Best Places to Retire in Costa Rica | TRE Blog Written by Jorge Carmona – Tamarindo Real Estate
Costa Rica is known to be an excellent retirement destination due to its tropical climate, beautiful natural landscapes, and high quality of life. No wonder why this small country is called “Central American Switzerland”.
We can highlight the country´s efforts to become known as an investment destination: a social security system, the second highest life expectancy ranking in Latin America (after Chile), freedom of speech, political and economic stability, high levels of human development, a solid educational system, widespread access to healthcare and more.
It is essential to say that the country is home to a large number of protected areas, national parks, and biological reserves, which allow its inhabitants to enjoy exuberant nature and unique biodiversity. This natural environment contributes to a sense of well-being and happiness for retirees as well.
But its appeal does not end here, this tropical country has an incentive program for foreign retirees. This program eases the transition and provides tax benefits to them. Applicants are required to demonstrate a monthly income of at least $2,500 USD from an outside source, such as a pension or investments. This income must be guaranteed for at least two years, which allows them to live in the country permanently.
This program includes:
- Tax exemption on foreign income: income from sources outside of Costa Rica is exempt from tax in the country.
- Right to import personal property: retirees can import their personal property tax-free, including vehicles and household goods.
- Access to health services: legal residents in Costa Rica have access to the country’s health care system, known for its quality and affordability.
- Discounts on services: retirees can obtain discounts on various services, such as public transportation, tickets to cultural and sporting events, and medical services.
- The rentier program does not provide a work permit in Costa Rica. Retirees who wish to work in the country will need to obtain an additional work permit.
- In addition to these facilities for retirees, Costa Rica is known worldwide for being one of the happiest countries in the world.
Costa Rica is considered a stable democracy in a region often affected by political and social conflicts; this contributes to residents’ peace of mind.
Attitude towards life
Costa Rican culture is characterized by a positive attitude such value of personal relationships, solidarity, and enjoyment of simple things.
I am retired now, and I want to live in Costa Rica, but where?
From north to south and from east to west, this small Central American country, despite its size, has many places to live in retirement, ranging from the cooler highlands to warmer coastlines with numerous paradisiacal beaches.
Almost all the places mentioned in this blog have gated and private communities, some are very exclusive and with exceptional amenities and services and others have a golf course and exclusive clubs for the community members only. Living in these communities implies a higher cost, but issues such as internal security and scenic beauty are very important for retirees who have the economic means and want to enjoy a more exclusive lifestyle.
But to get to know the best places to retire in Costa Rica better, we are going to order them by area and describe them based on their general characteristics.
Valle Central (Central Valley, Highlands)
Although the Central Valley is a hectic and highly populated area, there are still quiet neighborhoods that are attractive to spending a retired life. So, take Escazú, Santa Ana, and Ciudad Colón, for example, all with first-world services: quality medical care, like hospitals, clinics, and highly qualified health professionals. Also banking services, shopping centers, restaurants, public and private health insurance, and public transportation.
The Central Valley has a strategic location, which facilitates access to other parts of the country. In addition, the Juan Santamaria International Airport located in Alajuela, has and allows international connections. Here the choice of housing is very wide: from apartments or condominiums in the city to suburban houses or rural properties on the outskirts.
Located to the west of San José, Grecia grew up in a coffee-growing and small-town environment. Its charm lies in the fact that it is a rural area, with a very low cost of living, but at the same time it has all the services, it is also very close to other larger towns such as San Ramon de Alajuela.
Atenas is known as one of the best climates in the world and the best place to retire in the world, the annual average temperature is around 24 degrees Celsius. Its location makes it super convenient: it is located in the center of the country, which allows easy access to other tourist destinations and important services. It is close to the Juan Santamaría International Airport and is a short drive from the capital, San José.
Costa Rica is considered one of the safest countries in Latin America, and Atenas is no exception. Low crime rates and a general sense of safety provide peace of mind for retirees looking for a safe place to live. Retirees can enjoy panoramic views, as all around Atenas there are mountains and spectacular views everywhere you look.
North Pacific – Tamarindo
The Tamarindo area is perhaps the preferred destination for many retirees, and for good reasons; Tamarindo boasts stunning white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, making it a paradise for beach lovers. The beaches offer excellent conditions for swimming, diving, and enjoying water activities.
Tamarindo is also known as one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica… The waves are suitable for surfers of all levels, from beginners to professionals. There are surf schools and board rentals for those who want to learn this sport and for a retiree, it’s never too late!
The nightlife is also an attraction for retirees: there are bars and restaurants with comprehensive gastronomic options, from local to international cuisine, many with live music.
Tamarindo has a well-developed infrastructure, which makes life much easier for retirees since there are clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, and doctors with many specialties.
Gated communities to retire in North Pacific Region
These areas are surrounded by natural beauty, a tropical nice climate, white sand beaches, and crystal-clear waters, and their focus on sustainability.
In addition, they offer a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, bird watching, and boating, allowing residents to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle in retirement. Also, these communities focus on sustainability and the preservation of the environment. Ecological construction is promoted and the use of renewable energy is encouraged; policies are implemented to protect local flora and fauna, ensuring a pristine and healthy natural environment for residents.
From beach clubs and golf courses to gourmet restaurants and luxury spas, there is something for everyone. In addition, there are high-quality medical centers and reliable security services, providing peace of mind and comfort for retirees.
North Pacific – Coco Beach and Papagayo area
Both areas are surrounded by beautiful beaches with crystal clear water and an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. In addition, there are 2 very important national parks which are Santa Rosa and Rincón de la Vieja, both with opportunities to explore vegetation and fauna.
Rincón de la Vieja is also well known for its thermal waters that are excellent for health and support for medical treatments, this is a plus for retirees who generally also seek a better quality of life through natural medicine.
Let’s take into consideration that the International Airport in Liberia is very close to these areas, so it is very convenient not only for the residents here but also for other retirees in Guanacaste.
Infrastructure growth is very fast, which is why we find more and more supermarkets, stores and shopping centers, pharmacies, and high-quality private clinics, which is a service that retirees take into account when they retire.
The same goes for gastronomy, it has become extremely varied, ranging from Italian, Japanese, Peruvian, and Spanish to typical Costa Rican food.
As for entertainment, we will find all kinds of entertainment, from snorkeling on a peaceful beach to diving in the mysterious waters of the Pacific, followed by activities such as Zip Line, golf, pickleball, hiking, etc.
Blue Zone in Nicoya, but where?
A Blue Zone is known for its high concentration of seniors who enjoy long and healthy lives. The term “Blue Zone” was coined by writer and explorer Dan Buettner, who has studied the regions of the world with the greatest longevity and well-being.
While there is no single answer to why people live so long in these areas, several factors have been identified that may contribute to their health and longevity, including a healthy diet, active lifestyle, social life and community connection, and stress reduction. Although there is no specific place within the Nicoya peninsula or borders to define this area, we can name some places that are recognized and that are within this blue zone such as Nicoya, Samara, Nosara, and Montezuma.
This quiet beach is located on the Nicoya Peninsula and is known for its incredible scenery and relaxed atmosphere. Santa Teresa is a town with bohemian restaurants and bars, and small boutique hotels that give a unique charm to this place. It is an ideal destination for those looking for a quiet life by the sea. Here we find surf lovers and retirees looking for white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, as well as a culture of well-being and yoga practice.
But popular places to retire do not end here, let’s take into consideration some other areas…
Central Pacific – Manuel Antonio and Quepos
Manuel Antonio and Quepos, are famous for their stunning natural beauty, white sand beaches, and their national park, which is home to countless species of flora and fauna.
It is not only a popular tourist destination but is also chosen by many retirees for its small-town charm and plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature.
The infrastructure here is relatively developed, so retirees will always have all kinds of services handy.
South Pacific – Dominical
Dominical, south of Manuel Antonio, is located in a region of outstanding natural beauty, with stunning pristine beaches, lush jungles, and mountains.
Dominical attracts a diverse international community, providing an opportunity to connect with people from different cultures and build lasting friendships.
Recently, this area of the country has had and continues to have an accelerated development, thus the natural beauty is mixed with general, medical, and tourist services, which means that more and more people want to live in this privileged area.
South Pacific – Ojochal
If you are looking for a quieter place away from the crowds, Ojochal on the southern Pacific coast and close to Dominical is an excellent option. Ojochal is a very recent village destination with perfect tranquility and peace. It is known for its expatriate community, which enjoys mountains, flora and fauna, and crystal-clear waterfalls. In addition, the Serenidad yoga studio and the Steps in Life private school increase the range of services in this small town.
South Pacific – Golfito
Golfito, in the south of the country and relatively close to Panama, is located in a beautiful bay surrounded by tropical jungle and mountains. The landscape is lush and offers a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its year-round humid tropical climate means that temperatures are warm and the vegetation remains green for most of the year. Golfito is a small community with a calm and relaxed atmosphere.
The pace of life is more leisurely compared to the more touristic and developed areas of Costa Rica. The cost of living in Golfito can be lower. Housing prices, basic services, and food are often more affordable, which could allow you to stretch your retirement budget. While not as widespread as a population center, it is expected that with the opening of the marina, there will be more and more services for locals, expatriates, and retirees.
North Region – La Fortuna and Arenal
La Fortuna and Arenal have a warm and tropical climate throughout the year. The mild temperatures and sunny days create a pleasant and inviting environment for retirees looking to escape the cold winters.
This area is perfect for hiking and bird watching, in addition to its hot springs that are scattered throughout the area whose waters are heated by the Arenal Volcano, which is the most active volcano in the country. Lake Arenal adds to the list of attractions for retirees, not only because of its scenic beauty but also because it is a very calm lake almost all year round.
Developed tourist infrastructure draws a lot of attention from retirees, as La Fortuna has experienced significant tourism development in recent years, which has led to better infrastructure and services. There are a variety of hotels, restaurants, shops, and health services available in the area, providing comfort and facilities for retirees.
Caribbean side – Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
This Caribbean place of white sand beaches and tropical jungles with a calm and relaxed atmosphere retains a rustic and bohemian charm. Puerto Viejo attracts a diverse international community. You will encounter expats from different countries, which can provide an opportunity to make new friends and build connections with people from all over the world.
This area is full of a rich Afro-Caribbean culture, which is reflected in its music, traditional festivals, and unique cuisine in all its colorful restaurants.
What you should know before you retire here…Now, despite all the good things that this country offers, it is important to consider the following retire in Costa Rica pros and cons
Cost of living
While Costa Rica may be more affordable than some developed countries, the cost of living is still relatively high compared to other Central American countries. Housing prices, transportation, basic services, and imported goods may be more expensive than expected, especially in popular tourist areas.
Although many costaricans speak English, the official language is Spanish. If you are not fluent in Spanish, it can be difficult to communicate in some everyday situations and it can take time to adjust to the language and culture.
The process of legally establishing yourself in Costa Rica can be complex and time-consuming. Red tape can be cumbersome and require patience. You may need to meet certain requirements to obtain residency permits to settle permanently.
Although Costa Rica has a quality healthcare system, access to specialized medical services may be limited in some rural areas. Also, health insurance can be expensive for foreigners, and it’s important to research and understand the health system before you move.
Weather and adaptation
The tropical climate of Costa Rica can be challenging for some people. High temperatures, humidity, and the heavy rainy season may require time to adjust, especially if you come from a more temperate climate.
Culture and cultural adjustment
Adjusting to a new culture can be emotionally challenging. Customs, traditions, and ways of life may be different from what you are used to, and it may take time to get used to it and establish new social relationships.
With a better understanding of the best places to retire in Costa Rica, we can guide you in your real estate investment in the Gold Coast! Our Real Estate agents will carefully select properties according to your necessities and your evaluations on the retire in Costa Rica pros and cons.
Let us know how we can be of service! Submit the form bellow and we will contact you soon…