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Costa Rica: 4 Best eSIMs Compared + Discounts (2022)

Costa Rica – meaning Rich Coast in Spanish, is known for its clear beaches, incredible national parks & water-based activities, such as river rafting, canyoning & cave tubing.

With the North Pacific Ocean on the west and the Caribbean Sea on the east, there is no shortage of sea to be found while in Costa Rica (unless you are solely staying in San José).

But the country is not just a beach destination. Monteverde has cool hiking trails and the Cloud Forest Reserve.

San José has interesting museums and plenty of bars (great for nightlife).

And Parque Nacional Manual Antonio has an incredible rainforest – there is no need to be bored while in Costa Rica.

In fact, you probably want to share your Costa Rica travel experience when you are there, and that is your right.

But before you share your colorful Costa Rica experiences online, be aware that international roaming can be expensive.

Travel eSIMs can be a much more affordable way to stay connected, even in Costa Rica.

How much will a travel eSIM for Costa Rica cost?

You can get a travel eSIM for Costa Rica for as little as 9 USD, with 1 GB for 7 days, up to 54 USD, for 5 GB, from Airalo, Holafly & Nomad.

While this may sound a bit pricey but international roaming will be even more expensive.

So yeah, these travel eSIMs can be worth it.

In this guide, I will go over the travel eSIM options offered by Airalo, Holafly & Nomad. Let's go.

Buying an eSIM for Costa Rica Guide (logos of Airalo, Holafly, Nomad & HOT Telecom)

Original publication: 1st of September 2022. Last updated: 10th of September 2022.


Table of Contents

eSIMs offered by the Costa Rican Mobile Operators

Suppose you want to get the best service and reception available in Costa Rica.

In that case, it is better to get a SIM card or travel eSIM from the local mobile operators, which in this case would be the Costa Rican ones.

Not only will you not have to deal with latency, but you also get a higher priority on the network because you are a direct customer of the mobile operator instead of a roamer.

And with most travel eSIMs, you are roaming on the network(s) of the local mobile operator(s).

But that is not always the case – the slow speeds part, that is.

Some mobile operators throttle the speeds of prepaid customers because they want more people to get a postpaid plan.

Unfortunately, travelers cannot get postpaid plans – so one way to avoid throttling is by using a travel eSIM.

Yes – travel eSIMs sometimes have faster speeds than native prepaid customers because of throttling.

So, which Costa Rican mobile operators offer eSIMs to prepaid customers? None do.

You have three other options for getting an eSIM for your trip to Costa Rica: Airalo (with Hot Telecom), Holafly & Nomad.

One of the main advantages of getting a travel eSIM for Costa Rica is that (1) you do not have to try to speak (broken) Spanish to get a local eSIM, (2) you can set up the eSIM before arriving in Costa Rica and activate it upon landing & (3) you do not have to deal with Costa Rica's SIM card registration laws.

I have to mention that travel eSIMs will be more expensive than local eSIMs and SIM cards, but they are more convenient.

Moreover, I have plenty of experience with the eSIMs from Airalo, Holafly & Nomad, so I can vouch for them – so can many Phone Travel Wiz readers!

Phone Travel Wiz Approved Seal

So let's go over what the travel eSIMs offer for Costa Rica!


Airalo eSIMs for Costa Rica (Hot Telecom)

Costa Rica Hot Telecom eSIM Airalo
© Airalo

If you have read any of my eSIM or SIM card buying guides before, then you know I am a big fan of Airalo.

Not only does Airalo have eSIMs for most countries (around 190 countries) of any eSIM platform, but they are also often one of the cheapest while offering fantastic service in terms of speeds and reception.

That is because Airalo usually partners up with the mobile operator with the best coverage, the fastest speeds, both, or even multiple operators.

That way, you get the best bang for your buck, I have to say.

In the case of Costa Rica, the Hot Telecom uses the Kölbi Costa Rica network.

Kölbi Costa Rica Logo
© Kölbi Costa Rica

So, which Costa Rica Hot Telecom eSIMs are available? You have three options:

  1. Costa Rica/Hot Telecom 1 GB eSIM for 7 days, costing 9 USD (most popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers)
  2. Costa Rica/Hot Telecom 3 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 24 USD
  3. Costa Rica/Hot Telecom 5 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 30 USD (very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers)
© Airalo

What do I mean with most popular and very popular?

50% of Phone Travel Wiz readers get the 1 GB Hot Telecom eSIM. Another 37.5% get the 5 GB version.

The rest (12.5%) get the 3 GB variant (although I expected this to be higher because 1 GB is basically nothing 🗿).

For Airalo eSIMs, the links above will automatically get you the Phone Travel Wiz exclusive offers available – a code is not necessary.


Airalo Hot Telecom eSIM Pros

Are there any (more) reasons why you should get the Hot Telecom eSIM? Yes, there are:

  • You can activate your Hot Telecom eSIM as soon as you land in Costa Rica
  • You get full (up to 4G/LTE) access to Kölbi Costa Rica's network – which has the best general coverage and has the second-fastest speeds
  • Hot Telecom eSIMs are affordable (especially compared to roaming)
  • SIM card registration is not a thing you have to worry about with the Hot Telecom eSIM, saving you time
  • Multiple top-ups can be purchased when you are out of data or when your initial plan expires easily on the Airalo site or apps

I could list many more pros, but these are the major ones.

Unfortunately, there are some cons to be aware of.

Airalo Hot Telecom eSIM Cons

Why should you not get the Hot Telecom eSIM?

  • The Costa Rican mobile operators, including Kölbi Costa Rica itself, have much more generous data allowances
  • While you get access to Kölbi Costa Rica's network, your speeds may not be as fast as going with Kölbi Costa Rica itself because you will be roaming on their networks (and not be a native customer)
  • There is no 5G NR access with the Hot Telecom eSIM (yet)
  • You cannot call or text with the Hot Telecom eSIM (nor can you receive them – you get no (local) phone number)

Airalo Hot Telecom eSIM Overall Thoughts

The Hot Telecom eSIM is a convenient eSIM that can be purchased before going to Costa Rica and can be activated upon arriving.

You get access to one of Costa Rica's best networks with the Hot Telecom eSIM.

And everything, purchasing and topping up, can be done online on the Airalo website or Airalo app (downloading the app is recommended).

Remember, you cannot call or text with the Hot Telecom eSIM, as it is a data-only eSIM.

Consider a Costa Rican SIM card if calling and texting is important, but you have to deal with the (e)SIM (card) registration laws.


Nomad eSIMs for Costa Rica

Nomad eSIMs Logo
© Nomad

Nomad is one of the eSIM players on the market that managed to grow quickly.

That is because it is one of the few premium eSIM players out there, often using multiple partners to bring you the best coverage and speeds out there.

As a result, Nomad is often (slightly) more expensive than Airalo.

But good people run the company.

For example, upon my recommendation, it started offering the Nordics regional eSIM – an eSIM that can be used in Denmark, Finland, Sweden & Norway.

And many more regional eSIMs are coming – I can promise you that!

Anyway, what did I mean with “often using multiple partners to bring you the best coverage and speeds out there” earlier?

In Costa Rica, Nomad uses the Truphone network, which uses a combination of local networks (Kölbi Costa Rica, Movistar Costa Rica & Claro Costa Rica), allowing your eSIM to switch to the network with the best reception automatically.

This way, you will always have a connection (unless you are in the middle of a jungle, of course 🤪).

You have the following three options with Nomad for Costa Rica:

  1. Costa Rica 1 GB eSIM for 7 days, costing 20 USD/20.50 EUR/17.50 GBP/26.50 CAD
  2. Costa Rica 3 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 48 USD/48.50 EUR/41 GBP/63 CAD
  3. Costa Rica 5 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 54 USD/54.50 EUR/46.50 GBP/70.50 CAD
Costa Rica eSIMs Nomad
© Nomad

Now, these prices are significantly higher when looking at the Airalo Costa Rica Hot Telecom eSIM, especially the 1 GB variant.

And I can tell you that Phone Travel Wiz readers do not get the 1 GB or 3 GB variants at all – they too costly.

However, the readers who get the Nomad Costa Rica eSIM go for the 5 GB variant.

Mostly because the Airalo Costa Rica Hot Telecom eSIM has only the 1 GB version, which requires multiple top-ups if you want more data and has a 7-day validity.

And, unlike the Hot Telecom eSIM, the Nomad Costa Rica uses multiple networks instead of just one (Kölbi Costa Rica), giving you much better coverage and faster speeds.

So that is why many Phone Travel Wiz readers do not mind spending 6 USD more for the Nomad Costa Rica eSIM than the Hot Telecom eSIM (9 USD) with four top-ups to get 5 GB of data (4 * 9 USD).

Wait… only 6 USD more? Is 54 USD – 45 USD not 9 USD?

That is correct (and you are paying attention!), but you can get 3 USD off your first Nomad purchase when using code ADU123!

I am looking out for you there 😏.

And, of course, just like the Airalo Costa Rica Hot Telecom eSIM, you can also top up your Nomad Costa Rica eSIM on the Nomad site or apps.

Nomad Costa Rica eSIM Pros

Are there any (more) reasons why you should get the Nomad Costa Rica? Yes:

  • SIM card registration and bureaucracy? Skip that with the Nomad Costa Rica eSIM, saving you time
  • You can activate your Nomad Costa Rica eSIM as soon as you land in Costa Rica
  • You get full (up to 4G/LTE) access to multiple Costa Rican networks, allowing you to always have the best coverage and speeds
  • Nomad Costa Rica eSIMs are affordable compared to roaming
  • Nomad offers the most options (three) and longest validity (30 days) of any travel eSIM in this guide
  • Multiple top-ups can be purchased when you are out of data or when your initial plan expires easily on the Nomad site or apps

But it is not all good news with Nomad though – there are some disadvantages.

Nomad Costa Rica eSIM Cons

Why should you not get the Nomad Costa Rica eSIM?

  • Costa Rican mobile operators have much more generous data allowances
  • While you get access to multiple Costa Rican networks, your speeds may not be as fast as going with the mobile operators directly because you will be roaming on their networks (and not be a native customer)
  • Nomad has the most expensive plans for Costa Rica in this guide
  • There is no 5G NR access with the Nomad Costa Rica eSIM (yet)
  • You cannot call or text with the Nomad Costa Rica eSIM (nor can you receive them – you get no (local) phone number)

Nomad Costa Rica eSIM Overall Thoughts

Overall, the Nomad Costa Rica eSIM is an excellent premium eSIM offering the most options and longest validity in this guide.

And because the Nomad Costa Rica eSIM uses multiple networks, you will always have the best reception when traveling around Costa Rica.

The main con is that Nomad has the most expensive options in this guide.

And you cannot make calls and send SMS with the Nomad Costa Rica eSIM because it is a data-only eSIM.

If 1 GB for 7 days is not enough and you do not want to pay 54 USD for 5 GB of data, then you have one more option…


Holafly eSIMs for Costa Rica

Holafly Logo
© Holafly

My relationship with Holafly is quite funny.

I knew they existed when they offered travel SIM cards for the Spanish market only.

Then they pivoted to the global market, still offering travel SIM cards.

Eventually, they started offering travel eSIMs for the Spanish market only again before going global.

There are many travel eSIM providers nowadays – new ones pop up every week like mushrooms, so I did not bat an eye.

Until they did something revolutionary.

In 2022, Holafly started offering unlimited data plans for its eSIMs.

Phone Travel Wiz x Holafly Banner

And these unlimited data eSIMs can be used in various Asian countries, almost all European Union member states (except for Liechtenstein) & a few other countries, like Canada and the United States.

Unfortunately, unlimited data eSIMs are not available in Costa Rica… yet.

I say yet because Holafly's goal is to offer unlimited data plans for every country it covers: 100+ countries.

And I can tell you that I get positive emails multiple times a week from Phone Travel Wiz readers that have used the unlimited data plans in East- and Southeast Asia, Europe & North America; they love these eSIMs.

For now, you have only one Holafly Costa Rica eSIM (which uses the Claro Costa Rica network – the mobile operator with the best network and fastest speeds, by the way) option:

Claro Logo New
© Claro

Not much choice, as you can see.

You can get 5% off each and any Holafly purchase (so it does not have to be the Costa Rica eSIM) when you use code PHONETRAVELWIZ – fantastic, right?

Holafly Costa Rica eSIM Pros

So, why should you get the Holafly Costa Rica eSIM? Well, because of the following:

  • Holafly Costa Rica eSIMs are affordable compared to roaming
  • You get full (up to 4G/LTE) access to Claro Costa Rica's network – the best in Costa Rica
  • Unlike going with Claro Costa Rica directly, you do not have to worry about SIM card registration because it is unnecessary
  • You can activate your Holafly Costa Rica eSIM as soon as you land in Costa Rica
  • The Holafly Costa Rica eSIM offers the most data

Holafly Costa Rica eSIM Cons

Why should you not get the Holafly Costa Rica eSIM?

  • You cannot call or text with the Holafly Costa Rica eSIM (nor can you receive them – you get no (local) phone number)
  • Costa Rican mobile operators, including Claro Costa Rica, have much more generous data allowances
  • While you get full (4G/LTE) access to Claro Costa Rica's network, your speeds may not be as fast as going with Claro Costa Rica directly because you will be roaming on their networks (and not be a native customer)
  • You cannot top up your Holafly Costa Rica eSIM – you would have to buy another eSIM if you need more data
  • There is no 5G NR access with the Holafly Costa Rica eSIM (yet)

Holafly Costa Rica eSIM Overall Thoughts

While you have only one option for the Holafly Costa Rica eSIM, it is the most generous eSIM (in terms of data) in this guide.

And the price for the Holafly Costa Rica eSIM is low compared to expensive Pay As You Go roaming rates for Costa Rica.

But it still is not cheap.


Best eSIMs for in Central- and South America (not just Costa Rica)

So what if you plan to visit neighboring Nicaragua? Panama? The Caribbean? Or other countries in Central– and South America?

Unfortunately, you cannot use your Airalo Hot Telecom, Holafly Costa Rica, or Nomad Costa Rica eSIMs in any country than Costa Rica.

However, Holafly has an eSIM covering the popular travel destinations in Central- and South America, including Costa Rica.

I highly recommend going with the Holafly South America eSIM, which also covers parts of Central America, if you plan on visiting multiple countries in the Americas, as you will save a lot of money when you do so.

Holafly Central- and South America eSIM

While Holafly officially calls this eSIM the South America eSIM, it can also be used in a few countries in Central America.

And as many Phone Travel Wiz readers who visit Costa Rica also visit neighboring countries, it will be better to get the Holafly South America eSIM for your travels.

The Holafly South America eSIM can be used in the following 13 countries:

You only have one option for the Holafly South America eSIM: 6 GB eSIM for 15 days, costing 44 USD/47 EUR/34 GBP.

South America eSIMs Holafly

Overview of the Best eSIMs for Costa Rica (Airalo vs. Holafly vs. Nomad)

In this guide, I went over various eSIMs Costa Rica.

Below is an overview of my recommendation order:

  • Airalo's Costa Rica Hot Telecom eSIM (cheapest)
  • Holafly Costa Rica eSIM (most generous data plan)
  • Nomad Costa Rica eSIM (most eSIM options)
  • Holafly's Costa Rica eSIM (best value for money when also visiting other Central- and South American countries)

Remember to use code PHONETRAVELWIZ for Holafly eSIMs and code ADU123 for Nomad eSIMs – a code is not necessary for Airalo eSIM purchases.


Buying a SIM Card in Costa Rica

Do these eSIMs not sound appealing to you, or does your phone not support eSIMs (but still thought this guide was insightful enough that you read it until the end)?

Consider getting a Costa Rican SIM card instead – that linked guide is the most extensive SIM card buying guide for Costa Rica on the web, packed with insightful information and tips.

Buying a SIM Card in Costa Rica Guide (logos of Kölbi, Movistar & Claro)

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