Cost of Living in Costa Rica

The cost of living in Costa Rica is a popular topic among those considering it as a retirement location or for those moving down with their family.  Everyone wants to know how far their Dollar or Euro can stretch; which depends a lot on your life style.  If you have an affluent lifestyle where you are from, you will also have that type of lifestyle here, just for a bit less.  If you can live modestly using mostly local products, then you can save a lot.  More importantly no matter what your spending habits are, the quality of life here is so much more than anything I experienced in the U.S. with beautiful natural scenery, pristine beaches, clean rivers and waterfalls, fresh fruits and vegetables, locally caught fish, and the “Pura Vida” laid back lifestyle.  In this Blog I will attempt to portray some common expenses that the average retiree or person living in Costa Rica can expect.

Food and Entertainment

Food products and restaurants can be much less than the States or Europe and by how much really depends on how you live.  If you eat out a lot and buy American or European imported food items it can be expensive by Costa Rica standards.  However, if you buy local fruits and veggies at farmer’s markets and local food products at the supermarket it can be much cheaper.  Also there are local restaurants called “Sodas” that have a daily “Casado” for $5 to $7; which is a typical dish of rice and beans, a salad, usually another side, and a choice of fish, thin steak, chicken, or pork.  Even at high end elegant restaurants the prices are less than the same quality restaurant in a big city back home.

Entertainment is also more affordable whether going out to the movies, a bar and night club, or even attending a play (mostly in San Jose).  Although beers and drinks can be expensive, they are still less than what you are used to at a night club or bar.  Many beachside bars around here offer a drink special for happy hour and to watch the sunset.  Also there is tons of free daytime entertainment from hiking in the jungle to surfing or strolling local beaches.   Plus once you are a local you can receive discounts on the tour activities such as: zip-lining, rafting, sport fishing, and more.

Health Care

Health care, even private health care is much cheaper here.  When my wife gave birth to our last daughter it was around $3,500 for the C-section with doctor’s fees, medicine, and 1 night stay at the private clinic all included.  Dental care is much more affordable, as well as, minor and even major surgeries.  Medical Tourism is a becoming a very popular trend in Costa Rica with World-Class medical facilities like CIMA, Clinica Biblia, or Hospital Catolica in San Jose.  More and more foreigners are coming to have plastic surgery, dental implants, and all types of joint and even back surgery at a fraction of the cost.  Then the patient can recover in a lush tropical resort close by and be attended to their every need.   


Services like house cleaning, gardeners, and cooks are also very affordable at $2 to $4 per hour.  You can afford to have a full time employee in order to spend less time on household chores and more time enjoying life in paradise.

Imported Items
Cars and electronics like TV’s and cell phones are all much more here because of import taxes associated with them.  Diesel and gas at $5.50 to $7 per gallon respectively, along with car maintenance will be one of (if not) your biggest expenses here.  The mechanics are reasonable and parts are comparable in price, but there is more wear and tear on vehicles here depending where you live and what kind of road access it has.   A good 4×4 SUV or truck is the way to go and most people prefer diesel engines for better fuel efficiency and price at the pump.

Property taxes are 0.25% of the registered property value, so for example a $100,000 house or property pays $250 per year in property tax.  There is a fairly new luxury home tax for homes over $200k and that is about $2,500 to $3,000 per year.  Additionally a new annual corporation tax implemented in 2012 is equal to approximately $180 for inactive corporations and $360 for active corporations.  There is currently no capital gains tax in Costa Rica; which is beneficial when selling personal property investments.

Costa Rica and specifically the Dominical area is a great option to retire or raise a family.  The lower cost of living and much higher quality of life make this a place to truly consider for your next full time or part time residence!!

Dominical and Costa Ballena Area

Island at high tide and place to explore at low tideThe Dominical area is one of the most desirable real estate markets in all of Costa Rica to anyone looking for unsurpassed natural beauty, long stretches of nearly deserted pristine beaches, spectacular waterfalls, abundance of wild life, and daily adventures.   The Dominical area has lush green rain forest covered mountains sloping right into the Pacific Ocean creating dramatic landscapes and breathtaking tropical scenery.  This area has been World renown to surfers and nature enthusiasts for years, but now is being discovered for the first time by travelers and investors alike.  The Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica is still fairly early in the development curve; which is a perfect time to invest in this up and coming global retirement and travel destination.   There are currently great deals available for luxury homes, ocean view property, farms and development parcels, commercial property and hotels, and vacation rentals.

Dominical Beach and Town

The surrounding area of Dominical is also known as Costa Ballena; which means “Whale Coast” due to the annual migration of Whales along the coastline.  This area includes beach towns of Playa Dominical, Matapalo, Hatillo, Uvita, Ojochal, Quepos and Manuel Antonio, plus mountain towns of Platanillo, Tinamastes, and the city of San Isidro de General.  There is something for everyone in Costa Ballena from retirees enjoying the “Pura Vida” to families raising young kids.   There tons of outdoor activities such as; zip-lining, sport fishing from the Quepos Marina, white water rafting on the Savegre or Coto Brus Rivers, hiking and nature watching, horseback riding tours, ATV tours, World-class surfing spots, surf camps and lessons, birding, ocean kayaking, beach combing, and more.  The natural attractions of Nauyaca Waterfall and Diamante Waterfall (which is the largest in Costa Rica), the Whale’s Tail sand bar and rock formation at the Marina Ballena National Park in Uvtia, and Playa Ventanas with caves right on the beach are all within Costa Ballena.  The Dominical area in the Southern Pacific Zone is an amazing travel destination, place to live your retirement to the fullest, own a second home or income producing vacation rental, or buy the perfect piece of paradise to build your dream home.

Map of Uvita and Costa Ballena

Getting here has never been easier and Dominical is located only 3 to 3.5 hours from San Jose and just 35 minutes South of Quepos and Manuel Antonio due to the paved Costanera highway.  The Autopista del Sol toll highway straight from San Jose to the Central Pacific Coast has made driving to Dominical a breeze and cut the travel time by over an hour.  There are also daily direct flights from San Jose to the Quepos Regional Airport 30 minutes North of Playa Dominical and the Palmar Sur Regional Airport 45 minutes to the South.  Costa Ballena had the misconception of being difficult to reach and at times inaccessible, but recent infrastructural development has really opened up the entire Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica; which is now poised for sustainable future growth and investment opportunity.  There are even plans for a new International Airport in Palmar Sur/Sierpe area and is supposed to start construction in 2014; which would increase property values substantially in the Southern Zone.

Dominical Property can help you through the buying process from start to finish, and once a property or home owner we can help you manage and protect your investment.  Call or click today to begin making your dreams come true!!

Legal Advice

Legal representation is the most important aspect of purchasing property in Costa Rica after choosing a professional real estate broker.  Although much of the buying process is similar to the U.S., Canada, and Europe there are differences to the process and an attorney can walk you through the process step by step.  Most properties in Costa Rica are purchased through corporations for liability and tax purposes and your attorney will set one up for you.  The lawyer will also perform all the necessary title search and due diligence to ensure a property has fee simple title, free of any liens, no boundary disputes, and is completely safe to transfer ownership.

Below is a list of attorneys we have worked with and can recommend for prospective clients.

Local Area Attorneys at Law

Randall Sanchez Mora
Sanchez and Associates
Phone: (506) 2771-3501
Apartado: (P. O. Box) 201
San Isidro de Pérez Zeledón
011901, Costa Rica
Location: Pink/red two story building across from ICE Office and Delji Chicken

Ana Vargas Jara
Vargas Abogados
Phone: (506) 2771-0098
Fax: (506) 2771-0858
Apartado: (P. O. Box) 40
San Isidro de Pérez Zeledón
011901, Costa Rica
Location: Central park across from front entrance of church entrance near a pharmacy

Casimiro Vargas Mora
CV Firm
Phone: (506) 2771- 4504 / (506) 2743-8535
Fax: (506) 2743-7191
Apartado: (P. O. Box) 845
San Isidro de Pérez Zeledón
011901, Costa Rica
Location: Office in San Isidro next to 5 Menos and also at the Dome Commercial Center in Uvita

Kristi Penand
Uvita Law Firm
Phone: (506) 2743-8416 / 2743-8619
Fax: (506) 2743-8417
Location: Centro Comercial “The Dome” Offices #14 and 15
Uvita, Osa, Puntarenas

San Jose Attorneys

Arias & Munez
Phone: (506) 2204-7575
Fax: (506) 2204-7580
Location: Centro Empresarial Forum, Edificio C, Oficina 1C1
Santa Ana, San José, Costa Rica, C.A.
Apartado 12891 – 1000

Alberto Sáenz-Roesch
LLMR&T – Lara, López Matamoros, Rodríguez & Tinoco
Phone: (506) 2519-7500 / (506) 8880-5252
Fax: (506) 2519-7575
Location: San José, Costa Rica

Dominical Area Restaurants

Restaurant Suggestions

Dominical and the surrounding areas have some really great places to eat from beachfront casual to fine dining (still casually dressed).  There are restaurants for the entire family with kids favorites like pizza, burgers, and tacos to options for international cuisine by chefs from all over the world.

Café Delicious – The café bakery in the front of Dominical.  They have incredible pastries, cappuccinos, and other coffee drinks or smoothies for breakfast.  And a great place for lunch where you can pick up a sandwich, lasagna, and more.  Free WiFi and not open for dinner.

Rio Lindo – Next to Delicious and they have tasty New York style pizzas, which is good for takeout or enjoy the bar and atmosphere for Monday Night Football.  They also have wings and traditional American favorites, plus a pool table.  The hotel sometimes does a poolside sunset BBQ on weekends, ask about it while you are here.

San Clemente – Located in Dominical just after the Dominical futball field on the left.  VW bus in the air means you can’t miss it.  This is typical American Tex-Mex tourist food, but a fun place for kids with tons of broken surf boards hanging from the ceiling, TVs, and ping pong table.

Tortilla Flats – Great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Located right on the beach, it is the local hang out and they have a happy hour sunset specials.  The bacon, egg, avocado, tomato, and cheese sandwich for breakfast and Coconut encrusted Mahi for dinner are my best suggestions.  Sometimes they have specials written on a chalkboard for dinner and those are always a good choice too.  Free WiFi internet access.

Local Hangout Tortilla Flats

La Casita Pizza – This is the best pizza in town in my opinion and owned by a couple guys from Argentina.   Located out of a house or “Casita” on the road that loops around behind Tortilla Flats, there are signs around town to help you find it.  They offer daily lunch specials of a slice or two of pizza with a drink, have free WiFi for guests eating in, and are pretty quick for takeout pizzas, plus deliver by motor cycle if your place is close.

Sushi – The only sushi place in town or this area for that matter.  It located straight past the cell tower, after the police station, and on the left across from El Coco.  It is a small place, but the freshest ingredients from land and sea make for delicious sushi.  Fresh tuna rolls with avocado and mango, amazing combo!!  Small restaurant without much seating, so get there early. 

El Coco – Across from the Sushi place and also right on the beach.  They serve big portions of typical local food at decent prices.  Bar and pool table, plus plenty of seating.

Confusione Tapa Restaurant – Go past the Sushi place and El Coco and then turn left just before the Refuge and Pyramis 2 story open building on left.  A tranquil ambiance and wonderful Italian food and mini pizzas.  They have a very extensive Tapas menu now and choosing just a few items is the toughest part.

Confusione Tapas Restaurant

The Refuge – This casual restaurant has the best burgers in town and is at the end of the road past El Coco and on the corner of the turn off for Confusione.  Also on the corner next to the beach if you go into Dominical by the back entrance which goes straight to the beach just South of the Pacific Plaza Commercial Center from the Coastal Highway.  Best to go for lunch because they close early daily and are closed on Sundays.

La Parcela – A must-do dining experience located on Punta Domincial with the Pacific Ocean on both sides.  Turn right off of the Coastal Highway after the straight away that is after the Playa Dominicalito turn off with futball field on the left and it is marked with a “La Parcela” sign for the restaurant.  Their fresh tuna steak, snapper, and other seafood dishes are all delicious.  They also offer various pastas, steak, and chicken.  Save room for dessert and try the Banana Flambé for a fire show or the Mud Pie if you’re a coffee lover.

Amazing Views at La Parcela

Cuna del Angel – Located about 10 minutes south of Dominical, look for blue sign indicating the right hand turn off for Cuna del Angel Hotel.  This is one of my favorite places to eat and they have an enchanting atmosphere at the Hotel and Palapa Restaurant.  Besides the gourmet food, they also have a day spa for massages, facials, and other relaxation treatments.  Also offer Sport Fishing tours and will prepare any fish caught at the restaurant the same night.

Cuna del Angel Fine Dinning

Jolly Roger’s – This is the best place for wings in the Southern Zone with about 20 different flavors, plus they got great burgers too.  Located up the mountain in Escalares and the left hand turn entrance is just before Cuna del Angel and is marked with a sign.  Drive up about 4 to 5 minutes on dirt roads and it will be on your left.  Only open after 4pm (if they even feel like opening) and very casual.  Good place to watch football or have some cold beers as well.

Citrus – This great fine dining restaurant is in Ojochal 35 minutes South of Dominical.  Take left into main entrance of Ojochal and then an immediate left.  After 50-100 meters or so you pass the police station on your left the restaurant entrance will be on your right.  They have French-Canadian and International cuisine with plenty of options for sea food and steaks.  I like the Corvina (Sea Bass) with a dill cream sauce and my wife always gets the steak with mushroom sauce.

Café Exotica – Also located in Ojochal about 35 to 40 minutes South of Dominical and is many people’s favorite restaurant.  To get there, turn left off the Coastal Highway at the Ojochal main entrance and go straight over the first bridge then left on other side of the bridge.  Then go straight for 2 or 3 more kms and it will be a small place on your right.  They have some of the best steaks available, sea food entrees are amazing, and numerous delicious appetizers.  French-Canadian cuisine as well.

I hope you enjoy some of these restaurant suggestions while visiting or living in the Dominical area.  Writing this blog definitely made me hungry and I will be taking my wife and kids out for dinner tonight!!

Dominical and Uvita Area Beaches to Enjoy

Beach Suggestions

The Dominical area has some of the most secluded and pristine beaches in all of Costa Rica.  Here is a list of my favorite beaches located from North to South.  With the aid of a map and road signs you should be able to find them all.  You can also go on personal beach searching adventures by just pulling off the road at various turn offs and seeing where they go.  Mid to high tide is usually best for surfing and lower tides provide more sandy beach area for different activities.

Playa Guapil – Located about 4 kms North of Playa Dominical.  Go toward Hacienda Baru and about 1 km after you pass the gasstation on the left, there is a sign for Playa Guapil.  Turn left and then go straight to the beach or you can turn right before the palm farm and go around to more secluded areas.  At the end of that road there is a river mouth and small park.

Playa Dominical – If heading South from Quepos, cross over the Baru River Bridge and then turn right into the town of Dominical.  Drive to the end of the main road and you come to the beach or make a right at the I.C.E. office and cell tower to get to the beach as well.  Once at the beach you can park and surf the worldclass waves, play on the beach, stroll through the street vendors, or enjoy the local beachfront restaurants.  Please swim in front of the life guard because Dominical does have rip tides and if there is a decent swell it can get heavy out there. 

Playa Dominical

Playa Dominicalito – A few kilometers south of Dominical; there is a blue national beach sign and the right turn off is just before the long straight away.  You should swim to the left of the parking area due some rocks and boulders to the right.


Playa Hermosa – About 10 to 15 minutes south of Dominical and the parking area can be seen from the road.  It is under some mangrove type trees and usually crowded on weekends.  The beach is similar to Playa Guapil and is also a great family beach for walking, surfing, boogie boarding, and just relaxing on the picnic blanket.

Playa Uvita
– About 18 kms south of Dominical look for signs once in Uvita.  After you pass the gas station and another bridge youcan turn right before the new 2 story Dome Commercial center.  Or go a little further to a paved right hand turn, which is paved all the way to the park entrance. Follow signs to Ballena National Park and there is an entrance fee.  Once in the park go to the end of the road to the parking area.  If go around lower tide and walk to the right you will walk out onto the “Whale’s Tale”.  This is about a 1 km sandy strip of land with tranquil lagoons on either side of a rock formation at the end that resembles a whale’s tale.

Whale's Tail at Playa Uvita

Whale’s Tail


Playa Ballena – A few kilometers south of the Playa Uvita is the turn off and is also part of the National Park.  There is an entrance fee unless you paid earlier at the Uvita entrance.  This is also a great family beach for walking, swimming, or picnic.

Playa Ballena

Playa Ballena

Playa Pinuela – About 2-3kms south of Playa Bellena and if you pass the ceviche stand on the right you went too far.  This beach is all rocks, but it is where you can find some rounded rocks.  It is also part of the national park, but sometimes there is no one to collect the entrance fee.

Playa Ventanas –Known as the cave beach, this is many people’s favorite.  The turn off is just past the ceviche stand with an inflatable shark out front.  This is some of the best ceviche in Costa Rica and a perfect quick snack or lunch spot.  Park at the palm farm and pay, then walk down the trail to the beach.  This beach has 2 caves and is a secluded cove that is about 1 km of beach surrounded by lush jungle.  At low tide you can walk into the caves and at high tide they spit mist.  Maybe more crowded on weekends and the ceviche place is closed Mondays.

Cave at Playa Ventanas

Dominical and Uvita Area Activities

Activity Suggestions

There are numerous outdoor adventure activities and tours to enjoy in the Dominical-Uvita area whether on vacation, part time, or full time resident.  Here are a few suggestions to help you get an idea of what is offered and where.  We can even help you find a vacation rental and even  book tours during your stay.

Hacienda Baru

Located within the Baru Reserve and just a few kilometers North of Dominical.  They offer a fun zip line tour with a guided nature hike first to show you some of the local flora and fauna.  They also offer an assortment of outdoor activities throughout the park such as; canopy platforms for nature viewing, countless hiking trails, and guided tours.

Don Lulu’s Nauyaca Falls Horseback Tour

A scenic horseback ride to and from the Nauyaca waterfall.  The meeting time is around 8am and is located just before Plantinillo.  About 12 to 15 minutes inland form Dominical and you will see a sign and parking area with the horses saddled and ready across the street.  Breakfast and lunch are included and served at Don Lulu’s house where there are some exotic animals for guests to view.  Recently raised to $60 per person.

Trip to Corcavado National Park

This is an amazing tour to the Corcavado National Park in the Osa Peninisule through the mangroves of Sierpe and then out to the ocean to the back entrance of the park.  Corcavado was called one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet by National Geographic.  The tour leaves from Sierpe at 8am, about 1 hour and 15 minutes South from Dominical, and gets back to the dock at around 4:30pm.  Lunch is included and there is a hike through the park, a beach stop, and tour through the mangroves for more wildlife viewing.

Sport Fishing

Offshore fishing charters out of Dominicalito, which is way more convenient than driving to Quepos or Sierpe.  Reservations can be made through Cuna del Angel, and they can also prepare some of your catch that evening at their gourmet Palapa Restaurant. 

Sail Fish caught off the coast of Dominical.

There are also plenty of sport fishing options out of Quepos and the new Pez Vela Marina and it is only 30 minutes North of Dominical.

ATV Tour

Ride four wheelers through the tropical mountains with picturesque views around each turn.  A numerous selection of off road trails the chose from and Yamaha 4X4 ATVs.  Beginners to experts welcome.

White Water Rafting

Enjoy the rush of rafting down class III and IV rapids on the Savegre River, Coto Brus River, and Guabo River.  Dominical Surf Adventures has daily tours for rafting along with kayaking and surf lessons.  The kayaking tours are to mangroves or to Playa Ventanas to explore tropical sea caves.  Located right in Dominical you can book a tour at their office across from San Clemente or go to the web site.

Parque Reptilandia

This is a reptile park on the way to Don Lulu’s and has animals from all over the world.  They have signs to indicate the turn and also offer private evening tours in order to see some of the nocturnal species.

There are also whale and dolphin watching boat tours, diving and snorkeling at Cano Island, surf board rentals, bird watching, hiking, walking and relaxing on numerous pristine beaches, and more!!  There is something for everyone in Dominical-Uvita and we look forward to sharing this beautiful area and all it has to offer with your family and friends!!