Costa Rica is a popular country for digital nomads. Though it’s not as cheap as Thailand or Mexico, Costa Rica is close to the US and Canada, has great weather and tons of nature.
Before settling down into the pura vida lifestyle, there are many things you need to know and here is our guide to being a digital nomad in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has recently passed a new “digital nomad” law that allows stays for up to 12 months with tax exemption and no import tax on personal equipment. Contact a Costa Rican immigration firm to help you apply for this visa as there are specific requirements and an application to fill out.
Best Places for Digital Nomads in Costa Rica
If you’re going to be a digital nomad in Costa Rica, you’ll want to thoroughly research where in the country you want to live. Depending on your style of living, standards and needs, you’ll be able to narrow down the best place for you. Here are the best places for digital nomads in Costa Rica, particularly if you want to be on the coast.
Santa Teresa (Nicoya Peninsula)
Santa Teresa, the laid back remote surfing beach town in the Nicoya Peninsula is the main place for digital nomads in Costa Rica. There are many hotels and co-working spaces dedicated to the large digital nomad community who want to spend their days working in the jungle and having fun at the beach.
Pros: Excellent weather, tons of foreigners including young digital nomads and entrepreneurs, great surfing, beautiful beaches and sunsets, lots of food options, many hostels and rentals, very big spread out beach community so it doesn’t feel like as crowded as Tamarindo or Samara,
Cons: Super dry and dusty. Not really any local Tico culture. Only one ATM in town. Far from the international airports, major hospitals and other places of interest. Can be hard to get around without a car so most people rent long term or rent an ATV.
Jaco in the Central Pacific
A popular surfing town in the Central Pacific, Jaco attracts digital nomads who want to be close to San Jose, don’t have a limited budget and like city life. For those who enjoy luxury or having the same conveniences as North America, Jaco is the place to be. Read what it’s like to live in Jaco.
Pros: Many luxury and upscale housing options, only 1.5 hours from San Jose, lively nightlife, great variety of fine dining, easy to get around without a car, wildlife, great surfing, 4g common, always something to do
Cons: Jaco is a party town so more prostitutes, crime and drugs, expensive rent, gets super crowded on weekends, not a very pretty beach but good for surfing.
Playas del Coco in Guanacaste (North Pacific)
A small fishing village, Playas del Coco is now one of the most popular beach towns in Costa Rica. This town is ideal for someone who has a family or does not have a wild party life.
Pros: Easy to get around without a car, wide variety of housing options and budgets, only 25 minutes from Liberia International Airport, one of the sunniest places in Costa Rica, 50 minute boat ride to one of the best surfing spots (Witch’s Rock)
Cons: Limited restaurant options, not a ton of other digital nomads as Coco is mostly retirees and snowbirds, pretty quiet most nights of the year, lack of water as it’s very dry and arid
Tamarindo in Guanacaste (North Pacific)
For digital nomads who want to be around other young digital nomads or expats, Tamarindo is an excellent option. Tamarindo attracts a younger crowd due to the incredible surfing in the area and the more amount of hostels. There are more foreigners than locals in town due to high displacement (Tamarindo’s nickname is Tama Gringo).
Pros: Wide variety of restaurants, excellent surfing, huge population of foreigners, good nightlife, has its own local airport, beautiful beach
Cons: expensive, lack of Costa Rican culture, touristy, theft and house robberies more common, not easy to get around by bus.
San Jose (Capital city)
Though most people prefer living at the beach if they’re going to be a digital nomad in Costa Rica, some people like the city and want all the conveniences of city life. There are several neighborhoods in San Jose that are great for foreigners like Escazu, Barrio Esclanate and La Sabana.
Pros: San Jose international airport, wide variety of housing options, Ubereats, access to all the services, easy to get around by bus, excellent weather, lots of malls and movie theaters, easy to experience local culture, excellent variety of food, faster Internet
Cons: Lots of traffic, downtown San Jose is not the safest place, traffic, super crowded, roads and sidewalks are not in good condition and did I mention the traffic? San Jose is also not a very beautiful city so don’t expect to have sweeping panoramic city views like Hong Kong or Bangkok.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in Limon (South Caribbean Coast)
This funky little town in the Caribbean is popular with digital nomads who like the laid back beach life. It’s also great for those who like wildlife as this area is teeming with sloths, toucans, monkeys and all sorts of birds. In Puerto Viejo, you won’t find any high rise buildings but you will find all the basic services such as banks, pharmacies, laundry, etc.
Pros: Small expat community so easy to make friends, a party town so always something going on, beautiful beaches, wildlife, easy to get around without a car.
Cons: Far from the San Jose International airport, closest local airport is 1 hour away, known for having a higher crime rate, not as many luxury or upscale places. Fast internet is not everywhere. Rainier and more humid. Far from other attractions. Accommodations are more basic
Dominical/Uvita in the South Pacific
This part of Costa Ballena is for people who want a more nature, less touristy experience. Most of them live up in the mountains or by the beach so it’s very quiet and peaceful. You can read our Dominical and Uvita guides here.
Pros: Not a super popular area for digital nomads as there isn’t much of a nightlife (this can be a pro or a con depending on what you want), close to lots of natural landmarks, excellent hiking, lots of wildlife, good surfing
Cons: 4g is not common, hard to get around without a car, 4×4 is required since most houses are up in the mountains, far from the San Jose International airport. Not a huge variety of housing or food options but it is definitely growing. Also can be harder to meet people, it’s very quiet, very humid, tends to rain a bit more
Manuel Antonio (Central Pacific)
Manuel Antonio is a popular coastal town in the Central Pacific. Very touristic so it’s a great option for those who like that area of Costa Rica but want white sand beaches and more wildlife. About 3 hours from San Jose International Airport.
Pros: There is a direct bus from Quepos to San Jose, has all major services including a big hospital, good Internet, lots of food options and things to do, beautiful beaches
Cons: Expensive and expensive. Very touristy, must go to Quepos for more Tico culture. Manuel Antonio is spread out on a hill which is not pedestrian friendly due to lack of sidewalks.
Samara in Guanacaste (North Pacific)
For those who love the beach, yoga and surf. Though the popularity of Samara is growing a lot, it is still a fairly mellow, laid back beach town attracting many yogis and surfers. The town has many vegan/vegetarian and organic options. It’s 2 hours from Liberia International Airport.
Internet in Costa Rica: Speed, Cost, Etc.
It is more common to find high speed internet and fiber optic in Costa Rica as more providers are offering it, therefore prices are also more competitive.
Costa Rica Internet Providers
There are several internet providers in Costa Rica. Kolbi (ICE), which is the main telecommunications company is a government organization. Liberty, Tigo, Cable Tica and Claro are other Internet providers.
What to Know About Internet in Costa Rica if You are Renting
If you rent an apartment, you will likely have to put Internet in yourself. Or if internet is included, it is probably the slowest possible speed. You may need to ask your host if it’s possible to increase the Internet speed which you will pay them for (only the contract holder can change Internet packages).
One other thing to take note of is that in rainy season, it is quite common for electricity to go out for the rains. So if you need to be connected as much as possible, we recommend to get a battery back up/surge protector for your modem and router. Power outages normally don’t last too long but even the surges can be bad for your equipment.
Public Wi-Fi and Co-Working Spaces
When it comes to public Wi-Fi and co-working spaces in Costa Rica, it’s grown a lot. WeWork is in San Jose and there are more co-working spaces in the popular beach towns like Tamarindo and Santa Teresa.
We have stayed in a few condo towers in San Jose that have dedicated co-working and meeting rooms which was nice. Selina hostel has reinvented themselves to be a digital nomad co-working hostel so that’s a good place to start looking for to find a place to stay that offers good internet and co-working spaces.
However, cafe culture is nearly non existent in Costa Rica. There aren’t really many cafes with a working environment to be honest. Starbucks is really the only place I’ve seen where people will bring their laptops. Otherwise, most small local cafeterias and restaurants don’t want people to linger.
Sim cards are super easy to get in Costa Rica. A pre-paid sim card is the way to go for digital nomads since you can buy a chip for as cheap as $2 then you can load credit as you go. Most companies have data + calling plans.
Unfortunately, don’t expect lightning fast data speed on your phone. 4g is in Costa Rica but coverage is not everywhere.
Also make sure to ask your renter which provider you should get for a prepaid SIM card. For example, in Golfito, only Claro worked for us, not even Kolbi or Movistar. In Bajos del Toro, only Kolbi worked. When we lived in Playas del Coco, I switched from Movistar to Kolbi because I had absolutely no service in our apartment with Movistar.
Since the goal of a digital nomad is to make enough income to sustain their travel lifestyle, they want to keep their monthly expenses as low as possible. However, this is one of the reasons why most people don’t stay in Costa Rica very long. Unfortunately the cost of living in Costa Rica is not cheap. It’s nothing like Chiang Mai or Canggu.
If you want to rent a place near the beach or in town in a touristic destinations, expect rent prices for a minimum of $1000 USD a month. Going out to eat adds up a lot if you’re going to the more touristy restaurants and you can spend a good chunk if you’re partying, drinking and eating out a lot. Groceries can be a couple hundred dollars of month per person depending on how much you cook versus eat out.
If you have to pay for your own Internet, it varies between providers and locations. The average cost of high speed or fiber optic Internet (100 mbps) a month is around $50 USD.
This is what will take a huge chunk of your monthly budget: housing. Most towns have a variety of housing options but you need to keep 3 super important things in mind is how you are going to get around, when you plan to stay and how long you are going to stay.
You are most likely not going to buy a car during your time in Costa Rica so it’s best to live in town so you’re within walking distance to everything. And like they say, what’s the most important factor in real estate? Location, location, location.
Our Experience in Tamarindo area (2016-2019)
We lived about 10 kilometers (6.21 miles) away from Tamarindo. Our apartment was not super big with 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom and 1 bedroom we converted into an office/storage. It was completely unfurnished (not even shelves). We bought all our furniture including a stove, closet, bed, sofa, table, lamps, refrigerator and air conditioning units.
It was a very “Tico” place to live, which means nothing fancy and super duper basic. For this, we paid $375 USD a month plus utilities. We found this place by driving around Tamarindo and Villarreal and calling all the phone numbers on “se alquila” signs.
If you’re looking at Tamarindo downtown, furnished apartments and houses can run from $1000-2000 USD a month easily, particularly in the months of December through April. This is the busiest and most expensive time to visit and stay in Costa Rica.
Our Experience in Jaco (2015)
When we lived in Jaco, we lived in a gated condo complex. It was a fully furnished 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment. Our rent was $725 USD plus utilities (we paid 6 months in advance so we got a discount, original price is $850). However, our Internet was very bad so we paid extra to get faster Internet. Our friend who lived in a beachfront condo complex paid $2500 USD a month for his 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom, ocean view, very spacious condo with high speed Internet.
How to Find a Place for Rent
Short term stay (less than 3 weeks)
Your options are hostels, couch surf or apartment rentals. If you plan ahead, you may even be able to find a house sit that works for you. However, this takes a lot more work since you need to constantly be looking. Competition is high for house sitting in Costa Rica.
Hostels in Costa Rica generally are clean and have a shared kitchen with a communal area. For digital nomads, Selina Hostel is an excellent option with a co-working space.
Mid term stay (1-5 months) and long term stay (6+ months)
Airbnb and local listings are the way to go. You can also go to a real estate office but generally those can cost more because of the agents commission and they normally list the fancy places. In touristic areas, they usually only have the very expensive luxury houses or condos.
If you find a place you like on Airbnb that you want to rent for long term, contact the owner directly and see if they are willing to negotiate a long term contract.
Facebook is also your best friend. Each touristic destination has their own real estate and rentals group like Tamarindo Rentals, Puerto Viejo Rentals, etc. There you can post your request for an apartment and find available listings. I highly recommend putting notifications on them as rentals go fast, especially in high season.
Costa Rica’s cheap public transportation system can take you all around the country. However, the bus travel times are long and it is common to have to take a minimum of 2-3 buses to get somewhere.
As a digital nomad, you’re probably only planning on staying in one area your entire time in Costa Rica. Most likely you will find a place that is within walking distance to everything. In that case, you can think about getting a bike or ATV to make it easier to get around. Then if you want to travel around and visit other places, you can rent a car.
As for ride shares, Uber exists in many places in Costa Rica such as San Jose, Jaco, Quepos, La Fortuna, Grecia and Liberia but do not rely on it as your sole method of transportation.
Food isn’t the cheapest but you can eat cheap in Costa Rica. To eat cheap, your best options are sodas (traditional Costa Rican restaurants) or bakeries. A typical lunch of rice, beans, salad and meat on average is $7-8 USD at a soda in touristic places.
With the huge influx of immigrants the past several years, you can find more variety of food thankfully. Italian, Mexican, Argentinian grill and American are the most common international cuisines.
It is also more common to find vegetarian and vegan options on the menus.
Fresh vegetables and fruit are everywhere. Many towns have a feria (farmers market) every weekend where you can get local produce and specialty items. Not only do you help local farmers, but it’s usually a bit cheaper. Also in Costa Rica, there is definitely no lack of supermarkets where you can find everything you need.
One of the reasons why digital nomads choose Costa Rica as a temporary home base is the myriad of fun activities to do. Spend your weekends hiking in the national park or chasing waterfalls, end your day with happy hour on the beach. Surf in the morning, party at night. The options are endless!
In touristic towns, particularly the beach areas, bars are everywhere so take advantage of the happy hour. Some bars have happy hour from 11 AM -7 PM! Local beer (Pilsen, Imperial, Bavaria and Rock Ice) is around $2.50 and mixed drinks start around $5. Craft beer also starts around $5.
Craft beer is growing a lot in Costa Rica so if you love beer, you’ll have lots of options as pretty much all restaurants and bars in touristic destinations now offer craft beer.
Many digital nomads prefer to live by the beach because there are so many things to do and plus, who doesn’t want to experience the beach life in Costa Rica? Depending on which beach you’re at, you can fish, surf, SUP, swim or snorkel.
If you’re in the Central Valley cities, you can grab a bus or Uber to popular spots like Poas Volcano National Park. From San Jose, you can bus to every main town so you can easily enjoy weekend getaways to see beaches, rainforest, volcanoes and much more.
The best way to network in Costa Rica is to join the Facebook groups like Expats in Costa Rica, Digital Nomads in Costa Rica or finding the Facebook page of the town you’re living in and seeing what’s going on that week. Networking works largely through the events put on for tourists which makes it easy to meet people.
Costa Ricans are very outgoing and friendly people so even if you know a little bit of Spanish, it’s not too hard to meet locals. And when you meet one local, they’ll introduce you to everyone they know. We highly recommend learning a bit of Spanish before coming to Costa Rica so you can get to experience the local culture more.
If you stay in touristic places, it’s easy to just stick to English speakers which honestly won’t let you experience much of Costa Rican culture. Try to visit the surrounding small towns and villages to experience more culture and local life. Also, learning to surf is a great way to meet locals!
What to Bring and Other Important Things
It is very important to bring extra electronic equipment because it is hard to find in Costa Rica and expensive. Here are our recommendations.
- Bring extra battery packs. It is common in rainy season for the power to go out. A surge protector is not a bad idea either because of this reason.
- If you have an iPhone, bring extra charging cables. Bring extra USB-C cords if you use them.
- Voltage is 110 in Costa Rica so bring several convertors/adapters if you need to as they’re not super common.
- Extra SD, CF and memory cards. Bring multiple CF card readers as they’re so hard to find here. External hard drives. Memory card readers.
- Waterproof laptop case.
- Air conditioned businesses are not super common. Most are open air which can be a problem if you’re near the beach due to humidity, high temperatures and salt water. We run heavy programs on our computers and have lost a few pieces of equipment for these reasons.
This is something incredibly important many digital nomads gloss over. As much as we’d like to think nothing will happen and that we won’t ever need it, it’s important to make sure you are covered for your health in case of accidents, death, sickness, hospitalization, etc. And now, pandemics.
We HIGHLY recommend you to purchase a travel/health insurance and our recommendation is Safety Wing. They have insurances specifically for digital nomads!
Depending on your required treatment and which type of facility you visited, you will have to pay but the cost of healthcare in Costa Rica is very low compared to the USA. You can read more about the Costa Rica medical system here.
Costa Rica may not have an impressive city skyline or a cheap cost of living compared to other countries, but we have breathtaking waterfalls, volcanoes, beaches, rivers, mountains and jungles. Instead of working inside a 50 story skyscraper, you get to work in the jungle surrounded by toucans, monkeys and sloths. Or you get to surf and work every day!
The beautiful nature, peacefulness and tranquility of Costa Rica is what attracts people the most to this country.
Thinking about moving to Costa Rica permanently? Check out my living in Costa Rica stories!
I hope this guide helps you gain more insight into the life of a digital nomad in Costa Rica.
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