Costa Rica Fast Facts

Costa Rica Tamarindo Costa Rica

Population: 4,872,543

Capital City: San José

Climate: Tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands

Time Zone: GMT-6

Language: Spanish (official), English

Country Code: 506

Coastline: 1,290km

Central America’s Retirement Gem: Stable, Easy, and Affordable Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a beautiful country, with long stretches of deserted and undeveloped beaches…dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife…towering volcanoes, lush green valleys, and hundreds of crystal-clear lakes and rivers…

Not only that, but the country offers a great climate year-round, neighborly atmosphere, no-hassle residence programs, excellent healthcare, a stable democracy, and safety and security. It doesn’t hurt that many retired couples report living well on $2,000 a month—that includes all their costs.

For these reasons, as well as the welcoming locals who are warm and friendly to new foreign neighbors, Costa Rica has been an expat haven for more than 30 years.

That’s another bonus: you don’t have to be a pioneer in Costa Rica. There are well-established expat communities throughout the country. Things are “set up” so to speak, when it comes to shipping your household goods, using the healthcare system, buying property, and more. And by following this well-trodden path, your transition to your new life is much easier.

It’s small, about the size of West Virginia. But the variety of landscapes, climates, and lifestyles in Costa Rica is amazing. You have the rainforests, wild beaches, and charming seaside villages of the southern Pacific coast, also known as the Southern Zone.

A Landscape and Lifestyle for Every Taste

There are the bustling market towns surrounded by sugar cane fields and coffee plantations of the Central Valley. Around the pristine 33-square-mile Lake Arenal, expats have taken up residence on the verdant hills rising from the shore, with vast lake views from their homes. On the Caribbean coast, life is laidback and moves to the rhythm of reggae. And that’s just a small taste of all Costa Rica has to offer as far as places to live.

With all these different climates and landscapes, it’s no wonder that this Central American jewel is also one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet. With just 0.03% of the earth’s surface within its borders, the country has an estimated 5% of the world’s species. In Costa Rica, this natural world surrounds you, putting the country on the forefront of eco-tourism and eco-living. Sloths, capuchin monkeys, toucans, and scarlet macaws will be your new neighbors.

central-valley
Central Valley, Costa Rica

And no matter which location you choose, you can benefit from bargain real estate, whether you buy or rent. Three-bedroom homes in the Central Valley start at $119,000 to buy and $500 a month to rent. And two-bedroom condo, a short walk to the beach on the central Pacific coast, in a lively  town will cost about $700 a month, and a similar property is selling for $165,000. Deals like this can be found throughout the country.

Another big bonus is the high-quality, low-cost healthcare. There are two systems: private, for which you can pay cash or use insurance, and the government-run public system which you join when you become a legal resident. Overall, expats in Costa Rica pay a fraction of what they did back home for healthcare.

All these advantages make Costa Rica a premier destination for those looking for a secure, fun, and active retirement surrounded by new friends in a beautiful setting.

Find Out More From Our Costa Rica Editor

From the Archives of Costa Rica

Natural Beauty and Better Health in Grecia, Costa Rica

Natural Beauty and Better Health in Grecia, Costa Rica

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.

Traveling the Monkey Road in Costa Rica

Traveling the Monkey Road in 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.

The Expert’s View: How Much to Budget to Live in Costa Rica

The Expert’s View: How Much to Budget to Live in Costa Rica

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. It’s a naturally beautiful country to boot with an established expat community and a stable government.

The Secret That Costa Rica’s Expats Share

The Secret That Costa Rica’s Expats Share

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.

New Adventures in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica

New Adventures in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica

Lifestyle
By |
June 13, 2015

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.

From Colorado Snow to Costa Rica’s Coffee and Low-Cost Living

From Colorado Snow to Costa Rica’s Coffee and Low-Cost Living

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.

Picture Yourself in…Jaco, Costa Rica

Picture Yourself in…Jaco, Costa Rica

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.