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How to Become a Digital Nomad in Costa Rica

Looking for a slice of Pura Vida for yourself? Well, there’s a reason why Costa Rica is so popular with expats from all around the world.

Now, with the launch of an official digital nomad visa, it’s never been easier to become a remote worker in this Central American paradise.

So, how can you become a digital nomad in Costa Rica? I’ve got you covered in this complete, comprehensive guide. You’ve got questions? I’ve got answers. Let’s dive in and find out more.

Digital Nomad Visa

Let’s be honest before we go any further, we’ve got to look at the entry criteria and visa situation for actually moving to Costa Rica in the first place. Visa paperwork might be some of the most annoying red tape on the planet, but if you want to be a digital nomad legally living and working in Costa Rica, it’s just something that you’re going to have to deal with.

Luckily, Costa Rica is one of the many nations that now offer a specific digital nomad visa. There are quite a few requirements that you need to meet to be eligible, so it’s worth checking the criteria before you start the application process.

Perks of the Digital Nomad Visa

Sometimes, different visas will have additional bonuses for travelers and expats looking to relocate. They can vary from entrance into different schemes, access to trade partners, and even sometimes access to free healthcare.

Some of the perks that come with the Costa Rica Digital Nomad Visa are:

  • An exemption from paying any income tax on your earnings.
  • Not having to pay customs taxes on phones, WiFi, and any digital devices that you need to use for work.
  • Validation of your home country’s driver’s license when you arrive, so you don’t have to redo your driving test.
  • The ability to open a bank account in Costa Rica – this isn’t given on digital nomad visas in some countries!


So, most people can visit Costa Rica for up to 90 days on a tourist visa. Some countries don’t even require a visa for these 90 days. The digital nomad visa lasts for between 90 days and one year; however, it can be extended for one additional year.

This is pretty standard for digital nomad visas, but living in Costa Rica for one year—possibly two—sounds amazing to me!


Okay, let’s talk about who’s eligible for this visa.

If you’re traveling solo, you need to be making $3,000 USD per month to apply for this digital nomad visa. This goes up to $4000 USD per month if you’re moving to Costa Rica with dependents. So, straight off the bat, it’s not the most accessible or affordable digital nomad visa out there at the moment.

You need to prove this by submitting your bank records with a signed affidavit confirming that they’re all up-to-date and a fair representation of what’s going on with your finances. 

In addition to this, you need to submit a completed application form with passport photos and a receipt showing that you’ve paid the $100 USD visa fee (or the equivalent in Costa Rican Colones).


You’ll need to apply online through the Costa Rican government’s digital portal, following the instructions on the screen every step of the way. It’s all fairly straightforward information about yourself and your working situation. 

Once you’ve submitted your application, The Foreign Nationals Administration, which runs the visa process, has 15 days to respond and will reply within 5 days if there are any requirements missing or further information needed. If this happens, you only have 8 working days to complete or add to your application. 

If you’ve had to submit extra information, you’ll receive a response within the remainder of the initial 15-day period. So, in terms of visa processes, the whole thing only takes 15 working days from the time you submit your application. That’s super quick for the world of bureaucracy!

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Best Places to be a Digital Nomad in Costa Rica

So, Costa Rica is a beautiful and diverse country. There are so many amazing places to settle down and start your digital nomad life here, so let’s dive into some of the most popular digital nomad spots in Costa Rica.

Manuel Antonio

A super popular stop on the tourist trail, Manuel Antonio is a town that’s best known for Manuel Antonio National Park. With breathtaking beaches along the Pacific Coast and a vibrant rainforest area all in one place, it’s a microcosm that emphasizes Costa Rica’s natural biodiversity and beauty.

There are tons of hostels, hotels, and places to rent on the road between the local town of Quepos and Manuel Antonio itself. As it’s a super touristy place, food and accommodation can be a lot more expensive, so the closer to Quepos you stay, the more affordable your experience is going to be.

Santa Teresa

Known for blissful surf and yoga retreats, Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula is the place for digital nomads in Costa Rica. The whole place epitomizes the Pura Vida lifestyle, and it’s a lot more laidback than many spots on the Nicoya Peninsula, which sometimes has more of a party vibe.

As a result, there has been a boom in co-working spaces and laptop-friendly cafes, and there’s a huge expat community here. You can easily find affordable places to stay and eat, which is awesome, but the downside is that it’s hard to get anywhere from Santa Teresa.

It’s at the far tip of the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean, so while the surf is amazing, it can take half a day at least to get to the airport.


In the south of Costa Rica, Dominical has a super relaxed vibe to it. Together with the town of Uvita, this region is beautiful and relatively free of tourists.

a view of waterfalls

There’s a mix of mountain, rainforest, and beach landscapes in the area which makes it great for outdoorsy people to live and work in. Especially if you’re looking to live among locals rather than other expats, Dominical is a great shout.

The downside is that because it’s a little off-the-beaten-path, 4G internet can be a little difficult to get and there isn’t a huge range of restaurants and nightlife. While there are a few places to live and rent, there aren’t anywhere near as many as say, Jaco, Manuel Antonio, or Santa Teresa.

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Want to be within easy travel distance of Costa Rica’s second-largest airport and still get those Pura Vida vibes? Tamarindo is a hugely popular place thanks to the waves, party vibes, and easy transport routes. 

There’s always something going on in this area, and there’s a huge expat and traveler community in this area. Really, there’s no shortage of places to eat, waves to surf, and nightlife to check out. However, it is also very touristy and, as a result, it’s pretty expensive too!


If you love the hustle and bustle vibe but still want to be able to surf in your downtime, consider staying in Jaco on the central Pacific coast. It’s a popular place for surf camps and travelers who want a party vibe without trekking all the way from San Jose to the Nicoya Peninsula.

It’s because of this that Jaco is particularly popular with Americans, thanks to the nightlife and convenience if you’re traveling around Costa Rica. You can easily find high-end accommodation options if you’re looking for a more fancy digital nomad life.

Unfortunately, Jaco can be expensive and there is a higher rate of crime than other areas, as it’s more of a tourist party town.

San Jose

Of course, the bustling capital of Costa Rica has to be on this list. Although the capital isn’t a tourist hotspot and is more of a stopping-off point between places on the coast or up in the rainforest, there are plenty of expats and digital nomads in the city.

a beautiful view of the street with cars

If you’re used to big city amenities, San Jose has a ton of transport connections, so many bars, restaurants, shops, and banks, and a whole host of available accommodations. I’d especially recommend the Barrio Escalante neighborhood for its almost hipster vibe. 

However, San Jose is a very busy city with a lot of traffic, and honestly, it’s not the prettiest. Yes, the internet is fast and you can get a bus or flight to pretty much anywhere, but the city itself isn’t the nicest place to be, especially downtown. 

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

For some reason, the Caribbean coastline of Costa Rica is massively overlooked. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in the Limon area has an entertaining beach town vibe with a Caribbean flair to it. It’s got all the major amenities, a ton of wildlife, and a decent-sized expat community, so you can meet like-minded people.

The downsides are that it’s very far from the main airport, there isn’t a ton of fancy or luxury accommodation, and the Caribbean side is known for being wetter than the Pacific side. While there are some amenities, you may need to travel quite far to get more upscale accommodation or reliable high-speed internet. 


Let’s be honest, Monteverde is probably one of the most popular tourist spots in Costa Rica. Known for the Cloud Forest and rainforest hikes and zip lines, it’s a must-visit for any wildlife lover.

a breathtaking view of the bridge

The town of Santa Elena nearby has plenty of restaurants and cafes to check out, and there is a decent amount of affordable accommodations on the outskirts. The internet is also fairly reliable unless a storm is rolling in off the top of the forest.

That being said, the eateries, nightlife, and accommodations actually in places like Santa Elena are not cheap. As tourist hotspots, they’re not priced to suit the locals and are targeting travelers who breeze through for a couple of days.

It can also be pretty miserable here in the rainy season as the rainforest downpours can prevent you from doing a lot of activities, and even stop you from working if the weather affects the internet. 

Internet Access

What’s a digital nomad without steady and dependable internet access? The whole point is that you can work from anywhere with a connection, so you need to make sure that you can get online when you need to and have the speed to complete your daily tasks and any video meetings that might come up along the way.


If you’re a seasoned digital nomad then you’ll know how important a reliable SIM card is. Not only is it necessary for calls and texts, but it can also be a much more affordable and convenient way of getting online.

Prepaid SIMs in Costa Rica can cost as little as $2 USD, and then you can just top it up as you go. Make sure you get a SIM package that includes calls and data, and make sure to check the level of coverage your provider has in the area you’re living.

Some providers have great coverage in San Jose, but none in Santa Teresa, and some might be great for Jaco but have no presence in Monteverde. Do your research!

Getting a prepaid data SIM should be one of the first things you do, especially if you have to install the internet in your own place. It can take time to get an appointment and in that time, you can’t really get online and work from home.

But, if you have a SIM with a ton of data on it, you can hotspot your laptop from your phone and keep working. Sometimes this is a more cost-effective option, so check your plan and see if you can kill two birds with one stone!


Honestly, the internet speed in Costa Rica is normally pretty great. It’s common to get 4G service and high speeds, especially in larger towns and cities.

The main issue comes in the rainy season when the power lines can get knocked out for a few minutes, making the internet pretty unreliable. But, weather aside, internet speeds are decent here.

Of course, if you opt to live up the mountains near Uvita or in a village on the northern Caribbean coastline, or somewhere else fairly remote, don’t expect the speed or service to be anywhere near as good. 

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So, you can get high-speed WiFi in the most popular towns and cities in Costa Rica. After all, there are a lot of tourists and expats that rely on the internet here already!

The thing is that you’ll have to sort your own internet out when you rent a place in Costa Rica. Most places don’t come with internet included or installed, or if they do, it’ll be the world’s slowest connection and it’ll drive you crazy. 

Be aware that heavy rains and storms can knock out the power lines for a few minutes at a time, so it’s worth investing in a surge protector to make sure all your electrical gear is safe. 

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If you don’t want to work from your rental, there are a growing number of co-working spaces across the major digital nomad hotspots. Even Selina hostels now have computer rooms and business suites that you can take advantage of. 

These places all have high-speed internet, ergonomic chairs, and things like printers and scanners. Essentially, they’re like the business suites that you’d find in fancy apartment buildings or high-end hotels.

You can normally pay a subscription for the co-working space which is often cheaper, or get a day pass. It’s a lot like a gym in that respect! 

The downside to working outside your home in Costa Rica is that there isn’t really a culture where you can work from local cafes. Outside of the digital nomad hubs, it can be difficult to find a cafe with stable WiFi and convenient power outlets, with staff that doesn’t mind you staying for a long time.

Many of the cafes in Costa Rica are pretty small, so taking up real estate to work isn’t really a thing here yet.


Prices for internet and telecommunications generally stay pretty competitive thanks to there being a whole host of different providers. If you want to go with the government-run one, you’ll need to take a look at Kolbi (ICE).

Other providers include:

  • Cable Tica,
  • Claro,
  • Liberty, 
  • Tigo


Okay, so now we’ve covered different locations and how to get online in different places, let’s dive into your accommodation options as a digital nomad in Costa Rica. 


When you initially get to Costa Rica, hostels are always going to be your friend. They’re affordable, have a community vibe, are often in great locations, and can be a decent base of operations while you look for a more permanent place. 

I wouldn’t recommend staying in a hostel for longer than a month, because even with the affordable rates, it does add up very quickly and you probably won’t feel very settled. There are plenty of hostels now, like the Selina ones, that have co-working spaces built-in, so you can live and work in one place and spend your free time trying to find somewhere more long-term.


So, when we say co-living, this essentially means renting a room in a houseshare or going into a communal living situation. While the formal digital nomad co-living companies are only just starting to show up in Costa Rica, there are still plenty of seasonal expats and locals with spare rooms for rent.

If you’re looking to save money or don’t want to live on your own, this is a great way to live in Costa Rica, especially in the more expat-heavy areas like Jaco or Tamarindo. People are always coming and going, so there are normally rooms for rent, but they do get snapped up quickly so there’s a lot of luck and timing involved. 

I’d recommend joining an expat forum or Facebook group for the area you’re going to live in and going from there. Alternatively, ask the people who work at your hostel or local co-working space if they know of anyone looking for a roommate. 

Apartment Rentals

The most traditional way to go about finding a place to stay in Costa Rica is going for a long-term rental. A word to the wise though, avoid estate agents and real estate offices where you can, because otherwise, you end up paying a ton of fees that realistically you do not need to pay!

There are two main places where you’re going to find reasonable long-term rentals and that’s either Airbnb or on dedicated Facebook groups. Interestingly enough, you can find specific Facebook groups for each area that specialize in rentals.

Things like Tamarindo Apartment Rentals. Here, landlords or tenants with spare rooms will post directly in the group, so you can track all the properties in one place.

Again, you do need to be quick when renting an apartment as there are plenty of people looking to rent, especially in the peak season when all the surf camps are open!

If you’re renting off Airbnb, make sure that you message the owner and try and negotiate the price on a long-term stay. Most listings automatically offer a discount over a certain stay length like a week or a month, but if you’re staying almost a year, you have some bargaining power!

Buying Property

Honestly, on a digital nomad visa, you probably won’t want to buy a property in Costa Rica. Keep in mind that you can only extend for a maximum of two years in the country, and you’ll spend a good chunk of that trying to figure out where you want to live.

Leave property purchasing and all the red tape that comes with it until you have a longer-term visa. 

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Getting Around Costa Rica

So, Costa Rica is a big and beautiful place, but with volcanos, rainforests, and some seriously remote places along the way, getting around Costa Rica isn’t always the easiest thing. Don’t worry though, I’ve got you covered!

By Car

A lot of people will hire a car when they’re in Costa Rica, especially if they’re living on the outskirts of their city or town, or if they want to explore the country more while they’re there. This is another additional expense, and honestly, parking isn’t the greatest in a lot of the popular digital nomad spots.

In addition to this, driving around Costa Rica can be tricky and sometimes dangerous. Especially if you’re living in San Jose, the traffic and the lack of road rules is kind of insane. In the rainy seasons, some roads can become impassable, and some of the mountain or rainforest tracks need 4×4 vehicles all year round. 

Realistically, if you’re only living in Costa Rica for a year, you’re much better off living somewhere where all the amenities are within walking distance and where there are bus routes to other towns and cities if you want to explore in your downtime. 

By Bus

If you’ve visited Costa Rica as a tourist, you’ll know that public buses are one of the best and most affordable ways to get around the country. Different bus companies run different routes, and especially if you’re in the tourist hotspots of Manuel Antonio, Jaco, San Jose, etc., you’ll find plenty of cross-country routes that you can use to explore Costa Rica.

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However, outside of the most touristy areas, buses aren’t always super reliable or regular. Check the seasonal bus timetables for the most up-to-date route options before you travel.

The other thing is that as a digital nomad, the chances are pretty good that you’re going to settle down in one place for at least a few months if not the full year. So, you won’t be using the cross-country buses that much.

If you know that you’re going to be flying in and out of the country a lot, knowing that you can either get to Liberia or San Jose easily on public transport is always helpful, but be aware that you might need to take two or three buses to complete your journey.

Costa Rican buses might not be the fastest way to travel, but they are super cheap and the network is pretty large!

By Foot

One of the best ways to explore your new Costa Rican home is by foot. Either find a place that’s within walking distance of the major amenities in your new town or city or buy a bike to help you get around.

Cycling and walking are the most common ways to get around the local area in Costa Rica and with beautiful views and amazing weather, there’s no excuse not to want to spend time in the great outdoors!

Even though you might have to pay slightly higher rent or accommodation costs, you’re likely going to save a lot of time and money on bus tickets, gas prices, and just general waiting around for transportation. Besides, it’ll save money on joining a gym as well!


Okay, now let’s get onto our daily expenses, starting with the main one – food! 

Eating Out

So, eating out in Costa Rica isn’t always the cheapest option unless you’re going for local Tico favorites like Casado, or you’re checking out family-run sodas. The local spots cost around $7-8 USD for a hearty and balanced lunch, so it’s not the cheapest food prices in Central America by a long shot.

If you go to more Western spots, prices rise to around $12-15 USD for a meal, so you’re definitely going to want to cook while you’re living in Costa Rica. Eating out definitely adds up, especially if you’re in touristy spots like Monteverde or Jaco.

Grocery Shopping

It’s super easy to find multiple supermarkets and food shops in the digital nomad hotspots of Costa Rica. Prices are definitely reasonable, especially if you stick with local produce. As soon as you start buying imported products, you’re going to see the prices rocket up.

Find local swaps and alternatives to your favorite items and you’ll be able to food shop on a budget in Costa Rica.

If you’re in a slightly larger town or city, you can also take advantage of local farmer’s markets. Unlike in the US or Europe where farmer’s markets are artisanal and have a heftier price tag attached, Costa Rican farmer’s markets are often cheaper than the supermarkets, and you’ll be helping out local farmers at the same time – it’s a win-win!


In the tourist areas, there are no shortages of great bars and nightlife. Especially if you’re in a surf town, you’ll find clubs, bars, and lively parties most nights in the high season. It’s also not super expensive to drink in Costa Rica.

Of course, if you stick with local beers you can pay anywhere from $2-4 USD for a bottle, or with local cocktails, you’ll pay around $5-7 USD. If you go from imported options, it obviously gets more expensive.


So, Costa Rica does have a decent healthcare service that is relatively cheap, especially compared to the US (I mean, where isn’t it?). The common complaint with the Costa Rican healthcare system is the long wait times for appointments. 

However, if the worst does happen and you need treatment, it’s a lot cheaper to pay out of pocket than in the US. That being said, health and travel insurance is a no-brainer for digital nomads.

Not only will it protect your gear and work equipment, but it’ll also protect you if you slip on your surfboard or twist an ankle on a picturesque hiking route. Plan ahead, and you’ll be covered in the long run.

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One of the biggest reasons why digital nomads love Costa Rica is because of the Pura Vida lifestyle and all the amazing activities that go along with that. Whether you love surfing, kayaking, hiking, chasing waterfalls, relaxing in natural geothermal hot springs, going out on wildlife boat trips, or wandering national parks – Costa Rica has it all.

You can spend your weekends and evenings on the pristine beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula, or have your morning coffee overlooking the Monteverde Cloud Forest Canopy, Honestly, there are so many amazing things to see and do in Costa Rica, that you might need to extend your digital nomad visa just to see it all.

Co-working Spaces

We’ve touched on this a little bit, but more and more co-working spaces are cropping up across Costa Rica, especially on the Nicoya Peninsula where a lot of expats live and in the capital, San Jose. Although co-working spaces aren’t for everyone, they’re a great place to focus on your work, gain access to more facilities, and meet other digital nomads in your area.

As an added bonus, many co-working spaces include free coffee all day long, which in my opinion, is a huge draw. Of course, this is an extra expense but if you’re renting a room in a house share or only have a one-bed apartment, it does give you a dedicated work space so that you can maintain that much-needed work-life balance. 


I get it, moving to a new country is scary! So, it’s always a good idea to try and meet people who are in similar situations as you. Many cities and large towns in Costa Rica have expat or digital nomad communities that run events, get-togethers, and mixers.

Go along to a few of these and you’ll meet some like-minded people that might become great friends or just really useful contacts!

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