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.
Get Your Free Costa Rica Report Now
Learn more about Costa Rica and other countries in our daily postcard e-letter. Simply enter your email address below and we’ll send you a FREE REPORT - Why Are Americans Still Flocking to Costa Rica.
This special guide covers real estate, retirement and more in Costa Rica and is yours free when you sign up for our IL postcards below.
Get Your Free Report Here
- 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
Many who were on the fast track to retirement have now seen their retirement savings depleted and their plans sidetracked. Many wonder if they can retire at all, much less earlier than planned.
With a few simple strategies and ideas there are a couple of ways to salvage your retirement plans.
The breeze is gently swaying the hanging bed, perched over a terraced hill, with views of three islands in the foreground. The South Pacific, an intoxicating mix of jade, turquoise and cobalt, is just a few steps down the stairs. Behind me is the pool with a mosaic, blue starfish in the bottom and lounge chairs—farther back, a three-bedroom, three-bath house…each room with its own view of this unspoiled paradise.
Costa Rica has some of the best health care in Latin America. The country’s public and private sectors are constantly being upgraded. Despite the building of new hospitals, new equipment and the improvements in staff training, costs remain low in comparison with the U.S.
When Karen McCrea, 56, and Axel Santana, 46, were looking for an ideal spot for their guest houses, they had a few criteria. The location had to be unspoiled, yet with amenities their guests might expect like hot water, high-speed Internet, and quick access to grocery shopping. The couple found their spot during a trip to the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica in 2006. The region, also known as the Southern Zone…
You ain’t nothin but a hound dog…cryin’ all the time… Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit… And you ain’t no friend of mine… Elvis was in the house last night. Young Elvis. Dressed in a nicely tailored black suit with a white, open-collared shirt, he serenaded our VIP readers over cocktails in the 20th-floor penthouse here at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas. As I wandered through the crowd yesterday evening, I was pleased to hear that—the occasional Elvis recollection aside—the conversations had turned to the details shared thus far about the world’s best retirement destinations.
“From curried kale chips to soy milk…every time I say, ‘I wish we could get that here,’ the person I’m talking to tells me we can and where I can go to pick it up…or I stumble on the item myself at the store two weeks later,” said Jessica Ramesch this morning to a packed house of 800 International Living readers. “Panama just keeps getting better and better.”
The average U.S. Social Security check is $1,230 a month for a retired worker. That may not seem like a lot–but when you retire overseas you can cut your cost of living. Below are stories from expats who did just that.
First-World cities packed with ultra-modern amenities, and ancient vineyard-shrouded hill towns close to tropical beaches and mountain valleys. Among the top retirement spots in the world this year, you’ll find great variety in the cultural offerings, climates and lifestyles. Each destination is desirable in its own way, but they all offer something increasingly hard to come by at home: A good quality of life for a reasonable price.
It’s like it was fate that brought Sandy, 69, and Chip Bublik, 75, to their home on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast nine years ago. First, their step-son offered to give them land to build a home. Second, Sandy had just retired and the going-away gift from her employer—she was a receptionist at an ad agency—covered the cost of a container to ship their household goods to Costa Rica.
The landscape is the first thing you notice about the Southern Zone, the region on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. It’s so dramatic that it dominates every viewpoint. Picture high mountains, covered in lush plants and trees in a thousand shades of green, running along the coastline. They drop dramatically near the shore, where a narrow jungle-filled lowland gives way to palm-tree lined beaches.
There are many differences between Costa Rica’s Caribbean and Pacific Coasts. The Caribbean coast stretches for some 125 miles between Panama and Nicaragua. The region is sparsely populated, but has splendid beaches, excellent fishing, great water sports and it gives endless opportunities for getting close to nature.
Shopping like a local in Costa Rica often means forgoing trips to the supermarket in favor of the feria (farmers’ market), mercado central (central market), and roadside stands, especially for fruits, vegetables, and other fresh foods.
Costa Rica has a huge variety of landscapes – from looming volcanos to steamy rain forests to vast hillside coffee plantations and much, much more.
No matter how affordable the destinations we talk about are, the simple fact is: You can’t live anywhere for free… But what if you had an income that went with you? An income that could give you the freedom you need to just pick up and go?
A fter more than four years of living in Costa Rica, we are still taking Spanish lessons. It’s a process; as they say here, poco a poco (little by little). Of course, we could just speak English. Many expats do. Lots of locals speak some English and we have many expat friends. But when we first decided we wanted to live overseas, we knew that we also wanted to integrate into our new home.
The town of Arenal is home to many Americans, Canadians and other foreigners who enjoy living and working in one of Costa Rica’s most spectacular regions. The natural beauty of this area relies on an active volcano that overlooks a beautiful tranquil lake.
“I knew the first day that someday I would live here,” recalls Dale, who’s now in her 50s. “It was the way I felt. It was beautiful. And I felt like I was..
One way to live better is to live more simply…to lessen the burden of possessions and get off the “keeping up with the Joneses” treadmill.
A lot of my friends here in Costa Rica, as well as many people I’ve met in my travels, are moving to Atenas. More than a half-dozen couples and families in the last few months have arrived in this small town in the Central Valley.
Seven years ago Kristin Gilbert Ramirez was living the American Dream. She had a full-time teaching career, health benefits, a home, a car, and fancy electronics. And she was pursuing her master’s degree in the beautiful countryside of Maine. Only it wasn’t her dream.
From Bali to Belize, retreat centers are popping up to meet the demand of busy First World clients in search of relaxation. Janine Hall has found a niche for women-only retreats focusing on surf and yoga…Carrie Tengler has made a solid living from the spa and yoga business in Belize…and Kristin Gilbert-Ramirez missed yoga so much on her Costa Rican travels that she set up her own classes and decided to move there permanently.
For some time now, I’ve silently wondered if I am the only one who winces at the frequent admonishment to “go big or go home.”
Why, I muse, would folks smart enough to abandon a large working environment want to replicate that? Why is millionaire status still flaunted as the pinnacle of success? Or home ownership the epitome of the American Dream? It all seems so…well…20th century.
Combine your creative talent with the craftsmanship and designs of another country and you could find an opening for an interior design business. In Jacó, on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast, Lynn Gensemer, 56, of Chungo Interior Designs, eschews expensive imported furniture and fixtures from the U.S. in favor of working with local craftsmen to create custom designs.
Despite his many years working as a car-insurance salesman in Portland, Oregon—and making good money— Caelan Huntress always considered it a temporary gig. Today he has thrown out the cubicle, tie, and daily commute…and taken his sales skills online. He lives and works from his home in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone—a region on the southern Pacific coast, near the border with Panama. The beach is 45 minutes away. Shopping and quality medical care is just 15 minutes down the hill. And the verdant green mountains of the interior are an even bigger draw.
My wife, Caryl, and I grew up together in a very small town in the rural Midwest. After leaving for college, marrying, and spending many years in the workforce, we returned to our little community—38 years after we left.
Leaving my 9-to-5 job in order to pursue my job as a freelance photographer and part-time writer was the best career choice I ever made. I had been living in Oahu, Hawaii, for 10 years…but at the age of 35, I decided to make a major life change…and move to Costa Rica. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was a good decision.
Each time I visit Costa Rica’s stunning lake country of Arenal, I wonder how this place has remained so long under the radar.
When expats talk to us about why they moved to Costa Rica, they’re sure to mention that they were drawn in by the beauty of the country. With both a Pacific and a Caribbean coast, dramatic volcanos, rain forests and cloud forest, and the largest variety of wildlife in the world (like toucans, howler monkeys, sloths and turtles), it’s easy to see why.
Yesterday I told you about one of my proudest discoveries: a mirror-flat lake whose dark green-tree-lined shore rises steeply to the cone of a towering volcano.
Michael and Grace Cummings moved to Costa Rica two years ago and now have a profitable income selling the New York-style cheesecake.
It’s a line you hear a lot on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. “We thought about Panama—we almost bought in El Valle. Then we came down to Costa Rica’s Southern Zone and fell in love.
Life moves at a much slower pace now. It’s very different from how things were three or four years ago. Today I wake up to a beautiful blue ocean view from my home on the Mexican island of Cozumel.
Years ago I decided that before I ever settled down I wanted to live in five new cities around the world. But when I originally imagined this “jet-setter” lifestyle I believed I would need to sell a company or save hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it a reality.
No matter how affordable the destinations we talk about are, the simple fact is: You can’t live anywhere for free…But what if you had an income that went with you?
Today, Costa Rica is the “richest country on earth.” That’s the conclusion we’ve reached over the three days of discussion we had at the 2013 Fast-Track Costa Rica: Lifestyle and Opportunity Conference.
In the 12 years that we’ve lived outside the U.S., my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I have called seven locations in four different countries home. Thanks to our work writing and reporting for International Living, we’ve become what we call “serial relocators.”
San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, can be, like any other big city, crowded, noisy, and full of traffic. But just 20 minutes away, and I’ve escaped. I’m at a small hotel and spa set on a former coffee farm in the hills above in the small village of Santa Barbara de Heredia. At 4,000 feet the temperature is perfect, in the mid-70s. The sky is blue, the surrounding vegetation a lush green.
Anna Fishel, 63, was living and working in Colorado in early 2012, and retirement was still years away…or so she thought. “There was a change in management at my job that made it absolutely miserable for me to go to work. I had bought my house in Costa Rica with plans to move in a few years.”
“Everyone has a different reason for leaving their home country,” says Gloria Yeatman. “Ours had to do with the fact that we wanted to retire early.”
When we arrived at the airport two days ago, a sign posted above the escalator leading to the customs area read “Welcome to Costa Rica: the Happiest Place on Earth.”