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Jaco Beach, Costa Rica
Jaco Beach, Costa Rica
Jaco Beach, Costa Rica

Moving to Playa Jaco, Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Sep 05, 2022

Summary: Playa Jaco (aka Jaco Beach) is on Costa Rica's pacific coast in Puntarenas Province. Playa Jaco is a very popular area for expats, surfers and retirees who love it for its lower cost beachfront property. The golden rule of rent before you buy will give you time to understand the property market and find the perfect place. Packing tip: bring lightweight bedding, extra walking or hiking shoes and leave the warm clothes behind.

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

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

"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," added another expat who made the move to Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

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

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

"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," said another expat in Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

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

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"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," commented one expat who made the move to Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

What is the average cost of housing in Playa Jaco?

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

"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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

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Should I buy or rent a home in Playa Jaco?

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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:

"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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

What should I pack when moving to Playa Jaco?

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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:

"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," said another expat in Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

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

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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!:

"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," remarked another expat who made the move to Playa Jaco .

Why do people move to Playa Jaco?

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When we asked people why foreigners move to Playa Jaco, they responded:

"Foreigners move to Playa Jaco for the beaches, fabulous sunsets, close proximity to an international airport (SJO is 90 minutes by car) and convenient shopping. Additionally, the community has a relaxed vibe, full of great restaurants, plentiful beach access, recreational activities and other expats to socialize," added one expat living in Playa Jaco.

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What are medical services in Playa Jaco like?

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When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Playa Jaco, they replied:

"In addition to general practice physicians, dentistry services and physical well being facilities, the area offers specialized care physicians who attend to the area residents. Local general care physicians offer the use of their offices for this specialized service such as women's health care, cardiology, dermatology, advanced dentistry and internal medicine," commented another expat living in Playa Jaco.

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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