Low cost of living with a high standard of living

Benefits of Costa Rica Retirement

Enjoy a high standard of life at a surprisingly low cost

More and more Americans are choosing to spend their retirement years in Costa Rica and when you take a look at the way of life in this Central American country, this trend is not really very surprising. Compared to the USA or even Canada and Europe, the Costa Rican cost of living is extremely low. At a fraction of what you would need to spend in the US, you can already have a very comfortable or even relatively luxurious life in Costa Rica.

Among the most evident benefits of Costa Rica retirement are the free healthcare to all residents and the non-taxable foreign income which includes retirement income. data shows that consumer goods in Costa Rica are a whopping 237% cheaper than in North America. Housing costs are also 59% cheaper here than in the US and Canada.

Projected Expenses of a Typical Costa Rica Retirement

Your exact expenses will obviously vary depending on several factors, such as the kind of lifestyle you wish to have and the location of your home. For an average Costa Rican living an average lifestyle, $1,500 would be more than enough for a month. If you wish to have comforts like having a maid and frequently dining out, you will need about $2,500.

It's not hard to cut back on expenses in Costa Rica because the average prices are already low, to begin with. There are also several viable sources where you can get items like food for even cheaper prices, like the weekly farmers market. Even if you splurge occasionally on the pricier imported items, your overall spending will still be much lower compared to the average cost of living in the US.

To give you a more tangible idea of the cost of living in Costa Rica, here’s a breakdown of the average monthly expenses of a typical Costa Rican household:

  • Utilities (Electricity, Water, Telephone, Cellphone, Cable TV, Internet) - $190
  • Groceries - $275
  • Gasoline - $150
  • Car Tag Tax - $35
  • House Rental - $900
  • Property Tax - $30

This adds up to a total of less than $1,600 per month. You can also hire a part-time maid at $200 per month, bringing the total cost of living in Costa Rica to about $1,900. This is much lower than the $4,500 average monthly expenses of a family in the US with the same size and the same lifestyle.

Accessibility and Quality of Life in Costa Rica

One of the main concerns of American retirees considering the cost of a Costa Rica retirement is whether they will get to enjoy the same quality of life in this country like the one they are used to in the States. But many are quite pleasantly surprised to learn that Costa Rica offers just about the same things that you get in more developed countries in North America, Europe and Asia, and at much cheaper prices at that.

From basic necessities to international luxury brands and designer goods, you will have no trouble finding what you need and want in Costa Rica. There is no shortage of malls and shopping centers where you can shop for anything you need with no trouble at all. In addition, the country also boasts of several high quality but very inexpensive locally-made products that are definitely worthy of export.

A Costa Rica retirement is an increasingly popular choice for senior Americans primarily because of the cheap cost of living. Just imagine, a retired couple can easily maintain a lavish lifestyle on just $2500 a month, while a more frugal couple can subsist on less than $1500 and still live pretty comfortably. This total includes everything from basics like housing, groceries and utilities to luxuries like a maid, dining out and entertainment. Even for families with children attending private school, the cost of living in Costa Rica is still considerably cheaper than in the US, Canada and Europe.

The vast difference in housing cost is one of the biggest deciding factors for people thinking of retiring in Costa Rica. With rentals for spacious North American style properties amounting to only about a third of the cost in the US and Canada, this already accounts for huge savings. When you factor in the cost of consumer goods, which is about 40% lower, it’s easy to see why choosing a Costa Rica retirement is indeed a win-win situation for many retirees.

Healthcare Services

Another attractive factor of retiring in Costa Rica is the free healthcare services that residents are qualified to receive. The government takes a very active stance on healthcare and makes sure that all residents get to receive quality services for free. Everyone who lives in Costa Rica must register with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social or CAJA, which is the country’s healthcare system. Once you are duly registered, you and your dependents automatically qualify for free medical services, as well as medication. The free services include routine checkups, hospitalizations, lab tests and vaccinations.

Because of the excellent quality of healthcare services in Costa Rica, the World Health Organization (WHO) has named the country as one of the best places to live. They have a relatively high life expectancy of 79.8 which is higher than the US. The WHO has also commended the lower stress levels, more relaxed lifestyle and better diet in Costa Rica, which all contribute to the better health of its citizens.

Even if you opt not to avail the free healthcare services offered by the government, private medical and dental services are also cheaper in Costa Rica. Private practitioners charge $60 per consultation on average, which is about a third of the cost of private healthcare in the US. Almost all the doctors in Costa Rica are fluent in English and have received training in the US or Europe. Many of them are employed by the CAJA during the day and take patients after office hours. They also usually have clinics in any of the three major private hospitals in the country: Hospital La Catolica in Guadalupe, CIMA Hospital in Escazu, and Clinica Biblica in San Jose. There are also a number of companies where you can purchase private insurance for anywhere between $60 and $100 a month.

Housing Expenses

The cost for house rentals varies depending on the location and the size or style of the house. The average cost for a single-bedroom house or a decent-sized apartment is about $450 to $600 a month in the suburbs. A condo in the middle of the urban centers would cost about $500 to $900 a month, while a fully-furnished 4-bedroom home with luxurious features like granite countertops and Jacuzzis in the bathroom can cost about $1,500 a month.

The average prices for house rentals would naturally be much higher in tourist neighborhoods so you would want to steer clear of these places if you want to cut your expenses as much as possible. Also, most houses in Costa Rica are a bit smaller than many homes in the US and Canada but they are solidly built with excellent architectural designs.

Groceries and Eating Out

After living in the United States or Canada for years, grocery shopping in Costa Rica would be a very welcome treat. In fact, food prices here are among the most notable factors that make the cost of living in Costa Rica so affordable. Prices of food are about 30% cheaper in supermarkets here and you can save even more if you go to the farmers' market to do your weekly food shopping. For less than $50 you can buy all the vegetables, fruits and meats that your family of 4 would need for an entire week. Aside from being cheap, the produce at these markets is also very fresh.

When it comes to dining out, a full meal at a really nice restaurant typically costs $15 to $20. Hole in the wall establishments, most of which also offer very good quality food, will only charge you about $3 for a full meal that includes rice, meat drinks and a salad. If you have a craving for some of the popular fast foods in the US, there’s no problem because Costa Rica has all these fast foods as well, and with even lower prices too.

Goods and Services

All services and consumer goods are cheaper in Costa Rica than in the US. A maid costs only $2 per hour here compared to a minimum of $25 per hour in the States. Mechanics charge only $50 compared to $100 in the US, and electricians charge only $15 per hour which is much less than the $40 to $100 per hour that you have to pay in the US. Furniture, appliances and transportation services are all cheaper in Costa Rica as well. However, gas prices are higher here at $4.50 per gallon compared to only $2.99 in the United States.


Finding cheap but quality entertainment in Costa Rica is not difficult at all. For less than $5, you can buy entrance tickets to a variety of museums, outdoor concerts, music shows and street fairs. Ticket prices for concert tours of international artists are the same as in other nations. If you want to catch a movie at the local theaters, you will have to pay $4 but if you prefer outdoor entertainment, Costa Rica has plenty of parks, gardens and farm tours that are very cheap or even free.


The value added tax or VAT in Costa Rica is at 13% for most products and services but there are several exemptions. For instance, retirement income and foreign income are not subject to taxes. There is also no tax on education but private healthcare is subject to a 4% tax.

The tax system used by Costa Rica is territorial. This means that your income will only be taxed if you earn it within the country. If you have income from the US while living in Costa Rica, this is considered tax-free. But if you are a US citizen, you are governed by the worldwide tax system that requires you to declare all income no matter you earned it. However, with the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion of the US, your first $105,900 of foreign income is tax-free as long as you file it accordingly with the IRS.