Costa Rica’s Last Boom Towns Could Make You Rich
Costa Rica is a beautiful country, with long stretches of deserted and undeveloped beaches…dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife…towering volcanoes, lush green valleys, and hundreds of crystal-clear lakes and rivers…
Not only that, but the country offers a great climate year-round, neighborly atmosphere, no-hassle residence programs, excellent healthcare, a stable democracy, and safety and security. It doesn’t hurt that many retired couples report living well on $2,000 a month—that includes all their costs.
For these reasons, as well as the welcoming locals who are warm and friendly to new foreign neighbors, Costa Rica has been an expat haven for more than 30 years.
That’s another bonus: you don’t have to be a pioneer in Costa Rica. There are well-established expat communities throughout the country. Things are “set up” so to speak, when it comes to shipping your household goods, using the healthcare system, buying property, and more. And by following this well-trodden path, your transition to your new life is much easier.
It’s small, about the size of West Virginia. But the variety of landscapes, climates, and lifestyles in Costa Rica is amazing. You have the rainforests, wild beaches, and charming seaside villages of the southern Pacific coast, also known as the Southern Zone.
A Landscape and Lifestyle for Every Taste
There are the bustling market towns surrounded by sugar cane fields and coffee plantations of the Central Valley. Around the pristine 33-square-mile Lake Arenal, expats have taken up residence on the verdant hills rising from the shore, with vast lake views from their homes. On the Caribbean coast, life is laidback and moves to the rhythm of reggae. And that’s just a small taste of all Costa Rica has to offer as far as places to live.
With all these different climates and landscapes, it’s no wonder that this Central American jewel is also one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet. With just 0.03% of the earth’s surface within its borders, the country has an estimated 5% of the world’s species. In Costa Rica, this natural world surrounds you, putting the country on the forefront of eco-tourism and eco-living. Sloths, capuchin monkeys, toucans, and scarlet macaws will be your new neighbors.
And no matter which location you choose, you can benefit from bargain real estate, whether you buy or rent. Three-bedroom homes in the Central Valley start at $109,000 to buy and $300 a month to rent. And two-bedroom condos a five-minute walk to the beach on the central Pacific coast in a booming resort town are $500 a month, the same units selling for under $70,000. Deals like this can be found throughout the country.
Another big bonus is the high-quality, low-cost healthcare. There are two systems: private, for which you can pay cash or use insurance, and the government-run public system which you join when become a legal resident. Overall, expats in Costa Rica pay a fraction of what they did back home for medical care.
All these advantages make Costa Rica a premier destination for those looking for a secure, fun, and active retirement surrounded by new friends in a beautiful setting.
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- Population: 4,695,942
- Capital City: San Jose
- Climate: Tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands
- Time Zone: GMT-6
- Language: Spanish (official), English
- Country Code: 506
- Coastline: 1,290km
My husband Mike and I loaded up the van with luggage and our two dogs, Dino and Sprite, and set off on our long road trip. One month and 6,000 miles later, we arrived in paradise. Yanina, the owner of the resort, has been our main guide and comforter as we trudge through the red tape of dealing with customs regarding our shipment of personal goods, setting up bank accounts…
Costa Rica is a relatively small country–about the size of New Hampshire and Vermont put together. And that means getting around is easy and inexpensive, and you have a variety of options. For trips to nearby towns and from outlying areas into town, there are regular bus routes, as many Costa Ricans don’t have cars.
Spare a thought for the citizens of Belgium. Their beer is great and their waffles tasty but they also suffer from the highest effective personal tax rate in the world. That’s according to a survey by KPMG. The auditing firm looked at income tax rates and other deductions like social security to calculate their results.
Sunlight filters through swaying palm fronds. My feet are in the sand, I have an ice-cold Pilsen beer in hand, and I’m savoring my lunch: a heaped plate of rice, beans, plantains, and chicken that cost just $6. Coconut milk and a secret blend of spices are commonly used in Caribbean cooking and it’s delicious.
Six months from now, you could be living in paradise… for much less than it costs you to stay home. In the best destinations overseas, your dollar just goes further…first-class healthcare is affordable… you can afford a housekeeper or gardener…and live better than you could back home for a fraction of what you pay now…
What’s the secret to a long, healthy, and enjoyable life? A group of researchers believe that residents of five Blue Zones around the world know it. They have the longest life spans on Earth and are less likely to suffer from heart disease, cancer, and other serious conditions.
Eating like a local is one of the best ways to keep your cost of living low in Costa Rica. And for dining out that means frequenting your local soda, the equivalent of a diner or neighborhood restaurant in the U.S. They serve simple, nutritious food, including the casado, the unofficial national dish, which runs $4 to $6.
Scott Dinsmore, 47, and David Russell, 52, keep busy running their Spanish colonial-style boutique hotel, El Castillo, on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. It sits 600 feet above the beach in the jungle-clad mountains that rise sharply from the deep blue waters.
You wake up early for work. But you’re not slapping at the alarm clock in disgust, then rushing out the door for a long commute. You want to get up…you’re looking forward to the day. You get to enjoy that first cup of coffee as the rising sun makes the Pacific glitter…watch wildlife—toucans, parrots, even monkeys—make their morning rounds in the trees…and bask in praise from departing guests…
After a lifetime of cold weather in Alberta, Canada, retired couple Rick and Peggy Stewart were ready for a change. And they found a perfect climate—and many more benefits—in the rural community of Santa Eulalia about 20 minutes outside of the small town of Atenas, in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. From their new home in the tropics, they can’t help but rub it in with friends and family back home.
My wife Sylvia and I landed in this Pacific coast village of 302 (300 Mexicans, two gringos) six years ago. We bought a half-acre vacant lot in the center to build a modest, hacienda-style place. We had sailed from San Francisco on our 48-foot sailboat, Sabbatical but were easily lured ashore by the tranquil lifestyle.
Oak floors, chandeliers, large fireplaces, and exposed wood beams are things you’d expect to find in a chateau. And this perfect country getaway in Normandy has them all. Built in 1881, it’s set on five acres and surrounded by a mixture of lush green pastures and the forest of Eu. There’s a fruit orchard and the Yres River runs through the property, with a bridge leading to a private island.
Panama’s a place of sunshine, 365 days a year. You have hundreds of miles of beach…highland retreats with green valleys where the weather is spring-like, even in January and August…and a genuinely cosmopolitan capital city, too, with one of the world’s largest financial districts. And Panama offers the world’s most generous retiree benefits.
Here in our home on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, we’ve taken back the weekends. We sleep in a bit. A small breakfast of fresh fruit and rich Costa Rican coffee follows—just something to hold us over. We pack up and drive from our condo in Tamarindo north along the coast about a half-hour to Brasilito, a tiny fishing village.
The Preserve is a project perched above the water in Costa Rica’s stunning lake country of Arenal. You can buy a lot with a 10% down payment. The balance is financed interest-free over 10 years (120 equal payments).
Today I’m going to tell you about one of my favorite places. It has some of the best real estate values right now. And I love spending time there. Back home, winter is gnashing its teeth. But in this place, it’s warm. Bright sunshine reflects on a mirror-flat lake.
Right on the shores of Lake Arenal (and minutes from the town center) you’ll find Turtle Cove Lake and Yacht Club. There are 42 homes sites (premium lake view lots range from $75,000-$85,000). Perched above the lake, and part of the Turtle Cove community, you’ll find this newly constructed home of 4,000 square feet…
The plans paid off and today you’ll find Colin, now 51, at the Banana Azul, his beachfront hotel on Playa Negra, just north of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast. After six years, he couldn’t be happier.
This year find the country that’s right for you…you’re invited to network with the people who can make your move overseas effortless…cut your cost of living in half…and help you avoid the common mistakes made while moving or investing overseas.
The 2 million tourists who come to Costa Rica each year probably think they know this country pretty well. They relax on pretty beaches, zip-line across the tree canopy, surf the wave of the mighty Pacific and trek through misty cloud forests. But most tourists tend to stick to well-known beach towns and the Central Valley. That’s not where you’ll find the best property values right now.
Last month, 13 of your fellow members gathered at the Pacific Lots project in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone. They had two price lists: one for all the inventory at the project; the other, a special list of lower prices for our little group on 14 handpicked lots.
I tried once to compliment a friend on her car and told her in perfect Spanish, “Me gusta su coche.” She asked me to repeat myself a few times and with gesturing I was able to get the point across. But she still looked at me like I was crazy. What I didn’t know was that “Me gusta su coche” means “I like your cart” in Costa Rica, not “I like your car.” I had just insulted her by comparing her car to a grocery cart.
People come to live around Arenal, about three hours north of San Jose, because they fall in love with these views. The weather—not humid, just warm and breezy—is also a big draw. So is the affordable real estate and low cost of living. It’s laid-back, peaceful. These factors alone make it one of the best places to live in Costa Rica.
When Brian and Stephanie Gough went on vacation in Tamarindo, a stunning stretch of palm-fringed shoreline on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, their lives changed forever. They had such an incredible time that they couldn’t bear the thought of going back to their old lives. So they bought a local restaurant. “We fell in love with Tamarindo,” says Brian.
One thing that’s sure to make you homesick when you live overseas is the holiday season. Of course, one reason we left the States was to escape mall parking lot traffic jams, overcrowded superstores, and buying things we didn’t really need just out of habit. So I am glad to be away from the crass commercialism of Christmas shopping and constant TV commercials…
The world we cover at International Living isn’t the same one you hear about on the nightly news. We seek out opportunity—not ratings. This frees us, mercifully, from the “if it bleeds, it leads” mandate. So we can seek out the fortuitous instead of the unfortunate.
Exotic tropical islands, temperate mountain valleys, miles of deserted beaches, First-World cities packed with ultra-modern amenities, and ancient vineyard-shrouded hill towns… Among the top retirement spots in the world this year, you’ll find great variety in the cultural offerings, climates and lifestyles.
Costa Rica scored well across a number of categories to secure fifth place in this year’s Global Retirement Index (narrowly missing out on fourth to Mexico by less than a point). Two key categories for Costa Rica saw it perform particularly well. First up was the Entertainment and Amenities category, in which Costa Rica scored an excellent 94 points from a possible 100.
When Willy and Monika Krauskopf visited Costa Rica’s Lake Arenal 20 years ago, it was a life-changing event. The couple spent 10 days driving around the country. But they found themselves especially drawn to Lake Arenal because of the natural beauty and unhurried pace of the area.
Whether you dream of a pastel-painted, old colonial home surrounded by lush gardens or a super-modern condo just yards from the beach, in locations all over the planet you’ll find incredible value. Affordable, good-value real estate is a “stand-out” factor of the world’s best retirement havens.
We’ve called on our network of experts and in-country editors to reveal their real estate contacts in each of the countries that performed best in our 2013 Global Retirement Index. Knowing the right people will help you negotiate the real estate landscapes in whichever country you’re interested in.
The story of how most expats ended up living in Costa Rica is so similar to mine: “I came to Costa Rica on vacation, fell in love, and decided to stay.” But fell in love with what exactly? What is it about Costa Rica that entices someone to leave their home country and start all over in a foreign land?
Here in Tamarindo, on the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, everybody knows everybody. Long-term expats number in the hundreds. It’s a walkable little ‘burg—we can’t stroll through town without stopping several times to talk with friends—and the “Main Street” is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants run by Costa Ricans, Israelis, Argentinians, Italians, Americans, Canadians…
When my family and I moved to Costa Rica earlier this year, we had a big advantage: me. I speak Spanish. My mother is from Spain, and I’ve spoken the language all my life. I ended up being the translator for most everything—talking to the landlord about the broken washing machine, speaking with government clerks about residency documents, asking about the price of vegetables at the farmers’ market…
The house I was sitting was just outside the town of Atenas in the mountains, about 30 minutes from the capital of San José. Atenas is home to expats from all over the world, and the locals welcome everyone with a friendly smile. The temperatures when I visited ranged from the low- to mid-80s F during the day and a comfortable low- to mid-60s F at night.
Lake Arenal is the largest fresh water lake in Costa Rica, surrounded by rolling green hills, little farms, and pristine forest. Described as Costa Rica’s best kept real estate and retirement secret, the area remains overlooked and undervalued. There’s no apparent reason for this. It’s just one of those anomalies.
Costa Rica’s South Pacific rates as one of our most popular chill weekend destinations. Trips here book up quickly, and sell out months in advance. If you’ve ever visited this jaw-droppingly beautiful part of Costa Rica then you’ll understand why.
I’m in Playa Negra, on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast, in a house in the jungle. The black sand beach, empty save for a few guests from a nearby hotel lounging on beach chairs, is a five-minute walk down the trail.
You might not know this…but Costa Rica has a Caribbean coast. And parts of it are stunning. This place has serious potential.
The land was narrow in front. There was a river, a real river, but no bridge. Then we started to notice the gorgeous trees. We put a ladder over the river and climbed over. As we walked deeper in, the views started opening up. I could see volcanoes in the distance. I knew this was the land I had seen in my mind.”