It’s no secret that Costa Rica is a premier retirement and hip expat destination. In 2017, the Costa Rican government estimated that there were over 1 million expats living in Costa Rica. This number is only increasing as retirees and digital nomads are discovering all that this Central American paradise has to offer. The majority of expats in Costa Rica come from the United States, but there’s also a sizable population from Canada, Europe, and other parts of Latin America. The Costa Rican government offers many incentives for retirees, such as a 10-year residency visa and discounts on health care and property taxes.
Why move to Costa Rica in the first place?
Blessed with a tropical climate, beautiful beaches, and a thriving culture, Costa Rica may not be a big country, but it sure spoils visitors with its abundance of places to see, lively touristy towns, dense jungle, and outdoor activities. It’s no wonder that many first-time visitors fall in love with Costa Rica and decide to move here the second they discover the breathtaking Pacific Coast, affordable cost of living, and friendly atmosphere.
The world-class healthcare and high quality of life provided in major cities add to Costa Rica’s appeal and make it the perfect destination to start anew. Whether you’re looking for a place to retire and enjoy a slow pace of life, the next en-vogue destination for real estate investments, or simply your new digital nomad place to call home, this Central America spot is the tropical paradise for you.
The most difficult part of moving to Costa Rica is to decide which region checks all your boxes. Many expats and investors struggle to make a decision because foreigners are spoiled for choices when it comes to places to live in Costa Rica. So, where should you live in Costa Rica? Should you spend your days on white-sand beaches in a beach town, or should you embrace the silence and crisp air of the mountains? Or maybe you want to be in the center of it all in the capital city of San Jose! Here are a few of the best places to live in Costa Rica:
For many, all roads lead to Central Valley because it encompasses San Jose and stretches from San Ramón to Cartago. The funny thing about the Central Valley is that it’s not a valley per se. It’s more like an elevated plateau that can reach 5,000 feet at its highest point. Due to its position and altitude, the Central Valley has the best weather, a most important factor to consider when choosing where to live in Costa Rica.
If you love city life, San Jose is the place for you. Costa Rica’s capital has a large expat community, many American retirees, and ensures high quality of living. This is the place to be for museums, art galleries, and all kinds of events. The city boasts lots of restaurants where you can try delicious international and Costa Rican cuisine, as well as an excellent local public healthcare system.
If you prefer to enjoy slow-paced suburban living with easy access to the big city, you can always choose Santa Ana or Escazú, popular expat towns and trendy destinations for real estate investors. However, Central Valley is not only about San Jose. You’ll also find small towns like Atenas, Grecia, and San Ramón, each with its own personality and expat spots, affordable housing options, and gorgeous mountain views.
The Guanacaste Coast is the heart of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. Home to spectacular sandy beaches such as Playa Langosta, Playa Conchal, and Playa Flamingo, famous for their powdery sand and hypnotic waters, the Guanacaste province is a magnet for beach and surf lovers ready to live their dream life. It’s also the Costa Rican region with the least amount of rain.
The largest city in the region is Liberia, home to solid infrastructure, an international airport, and an impressive real estate scene. Here you’ll also find a wide range of restaurants, public schools, and everything else you might need for comfortable city living just a stone’s throw away from some of the best surfing beaches in the country.
If you’re not a fan of the big city life and would rather hide away in an elegant residential community, Playa Flamingo might be exactly the place for you. A state-of-the-art Marina Flamingo framed by Playa Flamingo and an extravaganza of lushness, Marina Flamingo Village is a destination for those who love the sunshine, warm climate, endless views, and a laidback lifestyle with a touch of luxury.
Now, if you’re into surfing, you’ll have plenty of surfing beaches to choose from, including the ones in the famous town of Tamarindo. A small town where the locals all know each other, Tamarindo is a lively surfing destination and an expat favorite. The cost of living is surprisingly affordable and the perfect barrels and ocean views, great food, and reliable healthcare seal the deal on the spot.
The Lake Arenal region is a destination for fans of the outdoors and greenery. Situated in the northwestern part of Costa Rica, between the provinces of Alajuela and Guanacaste, Arenal is a beautiful freshwater lake and an ideal background for a life lived at a slow pace, in harmony with nature.
There is no large-scale development, and the communities are small and friendly. You’ll see that most towns in the Arenal region have a charming rural vibe while managing to offer everything you need for a comfortable everyday life.
Arenal is the perfect mix between a countryside setting and a modern lifestyle with the added bonus of easy access to a natural park where you can enjoy an abundance of outdoor activities. From zip-lining and horseback riding to hiking and whitewater rafting, everything is there for you to enjoy. The region is beautiful, the weather is mild, and the infrastructure ensures that you can access two airports in a decent amount of time.
Central Pacific Coast
With San Jose just 2 hours away, the central Pacific coast has the best of both worlds. This is one of the most popular spots for retirees and investors due to its convenient location and vast range of real estate opportunities. The area is one of the most developed in Costa Rica, a stretch of coastline where you’ll find your dream sea view house while enjoying access to modern amenities, excellent international schools, and some of the country’s best national parks.
The central Pacific Coast is where you’ll also find Jaco, one of the first Costa Rican towns to charm tourists. A lively beach town, Jaco is the place to settle down and lead an active lifestyle. The housing scene is generous, so you’ll have no problem finding a comfortable place to call home.
Jaco is developed but has a chilled vibe about it, perfect for those who want to spend their time outdoors away from the hustle and bustle of big cities. Despite lacking big commercial centers and posh nightclubs, the town is often a favorite of the young and restless looking to spend their days surfing, snorkeling, and socializing.
So, if you’re looking for a place to retire in Costa Rica or you’re simply on the hunt for your dream home, we hope this article has given you a good idea of where to start your search. Each of these regions has something special to offer, and it really depends on what you’re looking for in a relocation destination. Are you an avid surfer? Then, the Pacific coast might be your best bet. Do you prefer a more laidback lifestyle with plenty of time spent outdoors? The Lake Arenal region will surely please you. No matter your preferences, there’s a place for you in Costa Rica.