The Perks of Living in Costa Rica

There are a lot of practical advantages to living in Costa Rica that I’ve discovered during my two years here.

A big one for my family is the savings on medical care. When my son was born in June of 2012, we paid just $3,000 for the birth at a private hospital, including all the doctors’ fees and an overnight hospital stay. That’s cash, no insurance. We would have paid $15,000 to $20,000 in the U.S. When, at six months, the baby developed some health issues, testing and treatment was cheap too. For example, we paid just $70 for an ultrasound—a fraction of what it would have cost in the U.S.

In Costa Rica, we’re also able to afford a healthful diet consisting mainly of fruits and vegetables. Unlike in the U.S., produce (at least those fruits and veggies grown in-country, which is a lot) is cheap, while processed and preservative-filled “boxed” food is more expensive. At the weekly farmers’ market, known as the feria, in our town, we spend about $40 a week on papaya, mango, carrots, tomatoes, fresh herbs, potatoes, onions…and we fill our fridge and pantry to the bursting point.

Then there are the perks. We’ve been able to live in much nicer places for much less money than we did back home.

The first home we rented, in the Central Valley town of Grecia, was 3,000 square feet and featured a separate rancho (an open air structure for recreation) complete with hammocks overlooking a little river valley. We also had a pool and the run of painstakingly landscaped gardens. Out in the countryside, we were surrounded by sugar cane fields, coffee plantations, and forest. We paid just $1,000 a month for all this (including high speed Internet and cable, as well as a full-time landscaper/handyman).

When we moved to Tamarindo, a popular but still laid-back beach town on the northern Pacific coast, we moved into a three-bedroom condo a few minutes’ walk from the beach. Usually a vacation rental, the furnishings were top notch—like granite countertops in the kitchen. We paid just $1,075. A similar place that close to the beach in our home state of Florida would have gone for triple that.

Then there’s the shift in attitude. I wouldn’t say we were very materialistic back home. But we definitely took more trips to the mall and big box stores than necessary. Having the latest smartphone seemed really important. But in Costa Rica we rarely go shopping. I had the most basic phone imaginable until recently, when a family member in the U.S. gave me an old iPhone when they upgraded. We’re content with the limited selection of clothing we brought with us. And we’re okay with the 13-inch TV in our current house (we don’t watch it much anyway).

The cool thing is that the people we know here in Costa Rica think the same way. We’re focused on spending time with family and friends. Many of us have gotten into baking, canning, and other “homemaking” activities we never used to have time for. And though most of us work—a lot of us online—it takes a secondary role to enjoying life in this unique country.

But the best part of living in Costa Rica is the adventure—that’s why we originally came here. It’s an essential ingredient to moving overseas to any country. We wanted to experience a new culture—a new way of life. We’ve learned new customs and ways of looking at the world. And we’ve had the privilege of visiting the huge variety of natural beauty Costa Rica has to offer: tropical beaches, jungle, volcanoes, cloud forests, mountains, rural areas, picturesque villages, busy market towns…

We still haven’t seen it all…far from it. So we’ve a lot to look forward to in the new year…

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