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Expat Exchange - Pros and Cons of Living in Costa Rica
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Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica


Pros and Cons of Living in Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

SJB Global
SJB Global

Summary: If you're moving to Costa Rica, it's important to learn about both the Pros AND Cons of living in Costa Rica.

Are you considering a move to the lush, tropical paradise of Costa Rica? This Central American gem is known for its stunning beaches, vibrant wildlife, and laid-back lifestyle. But like any country, living in Costa Rica comes with its own unique set of advantages and challenges. In this article, we'll delve into the pros and cons of making Costa Rica your new home.

Pros of Living in Costa Rica

One of the most significant advantages of living in Costa Rica is the country's incredible natural beauty. From the pristine beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts to the lush rainforests and majestic volcanoes, Costa Rica is a nature lover's dream. The country's commitment to environmental conservation means that these natural wonders are well-protected and will continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

Costa Rica's climate is another major draw. With its tropical location, the country enjoys warm weather year-round, with average temperatures ranging from 70 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it an ideal destination for those looking to escape colder climates.

Costa Rica's healthcare system is also highly regarded. The country's public healthcare system, known as the Caja, provides comprehensive coverage to all residents, including expats. Additionally, the country's private healthcare system offers high-quality care at a fraction of the cost compared to the United States and other developed countries. For example, a friend of mine needed a minor surgery that would have cost him thousands of dollars in the U.S. In Costa Rica, the same procedure was performed for just a few hundred dollars.

Another advantage of living in Costa Rica is the country's slower pace of life, often referred to as "Pura Vida" or "Pure Life". This philosophy emphasizes relaxation, leisure, and a strong sense of community. Many expats find that this slower pace of life leads to improved mental and physical health and a greater sense of overall well-being.

Finally, Costa Rica is known for its friendly and welcoming locals. The Ticos, as Costa Ricans are known, are generally warm and hospitable towards foreigners. Many expats find it easy to integrate into local communities and make lasting friendships.

Cons of Living in Costa Rica

While there are many advantages to living in Costa Rica, there are also some challenges to consider. One of the most common complaints among expats is the country's high cost of living. While certain things, like healthcare and fresh produce, are cheaper than in many developed countries, other items, like imported goods and electronics, can be significantly more expensive. For example, a friend of mine was surprised to find that a laptop that cost $800 in the U.S. was priced at over $1,200 in Costa Rica.

Another challenge of living in Costa Rica is dealing with the country's bureaucracy. Whether you're trying to get a driver's license, open a bank account, or navigate the immigration process, be prepared for a lot of paperwork and potentially long wait times. A fellow expat once shared a story about spending an entire day at the immigration office, only to be told to come back the next day with a different form.

While Costa Rica's natural beauty is a major draw, it also comes with its own set of challenges. The country's tropical climate means that it's prone to natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes. Additionally, the high humidity can lead to issues with mold and other maintenance problems in homes.

Finally, while many Ticos are friendly and welcoming, there can be a language barrier for those who don't speak Spanish. While English is spoken in many tourist areas, it's less common in more rural areas. This can make things like shopping, visiting the doctor, or dealing with bureaucracy more challenging.

Despite these challenges, many expats find that the benefits of living in Costa Rica far outweigh the downsides. The country's stunning natural beauty, warm climate, high-quality healthcare, and friendly locals make it a popular destination for those looking to start a new chapter abroad. However, it's important to be aware of the potential challenges and to plan accordingly to ensure a smooth transition to your new life in Costa Rica.

Expats Talk about Pros & Cons of Living in Costa Rica

"My only dislike is the postal system. The system is impossible to navigate when trying to receive a package. I have learned that it is easier for me to order something, and divert the government postal system altogether," commented one expat living in Florencia, Costa Rica.

"love the climate, people are helpful and friendly - beach sand is too hot in the summer sun," mentioned one expat living in Costa Rica.

"The positive aspect of living in Playa Jaco and Playa Hermosa far outweigh the negative aspects. The area has excellent services for it's residents (locals and expats alike). The infrastructure is good with availability of internet, excellent water, paved roads, and reliable power sources. The police force is present but not overbearing and very helpful. Restaurants, bistros, bars and coffee shops are plentiful and reasonably priced. The community is very multi-national with expats from all over the world. The incredible variety of restaurants of the area boast this desirable quality with cuisine offerings from authentic French, Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean, American style steak houses and of course, local Costa Rican cuisine. Due to our proximity to the ocean, seafood is affordable and plentiful. The area has many butchers, bakers, vegetable/fruit stands, along with large chain grocery stores. The area has a good expat community that are friendly, helpful and will assist with helping other expats offering excellent advice and/or encouragement. The beach is the lifeline of the community with many aquatic activities, family beach/surf events, a strong art and culture following, and volunteering opportunities. As the area is popular with local Costa Rican families from the Central Valley, the beach is a big draw and does get busy during holidays and long weekends. The local businessed really rely on tourism outside the area so although the traffic can get busy, it's important for those in the tourism business especially after the pandemic affected the area," said an expat in Costa Rica.

"Sold NY Home, moved to Costa Rica where everyone is from the US. Still have to check out and find a place in Florida but nothing is similar in the US to Costa Rica. I am still a citizen and have to leave June 2 for 72 hours. Borders to Nicaragua and Panama closed recently. All good, Key West probably," remarked one expat in Costa Rica.

"Dominical is small and very complete. I Like the artist community and the laid back atmosphere. Getting used to a different way of doing business is challenging and I wouldn't change it. Working on getting my residency. The dry season is a bit hot. Being hot gives me opportunity to go to US and take art workshops. Supplies are hard to get, but the challenge is to work with what I can get. Now that the house is built, I will be working on getting to know the community. I want to share my knowledge of sewing with whoever is interested. I will be doing some volunteering with food distributions and hope to see where my other skills might be of some benefit. My retirement account is enough to keep me going, so I don't need a job. For 72 I have alot of energy and like sharing my knowledge. Landscaping my son's Airbnb property is one of my projects. Because the tropics are so different from US, I need to Find people to teach me about tropical planting and soil improvement. I am concerned about sewing machine repair and have a hard time finding cotton fabric here. Luckily there is a clothing maker in town, Ruth, who is very helpful. The mail service is pricey. We do alot of business with Amazon. Because we are always building and son makes furniture, Amazon is a great place to find parts that aren't available in Costa Rica. Looking forward to seeing Costa Rica, have a car now and friends are visiting, so off we go on some adventures. A fire destroyed my home and used this excuse for a new life," said one expat living in Costa Rica.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


SJB Global
SJB Global

SJB Global
SJB Global

Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica

SJB Global
SJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
Learn More

SJB GlobalSJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
Learn More

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