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Guide to Discovering the Best Places to Live in Costa Rica for Expats

If you were given a chance to live on another side of the world, where would you be?  

It is easy to pack your bags and go on a vacation to experience the world. But for others, they take a step further and leave to live their dreams.

If you are one of those people who are dreaming of endless summers and lots of sunshine, the tropics is the place to be. There are many amazing tropical countries in the world. When it comes to living the dream, many have Costa Rica on top of their list. We’ll show you why. 

Find out why Costa Rica is one of the best tropical places to live on earth. We’ll show you where to start finding your dream life and your dream home in Costa Rica.

Why living in Costa Rica is the best option for expats and retirees

There are a lot of considerations when moving to another country. Good thing there are also a lot of nice options to choose from. Depending on your reasons and your lifestyle goals, there is a country for you in another part of the world. 

That being said, many want to move but not too far from everything that still holds value to them. Moving to a different country often isn’t about turning your back to your old life completely. It is about continuity and progress. Generally, it is about living a better life for yourself or your family. This is why most people from the United States choose Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is one of the best places for foreigners and retirees. Simply because the Costa Rican lifestyle is a refreshing take to living life to the fullest. Removing the noise and clutter in our lives, we focus on living simply. That’s what Costa Rica’s Pura Vida is all about. Pura Vida means “pure life”. And that phrase is everything in this country. This country has all the essential things you need to live a pure life. 

First, the cost of living is cheaper in Costa Rica. Generally, you’d pay half of what you would’ve paid for the same things in the US. So, for whatever you are saving up for on your retirement, you’d enjoy it twice as much here. 

It’s not the cheapest place to live. But this country can offer you more to your quality living that can’t be found in other less expensive places.

Next to consider, Costa Rica offers you access to good quality health care. To most retirees, this is a major thing. The quality of medical care in Costa Rica is comparable to big countries. You can get access to top-notch medical care here. Not only that, you can get it for a much cheaper cost.

Many leave their home countries generally to get a better quality of life. It could be for many other reasons, but this is the ultimate goal. Costa Rica is a good place to live a happier and healthier life.

Questions to ask when deciding where to live in Costa Rica

One of the great things about this country is that it is small but diverse. Much like its biodiversity. Every town, city, and region in Costa Rica gives you different things to enjoy. This diversity adds to the uniqueness of the life waiting for you in Costa Rica. 

When choosing a new home and starting a new life here, you’ve got to have a deep understanding of yourself. What are your most important needs to live well? What do you like and what do you hate? Do you love the sun? Or do you enjoy your coffee better when it’s raining? Does the beach energize you? Or the mountain breeze?

There will be a lot of questions to answer, but they are worth answering. That’s the first step in the process. Afterward, know where to look and ask more questions.

Here are a few of the most important questions to ask yourself first. Get the clearest answers to these questions. Choose where to settle in this beautiful country wisely.

Do you like heat?

We’ll give you an idea of what kind of temperature levels are like in Costa Rica. The country has 27 weather conditions overall. That depends on the season and where you live.

Near the beach — (HIGH) It is 90 Fahrenheit (ca. 32 °C) on most days with high humidity.  

Central Valley — (MID) Temperature is moderate at 78-80 Fahrenheit (ca. 27 °C) with less humidity 

Mountain areas — (LOW) Daytime normal temperature is 70 Fahrenheit (ca. 21 °C) and nighttime is at 50-65.  

What’s your budget?

This is a general question on how much you have allotted for buying a new home. But it is more than that. This is also a question of balance between your priorities and comfort. A good tip is to invest in the best quality of life you can get. The good point here is to consider not just the cost of purchasing a property. Also, consider your lifestyle budget.

Of course, if you can pay a premium price you can always max out on everything. You can also make adjustments in some areas that have less importance than others. You can do that especially if you are looking for a home on a very specific budget.

The prices of housing and lifestyle in Costa Rica vary. That is why it is very important to weigh in what is most important to you. Prices depend on your proximity to beaches and big cities. Another factor is the popularity of the residential district.

Here are some focal points that predict personalities of housing in Costa Rica.

  • Beach fronts
  • City of San José
  • Popular suburbs in San José

There is great value in living in or near these areas mentioned above. Infrastructure and medical care are within easy access. But you will surely find other places that can offer you great value to what is most important to you.

There are many beautiful places to live that are 30 minutes away from the big city for example. They can cost half the price and you’ll still have access to the same things in half an hour.  

There are also many exciting possibilities in small towns and the mountains. You can get a beautiful piece of land with a great view for a much lesser price.

Again, your choice should help you achieve the best quality of life. This is what Pura Vida culture is all about.  

Which infrastructure do you need access to?

Having said the opportunity of small-town living and country life, there is much to consider. Always consider the infrastructure you can live with having less access to. And always make a priority of things you need easy access to.

Retirees should have a realistic assessment of their lifestyle and health needs. How far do you have to travel to get medical care when you need it? That’s a good question when choosing where to live.

Here are several infrastructures to consider when looking for a place to settle in.

  • Quality health care
  • Communication networks (mobile service, internet, telephone service)
  • Roads and transportation
  • Malls, shopping centers, theaters, museums, and other activity centers
  • Schools, childcare, parks, playgrounds (if you have children)
  • Markets and basic commodities
  • Banks and financial institutions 

The rule is, the farther away you are from the most popular centers, the less access you have to some of these things. Look at the options you have for the area you chose. Many places in Costa Rica have everything, depending on what you need.  

It is also good to note that the cost of living in key tourist spots is high. The goods are priced for tourists. There aren’t usually any discounts for the locals. 

Seek the help of locals when it comes to getting you acquainted with what each place can offer. Surely there are places that you simply fall in love with. Familiarize yourself with the place and the surrounding place.  

What’s incredible about this country is that it has a perfect place for everyone. It is not difficult to find your next home, but it can be tricky. You will need comprehensive information about your many options. So, below is a helpful guide to Costa Rican lifestyles and the best places to settle in. 

Costa Rican lifestyle and best places to live in Costa Rica

Central Valley

Plateau, elevation 3000 – 5000 ft (1.52 km).

Highlights: 

  • The Central Valley is a perfectly situated location for housing. It is a perfect weather plateau where you can comfortably live. This without a need for heating and air conditioning.
  • The location has diversified communities that offer you a lot of options.
  • The main airport in the country is in Central Valley.
  • Central Valley is right in the middle of the country.

Lifestyles:

City living. This lifestyle gives you access to museums, art galleries, sports, and shopping. And more importantly to the best medical services in the country. Experience big city life and have everything you need. 

Suburban living. Close to the city but you are still able to enjoy life a bit outside the city. 

Small country living. Each town has its own little personality. Small town living or country living is still one of the popular choices here. Many people love the carefree laid-back life in Costa Rica.

Highly recommended places to check out: 

Suburbs

  • Heredia Downtown
  • Nunciatura
  • Curridabat
  • Tibas 
  • Guadalupe
  • Santa Ana
  • Escazú

Smaller towns

  • Atenas
  • Grecia
  • San Ramon

Cartago

Mountainous Areas, Southeast of San José

Highlights:

  • Cartago Downtown is the original capital of Costa Rica.  
  • The ancient site of Santiago Apóstol Parish ruins can be found here.
  • The bright white Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles is also here.
  • A commercial and residential center with a backdrop of beautiful mountain views.
  • Cartago is one of the oldest and largest cities in Costa Rica. It is a bustling city with good access to infrastructures. Included are shopping malls and theaters.
  • Cartago has fertile volcanic soil making it best for agriculture and farming.
  • Home of Costa Rica Institute of Technology. It’s one of the most valuable engineering schools in Costa Rica.

Lifestyles: 

Old city — modern living. It’s a progressive city with a lot of history. It is a touristy spot often overlooked by expats but is a great retirement place. There are modern condos in this area.

Rural country living. Many spacious country houses to choose from. The area has a temperate climate and lush green farmlands.

Highly recommended places to check out:

  • Turrialba
  • San Isidro
  • Orosi
  • Paraiso

Lake Arenal Area

Northwest part of the country

Highlights:

  • The country’s largest freshwater lake between Alajuela and Guanacaste.  
  • It is one of the favorite spots for water sports and fishing.
  • Homes here come with a boat slip/parking space for the boat.
  • Lots of outdoor activities you can do. You can do horseback riding, white water rafting, hiking, etc.

Lifestyles:

Rural country living. Laid-back country living with a healthy active lifestyle. You get many options for properties with a scenic view and a possibility of a majestic lake view.  

Lake Arenal Area’s biggest expat community is in Nuevo Arenal. The place has everything you need for daily living.  

Meanwhile, La Fortuna has a small airport and many restaurants, even high-end ones. It is closer to the volcano and has some well-loved hot springs to enjoy.

Highly recommended places to check out:

  • Nuevo Arenal
  • La Fortuna 

The Costa Rican Gold Coast

Guanacaste Region, part of Nicoya Peninsula

Highlights:

  • Nicoya is one of the world’s original five Blue Zones.  Blue zones are special zones where people generally live longer and healthier. Research says that Nicoya is one because of these reasons. People here receive abundant sunshine and vitamin D. They eat less processed foods. They have active lifestyles. They are also living off the land, have close ties with friends and family, and have deep faith.  
  • The Gold Coast is home to the most popular beaches in Costa Rica. It cradles different unique beaches as well as different communities.
  • The area has an airport (Liberia Airport) and has both public and private hospitals. Also, championship golf courses, diving, and surfing spots can be found here.
  • This area gets a lot of sunshine, with the least amount of rain all year long.

Lifestyles:

Accessible quiet communities. There are many small towns to settle in these areas. They have a well-paved highway system and good public transportation. People have easy access to each town via the main road.   

Each community is unique, but all share the same easy-going healthy lifestyle. It’s where everyone knows everyone. It’s a perfect place to embrace healthy living and enjoy the close-knit community vibe. The simplicity of life is deeply embedded in the Nicoyan way of life. 

Beach lifestyle. Live in a relaxed coastal town. The region is known for its first-class beaches. The beaches here have a unique serene vibe. There are enough activities to keep the beaches vibrant but also a good place to relax day and night.

Tamarindo is one of the touristy international towns on the Gold Coast. The town is just over an hour drive from the airport in Liberia. It is a 5-hour drive to the capital San José via a long paved road. Public transport is available. It’s very accessible and has all the basic amenities you need for every day.

Tamarindo has banks and hardware stores. It has some shops that offer printing, faxing, scanning services and others. This place is one of the favorites of expat retirees and digital nomads. It’s where they have good access to amenities and essential needs like communication. Tamarindo has a busy town. Despite that, it manages to maintain its unique Bohemian laid-back atmosphere everywhere.

Highly recommended places to check out:

  • Tamarindo
  • Santa Teresa and Malpais
  • Playa Hermosa
  • Playas del Coco
  • Las Catalinas 
  • Nosara
  • Samara

Central Pacific Coast

The Central Pacific Coast stretches from Puntarenas to Manuel Antonio

Highlights:

  • The area has 2 big marinas. Expect a lot of fishing and related activities here.
  • The beaches here are closest to the country’s capital San José.
  • The Central Pacific Coast is the most established stretch of area in Costa Rica.
  • The beaches here have a majestic backdrop of tropical and lush greenery.
  • It has the biggest range of choices when it comes to housing
  • The area has access to top-notch health care and the best shopping experience in Costa Rica.

Lifestyles:

Oceanview living along the coast. Experience the beach life with all the amenities you could ever want. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. Still get easy access to what the city has to offer. You’ll have the best of both worlds in these areas.  

Beaches here are vibrant and busy day and night. It’s where you enjoy the crowd, especially at night time. The night scene is lively and energetic in these places. 

Jacó Beach is one not to miss. It is the closest beach to San José and the largest beach town in Costa Rica. It takes just less than an hour and a half drive to get there. This place is the hotspot for both tourists and locals to chill over the weekend.

Alternative lifestyle. The area offers you the freedom to choose the lifestyle that suits you best. With everything within reach, your mind is your own limit. A melting pot of many cultures and people, many have achieved great freedom here. It is a place for someone who loves to meet new people and new possibilities to thrive.

Highly recommended places to check out:

  • Playa Herradura, Los Sueños 
  • Playa Jacó
  • Esterillos
  • Quepos
  • Manuel Antonio

Southern Zone and Caribbean Side

The entire Panamanian border and Costa Ballena area

Highlights:

  • The southern and the Caribbean side receives more rain than the other parts of the country
  • This area is less developed but it is teeming with wildlife and biodiversity
  • There are a lot of Eco tourist spots here. 

Lifestyles:

Off-the-grid lifestyle. Experience wildlife in your backyard. This place is a perfect paradise for those who like living off the grid. If you have what it takes to take on this kind of independence, this place is for you. 

Highly recommended places to check out:

  • Playa Dominical
  • Playa Uvita
  • Ojochal

The best places to live on Earth can be found in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is an amazing country because it provides a lot of options not just where to live but how to live. Here you can choose your preferred way of life. Here you can achieve the kind of lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of. 

Whatever lifestyle you are aiming for, make sure you have all the information. Always seek expert advice when in doubt. You need more than just a desire to build your dream life somewhere else. You also need to think about the logistics. We can help you!

You have your reasons for wanting to move somewhere as charming as this tropical country. Back it up with facts and more knowledge to know your best options. Costa Rican Pura Vida will surely inspire you to make your dream life happen. Starting a good healthier life should be made simple. And we can help you make that happen!

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