Just like birds who head to warmer places once temperatures drop, many future retirees dream of settling down in a tropical climate, as soon as they hear the news that…winter is coming. And what better place to build a post-career home than Costa Rica? In fact, various surveys prove that this beautiful country in Central America revered for its beautiful beaches and natural wonders is among the best places to retire in the world.
Blessed with year-round mild temperatures, an Atlantic and a Pacific coastline, lush tropical forests, and gorgeous Caribbean beaches, Costa Rica can easily become the place international retirees call home. So no one can actually be surprised to learn that more than 70,000 U.S. American expatriates live now in Costa Rica, eager to take advantage of the best this country has to offer.
Considering that Costa Rica has one of the highest standards of living in Central America, enjoys political stability, and has an economy catering to a growing middle class, foreign retirees often find it on their list of potential destinations when they’re considering changing the scenery and spicing things up. So what makes Costa Rica one of the best countries for retirees in the world?
1. Excellent healthcare
Sure, the sun and beaches are wonderful and exactly what the doctor prescribes for future retirees, but they may not be enough for retirees to move countries. For them, reliable and affordable healthcare matters more than any sandy beach. Well, luckily for them, Costa Rica has exactly that! The country may be small, but it does manage to provide universal healthcare to citizens and people with resident status. Costa Rica’s healthcare system is known as Caja and provides access to emergency care, medical procedures, and preventative services for a surprisingly small monthly fee.
Costa Rican medical care also includes discounted or even free prescription medications as long as you are contributing to the national healthcare system. However, if this is not an option for you, the private healthcare system is based on insurance and provides comprehensive services. Furthermore, American retirees all agree that the Costa Rican private healthcare system is a lot more affordable than healthcare in the US. Things get even more attractive when you learn that the medical facilities are modern, and many of the medical professionals have studied in the U.S. and speak English, providing the same quality of service for a fraction of the cost.
2. Affordable cost of living
It only takes one look at the data from Numbeo to understand that the average cost of living in Costa Rica is more affordable than the cost of living in North America or many European countries. Expat retirees can live a good life with only $600 per month minus rent, so for a couple to retire in Costa Rica, they would need to put aside about $1,200 a month plus rent. The rent varies depending on the area where you want to stay, as well as the level of comfort that will do for you.
Many international retirees prefer to rent or buy a property in the region surrounding the capital city of San Jose, which is known as the Central Valley of Costa Rica. This area provides access to the best services in the country, excellent medical facilities, shopping, and easy access to the countryside and the Caribbean coast. Furthermore, the weather is not to be ignored, with year-round average temperatures of 72 F, even during the rainy season. Rent in the Central Valley varies greatly – from $500 for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center to $2000 or more a month for a luxury home in a gated community.
3. Balmy climate
The mild climate is often a decisive factor when international retirees think about their retirement destination. And what better place to choose than a country “equipped” with a breathtaking Pacific coast and temperatures in the 80s all year long. The climate is tropical, which means there is a rainy season that usually lasts from May through November. However, don’t think the rainy season means boring days spent inside. The weather is quite predictable in certain parts of the country, and Costa Ricans will gladly tell you that when the rain does stop by, the visit usually lasts a few hours in the afternoon. So you can easily plan your day around it and still enjoy much of the excitement that Costa Rica has to offer.
The country has several microclimates, with temperatures between 72 and 78 degrees in the valley, and mostly around the 80s on the coast. The rainy season does however bring a boost of lushness and greenery to the country and makes it a wonderful time to visit the country’s spectacular national parks, where the scenery is breathtaking, the flowers are in bloom, and wildlife abounds with joy. In other words, no, you don’t need to bring a heavy jacket or have any snow equipment ready for winter because Costa Rica does not know the concept of cold seasons and snowy days. The coast stays warm most of the year, but if you need to enjoy a breeze and cool off a bit, you can always head to the mountains.
4. Slow pace of life
Costa Rica’s laid-back vibes and slow pace of life create an idyllic setting for having a fun retirement. While larger cities provide access to a wide variety of entertainment options – from galleries and theaters to dancing venues and beach bars, rural areas allow you to discover the local traditions and the authentic spirit of this magnificent foreign country. Whether you want to spend your retirement in a Pacific beach town or in a quiet village in the heart of the jungle, Costa Rica is the place for you.
Costa Rica gives you the chance to escape your daily routine and have an adventure every day. You can explore dense rainforests, hike volcanos, bathe in thermal waters, and even visit a cloud forest! The country lives by one motto and one motto alone: “Pura Vida”, which means “pure life”. For Costa Ricans, pure life is about taking it easy and enjoying the moment, getting back to nature and taking the time to admire beautiful landscapes, watching sunsets and surfing all day long. If you feel like this could be a place that resonates with your own mottos, then you will never get bored in Costa Rica.
5. Friendly people
Costa Ricans, also known as Ticos, are friendly and helpful people. The country’s official language is Spanish, but you’ll find plenty of people speaking English. Costa Ricans are used to being around Americans and international retirees and can become great friends if shown the respect they deserve. You’ll notice the Ticos call foreigners “gringos” but they do so with affection and not in a derogatory manner. Each large city has its own expat community, and many international investors decide to invest in real estate in Costa Rica due to the booming real estate scene and the possibility of purchasing property without necessarily being a resident.
There is a certain familiar feel in Costa Rica, especially if you’re an American, mostly present in the city centers of big cities, where you can find anything from American fast-food chains and American sports bars to movie theaters and shows in English. Large cities have their own share of modern malls, and you’ll even find a Walmart and U.S. products if find yourself missing the flavors of your home. However, with the abundance of fresh seafood and the variety of local dishes present in Costa Rica, you’ll rarely feel the impulse to buy frozen American food.