Guanacaste is the Warmest and Driest of Costa Rica’s Seven Provinces
Guanacaste is the warmest and driest of Costa Rica’s seven provinces. With a population of about 400,000 people, it covers the whole northwestern section of the country, bordering the Pacific Ocean and the country’s northern neighbor, Nicaragua. It is the most sparsely populated region of Costa Rica, covered in open pasture, protected park land, and tropical dry forest.
Prior to July 25, 1824, the region was part of Nicaragua. Guanacaste’s Annexation happened as a result of the people’s choice, and today people living in this region are known as “Guanacastecos.” The decision to leave Nicaragua and become a part of Costa Rica has long been recognized as a symbol of Costa Rica’s strong democracy, and the people take great pride in celebrating it.
Home to more than 65 of Costa Rica’s nearly 300 beaches—some remote and some the centerpiece of buzzing beach communities—Guanacaste draws expats and international tourists from all corners of the world. Known as Costa Rica’s Gold Coast, not only do the beaches check the boxes of beautiful, safe, and clean, but you can also find a beach to suit just about any lifestyle or activity you want.
Among the most popular beach communities for expats in the area are Playa del Coco, Flamingo, Tamarindo, and Nosara. These communities offer conveniences for daily living, business opportunities and infrastructure, and a natural hub for fun things to do. The coast is also dotted with plenty of up-and-coming towns as well. And you’ll find U.S. and Canadian expats almost anywhere in Guanacaste.
Costa Rica only experiences two seasons, rainy and dry. In Guanacaste these seasons tend to be the least dramatic, with a mostly hot and dry climate and sunshine nearly every single day of the year. While temperatures can exceed 90 F and occasionally fall into the 70s F in the evenings, average temperatures hover between 80 F and 90 F all year.
Even during the rainy season(May through early November), it’s rare to have rain every day and equally rare to have a day where it rains the whole way through. The Guanacaste region more commonly offers days that start sunny, with the occasional tropical rain in the afternoon or evening. The rainiest months here are September and October.
Retire in Guanacaste
Many expats report being able to live comfortably in this region on their social security or pension. They also enjoy a sense of community—the slower pace of life lends more time for friends and socializing, and the international draw creates an atmosphere where people are interested in getting to know their neighbors and willing to help those who are new to the area.
And moving to Guanacaste doesn’t mean sacrificing the amenities that would be available in an urban environment. At any point along the Pacific coast you are never too far from the major city of Liberia, where you will find modern infrastructure, world-class healthcare, and the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport. And with plans for continued expansion in resources and infrastructure, this region offers expats the perfect combination of laidback and convenience.
Lifestyle in Guanacaste
Guanacaste is the epitome of “Pura Vida”—the common slogan of Costa Rica. Throughout this region life is laidback. Time is relative; people are relaxed about scheduling—both the “mañana” mentality and the siesta are alive and well in this region. You may see someone walk into the grocery store barefoot, and that’s okay. Dogs run free on most of the beaches and play together while their owners admire another breathtaking Pacific sunset. Scooters and ATV’s are just as common as cars.
It’s a friendly place; locals and expats alike are known to be welcoming and willing to help. Many expats find they have a lot in common with their neighbors. In general, people prioritize living life to the fullest by leading a simple, peaceful, and happy existence. If you’re looking for a place to relax during your golden years, you can find it here. Many expats enjoy things like rich Costa Rican coffee, a good book, and a fresh ocean breeze daily. You can walk the beach or find a hammock to nap in any day of the week.
Those who seek an active retirement can also find a happy home in Guanacaste. Water sports are popular and easy to access. From surfing to snorkeling, scuba diving, paddle boarding, kayaking, and fishing, many enjoy making these activities a part of their daily life. The region is also conducive to hobbies like biking and hiking, and calming ocean views make it a perfect place to practice yoga and Pilates. Nature lovers will have a field day in Guanacaste; particularly those interested in marine life, tropical vegetation, and tropical birds—of which there are hundreds of species to see.
Cost of Living in Guanacaste
The cost of living is variable in Guanacaste depending on your lifestyle. Most expats in the region say they can live well on around $2,000 per month. Many find ways to live for less, and likewise, some spend much more.
You can rent a simple, one-bedroom studio apartment in Tamarindo, a 15-minute walk to the beach and town, for $600 a month. Or you could rent a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, ocean-view condo with a pool, North American appliances, and modern finishings for $1,300 a month. Go to a smaller, off-the-beaten-track town—Matapalo for example—and you can find a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom private home with a backyard and pool for $1,150 a month.
If you’re interested in buying a property, there’s a large range. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom ocean-view home in Tamarindo can go for $225,000. While in a small town like Santa Rosa you can buy a one-bedroom Tico-style house on a small plot of land for $30,000. It’s also possible to buy a plot of land and build a home for about 40% to 50% less than you would spend to buy something pre-existing.
Local produce like rice, beans, coffee, and eggs are inexpensive. Imported products are more expensive. What you spend on food will depend entirely on how much you plan to adapt to a local diet. The same goes for eating out. You can buy a traditional casado (a large plate of food typically including your choice of chicken, beef, or fish; that comes with rice, beans, salad, and plantains) at a soda (name of a small Costa Rican diner-style restaurant) for about $5.
The other large variable for expats in this region tends to be the cost of electricity. Most find air conditioning to be a necessity and it can be expensive to run. In contrast to this, things like medical care, veterinary care, and car repairs are significantly cheaper than anything you’d find in North America. And while property prices are higher than in other Latin American countries, you can still find ocean-view or close-proximity to the beach property for less than most coastal regions in the U.S. or Canada.
Sample monthly budget for a couple in Guancaste:
|Housing (rental of a furnished, two-bedroom apartment)||$700|
|Electricity (varies widely with A/C usage)||$50|
|Household help (maid once a week)||$40|
|Cell Phones (x2)||$30|
|Healthcare (four $50 visits to a doctor per year for two people + monthly Caja payment)||$150|
|Transportation (owning a car)||$130|
|Food/groceries (including alcohol)||$400|
|Entertainment (two people dining out eight times a month at local restaurants or other entertainment, such as movies, concerts)||$250|
|Misc. (rainy day fund and unexpected expenses)||$100|
Climate in Guanacaste
Expats from around the world are drawn to Costa Rica for many reasons; among the most popular: it’s noteworthy enjoyable climate. For such a small country, Costa Rica experiences a decent variation in weather patterns, so you still need to evaluate what you want in a daily climate in order to choose the best place in Costa Rica for you.
Guanacaste is the province covering the northwestern portion of the country, partially bordering northern neighbor Nicaragua and including the famed Nicoya peninsula. This is the hottest and driest region of the country, so for heat and sun lovers, this is the place for you.
Costa Rica experiences just two seasons, rainy and dry—also sometimes referred to as green and dry or even winter and summer. In Guanacaste these seasons tend not to differ dramatically. Dry season has less rain, but is not void of humidity. While it is less humid in this region than more dense rainforest/jungle covered regions, you will still find some dampness in the air.
Humidity in Guanacaste generally stays within the 60% to 90% range. Humidity in the 60s F and low 70s F is common from about December through May and higher humidity in the 80s F June through November. The highest humidity can be expected during the two months that also have the most rainfall: September and October.
While temperatures can exceed 90 F and occasionally fall into the 70s F in the evenings, average temperatures hover between 80 F and 90 F year-round.
Even during the rainy season, which technically goes from May through early November, it’s rare to have rain every day, and equally rare to have a day where it rains the whole way through. The Guanacaste region more commonly offers days that start out sunny, with the occasional afternoon or evening tropical rain.
During the months of January and February it’s typical to expect less than an inch of rainfall. While in months like September and October it’s possible for rainfall to exceed 120 inches.
Weather in Guanacaste is pretty consistent throughout the region, with the exception of the area around Tilarán and Arenal. This area starts to creep into the more jungle and rainforest climate, with more intense rainfall and higher humidity, as well as cooler air at higher altitudes which creates some of Costa Rica’s famed cloud forests.
Temperatures in this inland portion of the region are also slightly lower. A range of mid-70s F to low-80s F year-round can be expected.
The climate in Guanacaste generally supports a tropical dry forest landscape, with the exception of the Arenal area, which is rainforest. This region also has plenty of farmland and lots of roaming cattle. Because of the lack of rainfall in the region however, it’s not perfect for all crops. The most common in Guanacaste are sugar cane, cotton, and rice, along with some fruits including mangos. It’s possible to grow crops like coffee and cacao, but only in small pockets of the region, like near the base of Tenorio volcano which offers protection from the heat and more moisture, as well as uniquely rich soil.
It’s rare to need trousers or a jacket in Guanacaste. The hot climate keeps waters warm as well. Water temperatures along the coast in this region do not drop below 68 F, and are typically much warmer than that—usually in the high 70s F or even low 80s F.