Costa Rica Internet: What to Expect | 2024 Guide

Whether you’re headed to Costa Rica for work or pleasure, Costa Rica’s internet access is likely at the top of your list of things to know. If you’re curious whether the internet connection is strong enough for you to keep your followers updated or stable enough to handle 8-hour Zoom calls, we’ll break it down for you in this article.

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An important thing to know is that the Costa Rican government has been investing in internet connectivity for a long time. Internet coverage, accessibility, and speed are a priority, especially because Costa Rica relies a lot on tourism. There is stable and high-speed internet in Costa Rica, though factors like proximity to the capital of San Jose, weather, congestion, and choosing the right internet providers do need to be considered.

iphone and laptop
Connecting to a Costa Rica Internet
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That said, let’s get right to it! Here’s what you can expect from internet access in Costa Rica.

Internet Infrastructure in Costa Rica

According to Ookla’s January 2024 data, Costa Rica ranked 86th in the world for mobile speeds and 50th for fixed broadband speeds. This means the local internet providers are offering speeds that don’t fall too far behind other countries.

Costa Rica has been greatly expanding its internet infrastructure, especially in the past few years. The government has been very vocal about reducing the “digital divide” between urban and rural areas. Their goal is to improve connectivity all over the country by improving accessibility and boosting private investment.

As of January 2023, internet penetration was at 89.6%, which means there’s a fairly good chance your hotel will have a good internet connection. Costa Rica’s fibre-optic infrastructure has also been improving, with fibre-optic connections accounting for 40% of all fixed-line subscriptions.

All these efforts have made Wi-FI and internet access readily available in many public spaces such as hotels, cafés, and restaurants, and even in some remote areas. Generally, the rule of thumb is that the closer you are to San Jose, the better your internet access is.

There are plans to install more Wi-Fi hotspots in public areas and to offer internet access in community centres and schools. The Ministry of Science, Innovation, Technology, and Telecommunications (MICITT) is also working on offering the public multiple 5G-based services in 2024. With international service providers slowly entering the scene—like Elon Musk’s Starlink—more high-speed internet options are in the works for all of Costa Rica.

costa rica internet
Free Wifi sign

Types of Internet Connections in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, there are a variety of options to get high-speed internet, like Wi-Fi and broadband (which includes fibre optic, DSL, and cable). The best choice for you will mostly depend on where you’re staying and the kind of speed you need, but here’s each one explained:

Wireless (Wi-Fi)

Most people are probably familiar with Wi-Fi. It’s a wireless network that allows users to connect to the internet using a Wi-Fi router or access point. This is very convenient and widely available in Costa Rica.

Many establishments like cafés, hotels, and restaurants (sometimes even sodas) will offer free Wi-Fi for customers, and typically, homes and businesses in urban areas will have Wi-Fi routers for personal use.

However, the reliability and speed of Wi-Fi networks may not always be consistent, especially if you find yourself farther away from the city centres.

Working away, thanks to nordVPN free trial
Working away on our travels

Broadband

Broadband is a wired connection that uses either a fibre optic cable, DSL, or cable to provide high-speed internet access. It’s generally considered to be more reliable and a faster option for internet access in Costa Rica. The broadband market is dominated by providers like ICE, Tigo, and Movistar. 

DSL

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) operates over a traditional phone line. This connection provides decent speeds at up to 50Mbps at a lower-range price point, suitable for everyday internet use. DSL options are generally widely available in Costa Rica.

Cable

Cable broadband uses existing cable TV infrastructure, and offers higher internet speeds compared to DSL at up to 300Mbps. These are slightly more expensive at a mid-range price and aren’t always available everywhere.

Fibre Optic Internet

Fibre optic technology is the fastest and most reliable broadband option, offering speeds of up to 1000Mbps. Fibre optic internet is definitely a good investment for those who need high bandwidth, but it is more expensive and isn’t always available in all parts of the country.

costa rica internet
Fibre Optic internet is the fastest wired internet connection up to date

Best Internet Service Providers in Costa Rica

Claro is one of the most popular internet service providers in Costa Rica. They offer a range of internet plans from 5 to 200 Mbps, starting at USD $21.99, plus telephone and television bundles. Note that Claro is wireless, which means they might have slower download speeds compared to a broadband internet provider, but it’s often the only option in places where cable networks can’t reach.

Kolbi is another reliable internet service provider in Costa Rica. An internet plan from them could range from 5 to 200 Mbps, with mobile packages starting at a monthly fee of USD $21 and home internet at USD $20. Their services also include cloud storage and antivirus softwares.

Liberty (formerly Cable Tica/Movistar) is a leading mobile telecommunications company and cable operator in Costa Rica. They provide television, broadband internet, fixed line telephones, and mobile services. Their fast internet speed ranges from 45 to 500 Mbps and packages start at USD $42.

Tigo is the country’s leading PayTV operator. They offer internet, telephone, landline, television (with content inclusions) and home packages for every need. Their internet plans range from 50 to 300Mbps and include landline, starting at USD $40.

TIP: The speed, rates, and coverage that internet service providers offer constantly change, so check for the latest deals when it’s time to sign up. They often have discounts for new customers and even web-exclusive promotions.

costa rica internet
Working remotely through internet access.

Where to Get Good Internet Access in Costa Rica

San Jose

At Costa Rica’s capital, you can expect the best and fastest internet. The average speed is 30 Mbps, and the coverage is excellent. You might not wake up to world-class waves or palm trees, but you have easy access to the many conveniences in the city. Some neighbourhoods that are good for foreigners include Escazu, Barrio Escalante, and La Sabana.

Escazu, San Jose, Costa Rica
Overlooking Escazu

Limon 

The average speed within Limon is at 15 Mbps and coverage is relatively good. A popular town here is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, where a small community of digital nomads call it home. It’s not an upscale area, though you will be around beautiful beaches, lots of wildlife, and the people here also like to party.

Puntarenas

In Puntarenas, internet speed is on average at 20 Mbps with fair coverage. Jaco is a popular surfing town that’s close to San Jose, and remote workers who don’t mind a bit of a splurge like to stay here. There’s a lively nightlife scene, fine dining, wildlife, great surfing, and 4G is common here, too.

Manuel Antonio is another touristy town with white sand beaches and abundant wildlife. It’s only 3 hours from San Jose International Airport, there’s a hospital in town, and they have a good internet connection too. The only downside is, as a tourist spot, it’s pricey and a little inauthentic. You’ll have to go elsewhere for a genuine Tico experience.

Along Costa Ballena, which feels like one of the more rural areas, you won’t get a lot of 4G coverage and it’s hard to get to as it’s up in the mountains. But if you don’t need to be online 24/7, there are a lot of natural landmarks, excellent hiking, and great surfing in Dominical or Uvita.

Main road in Manuel Antonio
Main road in Manuel Antonio

Guanacaste

The average speed in Guanacaste is at 10 Mbps, and coverage is relatively poor. Tamarindo, one of the popular tourist beaches, is a good option for young digital nomads who want to work hard and surf harder. There are lots of restaurants and hotels that cater to remote workers, surfers, and foreigners in general, so you’re in good company. It does get a little pricey, though.

Santa Teresa is a good alternative for those who find Tamarindo too crowded. There are many hotels and co-working spaces, the surf is great, the beach is wonderful, and the community is spread out.

Another good spot closer to the airport is Playas del Coco. It’s about 50 minutes away from Witch’s Rock, one of the best surfing spots in Costa Rica. The crowd here is mostly retirees or vacationers, it’s relatively quiet and not too crowded. It’s also ideal for those who are travelling with their family.

Samara is a quaint beach town known for peace and quiet. With its peaceful vibe and lots of yoga studios, it’s great for those who want to surf, meditate, and practice. There are also tons of vegan and vegetarian options here, though Wi-Fi in the more remote areas tends to be slower and less reliable.

Guide to Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Town of Samara, Costa Rica

Internet Cafes, Co-Working Spaces, and Public Wi-Fi in Costa Rica

It used to be that every medium-sized town in Costa Rica would have its own internet café. You could easily flag down a taxi or ask a local where the nearest one was, and these local businesses would let you use their computers and even sell coffee and food. Recently, however, co-working spaces have been gaining popularity as they give remote workers exactly what they need.

There’s a WeWork in San Jose and a few condos that have dedicated co-working and meeting rooms within the building. Popular beach towns like Tamarindo and Santa Teresa also have their own co-working spaces, likely because of the influx of digital nomads.

If you’re in a pinch, popular chains and restaurants such as McDonald’s, Subway, Denny’s, and Bagelman’s also provide free Wi-Fi. Hotels, malls, and airports typically have free Wi-Fi, too. Just remember not to access any sensitive information when you’re connected to a public network; public Wi-Fi networks aren’t always the most secure.

READ NEXT: Costa Rica SIM Cards: How to Buy, Recharge, and More

Challenges and Issues for Internet Access in Costa Rica

Location

In Costa Rica, the internet signal you get from your internet service provider largely depends on where you are. The rule of thumb is that the closer to the city, the better the internet service is.

Before you book anything with an internet service provider, make sure you ask your host or any Costa Rican you know how the service is where you’re staying. Some internet providers might not get reception in certain areas.

Power Outage

Power outages are not uncommon in Costa Rica, and they tend to vary depending on each town. It normally doesn’t last very long, but it helps to be prepared in case it does. Have backup batteries or power banks on hand, and ask your accommodations if they have generators in case a power outage happens.

Bad Weather

The rainy season is probably the biggest cause of choppy internet. Best case, the strong rains cause an internet outage that lasts maybe 10-20 minutes, and in the worst case, it causes a power outage – but this doesn’t happen all the time.

costa rica internet
A bad weather in Costa Rica may affect your internet connection, especially wireless!

Costa Rica Internet Tips

  • Our favourite way to stay connected in Costa Rica is by buying an e-Sim. It’s a digital SIM card integrated into most modern smartphones, including iPhone X and newer. It’s hassle-free since you don’t have to swap SIM cards, and flexible as you can choose your own plan. You can often find plans for as low as USD $1/Gb, and you can simply load as you go.
  • Café culture isn’t popular in Costa Rica. Maybe you’ll find people working on laptops at a Starbucks, but people don’t usually stay too long at local restaurants.
  • Costa Rica’s electrical standards are compatible with the US and Canada (120V 60Hz) so you can plug in your devices without adaptors or converters.
An offline map is essential just in case you are having problems accessing the internet.
e-Sims are convenient especially when travelling abroad.

READ NEXT: Holafly eSim for travellers; Internet on-the-go

Final Thoughts

If you’re working from anywhere, Costa Rica is a great place to set up your office. Aside from the sun, sea, sand, and surf, you can find good internet service in several towns here. Fibre optic can give you the fastest internet speed, but there are lots of other alternatives for internet options and internet service providers in Costa Rica.

PS: Costa Rica just passed the “Digital Nomad” Law that allows foreigners to stay in the country for up to 12 months, with tax exemption and no import tax on personal equipment. Time to start packing!

Would you work remotely in Costa Rica? Leave your thoughts down below!

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