North Pacific Coast, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s North Pacific Coast, also known as the Gold Coast, has been an expat haven for decades thanks to a dry and warm climate, beautiful beaches, and a laid-back lifestyle. In towns like Playa Flamingo, Playas del Coco, and Tamarindo, you have walkable seaside villages and expat enclaves where foreign residents of all nationalities have started new lives and, in some cases, their own businesses.
Surfers and sports fishermen were the first to explore this region, but today visitors of all ages fall in love with the area…some even deciding to call it home. There are plenty of amenities like world-class golf, high-quality medical care, stores full of imported items, top-notch restaurants, and much more.
The province of Guanacaste lures new residents with its beautiful coast, world-class surfing, dramatic ocean views, and endless opportunities for fishing, swimming, golfing, yachting, horseback riding, or just sunning yourself on the beach. A former fishing village, Playas del Coco is morphing into the major coastal hub of north Guanacaste. Its main road is paved and the airport in Liberia is only a short 30-minute drive away. Shopping seems to get better every day and the atmosphere at night is lively. There is also a number of a banks, a small emergency clinic, dental offices, hairdressers, pharmacies, an auto repair, and a major supermarket in Playas del Coco–everything you need for day-to-day living.
Those looking for a beautiful, unspoiled beachfront setting, as well as a sizeable community of expats, should find living in Potrero/Surfside, Playa Conchal, Brasilito, and Playa Flamingo all to be a good match. Conchal and Flamingo, especially, have undergone careful development, producing luxury residences and a wide variety of essential services, as well as a new permanent Flamingo marina attracting yachts and larger sportfishing to the area. Plus, a world-class championship 18-hole golf course in Conchal.
Retire on the North Pacific Coast, Costa Rica
The homes and condos in Flamingo are clustered on a small peninsula jutting out into the Pacific. The rock rises steeply from the water, so you’ll be living on the side of a hill. No big piece of property or large outdoor areas, but you get better views that way. The nearby popular expat community of Potrero offers homes on larger lots–and you can still walk to the beach.
Tamarindo is big on personality and recognition, but still small in size. Long-term expats number in the thousands and have created a tightly-knit community looking out for one another. It’s a walkable beach town—you can’t stroll through town without stopping several times to talk with friends—and the main beach street is lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants run by Costa Ricans, Israelis, Argentinians, Italians, Americans, Canadians, and a dozen other nationalities.
Tamarindo is in the middle of one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica—but despite that and its rapid development, it still offers small-town living. Life here is simple and laid-back. Langosta, located next to Tamarindo, one beach to the south, is an upscale residential community and an alternative for those who want to be close to the action, but live in a quieter space.
In Sámara smaller hotels are the norm. But some good restaurants run by expats from all over the world have brought Mexican, Thai, Spanish, and other cuisines; you’ll even find vegetarian, vegan, and organic options. And it’s still a working fishing town. The town’s fishing fleet, small open boats, head out into the bay and beyond—the day’s catch can be bought right off the boat each afternoon as the boats come in. The population has a larger percentage of ticos than the aforementioned beach towns, giving it a more authentically Costa Rican feel.
New residents to Guanacaste come from North America, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K., Argentina, Australia, and many other countries. All of which gives many parts of the province a cosmopolitan international ambiance.
The area also has a recently expanded (in 2018) first-rate international airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Daniel Oduber Quirós near Liberia) and top private international schools (CRIA and La Paz in the Brasilito area) and a number of smaller private schools around greater Tamarindo.
Medical care can be found in the way of a number of small clinics dotting the coast, including the 24-hour Beachside Clinic in Huacas, with visiting specialists, an ambulance, an X-ray machine, and a bloodwork lab. The newer Hospital Metropolitano has opened, also in Huacas, for the Medismart discount program. For major medical scenarios there is a public and a private hospital in downtown Liberia.
Lifestyle on the North Pacific Coast, Costa Rica
Unlike the Central Valley, the sun shines nearly every day on the North Pacific Coast and it rains less often. It’s also warmer, with temperatures usually in the high 80s or low 90s F. That means the landscape isn’t as lush and green as it is in most other areas of the country, but residents rarely complain.
Playa Flamingo is a quiet and private neighborhood. At the bottom of the hill there are a few hotels and a small all-inclusive resort. Next door is a shopping plaza with a car rental agency, some boutiques, and a few excellent restaurants. Around the corner is a tiny grocery store where you can get essentials.
Major shopping trips can be done in nearby towns like Potrero to the north, which also has a great fruit and vegetable vendor—look for the stand on the side of the main road into town. Fresh fish can be had from the local “fish guy,” who drives around town slowly in his refrigerated truck. Flag him down to buy tuna or mahi, just $10 for two pounds. If you’d like, make arrangements for him to stop at your house each week.
In Tamarindo you can forget the drudgery of walking up and down the aisles of grocery stores full of expensive, processed, and preservative-filled food. Side by side with the souvenir shops downtown are the small businesses frequented by locals. You can’t buy everything in one place. And you’re on foot. So, you’re forced to slow down and enjoy the place you live.
Like most small beach towns, Sámara is a place to relax and enjoy the sun, strolling on the palm-lined beach or enjoying the spectacular sunset each evening. It’s low-key Bohemian. Tank tops and board shorts are the preferred dress. There are plenty of surfers attracted by the steady waves. And for those who prefer to stay on shore and admire the clear, blue waters, there are several on-the-beach, your-feet-in-the-sand bars and restaurants.
Real Estate on the North Pacific Coast, Costa Rica
Real estate prices here are understandably higher than some other places in Costa Rica. You can easily spend several million dollars on an oceanfront estate, and houses with only a view of the sea are often as pricey.
But property shoppers can find plenty of bargains by looking just a short distance from the coast, at condos, or even along the coast but away from the chic expat communities around Flamingo Beach and Tamarindo.
Here are some recent property examples near the beach:
- A four-bedroom house just 10 minutes from the beach near Villarreal (about five minutes inland from Tamarindo) was recently for sale for $179,000. Also in Villarreal is a modern two-bedroom condo for just $159,000.
- A two-bedroom, two-bath, modern townhome/condo in a small eight-unit complex walkable to the beach in Brasilito boasts a great location, North American-style amenities and a community pool. Close to shops, restaurants, clinics, and international schools. Price: $180,000.
- Playa Avellana is a popular surfer beach 11 miles south of Tamarindo (35 minutes on unpaved roads). This small, family-friendly, quiet community has begun to see more development during the last several years. Here you can still find a one-quarter-of-an-acre flat lot near the beach for just $35,000.
- In Playa Hermosa, just north of Playas del Coco, you can find an 840-square-foot studio condo for sale with North American features like granite countertops, air conditioning, hot water, washer, gas oven. Also, a community pool and walkable to the beach, shopping, and restaurants. Price: $120,000.
Clearly there are many reasons why the Gold Coast of Costa Rica has experienced such explosive growth. If you are exploring beach life during your scouting trips, you will want to make a trip to this region to see if any of the communities are a good fit for you.
Cost of Living on the North Pacific Coast, Costa Rica
Most American, Canadian, and European expats in Costa Rica spend much less money on day-to-day expenses than they do in their home countries. But because of a higher-priced colón and persistent inflation, the cost of living for expats in Costa Rica has recently been increasing at a rate that experts say is between 10% and 15% a year.
Monthly Budget Breakdown for a Couple on the North Pacific Coast:
|Housing (rental of a furnished, two-bedroom apartment)||$700|
|Utilities (including phone, electric, water, internet, and cable TV)||$250|
|Maid (twice a week)||$40|
|Maintenance and fuel for one car||$140|
|Entertainment (two people dining out eight times a month at top restaurants or other entertainment)||$250|
|Health care (four $50 visits to a doctor per year for two people, divided by 12 months)||$33|