‘Pura Vida’ is a famous phrase in Costa Rica. It basically represents Costa Ricans’ optimistic outlook and relaxed attitude in life, no matter the situation. The term literally means ‘pure life’ and could also be attributed to ‘life is good.’ It’s also known to Costa Ricans as a way of saying hello, goodbye, or to say that everything’s good and brushing off any negativity.
Based on the US Department of State, about 70,000 US expats live in Costa Rica, approximately 50,000 of which are retirees. According to International Living, Costa Rica is part of the top ten best places to retire. Several reasons include a year-round tropical climate, hillside villages, quiet rural areas, Caribbean beaches, modern cities, lush valleys, rain forests, Pacific coastline, and mountains. One can enjoy retirement in peace while basking in the goodness of life and nature the country offers.
Most European, Canadian, and American expats in Costa Rica have much less daily expenses than their home countries. Like any other country, your cost of living will always depend on your lifestyle. However, in many ways, Costa Rica is more affordable than living in your home country. With its lush valleys, one can also expect fresh local fruits and vegetables.
Many couple retirees live comfortably in Costa Rica with budgets ranging from $2000 to $2500 per month. For an individual to live in Costa Rica, the cost of living usually lies between $1000 and $1500 per month. This estimate already includes all standard expenses such as transportation, housing, food, facilities, medical care, entertainment, and food. Real estate costs are also generally affordable, especially with North American-style homes. You might encounter higher prices on properties in the ocean and urban areas than those in rural locations. Housing is approximately a half cheaper than in North America.
Costa Rica's retirement living costs lie in between cheap and expensive. A middle-class family with four members living in the safe Central Valley neighborhood is expected to have monthly expenses of $2500. The cost already includes children studying in private schools with a maid working three to five days a week. The family can spend more on add-ons such as cars and restaurants. It’s also forty percent cheaper in Costa Rica when you do grocery shopping.
Costa Rica living is equivalent to a healthy lifestyle. Retirees opt to live in the country and experience a much more worthwhile lifestyle than how they lived in their home country. Since the weather is warm, you will be enticed to explore the outdoors. Unlike in the US, Canada, and Europe, where you have to stay indoors during the winter, in Costa Rica, there is no time for hibernation. You can choose several activities, from jungle hiking to salsa dancing, mountain climbing, surfing, golf, or beach walks.
The outstanding amount of fruit, vegetable, and fresh seafood supply in Costa Rica also defeats the purpose of Costa Ricans to opt for fast food. In fact, in smaller and rural communities, these food chains are non-existent. The country’s supply of natural resources makes every Costa Rican have a better diet and more activity, leading to holistic transformation for individuals.
Besides promoting a healthy lifestyle, Costa Rica is also one of Latin America’s oldest democracies. The country has been enjoying low crime rates and economic and political stability. Costa Rica houses more school teachers than police officers; the country has not had a military presence since 1948. This highly speaks of Costa Rica’s excellent security. In general, Costa Ricans are happy, warm, and accommodating individuals. It promotes inclusivity regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual preference. Most Costa Ricans practice Roman Catholicism as its main religion, with Jehovah’s Witness, Mormons, Protestant Christians, Jews, and Evangelical Christians.
One of the more known legal residency types in Costa Rica is retired income or ‘pensionado.’ This retiree residency program has been active for over forty years now. A pension of at least $1000 per month from one family member is required to qualify for this retiree program.
Rentista is another residency type where one needs to receive a monthly income of $2500 to qualify. The income can be in rents, investments, and other fixed incomes that are not wages from working. If ‘rentista’ is not suitable for you, you can also put in $60,000 as a deposit to qualify.
Finally, the investment type or the ‘inversionista’ allows you to invest $200,000 in Costa Rica. Investments can be in the form of a home, beach property, farm, or any other investment type that the country allows.
Costa Rica boasts an excellent healthcare system. The country has been known as Central America’s most tremendous success in healthcare, even ranking higher than the United States. Costa Rican’s life expectancy is 80.1 years, just ahead of the US at 78.9 years and a little behind Canada’s 82.3 years. The country houses one of the five Blue Zones globally, specifically in Nicoya in Guanacaste - where residents live a measurably longer life.
It implements a universal healthcare program called CAJA (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social - CCSS). It is part of the country’s Social Insurance Administration managing 21 health care centers and public hospitals in Costa Rica. A resident only needs to settle monthly dues for the coverage of any medical care. The payment is about 7% to 11% of your income, which is somehow affordable. Approximately eight percent of the country’s GDP comes from the healthcare sector, and the Costa Rican government pays for seventy percent.
This medical healthcare program also comes with excellent public and private medical centers across the country, having the best of them in its capital, San Jose. Costa Rica’s primary healthcare clinics comprise an emergency clinic, pharmacy, nurses, and general practitioners as a backgrounder. Another evidence why Costa Rica is proud of its healthcare system is its five specialty national and seven regional hospitals, three general and thirteen peripheral hospitals. Its ten major clinics serve as referral centers for the primary care clinic. On top of that, there are several community and family medical services centers, vaccination, prevention, and promotion initiatives. Even private dental services are much more affordable here than in North America.
Costa Rica’s population is little over five million, 83% of which are mestizos and white, black covers about seven percent, three percent are Amerindians, and the rest are mixed residents from other foreign countries.
Suppose you are from a Spanish-speaking country, then you decide to move to Costa Rica; you need not worry, as Spanish is the country’s official language. However, many Costa Ricans also speak English, especially in the capital and coastal areas. The Cabécar, Maléku, Bribri, Buglere, and Guaymí are indigenous languages used by the descendants of the pre-Columbian inhabitants.
Living in a foreign neighborhood can be pretty exciting and fun. However, once you get settled in, you surely will encounter the challenges of being a foreigner. One of them can be the language. While most Costa Ricans speak English, they may find some terms, like slang, hard to understand. In that case, you may opt to use the country’s official language.
As a retiree, you surely do not want to be burdened by inadequate facilities and services. All you want to have is a worthwhile experience while enjoying retirement in a new place. Each Costa Rican home is equipped with internet, cable television, electricity, water, and other amenities a house needs. Fire stations and police services are strategically spread throughout the country to ensure immediate fire breakouts and possible crimes.
Education in Costa Rica is required by law, and every neighborhood has public schools. Regarding the country’s health services, the CAJA is responsible for catering to Costa Ricans’ medical concerns.
With the country’s transportation, the residents commonly use bus and train services to commute to and from work. Taxis and other cab services operate in the cities. Suppose you opt to travel by sea; there are private boats and ferries across the Gulf of Nicoya. Meanwhile, the Pan-American Highway connects Costa Rica to the rest of the world, either by sea or air.
Visitors can enter Costa Rica passing through four international aisports namely LIR Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, LIO Limón International Airport, SJO Juan Santamaría International Airport, and Tobías Bolaños International Airport. Meanwhile, you can use eighteen domestic airports across the country. Commercial ports are also available, four ports in the Pacific Ocean, while three on the Atlantic Ocean.
Road conditions in the country can vary from excellent to average. The roads in big cities like San Jose, the Central Valley, and other tourist areas are well maintained. However, conditions may change once you reach the rural areas. You can expect potholes and unpaved roads, especially during the rainy season. This turns roads into small rivers and mud pits. So if you plan on driving to explore the country, you might as well check the weather first. Whether in Costa Rica or any other country, it still pays to drive cautiously to avoid accidents.
While most countries require visitors to secure an international driver’s license to drive on foreign roads legally, you only need your driver’s license, visa, and passport to drive in Costa Rica. Your driver’s license is acceptable, so long as it coincides with the length of your visa.
Traffic rules and signs in Costa Rica are generally similar to the rest of the countries. Passing is not allowed on lanes marked with two solid lines, and hatched lines are designated for streets where passing is permitted. Speed limits are in kilometers and are usually posted on the roadside. However, you may encounter some roads without signs, so you might as well be cautious. The wearing of seat belts is mandatory for everyone inside the car, while children under twelve must be on a car or booster seat, depending on their height and weight.
Costa Rica lies between Panama and Nicaragua, which basically goes coast to coast of Central America. It has a width that stretches about 282 kilometers on the northern border and 119 kilometers on the southern edge. As you enter the north part of Costa Rica, there’s a thin, low line of hills between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Nicaragua, which eventually forms the high mountains nearing central Costa Rica and the Pacific Northwest.
The mountains with tectonic origins lie in the country’s southern area, with Mount Chirripé being the highest peak standing at 12 530 feet (3,820 meters). On the lowlands on each coastline lie the rainforests and mangroves on the Pacific southwest, savanna and forest on the northwest, and mainly swampy on the coast of the Caribbean. Meanwhile, the main rivers start flowing from the mountains and through the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
Looking at how diverse Costa Rica is, retirement living will surely be fun. If you see yourself spending your retirement days at the beach, this country is definitely for you. You can bask in the sunset and sunrise at the beaches on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. These are some of the most stunning beaches globally, and if you are into adventure, you can even try world-class surfing. You can also experience wildlife as approximately a quarter of the country’s land is composed of national parks full of spider monkeys, birds, and jaguars. Apart from that, explore the country’s volcanoes, wet and cool cloud forests, tropical dry forests, dense jungles, rivers, and waterfalls.
Visitors can discover the country’s history through its food. What makes a country unique from others is its cuisine, and Costa Rica is not an exception. The country’s cuisine is a mix of Spanish, African, and Native American flavors. The traditional and famous tamale and other delicacies made from corn represent the indigenous settlers, similar to other Mesoamerican nations.
The Spaniards landed in Costa Rica, bringing several ingredients, including spices. The African flavors were then added with other mixed flavors from the Caribbean. Today, the country’s cuisine is diverse and varied, with each ethnic group influencing Costa Rica’s taste and cuisine.
If you are looking for famous and must-try delicacy, you can have tamal, casado, arroz con leche, patacones, olla de carne, and sopa negra. If you happen to try Costa Rican cuisine for breakfast, choose Gallo Pinto, mainly made of rice and beans.
Costa Rica holds the oldest democracy in all of Latin America. It boasts a stable government where citizens can vote and elect leaders every four years. Since 1948, Costa Rica has not had a military force in its territory, allocating the budget to other essential sectors. Despite the absence of an army in the country, it has continuously proved to be a safe and peace-loving nation.
The country records a low crime rate making Costa Rica secure for all its citizens and those planning to live here. Instead of the military forces, the National Police Force is responsible for keeping the country safe and secure.
It is also rare for Costa Ricans to experience extreme poverty as most of its residents are middle-class. At the same time, the wealth is evenly distributed among its citizens. On top of it, the country ensures an inclusive society, welcoming everyone regardless of gender, race, sexual preference, and religion.
With its lush valleys and diverse forests, you can expect Costa Rica to showcase the abundance of nature. The country’s goal to continuously protect and preserve wildlife and other natural resources is commendable. The National Conservation Areas System (SINAC) covers 186 areas in the country. This includes 51 wildlife refuges, 32 national parks, 13 forest reserves, and eight biological reserves. Three of the 32 national parks are hailed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Twenty-eight percent of the country’s land area is under protection, this number being one of the highest in the world.
Costa Rica is a genuine leader in environmental conservation. In 2016, the country placed third in the Americas in terms of Environmental Performance Index and was twice declared the best country in the Happy Planet Index that includes environmental sustainability. Suppose you are into nature conservation and look closely at the country’s environmental policies; you will see that Costa Rica ensures to meet all of the five UNDP criteria to ensure ecological sustainability.
Planning to retire in Costa Rica ensures worthwhile moments in parks and reserves. Nature enthusiasts, campers, hikers, wildlife photographers, and bird watchers come here to witness nature’s beauty. The country houses about five percent of the world’s biodiversity, including beaches, volcanoes, tropical dry forests, cloud forests, and rainforests, among others. All these can be visited without the hassle of traveling extreme distances.
One can identify a country through its national sport. Costa Rica is famous for soccer, being its national sport. The sport tagged as ‘the beautiful game’ has done wonders for the country, having its national team play in five FIFA World Cup editions and even reached the quarterfinals in FIFA 2014. The country was a runner-up during the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Famous Costa Rican soccer players include forward Paulo Wanchope, who played for three clubs in the Premier League, and goalkeeper Keylor Navas for the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain.
Basketball is another famous Costa Rican sport. As you explore the country, you will see pickup basketball played in every neighborhood. The country’s first appearance in the Summer Olympic Games was in 1936, with Bernardo de la Guardia in fencing. Costa Rica later joined the Winter Olympics in 1980 with skier Arturo Kinch.
Costa Rica won four Olympic medals by swimmers Claudia and Silvia Poll, with Claudia bagging the country’s lone gold in 1996.
When Costa Rica abolished military force in the country, part of the national fund was allocated to its public school system, guaranteeing a universal public education in the country’s constitution. Students must attend primary education, with the government shouldering preschool and high school studies. Those who finish high school and pass Costa Rica’s graduation test service receive a Bachelor’s Diploma from the Costa Rican Ministry of Education.
The country has five state universities and over sixty private universities. The private ones are generally smaller, specializing in specific subject areas. In recent years, liberal arts and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) have gotten more interest from students.
As the country provides an excellent education system, its literacy rate is about 97%, and English is vastly spoken in several areas because of the thriving tourism industry. Other languages such as Mandarin, Italian, French, and Portuguese are also taught in schools.
The affordable cost of living in Costa Rica drives more foreigners to invest and purchase real estate in the country. Besides this opportunity, it is essential to note that the country also has the ‘inversionista,’ allowing foreigners to legally invest in properties to reside in Costa Rica.
The country boasts many homes, from the highlands to the coastlines, gated communities, and large estates. Besides being home to thousands of retirees, the country also houses multinational companies, including Intel and Amazon. This is all thanks to Costa Rica’s political and economic stability. There are government organizations that can cater to any investment queries like the Costa Rica Investment and Development Brand (CINDE), Foreign Trade Promotion Institute (PROCOMER), and the Costa Rican Exports Chamber (CADEXO).
The labor force here is highly educated, while technology, the internet, and communications show a competitive edge.
Moving or relocating, whether to a new town or country, always entail several considerations. Costa Rica is a majestic and warm country for retiring foreigners wishing to relocate here. The way to a Costa Rican retirement seamless relocation is through a trusted and experienced institution. Whether you are moving alone or with your family, we can assure to discuss and exhaust all the best options for you, starting from your visas, residency application, purchase or rental of real estate, and all other requirements.