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Montezuma sits at the far southern tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. Still a working fishing village where locals go out daily on open boats called pangas, it has also become a destination for travelers and expats seeking a close-knit community on the beach.
Panama has much to offer, from mountain havens boasting year-round mild temperatures to colonial towns where the traditions of grand old Spain have shaped and enriched the local culture. But it’s Panama’s sunny beaches that get the most attention…and with good reason.
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.
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.
You’ve probably heard a lot about the stunning, tiny Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye (pronounced “Key”), Belize. But if you’re looking for a quieter, even more laid-back slice of the Caribbean, you’ll want to check out Ambergris Caye’s little sister, Caye Caulker. The motto of this island is “Go Slow”… Spend any time with the easy-going locals and expats who live here, and you’ll discover it’s a motto they take very seriously.
For many years now, we’ve contributed to International Living’s annual Global Retirement Index. It’s a ranking of the 24 countries that International Living editors feel offer the best potential for anyone considering moving abroad for a more affordable or adventurous retirement.
Just three and a half hours or so northwest of San José, Costa Rica’s capital and site of the main international airport, is a unique mountain community. Monteverde, with its main town Santa Elena, is the site of a large protected swath of land, including the cloud forest the area is best known for. This is a type of high-altitude rain forest where the clouds sweep through the trees, leaving a lush, moisture-rich environment. Trees are covered in orchids, moss, and bromeliads.
High in the Tilaran Mountains of Costa Rica is the Monteverde region. It’s one of the top tourist destinations in the country thanks to the natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and opportunities for adventures sports and hiking. It’s a bit over three hours to the west of Costa Rica’s capital, San José. The main town of the region, Santa Elena, serves as a home base for travelers and long-time foreign residents alike.
There are a lot of practical advantages to living in Costa Rica that I’ve discovered during my two years here. A big one for my family is the savings on medical care. When my son was born in June of 2012, we paid just $3,000 for the birth at a private hospital, including all the doctors’ fees and an overnight hospital stay. That’s cash, no insurance. We would have paid $15,000 to $20,000 in the U.S. When, at six months, the baby developed some health issues, testing and treatment was cheap too.
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I were married in Costa Rica 14 years ago and have been back for business and pleasure almost every year since. We also lived in Panama in 2006 and, like Costa Rica, have returned nearly every year for International Living events, editorial trips, and vacations. So it is inevitable that…
I have a pretty standard morning routine. I’m awakened very early by roosters but stay in bed for a while as the sunrise filters into the bedroom. I start the coffee, open the sliding doors, step out to my deck, and look down into the valley below. I usually see hummingbirds buzzing around my flowers, sometimes a blue-crowned mot-mot. Some mornings one of my neighbors, a farmer, has been up even earlier…
Every now and again, when life feels hectic or I fear I’m getting into a rut, I think of little Punta Gorda, Belize. It’s become one of my favorite places to dream of visiting again. Right down near the southern tip of Belize, Punta Gorda looks out on the blue Caribbean. The barrier reef and its wealth of marine life—one of Belize’s main claims to fame—is 30 miles offshore here.
About three to four hours from Costa Rica’s capital, San José, is the country’s Southern Zone. It’s a stretch of coast that starts roughly at the former fishing village turned surfer haven, Dominical, to the border with Panama along the Pacific coast.
Life in Tamarindo, on Costa Rica’s northwest Pacific coast, centers around the beach.
About an hour north of Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, lies a little-known national park: Braulio Carrillo.
The Irazú Volcano, just east of Costa Rica’s capital, San José, is the country’s tallest at more than 11,000 feet. Its slopes are covered in forest.
Every year, on the second Sunday in March, residents of Escazu, a suburb of Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, gather to celebrate the agricultural heritage of the region during El Día de Los Boyeros.
The Arenal region of Costa Rica, dominated by an active cone volcano and 33-square-mile unspoiled lake, is one of International Living Costa Rica Correspondent Jason Holland’s favorite parts of the country.
León, Nicaragua, about 1 ½ hours northwest from the country’s capital, Managua, is a colonial city with a history to rival better-known Granada.
Thanks to Costa Rica’s mountainous terrain and abundance of rivers, there are spectacular waterfalls throughout the country. In the video below, International Living Costa Rica Correspondent Jason Holland highlights a waterfall, known as Los Chorros, just outside of the village of Tacares. From the center of Tacares you’ll see large signs directing you to the waterfall, officially known as Los Chorros Parque Recreativo, which is three kilometers outside of town
Costa Rica’s Central Valley has been an expat haven for decades. For good reason. It’s got one of the world’s best climates, averaging in the mid-70s year-round. And most towns are within short driving distance (30 minutes to an hour-and-a-half) of the amenities of the capital, San José, and its suburbs like Cariari and Escazu. We’re talking North American-style shopping malls and multiplex movie theaters (with movies in English), plus the country’s best private hospitals.
Founded in 1524, Granada, Nicaragua is a historic city with homes and other buildings hundreds of years old. Colonial homes are known for their red tile roofs and interior courtyards with gardens, fountains, and sometimes even swimming pools.
Punta del Este’s identity is evolving. In addition to being the area’s most popular beach resort, it is becoming an education center. It currently has four bi-lingual schools and a new university is being constructed. There is also a new large conference center in the works. In addition to traditional resort businesses extending their seasons, there are new stores and businesses being set up.
Living in Montevideo, Uruguay is becoming increasingly popular for expats looking for an urban environment with a year-round menu of dining, entertainment, cultural events, and social opportunities. However, Montevideo is a big city covering 200 miles with 62 different neighborhoods. So where do you start when looking for a new place to live in Montevideo?
In this video, Jason Holland, International Living’s Costa Rica correspondent, highlights the beautiful beaches and laid-back towns of the country’s southern Caribbean coast, including Manzanillo, Puerto Viejo, and Punta Uva.
On Nicaragua’s southern Pacific coast, just a short hop from the Costa Rican border, you’ll find San Juan del Sur. It’s the ideal beach town: funky, laid-back, and cheap. Plus, its location on a small cove, with cliffs rising dramatically from the water on either edge, means the views, especially at sunset, are spectacular.
Costa Rica has a worldwide reputation for sport fishing on its Pacific Coast. But in the highlands about three hours from the capital, San Jose, you’ll find Captain Ron Saunders on the waters of Lake Arenal. This former custom cabinet maker from Last Vegas and lifelong fisherman has spent the last seven years here as a fishing guide for locals, tourists, and expats.
In the video below, Costa Rica correspondent Jason Holland shows us his local Feria in Grecia, a small town in the Central Valley of Costa Rica located about an hour northwest of the capital, San Jose. A great way to cut down on your cost of living in Costa Rica is to go to the Feria, the weekly farmers’ market, for fresh fruits and vegetables. In the U.S., this healthy habit can cost a fortune.
In the video, you’ll see a beautiful property for sale on the lake in Arenal, Costa Rica. The views from the back porch are of the lake and the volcano at Arenal. Lake Arenal has an ideal climate—no AC needed, even on the hottest days. And it has a close-knit community of expats from all over the world (about 400 according to an informal survey by one resident).
International Living editor Glynna Prentice is in Puerto Varas, a resort town in Chile’s Lake District. Puerto Varas is a popular summer vacation region for Chileans (January and February). Right on the shores of Lake Llanquihue, Puerto Varas looks out on the lake and, beyond it, on two snow-capped volcanoes. The town is about 550 miles south of Santiago and is just half an hour from Puerto Montt, the jumping-off point for Chilean Patagonia.
Just four miles north of the bustling surf and sport fishing town of Jaco on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific coast is tranquil Playa Herradura. In this video, IL correspondent Jason Holland gives a short overview of the beach, including the picturesque view across the cove and the casual beach bars and restaurants that line the access road – bare feet and swimsuits encouraged.
In this video, IL editor Glynna Prentice is in Frutillar in Chile’s Lake District. This region is a popular summertime destination for Chileans, thanks to its unspoiled beauty—plenty of lakes and volcanoes—cool summertime weather, and wealth of outdoor activities, from boating to hiking to fishing to horseback riding. Frutillar lies along the shores of Lake Llanquihue, a large fresh-water lake.
In this video, IL Costa Rica correspondent, Jason Holland shows footage of his beautiful rental home in Grecia, Costa Rica. Just like any desirable retirement destination, you can find luxury in Costa Rica when it comes to where you live. But there is plenty of opportunity for regular folks to find their own slice of heaven.
In this video, Mexico editor Glynna Prentice speaks to an expat couple in Mexico, each of whom moved abroad as a single person. They talk about how being single affected (or not) their decision to become an expat and where to move. This (now) couple, moved to Mexico on their own and met one another there. They both offer advice on moving overseas as a single person.
David, the capital of Chiriqui, is becoming more and more popular as expats discover the delights of living amongst Panama’s successful ranchers.
In this video, International Living Panama editor Jessica Ramesch talks about her cost of living in Panama City, Panama. Though it’s possible to live (and spend) like a millionaire here, Jessica says it’s easy to live the good life, even if you’re on a budget, like her. Your cost of living can be low in Panama but you can still buy the same groceries as back home.
Europe’s sunshine doesn’t disappear in winter. It’s hiding away in southern Spain. Largely unknown to foreign travelers, Murcia slots between the regions of Andalucia and Valencia. Strung with beaches, its 156-mile coastline is called the Costa Calida—the warm coast. Summers can be blistering, but winters are really mild.
If you decide to live anywhere in or near the Veraguas province of Panama, chances are you’ll visit the provincial capital of Santiago often. Most “capitalinos” (Panamanians from the capital) will tell you there’s nothing much in Santiago, but on a recent visit I found the opposite.