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Costa Rican Living: What’s It Like Living In Costa Rica

You must be wondering what it’s like living in another country like Costa Rica. Often, we create our assumptions about the daily life of an average person in a different country. It is easy to imagine but if you are considering living the life they are living, it might not be enough. 

Let’s get you closer to reality.  In case you are one among the many who have read this and get to walk the streets of Costa Rica as an expat one day.

Here’s another guide from Century 21 Pura Vida. We want to help people prepare for the life waiting for them in Costa Rica. If given the chance to live your tropical paradise dream, do you think you are ready? Find out the truth about normal Costa Rican life. It may not be exactly as you thought.

Daily Costa Rican life

To start, let’s get the big picture of the standard of living in Costa Rica. Many Costa Ricans live comfortably and affluently. The standard of living here is comparable to North American and European society. But like every country in the world, there are different classes of people here. Poverty still exists, but there is something about their way of surviving together. It keeps most, if not all, afloat.  

Middle to upper-class people commonly live in the capital city of San Jose. Some in the major cities in the Central Valley. It is common for affluent people to have more than one home here. They usually have a house in the city and a vacation home with a mountain view or an ocean view.

An average person here usually lives with his/her family in a single-storey house. It is usually built with concrete blocks and wood. Small-town living in a tight-knit community is very common. This means that families live close to each other. 

Poorer areas get their livelihood off the land. The distribution of labor and support comes from the members of an extended family. This way, Costa Rican families pull through together even the most difficult of times. 

Costa Rica has the lowest poverty rate in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is according to the World Bank Overview. The country is continuously working on reducing the poverty rate. For 9 years from 2000-2019, the low-income portion of the population decreased from 12.9 to 10.6 percent.

It’s common in Costa Rica for people to start their day early. So, if you live especially in the city, get used to waking up at 6 am with people already going about their day. A usual breakfast is a Gallo pinto which is a rice and beans-based meal. Breakfast includes eggs, bread, and coffee. In a busy city, a 15-minute ride usually takes an hour of travel during rush hour. Work usually starts at 8 AM, lunch break at 12noon and another break in the afternoon at 3 PM. People leave work at 5, usually, stop by a market or hang out after work. Dinner is a time for families to talk about their day. The rest of the night is spent on some relaxing activities.

All these sound mundane. But ordinary days are awesome in Costa Rica. That’s because of the family closeness, the home-cooked meals, and the family dinners.  These things keep families together defining the core of Costa Rican society. 

From the grand perspective of things, Costa Rica is a peaceful country. The country is armyless. Costa Rica has a long life expectancy and a strong economy. This country combines all these to give ordinary people a good quality of life. 

A glimpse of the Pura Vida lifestyle

We can’t talk about life in Costa Rica without mentioning “Pura Vida”. It represents the intrinsic motivation of Costa Ricans to live a good life. 

Pura Vida means pure life. It’s more than just a slogan for the Costa Ricans. It is a phrase they’d often use daily to say hello, goodbye, everything’s fine. Also, a phrase that would constantly remind you to simplify life for a stress-free living. How can you adapt this to your lifestyle? You can start with these things even before you begin your new life in Costa Rica. 

Keep a sunny attitude

Take your time to relax and worry less. It may not come so naturally all the time, but try to exercise your cheerfulness every chance you get. And you’ll be good at it. 

Socialize and spread a positive vibe. Practice friendliness and a welcoming attitude to both friends and strangers. This is what makes communities in Costa Rica a great place to be. It’s how each individual contributes to spreading that relaxed vibe. Choose to look on the sunny side of life together.

Get your regular dose of sun

You’ve heard it before, but it’s time to take it seriously.  Moderate exposure to the sun helps you absorb Vitamin D. Good sun exposure benefits you in many ways. It can improve the quality of your sleep, lower blood pressure, and boost your immunity. 

You’ve got plenty of chances for good fun and a relaxing time under the sun in Costa Rica. There are also plenty of outdoor activities and nature to explore. You’ll never run out of inspiration to go out into the sun.

A well-known place in Costa Rica for having many centenarians is the Nicoya Peninsula. The everyday routine of these centenarians includes horseback riding. There is always some form of outside activity and grounding everyday.

Keep your circle strong

The typical Pura Vidan life is centered around family life. Spend quality time with family and friends. Strengthen your life support system by nurturing your intimate circle. Families in Costa Rica do not only support each other’s living but also look out for each other in many ways. Typically, a small community that knows each other creates a safe haven for everyone. 

Eat healthy

Eating healthy is simple for Costa Ricans. Meals are mostly home-cooked meals. Some restaurants offer these kinds of meals too. The major advantage of Costa Rican food is that they are locally sourced.  The food here is not overly processed. 

Visit the local market and discover the food culture of Costa Rica. Local markets here are colorful and vibrant. It’s where people cluster together to buy local produce as we mingle with both familiar and new faces.

Typical Costa Rican food consists of rice, beans, vegetables, fish, meat, yucca, and tropical fruits. It usually includes a side dish of salads. Costa Rica has interesting salad options here, as well as exotic fruit smoothies. 

Know how to slow down

If you are used to a fast-paced lifestyle, you’ll instantly notice that it’s not the case in Costa Rica. Capture the essence and beauty of life. Pura Vida teaches you to be more mindful of the small things. You’ll be able to do so if you learn to slow down. 

Luckily, Costa Rica has many natural splendors. Pause and appreciate. Learn to go with the flow. Worry less and let things happen naturally at their own pace.

Expats living the pure life in Costa Rica

So, what is it like living as an expat in Costa Rica? Can you really live as locals do? Will you be able to experience Pura Vida as an expat?

We like helping people live their dreams. But we also know the importance of backing it up with realistic expectations and good information. Here we’d like to describe the expat communities in Costa Rica.

The truth is your lifestyle is a choice. And a place is just a place. A paradise is made here in Costa Rica. Everyone contributes to the beauty of each community. You have diverse options where to live here and what lifestyle empowers you to live your best life.

Locals not only survive but benefit much from their tight-knit communities. Expats can benefit from their own communities, too. There are many expat communities here. Many expats are mostly in the Central Valley and the Gold Coast. And don’t forget the Southern zone when talking about great expat communities.

There are specifically great places here where expats thrive. Tamarindo, for example, is a great place for expats. It has a strong community with both American and European influence. Because of that, it is unlikely to feel like a stranger in places like this. If you are looking for a refreshing but familiar vibe with an ocean view, Tamarindo is a place to be. 

It is one of the expats favorites and one of our own. It’s because of its beach town community. It is a place where everyone knows each other. How awesome is that? It’s also a great place for international living. It is a serene beach town, but with all amenities, you could ask for to live comfortably.

Unlike other beach towns where you might need to compromise on a few things. It is easy to find what the city can offer in Tamarindo.  It is easy to find great restaurants and good health care, which are big reasons why some choose to live in the city.

Here’s a few of the best expat community in Costa Rica:

  • Tamarindo
  • Cartago
  • Heredia
  • Limón
  • Atenas
  • Escazu
  • Dominical

How much money do you need to live comfortably in Costa Rica

First of all, the cost of living in Costa Rica really depends on individual lifestyle choices. Many factors contribute to why we spend less in Costa Rica and still be able to live a good quality life. 

But on the average, one can live comfortably at around $1500-$1800 here. For two people, $2000-$3000 would be enough to experience a good Pura Vidan living. However, it is easy to live a more expensive lifestyle anywhere in the world. That depends on the things that you find necessary to enjoy life. 

There are a lot of lifestyle options that are healthier, simpler, or less expensive in Costa Rica. Living near the beach can give you the right motivation to live a simple lifestyle. But there are also beach towns like Jaco. It can offer you the simplicity of beach life while still giving you access to the big city of San Jose nearby. 

Factors that make Costa Rican living less expensive

  • Public transportation is cheap.
  • Local produce is abundant and affordable at the open market.
  • Medical care is high quality but less expensive.
  • Real estate at great locations is affordable and reasonably priced.

The advantages and disadvantages of living in Costa Rica

Pros of Living in Costa Rica

  • It’s a safe country to live in in Central America. The crime rate here in Costa Rica is very low. It is not completely a crime-free country, but you shouldn’t worry about violent crime here on an average day. It is safe for solo living, although you still need to take standard caution.
  • It’s the best place for adventure seekers. Costa Rica is a safe country to try new things and explore new places. You’ll never run out of things to try and cool places to explore in Costa Rica. It is a small country but is very diverse. Each region, district, town, and community offer you a different experience. They all hold their own treasures worth discovering.  
  • It is one of the best countries to retire abroad. Costa Rica has various visas that allow foreigners to stay in the country. You will have to prove though that you have adequate savings and money to support yourself.
  • You can always find a supportive expat community in Costa Rica. It won’t be difficult to adjust when you belong to a community that embraces you as their own. Costa Rica is a fantastic place to keep connected with family and friends.
  • Most tourists who come to Costa Rica are indeed coming here for the sunshine and the tropical weather. Who doesn’t love that? Especially if you are not particularly fond of the cold winters. 

Cons of Living in Costa Rica

  • With this country’s natural beauty comes rich biodiversity. One must know the critters, creatures, animals, and insects that are quite common here. There are aggressive monkeys that can swiftly swipe your stuff, for example. It may pose danger for those who have limited knowledge of this country’s other inhabitants. Or you could endanger these creatures instead. Respect them and be careful where you step. You might be barging into their own space. Some of them may also find their way into the household. And if you live here, you should be familiar with these incidents. You should know how to properly deal with them while keeping yourself safe and not harming them.
  • If you buy property in Costa Rica but aren’t around often for a long time, you may have to deal with a few issues. It is possible to have incidents of minor theft and damage to your property. The crime rate is low in this country. But a house that is always empty and unattended could be inviting unwanted guests. Consider having someone manage your property to avoid this from happening.
  • If you plan to leave often, make sure you live near the airports. Travels can go for stretches and some roads can be rough to frequently travel on. That won’t be very ideal for someone who travels and leaves the country often. But to most people who are living in a very accessible community, the travel time might be of little issue. Or they wouldn’t mind any of these concerns at all. 
  • The climate is not always a good thing, especially during hot humid days. If you’re not accustomed to this weather, you’re going to have to learn to adapt. During the rainy season, heavy downpours and flooding are not uncommon.


Great advice for people who wants to live a new life in a new country

  1. Research the culture of the country. Dig deeper into what you know about the country and its people. Learning their culture not only helps you understand their belief system and values. It will also, later on, help you navigate the pathways to better connect with people.
  1. Learn their language. You probably just need to learn the basics initially. The goal is to be able to communicate. Communication is key anywhere you go. You should strive to have a good comprehension of what people are saying in their native language. 
  1. In Costa Rica, there are many English-speaking locals. It shouldn’t be too difficult to communicate in English with everyone. Costa Rica loves their tourists, but you can only be a tourist for a limited amount of time. That is if you are really planning to stay. You can have the “on vacation vibe” as long as you want, but you can’t be a stranger to the place for very long. 
  1. Living in a new country is about embracing the new. So be prepared to learn to communicate well. Talk to the locals and learn more about their country straight from them.
  1. Accept the possibility of homesickness. It may not be the first thing you’ll worry about. Especially if you are moving to the country of your dreams. But consider and prepare how you can handle it. And don’t think that it won’t ever happen to you. 
  1. Create a place of comfort. It is important to create your own place of comfort because you need it when you get a little overwhelmed. There is the excitement that comes with living somewhere new. But it is also important to have a sense of belonging and a feeling of home wherever you go. So create a space for you to simply quiet down your thoughts.
  1. Go out more and don’t be a stranger. You may feel like a total stranger in this new place but that doesn’t have to be for long. Spend quality time exploring. First, explore the area where you live. Then begin to explore some interesting nearby places and popular spots. Know more and experience more. Soon you will feel more confident. Most of all, enjoy the process. This is also your chance to try local delicacies and socialize with people in your community. 

Three things to remember when moving to another country. Prepare, familiarize yourself, and enjoy the process. Moving to a new country is never an easy transition. But there is a better way of going through it. When you start accepting the challenge, you start truly living.

Moving to Costa Rica isn’t very simple but it’s an amazing opportunity

When you think about living in Costa Rica, you can’t help but think about the abundant sun and the beach life. Or are you thinking of the opportunities you see yourself enjoying in this country? Whatever your reasons, Pura Vida is all worth it. But to truly experience it, one should be made aware of the rest of the realities of living here.

In the end, it still boils down to the life you make for yourself. There is a perfect place to thrive for everybody and Costa Rica could be yours.

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