I covered the basics of renting an apartment or home with a long-term lease earlier, but I wanted to touch on another important aspect of the rental market you’ll find in Costa Rica: vacation property.
Even if you’re not an expat who’s moving down to Costa Rica and settling in permanently, vacationers and tourists find that renting an apartment, house, or vacation property is a great alternative to hotels and resorts. It’s less expensive, more private, more personal, more spacious, and with all the comforts of home.
There are several things to take into consideration to make sure you get renting right. Let’s dive right in with some great tips to help you find your perfectly pura vida vacation property!
Although we’ve lumped info about short and long-term stays alike here, you’ll notice that a lot of this information is geared towards vacation rentals.
Start with some Internet research (but double check)
Visiting one, or several, of the many useful vacation rental sites on the Internet, is a great way to start the process of renting vacation property in Costa Rica. They’re often well organized and will help you narrow down the areas that are most appealing to you. But remember – PHOTOS OFTEN LIE or misrepresent the property or beachfront, just like at hotels. So it’s best to double and triple check as you browse online, then contact an honest, informed local expert to arrange the booking.
Once you’ve chosen a vacation destination, it’s time to find a place to stay
When searching for a vacation rental home, it’s best to comparison shop. Keep your options open and consider several different rental properties to give you a variety of places to choose from, as well as a variety of prices and available amenities. Compare properties to get a local baseline.
The early bird catches the best property
Remember that the busiest tourists season in Costa Rica is during the best weather holiday months of December, January or February. Many regular vacationers book a year in advance, so it’s never too early to start looking. In many parts of Costa Rica, like Playa Jacó, you’ll find creatures of habit that will rent the same house for the same block of time year in year out, especially waterfront properties. For the largest selection, start early and be sure to ask about early booking discounts. Sometimes you’ll find that in exchange for the security of having their property rented, an owner and agent will offer a good discount.
Patience pays off
In the most popular vacation destinations like Playa Jacó and Tamarindo, supply outweighs demand for most of the year outside of the busiest three months. For this reason, the closer the high season gets, the more agents and owners are scrambling to fill houses. If you’re flexible about your dates and amenities, you can find significant savings on your vacation rental by searching at the last minute. Just don’t get your heart set on a particular property and remember that this is a game of risk vs. reward.
Remember that long-term rentals in the Central Valley around San José are easier to come by and available year-round, while properties on the beach owners tend to be hit or miss depending on the peak travel seasons.
Read the fine print
Before making a rental commitment, be sure you understand what it involves. Start looking as far in advance of departure as possible so that you can absorb all the nitty-gritty about terms and rules, physical layout, furnishings, cleaning and repair services (if any). Also pay attention to local transportation, proximity to services that you need, financial arrangements and obligations, deposits, liability and property insurance, and the like. Doing so will minimize your risk of unpleasant surprises when you arrive and when it’s far too late to back out.
Check the amenities
Whether you’ll be staying at the property for two days or two weeks, you want to make sure that you’ll have all the amenities you want and need. And the only way you’ll know is if you ask. More is better in this case, and owners will be happy to provide information and photos to anyone seriously considering their rental home.
Many vacation rental sites now offer reviews and feedback from past guests. Read these reviews carefully and reach out to the homeowner about any follow-up questions, as the owner may have fixed any problems or changed processes as a result of a negative review. Reviews are such a useful tool when searching for your ideal vacation property rental in Costa Rica. Past renters can paint a pretty clear picture of what a guest experience is truly like – the good, the bad and the ugly. In addition to looking at photos and chatting with the owners, it’s the most surefire way to guarantee that you’re picking a good place to stay.
How about advice specifically for expats who want to rent?
Like I’ve mentioned adamantly before, be careful about jumping into purchasing real estate when you first get there. Rent for a while and take your time. Be patient, as it’s best to try a number of places if you are okay with moving every couple of months.
Is it furnished?
Places come both furnished and unfurnished. Keep in mind that unfurnished may mean that there is no refrigerator or washer and dryer, and conversely furnished may also include linens, dishes, etc.
Will your rent go up?
According to Costa Rican law, if you rent for as little as six months, your landlord is prohibited from raising your rent for the next three years, even when renting to foreigners (does not apply to short- term, vacation rentals).
In addition to utilities, the Internet and other services, check if the price includes condo fees. If you are renting in a condominium, ask for a copy of the bylaws and regulations to avoid potential conflict with neighbors. Before signing, present the landlord with a list of anything you might want fixed or changed – document by getting everything via email and photos!
Need anything else or help booking amazing rental properties - at a discount? Just email me anytime!
The Official Expat.
Are you planning on moving down to Costa Rica and you’re wondering what the requirements are for you to drive?
Are you spending a few months a year there and have questions about legally driving on Costa Rica’s roads?
Or, like me, do you just want a Costa Rican driver’s license because you think it would be super cool to have as a souvenir, and fun to pull out of your wallet when you’re back in your home country?
No matter the reason you want one, the good news is that as a foreigner, you can get a Costa Rican driver’s license, but you also don’t need one to legally navigate the roads of that country.
Here's what you need to drive legally (and safely) in Costa Rica:
If you are getting a first-time license in Costa Rica, the requirements are as follows:
• Be over age 18
• Have passed a basic course
• Have passed a driving test
• Have a current digital medical record
• You can find out more information at: https://www.csv.go.cr
However, as a visiting foreigner, you are permitted to drive in Costa Rica using a valid license from your home country for the duration of your entry stamp.
If your passport entry stamp reads 90 days, you may legally drive on your foreign license for that time period. After 90 days, you must either leave the country to renew your entry stamp or obtain a Costa Rican driver’s license.
All license-related transactions take place through Cosevi (Council for Road Safety) in San José. Tourists and residents are eligible for a Costa Rican license if you do not have one already.
If you are applying for a first-time license you need:
• Current passport with entry stamp of no more than 90 days OR residency cedula OR any other document that proves legal residency or temporary residence permit
• Current foreign driver’s license and a copy of the same
• Medical exam If a driver presents an expired foreign driver’s license, s/he must comply with the above 1-3 requirements, and must also take a road test.
To renew a Costa Rican drivers license you need:
• Medical exam
• Current passport OR residency cedula OR temporary residence permit OR Peace Corps identification card OR refugee card OR rentista card OR any other document that proves fixed residency status
• Current Costa Rican license
Pretty simple and straightforward, huh? However, I can't promise that actual driving on Costa Rican roads and in traffic will be so easy!
P.S. Don't forget to get your copy of the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook!
The vast majority of tourists experience endless blue skies and hot, dry days when they come to Costa Rica for vacation. Other backpackers, surfers and nature enthusiast may come during the months when it may be cloudy, and a good tropical rain falls every day.
And then, there is the real rainy season, when only locals, expats, and the craziest (or most budget-conscious) of travelers explore Costa Rica.
No matter which of these describes you, it’s important to understand the seasons and weather patterns in Costa Rica. By doing so, you’ll know what to pack, what challenges you’ll face, and what to expect.
I’ll go through some great information about the rainy season in Costa Rica here, and bring you more invaluable tips in part 2 of this blog.
The dry season, (which Costa Ricans consider to be their summer) is around November to April. This is also the high season for tourism in Costa Rica. Although the dry season will offer you better beach time and a less rainy rainforest experience, there are more crowds, fewer vacancies, and the prices are higher across the board.
The rainy season (Green Season) runs about from May to November. Here are some notes and tips to get through it:
And don't forget to pick up your copy of the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Handbook for more great tips, hacks, and info!
Ask any hotel manager, tour operator, or travel agent in Costa Rica what the #1 mistake is that tourists make, and the answer will always be “waiting too long to book their trip.”
With a limited number of hotels, condos, and homes for rent, the busiest seasons – especially December through April – are always at maximum capacity. To add more hotel patrons to the critical mass, a huge number of Costa Ricans (Ticos) escape from San José on weekends and especially during holidays like Christmas, New Years and Semana Santa (Easter). During these holiday periods, places like Jacó, Tamarindo, and many more are literally over capacity.
So, by waiting too long to book their hotel rooms and accommodations, as well as rental cars and activities, tourists really put their vacation in jeopardy. Imagine paying the for plane tickets but then not being able to find the hotel you want for your family – or any hotel at all!
It’s happened more than you can guess, and one month before Christmas and Semana Santa every property manager is getting 50+ emails and messages a day from people looking for a house or condo for their upcoming vacation when few – or none – are still available!
And around these peak seasons, the prices often skyrocket, sometimes even doubling for last-minute bookings compared to prices in the other times of the year.
I recommend that during the peak tourist season (December through April) and especially around the holidays, vacationers book 6-12 months ahead of time.
The larger your group, and if there are any special needs or requests, the further in advance you should book. As you can imagine, finding a family of five people three adjacent hotel rooms on the same floor is a lot harder than just booking a room for a couple.
The same goes for rental cars (which sell out quickly) and in-demand activities like deep-sea fishing, jungle treks, volcano and cloud forests tours. Of course, these are all flexible, so if you needed to move around the date or time of when you do these things, the operators and agencies will always work with you – as long as you plan ahead.
I would recommend looking for a rental property that suits your needs first, book those, and THEN book airfare – as there are always plenty of flights and seats available 6 months or more ahead of time.
And if you're an expat who is already living in Costa Rica, you have your own challenges around booking long-term apartments and rentals, since landlords may want to kick you out just over December and January to cash in on the peak tourism time.
By doing so, you’ll save a lot of money, avoid any last-minute headaches, and ensure that you and your family have the best possible vacation Costa Rica has to offer.
Need more help with advice, info, or booking a property? I'm happy to help!
-The official expat,
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