How to Successfully Move to Costa Rica: An Explorer’s Guide

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”

– Oprah Winfrey

When I moved to Costa Rica from the States it was to follow my dreams of a different life, broader perspective, and a better sense of work-life balance.  I am not yet retired and still need to think about my family’s needs, so this move brought even more pressure to really understand everything before we moved.  While incredibly time-consuming and a pain in the you-know-what, the research process made me even more confident in my decision.

If you are reading this, you too may be testing the waters about a move to Costa Rica — part-time or permanently.  This article is designed to help you think through the question “Where do we start?”, as well as understand the differences in service offerings between companies helping expats move to Costa Rica.

Moving to Costa Rica Is Not for Everyone

First, let’s start with a reality check: tens of thousands of internationals move to the country each year.  Some are retirees, others are digital nomads, and others are families and individuals who, like me, are looking for a change.  

While specific numbers are not available, it is well known that a large portion of those who move to Costa Rica end up moving back home within a year or two. Part of this may be homesickness, family and job issues, or the lack of creature comforts you are used to.  But for many the primary reason for moving back is not figuring out how to live well here. Life here is complicated: business and cultural norms are different than in most places we come from, the pace (and service) is often slower, and the cost of living isn’t much less than in big cities in the US, Canada, and Europe. High-end goods are expensive, have fewer options, and are harder to find.

We created Your Pura Vida to help people through the complicated parts of moving to another country.  We want to help you better research, move and thrive in paradise.  So, where do you start?

The Different Companies That Will Help You Move to Costa Rica

There are several services that will sell you a move-to-Costa-Rica tour or a la carte planning process that ultimately costs you many thousands of dollars.  They are advertised as relocation, residency, and real estate services, as well as home tour companies. We are not knocking any of these services if they work well for you.  But what we felt lacked was a comprehensive approach to figuring out the whos, whats, wheres, whys, and hows – without expensive add-on services.

We do not want you to get excited due to a fun-filled tour, quickly buy a house and engage a costly immigration attorney, only to have reality hit you in the face after you’ve started the process.  We also don’t want you to sit through a pre-planned “one-size-fits-all” seminar with dozens of other potential expats when what you really need is very specific to you and your family.  

So we developed our own service for those researching and testing the waters for life in Costa Rica: Your Pura Vida’s Explorer Service.

Can I Move to Costa Rica Without a Service?

True, you can do this by yourself.  We did but we wish we hadn’t.  We made a lot of mistakes in our search and early time in the country, including spending far too much time and money going down the wrong paths.

Best of Both Worlds: Your Pura Vida’s Explorer Service Caters to Your Specific Needs

Your Pura Vida developed a service that exclusively considers you and your needs. 

For those of you truly starting from scratch in your search, we have extensive blogs that can help you on your journey.  But we also help you from our first interaction with you.  Here is our process:

  • We start by meeting with you online, hearing your ideas and goals, and learning about what got you to this point in your journey.
  • But then we back that up with a very comprehensive online survey.  Why a survey?  Because we want to hear all about you, not just things like if you like the beach or have an aversion to spiders.  There are so many things that are important to finding the right community and pace for each person.  (For me access to health care and proximity to the airport, as well as the milder climate were critical factors that helped narrow my focus.  What is it for you?)
  • From there we will give you a topline on some thoughts to help you focus your search — even if you do not wish to work with us — including areas of the country that line up with your needs, as well as the pros/cons of each area and in-depth regional research.  Only after this do you decide if you want to subscribe to our service.
  • Assuming you do proceed, we then focus time on really getting to know you based on your survey.  We will ask a ton of questions, roleplay scenarios, and have you review the research we provide.  All of this is to help us paint a fuller picture of what might become your Costa Rica.
  • Along the way, we help introduce you to people that might interest you: from leaders of local houses of worship to schools, from artisans and friends, to shop owners we love.  These resources are just that: tools to help you feel more confident before you even set foot in the country to explore.
  • Once you know you want to come for a fact-finding trip, we help you by giving you full details about the communities you’ve identified: realtors, restaurants and shops, artisans, locals, and expats alike.  We do not plan a tour for you, nor do we come with you.  We give you resources and suggestions, but let you plan according to what works best for you, with our services and those we’ve introduced you to at your disposal.
  • Our process is built on meeting you where you are, and we do not upsell you into additional services along the way.  We do not think you should be applying for residency, for example when you haven’t even determined if moving to Costa Rica is the right move for you.  Let’s get you here, let’s get you into a groove and not put the cart before the oxen (you’ll get that reference one day … trust me).
  • And then once you do decide to move we don’t leave you to fend for yourself.  This is why we include membership in Your Pura Vida as a benefit to being in our Explorer program.  

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” 

– C.S. Lewis

The end result we hope is a process that helps you achieve your new dream of life in Costa Rica.  Our company is filled with expats from North America and Europe.  We have all been in your position so this is critically important to us.  We know from experience that one of the biggest indicators in successfully transitioning to Costa Rica longer term is this: you fall in love with your life in Costa Rica, not just your location and the fun you have on vacation.  We want your possible move to Costa Rica to be the right move.  Not because we are selling you products, but because we believe that every single person should be able to live this dream.  Ready to join us?  Let’s talk!

And as always: “Pura Vida!”