After living in Costa Rica for a year-and-a-half, I’ve learned a lot and answered many questions about the experience. Some people are enamored by the concept of picking up and leaving it all behind for a new life in paradise. When they hear about some of the challenges and frustrations of the process, some seem surprised. In describing the experience of moving to and living in Costa Rica, I find myself often explaining that contrary to the fantasy, it’s not perfect, as no place is. However, I have found great happiness here, so much so that I can’t imagine living anywhere else at this point in my life.
Here are five reasons I’m happy in Costa Rica:
1. Natural Beauty Abounds
Having weathered Michigan and Illinois winters my entire life, moving to the beach in Costa Rica has been a pure joy. People have suggested that maybe I would miss having four seasons—I haven’t. Sunshine nearly every day of the year and never having to wear a jacket or long pants makes me perfectly happy. Not to mention the beautiful, natural environment this climate supports. Aside from the beauty that is the ocean and expansive beaches, and natural wonders like mountains, volcanoes, and waterfalls, the wildlife, and flora in Costa Rica cannot be beaten.
2. The “Pura Vida”
Living in Costa Rica, you’ll hear the phrase “pura vida” a lot. It translates directly as “pure life.” But the phrase itself encompasses the general lifestyle here. It’s used as a greeting as well as a description for many things. It can mean “no rush,” “don’t stress,” “it is what it is,” “life’s good,” “enjoy”… So many different things, all connected to a laidback theme.
The people of Costa Rica value the environment and Costa Rica’s natural beauty. They value their friends and family and time spent with them. They value good, natural food. They value a generally stress free life—meaning you shouldn’t worry if you’re a bit late or something takes longer than expected. The whole country believes in the idea of “mañana”—there’s always tomorrow.
3. Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Unless you move to one of the few “big cities” in Costa Rica, you’re going to be in a small town or village, and everyone will end up knowing your name. The friendly atmosphere and sense of community I’ve experienced in Costa Rica has been more than a comfort, but a window into a completely different mindset for me. Here everyone has time to stop and say hello, and make conversation on the street with neighbors and friends. People are generally very understanding toward foreigners—willing to help whether it’s with the language, directions, or where to find certain things. Tips and tricks to make life easier for everyone aren’t secrets, but rather knowledge that’s meant to be shared.
Again, while a few of Costa Rica’s large cities offer many big-city familiarities, most towns and villages will remind you that it’s the simple things in life that matter the most. Most of the things we like to do nowadays for example are free—head to the beach to watch a gorgeous sunset, go hiking with our dog and snap pictures of the beautiful wildlife, go mountain biking, or just relax in a hammock with a good book. I also love coming across local services and businesses that remind me that not everything has to be big and fancy and automated to get the job done. For example, our local car wash is a few employees with a hose, a couple of buckets, some soap, and sponges. And our car comes out just as clean as any car wash I ever visited in the States. It reminds me of my childhood and washing my parents’ car in the driveway in the summer.
5. Healthy and Feeling Good
Between a climate and landscape that inspires increased outdoor activity, and the unlimited access to fresh, local produce, fresh fish, and grass fed meats, I’m healthier in Costa Rica—and I feel it. There are less processed foods to tempt us and the freshness of the food available brings a new level of enjoyment to meal time. The combination of wanting to be outside more and having more free time naturally lends to a more active lifestyle.
I am visibly healthier and from a statistics standpoint, I’ve seen an improvement too. Where I was accustomed to getting sick around four or five times per year with some sort of upper respiratory illness or something allergy related, I’ve only been sick once in the nearly two years we’ve lived here. So when you read about feeding your body real food, getting out and getting active, and avoiding stress, I can tell you, the benefits are very real.
Yes, there’s a learning curve, challenges, and imperfections. But I find the reasons to be happy in Costa Rica outweigh any reason not to be.