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, neighborly atmosphere, a low cost of living, excellent health care, and a stable democracy.
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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
There are many reasons people move to Costa Rica: low cost of living, high-quality health care; the warm weather year-round; the friendly people; the established expat communities…the list goes on. But in my case there were certain factors that attracted me to Costa Rica many years ago as a tourist and convinced me to eventually make the move down. The first is the…
At the western end of Costa Rica’s Central Valley region, on the slopes of the Poas volcano, is Bajos del Toro. At 300 feet, it’s one of Latin America’s tallest waterfalls. With water cascading down a sheer rock face, surrounded by dense rain forest—it’s a natural wonder on a grand scale.
Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, which sits on the northern Pacific coast of the country, is a somewhat isolated region. The journey to the Peninsula is however well worth the natural beauty, empty beaches, and unique beach communities strung along its length. The best way to get to some of the popular beach towns like Montezuma, Mal Pais/Santa Teresa, Nosara, and Samara from San Jose (site of the main international airport) is the ferry that leaves from the Central Pacific port of Puntarenas, which is about an hour from the capital.
After 20 years in the restaurant business, working for other people, Kristie Craven wanted to work for herself. So did her friend Rich Littlefield. Having found the right opportunity, they now spend their days running a beach bar on a tropical island off Panama…hosting barbecues, the occasional DJ, and serving up the freshest fish imaginable.
As a busy carpenter and contractor in his native Canada, Steve Quinn relished his regular trips to Costa Rica to relax and unwind on the beach. After six years of short visits, he decided to make this beach lifestyle permanent. He took over a beach bar and restaurant in Tamarindo, a funky surf town on the country’s northern Pacific coast. He’s leasing the property for three years, with an option to buy, which is a great way to test the waters without committing to purchasing property right off the bat.
Brothers Khalil and Abasi Chapman—and friend Rocky Leming—first landed in Costa Rica in 2005. At the time they worked in the restaurant and bar industry in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and heard rumors of the impressive surf down in Costa Rica. They headed south for a vacation somewhere on the Caribbean Coast…but ended up finding a new home. Today they run The Lazy Mon beach bar and restaurant in Puerto Viejo and draw huge crowds…
International Living has been encouraging its readers to choose Costa Rica as an overseas destination since the 1980s. Some things have changed since then, but Costa Rica still remains a beautiful, great-value retirement destination. Long stretches of deserted and undeveloped beaches, on the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts…dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife…towering volcanoes, lush green valleys, and hundreds of crystal-clear lakes, rivers, streams, and waterfalls…mesmerizing sunrises, sunsets, and star-filled evening skies…all these things…
As this idea of living better for less overseas tiptoes into the mainstream, newspapers and magazines mention places like San Miguel de Allende in Mexico or the Central valley in Costa Rica. These communities have long attracted foreign retirees. They’re the “old guard” in expat havens. You can slide into them easily, what with active expat groups, supermarkets, and plenty of homes to rent. They’re convenient, proven, attractive.
Sitting alongside the banks of the River Garonne in southwest France, the red-tile-roofed city of Toulouse hosts its annual Flamenco Festival from April 1 to 15, with local venues filled with music and dance throughout. Another marathon-length event to consider begins its 18-day run in Jaipur, India, on April 2.
The Santa Catalina arch is one of the most famous landmarks of Antigua, Guatemala. And for a compact town of 40,000 people, there are a lot of them. Antigua was once the capital of Spanish Central America, and its cobbled streets are lined with the grand mansions and ornate churches of the colonial golden age.
Of all the places I’ve visited in Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula is the one that feels most like the frontier. It’s a somewhat isolated region, with mile after mile of untouched coastline along the blue Pacific, craggy hills, vast cattle farms in the interior, and mazes of what are often dirt roads running through forests and fields. It’s also one of the world’s Blue Zones, where researchers have found that locals live longer on average due to a combination of diet, climate, and lifestyle.
Do you want to travel and sample different retirement lifestyles, but have a limited budget? Housesitting may be your answer. Our first housesit was 20 months ago. Since then we have lived rent-free in Tuscan farmhouses, French vineyards, Spanish casitas, English heritage homes, luxury Costa Rican villas, and a jungle retreat in Belize.
It’s easy to miss Monteverde, high in the Tilarán Mountains. There’s only a small sign directing you to turn right off the PanAmerican Highway and begin your slow ascent. You pass through tiny villages along the way. Dairy cows clamber on near-vertical terraced hillsides.
When Michael Allen, 54, joined his wife Connie, 51, for a vacation on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast back in 2000, he made a startling discovery. “She had arrived there two weeks before me and had bought some land near the town of Ojochal, which is a hub of expat activity in the region,” says Michael. “I remember saying, ‘What did you do! Are you out of your mind? It’s in the middle of the jungle.’”
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 health care is affordable…you can keep a housekeeper or gardener…and live better than you can back home for a fraction of what you pay now…
Opening a business, moving to a small town, changing careers, heading out on the road in an RV…they considered all these options. But once they started reading about retiring overseas, it seemed the way to go. And Costa Rica quickly rose to the top of their list of destinations because it’s an easy flight back to Dallas and there’s good infrastructure, healthcare, and Internet access. And the climate where they live in the Central Valley is perfect year-round.
In Mexico, Ecuador and Costa Rica properties with stunning views can be bought for as little as $119,000, according to a new report by InternationalLiving.com. “A great view usually translates into a premium price tag. But if a buyer knows the right places to look, he can find properties with world-class vistas for much, much less than you’d expect,” reports InternationalLiving.com’s property correspondent, Margaret Summerfield.
My wife and I were enjoying coffee on our back porch the other day when we turned to each other and said, almost simultaneously, “Can’t beat this weather, huh?” And really, here at our home in the heart of the Central Valley, in the hills above the town of Grecia, I have to admit the weather is perfect. (My apologies to all those reading this up north who still have snow on the ground.) It averages about 75 degrees year-round and, up here at 4,500 feet, it gets cool enough…
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Costa Rica doesn’t get much attention as a culinary destination. The national cuisine (known locally as comida tipica) hasn’t extended across borders. And you won’t find Costa Rican restaurants anywhere but Costa Rica. Yet, most tourists and expats find that this country is actually full of some great food. It’s tasty, filling, healthy, and, in most cases, very reasonably priced.
Buenos dias from Costa Rica! My wife, two kids, and I currently live in the town of Atenas in the Central Valley region. We’ve been here for a touch over a year…and we love it. I established myself with a remote income before I set off. I am a partner in a small software development/consulting firm that we formed a couple years before my family and I moved abroad.
This west-coast destination in Mexico hit the headlines in 1963. John Huston filmed part of Night of the Iguana in Vallarta. The world’s press descended on the town to follow the romance between Richard Burton, a star in the movie, and Elizabeth Taylor. Many viewers simply wanted the real skinny on the famous Hollywood stars. But others were grabbed by Vallarta’s colonial architecture and sun-drenched beaches. Tourists and expats started to flock to this little fishing village. Today, around 50,000 North Americans live in Vallarta…
In the heart of Costa Rica’s Central Valley is Grecia, a charming town of about 16,000. Like the rest of the Central Valley, Grecia has an ideal spring-like climate and enjoys quick access to the capital of Costa Rica, San José. There you can find the best medical care and shopping in the country, as well as the main international airport.
Figuring out how to make some extra money doing something you love is a wonderful thing. And many of my fellow expats are doing exactly that. If you’re looking for inspiration, I’d like to share some of those stories with you. In fact, we know of so many such stories that my husband Dan and I devoted an entire chapter of a new book we’ve written to this exact topic. (More about that in a moment.)
While your neighbors tighten their belts and reign in their retirement dreams… you can live with less stress, more freedom, and all the comforts you’ve always imagined.
Discover the world’s best retirement havens – and pinpoint the one that’s right for you.
Its parks are filled with roses, myrtle and the sound of nightingales. Water still splashes and trickles over marble fountains in the courtyards of its kings… “A pearl among emeralds” was how Moorish poets once described the royal palace of the Alhambra. It was from here that Spain’s last Muslim kingdom, Granada, was ruled and it’s just one of the gems you’ll find in Andalusia, Spain’s huge southern province.
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.
There is business opportunity in overseas weddings…and Costa Rica is emerging as the new place to be. It’s estimated that about 8% of U.S. weddings are held overseas, with Mexico being a perennial favorite due to its proximity and established tourist infrastructure. But Costa Rica is now rated the top destination in Latin America by wedding website TheKnot.com. With 36% of the destination weddings in the region, it’s second only to Mexico in terms of numbers…
Moving abroad is so much more than a change in location; it’s a complete shift of lifestyle. That’s what Penny and Marshall Watne have learned over the last six years in Costa Rica. Their path from North Lake Tahoe to jungle-woven Manuel Antonio was a short one. Once they achieved the idea of general success—complete with two kids and a house full of almost everything they could want—they realized they needed something different…
When Costa Rica got its start as an expat haven more than three decades ago, it was all about retirees. But over the years, the great weather, stable government, and low cost of living have also attracted those too young to retire (or those who never want to). And they’ve found plenty of ways to support themselves—and their families—while living in a tropical paradise.
Fourteen months ago I told you about a “CAN’T WAIT opportunity” my boots on the ground research in Costa Rica’s Lake Country of Arenal turned up. This opportunity had a serious kicker. A luxury home surrounded by 65 acres of developable land:
Some years ago a man I know visited Florida and asked a retiree why he moved there. “You don’t have to shovel the humidity,” the retiree merrily responded. This month my friend’s mother is in Florida…wrapped up in sweaters. Times are changing. Even down south, the climate isn’t what it used to be. East coast cities are like freezers. And the Mid-West is more tightly in the grip of Jack Frost’s icy fingers than it used to be.
There is business opportunity in overseas weddings…and Costa Rica is emerging as the new place to be. For some couples, the dream wedding doesn’t take place in a fancy hotel ballroom in their home town. They opt for a destination wedding in an exotic location. It’s estimated that about 8% of U.S. weddings are held overseas, with Mexico being a perennial favorite due to its proximity and established tourist infrastructure.
I ’ve noticed there is a trend that the more a population is used to going to the beach, the better in shape they want to be. Think Rio or Sydney’s Bondi Beach. On my last trip to Australia, I was completely blown away by the market penetration of fitness and health clubs. I counted up to three fitness clubs in the same block. Even the iconic family of brands owned by Sir Richard Branson had a share of the pie there, under the name of Virgin Active.
Moving overseas can bring some challenging choices, especially if you have school-age kids. But a little research shows there are schools overseas for every budget, academic goal, and personality. You’ll need to weigh the cost against your preferred curriculum, as well as take into account the needs of your child and the academic culture of available schools.
There is no time clock but you work 24-7… No cubicle but you must have a computer… Your commute occasionally takes 10 to 12 hours, and sometimes it takes days off your calendar. You must be fluent in hand gestures and you better have a strong stomach and a good memory.
According to the “critical period hypothesis,” it’s easier to learn a language before the age of 13. That theory says that’s when you have a better chance of achieving fluency and being accent-free. When I started studying Spanish two-and-a-half years ago, I was already 40 years past that window, so I wasn’t sure how my attempts to learn Spanish would play out.
Panama, Costa Rica and Ecuador offer the most attractive programs in the world for retirees—wooing foreign pensioners with special visas and significant discounts on everything from airfare to health care, reports InternationalLiving.com.
We had a friend from Florida visit us here in Costa Rica recently. She’s been a regular guest during our time down here—she loves travel, and Central America in particular. But it was her new husband’s first time in the country, even though he’s from Nicaragua, just to the north. He doesn’t speak any English, although he does recognize a few words and phrases.
Colombians have been visiting the colonial town of Salento in the heart of the country’s Coffee Triangle for decades. Its colorful bahareque architecture and the proximity of the vast and magnificent Cocora National Park are just two attractions. Trout is a specialty dish. And costs of living are low. For example, expats who have settled in the region report renting for just $200 a month.