How much does a one year sabbatical in Costa Rica cost? (Part 1)

Part 1- running expenses

We are asked often how much did our one year sabbatical in Costa Rica cost?

Of course, it all depends on lifestyles as well as the size of the family. But before our trip we had read that, on average, the running expenses are between 12000-14000 US$ per person for a year. This was our experience as well.

In this post you can find information on how the costs were distributed between the different categories: housing, food, excursions, pets, car, health insurance, phone and banking costs. The calculations are based on the real expenses of our sabbatical in 2020 in Costa Rica and the costs are expressed both in US$ and €. For the conversion between colones and US$ I have used the annual average of 1 US$ = 615 colones. For euros, 1 € = 730 colones.

I have also added the one-time expenses – for example, visa applications, purchase of the car- in part 2 of this blog.

But let us start with the running expenses.

This is how it looked for us on average (2 adults and a pet) in US$ and Euros (quantities rounded).

Housing (rental house, incl electricity, wifi and water)
850$ – 700€10200$ – 8400€
Food (organic when possible, vegetarian) &
other supermarket items
600$ – 500€7200$ – 6000€
Excursions (entry in parks, guides)
150$ – 125€1800$ – 1500€
Pets (food, vet care)
200$ – 165€2400$ – 1980€
110$ – 90€1320$ – 1080€
25$ – 20€300$ – 240€
Health insurance
300$ – 250€3600$ – 3000€
Other125$ – 100€1500$ – 1200€
TOTAL2360 US$ – 1950€28320 US$ – 23400€


Rental of a 2 or 3 bedroom furnished house, including electricity, water, gas and sometimes wi-fi. Housing prices can range from 600 US$ for a “tico-style” house or an off-season rental to 1500-2000 US$ (or more) in high season. Airbnb prices are usually higher than what one can arrange on the spot, so my suggestion is to rent only for the first one or two months and then try to arrange the rental of the house once that you are in Costa Rica. Monthly rentals and long-term rentals are obviously cheaper than short term rentals (which we also did while we were not-volunteering and traveling around). Average monthly expense: 850 US$ – 700€.


We bought most of our food and personal hygiene stuff at the local supermarkets (BM in the Pacific coast and Super Negro in the Caribbean coast) which are always a bit more expensive than the large supermarket chains like Walmart which one can find around San José and in the Nicoya Peninsula. We bought the fruit and veggies from the local markets, where they usually are cheaper and of much higher quality. We baked our own bread at home. We went very seldom to restaurants, although we treated ourselves with a pizza at a local restaurant almost on a weekly basis. Our costs are for two adults and a vegetarian diet. Average monthly expense: 600 US$ – 500€.


We did not do as many excursions as we had expected, mostly because of the Covid-19 restrictions. So, on a “normal” year, I guess that we would have spent more on excursions and spent more money in total. Nonetheless we went to protected areas as much as we could, we did several bird watching tours, whale watching tours, canopy tours and we went diving a couple of times in Isla del Caño and Catalina Islands. Average monthly expense: 150 US$- 125€.


We were traveling with our diabetic cat who requires regular veterinary attention and special food (grain-free), which made our monthly expenses for pets quite high. Veterinary care is not expensive, at least not compared to Sweden, but we had to take her to a specialized vet almost every month so that added up. The costs include the vet care, the cans of Taste of the Wild and the eco-pellets that we use instead of the traditional cat sand. We ordered 35 kg bags of sawdust pellets from EcoPets every 4 months or so. It was delivered wherever we were in Costa Rica. Costs should be much lower if one is traveling with a healthy pet, which can eat standard food (even if it is high quality food). Average monthly expense: 200 US$ – 165€.


Here, I am including the petrol, the monthly car insurance and the tolls and other minor expenses related to the car. We had a Suzuki Grand Vitara that we used regularly for small distances (10 km) and larger distances every couple of months, when we went for excursions. Average monthly expense: 110 US$ – 90€.


We had a pre-paid SIM card from Kölbi. The expenses are mostly for the internet packages (aprox 7 dollars for 2Gb) since we did not phone that much. Average monthly expense: 25 US$ – 20€.

Health and other Insurance

We had very comprehensive insurance with a Dutch company for which we were paying around 150 US$ per person/month. This amount included the health insurance, home abroad insurance and travel cancelation insurance. Average monthly expense: 300 US$ -250€.


This is a miscellaneous category which includes basically everything else that could not be classified in the previous categories: pharmacy, postal services & stamps, books, equipment and even costs of changing our tickets a couple of times throughout the year, etc. Average monthly expense: 115 US$ -100€.

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