Living In Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide To Paradise

Manuel Antonio is not just a place to live. It's about belonging to a lifestyle that celebrates nature, tranquillity, and culture. Is it right for you?

Manuel Antonio, a small yet enchanting town bordering the famous Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, is a paradise worth discovering.

Well known for tourism with its stunning beaches, lush rainforest, and diverse wildlife, it’s no wonder that so many expats fall in love with the town and decide to stay. 

As if the astounding nature wasn’t enough, you’ll be part of a warm and welcoming community.

The locals, or Ticos, are known for their friendly nature and the famous phrase ‘Pura Vida‘ (pure life), that encapsulates the country’s positive outlook on life. 

The cost of living is relatively low compared to major cities in the US and UK, making it an excellent choice for retirees who want their pensions to go further. 

And let’s not forget the amazing health benefits of living in such a natural environment. The fresh air, warm climate, and easy access to outdoor activities contribute to a healthier, happier lifestyle. 

Let’s dig into what you can expect if you choose to make Manuel Antonio your home in Costa Rica. 

The cost of living in Manuel Antonio

The town is a tropical haven that can deliver an enviable lifestyle without breaking the bank. 

But what really does it cost to live in Manuel Antonio? Let’s break down the numbers. 

Housing and real estate

If you’re looking to rent in Manuel Antonio, it can be tricky as you’ll be competing against the booming vacation rental market. 

A long stretch of a beautiful tropical beach - drone view
Playa Espadilla  just north of Manuel Antonio National Park near Quepos

With effort, you can find a one-bedroom rental that can cost you anywhere between $800 to $2,000 per month, depending on location and amenities. 

If you’re looking to buy, you’ll have many more choices.

You’ll be able to find a comfortable apartment for around $150,000. 

Expect to pay $300,000 upwards for luxury apartments. 

Villas and detached houses have a huge price range. You can find some very nice, well-equipped new villas for around $200,000. You can pay 2 million dollars and upwards at the luxury end of the market. 

At first, that may seem pricey, but don’t forget you will own an incredibly luxurious villa with every mod con you can imagine in one of the best locations on the planet!


The cost of food is generally very affordable. However, imported food can be expensive. Groceries for a couple will cost around $500-$750 a month. 

Fancy eating out?

A good meal at a mid-range restaurant would cost between $20-$30 per person. 


Basic utilities like electricity, water, heating, cooling, and garbage are reasonably priced, averaging around $75-$150 per month.

Internet and cable can be added for an additional $50-$80 monthly. 


One of the biggest concerns for many expats considering a move to Manuel Antonio and Costa Rica is healthcare.

The good news – Costa Rica’s healthcare system is one of the best in Latin America.

As a popular tourist spot, Manuel Antonio boasts private clinics and pharmacies where most staff speak English. 

National healthcare system (Caja) 

Expats have the option to join the national healthcare system, known as La Caja.

This covers medical, dental, and optical needs. A monthly fee is based on income but is typically affordable, approximately between 7% to 11% of your monthly income, offering peace of mind and comprehensive coverage. 

If you are unable to register for La Caja CCSS due to your residence status, you can sign up via the Instituto de Seguro Nacional (INS). 

Depending on your current health, age, and medical needs, average health insurance policies are between $80 per month to $300.

You can expect to pay around $50-$100 for a visit to a private doctor. 

The Costa Rican government controls the majority of health insurance schemes. However, you also have the option to take out an international health insurance policy. 

International health insurance can be quite expensive. To make sure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal. 

Public transportation 


The public bus service in Manuel Antonio is reliable, frequent, and incredibly affordable, with a one-way ticket costing less than a dollar. 

Buses run from early morning until late at night, providing an easy and cost-effective way to explore the area. 

There are half-hourly buses between Quepos Airport and Manuel Antonio from 5:45 am to 9 pm.  


There are plenty of taxis. The official red taxis have a yellow sign and are always equipped with a meter. 

However, that meter isn’t always on, adding a potential dash of excitement to your ride!

So, go ahead and flex your negotiation skills before stepping in, ensuring you snag the best deal before starting your journey.

Driving in Manuel Antonio

If you prefer the freedom of having your own vehicle, renting a car is a popular choice.

There are several reputable rental agencies in the area. However, be prepared for the hilly terrain and occasional unpaved roads. 

  • Cost: Varies depending on the rental agency and vehicle type. Expect to pay around $40-$80 per day.
  • Terrain: Mostly hilly with some unpaved roads.
  • Parking: Free at most places, but paid parking is also available.

Job market in Manuel Antonio

Many expats bring a business with them or a respectable pension. But if you’re curious about the job market, there are opportunities here, although not quite as diverse as the local wildlife! 

A view of the sea across the palm grove in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio Beach

The economy is primarily driven by tourism, with a stunning national park, pristine beaches, and luxury resorts attracting thousands of visitors from around the globe. 

As such, tourism provides the bulk of the job opportunities:

  • Hotel & Hospitality: With numerous luxury hotels and resorts, plenty of positions are available in this sector. Whether you fancy yourself a concierge, a chef, or a hotel manager, you’ll likely find an opportunity here.
  • Food & Beverage: The area’s lively dining scene means there are openings for chefs, bartenders, and waitstaff. Plus, working in a beachfront restaurant isn’t a bad gig!
  • Tourism Services: If you’re a nature lover, consider guiding tours through the national park or providing water sports instruction. 

Aside from tourism, many expats leverage their skills in fields such as real estate, education, or online business.

One thing to note, the local job market is competitive, and being bilingual can give you a significant advantage.

It will be worth brushing up if you’re not fluent in Spanish before you move. 

Note: Before you pack your bags, remember that you’ll need a work permit to legally work in Costa Rica. It’s essential to research and understand the requirements and process before making the move.

The expat community 

Manuel Antonio has a well-established international expat community, offering you a chance to mingle and make friends with people from various parts of the world.

The community organizes regular social gatherings, creating a strong sense of camaraderie and belonging. 

Education in Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio has more limited educational opportunities for children, especially if your children don’t speak Spanish. 

However, there are options, and with the huge growth in online learning, you don’t need to rule out bringing children here completely.

Dolphins Primary and High School (Quepos) 

Quepos is approximately a 10-minute drive away.

Colegio Los Delfines is a modern school with great facilities,  spacious classrooms, and a huge outdoor swimming pool. 

The school follows the Costa Rican Ministry of Education syllabus and is placed in the top 50 schools in Costa Rica. 

While Spanish is the primary language, English is actively supported as a second language, and the school has a lot of expertise with expat children. 

Spanish language schools 

Fancy getting fluent in Spanish? 

Manuel Antonio and nearby Quepos have some great Spanish language schools.

Whether you’re a beginner or looking to perfect your fluency, these schools offer a range of classes to suit your needs. 

Retiring in Manuel Antonio

Imagine waking up every day to the sounds of nature, birdsong, and the calming waves of the Pacific Ocean. 

Lush shores of Manuel Antonio - the view from the sea
A stretch of coast by Manuel Antonio

This is what retirement looks like in Manuel Antonio—a haven for retirees that offers a wonderful mix of comfort, adventure, and tranquillity. 

With small-town charm and friendly locals, you’ll find it easy to settle into your new home. 

Being a tourist region, English is widely spoken, and communication is never a worry. 

Retiring here doesn’t just have to be about relaxation. It’s an adventure-lovers playground.

From hiking in the national park with its unique wildlife to enjoying thrilling water sports, there’s no shortage of activities to keep your life active and fun. 

HikingExplore Manuel Antonio National Park, home to an array of exotic wildlife and beautiful landscapes.
Water SportsEnjoy surfing, snorkeling, and sailing in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Local CuisineExperience the vibrant flavors of Costa Rican cuisine at local eateries.

“Retirement is not about stepping away from life, but diving into it headfirst. Manuel Antonio is the perfect springboard.”

Retiring in Manuel Antonio is about embracing the pura vida (pure life) philosophy.

It is all about enjoying the simple things, surrounded by stunning natural beauty and warm, welcoming communities. 

Tips for expats living in Manuel Antonio

Nothing quite matches the thrill of starting a fresh chapter in life. But before you dive headfirst into this tropical Eden, here are some insider tips to help you to settle smoothly into your new life. 

Getting around 

Manuel Antonio is compact and walkable, but it’s hilly – so be prepared for a workout!

Expat residents often opt for a car or scooter or use local taxis and buses.

Remember that Costa Rica is eco-conscious, so consider taking advantage of their excellent public transportation. 

The cost of living 

Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s pricier places to live, but it’s still less expensive than most US or UK cities. 

Property prices, utilities, and groceries are lower, with the exception of some imported goods.

Most expats living in the town will tell you that the slower pace of life and stunning natural beauty makes it worth every penny. 


Costa Rica’s healthcare system consistently ranks among the best in Latin America. There are plenty of pharmacies and clinics in Manuel Antonio. The hospital in Quepos can deal with emergencies and most routine treatments.

For serious conditions, world-class hospitals are in San José, approximately 105 miles (170 km), a 3-hour drive. 

Social life 

The town’s active expat community makes it easy to find new friends.

A drone view of the coast of manual Antonio national Park
Manuel Antonio National Park

Local activities range from yoga and salsa classes to nature hikes and beach volleyball.

Plus, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and social events, there’s always something to enjoy. 

Get involved in community events 

The town has a lively social scene filled with community events that can really help you to feel at home. 

Volunteer at a local charity, take part in beach cleanups, or join a language exchange group. This is a fantastic way to integrate with the community and meet both locals and expats. 

Activities and entertainment

Whether you’re an adventure junkie, a nature enthusiast, or someone who loves to kick back and relax, Manuel Antonio has something for you. 

For adventure seekers, the region offers a host of thrilling activities.

Zip-lining through the rainforest canopy, white-water rafting on the Naranjo River, and deep-sea fishing are just a few adrenaline-pumping options. 

Of course, surfing on the town’s world-class breaks is a must for any water sports enthusiast. 

A paradise for nature lovers: Manuel Antonio National Park has to be the foremost reason for wanting to live in such an incredible location. 

This biodiversity hotspot is home to 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds, including the iconic and adorable sloth and howler monkey.

“Manuel Antonio National Park is a jewel of biodiversity. It’s the perfect place to lose yourself in nature and get up close with Costa Rica’s unique wildlife.”

Chill Out: Manuel Antonio’s beaches are hard to beat. Their golden sands, clear waters, and lush backdrop make them the perfect place to unwind. 

Food and cuisine

Manuel Antonio is a pure paradise for foodies.

With its lush blend of local and global flavors, this tropical gem promises a gastronomic journey like no other. 

Whether you’re a seasoned culinary explorer or love a good meal, you’re in for a treat. 

Local Cuisine 

Costa Rican cuisine, or “Tico” cuisine as it’s fondly called, offers a rich, hearty, and flavorful experience.

Manuel Antonio takes this a notch higher, serving traditional dishes with an innovative twist. 

  • Gallo Pinto: This popular Costa Rican breakfast dish is a hearty mix of rice and beans, often served with eggs, plantains, or cheese.
  • Casado: A typical lunch menu, Casado consists of rice, beans, salad, a protein (like fish, chicken, or beef), and a side of ripe plantains. It’s a balanced, nutritious meal that showcases the simplicity and tastefulness of Tico cuisine.
  • Ceviche: This is a seafood delight, made with fresh fish, cilantro, onions, peppers, lime, and typically garnished with a slice of sweet potato. The coastal location of Manuel Antonio ensures the freshest catch for your ceviche.

International Cuisine 

Manuel Antonio’s vibrant expat community has heralded a delightful influx of international cuisine. 

  • Italian: From handmade pasta to wood-fired pizza, Italian cuisine in Manuel Antonio is as authentic as it gets.
  • Vegetarian & Vegan: With a focus on organic, locally sourced produce, the plant-based options here are as delicious as they are nutritious.
  • Gourmet Seafood: With its coastal location, Manuel Antonio offers a variety of fine-dining seafood restaurants that serve up everything from lobster to mahi-mahi.

Whether you’re savoring a locally sourced meal at a beachfront restaurant or enjoying a gourmet dinner with a panoramic view of the Pacific, dining is a sensory delight. 

Safety and security

Manuel Antonio is generally considered very safe, even by Costa Rica’s high standards.

As an expat, you can enjoy a relaxed lifestyle, knowing that your well-being is hardly a concern.

However, like any place worldwide, taking basic precautions is always wise. 

  • Secure Your Home: Although violent crime is extremely rare, petty theft can occur. Ensure all doors and windows are locked, especially when leaving your home.
  • Watch Your Belongings: While out and about, keep an eye on your belongings. Don’t leave valuables unattended, especially on the beach.
  • Use Registered Taxis: Always opt for registered taxis or reputable transportation companies for safety and reliability.

Climate and weather

Manuel Antonio has a fantastic climate! It’s like an eternal summer here. Let me break down the figures for you. 

The region enjoys a tropical climate, which means it’s warm and humid throughout the year. The average temperature hovers around a very comfortable 27°C (81°F). 

Imagine, no more shoveling snow or bundling up in layers. Instead, you’ll be sipping a cold drink while soaking up the sun on a Costa Rican beach.

There are two main seasons you need to be aware of: the dry season, running from December to April, and the rainy season, which spans from May to November.

Even during the rainy season, showers are usually brief and followed by glorious sunshine. 

Infrastructure and utilities

Manuel Antonio is a haven for nature lovers who also love the creature comforts of reliable and modern utilities.

Electricity, water, and internet here are at par with what you would expect in a major developed city. 

  • Electricity: The electricity in Manuel Antonio is dependable, with few power outages. It’s also eco-friendly, with around 98% of Costa Rica’s electricity generated from green sources.
  • Water: Tap water here is safe to drink and is frequently tested to ensure it meets health standards. 
  • Internet: Most areas in Manuel Antonio have high-speed internet access, and it’s generally reliable. With the growth of digital nomad culture, internet connectivity is a top priority.

The town is relatively small, but it has a well-developed infrastructure. For your daily necessities, there are supermarkets stocked with local and international products. 

Embracing the Pura Vida lifestyle 

Living in Manuel Antonio means fully embracing the Pura Vida (pure life) lifestyle. It’s an ethos that permeates every aspect of life in Costa Rica.

It’s about living in harmony with nature, taking time to enjoy simple pleasures, and appreciating every moment. 

With sustainable living being a core value in Costa Rica, you can also enjoy the comforts of modern living guilt-free, knowing you’re leaving a minimal footprint. 

Final thoughts on living in Manuel Antonio

And there you have it, your first-class ticket to a tropical paradise that offers a flawless blend of nature, adventure, and luxury, making it an idyllic destination for expats craving a laid-back yet enriching lifestyle. 

While the cost of living can be higher compared to other Costa Rican towns, the quality of life, natural beauty, and amenities justify the extra pennies.

Believe me, the awe-inspiring sunsets alone are worth every cent! 

  • Immaculate beaches: Enjoy sun-soaked days on some of Costa Rica’s finest beaches.
  • Vibrant wildlife: Live amidst an array of exotic animals and plants in their natural habitat.
  • World-class amenities: Benefit from modern comforts and amenities, from high-end restaurants to wellness retreats.
  • Welcoming community: Be part of a friendly, international community that values and respects everyone.

In conclusion, Manuel Antonio is not just a place to live. It’s about belonging to a lifestyle that celebrates nature, tranquillity, and culture. 

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