Bless her heart, but my wife’s friend “Linda” (name changed to protect the embarrassed) has a knack for often saying the “wrong” thing when speaking Spanish. And during her visit to our home in Costa Rica years ago she outdid herself. It’s a story we still laugh about when we’re all together. And I tell it to you so you see some of the struggles and embarrassment you might feel when practicing Spanish. But, more importantly, you’ll understand why it’s not such a big deal and learning Spanish will be a rewarding experience and connect you more closely to your new home.
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.
As their retirement approached, Georgia natives Rob and Jeni Evans were left with a stark choice: find more work, or look for a new home overseas where they could live comfortably on their retirement income. They found just such a place in the city of San Ramón, in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. Here they now enjoy a happy, healthy retirement on $2,000 a month—including great healthcare coverage for less than a quarter of the cost back home. And having left the financial stresses and daily grind of the U.S. behind, they have time to pursue new passions in the land of Pura Vida (pure life).
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.
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.
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.
As retirement neared, Bob Beavis, 66, and his wife Linda, 59, thought they were all set. Bob’s last job was as a HR director near Dayton, Ohio, which made him eligible for a state pension. He found his job rewarding and he had a plan. He would put in his 10 years then get free healthcare in retirement, with $50 per month to cover Linda, too.
Each morning, my boyfriend, Sean, and I sleep in until about 9 a.m.—we rarely set an alarm. More often than not, we wake up to the bustling of the coffee shop next door. We each order a cup of fresh-brewed coffee and a breakfast of fresh scrambled eggs and gallo pinto (typical Costa Rican rice and beans).
Last December, my husband and I were bundled up in our tiny apartment in Chicago, mourning over the snow and sub-zero temperatures, when we came up with a crazy idea: Let’s sell all of our stuff and move somewhere tropical. When we sat down to talk about the things we truly wanted, it simply came down to creating a life where we control our time and spend it doing things we enjoy. Sometimes, it seems a bit surreal that we now live a five-minute walk to the Pacific Ocean, learning the pura vida way in Costa Rica.
Rita Lucas could not be happier with her life in Costa Rica. “I love the climate…living outdoors most of the time…and my community,” she says. “Living rurally and having my office in my outdoor living room with the stunning view is the icing on my cake.” And what a view it is. Rita’s property is nestled in the mountain range that runs through southern Costa Rica to the southern Pacific coast.
When Riley Jesson first mentioned that he wanted to get out of the rat race, his wife Samantha was unsure. Both of them were advertising executives in San Francisco and she was making a name for herself climbing the corporate ladder. They were on great career paths…but they weren’t happy. So they decided to go in 2008. They had traveled to Costa Rica several times and—like many others—they fell in love with the people and the climate.
The 24-hour media machine fuels this “fear of elsewhere.” Footage of revolutions in the streets and masked gunmen stalking the jungle makes for good TV. Footage of people peacefully and cheerfully going to the market, relaxing on their porch of an evening, and doing the sorts of things normal daily life brings, well, that’s not going to attract the TV news crews, is it?
We Have the Best of Both Worlds in Costa Rica. From our small house up in the cool, quiet hills about 15 minutes from the beach town of Nosara, we’re close enough to head to our second house, a condo on the beach. We like having both, and Costa Rica is a place you can have the best of both worlds. We’d always harbored a hope that we might spend some part of our lives outside the United States and on our first trip to Costa Rica, we loved it at once. The beach community of Nosara, on the Pacific Coast, really peaked our interest so this is where we decided to retire to.
I turn off the Pan-American Highway and start up a gentle slope. Well-maintained and brightly-painted homes with gardens full of vivid blue hydrangeas line the fences on either side of the roadway. Mango trees, heavy with almost glowing green and red fruit, loom above. Ten minutes later I’m in the heart of the village. There is a picturesque little white church with a tidy park in front. Children in pressed uniforms file out of their classrooms at the school down the road. Passers-by hail me with a hearty Buenas Tardes as they walk by. I’m in Miramar, a small town in the hills about an hour west of the country’s capital San José. It’s just a 10-minute drive from the Pacific coast. That must be why the garlic seafood dish I ordered at an open-air restaurant in the center of town tasted so fresh…and was just $6.50 for a heaping plate of clams, calamari, fish, and shrimp, with sides of salad and French fries.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Costa Rica can feel like a dream at times…especially the mornings that I wake up to the deep aroma of fresh-roasted coffee, harvested just a few miles from my house…or the days when my weekly errands are put on hold for a stroll on a white-sand beach. Finding adventure is easy here. My boyfriend, Pablo, and I have climbed a volcano in the morning only to be at the beach by afternoon. We’ve dined on world-class seafood prepared by European-trained chefs, but our favorite are meals with the locals where the stars are black beans broiled over an open fire and ripe plantains fried until they’re caramelized.
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.
Retiring to Lake Arenal in Costa Rica almost four years ago was one of the best decisions my wife Beaty and I ever made. We lived in the little East Texas town of Crockett and the kids were all graduated from college. After practicing dentistry for 38 years, I was hitting the point where I was ready to get out. Beaty had already retired from her physician’s assistant job.
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.
We’re sitting on our upstairs deck, overlooking San Jose, Costa Rica, and I turn and say to my wife, “This is the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.” Since moving here from Colorado last year, we’ve developed a typical morning routine. We grind organic coffee beans together with a couple of organic cacao beans. Then we steep the blended grounds in our French press. Our chocolate-infused java brew pairs well with the cool Central Valley morning temperatures. Drinking our custom creation is a great excuse to enjoy each other’s company.
Before we moved to Costa Rica, my family and I lived in Colorado. While Colorado is gorgeous, for three to six months of the year, we were covered in snow; we found ourselves snowed in more often than not at our house in the mountains. We were also spending nearly $600 each winter month just to stay warm. We had fires in the fireplace, heaters running, and we still had a tough time getting our home to climb over 65 degrees during the cold winter days.
On a quiet stretch of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific you’ll find a low-key beach community. It’s been a fishing village for decades—the fishermen still go out every morning. It’s called Esterillos and if you’re looking for laidback life with a rural feel, it could be your perfect spot.
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.
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.
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.
So you’ve decided to move to Costa Rica. Now you have to figure out how to get yourself, your stuff, your pets…your life…down to your new home in the tropics. It may seem overwhelming. But keep in mind that this country has been a haven for retirees and other expats for more than 30 years and tens of thousands of people have gone through the process just fine and are enjoying their new lives in Costa Rica. It’s a well-trodden path and there are services in place and strategies that have been perfected over the years…so your transition will be easier than that of the trailblazers who came before you.
When visiting Costa Rica during a scouting trip, your goal is to figure out which region suits you and your lifestyle best. Even though it’s a small country, about the size of West Virginia, there are many different climates and lifestyles in each area. You might also be trying to determine if the country as a whole is the best fit at all. So you owe it to yourself to get the most out of your journey by gathering as much useful information about your possible new home country. Here are some tips to make for an educational—and fun—scouting trip to Costa Rica.
Vikki Gold from Colorado is delighted with her move to Costa Rica. “I love it here. I’m at peace. There’s beautiful scenery, a great climate, and so much wildlife. It’s our little paradise,” she says. She came here just over a year ago after she and her daughter, Hollee, bought and renovated a boutique hotel in the jungle.
Skip ahead a year and a half, and we find ourselves still gazing with eyes wide open at the land where we began. Costa Rica completely captured this whimsical family, much to our surprise, with its total package. As nature lovers, we experience an ever-present awe for our intense surroundings—the tropical birds, countless waterfalls, incredible beaches, and stunning mountain views…so much diversity in such a small country.
I still remember the first time I went to the feria, or farmers’ market, in Grecia, the Central Valley town I call home here in Costa Rica. It was a bit embarrassing. I was buying some carrots and potatoes and had dutifully handed over my filled-to-the-brim bags to be weighed. The vendor read out the total, and I handed over a 10,000 colones note (about $20). Still adjusting to the exchange rate, it took me a second to realize I owed him only about $1.50—and I was taking all his change for the day! I quickly counted out some coins and handed those over to the grateful vendor instead.