Facts about Costa Rica
Cost of Living
The cost of living is a topic that often comes up in ex-pat blogs, chats and videos because it's something everyone wants to learn more about before potentially making a move to another country. I will do my best to outline some of the true costs of living from my experiences so far in 2022. These are average costs* (I will specify when I am referencing actual costs).
One very important thing to keep in mind when reviewing the cost of living in Costa Rica - LOCATION - LOCATION - LOCATION! (Just like in Real estate). The location will always have an effect on what you can expect to pay for bills. For instance, in Costa Rica, the closer you get to the beach and touristy locations, the higher the costs will be for most products and services. Whereas the farther inland you go, the opposite occurs. CHECK BACK ON THIS PAGE OFTEN AS THERE WILL BE UPDATES IN THE COMING WEEKS AND MONTHS.
Before we dive too deep you must understand that these costs are based on living in the small town of Villareal, Guanacaste (just ten minutes away from the very popular beach town of Tamarindo, and one hour away from the International Guanacaste Airport). We have a two bedroom home, with an office / utility room, indoor & outdoor kitchen, indoor & outdoor living space, a 16ft X 16ft pool, mini-split A/C units in each room of the house (4 total). Please remember, these are costs based on my own experiences, costs will and may vary. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to help.
Here we go!
The cost of water has been quite a surprise. Considering we are only two people in the house and have an infinity pool that is circulating water in direct sunlight for upwards of nine hours a day, our average water bill comes in at approximately $12 USD ($15.45 CDN) per month.
May 18, 2022 - Reliable cable internet with 100mbps speed (with unlimited data) is approximately $30 USD ($38.62 CDN) per month.
May 18, 2022 - We do not have any mobile phone contract in Costa Rica, we simply get SIM cards (one for each of our phones: 2 total) and will re-load the phones online (or in the grocery store) when our data is running low. Between my wife and I our average cost for topping up our mobile phones is $8 USD ($10.30 CDN) per month total.
We are situated in a gated community which of course has HOA (Home Owner's Association fees) which cover security, clubhouse access & maintenance, as well as groundskeeping. These costs can vary from community to community and can be anywhere from $120 to $300+ USD per month depending on the gated community, the services included, etc.
May 18, 2022 - Electricity is a little tricky for cost as it can fluctuate significantly depending on your air conditioning usage. Considering we are not accustomed to the tropical climate of Costa Rica yet, we are likely going to see some wildly different electricity consumption depending on the time of year. During the peak months of dry season (February / March) and then the more humid months in rainy season (September / October) I expect higher bills. So far in the first 4 months of 2022 we are seeing costs of $160 USD ($206 CDN) per month.
May 18, 2022 - This is a work in progress, as we try to find that sweet spot for monthly groceries. There are a couple of ways to reduce costs in terms of groceries - a few of those are (1) avoid the gringo supermarkets (Auto Mercado) unless there is something super specific you need that you can't find in a local grocery store. (2) buy local products, unless you absolutely cannot live without your North American / Global brand name products, buy local products, they are much more cost effective and generally just as good of quality if not better.
Stay tuned on this one, as I will be providing more detailed costs for groceries on the coming weeks.
May 21, 2022 - Trip to Costa Rica's Costco (PriceSmart). What an exciting trip it was, and somewhat refreshing to see some familiar products and brands (not that we needed that but it was nice to see). We will be updating this site with some of the prices of popular items we picked up!
May 18, 2022 - It doesn't matter where you are in the world, gas is expensive these days and only getting worse. In Costa Rica the price of gas is regulated therefore every single gas station sells their gas at the exact same price throughout the country. As of May 18, 2022 the gas prices in Costa Rica went up to 933 colones per litre (approximately $1.79 CDN / litre) - still cheaper than Canadian gas prices!
Traveling to a place you've never been before can certainly be somewhat intimidating, and traveling to Costa Rica is no exception to that. Here is a bit of information to help you plan your trip and make it super easy. I'm not going to sit here and recommend a bunch of travel sites and whatnot for you to book your travel as the options are endless and it is so simple to book trips on your computer or mobile device these days. If you have any specific questions though, please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to guide you.
Costa Rica has two international airports (1) the main and largest airport is Juan Santamaria International Airport located in Alajuela just outside of the capital city of San Jose, and (2) Guanacaste International Airport - formerly known as Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport located just outside of the city of Liberia. The Guanacaste Airport is a small airport that primarily services the tourism industry and the more northern parts of the country, whereas the Juan Santamaria airport is more centrally located and reaches a much broader part of the country. Personally I have only ever flown into Liberia so far, and I have really come to enjoy that airport. It's small, it's impossible to get lost in it, and as busy as it can be, it pales in comparison to busy airports like the Toronto Pearson International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and so on. If your intimidated by airports, no need to be intimidated by the Guanacaste Airport!
If you're traveling from Canada there are sadly only a few options (again depending on the time of year) for flying to Costa Rica. For the moment I will focus on traveling into Liberia since that's where my experiences have been. The two major airlines in Canada both have service to Liberia. Westjet flights originate year-round out of Toronto Pearson Airport and during the high season (November through April) Westjet flights can be taken directly out of Calgary International Airport non-stop to Liberia. Air Canada flies out of the Toronto Pearson International Airport (and only during high season). If you are choosing this airline during off-peak season you will most definitely be flying with one of their airline partners with a connection in the USA. There are other carriers who are starting to fly to Costa Rica from Canada, Sunwing and Air Transat, but at this point they seem to only operate their routes to Liberia during the high season.
One thing is certain book your flights well in advance not only to get a decent price but also to secure your spot on the plane. Over the years Costa Rica has become a mecca for tourism, attracting people from all parts of the world so flights can be snatched up quickly and so can hotel rooms and car rentals.
Keep checking back for more updates
If you're looking for a wide variety of options for accommodations you've come to the right place. Costa Rica has everything from the Four Seasons right down to Hostels with everything in between. I remember our very first visit to Costa Rica we wanted it to be special and went all out by booking one week at the Westin Playa Conchal Resort. At the time this was the only Westin in the world that was all-inclusive. We absolutely loved the hotel, the food, and everything about it. But what it was missing was the Costa Rican vibe. Huge all-inclusive hotels have never been all that much of a thing in Costa Rica (until maybe recently), the more popular options seem to be smaller hotels and even more so boutique hotels. In all of the years we have been coming to Costa Rica on scouting trips or just vacation, our absolute favourite stays have been at boutique resorts. We fell in love with the Cala Luna Boutique Resort in Playa Langosta and have stayed their several times - we cannot recommend it enough it is simply an amazing property with fantastic rooms, service with a smile, unique culinary experiences, and stunning sunsets. It's a very special place that is bound to please even the most discerning of travellers.
Keep checking back for more updates
Fun Facts (and not so fun facts)
May 18, 2022 - Did you know that Costa Rica is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world? The country accounts for a mere 0.03% of the earth's surface but has 6% of the world's bio-diversity. Costa Rica is also home to more than 500,000 species of living organisms. Of this astronomical number of species an estimated 300,000 are insects. There's a good chance you can see more species of insects in one day in this country than in any other country on earth (that might not be something you aspire to do, but to each their own).
May 18, 2022 - Costa Rica is home to four native species of monkeys (1) the Central American Squirrel Monkey, (2) the White-faced Capuchin, (3) the Mantled Howler, and (4) the Spider Monkey. The two most common species to see throughout most parts of the country are the Howler and the White-faced Capuchin.
The Howler monkey is aptly named as such as you can hear them howl from miles away every morning and around sunset. They are considered to be the loudest land animals earth having the ability to reach upwards of 140 decibels when howling. If your interested, do a google search to see what 140 decibels can compare to and you may be surprised. Generally speaking the Howler monkey's will be seen high up in the trees, usually not getting too close to humans.
The White-faced capuchins are typically little trouble makers, they can often be found swiping peoples belongings if left unattended - as they are known to be rather mischievous. and they always seem to have a certain smirk on their face.
as cute and cuddly as some of these monkeys may be, like any other wildlife, these animals can be dangerous so it's best to leave them be and keep your distance at all times. Also note the general rule in the country is not to feed the wildlife period! They have plenty of food and they know how to get it themselves.
May 30, 2022 - Did you know that Costa Rica has a version of Costco located throughout the larger centres in the country? PriceSmart stores can be found throughout a few locations in the country and as mater of fact can be found in several other Latin American and Caribbean countries. Costco and PriceSmart originally merged in the early 90's and then split apart a few years later. The overall look and feel of PriceSmart in Costa Rica is very similar to that of Costco in North America. You need a membership to shop there (their membership structure is pretty much the same as Costco's), the stores are a very similar layout which include an eyeglass and prescription area, electronics, home products, automotive products, alcohol, bakery, produce, frozen, and meat section and many of the same / similar products that you find in Costcos can be found there (even some Kirkland products). If you're looking to spend a considerable amount of time in Costa Rica or are travelling to Costa Rica with a larger group you should consider checking out PriceSmart and stock up on things since it can be somewhat less expensive than stocking up at local grocery stores (depending on what you need). At this moment there are currently 8 PriceSmart locations in the country, one in Liberia and the balance can be found in/around the capital city San Jose.
Keep checking back for more updates
May 30, 2022 - As the seasons change also so do the bugs...or at least it seems that way. In the past few months we've been keeping track of the different types of bugs that we see in our area and have noticed that as the months (and seasons) change, so do the bugs. Some bugs seem to consistently make appearances but their frequency seems to change. I've started compiling a month by month list of what we've experienced with creepy crawlies in the area.
Ants, ants, and more ants of all sizes. Since the month of November is the shoulder season from rainy to dry in Costa Rica it is typical to see an influx of ants in the area as they are in search of water. It's best to get them taken care of as soon as possible if you see them encroaching on/in your house as they can get out of control and are somewhat of a nuisance. There are an estimated 600 different species of ants that can be found in Costa Rica, some of which can deliver a power bite. The most notorious would be the bullet ant. It's been reported that when you get stung by a bullet ant it feels like you have been shot. Other species to be concerned with are fire ants and leaf cutter ants, if you get bit by one of these you may experience some swelling and feel a burning sensation but that's about it.. None of these bites from ants would be deadly, but some may make you wish you were.
December / January / February / March
The next four months are somewhat less fun in terms of bugs (at least for those of us who don't really enjoy critters). We've seen our share of giant grasshoppers (up to about 8 inches long), tarantulas (the size of my hand), scorpions, and a few snakes. None of these critters are on a manhunt to get you..they will typically be more scared of you than you are of them (hmm...) Nonetheless they are creepy as heck and always come as a surprise to encounter.
April / May
April and May seem to be what is known as "beetle season" in Costa Rica. Shortly after the first rains come, we start to see June bugs (here they are called May beetles), they are the size of a grape and at night they come out and like many bugs, seem to be attracted to light. We learned early on, that turning on our bright patio lights in the evening was a bad idea, it was pretty their bat signal to come on over. These beetles won't harm you, they are just plain annoying and gross. We've seen other larger beetles (the size of a half pecan but these have been very infrequent. The strange thing about the beetles is that as quickly as they came, they left almost just as quickly. By mid-end of May the May Beetles were virtually gone (we do see the odd one here and there but not nearly to the extent as we saw a few weeks prior). The other critters that made regular appearances were the frogs and toads - wow, and these guys get big and loud. The toads / frogs will come out at night at the end of April as their mating season begins. It's not uncommon to see several of them gathering around or in your pool or a water source close by. One evening I counted 8 frogs / toads in and around our pool. In the morning it was also not uncommon to find some of these toads/frogs sleeping behind the throw pillows of our outdoor patio furniture. Now keep in mind, I'm no expert in bugs and amphibians, but I can tell you that I actively avoid any of these critters including the toads/ frogs as there are many in the country that are poisonous - so always best to keep your distance (as well as, and especially your pets). By the middle to end of May all the toads/ frogs seem to have vanished, we don't see them around the pool at night and we don't hear there crazy loud mating calls.
I know this only captures about 7 months of the year, so we will continue to update this as the months go on, to see what else mother nature brings in terms of critters. One thing is for sure, being in this country you have to expect and be aware that you will always see critters. Unlike in Canada the majority of the critters don't need to go hibernate...so, snakes, spiders, ants will always always be somewhere out there - so keep an eye especially for those of you, like me, aren't fans of them.
May 30, 2022 - Costa Rica is one of about 39 countries in the world without an army. As a matter of fact, Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949 after a very intense civil war in the country. The country decided it would focus more efforts on education, culture, and healthcare. Don't be surprised though to to see US Navy aircraft at the major airports in the country every so often...