From condos and townhomes to single-family homes, Costa Rica’s gated communities offer a wide range of home, lifestyle, and amenity options. There’s a reason they’re popular, especially here in sunny Guanacaste!
The question is, would one of Costa Rica’s gated communities be right for you? The answer is guaranteed to be very personal: What’s right for one is not right for all. We’re happy to help you break down the facts and understand what matters most to you, starting right now, with a few of our friends’ and clients’ most frequently asked questions.
- What Are the Pros & Cons of Gated Communities in Costa Rica?
- How Expensive Are Homes in Gated Communities?
- What Amenities Are Available at Costa Rican Gated Communities?
- What Kind of HOA Fees Should I Expect?
- Do Only Expats/Foreigners Live in Costa Rica’s Gated Communities?
- How Close Are Most Gated Communities to Services & Amenities?
- What Else Should I Keep in Mind?
- Ask Your Own Questions
What Are the Pros & Cons of Gated Communities in Costa Rica?
The answer to this question is highly individualized: What one person sees as a pro, another may see as a con. With that viewpoint in mind, let’s discuss a few of the reasons that people choose (or choose not) to live in Costa Rica’s gated communities:
Reason #1: Security / Gated Access
Gated communities are, by definition, gated. That means that these communities have secure access via guarded entrance(s). Typically, you will receive a windshield/dash sticker or other identifying marker that fast-tracks your own entrance; you will have to announce any guests who are visiting.
For many, this is a benefit because gated access equates to greater security. This is particularly beneficial if you love to travel or visit family back home, as you will have peace of mind throughout your extended leave.
Reason #2: Unparalleled Amenities
One of the greatest advantages of living in a gated community is the amenities. These vary, depending on whether you’re in a standard gated community, a lifestyle community, or a resort community (see below for their differences) but the bottom line is that you’ll have access to amenities that would be impossible or very expensive to replicate on your own.
Gated community amenities extend to everything from underground utilities and water storage to extensive trail systems, championship golf courses, and multi-million-dollar beach clubs.
For some, this community aspect can also be a con: In addition to your standard HOA fees (see below), you will be required to follow HOA rules and contribute to special and/or extraordinary assessments, which can include mandatory maintenance, new projects, and more. Be sure to go over an HOA agreement with your realtor and attorney, prior to purchase.
Reason #3: Architecture & Aesthetics
Costa Rica’s gated communities don’t do cookie-cutter, but they do embrace architectural continuity, modern design, and neighborhood aesthetics. If this – and by that, we mean curb appeal – is something important to you, then you may have trouble finding it outside of Costa Rica’s gated communities.
That’s because Costa Rica may not approach zoning, permitting, and neighborhood planning in the same way that you’re used to. Real talk: Outside of gated communities, even sidewalks can be scarce. Gated communities may (or may not, as we said!) be a shortcut to the neighborhood aesthetic you desire.
Reason #4: Built-in Community
It’s no secret that moving to a new country is full of challenges. One of them is in finding your niche, making friends, and rebuilding your sense of community.
When you choose the right gated community, you move into a neighborhood filled with like-minded individuals and potential friends. That’s a major advantage for anyone, and even more so when you’re moving with kids (who really need a local network), are shy/introverted, or otherwise have trouble carving out your space.
Reason #5: Environmental Stewardship
Chances are good that Costa Rica’s biodiversity is at least part of the reason why you’ve chosen Costa Rica. And, while it’s always difficult for one person to make a big difference, it is possible for a community of environmental stewards to effect change.
Most gated communities in Costa Rica have strong sustainable and eco-friendly policies and approaches to life and development. As you peruse your options, you’ll find communities that have created protected wildlife refuges, embraced truly sustainable construction, powered some of their own energy needs, and more.
How Expensive Are Homes in Gated Communities?
This is both a tough and an easy question to answer: Home prices in gated communities run the full gamut – from around $110,000 villas at Playa Lagarto Ecological Development & Resort to $1M+ homes at Mar Vista, Hacienda Pinilla, Las Catalinas, and other prestigious gated communities.
In other words, there truly is a gated community for every price point.
What Amenities Are Available at Costa Rican Gated Communities?
This is where your home search can get really fun. What kind of amenities do you want in your home?
We like to classify Costa Rica’s gated communities into three different types and amenity tiers: gated communities, gated lifestyle communities, and gated resort communities. The type and tier determine, to a large extent, the amenities you’ll enjoy there:
- Gated communities offer gated security and basic amenities, including a 24/7 guarded entrance gate, paved roads, a community water supply, and often, master-planned neighborhoods.
- Gated lifestyle communities add upscale features, including underground services (water, primary storm drainage, electrical, sanitary sewers, and utilities) and walking paths, as well as luxury lifestyle amenities, like community pools, hiking trails through onsite nature preserves, outdoor parks and spaces, Beach Clubs, and more.
- Gated resort communities incorporate luxury community amenities and add exclusive extras, which can include multi-million-dollar Beach Clubs with beachfront swimming pools, championship golf courses (with onsite golf pros), tennis courts (with onsite tennis pros), in-community restaurants, and more. These are the communities where everyday life truly feels like vacation.
What Kind of HOA Fees Should I Expect?
Here’s another one of those more complicated questions, not because there are no rules to HOA fees in Costa Rica but because there are several contributing factors:
- Home Type: HOA fees are typically higher for condos and townhomes because these fees include grounds and building maintenance, as well as related costs. If you purchase a single-family home in the same community, your HOA fee will be less, as you will responsible for your own landscaping, maintenance, and other costs.
- Amenities: As discussed, different communities offer different amenities. As a general rule, gated communities are less expensive than lifestyle communities, which are less expensive than resort communities.
- Community Size: The costs of an intimate community (say, 5 acres) vs. the 4,500-acre Hacienda Pinilla vary greatly. Additionally, in more densely populated communities (ex. multi-level condo buildings), more units share the costs of community maintenance and therefore have lower per-unit fees.
- Community Age: Typically, older buildings and communities often have lower strata fees.
Now, about those costs! First off, know that we are happy to share specific HOA/Strata fee costs for any community you may be considering and because costs vary depending on the above factors, a direct question is the best route when you’re considering a specific community.
That said, if you’re just looking for a general rule, know that at condos and townhomes, you’ll typically fall into a range of low HOA fees ($200-$300/month), mid-tier HOA fees ($400-$600/month), and upscale HOA fees ($700–$1,000+/month). These cover everything from front gate service and road maintenance (low tier) to trail systems, saltwater pools, tennis courts, and beach clubs (upscale tier).
At single-family homes, where fees are lower (for the reasons discussed above), these fees usually fall into the $100 to $350/month range.
Do Only Expats/Foreigners Live in Costa Rica’s Gated Communities?
The short answer: No.
The longer answer: Still no! You’ll find that Costa Rica’s gated communities are incredibly eclectic, with wide-ranging nationalities and residents from all walks of life. You’ll find plenty of Costa Ricans there, as well as residents who originally hail from the United States, Canada, and many other countries.
You will find that some communities are more popular with part-time residents and investors, while others attract more full-time residents. If you want to set down serious roots, meet like-minded (albeit very diverse) neighbors, and create a deep sense of community, we’d recommend seeking out the latter.
How Close Are Most Gated Communities to Services & Amenities?
Here’s another benefit to Costa Rica’s gated communities: They are either built near existing services & amenities or their construction creates a need for services & amenities.
Either way, the takeaway is that most gated communities are convenient to everyday services and amenities, including grocery stores, restaurants, private schools, minor and major medical, etc. That said, your mileage (literally) will definitely vary and local commutes depend a lot on proximity and traffic, so if a specific service or amenity (ex. a private school) is important to you, prioritize!
What Else Should I Keep in Mind?
If you’re seriously considering a specific community, there’s nothing like visiting, checking out the community’s amenities in person, driving to area services & amenities, checking out a specific commute, and, generally, getting a real feel for what it would be like to live there.
We also encourage you to ask lots of questions. At Blue Water Properties, we love answering questions. Many of us also live in gated communities, so we’re well-qualified to answer even the most specific, detailed questions. Go ahead – try us!
Have More Questions about Costa Rica’s Gated Communities?
Because, whether you’ve already settled on your favorite community or are still wondering whether Costa Rica would work for your lifestyle, we’d love to help you explore your options.
For years, we’ve made it our job to help people just like you to make their own successful and dream-fulfilling transition to live in Costa Rica. That’s because we offer honest advice rooted in real, hard-earned expertise. We don’t sugar-coat the truth or side-step the tough stuff. We’re here to share the whole picture – not just the carefully curated, postcard-perfect bits.
We hope you’ll find that the real Costa Rica is still your Costa Rica. Download our founder and broker, Becky Clower’s, free eBook. Reach out on socials. Sign up for updates. And look into our Costa Rica relocation services. Give us a chance to show off our expertise – and wow you with the possibilities! We look forward to it.