Starting Your Own Business in Costa Rica

You wake up early for work. But you’re not slapping at the alarm clock in disgust, then rushing out the door for a long commute. You want to get up…you’re looking forward to the day.

You get to enjoy that first cup of coffee as the rising sun makes the Pacific glitter…watch wildlife—toucans, parrots, even monkeys—make their morning rounds in the trees…and bask in praise from departing guests who’ve had the time of their lives, thanks to you.

As an innkeeper in Costa Rica, this could be your workplace. Whether you’re running a B& B, a cozy boutique hotel, or even cabins in the jungle, there’s a lot to like about your “job.” Not least its location…

Costa Rica is beautiful, convenient to North America (no more than two to eight hours from any of the main cities, or those in Canada), and relations between the countries have always been familiar and friendly.

Its varied beauty—Caribbean and Pacific coasts, waterfalls and volcanoes, hot springs and cloud forests—attracts tourists in droves (2.3 million last year, up 6.6%). The vast majority of these will tell you the Costa Rican people are welcoming and warm. Factor in a business-friendly culture and it all adds up to a paradise for expat entrepreneurs.

If you’re looking to open a B&B abroad, this land of pura vida (pure life) makes it simple to get set up. There are no restrictions in Costa Rica on foreign business ownership. You don’t even need to be a resident. A standard 90-day tourist visa allows you to buy an existing business, like a hotel or B&B, or to build your own.

And you don’t need prior experience either—though, of course, folks with a background in the hospitality industry often gravitate toward the same business in Costa Rica. All you really need is a yearning to do something with your life, a sense of adventure, and a willingness to take a risk on a new experience overseas.

Scott Dinsmore, 47, and David Russell, 52, both from Dallas, led very different lives before they took over El Castillo, a quiet hotel on the southern Pacific coast that they’ve run for a year and a half.

“We knew we wanted to do something that was more of a lifestyle, and that would let us do a bit less as we got older,” says Scott, who owned an advertising agency specializing in travel for 15 years. David went to culinary school, which has helped him create one of the top restaurants in the region: the Mediterranean-themed Azul, located at the hotel.

“What we’re after…it’s more about experience,” says Scott. “Owning a small hotel allows you to ‘touch’ every guest. It’s a great vacation for them and a great experience for us. And we get to live in a beautiful place.”

Part of that commitment means attending to guests from early in the day at their five-suite, ocean-view, Spanish colonial-style villa, 600 feet above the beach near the town of Ojochal.

But Scott and David always take time to get off-property—either the beach or a local gourmet restaurant—for lunch. And they never miss a sunset happy hour with guests. The back deck, where the infinity pool is located, overlooks the Pacific and a small island, Caño, just off shore. “The nice thing is that everybody goes to bed early,” says Scott.

Then there’s Tom Keller, 61, and Zoe Courtier 53, own Geckoes Lodge, in the southern Caribbean right down the beach from Eddie’s place. Or husband-and-wife team José Luís Torrico, 41, and Dovile Vaigauskaite, 32. He was an insurance broker and she a lawyer for the European Commission, when they decided to leave their old careers behind and buy a mountain B&B above the town of Grecia. It’s called Mango Valley and offers views of the Central Valley below.

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