Cost of Living in Costa Rica – Specifically the Costa Ballena area of Costa Rica

Costa of living info for Costa Rica

Costa Rica, a country synonymous with stunning rainforests, breathtaking volcanoes, and laid-back beaches, also offers a relatively affordable cost of living compared to many other parts of the world.  Sometimes I’m asked about the “cost of living in Costa Rica” or “Is it really cheaper to live in Costa Rica?”. Whether you’re considering retirement, a digital nomad lifestyle, or simply an extended vacation, Costa Rica can be a budget-friendly paradise.

Breaking Down the Cost of Living in Costa Rica

Let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of daily expenses in Costa Rica using the following estimated prices.  Note that these prices are from Uvita which is a little more expensive due to logistics and the fact that it is a pretty tourist-heavy area which pushes prices up maybe 10%-15% higher than other areas, and honestly I’m not a bargain shopper, I buy what is convenient and fits my needs, so being a little more selective is a good thing and could save you some money for sure.  I will often go to Palmar Norte which is more “locals pricing” and the prices are noticeably lower.  Note all prices here are as of May 2024 while we are going through a big (negative) adjustment in the dollar/Colone exchange rate which has made things more expensive in USD:

  • Meals: Eating out can vary depending on the location and type of restaurant. Universal fact here – if the restaurant prices in USD instead of Colones, you will pay more, definitely.  A typical local lunch can cost around $10-$15 for a full plate of food with a drink, while a budget-friendly option like gallo pinto (rice and beans), a common breakfast dish here could be around $4 and include coffee and a couple eggs. Groceries tend to be more affordable, with eggs at $2 per dozen, bananas at $0.10 each (they don’t sell by weight), and a liter of milk (about a quart) at $2.35 just to name a few common items.

  • Utilities: Expect to pay around $20 per month for mobile phone service with more data than you will ever use.  Electricity varies widely depending on your usage, but are considered pretty high here with many people reporting $200/mo, but again can vary widely from $40-$300/mo.  Internet is usually around $46 (starlink) to around $60-$100 (fiber optic connection, depending on speed)

  • Common services:  $6 for a haircut, $100-$120 for twice-weekly pool service (including chemicals), cleaning services for around $5/hour, landscaping with hand tools around $4/hour and with power tools (weed whacker, chainsaw, etc) around $8/hour which includes the machine, operator and fuel.
  • Transportation: Public transportation is a budget-friendly way to get around, with bus fares averaging around $2-$4 per local trip. Diesel fuel prices are around $4.55 per gallon.

  • Home & Auto Insurance: I have found that insurance is about what I paid in California, which is to say not fun but ultimately not crazy expensive.
  • Property Taxes in Costa Rica:  Fortunately, property taxes are very low in Costa Rica.  In general, the base rate is around 0.25% of the value – which means around $750 per year for a $300k house.  Note that there may be a chance of “luxury tax”, which is a whole discussion onto itself (overly complicated and poorly enforced) but it may add another 0.25% to your property taxes for a total of around .5% of value.

Keeping it Frugal

Living frugally in Costa Rica is definitely possible. Here are some tips:

  • Shop at local markets: Immerse yourself in the culture by buying fresh produce, delicious fruits, and local staples at ferias (farmers markets) and local supermarkets that cater to local families.

  • Cook at home: Eating out can quickly add up. Experiment with preparing typical Costa Rican dishes using fresh, affordable ingredients.

  • Embrace public transportation: The bus system is extensive and reliable, connecting most towns and cities. Consider exploring on foot or by bicycle for shorter distances.

  • Utilize free leisure activities: Hike through lush rainforests, relax on pristine beaches, and soak in the beauty of nature – all for free! Costa Rica boasts a wealth of natural wonders waiting to be explored.

Prices for Selected Common Food Items in Costa Rica

Note that I am converting to USD and also providing common US sizes – for example, milk is sold in 1 liter cartons that are unrefrigerated, but in the US half-gallon is more common and other items are typically sold in kilogram sizes (which is 2.2 lbs), so I have converted it here in the chart so you can compare more easily to your home prices.

Eggs $2 / dozen
Hamburger meat $3/ lb
Tortillas $1.60 /10
Beer $9.10 /6-pack
Bananas $0.10 each
Broccoli $1.50/ head
Mangos $1 /lb
milk $4.70 / half-gallon
coffee $3.60/ lb
beans 1.75/ can
Pork chop $2 /lb
mango juice $3.65/ half-gallon
butter $2/stick
bacon $9 / package
Tomatoes $1/lb
Sugar $1.25/ lb
Pineapple $2 /3-small

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