • Cooler than the rest of the country
  • Close to nature

Cons:

  • High cost of living
  • Tons of tourists
  • Several hours from medical care

6. Grecia

  Best Place to Live for Expats

Grecia sign post colourful

Cost of Living: $$$

Grecia’s the perfect place for slower living and it encapsulates pura vida. It’s surrounded by mountains, but is not far from beaches. Additionally, it has very reasonable housing prices and avoids crowds of tourists. It’s a farming town for sugarcane and coffee, but also boasts excellent fresh produce at its feria.

Tip: Visit the Iglesia de la Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes which is made entirely out of prefabricated steel.

Who Would Like to Live There: Expats and Retirees

Pros:

  • Great real estate value
  • Cleanest city
  • Great views and temperatures

Cons:

  • Lots of hills
  • Can get quite slow
  • Rent has risen lately

7. Jacó

 Best Place to Live for Groups

Jacó beach with surfers in the water

Cost of Living: $$

Jacó is the closest beach town to the capital. As such, it has become very developed and offers a brilliant nightlife culture. It offers great restaurants and bars and is a very easy place to socialize if you’re looking to make friends. Additionally, it has a wide-spreading beach where you can do various water sports or just swim.

Tip: Take a cable car ride in the jungles near Jacó to get an overhead view of wildlife.

Who Would Like to Live There: Groups and Couples

Pros:

  • Vibrant nightlife
  • Cheaper property prices
  • Largest LGBTQIA+ community

Cons:

  • Has been known to be unsafe recently
  • Can be quite noisy and dirty
  • Lower water quality on beaches

8. Cocos

 Best Place to Live for Retirees

Playa del Cocos with surfer walker

Cost of Living: $$

Playa del Cocos, or simply Cocos to locals, is such a relaxed and small town. It offers the perfect lifestyle for retirees as it doesn’t have a lot of tourists but still has enough grocery stores and amenities. Additionally, you don’t need a car as it’s easy to walk throughout the whole town. It’s also not far from the Liberia airport and medical care is easy to access.

Tip: Make sure to visit the feria at the Garden Bar every Thursday night and Saturday morning for local produce and art.

Who Would Like to Live There: Retirees and Surfers

Pros:

  • Very affordable living
  • Lively beach town
  • Very friendly people

Cons:

  • Nightlife is limited
  • Only basic amenities are available
  • Trash in streets

9. Tamarindo

 Best Place to Live for Surfers

Tamarindo Beach at sunset

Cost of Living: $$

Tamarindo’s a beautiful place for all things beach-related. It’s perfect for surfers and those with an active lifestyle. It’s one of the most popular beach towns in CR but it’s not overcrowded. It also has a fantastic climate year round. Just because it’s small doesn’t mean it’s lacking great dining choices. You can expect cuisines such as Middle Eastern, Asian, and Italian as well as local options.

Tip: Make sure to see the Olive Ridley turtles at Ostional beach, a two-hour drive from Tamarindo.

Who Would Like to Live There: Surfers and Beach Lovers

Pros:

  • Great beaches
  • Fantastic nightlife
  • Affordable prices

Cons:

  • Very hot in the summer
  • Quite touristy
  • Lacking quality medicare

10. Quepos

  Best Place to Live for Nature Lovers

Quepos Beach and palm trees

Cost of Living: $$

Quepos is a town famous for fishing and its proximity to national parks. Additionally, it’s not as populated by expats or tourists, aside from those visiting Manuel Antonio. It’s not as developed as the other areas mentioned here, but it still has all the necessary amenities. Quepos also has great beaches and the recently installed Marina Pez Vela – useful if you’ve got a boat.

Tip: Visit Manuel Antonio National Park to experience the unique wildlife of CR.

Who Would Like to Live There: Nature Lovers and Sport Fishers

Pros:

  • Lots of fresh produce and fish available
  • Not far from San Jose
  • Still has bigger stores

Cons:

  • Very warm, so essential to have AC
  • Limited dining options
  • Storage space is limited

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