Costa Rica

San jose
State type
Type of government
Republica representativa democrática
Administrative Division

National Level

Gobierno Central

Intermediate/Regional Level

Provincias 7

Local Level

Cantones 81

Official names of subnational and local governments


Gobiernos locales


National Urban Policy

  • Costa Rica's 2018-2030 National Urban Development Policy aims to promote the management of cities through a sustainable urban development approach, promoting the improvement of the quality of life of its inhabitants and increasing the efficiency and productivity of cities, as collective entities that are decisive to increase the economic and social competitiveness of Costa Rica. All in the face of the challenges the country faces to comply with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda of Habitat III.

    National urban policy type:
    Policy temporality:
  • Costa Rica is a unitary country administratively divided into Provinces, Municipalities and Districts. The Municipalities correspond to the only self-government at the local level, which are made up of districts. Their political, financial and administrative autonomy is constitutionally recognized.

    The municipalities in Costa Rica, unlike many local governments in the region, are financed mainly by the generation of their own resources, both tax and non-tax. Among the most important local collection mechanisms are the property tax and the special fuel tax, of which they cannot set rates; however, municipalities can propose to the Legislative Assembly the creation of taxes and tax exemptions, and set the rates and prices for municipal services.

    Regarding intergovernmental transfers, the central government transfers 10% of its ordinary income to local governments. 

    Additionally, municipal governments have access to external financing mechanisms such as internal and external debt and issuance of municipal bonds under the parameters established by law, financing from the private sector and International Cooperation funds. 

  • Costa Rica has a very diverse regulatory framework for land use planning, which proposes competencies, both direct and indirect, to multiple State institutions, and at different planning scales. 
    Land use planning and urban planning is considered a function of the State. 
    The municipalities, and other public entities, must define and execute national land use planning policies to promote the common good and the protection of the environment over particular interests.