If a Costa Rica retirement sounds like paradise on earth, the good news is it really can be exactly that. If you think you might want to retire to Costa Rica however, it pays to consider some options and make some decisions before jumping in.
Some of the more common things to consider when planning your Costa Rica retirement include:
- City or country? Some of the most beautiful places are also the most remote. While this can sound wonderful while sitting on your couch five minutes from a convenience store, think through whether or not you really want to be an hour or more from hospitals and shopping all the time. Some of the most beautiful beaches are as much as five hours from a hospital.
- Climate and weather. Costa Rica retirement presents future ex-pats with a choice of no less than 27 different microclimates, each with its own unique weather patterns and temperature variations. Subtropical heat is available but so seasonal cold and dryness also hits the higher altitudes, and you can find just about anything imaginable in between.
- Transportation and roads. If you do decide to live in a rural or remote location, how will you get around? Be aware that paved highways are not the standard in every part of the country, and an ordinary sedan might not be adequate to your needs in bad weather.
- Buy or rent? Buying a home in Costa Rica is trickier than it is in North American and Europe. You will need an attorney from your home country, a reliable Costa Rican attorney or agent, and you will need to have everything reviewed for potential problems and have the home thoroughly inspected. Many ex-pats recommend renting until you become more familiar with the culture and the various neighborhoods and locations.
- Wired or not? If you can’t imagine living without the internet or cable television, you should be aware that the farther away you stray from San Jose and the Central Valley, the spottier services will be. Not every remote area has a phone line or cable, although more and more resort areas do have high-speed Internet access now. Most areas do have cell phone service.
- Isolation or community. Some people think that they long for peace and quiet in retirement and hastily set up miles from other human beings, only to discover they aren’t used to solitude at all. Other people know they need access to city life. If you are new to retirement, avoid impulsive decisions based mostly on fantasy.
- Cultural tastes and shopping. You might not realize how often you run to the shopping center in a single week until the nearest shopping is hours away. If you know you like to have easy access to museums, theater, and live music, you’ll want to stay close to San Jose.
- Safety. Costa Rica is a peaceful nation with a low crime rate, but that doesn’t mean that any place in the country is as safe as the next. If you plan a life in the city and aren’t yet familiar with neighborhoods and customs, it pays to rent and get to know the area before locking yourself in.
- Working or playing? If you plan to earn a small income, run an Internet business, buy a bed and breakfast, or do a little consulting, where you settle down will matter very much. The Costa Rican government wants retirees to set up shop in the country and makes it easy to get started, but knowing what kind of business you want to run impacts all your other choices.
- Price. It’s good to have a number in mind and be honest about what you can afford. While beachfront property will always come at a premium, many small towns and country locations are beautiful and amazingly inexpensive. In general, expect the overall cost of living to be about one third to one half that of the U.S., Canada, or Europe, although of course this will vary by area and by service or product.
A Costa Rica retirement can indeed be a late life paradise, but planning is everything. Consider your needs and options carefully and then sit back and enjoy the view!