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.

Costa Rica

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.