Costa Rica is one of the most popular places for digital nomads living and working remotely. And it's no wonder - Costa Rica has beautiful beaches, an excellent living standard, a slow pace of life, and many other benefits that make it a great place to live.
In this article, we will break down the ins and outs of living as a digital nomad in Costa Rica: the pros and cons, best places to live and work from, expected living expenses (rent/utilities/transportation), and how to find housing in Costa Rica.
Why Digital Nomads Enjoy Living and Working from Costa Rica
Living in Costa Rica can be summed up in one term: Pura Vida. Literally translated, it means "pure life" or "simple life", but locals use it to say hello and goodbye, and to express that all is well. Mostly, Pura Vida refers to the lifestyle unique to the Costa Rican approach to life: laid-back, easy-going, slow-paced, with a warm and friendly attitude.
Add tropical temperatures year-round, breathtaking beaches, lush green jungles, delicious food, rich and diverse culture, and it's no wonder that digital nomads never want to leave once they've immersed themselves in the Pura Vida.
Why Remote Workers Choose to Live in Costa Rica
It's not just for retirees - Costa Rica has been trending as a digital nomad destination for a few years now. It offers many places to work from, acceptable internet speeds in most cities, and you can get comparatively cheap flights anywhere in Central America. Also, medical care, the healthcare system, and health insurance in Costa Rica are overall decent and affordable.
While living costs are quite high compared to other Latin American countries like Colombia or Mexico, for those who enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle and living in a new country, Costa Rica can be an excellent choice. The rainy season, a.k.a. "Green Season" (also "winter" to Costa Ricans) generally falls between May through November - and some actually say this is the best time to be in Costa Rica.
We've touched on some of the specifics, but let's break it down into the pros and cons of living in Costa Rica as a digital nomad.
Pros of Living and Working in Costa Rica
Costa Rica offers anything and everything you would expect from a tropical tourist destination:
- Wonderfully pleasant, tropical weather year-round
- Dazzling beaches galore, on both the Pacific Coast and Caribbean Coast
- Lush green rain forests
- Gorgeous national parks
- Incredible food from international cuisines
- Rich, diverse culture
- Hiking, surfing, diving, buzzing night life are at your fingertips
- Easy and cheap Sim cards are available
- The public transport system can take you all around the country for as little as $20 USD
- Speaking the local language, Spanish, isn't strictly necessary, as English is widely spoken in the cities. But of course it helps you go beyond your digital nomad bubble and truly immerse yourself in the Costa Rican culture and meet the "ticos", the colloquial name for Costa Rican locals.
- Proximity to countries in Central America and North America like USA, Canada, Panama, or Nicaragua
One of the biggest factors to consider is the new Digital Nomad Visa that allows foreign nationals and their families to live and work in Costa Rica for at least a year, with the option of extending it to two. This new law was passed very recently on August 11, 2021, so some kinks are still being worked out, but people should be able to apply for the digital nomad visa within a matter of weeks.
Cons of Living and Working in Costa Rica
- Relatively high living costs compared to other countries in Central America and Latin America.
- Food can be expensive, too; a pizza for one can cost up to $15 USD. On the other hand, there is a good selection of fruit and veg at low cost (or at least reasonable prices) in the local supermarkets or at the myriad of beautiful farmers markets, and cheaper meals at local sodas (traditional Costa Rican restaurants) or bakeries.
- Internet and data speeds aren't the best, even in the cities. Wi-Fi speeds vary significantly and fiber optic is not widely available...yet. Things are slowly improving, so do your individual research before you choose a city and place to live.
- Data coverage through Sim cards can be sparse, despite 4G availability, especially in smaller towns.
Costs of Living for Remote Workers in Costa Rica
The costs of living in Costa Rica vary depending on the city you decide to live in. As a rough estimate, living costs can run as high as $2,600 per month for living somewhere with better internet speeds and international cuisine - such as San José - or drop down to around $1.500-ish if living outside of a major city where rent is cheaper but your options are less.
Based on our research on AirBnB, Booking.com, the cost-of-living database Numeo, NomadList, and our community's own experiences, we've compiled this overview of living expenses in the digital nomad hotspots in Costa Rica.
Keep in mind that these are average costs for one person at the time of writing this article and may still vary based on season, living area, and availability.
Best Places to Live in Costa Rica for Remote Workers
The six locations listed in the cost overview above are high on many digital nomads' and remote workers' lists. As remote workers, the number one thing we need is internet and experience has shown that our chosen six locations do have some of the most reliable coverage.
If Costa Rica is your dream destination to live and work, you'll find everything you could need, want, or dream about at these locations. Of course this beautiful country has many more to offer. But check out our more detailed descriptions to help you decide on the best starting point for your upcoming Pura Vida.
1. San José (Central Valley)
San José in the Central Valley is the capital city of Costa Rica, where most expats end up living at some point or other. The infrastructure is relatively advanced compared to other cities and towns outside San José. There are well-maintained parks everywhere, which makes for a pleasant living environment despite being very busy during rush hours.
Above all, San José offers a great living experience for the expat community. In addition to what are probably the fastest internet connections in the country, there are a number of coworking spaces in San José that can be rented at reasonable prices per day - as low as $15/day if you're renting on a monthly basis. There is also a wide range of international cuisine and a vibrant nightlife scene, especially in the Escazu district.
Check out the main coworking spaces in San Josè:
2. Puerto Viejo
The epitome of Pura Vida! Digital nomads frequently compare Puerto Viejo to living in Bali. The reason is the laid-back atmosphere and slow pace of life, as well as its proximity to nature - including white sand beaches and coral reefs, which make it a popular destination with surfers and other water sport enthusiasts.
Puerto Viejo has a few coworking spaces that are more expensive than their counterparts in San José, but generally speaking it's a cheaper living option. The main downside is that the internet coverage comes and goes in Puerto Viejo; most digital nomads end up getting mobile data plans to make sure they can work efficiently - though even on Sim cards, coverage can be iffy.
Here's a top-list of coworking spaces in Puerto Viejo:
3. Santa Teresa
Digital nomads love Santa Teresa for its near-perfect weather - almost year-round, the sun shines brightly on Santa Teresa. The beaches are some of the best in Costa Rica with white sands and plenty of surf spots for beginners to experts alike. Those living here rave about how living costs are lower than other digital nomad hotspots around Costa Rica while still offering okay internet coverage.
Coworking in Santa Teresa is limited to a small number of excellent spaces. They tend to be more expensive than others in the country, but overall living costs for digital nomad workers tend to be lower. Santa Teresa is also known as a great place for networking and making new connections with other remote entrepreneurs.
Here are some coworking options in Santa Teresa that our Tribers love:
And of course, there are our WiFi Tribe chapters we frequently host in Santa Teresa. Keep an eye on our calendar for the next time we beach and surf it up there.
Tamarindo is one of the most popular tourist hotspots in Costa Rica. Not only is it a popular beach destination for summer-seekers, but digital nomads living in Tamarindo enjoy living near the best surfing beaches and activities that Costa Rica has to offer, like surfing, scuba diving, and horseback riding.
Like in Puerto Viejo, internet coverage can be an issue here; however, there are some coworking spaces that make up for this problem. Digital nomads also love Tamarindo as a great place for networking and business.
Good to know: High season in Tamarindo runs from December to April, which drives living costs up. However, if you're living in Tamarindo during low season (May through November), your living costs will be significantly lower than the rest of Costa Rica - especially when it comes to rent prices!
Check out these coworking spaces in Tamarindo:
Granted, Liberia is a little off the beaten path compared to other digital nomad hotspots. In fact, some people living in Liberia describe it as a "sleepy beach town", which is exactly what makes living there so great for those looking for a break from city life - there's that Pura Vida again.
Internet coverage in Liberia is spotty and there aren't many coworking spaces here - currently just the one, in fact, GuanaWork - so digital nomads who plan on working will need to get mobile data plans.
But it offers the biggest plus for digital nomad beach town destinations: living costs are overall quite a bit lower than in the rest of Costa Rica. This is probably why it's currently in first place on NomadList's Costa Rican destinations for remote workers.
Samara is a small beachfront city, known as an "eco-friendly" place to live with plenty of nature, beaches, and forest trails nearby.
Samara has few coworking spaces and the internet coverage is - no surprise - spotty, so remote working options are somewhat limited here. But that's okay! Digital nomads living in Samara tend to have more of a "break" living and working lifestyle than other digital nomad hotspots.
Remote workers come here to enjoy epic beaches and nature trails, not for constant work. If that's not living the Pura Vida dream, then we don't know what is.
Check out Samara's coworking spot LoCoworking here.
Other favorites and hidden gems that are worth at least a weekend visit around the country are cities, small towns, and provinces like:
- Guanacaste, a.k.a. the Costa Rica Gold Coast
- Santa Ana
- Arenal Volcano
How Remote Workers Find Housing in Costa Rica
Your options for finding housing in Costa Rica as a digital nomad depend on which city you choose as your living and working space.
- Hostels like Selina, which also include coworking spaces.
- Coliving organizations like WeWork or Outsite
- Expat Housing Costa Rica is a property management company that might be able to help you find housing in San José.
- Check out this Facebook group House Sitting in Costa Rica
- Driving around Costa Rica, you'll see signs proclaiming "Se Alquila" on apartment buildings and in windows. Se Alquila means "to rent". These will probably be the outrageously cheapest options you'll find in the country, compared to booking via tourist sites like AirBnB or Booking. These are places where locals live, so they tend to be functional rather than fancy - yet well worth it if you're living and working in Costa Rica on a tight budget.
It's also worth joining the following Facebook groups to keep an eye out and an ear on the ground for housing offers. Each touristic destination has its own real estate and rentals group where you can post your request for an apartment and find available listings:
- Expatriates in Costa Rica
- DigitalNomad Costa Rica
- Tamarindo Rentals and Real Estate
- Tamarindo Apartment Rentals
- Puerto Viejo Property for Sale, Rent, or Wanted
- What's On Santa Teresa
Should You Consider Living in Costa Rica?
Okay, for real though: If a tropical Pura Vida lifestyle is what you crave, you cannot go wrong with Costa Rica. If spotty internet coverage drives you batty or will really impede your remote work, then you might want to consider other options.
The cost of living is cheaper than in many other digital nomad hotspots around the world, but it's quite high when compared to other neighboring countries. Both housing and food tend to be more expensive, though you can always find cheaper options.
Another big plus to consider is the new Digital Nomad Visa is a great advocate for its own country and will make it easy for you to stay in the country without having to go on frequent "visa runs" - which might offset the higher costs of living in the end.
Pura Vida it up with our Digital Nomad Community
WiFi Tribe loves Costa Rica - we've been to Santa Teresa several times and the members on chapter never want to leave. We'd love for you to join us on our next chapter there, so keep an eye on our chapter calendar and become part of our remote working community!