I stayed in a jungle paradise recently. Every morning I woke up to the sound of toucans and howler monkeys hanging out in the tropical hardwoods around my simple cabin. If you’ve never heard them, toucans have a sort of high-pitched call that’s a cross between a whistle and a laugh. Howlers…well, they issue a guttural roar much too loud than should be coming from such a small monkey.
Costa Rica’s northern Pacific is a place where you often might be one of a dozen people on the beach. It’s laidback and on a reasonable scale. Small villages. Quiet resort towns. Manageable. Lots of trees and natural areas. Not crowded. The level of development, though increasing, is still very small. And the attention development […]
Imagine coffee on your terrace as you enjoy spectacular views of lush green mountains and the valley and town below. Parrots glide overhead as the sun sets over the mountain… A lot of living is done outdoors here in the Central Valley region of Costa Rica. A major draw is the comfortable year-round climate. The […]
My wife Gloria and I have lived in the university town of San Ramon in Costa Rica’s Central Valley for over six years. The climate here is so ideal that we don’t need heat or air conditioning (saving on utility bills). It’s close to the beach (about an hour) and just over 30 minutes to the capital San Jose and all its amenities, including the country’s best hospitals and medical care. San Jose is the country’s shopping Mecca, too, so we have access to everything from international big-box stores to upscale department stores.
Having lived in Costa Rica’s Orosi Valley for a year now, leaving our lives behind in Dallas was the best thing my partner and I could have done. I knew it would be years before I could afford to retire in the States but I was ready for an adventure. I didn’t want to wait. So I started searching… We visited Costa Rica numerous times in the three years before we moved here to find what we called our “Goldilocks Place.” The beaches were gorgeous, but too warm for our taste. The jungles were amazing, but too humid for us. The Central Valley was cooler and popular with expats, but just not quite what we were looking for. Then we found our place in the mountains of the Orosi Valley, about 20 miles south of the capital San Jose. It was “just right.”
I always tell people that I chose the Central Valley town of Grecia to retire to because it reminds me so much of my hometown of Ybor City, Florida…back in the 1950s. The warm-hearted people, the magnificent natural beauty, the weekly feria (farmer’s market) with its fresh flowers, eggs, chicken, and just-picked produce, brought by the farmers in their trucks directly from the farm, and the pura vida (pure life) all drew me here to Costa Rica.
The year was 1997, and my wife, Suzan, and I had just gotten married in a civil service at the Hotel Don Carlos in San Jose, Costa Rica. She remembers that it was my idea, and I remember that it was hers. But whoever thought of it turned out to be a genius, because it set the travel bar pretty high for the rest of our lives.
There’s something about Costa Rica that just makes you think they have the whole lifestyle thing figured out. While every other country in the Western Hemisphere is trying to come up with a snappy marketing slogan to draw investment and tourism, Costa Rica just says “Pura Vida” (“Pure Life”) as they’ve been doing for years. It isn’t even a marketing slogan per se…Costa Ricans actually say it all the time—and they mean it.
On the far southern tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is the tiny town of Montezuma. After hearing it described as a “must-see” from friends and fellow travelers for years, I decided to check out this gem on the Pacific. And I have to say…I think all the Montezuma fans have a point.
When considering a place to retire abroad, there are many factors to keep in mind. The availability of good health and dental care, safety, climate, the price of real estate, the “vibe”… Costa Rica ticks all those boxes (Stayed tuned for more on its dental care in your Daily Postcard tomorrow). It’s a naturally beautiful country to boot with an established expat community and a stable government.
Right now I live in Tamarindo. It’s a lively but manageable resort town on the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Here I enjoy long days at the beach, fresh—and cheap—seafood dinners, sunset happy hours, and mingling with the vibrant expat community made up of Americans and Canadians in big numbers but also Argentinians, Italians, Israelis, French, and a dozen other nationalities. Everywhere I’ve gone in Costa Rica I’ve met a lot of expats who own and run businesses—surf schools, tour operators, B&Bs, beach bars, art galleries, petsitting, microbreweries, catering, food trucks…and more. But despite their varied niches, all these business owners have something in common.
“We could be at the office,” my friend shouts from across the water. It’s 8.30 a.m. on a Tuesday and here we are out surfing on a glorious Costa Rican morning. The sun is shining and the turquoise blue water sparkles as it catches the rays of the morning sun. This is my paradise and also my home. In fact, I only have a 220-yard walk back to the house after my morning session.
Located on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, Jacó is a popular beach resort town that plays host to many international and local tourists throughout the year. It’s also home to a sizeable expat population. It’s known for great restaurants and vibrant nightlife, a wide beach perfect for long walks, and consistent surf. Sport fishing, kayaking, and hiking in the surrounding jungle are also popular. Local expats are active in community churches, volunteering in the community, and simply hanging out with friends.
As a 5-year-old Canadian spending Christmas holidays in Southern California, I had a lightbulb moment—there were countries that didn’t have snow! Ever since, I harbored a desire to live in one. So when my husband, Tim, and I came to Costa Rica on our honeymoon—and fell in love with it—we decided to move here. With such friendly people, a large expat community, and many English speakers in the area, we felt it would be an easy place for us to transition.
Lance and Mary Miller spend their time doing things they want to do…for the ﬁrst time in their lives. Sometimes that’s something as simple as enjoying coffee and fresh-baked coffee cake and cookies on their porch with friends. They can afford everything they need to live a comfortable retirement. And when they want it, the beach is just down the road. “We came to Costa Rica with the attitude that it’s an adventure. It’s fun! We want to be part of the community. We always knew we wanted to retire overseas. We did a lot of research, and Costa Rica kept coming up,” says Mary, 60.
Mike and Alice Olson were born, raised, and married in Fargo, North Dakota. They raised their children there. But there came a time when they’d had enough and wanted to leave the harsh North Dakota winters behind. “We wanted to live in a place that was warm…and peaceful,” they say.
As we approached our retirement, my wife Cindy and I decided we wanted a new and challenging adventure. I was president of an engineering company and Cindy a registered nurse who had advanced her career from oncology nursing into medical research, but we wanted something different. Moving overseas was high on our list.
Paul Hastings and Marilyn Stevens landed in Grecia, a small town in Costa Rica’s Central Valley region, in October 2013. After a group tour and taking some time to explore other areas of the country on their own, they decided they wanted to live in the mountainous interior of the country with its temperate year-round weather.
Two years ago, after leaving our careers and selling most of everything we owned, my wife and I retired early to Costa Rica. Our life in Dallas, Texas was busy and stressful. After looking at our options, we chose to move to a foreign country, to live more simply and have time to pursue our passions. We found Costa Rica had many benefits that made it stand out. Those benefits that brought us here are the same reasons we’ve stayed…
When we lived in the U.S. my husband, Paul, and I both worked 40+ hour weeks and, like most folks, were busy after work and on weekends doing all the “stuff” of life—laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, and running errands. Now that we are retired and living in Costa Rica, we are only as busy as we choose to be. We’re still busy, but in a different way. First off, we can do those things anytime, usually during daylight hours. And secondly, things usually take longer here than it would in the U.S.—there isn’t such a thing as one-stop-shopping. But that’s okay. Part of the fun is the hunt for what we need. We weren’t necessarily looking for easier…we wanted different.
When I wake up in the morning to the sounds of green parrots squawking and howler monkeys growling, I know it’s going to be a hot day. There’s no need to look up the forecast: Living on the North Pacific coast in Costa Rica means a longer dry season with persistent sunny days. It’s been over six months since it has rained here in our little town of Playas del Coco so everyone is waiting for it to come to get some relief from the heat.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Texas. I like the people, their independent attitude, and friendliness. But when I left for the Marines in the late ’60s, I never planned on returning. Not because of the task at hand—I was just ready to experience what the world had to offer. My eventual return was strictly out of commitment to responsibilities and an available career. When I reached 60, in a moment of clarity, I became acutely aware of how fast time was passing.
Ever wonder what it would be like to work with elephants for a day in the jungles of northern Thailand? At the Patara Elephant Camp, you can. Not all elephant camps are created equal but this is one of the highest on the list when it comes to ethics and dedicated mahouts (elephant handlers).
From bustling beach towns to small ﬁshing communities, stunning stretches of sand to lush rainforests teeming with life, Costa Rica’s Central Paciﬁc coast has a huge variety of lifestyle choices to offer expats. And thankfully, it has the real estate to match. The name of the game in the Central Paciﬁc is good value. Beachfront and walk to-the-beach properties are bargain-priced compared to anything you’d ﬁnd in popular resort areas of the U.S. And there truly is something for everybody, whether you’re into the vibrant atmosphere of a resort or the peace of a ﬁshing village.
Lorelei Kusin has seen four Panamanian presidents come and go during her 14 years in Panama. But she lives on an island in Bocas del Toro province, and in this part of the Caribbean, time seems to stand still.
Coming from Tyler, Texas, Harold and Lisa Beasley brought more than clothes and household items when they moved to the village of Atenas, in Costa Rica’s Central Valley region. They also brought with them a touch of Southern hospitality. That and home-style cooking is on offer at Kay’s Gringo Postres, a restaurant with a long history in the expat community, which they bought from its original expat owners.
When it comes to a perfect retirement haven close to home, the small Latin American country of Costa Rica ticks all the boxes. Less than three hours from Miami by plane, it’s easy to access, with numerous direct flights connecting Costa Rica to the U.S. and Canada. The weather is excellent throughout, and despite its small size, there’s a climate in Costa Rica for everyone. It’s the happiest place in the world, according to the Happy Planet Index, and also one of the healthiest, with plentiful clean water and fresh air. The World Healthcare Organization lavishes praise on Costa Rica’s healthcare system, which it ranks higher than that of the U.S.
The landscape is bucolic and peaceful, with tremendous views of forested river valleys, green-covered hills and mountains, with the red rooftops of villages in the distance. It’s not a bad place to retire…to reinvent yourself in a new country.
Set in the mountains and valleys of the interior of the country, Costa Rica’s Central Valley region surrounds the capital, San Jose. And it’s one of the most popular areas for expats in Costa Rica for several reasons. Thanks to an elevation starting at 2,500 feet, the climate is mild year-round even though it’s in the tropics, with temperatures ranging from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Valley and mountains views are another bonus, as are the charming villages and bustling towns full of friendly people. And, being so close to the capital means that Central Valley residents enjoy the best medical care in the country, as well as top shopping and proximity to the main international airport.
I don’t like any weather that requires a jacket. My solution is to escape to warmer climates. This past fall and winter, I spent more than three months living in Italy and Spain. Last year I spent almost two months in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. I spent my weekends exploring Cinque Terre and small Tuscan towns like Siena, Lucca, and Cortona. I enjoyed soaking up the Italian history and culture by wandering through cobbled streets, climbing up old towers, and eating more pizzas than I can count.
Ryan Bickle, 33, was exploring the hills around the town of Montezuma in Costa Rica 10 years ago…and it changed the direction of his life. Montezuma is a fishing village turned bohemian hangout on the tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, which juts out into the Pacific in the north of the country. There is no large-scale development, no big hotels, no chain restaurants. It’s a simple place, quiet, with a laidback lifestyle that attracts expats seeking a home without resorts or the crowds that come with that level of development.
You wake up each morning for your daily walk on the beach. It’s flat, a long curve that runs for two-and-a-half miles, ending on either end in tree-covered cliffs. Your condo is just two blocks or so away. You’re renting, trying out the community before you commit to buying a property. It’s a one-bedroom condo in a gated complex, a nice mix of friendly expats and locals who congregate in the pool. You pay $500 a month during “low” season December through February and $700 the rest of the year. It’s fully furnished. A similar unit to this one with two bedrooms—in another part of the community—is listed for sale at $62,000.
Bruce Walker has a simple life. Most days you can see him riding along the golden-sand beaches and jungle paths of Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast…with guests in tow. He has lived in Playa Chiquita, a small beach community for the past four years and his Playa Chiquita Riding Adventures is one of the most popular activities for visitors to this area, which is untouched by major development or tourism. No big resorts, no big towns. It’s a rural area full of nature. Rain forest borders a turquoise ocean.
Something strange happens when you’re buying property overseas. It happens to cautious folks, wary folks, even savvy folks that are seasoned pros when it comes to buying real estate. It’s something you need to watch out for. It’s getting caught up in the fine details of your contract…and, in doing so, losing sight of the forest for the trees.
I get a couple of emails a month like this from International Living readers: “I’ve been doing my research as you suggest. I know I want to make my move abroad, but no matter how many likely destinations I cross off my list, I still have too many to choose from. Where should I go?”
On the Nicoya Peninsula, on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, is the community of Nosara. Known for its consistent waves, yoga studios, and somewhat remote location, this collection of beaches (Guiones, Pelada, Nosara, and Ostional) has virtually no shoreline development thanks to a large wildlife refuge designed to protect nesting sea turtles. As a result there are no large resorts or condo or hotel towers looming over the sand. And most expats live in homes in the forest just inland from the water. Nosara is popular with retirees, young couples, and families…just about anyone seeking a laid-back life on the beach.
Being self-employed in Costa Rica means Charlotte Viehauser can choose her own hours and spend plenty of time with her family. “Because I’ve chosen to raise my boys in Costa Rica instead of the States, I can have so much more time with them. I make my own schedule, so I can work during their school hours. In our free time, we like to get together with the other American families, play soccer, and travel within the country when we have the chance.”
As a long-time eco-tourism destination, Costa Rica is well-known for its wide variety of spectacular natural environments. There are volcanoes, rainforests, tropical beaches, waterfalls, looming mountains, rushing rivers, and more in this little country the size of West Virginia.
Joseph Mucaria fell in love with Costa Rica on a short visit. “I was only supposed to come for three months and then return to the States, but I fell in love with the culture and the environment, plus I always wanted to learn another language,” he says. That was 12 years ago. Now, he lives in an ocean-view condo just 45 minutes away from the city of Liberia.
Ryan Gast couldn’t be happier. “At 30 years old, I found a way to semi-retire,” he says. “I’m healthier, happier, and surfing better than ever. I make enough to live here. I live a simpler lifestyle. I work. I surf. I go home. And that’s exactly what I wanted. I love being around like-minded people. I’m where I’m supposed to be.” A typical day sees him sitting in front of his small surf shop. Friends riding by on bikes shout greetings…customers pop by regularly to ask about renting a board or taking surfing lessons…the vibe of this little community has a soothing effect.