Costa Rica vs Panama: Which is better for Your Retirement

Should We Retire In Costa Rica Or Panama

My husband and I are starting to consider seriously retiring in either of Costa Rica or Panama in the next couple of years. We need a country with easily accessible and excellent healthcare, plus one to which our Canadian pensions are easily portable.

Our combined retirement income would amount to approximately $2100.00 net per month. We love the beach and a warm climate all year round. Where can we find sound advice on our money matters? Taxes etc.?

Jason Holland - IL Roving Latin America Editor

Hi Julia,

As the International Living Costa Rica Editor, I can speak only to Costa Rica. But I can say that you will find high-quality healthcare here - and it's affordable too. Plus, with your retirement income level, you'll have no problem getting residence under the pensionado program, which has a minimum requirement of $1,000 a month. And, of course, we have lots of beautiful beaches and great weather year-round - never cold. I know that Panama basically ticks those boxes as well. So I think the solution is research and a visit to check both countries out.

A few resources for you:

This is the Costa Rica page on the IL website, lots of free info on residence, the different regions, and more:

Roger Petersen is an attorney in Costa Rica who speaks at our conferences. He's a good resource on residence:

And Nick Hodges is a tax professional who often speaks at IL conferences on financial and tax matters.

Linda Card - IL Chiriqui Correspondent

Hi Julia,

You've heard from Jason so let me add my two cents for Panama!

As Jason noted, Panama and Costa Rica have much in common and it would certainly be wise and easy to visit both countries. Warm climate and beautiful beaches... we got 'em!

Your income is more than enough to qualify for the pensionado visa in Panama, and the healthcare here is first-class, accessible and affordable. Panama City has a Johns Hopkins-affiliate hospital, and even in David, where I live, medical services are very good.

The Coronado area of Panama, just west of Panama City, may interest you. It is a popular expat destination with great amenities and miles of beaches, yet remains un-crowded.

You can find more info here at the IL Panama page:

Are you a member of the Panama Insider? You'll find lots of in-depth information there.Here's the link:

Best of luck!

Jessica Ramesch - IL Panama Editor

Dear Julia,

It looks like my colleagues have provided a wealth of info already. I'll just add a few things that may be of interest to you.

Firstly, Panama's Pensioner Program provides an easy means of securing residence in Panama, in addition to an extensive discounts program that saves pensioners money on everything from medication to travel. Also, Panama's government has pledged to honor legal residents' status if at any time the program is changed or done away with. This is something not all countries do.

Panama offers a warm, tropical climate at sea-level (and plenty of beaches) and in the mountains, cooler temperatures.

You'll find a great deal of info on Panama (including money matters, taxes, and more) at the website listed by my colleague Linda, below. For more detailed information, you may want to go to that website and click on the bookstore option, where you'll find a description of our comprehensive guide, Escape to Panama.

I often hear from readers that they like both Panama and Costa Rica, so it can be difficult to choose. We try to avoid making comparisons because each country is unique. So we provide resources that allow you to read and decide, based on your personal criteria, which country is best for you. Or rather, which city or town or neighborhood is best for you.

No place is perfect, as I'm sure you know. You will hear positive and negative matter who you talk to and no matter what cities or regions you research or visit. We hope our publications can help you pinpoint what’s best for you.

Once you've done your nuts and bolts research, you'll likely want to plan visits or extended stays and let your emotional response lead the way. How you feel will depend on what region you visit...and so many other factors.

Often expats tell me they're not 100% sure why they chose Panama over other front-runners on their "short lists." There are quantifiable explanations (infrastructure, first world capital, etc)…and there are the gut-felt reasons they have trouble explaining.

It’s the same with me. I choose to stay here for the cultural activities and the nightlife (especially the restaurant and foodie scene)…and the overall value I get for my dollar. And then there’s a part of me that simply feels comfy here.

Hope this helps, and best of luck.

Jessica Ramesch

IL Panama Editor

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