Costa Rica is becoming ever-more popular with North American expats and retirees. Today an estimated 20,000 Americans live there either full- or part-time.
For decades, expats have flocked to Costa Rica, attracted by its beauty, great health care, affordable real estate and low cost of living (a couple can live well there on $1,500 a month). With sandy beaches, peaceful lakeside living, bio-diverse tropical jungles, and cool highland areas with modern cities, Costa Rica offers plenty to choose from.
“New expats find well-trodden ground and benefit from the experience of those who came before them,” says Internationalliving.com Costa Rica editor, Jason Holland. “It makes integrating into a new life here that much easier, no matter where you go. But it makes picking your perfect spot in Costa Rica that much harder. So I put this report together to highlight the country’s five most popular and comfortable havens.”
Many expats find themselves in the Central Valley. Here, thanks to the altitude, the climate is ideal and you’re near the convenience of the capital, San José, where you’ll find the best shopping in the country, including North American-style malls and warehouse shopping clubs (similar to Sam’s Club).
Roberta Laidman, 70, and Harry Raabe, 68, have lived full time in Atenas, a town of about 5,000, for two years.
One reason they say they chose the Central Valley (echoed by most retiree-age expats here) is quick access to the country’s top public and private medical care in San José.
Another benefit of living here is that the area is full of affordable real estate. A furnished two-bedroom cabin with views of Grecia and the Poés Volcano, for example, lists for $89,000.
Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast is popular for those seeking a beach lifestyle and warm climate. Known as the Gold Coast, this region receives the least rainfall and has more sunny days than anywhere else in the country.
“If you’re looking for a mix of Tico culture and strong, well-established expat communities, then this is your place,” Holland reports.
“Years ago, this coast was dotted with small fishing villages. Vestiges of this remain: Freshly-caught seafood is abundant and cheap. But you have easy access to plenty of home comforts, too, such as imported foods, sports bars, and sushi restaurants. You’ll also find boutique clothing stores, golf courses, and tennis clubs.”
The growing international airport in Liberia, the capital of the Guanacaste province, makes getting there easy, with several flights to and from the United States and Canada every day. And here, too, real estate is affordable. A walk-to-the-beach, two-bedroom condo in Tamarindo’s center is for sale for $77,000.
Rene Aoki and her husband Jim moved to the town of Arenal 19 years ago from Alaska. Back then there seemed to be hardly any foreigners on the lake. They had a core group of 12 to 15 friends. In 1999, they put up signs around the lake road inviting everyone to a Fourth of July party—130 showed up. Even though the expat population has multiplied, “you don’t know it traffic-wise or construction-wise.” says Jim, who explains that the lake region remains quiet and calm.
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