Every time I ride the $0.60 bus from my humble little apartment to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, my breath is taken away. The windy, hilly road that leads to Playa Manuel Antonio holds nothing short of spectacular views. Watching the waves barrel and crash down the shoreline covered with palm trees and lush jungle, I cannot help but wonder how I ever got to be so fortunate to live here.
This new home of mine, Costa Rica, is never a place that I would call cheap. In fact, it is likely the most expensive developing country that I have ever visited. But, the cost of living as an expat in Costa Rica is utterly priceless.
The abundance of wildlife and untouched nature in this sanctuary land is astounding. Vast open ocean and wild jungle are views that I take in daily. Monkeys pass my window every hour or so without me even blinking an eye. I regularly see sloths lazily slide from branch to branch with a wide grin on their faces that embodies the "pura vida" lifestyle of Costa Rica.
I hear these words nonstop as I walk through the more developed nearby town of Quepos. Greetings and goodbyes, “thank yous” and “you're welcomes,” this beautiful phrase is the mantra of Costa Rican life.
Translating literally to “pure life,” this simple statement encompasses so much more. It is an ode to the attitude of life here: a simple, pure, beautiful way of living life to the fullest in every moment.
Although English is widely spoken throughout Manuel Antonio, I do my best to learn the local tongue. As I stumble along with my broken Spanish, the phrase "pura vida" always gets me through every dead-end conversation. It is something that everyone here understands, that everyone here values, that everyone here lives.
Time in this small town moves quickly which is ironic considering the slow pace of life. I spend my mornings practicing yoga either overlooking the Pacific from an elevated terrace or in the local studio at $15 a class. But locals and expats pay half price.
If the gym is more your style, a mere $50 a month will give you access to a fully equipped, modern gym facility. But if the ocean is your playground, then there's endless water sports to play completely free of charge.
I spend my afternoons at the beach. Surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, I love any excuse to dip my feet in the great blue. With bright sun and shade streaming across the long, sandy coastline, you can be sure to find the perfect, secluded spot to kick back, relax, and enjoy.
Evenings are quiet here. Most locals and expats go to bed quite early to combat the heat. Early to bed, early to rise to beat the sun in the morning. The coolest hours of the day are just after the sun rises when a warm breeze will kiss your cheek as you sip your delicious Costa Rican coffee.
And then comes breakfast. Food is pricey if you eat like a tourist, but if you learn to eat like the locals, everything is fully manageable. Casados are the local speciality. Literally translating to a “marriage,” this mixture of pinto (rice and beans) comes with plantains and your choice of eggs, veggies, fish, or meat. Eating one of these out on the town runs you back about $6. Wash it down with an exotic fresh fruit smoothie for an extra $3.
A local night market pops up on the weekends in Quepos. “La Ferria” offers fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, honey products, clothing, and much more at very local prices (once you master your haggling skills).
Living costs depend largely on how you plan to live. Personally, I live like a local (with my added comforts for good measure). While the town of Manuel Antonio is one of the most expensive in all of Costa Rica (and rightfully so…it is stunning after all!), I pay a mere $350 per month for my standard, fully furnished and gated apartment.
While it is humble, it has everything I could ever need (even air conditioning and hot water which most locals do without). A full kitchen complete with an oven and even a fully furnished rooftop with ocean views from my hammock make me happy as a clam at the rates I pay.
Only a two-minute walk to the grocery store and to the public bus station, it is super easy for me to get around even without a vehicle. But if you can't wait to catch the public bus, colectivo taxis pass by every five minutes or so honking their horns and flashing their lights tempting you to catch a shared ride for $1.
Obviously, the price of rentals or purchased homes increases if you're looking for something more, and the sky is the limit for real estate in this beautiful town. With a small airport right around the corner, it's easy for your friends and family to come visit if you're living in a space with room for guests.
Not sure how you could manage the cost of living as an expat in Costa Rica? Here are 10 Ways to Make Money While Traveling the World
Small town life is definitely small here but it creates a beautifully tight-knit community. Everyone knows one another and takes the time to stop and say hello to every passerby.
Life is simple here. People appreciate the cooling rain, a sloth always causes a traffic jam, and days spent lazing in a hammock on the beach are commonplace.
Life is slower here, calmer, softer. Life here is truly pura vida.
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