Tell friends you are visiting Costa Rica and they get excited about you spending time on tropical beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean, surfing, volcanoes, and incredible animals and plants all around you. But tell your friends you are thinking of moving to Costa Rica and you often hear “What? Why?” or “What Will You Do There?” This article is designed to give you more reasoning for why Costa Rica is the right place to live — be that as a digital nomad, part-time or full-time relocation. We get your friend’s question and let’s be clear, living in any city in Costa Rica isn’t as sexy as living in Europe, nor as cosmopolitan as living in say Mexico City, but for most of us who have made the move, that’s the point. Moving here is to have a uniquely different lifestyle and experience, not to replicate the life you’ve been living in the States, Canada, England, Europe, etc.
It’s estimated that 10% of the Costa Rican population are internationals that have chosen to move permanently — with around that same percentage traveling seasonally. That means up to 1 million of the country’s 5 million population are international (be that from other Latin American countries or Western/European countries). With numbers that large, it’s no surprise that there are large and closely-knit expat communities across the country.
Let’s dive in first to some of the broader reasons people choose to relocate to Costa Rica:
As is known to all who visit the country, Costa Rica is extraordinary in terms of her vast array of natural beauty, warm-water beaches, dramatic microclimates, ecotourism, and biodiversity. For many, those are reasons enough to want to spend more time here. “It’s not like my cookie-cutter housing community in the flats of Alberta” noted one friend to me recently. “This country is teeming with life, which has energized mine since I made the move here.”
For many others, what stands out is the “pura vida” lifestyle — a truly welcoming culture that embraces a harmonious way of living. It’s about understanding that all you experience, and all whom you experience life with are tied together. Pura Vida isn’t merely about “pure living”; but rather about fully embracing all that surrounds you — both the good and the bad. The country has an incredibly strong social fabric and is frequently cited as one of the happiest and most sustainable countries in the world — in part because of a peaceful democratic tradition, the lack of an army, and an emphasis on education, renewable energy, and affordable healthcare. Indeed, Costa Rica seemingly has few enemies nor the volatility of many neighbors in the region.
From a Business perspective, there are major benefits to Costa Rica for those looking to relocate, especially from North American locations. Being in the Central American Time Zone, it is easy to conduct business with US and Canada-based businesses. (note: Costa Rica is CST in non-daylight saving months, and MDT during daylight saving time.) Speaking of zones, depending on your type of work, you may want to look into Costa Rica’s Free Trade Zones. And, it is also relatively easy to get to Costa Rica, with direct flights from many hubs across North America and Europe. This is not the case for many other expat havens in the region, which often entail overnights in different locations.
Internationals from North America and Europe find Costa Rica to be a country easy to assimilate into both because of larger communities of fellow expats, and due to long-standing collaborative relationships with their countries via tourism and trade. It’s one of the reasons that Costa Rica continually ranks among the top five countries for retirees — has more American residents (proportionately) per capita than any other country in the world. English, while spoken widely in some of the more tourist- and expat-focused regions, is not as common in more rural locations We highly advise learning Spanish when it is possible — a recommendation we would make to anyone looking to move to another country: once you commit to living in a country, you should be expected to live by their systems, not those of your other home. Speaking Spanish is no exception.
A healthy lifestyle is also a big draw to living in Costa Rica. The overall quality of life is good, with relatively high standards for healthcare, social infrastructure, and education. One of the best things about Costa Rica is that the quality of life overall is good, with high standards of healthcare. The healthcare system is considered one of the strongest in the region, and medical tourism is on the rise. While life expectancy is similar to that of the US, Costa Rica has one of only five blue zones in the world — areas where residents enjoy an extraordinarily long, healthy lifespan — often living to be over 100 years of age. True, for tourists finding medical help can be a challenge (the nationwide clinic and healthcare system CAJA does not serve non-residents), but there are good healthcare options in the larger cities and tourist destinations. Add to this the fact that there is so much to do and experience in nature, and you can live a very healthy, active life year-round! Where else can you travel from surfing the Pacific on a Friday morning to dinner that evening in a cloud forest, to a cold weather hike up a volcanic peak on Saturday followed by dinner on the Caribbean Saturday night?
Tied to the lifestyle discussion are access to high-speed internet, cell service, cable, and streaming. Like locations across the globe, services can be spotty in more rural areas. However, Costa Rica is known for having a strong technology grid — especially considering the topography and population density.
One of the more divisive topics in terms of Costa Rica’s pros and cons is the Cost of Living. For those on fixed incomes or wanting the creature comforts of their home countries, Costa Rica can be expensive. High import fees and lack of selection can be seen as detriments to living here, especially when compared to other countries in the region like Mexico and Panama. Also, living in cities in what is called the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) is far more expensive than the same products or services in surrounding areas outside the zone. This is true for rent, commodities, large purchases, etc.
But the other side of that argument is a relatively safe, low-crime country compared to the two listed above. Yes, there is crime, but the majority of crimes in Costa Rica against internationals are petty theft related. Like any place you live or visit, it is important to be smart and use common sense and caution, including not going out on dark streets in urban or tourist centers at night.
All of these are good reasons to think about living here, but:
Why do YOU want to live in Costa Rica?
I can list a ton of reasons why Costa Rica may be right for you. But they are tied to my experiences and those of others who have made the move. The better question is “why do YOU want to move? What is pulling you from where you are to consider (or already have committed to) Costa Rica?” There are so many reasons — both practical and intangible — for relocating internationally. I for one truly look to find a stronger work/life balance and to embrace a calling to be more “pura vida” in my outlook.
Your Pura Vida was created with only ONE focus: to help others who want to live in Costa Rica do so better. We want to help you in the unique ways you need support. For many, the pro list has a direct con list — and while we cannot take away all of the challenges of moving from a first-world country to a Central American country, we can help smooth your unique journey.
Be you a dreamer or tourist thinking about moving down the line, a digital nomad or explorer considering extending your stay or ready to make the move, or someone who has committed to move and live here, let us help you thrive. After all, isn’t that the real reason to move to Costa Rica?
We look forward to speaking when you’re ready.
And as always, Pura Vida!