Costa Rica is one of the most popular and well-known vacation, second-home, and retirement destinations for North Americans. Though a small country, Costa Rica’s regions offer a wide variety of climate, lifestyle, and landscape. And renting in Costa Rica is a great way to experience day-to-day life while looking for your own place under the tropical sun.
Much of Costa Rica’s lush tropical forests and sun-splashed shoreline has been designated as national parkland or reserve. Costa Rica is rapidly approaching carbon-neutral status in energy production and emissions, and its health care system is one of the most affordable and highly rated in the world.
All of this and more makes Costa Rica a perfect option for ecologically-minded retirees and second home buyers who want to experience their tropical dreams in a stable democracy.
Costa Rica has a lot of options when it comes to rental locations. All you have to do is choose where you’d like to live.
The Central Valley
Costa Rica’s capital of San José lies in the middle of the country, where the elevation combines with lush vegetation to produce a nearly ideal climate that is temperate year-round. And you’re still only an hour or two from Pacific beaches, depending on your location. Towns like Alajuela, Heredia, Grecia, Atenas, San Ramon, and Puriscal, as well as San José suburbs like Escazu and Santa Ana have become magnets for expats because you get quick access to big city conveniences and cultural activities while still living in the quiet countryside.
In the popular upscale suburb of Escazu, you can rent a fully-furnished, three-bedroom, 2,310-square-foot modern condo with views of the surrounding hills for $1,650 per month. The country’s top shopping and dining district is a short drive away, as is one of Costa Rica’s top private hospitals.
Grecia, about an hour to the west of the San José metro area, is typical of Central Valley towns that have become popular with expats who want to be in the mountains, but away from the big city. Condos and apartments are not as plentiful here, but rental houses can be found throughout the area in a variety of price ranges.
In the countryside outside Grecia is a three-bedroom home, fully-furnished and with a small fenced yard for $600 per month.
In the nearby village of Atenas, which has a very active expat community, is a one-bedroom apartment, fully-furnished for $1,000 per month. It sits on two acres shared with another apartment. There are views of the valley, a tropical garden, yoga loft, and wildlife filled forest with marked trails.
Just three hours northwest of San José is an up-and-coming region that has become increasingly popular with retirees and other expats. The sleepy community of Arenal features a small but active expat community known for informal get-togethers, club activities, and dinner parties. It’s quiet and rural. There is little development on the shore. No big resorts. No condo towers. And rarely any boat traffic.
The centerpiece of the region is 33-square-mile Lake Arenal and the 5,000-foot Arenal Volcano (active but not dangerous) on the lake’s eastern shore. Most foreign residents live in one of the homes dotting the green hills that cascade down to the shore, offering tremendous lake views, especially near the towns of Nuevo Arenal, San Luis, and Tronadora. The weather is spring-like all year.
A lake-view three-bedroom home in a gated community, within walking distance of a boat ramp and boat dock (you’re welcome to bring your own watercraft) is available for $1,000 per month. For $850 a month, you can rent a furnished two-bedroom home near the town of Nuevo Arenal, a lakeside village with gas station, grocery stores, pharmacy, medical clinic, and everything else you need for daily life that has become the epicenter of expat life in the region.
Northern Pacific Coast Beaches
Costa Rica’s northern Pacific beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world and have been developed extensively, though there are still plenty of calm and quiet areas. It’s also the driest and sunniest region—receiving the least rainfall of the whole country.
Many of the condo and apartment complexes overlooking the exquisite beaches are full of vacation rentals geared towards the tourist market. But there are still plenty of long-term rentals available.
In the beach resort town of Playas del Coco, on the northern Pacific coast, is a two-bedroom, furnished condo in the heart of all the shops, restaurants, and other amenities…and it’s a five-minute walk to the beach.
In the town of Potrero, a quiet residential area popular with expats about a half-hour south of Playas del Coco, is a one-bedroom home, with a shared large tropical garden and pool, for $400 a month. The beach and local stores are just five minutes’ walk away.
Central Pacific Coast Beaches
The beaches along Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast have long been popular with vacationing Costa Ricans. They were first a haven for surfers and sport fisherman as far as foreign visitors go.
But increased mainstream tourism and development has brought a variety of housing options to the area, from high-end to bargain priced, making renting in this stretch of Costa Rica a matter of choosing your level of comfort and amenities.
For rent in Jaco, a well-known resort town, just a short walk to the beach, is a three-bedroom furnished condo with air conditioning, cable TV, high-speed Internet, parking, and 24-hour security for $800 a month. Further south, in the picturesque beach town of Manuel Antonio, site of Costa Rica’s most-visited national park, is a one-bedroom condo, fully-furnished, overlooking the glistening Pacific for $700.
Southern Pacific Coast Beaches
Just a few years ago, the drive from the international airport in San José to Costa Rica’s vast and largely untouched southern Pacific beach took all day and then some.
But the completion of the coastal highway four years ago made it possible to reach extraordinary beaches like the ones around Uvita and Ojochal in just a few hours from San José and opened up the area to development.
The area has been in a rush to build up infrastructure for the new tide of visitors to the area, and renting in Costa Rica’s southern beach zone is now becoming more popular. A mix of new eco-lodges and planned developments, along with long-established rustic and beach hotels offer a range of choices for vacations and scouting trips. And there are plenty of options for long-term stays and living full-time, too.
For example, in the hills above the beach village of Dominical you can rent a two-bedroom villa for $600 per month, fully-furnished. For a furnished two-story ocean-view home set on two acres on a jungle-covered hill, with private pool, wraparound deck, and glass walls on two sides, you’ll pay $1,200 a month.
Finding Your Place
Rental prices in Costa Rica are on a par with a destination that has so much going for it. It’s not a new market, but there are new options in nearly every established area. And as one old Costa Rica hand puts it, “Lots of places compare themselves with Costa Rica, but there is only one genuine article, and you get what you pay for…stability, good infrastructure, great health care, and a proven reputation as an expat haven.”