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Jaco Beach, Costa Rica

Moving to Playa Jaco, Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 01, 2023

Summary: Expatriates move to Playa Jaco, Costa Rica for its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and abundance of outdoor activities. The area is known for its laid-back atmosphere and friendly locals, making it an ideal destination for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Additionally, the cost of living in Playa Jaco is relatively low, making it an attractive option for those looking to stretch their budget. With its close proximity to San Jose, expats can easily access the city's amenities while still enjoying the tranquility of the beach.

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What do I need to know before moving to Playa Jaco?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Playa Jaco, they said:

"Before moving to Playa Jaco, there are few things to be aware of. Costa Rica is known for its picturesque beaches and dense jungles, so you should be prepared for the humidity. Also, the country is a popular tourist spot year-round, so accommodations can be expensive. Make sure you factor that into your budget when you plan your move. Additionally, Costa Rica is a tropical country and is vulnerable to natural disasters such as hurricanes, flooding, and earthquakes. Make sure your area is well prepared with an emergency plan and supplies. Lastly, while fluency in Spanish is not required, it is helpful to know some basics before you move. Locals will appreciate your attempt to speak their language," commented one expat who made the move to Playa Jaco.

"Spend time in the area and get to know it's full time residents. Participate in community activities, fundraisers, church activities if you are inclined. Eat at the local restaurants, shop locally, go to the local farmers market. Visit your prospective neighborhood at various times of the day especially at night to see if crime is a problem or noise issues. A community feels very different when you spend time with its full time residents and not tourists. You can truly gauge the area determining if it's a good fit for you, your family and your lifestyle. Get an honest lawyer to determine if the house you are interested in has a clean title (and the same for raw land). Get references for doctors and medical facilities in the area. In a nutshell, tourist activities are fun but it's far from reality of every day life. Think about what your day entails in your home country and perform the same activities in your prospective desired area," remarked another expat in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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How do I find a place to live in Playa Jaco?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"There are many accommodation options available in Playa Jaco. Whether you're looking for a resort, villa, or vacation rental, you can explore options from websites such as Vrbo, Expedia, and Airbnb. Additionally, websites such as Booking.com, Hotels.com, and TripAdvisor provide up-to-date listings of hotels, hostels, and guest houses in the area. Additionally, there are a variety of property and real estate management companies throughout Playa Jaco that will help you find the perfect place to stay," added another expat who made the move to Playa Jaco.

"Our first home in Costa Rica (CR) was strictly by word of mouth. We had lived in the area for a few months and told just as many people we trusted that we were looking. In just a few months time, we looked at many properties. We got to know the area very well by renting so we knew the neighborhoods we liked and knew what a good price was to pay. We were in no hurry as we were renting at the time so we didn't appea anxious or desperate to the seller. The purchasing process was a breeze. After 8 years in that same location and home, we decided we wanted a quieter area and we finally were able to realize our original dream of having a water view property. 17 years total in CR ... it's working for us," explained one expat living in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Playa Jaco?

"A typical expat home or apartment in Playa Jaco will often feature modern, luxurious amenities such as stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and high-end furniture. There are plenty of new and updated homes and condos available, often with a private pool and terrace. Most buildings or developments also offer a secure environment with 24-hour security, plenty of parking, and on-site amenities such as a gym, pool, and other recreation areas. Many of the homes and apartments also have lawns or gardens to create a pleasant outdoor living environment. Many of the apartments and condos come fully furnished, so it's easy for expats to move in and simply unpack their bags," commented one expat who made the move to Playa Jaco.

"We live in single family home in a remote and mountainous area. The other homes in the neighborhood are the same. However, the beach closest to us is primarily condos due to the proximity to the water. Being a popular beach town, the condos are privately owned and very popular seasonal rentals," remarked another expat in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

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What is the average cost of housing in Playa Jaco?

If you are thinking about moving to Playa Jaco, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"The average cost of housing in Playa Jaco varies depending on the type and location of the property. Generally speaking, accommodation in Playa Jaco can range from budget-friendly hostels and apartments to luxury villas, condos and beachfront homes," added another expat who made the move to Playa Jaco.

"Our housing costs are lower than in the states. Taxes are very inexpensive in CR and the taxes in the states substantially higher. Private home insurance is less expensive in Costa Rica from our experience. It is very hard to determine the average cost of housing. In this area, the closer the location to the beach, the higher the price. Direct waterfront may cost well over $500,000 to the millions depending on amenities. However in a lower profile condo building with less amenities, you can absolutely find something at half that price. Knowing the market is really key here and return on investment must be weighed in if you plan to rent the unit, seasonally or long term," explained one expat living in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Costa Rica

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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Should I buy or rent a home in Playa Jaco?

If you have not spent a lot of time in Playa Jaco, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:

"Whether you should buy or rent a home in Playa Jaco depends on your individual circumstances. If you are looking for a long-term investment or want to become a permanent resident, buying is likely the beneficial option. Buying will ensure you have a permanent place to stay, can use the home for vacation getaways, and may give you the opportunity to make a financial return if you decide to rent the property out when you’re not using it. On the other hand, if your plans are more short-term or you want to live somewhere but don’t feel comfortable making a longer-term commitment, then renting may be a better option. It will give you flexibility and often require less upfront costs than purchasing a home. Ultimately, you should weigh your own pros and cons to decide which option is best for you," remarked another expat who made the move to Playa Jaco.

"We purchased our own home. This was an easy process as you do not need to be a resident to own property in Costa Rica. However, I would advise anyone whether renting or purchasing property to hire a reputable attorney to assist with the process," explained one expat living in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

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What should I pack when moving to Playa Jaco?

We asked people living in Playa Jaco to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"Essential items to pack when moving to Playa Jaco include casual clothing, comfortable shoes, swimsuit, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, beach towels, lightweight blanket, bed linens, kitchen items, cleaning supplies, mobile phone and charger, toiletries, medications, important documents, flashlights, battery-operated alarm clock, and any personal items you may need," commented one expat who made the move to Playa Jaco.

"The items I wish I had brought to Costa Rica - or maybe I should say as an expat living in Costa Rica I wish I had brought more of - are bed linens, pillows and bedcovering (lightweight as it's warm at the beaches), another set of kitchen pots/pans, a quality sound system for the outside, exercise clothes and quality footwear for hiking. Items that I wish I had left at home: We moved to Costa Rica 17 years ago and did not use a container service. We basically packed our goods up in plastic containers for the airline and moved in that manner. Items that I wish I'd left at home are not many to mention. I probably bought too many clothes. (Being a woman, that's what we do!) I have clothing for colder climates but have never used them being at the beach. By using the airlines (and the help of friends too!) as a means of transportation, everything was scrutinized prior to packing as far as if we really "needed" it in Costa Rica (CR) so I'm proud to say we didn't bring much that we are now regretting," remarked another expat in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

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What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Playa Jaco?

We asked people in Playa Jaco if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:

"When in Playa Jaco, it is important to be respectful of the local customs. Primarily, this means avoiding any criticism or comments on the local religion and politics. Additionally, you should try to dress modestly and show courtesy when interacting with locals. It is also generally appreciated when people express a general knowledge of the local culture when speaking to locals," added another expat who made the move to Playa Jaco.

"Oh my, embarrassing and humorous blunders! After 17 years in Costa Rica, I am still making such errors. Very lucky for me, Costa Ricans are unfailingly patient and have a quick sense of humor. Most of my blunders are language based. (Remember, learn that Spanish and avoid the embarrassment!) I've ordered aqua con leche (water with milk) instead of coffee with milk.. I've ordered more than one "mystery meat" at the butcher! Some meals at a local soda (Costa Rican local restaurant) resembles nothing of which I thought I'd ordered. I've also tried to master the language and having thought I'd done so, realise that I know nothing! Back to the drawing board and more self-taught Spanish lessons. It is a way of life," explained one expat living in Playa Jaco , Costa Rica.

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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.

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