With 912 miles of coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica has plenty of beaches. And you get a wide variety of looks, too. Some of these beaches are all natural, Robison Crusoe-style tropical escapes that you’ll have all to yourself. You can sit in the shade as you watch clear water lap against the shore on a lazy afternoon. Others are places to enjoy a cold drink in hand, toes in the sand, listening to music and people-watching. There are even large resorts and bustling beach towns with plenty of nightlife.
Many factors come into play when considering a retirement abroad. Cost of living, prices of rents and real estate, and healthcare options are main concerns. But quality of life for retirees moving abroad also depends in large part on being able to fit in quickly, learn the ropes, and mix well with the locals in their adapted communities. Language, culture, and community support from locals and other expats all can have a dramatic effect on the quality of the expat retiree experience.
I’m looking out over the deep blue Pacific. Fisherman with nets wade out into the shallows, flinging them periodically to catch bait fish. There’s not a cloud in the sky, and the water, with the high midday sun, glitters with light.
When planning your retirement overseas, many factors come into play. Low costs, real estate, and healthcare are some of the main concerns…but what about being able to mix well with the community or make friends with the locals? Being able to integrate well will help ensure that you feel at home in your new home. Do the locals speak English or do you speak the local language? Is the community welcoming to expats? Are there groups and clubs available to join?
Costa Rica is known for its lush, wildlife-filled jungles lining deserted white-sand beaches. It’s a favorite photo for the tourism board. The whole country appears wild…untamed. There is a lot of that out there. And having the whole beach to yourself while capuchin monkeys scamper in the trees above is quite a thrill.
“Think globally, act locally.” I’ve always liked that saying, because it sums up so well the attitude of many of the expats I know living abroad. They are obviously thinking globally to get the big picture on issues that most affect their quality of life.
A surf trip…that’s what brought me and my husband, Chuck, to Costa Rica. After landing in the capital of San Jose with my sister and her husband, we drove first to the beach town of Tamarindo, and then a couple of hours farther south to Nosara. There we found surf, beautiful beaches, and great restaurants…and the place that would become our retirement home.
The Lake Arenal area of Costa Rica is a nature-lover’s paradise, boasting 2,000 species of plants, mammals including monkeys and sloths, and birds such as toucans and scarlet macaws.
In the northern highlands of Costa Rica, the lake is the country’s largest landlocked body of water, covering about 33 square miles. It sits at the base of Volcan Arenal, which dominates the horizon at nearly 5,500 feet.
When most people consider moving to a tropical country, they have one thing on their mind: the beach. But while Costa Rica is a tropical country and has some beautiful beaches, not everyone wants to live a sand-filled life in shorts and flip-flops. Luckily, there’s a solution…the Central Valley.
As healthcare costs and complexity in the U.S. continue to spiral upward, more and more retirees are asking, “Can I get high-quality healthcare for less if I move overseas?” The simple answer is yes. The Healthcare category of the 2016 International Living Global Retirement Index ranks the healthcare systems of the 23 most popular retirement locations abroad.
Away from the beach, Tamarindo has great food and a fantastic social scene. We gather at sunset every evening. Because we’re near the equator, it’s always between 5:15 and 6:15 p.m. Groups of friends chat and watch their kids play. Dog walkers nod as they walk past. Surfers pop into the water for one last wave. Bottles are raised as the sun disappears over the horizon.
For such a small country, Costa Rica is amazingly diverse as far as landscapes, climates, and lifestyle. There are bustling beach towns, big modern cities, and lush jungles. But throughout the country you will also find unspoiled rural areas of farmland, forest, and charming villages. Life is lived much as it has for generations. If you’re looking for a quiet place with small town values to set up home, you might consider the Costa Rican countryside.
Just about every town and village in Costa Rica holds a fiesta every year. It’s fun for the whole family, with carnival rides, food, music, dancing, and a rodeo. The celebration lasts for two or three days and gets going in late afternoon and goes well into the evening. In this video you’ll get a taste of the fiesta in Villarreal, a small town on the northern Pacific coast.
Although Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast is popular with tourists, there are plenty of small and low-key beach towns where expats live. They enjoy a close-knit circle of friends, boating and beach-combing, great restaurants and beach bars, and quiet, mostly residential, communities. In this video, International Living Costa Rica Editor Jason Holland explores Playa Flamingo…
I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel severals time a year to places like Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico. You might wonder how I became so lucky? Well, seven years ago, I came to Mexico to teach English as a second language. This allowed me to fulfill my dream of living abroad and immerse myself in another culture.
Have you ever wondered what life in the jungle would be like? If you’re like me, it could be your own personal paradise. The funny thing is, I never set out to live in the jungle. I’ve lived in several places, including Patagonia, Chile, where I worked for five months as an English teacher before I returned back “home” to Kentucky. But I missed Latin American culture, so I found a job as the marketing manager for Outward Bound Costa Rica, an adventure school based in the mountains of Tres Rios.
It’s the most laid-back and least-developed region of Costa Rica. On the Caribbean coast you’ll find no big resorts or hotels, no condo towers on the beach, no big towns. It’s a low-key place where nobody is in a rush and there’s always time to chat with a friend you run into. The area is known for its natural beauty as well. It’s a dramatic coastline of beach and jungle.
I’m up a bit after sunrise for my daily ritual. It starts with a long leisurely walk on the beach. Something about the sound of crashing waves, watching anchored boats bob on the horizon, and the cool weather before the heat of the day hits…it just puts me in the right mood. I live in Tamarindo, on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast. It’s a small town, popular with tourists, where life revolves around the beach. Surfing, which put Tamarindo on the map in the 1990s, is still huge here.
You awake to the distant cries of seabirds and the rhythmic lap of the waves against sand. Wearing ﬂip-ﬂops, a shirt, and shorts, you head out for breakfast, before taking the short stroll from the town’s main drag to the beach. Here you can take a relaxing walk by the shore, enjoy a book, or take to the ocean for some surﬁng, swimming, or scuba diving on a coral reef. As the day fades and the setting sun lights the sky a vivid orange, you retreat to your favorite beach bar to catch up with friends and enjoy a local cocktail or shot of rum beneath the palm fronds. Here, freezing winter mornings and the stress of working life seem a world away…and a lifetime ago. For many folks who call a colder climate home, retreating to a warm beach town is the dream.
When I chose to drop out of school at 14, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life other than to fulfill my lifelong dream to travel the world. Back then, I didn’t know how I would do so, I just knew I would make it happen. I grew up next door to an Italian family, the Picos, who had migrated to Australia with their sons, Giovanni and Pietro.
Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, also known as the Gold Coast, is a tourist and expat favorite. It’s no wonder. It’s the sunniest region of the country. And visitors and residents alike have a variety of communities to choose from: busy resort towns, expat enclaves, deserted beaches, laid-back seaside villages, and more. Life is about surfing, fishing, shopping at charming farmers’ markets (and buying fresh off the boat seafood), and lazing away the day on the sand.
International Living Costa Rica Editor Jason Holland makes his home in Tamarindo, a busy beach town on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast. Home to expats from North America, Europe, Latin America, and beyond, it’s a fun and funky locale known for its active beach lifestyle. In this video, Jason shares the charms of Tamarindo like watersports, watching sunset, and enjoying a nice meal with a view of the ocean.
Costa Rica has a lot going for it: lower cost of living, top notch medical care for a fraction of the cost of the U.S., bargain real estate, warm weather year-round, natural beauty, tremendous biodiversity, modern conveniences…the list goes on. It’s enough to make you fall in love with this small Central American country.
I start each day with a freshly brewed cup of local coffee…and think about how lucky I am to live where I do, the beautiful city of Alajuela, in Costa Rica’s expat favorite of the Central Valley. It’s always been a dream of mine to live abroad and now I can say that it’s a dream come true. Back in Seattle I worked in nursing, specifically Alzheimer’s care, a career I’d had since graduating high school.
I was enjoying a stroll down the beach in Tamarindo the other day—it’s just a 10-minute walk from my house—when a couple, visitors from the Midwest, asked me to take their picture. We chatted, and I mentioned that I lived in town.
Fed up with the harsh Midwest winters and tired of working too much to pay for a life we didn’t have time to enjoy, my husband, Junior, and I decided we weren’t willing to wait for retirement to see the world and enjoy life. Just before Christmas last year, we started researching our overseas options. We sold all of our belongings after New Year and at the start of April this year, we landed in Costa Rica…without ever having been here before.
Whatever your personal opinion on gun ownership in the United States, there’s no denying that millions of U.S. residents feel a great fondness for their ﬁrearms. So it should come as no surprise that many aspiring expats want to bring their guns with them to their new home. While it’s possible in some places, be prepared for a lot more red tape and tighter controls than you typically face in the States. Bear in mind that gun laws are liable to change, so you need to do your due diligence if you plan to import or buy a gun overseas.
My wife and I are a couple of quitters. Two years ago I left my successful career as the vice president of a litigation support company in Dallas, Texas, and Jen left her career in commercial title insurance. We were both in our early 40s. Changes in the industry I worked in and at the company I managed prompted a career adjustment.
After just over a year in their home overlooking Lake Arenal in Costa Rica, Steve, 59, and Prudence Tippins, 50, are loving their new life…and many mornings get a dramatic reminder of why they decided to move. With the year-round, temperate climate, the couple regularly sleep outdoors on their deck.
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Verdant hills rise gracefully from the shore, surrounding the blue waters of the lake. No boat traffic disturbs the peace. And the countryside is a mix of farm, pasture, and forest…with homes dotting the hills overlooking the water. Expats have been arriving in increasing numbers, but the development is small-scale and never overpowers the scenery and doesn’t spoil the view.
“In the U.S., you’re always going, going, going…it’s so easy to lose sight of where you’re headed. Life got too fast-moving for us”, explains Ray Granade. “We always needed to be somewhere, quickly, then somewhere else. It seemed like we were spending an extraordinary amount of time sitting in traffic. Now the longest we wait in the car is usually for a herd of cattle to cross the road,” he adds, saying he and his wife Kim, both 63, also wanted to escape the consumerism in the U.S.
In the Northern Highlands region of Costa Rica, about three hours northwest of the capital, San Jose, is Lake Arenal. Blessed with a spring-like climate year-round, the shores around the lake have become home to an increasing number of expats from around the world, including many North Americans. They find a vibrant and active expat community, a small town atmosphere, a rural feel, and peace and quiet. Many live in homes with panoramic lake views.
We’ve been everywhere, all over Costa Rica,” says Jessica Sueiro of her family’s travels through this Central American haven. “This week we’re going to Flamingo beach on the northern Pacific, Montezuma on the Nicoya Peninsula, and the mountain town of Monteverde, with the cloud forest.”
For millions of folks, golf satisfies something in the soul: hitting that one pure shot…breathing fresh air…and walking an immaculate course…the fast friendships forged on the fairway (and in the clubhouse bar). The game we know today has its origins in Scotland in the 15th century. popularized by British royalty, it soon spread throughout Europe and beyond.
Stephanie Gough can hardly believe how quickly the five years has gone since she moved, with her family, to Costa Rica. “It’s kind of crazy that it’s been that long,” says Stephanie, who lives in the bustling beach town of Tamarindo, on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast.
On my first trip to Granada, Nicaragua several years ago, I stopped in a small bookshop in the historic colonial quarter, just a few blocks from the main square. It was evident the owner—an expat from California—was a lover of literature. Classics…science fiction…travelogues…histories…and more lined the shelves. As I chatted to him, it emerged that he got started when he was just passing through Granada and, looking to make a bit of extra travel money…he laid books out on a blanket on the street to sell.
As the sun set over the Pacific, the silhouettes of fishing boats lined up on the horizon came into sharp relief. Just in front of me, a dozen children clambered through tide pools searching for shells and sea creatures. The strains of reggae from the live band playing at the bar just behind me provided a great soundtrack to this late afternoon on the beach. A friend of mine standing next to me turned and said, “Not bad, huh?”
As I came over the last hill on the road from Tilaran, a small town about 10 minutes from the shore of Lake Arenal, I could see what makes Arenal so special. The stunning lake vistas opened up before me… Most of the land here is forest, pasture, or farm—split by rivers, streams, and rocky waterfalls…natural and unspoiled. And it has that small-town feel, where strangers say “Buenas tardes” as you walk through town or wave if you drive by.
Costa Rica’s Caribbean is a wild coastline…the least developed region of the country. Small towns and villages line the coast. Jungle surrounds you. The beaches range from dark volcanic sand to golden-hued grains to the powdery white variety. The water is a clear turquoise. And the living is very easy. Take a look at this selection of the best beaches on the Caribbean: the best places for watersports, sunbathing, and enjoying a good book in the shade of a palm tree.