Retire in Costa Rica
Last updated on Nov 27, 2021
Summary: What is it like to retire in Costa Rica? Retirees share their experiences living in Costa Rica.
What is it like to retire in Costa Rica?
"The weather is truly perfect in Escazu, great amazing restaurants with so many choices, live music at Jazz Cafe, 2 great movie theatres showing films in English, lots of expats & English speaking Tico's, great public golf course close by in Santa Ana & perhaps best of all a great little casino close by," explained one retiree living in Costa Rica.
"Because of the language barrier, and no transportation, I'm limited to what I can do with my friend who is American, lives here, and has a car. My community where I live has a clubhouse with gym, pool, and restaurant 4 days a week and plenty of area to walk and ride a bike (if I owned one)," said another retiree in living in Grecia, Costa Rica.
What advice do overseas retirees have for others considering retiring abroad?
"My wife and I retired to Costa Rica in 2013. Something we did that we felt helped was to prepare some "lists" before our scouting trips to CR: The first list was of things that we considered "essential" for where we planned to live (including housing, nearby conveniences, such as stores and restaurants, proximity to the beach and to an airport, etc.) The second list included items that would be nice to have but would not be essential; and the third list was of things we would like to avoid. It helped us to agree on what we wanted and helped us narrow down areas to look in," explained one retiree living in Tamarindo.
"If you don't have an external focus and are happy to embrace the natural bent to living here and connection to your true self - retirement is great. I've been here for the better part of eight years. It took me a number of years to let go of many things that I had identified with - like the work I had done for many, many years. Like my beautiful house in New England and my car and my ........ My, my, my, There's a lot of allowance and acceptance of what is that I had to evolve through. Once that passed, I became much more at ease here. Lifestyle is now what I make of it. Now that "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul" has become a reality, retirement for the moment and that's all I have, is great here," said another retiree in living in Costa Rica.
What are the most challenging aspects of retiring in Costa Rica?
"Getting access to a bank account as a foreigner and learning how to transfer my US dollars to Costa Rica. Without a bank account, it has been challenging to know how to pay utilities and other bills. The language barrier has been difficult as well," added another person in Grecia.
"Language, and the slower pace. Both of which I was ready for I thought. However, it's more of a challenge than expected," remarked another retiree in San Isidro de Heredia.
What are the most rewarding aspects of retiring in Costa Rica?
"The best part is the Ticos as neighbors and friends. Also the weather where I live no need for air conditioning or heat. Living a more simple life which involves a simple lifestyle where I have favorite taxi drivers in lieu of owning a vehicle which can be frustrating and expensive. I also am not a drinker and rarely eat out much by choice. Am able to have all I need, give generously and have left over. Would never be able to do this in the US on my pension," said another retiree in living in Costa Rica.
"The cheaper food: A farmers market shopping trip would have cost me $30+ in Hawaii, cost me $4.50 here in Costa Rica," explained a retiree in Grecia.
What are healthcare services like in Costa Rica?
We asked retirees if they have access to good medical care in Costa Rica. They wrote:
"Yes. The area that I am in is close to major hospitals. I've also purchased private insurance which helps," explained a retiree in Grecia.
"Yes. I have private insurance through Cigna global and access to several both public and private hospital, and clinics," explained one retiree living in San Isidro de Heredia.
How do I meet people in Costa Rica?
When we asked people living in Costa Rica about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:
"Welcome to San Ramon! Yes, lots of organized and also informal gatherings for philanthropy and recreational activities. Start by googling Community Action Alliance and check out their recent archived newsletters. Also look for Gringo Central which provides info on Central Valley groups and other useful info. And, every Thursday an expat group meets for breakfast at a local restaurant near the downtown park, come and go as you please. The Community Action Alliance has details on where. Finally, a few kilometers west of downtown past Magallanes, there’s a growing expat neighborhood with a very nice recreational center used by many expats, called El Palme (I think it’s called that, anyway). Can be found via Google," said another retiree in San Ramon.
"Escazu also has a large ex-pat English speaking population with many activities to meet others. For example, we watched the Academy Awards at the Invictus restaurant (great food) & lounge/bar just a short walk down our street Sunday night. As an aside they have all the NFL football games in the Fall," commented one retiree living in Costa Rica.
What is life like in Costa Rica?
When we asked people living in Costa Rica what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:
"Lots of socializing, soccer, swimming, surfing, fishing, picnics on the beach, hiking, photography. Living life seems to be the priority here. Pura Vida," explained one retiree living in Montezuma.
"Life revolves around beach activities, socializing with friends, some volunteer work. Very active community with lots of diving, surfing, hiking and water related activities," said another retiree in living in Playa Potrero, Costa Rica.
What do I need to know before retiring in Costa Rica?
When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Costa Rica, they said:
"Have lived in Grecia for 7-1/2 yrs. It is a small city and in my opinion the best unless you insist on beach area which is too hot for me. No a/c necessary where I live. Easy to get to know people if you are friendly. I can't walk down the street without people I know honking or waving. I live happily without a car which means not using all my pension on repairs and high gas," said another retiree in living in Costa Rica.
"My wife and I lived in Tamarindo for 5 years. (We now live in southern Nicaragua near our daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters.) When we first visited Tamarindo, it felt like driving into a California beach town from the 1960's. We liked the beach front road and string of beach restaurants. But it is also very popular for tourists, so the town is often packed with tourists, which can get a bit annoying. However, there are also low tourist seasons when the town is very pleasant. We liked that we could easily walk to many restaurants in town, And we owned a nice condo with a great view of the bay," explained a retiree in Tamarindo.
What type of recreational activities are there in Costa Rica?
"Soccer is hands down the most popular recreational activity, but adults seem to prefer watching the games on TV than playing. A fair number of people are bicycling these days. Almost everybody likes going to the mountains or the beach, but these are more weekend excursions than daily activities. My neighborhood has several gyms for those who work out. People do play tennis and swim in pools, but this seems to involve finding and paying for access to the courts or the pools. Foreigners often like to play golf, and there are courses, but none near me. You have to go to the golf courses. Basically mine is an urban setting where sports-like recreational facilities aren't widely available to the general public, but people who like various sports and recreational activities find the venues. Some even take day trips to the ocean beaches--a couple are close enough--but that's ambitious. Most people would want those trips as well as those into the mountains to be overnight excursions, but they can be done in a day," explained one retiree living in San Jose.
"Recreational activities include surfing on all levels from beginning to highly advanced. Playa Jaco has no shortage of surf schools due to the outstanding conditions in the area. Hiking is common in the area. Miro Mountain is one of the most popular hiking activities as the trail wanders through jungles with a great opportunity for wildlife spotting. The Miro Trail climbs to an elevation of 1,100 feet with spectacular vistas of the Pacific. Miro Mountain Trail is also popular with mountain bike enthusiasts. The area has many mountainous trails so ATV is very popular to reach the higher elevation views and local restaurants. Yoga is popular in the area with many studios and profesional instructors. Art classes are popular in a new facility in Jaco. Golfing at a top course in Playa Herradura is just ten minutes north of Playa Jaco. Playa Herradura Los Suenos Marina boasts one of the best in the area for excellent sport fishing known world wide. Bird watching and nature loves enjoy the Carara National Park just 20 minutes north of Jaco and the Manuel Antonio National Park just one hour south of Playa Jaco," said another member in Playa Jaco.
Where will I buy groceries and do other shopping in Costa Rica?
"I recommend joining Price Mart which is owned by Costco. Walmart has stores and owns two big chain stores there - Max X Menos and Maxi Pali. Auto Mercado is an upscale market chain which is also very good. Amazon barely works here and its Import duties and shipping cost are OUTRAGEOUS. ," explained one member in Santa Ana.
"Most people shop in supermarkets similar to those the world over. Indeed, in addition to Walmart, Walmart owns two or three supermarket chains, although there are others. I have two supermarkets three blocks away and another one about six blocks away.. There are also chain office supply stores, PriceMart, chain convenience stores, McDonald's and all the rest, It's all pretty normal. Unique are the separate fruit and vegetable stores, farmers selling fruits and vegetables out of trucks on the side of the roads, and so on. Unfortunately also unique is the dearth of large department stores, even furniture stores. Specialty shopping, so to speak, can require going to a bunch of different stores and still not finding what you're looking for.," said another retiree in San Jose.
About the Author
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.
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