Costa Rica a land of contrast and enjoyment
Costa Rica offers an outstanding array of lifestyle opportunities for expats looking for a tropical paradise to call home. From cool highland mountains, warm and exciting central valley city life, low land farms to hot sexy naughty beach life, there is something for everyone in Costa Rica.
Life in the tropics, where days and nights have the same time year round, is where we loose all sense of time. Where one day leads to the next in an endless pattern of mornings, afternoons and nights. Memories blend together such that time overlaps, melts, disappears and new friends become old and all is as if it has always been so.
Costa Rica has many different areas that provide such variety in climate, activities, people, shopping and nightlife, that to read an online guide and then decide where to go would be difficult unless the writer had spent much time in all locals and was not under the pay of some local real estate company, marketing group, or book publisher. I can only tell of those areas that I have lived in, visited, or know of thru hearsay. My tales of costa rica blend together and cannot be distinguished from reality. The only truth will be your presence here, to see for yourself what joy or misery you will find in Costa Rica.
I live outside Tilaran on Lake Arenal in Costa Rica. A stunningly beautiful area with outdoor activities and sleepy night life. I wake before the sun and fall to sleep by 9pm. I do not miss the noise of city life, the wild parties and all night drinking and dancing. I love the tranquility and the easy lifestyle. There is not a single traffic light for 50 miles and only one or two actual stop signs. We drive with courtesy for others and give rides to strangers who live on our mountain roads and are too poor (or too smart) to own their own car.
At times I miss the roar of the violent ocean waves beating upon a white sand beach filled with bikini clad latin beauties and if so I drive the 2 hours to any of a dozen beaches in Guanacaste where I find pleasure in the baking sun and smiling interactions. There are so many awesome beach towns in Costa Rica that to name one or two would be a disservice to any whose names are on my lips but failed to make it to print. This is an area that you must come and explore for yourself as everyone has different tastes and desires.
I know Costa Rica well, having driven about 100,000 miles around this country on a hundred vacation trips over the years. I know what I like and I know what I don’t like and that’s one reason that I find it so pleasant to stay home in the mountains and not leave often. There is little that I lack. That is, i have few unfulfilled desires. When I lived in the USA I was always seeking satisfaction and rarely achieving it. There was an emptiness about life that I could not drink or screw or dance or sleep away. I found pursuit of knowledge, friendships, experiences, and material goods to be my life. But here in Costa Rica I find fulfillment in the beauty of my gardens, of the song of the birds, and the love of my friends.
What can I tell you of Costa Rica that you do not all ready know? There is only one truth and that is yours and to find your truth you must come and find your place in the sun where satisfaction smiles.
Many baby boomers researching central american countries as a possible retirement destination look closely at Panama and Costa Rica. Both countries have large north american expat communities so there is plenty of information available to the newcomer to help determine the best country to move to.
In the 1990s everyone was moving to Costa Rica because land and houses were cheap, taxes were low, and security and safety was acceptable. So many land developers, new high priced hotels and other tourist businesses opened up and everyone needed to make a buck so prices started climbing. Soon Costa Rica was the most expensive travel destination in all of latin america. Then in 2008 the world financial crisis brought reality here and real estate prices fell to what is now an acceptable level. Food and other necessities are still quite expensive in Costa Rica, but these costs are increasing daily in Panama as well.
Costa Rica offers mature internet infrastructure, competitive telephone systems, extensive roads and almost anything you can ever want to buy is available in Costa Rica. For duty free shopping the Golfito area allows you to save money on big ticket items but you can only spend so much money every six months there.
The tourism industry in Costa Rica is mature and provides hotels and destinations to suit any and all life styles and budgets.
In order to compete with Costa Rica, Panama provided expats registering as residents a large package or incentives including discounted import duties on important items like household goods and vehicles, as well as shopping discount cards accepted all over the country. And many expats moved from over priced Costa Rica to Panama in the 2100’s. But now many of these incentives are gone and prices have risen making Panama not such an easy decision. Also reports of increased criminal activities in the popular expat spots has put more retirees off.
Choose Costa Rica
Now that daily costs are competitive, comparing quality of life issues, there is no question that Costa Rica is a superior choice over Panama.
If you are considering retirement, and who doesn’t occasionally think about the final stages of life on earth, then you may be considering retirement in Costa Rica because you have heard that it is a beautiful country with friendly people and lower costs then home. You have heard that Costa Rica has open arms for retirees who want to buy a home and live out their golden years in the tropical splendor of central america. What you have heard is not to far off from what I have heard and know from over 20 years of living in Costa Rica.
Many of the books and web sites that promote retirement in Costa Rica tell you that you do not need to know the language, but this is an absolute lie. Failure to speak even basic spanish will leave you feeling frustrated, incomplete and surrounded by other expats who speak your native tongue. You will miss out on so much of the fun of learning a new culture, of communication in a foreign language, of laughing at jokes. Be sure when you decide to move to Costa Rica that you are dedicated enough to learn spanish, which is actually quite an easy language to pickup. I spent 3 years in San Jose with a self teaching book and a variety of girl friends, and avoided all english speakers so that I after these 3 years of solid emersion I had a real start on the language. I am always learning new words and perfecting my accent, even after 20 years here.
Another item of interest to those considering Costa Rica as a place to retire, is the cost of housing. A recent study of housing costs in latin america showed Costa Rica to be the most expensive place for home ownership and I must say that it can be expensive to buy or build a home in Costa Rica. However, once you have your home paid for, maintaining your home is relatively easy and not expensive. My house keeper, with four kids, lives on a monthly income of about $300, yet she is going to build herself a small house of her very own. She will receive a government grant and loan program that helps single mothers own a home. But I also have a friend with a house at the beach on a stunning mountain top with a 360 degree panoramic view that is for sale for nearly $900,000!
Health care is a common topic among the older people who come here to retire. You can buy into the local health care system, which is modeled after the system setup by the AMA, which works reasonably well, mind you there may be some wait time involved in getting seen by your doctor. The price is reasonable and in fact is a requirement of many of the legal retirement status that would apply for here. If you like homeopathy, this too can be found in Costa Rica, along with ancient herbal healers.