Although the country is known for its beaches, the majority of foreigners who move to Costa Rica tend to settle in the Central Valley…near, but definitely not in…the chaotic capital city of San Jose.
They’re after the temperate climate and access to amenities the Central Valley offers. At an elevation of about 3,600 feet above sea level, daytime temperatures average 75 to 80 F.
The poshest and most popular Central Valley destination—for foreigners and locals alike—is Escazú, just a few miles west of San Jose. Several foreign embassies are located here, as are the residences of the U.S. and British ambassadors, and you’re as likely to hear English spoken as Spanish.
In Escazú, you’re close to the country’s largest shopping malls and most sophisticated hospitals. There are many fine dining and nightlife options, a luxurious country club, and an 18-hole championship golf course. All this, and you’re only an hour’s drive from the Pacific coast.
Beach real estate tends to cost more than properties in the Central Valley, but be aware that Escazú is home to some of the highest-priced real estate in the valley. That’s the price of convenience. Still, those who live in Escazú say you can live quite well on $35,000 to $40,000 per year.
Because of its many international residents, it’s easy to meet people in Escazú and there are several expat clubs to facilitate networking. The Little Theatre Group, which offers performances in English and the Women’s Club are good places to start.
Hands down, Costa Rica’s universal health care system is one of the best in the world. Once you obtain legal residency in Costa Rica, foreigners are eligible (required, in fact) to participate in Costa Rica’s universal health care system, CAJA. It’s affiliated with 10 major public hospitals in the country and many small clinics in almost every community.
You can also buy private insurance—most plans cover dental work, optometry, and cosmetic surgery in the case of an accident. Private medical insurance in Costa Rica currently costs about $50 to $100 per month per person, depending on age, gender and other factors.
And don’t worry about language issues—many doctors speak English and have received training in Europe, Canada, or the U.S.
Editor’s note: We recently produced a special report on the easiest places in the world to retire—see the August issue of International Living for full details of Costa Rica and our six other favorites. When you subscribe to IL magazine with this link, you’ll get instant access to the current issue as well as the August issue through the online archives.