Costa Rica's most expensive cities

Hello everyone,

What are the most expensive cities to live in Costa Rica? What are the costs of things such as rent, utilities, weekly groceries, dining out, etc.?

What is the lifestyle like in these cities, for expats and locals?

What are the different neighbourhoods like? Are there more affordable areas?

Do you have any experience living in any of Costa Rica's most expensive cities? What was it like?

Which cities in Costa Rica would you recommend? Are there any that offer particularly good value for money when it comes to cost of living?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


Well I believe the most expensive cities in Costa Rica are the beach towns on the Pacific in the Gunacaste area as they cater to wealthy tourists. Also electricity is higher there I have heard and most people need AC at the beach. I have been living in the central valley area for many years now and it is fairly cheap a single person who is thrifty and does not eat out alot or drink alot of beer can live on under 1000 dollars a month. I live in Grecia which is very safe and extremely clean and friendly but most of all has perfect weather year round 72 and sunny every day (in rainy season it rains in the afternoon/eve) Hope that helps.


HI I agree with Martin but also have by experience to add the MOST expensive areas here in Central Valley are ESCAZU,  Santa Ana, SOME parts of San Jose (where yesterday a friend and I HAD to be in San Jose for lab tests..and a small cafe wanted $17 plus 20% tax and tip. for a SANDWHICH  or an OMELETTE ..and that was for BREAKFAST, .Well only wealthy Ticos and Gringos were seated there so we quietly slipped out..we are pensionados and here in Heredia and My area 10 minutes away Heredia Hills we can get a FAB,meal for under $6 including a fresh squeezed juice , and I mean almost a gourmet meal of either Filet of Talapia or Corvina (Breaded or with garlic sautéed to perfection, ... and all the trimmings IF you know which CLEAN little cafe to go to...and now and then a splurge in a more upscale restaurant in out village HUGE THICK JUICY STEAKS which I do not eat ( red meat or pork ), but limit to chicken and fish)  (which are   DIFFICULT to find in CR..(about $15/$18 with all trimmings)  and  we also live in a PERFECT CLIMATE  with No humidity . in HEREDIA Hills  a 14 minute bus ride from our gate  to center of Heredia City.
we have Spring like temps year round and fresh clean air and water...NO A>C needed and never too cold not too hot sunny and mild.  and no high "Gringo Prices" so  rents are reasonable and average of ($500/$600 per month INCLUDING Utilities and reliable and high speed  WIFI INTERNET>>.great area  have lived in for 27 years now. and one .cannot pry me put...

I'm not sure that it is true that electricity is more expensive in beach areas, but I would agree that people in beach areas likely use more electricity due to use of A/C and/or house fans.  We "always" have either fans or A/C running in our condo (we try to minimize A/C, especially during dry season).

I was told by a guy who lived a Jaco on the pacific recently that his electric bill was $400 a month because of ac. He said the rate was much higher over there for some reason. When I lived in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side people paid about an extra $100 a month to air condition a room or two.

Here is a link for electricity rates in CR: … IsImMiOjR9

We use Coopeguanacaste in Tamarindo.  Their rates appear to be less than ICE.

Our monthly bill can vary $180 to $400/mo depending upon A/C usage.  I have heard of bills as high as $700/month for those that keep their A/C on all the time (large 3 BR condo).  It is the usage that drives cost up so much near the beach.

Our bill is low, but it has increased approx. $10 a month recently. No A/C, and use fans occasionally.

My electric runs around 12mil a month but that's with electric water heating and just a fan and LED lights. Before the electric water heater it was about 6 mil a month.

What I have heard is that many people spend so much on A.C. because they don't insulate their homes well. But of course at the beach you are going to need AC more than in the mountains of San Ramon! I did live at the beach twice, though, for about a year and never used a.c.. Yes I was kinda hot sometimes but I got used to it. I did have a ceiling fan. Here  in San Ramon I use a table fan but not all the time, just on some days; never at night.

The most expensive places to live are probably the touristy beach towns, due to higher cost of everything because it costs more gas to bring stuff out there. And you have more tourists and rich gringos out there probably, as well.  Stuff like toiletries - toothpaste, shampoo, saline, etc tend to cost more at the beach. If you can even get it. I say that because back in  the day when I lived out there I had to go to San Jose every month or two to buy saline for my contacts! Maybe now the beach areas have such things.

Living in a more Tico area like San Ramon or Puriscal and so on is going to be generally cheaper than living in an area that caters more to gringos I think. But you can live anywhere cheaply if you set your mind to it. I lived cheaply in the USA too (though not as cheaply as here!)

If you want to truly live cheaply make sure you live near town and/or near a bus line so you don't need a car. A car is the most expensive thing, both for gas and upkeep (thanks RTV!) and insurance etc.

Buying a car here is crazy expensive! Maintaining it is cheap in some ways (mechanics are cheaper here) but parts can be very high sometimes and RTV makes you fix stuff that one wouldn't need to fix in the USA.

Living on a bus line you could avoid a lot of expense to do with cars! Even if you took a taxi sometimes it would still be cheaper than a car if you live close enough to stores!

Please explain what you mean by this.................. RTV makes you fix stuff that one wouldn't need to fix in the USA.

True  but you forgot to mention the lovely area of Heredia Hills just a 15 min bus ride from charming town of Heredia where prices and rents are much cheaper and no A/c needed and spectacular VIEWS Strange how Gringos forget to  checkout this fabulous area
.maybe they are too brainwashed to habe in.clicks woth overpriced Gringo proces like Escazu.Santa Ana,Grecia,San Carlos,Palmares etc and dont even explore lovely Heredia with its mall fine restaurants AND cheap clean cafes (sodas) where for under $6 you get a FULL delicious meseals including fresh juice..Maybe thoze Gringo clicks enjoy paying Gringo prices
Makes them feel important ??? LoL


rendrag :

Please explain what you mean by this.................. RTV makes you fix stuff that one wouldn't need to fix in the USA.

Okay, I don't know about the entire USA but where I came from the yearly car inspection only checked emissions. I know many places in the USA that are the same but I don't know about all of them. Pretty sure some states don't check anything.

Here, RTV checks all kinds of stuff and my Tico friends say "they really get you on brakes". Sure enough when I went the first time they got me on brakes, even though I'd just had new ones put on!  As a driver of 48 years or so I can tell you I keep my brakes good which is why I'd just had them fixed before I went to RTV.

My brakes were perfect. In fact it was having them re-done after RTV failed them, that screwed them up and it took me 3 more visits with the mechanic AFTER I'd passed RTV to get them back to good again! I talked to one guy who said "I failed for my brakes. Took the car back later that day, after doing nothing to them, and passed!"

But also, yes, there are many things that they check at RTV that they do NOT check in some major cities/states in the USA!

It's a fine line to provide a service to the people of making sure cars are safe enough to be on the road, but NOT gouging people who can't afford it for little things that don't really matter or making them fix brakes that have just been fixed! (for example)

Here's another one for ya: My Tico friend drives a moto. His turn signal works fine but he has to manually click it on, on the left. The right works automatically. While I would agree that it would be best that his turn signal should work perfectly, I don't think he should be forced to fix it.
A) it does work, he just has to flash it manually
B) he can't find the part and has been all over the place to try to find it so he can fix it
C) he can't afford it right now
D) a lot of people (gringos, Ticos, all kinds of people) don't  use turn signals half the time anyway and I've yet to see or hear of anyone getting a ticket for not using them

So to me this is a little "over the top" and is an example - along with my brake example above - as to why RTV "makes you fix stuff that one wouldn't need to fix in the USA", AND I'll go a step further and say they shouldn't make you fix some of this stuff at all.

Also RTV is a profit making company not a non-profit government service, from what I've been told. So is it possible that they are out to fail people so they can get that re-test money? I'm just asking. Because profit making companies are usually working to increase their profit.

My OPINION is that they go way over the line in making people repair things that don't need repairing sometimes.

AND, furthermore I wonder if they take bribes?... Otherwise, how is that I am always getting behind trucks that are SPEWING fumes all over the place? I'd be more interested in their keeping the air clean than in making sure my friend doesn't have to manually turn on his turn signal of that some cars don't pass their brake machine even with brand new brakes or that some cars fail the brake test and then come back without doing anything, and pass. Hmmm... I wonder how that happens?

Cry me a river.  We failed our first and went back with better understanding. If they indeed do take bribes ...... open your wallet!!!  What "stuff" do you have to fix here that you don'r have to fix in your previous country and why is that even relevant?  If you want US rules go live there.

Samramon, do you think inspecting cars in the US is a government service?  You sure seem to not be happy here at all. BTW, are you from Omaha?

TerrynViv :

Cry me a river.  We failed our first and went back with better understanding. If they indeed do take bribes ...... open your wallet!!!  What "stuff" do you have to fix here that you don'r have to fix in your previous country and why is that even relevant?  If you want US rules go live there.

I was asked to explain my previous post and I did so.
Why are you so hostile towards me for expressing my opinion? Are you the police of this forum who would try to enforce a "no negativity about anything Costa Rican" policy?

Are you promoting giving bribes in Costa Rica? I don't think that's such a good idea.

"If you want U.S. rules go live there"?! 
Now THAT's what I consider uncalled for negativity, not my opinion about RTV.

Why do you think I should I go back to the USA? Because I don't think any place on earth is perfect, not even Costa Rica?

I simply expressed an opinion that RTV seems like an unfair and overly stringent operation to me, and suggested that I think it hurts people (like many Ticos as well as some pensionados) who can't afford the required and sometimes unnecessary  (imho) repairs.

Why is that a problem for you?
You disagree? Okay. I have no problem if you disagree with me; that's sometimes the case in forums, where people are invited to express their opinions. Maybe we might find common ground by discussing it. Or maybe not. At least you get an honest opinion and reasoning from a different perspective. No?

If you read my posts about Costa Rica they are by and large positive. I choose to live here because it's better than the US in many ways, imho.
...But not ALL ways.

One thing you may note about my posts is I may point out things about Costa Rica that I think could be better, but I try not to attack other members for their differing opinions.

Believe me LOTS of Ticos HATE RTV much more than I do! It causes them a lot of stress and financial hardship because they can't afford the repairs, especially when it's a basically insignificant yet costly one. In fact, it was my Tico friend's current turn signal debacle that peeved me about RTV when I  originally mentioned RTV in this thread.

You have no problem with RTV? Good for you! Happy to hear it!

rendrag :

Samramon, do you think inspecting cars in the US is a government service?  You sure seem to not be happy here at all. BTW, are you from Omaha?

I answered the question about whether I'm happy here in my other post. Thanks for your concern.

Yes I thought inspecting cars in at least the state I'm from was a government service. But whether it is or not has no bearing on RTV's policies.

Why does it matter where I'm from? Do you have something against Nebraskans?
Just curious.
But no I'm not from Omaha. Where are you from, kind sir?

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