How to Live Your Best Life in Costa Rica

Your Pura Vida is focused on simplifying the challenges that every international citizen faces when they move here — lightening your burdens, helping you navigate the cultural and business challenges and bureaucracy that we all face, and providing peace of mind and a foundation to thrive. 

We are committed to being a unique partner across Costa Rica, and we are developing a network of service providers focused on making life easier. Services like Yelp and Angi’s List aren’t in Costa Rica, so we’re here to fill that void. But it’s not enough to live in Costa Rica, you also need to thrive.  Here are ways we strongly believe we all need to adapt: 


Learning Spanish isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.  Yes, many speak English, but just as you would expect internationals coming to your home country to know your language, to truly integrate you need to make the effort to make daily interaction as dynamic as possible.

There is a great difference between “vacationing” and “living” anywhere.  You need to truly understand that a real-life relocation will be a process and not simple — but we are here to support you.  

Don’t set your expectations so high that you cannot succeed — you are moving, not reinventing yourself.  

You cannot ignore things that are important to your well-being. Make sure you seek out quality providers in Costa Rica — especially with healthcare and challenges you need help facing that help you live an active lifestyle.  

You cannot force your way of doing things onto Costa Ricans.  This is their country and you are the one that needs to adapt.  There is a reason for all the layers of bureaucracy, and just because you don’t like it won’t change the outcome.  Your Pura Vida will help you better understand the WHY behind how the system works.

Adapting to Your New Home

Learn to embrace Tico time or suffer the agony of being disappointed by punctuality.

Learn about your new country.  You cannot change her history or ways of working, so learn to embrace them and find out as much as you can so you are “in” on what’s going on around you.

Live an active lifestyle — mental and physical health is important to living a quality life

24/7 doesn’t mean you will get things dealt with ASAP. You might not be able to hire a plumber or roadside assistance at 3 am. You will have stressful situations come up at all hours and sometimes there will be things that can be done about them. Sometimes you will have to wait until the morning.

Quality and service in Costa Rica may not be the same as where you are from.  While by no means poor in quality or service, in many cases it will not be like what you assume in North America or Europe.

Don’t isolate yourself, especially if you are new to the country. Look for communities with fellow Expats, but also make sure you grow into your community and find a friend group of Ticos to experience all the country has to offer. 

Do explore and get recommendations from locals.  You don’t want to limit your understanding to the tour guides and social media posts. 

Stay connected with what’s important to you back home (your favorite shows, podcasts, book club or Zoom group, etc.). You may be separated from activities that brought you joy back home, but don’t think you have to leave that all behind.  

Understanding the Differences

Your cost of living is connected to the degree of integration into a Tico lifestyle. If you want to only shop like a North American, expect to pay more)

Very little will happen as you think it will happen.  Learn to pivot and be adaptable.

Be safe. Yes, the country is safe relative to some of its neighbors and North American/European countries, but that doesn’t mean you can just leave your car and home unlocked, or walk by yourself at night. Do not open yourself up to problems.  

The best way to learn and become comfortable is with those who have gone before you. Learn to do things for yourself based on their recommendations.

Do your homework. Don’t believe everything you hear from your local store owner, neighbor, or fellow Expat you see every day at the coffee shop.  

Changing Your Mindset

Do not be the ugly Expat or think you “know more” and can “help reform” what is here.  Costa Rica has done just fine without your ideas and your neighbors have seen it all before with the ugly gringo.

Do not avoid locals.  Far too many internationals stick to themselves: where they shop, who they buy from, where they eat, and what they do in their leisure time.  Why be that international?  You are here to be part of a dynamic, stunning, charming country.  DO THAT.  

Do not forget to recognize service.  While true that tipping isn’t as common as in the States, far too many Expats minimize tipping and recognizing quality.  Don’t try to be cheap off the backs of those doing the real work.

Don’t try to work the system in any way.  Ignoring laws (from driving to picking up after your dog to building requirements), cutting corners, or looking for ways to “skirt” the system will not bode well.  

Non-Ticos living here are often the strangest and most challenging people you’ll interact with.  Enough said. 

Learn to live in Pura Vida.  Don’t let the challenges of every day take away from your opportunity to move into a great period of your life.  Have a sense of humor, know it will be ok, and know that you are not the first this has happened to nor will you be the last.

Everyone deserves to live their dream, but sometimes you need help.  You are NOT alone!  We are here to support you on this journey.  

And as always, Pura Vida!