Costa Rica is a beautiful country, with long stretches of deserted and undeveloped beaches…dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife…towering volcanoes, lush green valleys, and hundreds of crystal-clear lakes and rivers…

Not only that, but the country offers a great climate year-round, neighborly atmosphere, no-hassle residence programs, excellent healthcare, a stable democracy, and safety and security. It doesn’t hurt that many retired couples report living well on $2,000 a month—that includes all their costs.

For these reasons, as well as the welcoming locals who are warm and friendly to new foreign neighbors, Costa Rica has been an expat haven for more than 30 years.

That’s another bonus: you don’t have to be a pioneer in Costa Rica. There are well-established expat communities throughout the country. Things are “set up” so to speak, when it comes to shipping your household goods, using the healthcare system, buying property, and more. And by following this well-trodden path, your transition to your new life is much easier.

It’s small, about the size of West Virginia. But the variety of landscapes, climates, and lifestyles in Costa Rica is amazing. You have the rainforests, wild beaches, and charming seaside villages of the southern Pacific coast, also known as the Southern Zone.

Editor’s Note: In Escape to Costa Rica: Everything You Need to Know to Retire Better, Invest Well, and Enjoy the Good Life for Less you’ll get all the benefits of our many years of on-the-ground experience in Costa Rica. This 247 page manual has a value of $99 but if you subscribe to International Living Magazine today, you’ll get it for free.

It’s the essential guide to moving to and living in Costa Rica, designed specifically to make relocating here as stress-free as possible for prospective expats like you. Claim your free copy right here.

A Landscape and Lifestyle for Every Taste

There are the bustling market towns surrounded by sugar cane fields and coffee plantations of the Central Valley. Around the pristine 33-square-mile Lake Arenal, expats have taken up residence on the verdant hills rising from the shore, with vast lake views from their homes. On the Caribbean coast, life is laidback and moves to the rhythm of reggae. And that’s just a small taste of all Costa Rica has to offer as far as places to live.

With all these different climates and landscapes, it’s no wonder that this Central American jewel is also one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet. With just 0.03% of the earth’s surface within its borders, the country has an estimated 5% of the world’s species. In Costa Rica, this natural world surrounds you, putting the country on the forefront of eco-tourism and eco-living. Sloths, capuchin monkeys, toucans, and scarlet macaws will be your new neighbors.

Central Valley, Costa Rica

No matter which location you choose, you can benefit from bargain real estate, whether you buy or rent. Three-bedroom homes in the Central Valley start at $119,000 to buy and $500 a month to rent. And two-bedroom condos a five-minute walk to the beach on the central Pacific coast in a booming resort town are $700 a month, the same units selling for $165,000. Deals like this can be found throughout the country.

Another big bonus is the high-quality, low-cost healthcare. There are two systems: private, for which you can pay cash or use insurance, and the government-run public system which you join when you become a legal resident. Overall, expats in Costa Rica pay a fraction of what they did back home for healthcare.

All these advantages make Costa Rica a premier destination for those looking for a secure, fun, and active retirement surrounded by new friends in a beautiful setting.

Here is a sample monthly budget for a couple:

Housing (rental of a furnished, two-bedroom apartment) $700
Utilities (including phone, electric, water, internet, and cable TV) $200
Maid (once a week) $50
Groceries $300
Maintenance and fuel for one car $140
Clothing $70
Entertainment (dining out and other entertainment) $250
Healthcare (four $50 visits to a doctor per year for two people) $33
Monthly total $1,743

Editor’s Note: The Latest Edition of Escape to Costa Rica: Everything You Need to Know to Retire Better, Invest Well, and Enjoy the Good Life for Less has a value of $99…But you can claim a copy for FREE today when you try International Living Magazine.

Thanks to its 30+ years as a popular retirement destination—Costa Rica is already “set up” for expats. Expat like Rick and Peggy.

Life in Costa Rica Has Opened New Opportunities

By Kathleen Evans

It is ironic how the universe often comes full circle. When I first subscribed to International Living in the early 1990s, I never dreamed I would actually have the opportunity to write for them as a contributor several decades later.

I endured the brutal Chicago winters of my childhood and spent most of my adult years working as a sales executive in Austin, Texas. The latter years I imagined leaving the proverbial “corporate rat race” and slowing down my lifestyle in an exotic country on a beautiful beach. Little did I realize it was possible to make that dream a reality.

In 2013, when the ongoing stress levels started to take a toll, my husband, Steve, and I finally made the move to Tamarindo, Costa Rica and bought a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom condo near the beach. But, it was not a snap decision. We researched a multitude of countries for several years prior, including many ILhotspots. However, it was the natural beauty of the land, the welcoming warmth of the people, and the promise of affordable healthcare (after residency) that kept us circling back to Costa Rica.

Tamarindo is a lively beach town (population around 6,000) in the province of Guanacaste on the stunningly scenic northwest Pacific coast. Known for its perfect surfing breaks and broad beach, it was long popular with surfers from around the world. However, it has grown to become an international town the last couple of decades, with hundreds of expats now calling it “home.”

Tamarindo’s beach is popular with surfers, sun-lovers, and people of all ages.

Accommodations range from luxury ocean-view condos to basic beach houses (ranging from $140,000 to over $1 million). I love the fact that it is not unusual to hear four or five different languages in a day and that we have over 100 area bars and restaurants from which to choose. These attributes set a daily “vacation” tone.

The cost of living in Tamarindo is more than most other places in Costa Rica. But if you learn to eat seasonally and live more like a local, you can survive on a smaller monthly budget than back home—for example, $2,000 per month is not unrealistic. For us, our biggest savings has been property taxes. We can cover our basic expenses here in Costa Rica for six months with the exponentially smaller sum we now pay in taxes.

As residents, we pay into the Costa Rican healthcare system. Our monthly payment for both of us is $187. Even with my corporate job in the U.S., I was paying more for two people.

I retired from that sales career recently, and I’m now pursuing a life as a freelance writer and a first-time novelist. Costa Rica has given me a gift of time, seemingly slowing the clock and opening new doors both professionally and personally.

When I am not writing and blogging, I enjoy spending time with expat friends, traveling in my new country, and taking daily sunset walks on the beach. My husband and I relish international travel and we are creating ways to turn our condo into a rental revenue stream when traveling.

If I could give you one piece of advice it would be, start researching now. Do you want that life of which you have been dreaming? You can make it happen. Keep taking those baby steps and over time you will suddenly realize you have arrived.

I am truly thankful for mustering the courage to reinvent my life here and I look forward to sharing my stories with you from this corner of the world.

Editor’s Note: Rick and Peggy found warm weather, great friends, a relaxed lifestyle, their dream home with a view for the right price, and a low cost of living in Costa Rica. And the transition—with so many welcoming locals and expats—was easy…

In Escape to Costa Rica: Everything You Need to Know to Retire Better, Invest Well, and Enjoy the Good Life for Less you’ll get all the benefits of our many years of one-the-ground experience in Costa Rica.

This 247 page manual has a value of $99 but if you subscribe to International Living Magazine today, you’ll get it for free. Claim your free copy right here.

Swapping Hollywood for Happiness… And Rent of $400 a Month

Back in 2011, Sally Rice’s life was much different from today. Then, she was 55 years old, single, and living a chaotic lifestyle in Los Angeles. She’d spent 23 years as a costume designer in the movie industry, which sounds glamorous, but as she says, “Working 17 to 20 hours is stressful, and leaves little time for anything else”.

Now, she’s in Costa Rica, working as a psychic medium and Reiki practitioner in the beach town of Tamarindo. It’s a result of a spiritual awakening she had while living for six years in the smaller town of Montezuma—a magical and remote artists’ community three hours further south along the Nicoya peninsula.

Sally first traveled to Montezuma after being invited by her daughter, who was filming an MTV show there. She took a two-week exploratory trip…but ended up staying those six years, after embracing it immediately and tapping into the energy of the area. She never looked back.

Sally found Montezuma’s remoteness to be exactly what she needed for her spiritual awakening. “It is isolated and hard to access. The expats there are nesting, choosing to be in a most relaxed state of existence. It is such a beautiful place and really allows you to experience its healing power. The jungle wraps around a lagoon surrounded by nature. There’s no industry whatsoever. It feels like Robinson Crusoe. Stuck in time.”

Nature makes its way right to the water’s edge in Montezuma.

She found an amazing place to live for only $400 a month—a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a separate all-glass studio in the jungle, overlooking the ocean. There she recharged her life with a menagerie of animals. She also spent some time running a rock climbing tour business with her son, who moved to Costa Rica for a couple of years.

Montezuma’s cost of living remains cheap. You can still rent a home like Sally’s overlooking the ocean for between $500 and $1,000 a month. If you prefer to buy, they’re in the $100,000 to $200,000 range—keeping Montezuma an affordable coastal gem.

Sally started a professional psychic practice in 2009, prior to her move to Costa Rica. She has since studied mediumship at the Arthur Findlay College in the U.K., further incorporating her training into her spiritual practice.

She’s now a certified Reiki practitioner as well as a psychic medium, and has moved her work to Tamarindo, which she says still has all the magic of the Nicoya peninsula.

“I believe dreams come true and prayers are answered. Just know who you are and what your soul needs before you move,” she says.

She also tells how she has never felt unsafe being a single woman in Costa Rica.

“I know no borders or strangers. Women need to walk out with the understanding the world is your friend—for you, not against you. Costa Rica has virtually no crime. It is a country which has no military, and has a peaceful population. Never once have I felt any fear for my wellbeing. It is a very loving culture.”

In Photos: The Top 5 Beaches in Costa Rica

By Jason Holland
Some of the first tourists to Costa Rica were intrepid surfers, attracted by an endless summer and consistent quality waves.

To this day, whenever you see an ad promoting tourism in Costa Rica, the star of the show is the beach. And despite being a small country (about the size of West Virginia) with a relatively small coastline of 801 miles on the Pacific and Caribbean, Costa Rica has a wide variety of beaches.

Black volcanic sand, golden sand, white sand…a mix. Big surfing waves with strong currents. Calm coves great for swimming and snorkeling. Wild, deserted tropical beaches that make you feel like you’re a castaway…busy resort areas with beach bars lining the sand, vendors selling cold coconut water walking by.

No matter what you’re looking for in a beach, you can probably find it in Costa Rica. Over the years, I’ve visited many of them. Here are my top five. I like them for different reasons.

1. Manzanillo

Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is a land apart; a good four hours’ drive from the capital and the least developed region of the country. Head south on the coast road toward Panama and you come to the end of the road in the settlement of Manzanillo.

The beach at Manzanillo is perfect for nature-lovers.

Just to the south of this tiny village is Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, where you can find a series of coves, lined with overhanging palm trees. Pick one and set up for a day of sunbathing and snorkeling in the crystal-clear water.

The beach at Manzanillo is perfect for nature-lovers.

On my last trip here, I spied a half-dozen species of tropical fish and a ray, as well as a school of tiny cuttlefish.

2. Dominical

Dominical is a fishing village turned surfing hot spot that attracts a distinctly bohemian crowd. Despite its popularity on the backpacker circuit, it’s still pretty low key.

Surfers and bohemians will love Dominical.

A narrow beach road, paved a few years back, is lined with small hotels and open-air restaurants serving up ceviche and fish tacos—and cold Imperial beer, which is great on a hot and humid day. Most days are in this southern Pacific region.

Take a seat and watch the action as surfers take on one of the most powerful waves in the country. Or browse among the wares of the artisans set up in the shade.

3. Playa Biesanz

Manuel Antonio is Costa Rica’s most visited destination, with the national park of the same name drawing visitors eager to see monkeys and sloths. As a result, this destination on the central Pacific can get pretty crowded, especially during high season from January to April.

Playa Biesanz offers solitude close to the tourist areas.

I prefer to go to Playa Biesanz, which is just to the north of the main beaches and isn’t very well known. Follow the little sign off the main road through town until you find cars parked by the roadside. There’s a gap in the fence; walk down about 15 minutes and you’ll come across a white-sand beach in a cove lined with tree-covered cliffs.

If you go during the week, you could have the whole place to yourself.

4. Tamarindo

Tamarindo is no hidden gem. It’s a well-known bustling small resort town on the northern Pacific coast with restaurants, bars, and shops galore. A tourist mecca…at least for Costa Rica. Compared to a Cancún or Fort Lauderdale, it’s tiny. And the expats who have settled here enjoy the small-town atmosphere among the long-term residents.

Tamarindo beach is for those looking to enjoy the beach bum lifestyle.

When I lived here, I enjoyed all the amenities Tamarindo had to offer, right on the sand: surf lessons, fishing trips, sunset sailing cruises, happy hour and sunset at one of many beach bars, live music, horseback riding…

5. Montezuma

On the far tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, the fishing village of Montezuma is great for those looking for a laidback destination. There’s no major development. And the town center is just a few restaurants, hotels, and shops. It’s a bit hard to get to this part of Costa Rica—the roads can be rough, especially in rainy season from May to November.

Montezuma is an out-of-the-way destination filled with natural beauty.

But it’s well worth visiting this area on the Pacific. Here you can get a sunrise instead of sunset because it’s on the east side of the peninsula. And if you walk down the beach from town, you’ll find a unique freshwater waterfall right on the sand, with pools for soaking and swimming.

Extra: Beaches in Costa Rica’s Northern Pacific Coast

Although Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast is popular with tourists, there are plenty of small and low-key beach towns where expats live. They enjoy a close-knit circle of friends, boating and beach-combing, great restaurants and beach bars, and quiet, mostly residential, communities.

This video explores Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero, and Brasilito, a trio of beach towns ideal for those seeking the ultimate laidback life by the sea.

Editor’s Note: An estimated 20,000 North Americans are living in Costa Rica—more if you count part-timers. The safety, climate, the friendly people (both locals and expats), and the good-value cost of living arejust some of the factors that have attracted foreign residents for more than three decades.

In Escape to Costa Rica: Everything You Need to Know to Retire Better, Invest Well, and Enjoy the Good Life for Less you’ll get all the benefits of our many years of one-the-ground experience in Costa Rica.

This 247 page manual has a value of $99 but if you subscribe to International Living Magazine today, you’ll get it for free.

Claim your free copy right here.