If you're still thinking about moving to Costa Rica - but haven't made the leap yet - it's probably because you have a whole lot of questions that need be to answered so you can prepare, first.
For that reason, I wrote my Moving to Costa Rica Handbook specifically based on the most common questions I had when I first moved down to Costa Rica, as well as hundreds of questions I get from people who email or check in with me on social media about moving down to the land of Pura Vida.
In fact, there are even a lot of questions I didn't think about asking before I move there but would have saved me a TON of time, money, and a little heartache (if we're being honest) if I only knew beforehand.
So, I wanted to share with you the list of questions that will be answered in my Moving to Costa Rica Handbook. This also closely follows the chapter list, so you can just assume these are all in question form.
I encourage you to check it out and after reading, contact me with any other questions you have! I'm super happy to help so you can finally get down to Costa Rica!
Are you planning to ship your entire household down to Costa Rica when you move there?
Based on personal experience, you may want to rethink that.
When I first moved down to Costa Rica, I planned meticulously for months what to pack. I jammed every single thing that would fit into two enormous oversized bags, each big enough for a pro hockey player’s equipment.
I lugged them to the airport, paid extra for being overweight, lugged them off the plane and to my new apartment, almost couldn’t get them up the stairs to my room...and then proceeded to not use even half of the stuff over the next year or two.
Remember that you’re moving to Costa Rica to get away from your normal life in the US, Canada, or abroad, and that may mean easing up on possessions and material things. In Costa Rica, you’ll need a lot of flip flops, a beat up old pair of running shoes, a bunch of swim shorts, plenty of tank tops, and probably a laptop. Anything that’s expensive, rare or hard to move is actually a huge liability down there: humidity, seawater, dust, incessant rain, and ladrones (thieves) can be hard on your things in Costa Rica!
I learned very quickly that possessions won’t equip you for success in your new life in Costa Rica - your mindset and attitude will. So I encourage you to only bring the essentials at first.
You can get most U.S.-style goods in San José these days, and if there is something you really need from back home, go back with an empty bag when you travel back to your former homeland to visit once or twice a year, filling it up and bringing more stuff down. Or, you can ask your friends or friends of friends that are come down to visit Costa Rica to add a few extra items to their bags for you – probably the most effective method.
If you do need to ship things down to Costa Rica, here are some tips:
• Shipping your worldly goods down to Costa Rica can be a very expensive process, so researching the right company can save you a lot of money
• A shipping container coming from the United States, usually measuring 20 or 40 feet in length, runs $6,000-$15,000, including taxes and delivery
• Generally, you will be responsible for packing all boxes and loading the moving truck, and the company will take care of the rest. This includes transportation to the closest domestic port, maritime transportation, offloading in Costa Rica, local customs, and delivery to your new home
• The process can take up to two months for U.S. shipments
• Remember that the same amount of money could easily furnish a big house two or three times over in Costa Rica
• Unlike in the US, most homes or properties you rent already come fully furnished, so you’ll need far less than you think
• You pay by weight, so be sure you pack light
• Electronics are expensive to buy there, bring those with you (but then again, do you really need a bunch of expensive and fancy electronics?)
• Make sure you do a careful inventory and record that in the manifest in case items are lost or stolen
• You will need to hire two shippers, one in your home country to get it to a port in Miami then to Costa Rica, and then another one to receive it from the port in Costa Rica
• You can save money by packing the items from home yourself, but it is way better to hire someone, especially if you have expensive or delicate items
• Once your stuff gets to the port in Costa Rica, it goes through customs duties and they may or may not examine it
• The best way to go about selecting a company is to first speak to people (other expats) in Costa Rica to find a reputable shipper/company. Then, go with a recommended local (US) mover, as they will have people and or companies they usually work with and they can help you save a lot of money by minimizing the cost of tariffs
• When shipping internationally, the average container is 40 by 8 by 8 feet
• One is allowed to ship using a quarter, half or full container as most shipping companies consolidate
• For this option, it is important that the items are 6 or more months older, or you will be charged expensive import fees
• For the average person moving down there, the best bet is to travel light, cramming everything you’ll need into check baggage on the plane (even if you are charged the extra baggage fee)
For bigger items you can use air cargo:
Have fun and enjoy your new life in Costa Rica!
Life is about connections, friendships, and forming close relationships. That's also a pretty good definition of Tribe, and you'll want to find your Tribe in Costa Rica.
Of course, as you start your new life in Costa Rica, you’ll want to meet and befriend as many local Ticos and Ticas as possible, blending into society in your new home. But it’s also refreshing to have some expat friends just like you, to share information, experiences, recommendations and sometimes, a couple beers.
For that reason, we’ll outline a few good ways to connect with expat communities and groups. These are just a sample of the many, many links and organizations available to you, so do a quick Google search based on which home country you come from, what area of Costa Rica you’re living in, and what interests you.
For me, I always like volunteering because you meet some interesting, caring and conscious people, which is better than just meeting people on the beach or partying, in my opinion. It won’t take much work to find a great school that needs volunteers, an orphanage, beach cleanups, the local branch of the Red Cross, Rotary International, Kiwanis Club, or many others.
The good news is that there are plenty of online communities/forums that connect expats all over Costa Rica - they are a great source of advice for any questions you may have. Many offer newsletters as well. Try joining one of these groups, or posting something in an online forum if you want to make contacts before your departure.
Here are some of those sites:
Americans Retired in Costa Rica will assist you, as well with planning your trip, organizing things you need, and answer common questions.
American Legion: http://www.legion.org
Here are some Facebook groups to check out:
These are some online expat groups in Costa Rica based on location:
Lake Arenal Community – 1,603 Members
This Lake Arenal English Language Facebook group page is for the purpose of sharing information in a constructive manner about things directly related to the Lake Arenal region around Tilarán, Tronadora, San Luis and Nuevo Arenal).
Lake Arenal Ads & Events – 1,625 Members
Lake Arenal Ads & Events is a central place for members of the community to post and browse classified ads as well as any community or public, free or not, events. Ads and events should be for the areas surrounding Lake Arenal.
Costa Ballena Bulletin Board – 1,086 Members
Where Costa Ballenans help each other out. Ask local questions. Get local answers. Friendly advice on practically anything, announcements of lost and found, shared rides, beach parties, power and water updates.
San Ramon Costa Rica Info – 260 Members
This is a Facebook group for expatriates in San Ramon, Costa Rica. All members are either presently residing, or interested, in San Ramon, Costa Rica area are welcome.
Atenas Costa Rica Info – 992 Members
These Facebook pages are for expatriates in Atenas, Costa Rica. All members are either presently residing, or interested, in the Atenas,
Costa Rica Southern Zone Expats and Friends – 1,570 Members
This Facebook group is for people living in or interested in the Southern Zone. The span of this group the “Southern Zone” is from Jacó to Paso Canoas and all in between coastal and inland.
Expats Locals in Escazu – Santa Ana in English – 171 Members Facebook pages for expats and locals living in or thinking of moving to, hang out a lot in, or will be visiting Escazu & Santa Ana & that speak English.
Nosara Rant And Rave – 1,427 Members
Want to ask questions about Nosara, debate, tell a joke, post a funny photo or rant and rave? Do it here!
Nosara Community Events – 2,528 Members
Interesting events happening in the Nosara Beach community.
Manuel Antonio – 811 Members
Post your events and specials for Manuel Antonio here.
Grecia, Costa Rica – 492 Members
This is a Facebook group for English speakers living in Grecia, Costa Rica. Posts should be in English. It is ok to offer to sell your personal items (online garage sale, moving, etc.) or to list properties for rent.
Costa Rica Black – 17 Members
Costa Rica Connecting Black Expats in Costa Rica.
Or you can search for others who share your interest in a sport, hobby, or pastime, like golf:
Costa Rica Torneos de Golf – 573 members
Find every golf tournament in Costa Rica that you want to play here.
Golf article classifieds – 176 members
Facebook pages to find or sell used golf articles in Costa Rica
Tourism & Explore Facebook pages:
Costa Rica Insider – 13,232 Members
The inside scoop on the Best Food / Surf / Hotels and travel to Costa Rica.
The Best of Costa Rica – 330 Members
Let’s explore Costa Rica. Let’s discover the best things to do, places to go, and risks to avoid. Let’s have some fun.
Pet Friendly Hotels Restaurants in Costa Rica – 400 members
Find hotels, restaurants, cafes, and businesses around Costa Rica that welcome your furry family members.
Things to do in Costa Rica – 1,128 Members
Concerts, art shows, activities, tours and fun things to do. Know of something fun going on?
Costa Rica things to do – 676 Members
This Facebook group is designed to let tourists and nationals know what’s going on in your area. With photos and videos.
Costa Rica by Bus – 1,295 Members
The administrator of this page says: I love riding the buses in Costa Rica. Maybe it is like the lore of riding the rails in the US. It is easy, fun, and inexpensive. I created photo albums for bus schedules, bus stops, and buses and a file section for PDF’s people collect.
Hobbies & Sports in Costa Rica:
American Football in Costa Rica – 1,158 Likes Information about football games in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Surfing News – 5,692 Likes All about surfing in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Swaps – 447 Members
This is a space to swap postcards, stamps, banknotes and coins. Lotteries are also welcome.
Uvita Softball Saturdays! – 216 Members
This Facebook group page is for coordinating and communicating about the weekly softball games in Uvita. Join us at 10:30 at the fubol field in Bahia de Uvita every Saturday! All ages and skill levels welcome!
Backgammon CLUB Costa Rica (Spanish) – 422 Members
Promotes friendly competition and practice of the Backgammon game. No gambling.
Gringo Gardeners in Costa Rica – 1,078 Members
This group is aimed at gringos living in or visiting Costa Rica who are interested in learning more about the trees and plants that grow here, both native and introduced. It’s a place where we can showcase what we’ve grown, get tips on care and location, and help each other with plant identification.
Costa Rica Organic Gardening Forum – 502 Members
A Facebook group where people who live in Costa Rica can share organic gardening tips. Organic pest control, soil information, and help with amending. It’s also a great source on where to buy seeds and what seeds want to grow in different regions.
Costa Rica Poker – 476 members
Community page for poker players who have relocated or are interested in relocating to Costa Rica in the wake of Black Friday.
Photography in Costa Rica (all Spanish) – 6,564 Members
This group is an educational forum in Spanish about photography, posting unusual photos, as well as photography articles for sale.
Costa Rica Tribe – 767 Members
The intent of this Facebook group is to post photos, events, and projects for our area in southern Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Kayak Fishermen –117 members
This Facebook group is here to post pictures and discuss any current affairs related to fishing in Costa Rica.
Yoga in Costa Rica – 894 Members
These Facebook pages are for yoga teachers, studio and retreat center owners, vendors and anyone who practices yoga in Costa Rica. The goal for starting this group is to have a place where we can share information about yoga communities and events in our beautiful country.
Health, care, and help in Costa Rica:
Healing House Costa Rica – 343 Members
The idea of the Facebook group is to connect doctors, therapists, healers and everybody interested in a healthy way of living in Costa Rica.
Personal Care for Gringos in Costa Rica – 162 Members
A Facebook group for referrals to personal care providers in Costa Rica such as hairdressers, spas, massage therapists, physiotherapists, yoga studios, fitness places and more. Anything to do with our personal wellbeing.
“Help I Need A Ride” – Costa Rica Ride Share – 769 Members
These Facebook pages were created as a hopeful solution for people looking for a ride anywhere in Costa Rica. If you are leaving from somewhere and you have extra seats available in your vehicle, feel free to post here.
Animal Protection in Costa Rica:
SASY! Costa Rica – 557 Members
SASY! Stop Animal Suffering Yes is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to the eradication of animal abuse and suffering in Costa Rica. Your support will help us to fund educational programs to promote animal welfare, fund spay-neuter clinics in low-income barrios and areas with stray overpopulation.
Expats in Guanacaste – 1,673 Members
Expats in Guanacaste is a Facebook group designed for foreigners to ask questions and share interesting news, current events, photos, recipes, travel stories, advice, referrals, lifestyle, blog posts and more about the Guanacaste province and all of the beaches throughout the area. Neighbors connecting online through these Facebook pages help one- another and make new friends.
Montezuma Costa Rica – 1,175 Members
This is the official Facebook group for Montezuma. Join the fun, meet new people and stay connected. Tuanis!
Santa Teresa Community – 5,364 Members All about Santa Teresa – Malpais in Spanish
North Americans in Costa Rica:
North Americans in Costa Rica / Free your minds – 631 members Topics include music, ethics, art, health, life & death, hypocrisy, worthy causes, nature, diversity, food, religion, sex, poetry, story submissions, philosophies, politics, and lifestyle.
Texans in Costa Rica
This group is for TEXANS who have, or who are considering, moving to Costa Rica.
The Expat’s Guide to cooking in Costa Rica Uncensored – 159 members Here’s the only cooking in Costa Rica Facebook pages that you can cuss in. Please share your recipes.
Art & Music in Costa Rica:
Costa Rica Expat Artist Community – 680 Members
Calling all artists, visual and performing, to join this group and advertise their work, shows, news and positive information to enjoy your new lifestyle and share it with others.
Live music events in Surfside, Flamingo, Brasilito & Potrero – 894 Members
This Facebook group was created so we can stay informed about the live music scene and events in Surfside, Flamingo, Brasilito and Potrero.
Other nationalities living in Costa Rica:
Nederlanders in Costa Rica – 321 Members
For the Dutch and from the Dutch in Costa Rica.
BelCo (Club Belga – Costarricense) – 80 Members
A social network for Belgians or those who have any ties with Belgium.
Canadian Club of Costa Rica – 241 Members
The friendly people who constitute “The Canadian Club” live either full time, or seasonally, here in Costa Rica. The club encourages networking and the use of business between fellow Canadians and also tries to present themselves favorably in their host country, Costa Rica. So polite!
Deutsche in Costa Rica – 865 Members
Deutsche oder besser deutschsprachige Leute die in Costa Rica leben oder mit Costa Rica eng verbunden sind. IM POSITIVEN SINNE: Neuigkeiten, Erfahrungen, Tips und Spaß in deutscher Sprache austauschen.
Teachers in Costa Rica:
Expat Teachers in Costa Rica – 267 Members
If none of those resources work for you, don’t be dismayed. Pretty much any place in Costa Rica with a strong expat presence will have a bar or cafe with international food – and a bunch of expats sitting around talking. That is always a good place to start!
You see - it should be pretty easy to find and connect with likeminded expats in Costa Rica! Contact me if you need any more help!
PS need more great advice on starting your new life in Costa Rica? Click here!
One of the best ways to get to get to know the heart and soul of your new home and its people is to volunteer.
Although Costa Rica is more affluent than any other country in Central America and has an enviable social services network, there are still plenty of chances for tourists, visitors, and expats to participate in charity work.
Here are some tips on volunteering in Costa Rica:
Eco volunteering, i.e., turtle conservation project
A few more notes:
If you see a place that asks for a program fee, contact them and ask if they take independent volunteers (i.e. if you are already down there, or you aren’t, but you want to organize your own housing, etc. and just show up to the place)
Enjoy Costa Rica - and you're a superstar in my book for wanting to volunteer and help out!
Some people will move down to Costa Rica with plenty of savings and investments to maintain them the rest of their lives; others have businesses in the U.S. they can keep running, or other passive income sources.
However, most people will face the reality that, although the cost of living may be lower in Costa Rica, you still need to work and make money.
In the Special Report: Working, Earning Income, and Making a Living in Costa Rica, you'll get an incredible amount of information, advice, and even specific companies that are hiring in Costa Rica!
But, for now, let's cover some basics. The vast majority of expats that live in Costa Rica and work in-country find jobs in these fields:
• Teaching English
• Booking for tourism
• Social media, digital marketing, websites, and other online content
• Retreats and events
• Selling real estate
• Other jobs you can do
• Working for a U.S. or international company in Costa Rica
I’ll break down some information for the second half of this list here (but I cover them all thoroughly in the Special Report on working in Costa Rica.)
Social media, digital marketing, websites, and other online content
We’re straying a little bit from practical brick-and-mortar jobs you can do in Costa Rica here, but it’s worth mentioning because so many expats and foreigners work online, doing digital marketing, building websites, running Facebook and Instagram ads, selling products online, or just producing content like a book or guide (like this one)>
However, if you haven’t worked in this field for a while already and had some financial success, then I wouldn’t recommend starting this up fresh as your main source of income when you get to Costa Rica.
I've been in this field for about nine years living abroad, so I'm happy to coach you or act as your consultant to help you launch your career as a digital nomad. Just contact me if you want some assistance.
Retreats and events
Organizing and hosting various retreats, conferences and other events can be a lucrative business in Costa Rica. Everyone wants to come to Costa Rica, and if you have existing relationships back in your home country with companies, groups, or hobbyists, you can leverage those by setting up a retreat.
Alternative health, yoga, surfing, nature and ecological tours, bird watching, student groups, Christian or religious groups, volunteering, SCUBA divers, fisherman, bachelor and bachelorette parties, weddings, corporate team building, leadership skill training, Spanish immersion schools, author and writing classes, detox, de-stressing and crystal healing are just a few of the examples of the retreats, workshops and classes you can offer in Costa Rica.
I also see a LOT of yoga retreats in Costa Rica and abroad, and one of the other most profitable businesses is offering yoga teacher training retreats in the land of pura vida. They make some serious cash and have a nonstop flow of people signing up.
Real estate agent:
A great way to make a living in Costa Rica is to work selling real estate. Licensing is present but not legally mandated, though you do need to be a permanent resident, although you’ll see a lot of people skirt this law.
You have a host of options in real estate, including:
• Independent sales
• Forming your own company
• Working for a local Tico real estate attorney or company
• Becoming a realtor for a big international company like RE/MAX or Century 21
• Inside sales for a new condominium or housing project
• Rental leasing agent or property management
There are some huge benefits to being a real estate agent in Costa Rica and solid earning potential, but there are also some inherent challenges.
You can make great money in real estate, or no money in real estate – as an agent, it’s all up to you –100% commission I’ve worked for a long time in real estate, mortgage, for real estate attorneys, and the last given years doing marketing for real estate agents, so feel free to contact me if you need more help getting set up.
Becoming a real estate agent in Costa Rica Virtually anyone can become a real estate agent in Costa Rica and there’s no exam, no license, and not a lot you can do legally if a real estate agent cheats or defrauds you.
Other jobs you can do:
There’s a short list of other jobs I see a lot of foreign visitors, expats, and Tico locals alike working to make a living. A lot of this is seasonal and based on tourism, so paychecks can be feast or famine as well. But if you need some sort of wage just to augment your savings or keep the lights on during the slow (rainy) season, take a look at these jobs:
teacher trainings, like I mentioned.
• Wedding planner
Foreigners coming down to get married in Costa Rica are big business and can be lucrative, but it takes a ton of organization, planning, hard work, and local contacts.
If you want to have stable work and make a salary that will leave you very comfortable by Costa Rican standards, you might want to research which firms are located in Costa Rica and start contacting them to apply. International firms in Costa Rica aren’t hard to find on the Internet, and there are various Tico chambers of commerce and professional business organizations that can help you. But do note that most of these jobs are located in and around San José.
When it comes to buying and selling property in Costa Rica, you’ll notice that there are a lot of similarities as the real estate markets in the U.S. and Canada. However, there are some stark differences, too. So it’s important that you’re well versed on how business is conducted if you plan on buying a house, condo, plot of land, or even an existing business in Costa Rica. We’ll go into depth in this section, but here is a quick overview and some notes on the market there.
Price ranges for Costa Rican property:
You’ll find properties listed for as low as less than $120,000 USD in Costa Rica, and as high as $8 million or more. The good news is that prices are generally still more affordable than for comparable land and dwellings in the United States.
While not dirt cheap by any means (in fact, over the last few years, 80% of Costa Rican property sales were for $200,000 and up), I think you’ll find fair value in the Costa Rican real estate market. And in rural, inland, and less touristy areas, you can still find a lot with a simple house on it for far less than $120,000.
In a recent article about the Costa Rican housing market in the Tico Times, one longtime real estate agent summed it up like this:
“I see hundreds of homes being built between $600,000 and $1 million; thousands are being built between $350,000 and $600,000, and [I can’t even keep track] the number of units being built between $100,000 and $350,000.”
Who is buying in Costa Rica?
The vast majority of new housing projects are bought by foreigners, not Ticos. Of course, there are plenty of well-to-do Costa Ricans with family wealth or thriving businesses, but real estate purchases are still out of reach for the average citizen of this country.
These days, the biggest demographic for home buyers in Costa Rica is actually U.S. Baby Boomers, who are retiring and looking to downsize or simplify, live a better quality life, or just move to a warmer climate. With many decades of savings – as well as equity from their home/home sale in the U.S. – they are looking for comfortable but affordable housing options in Costa Rica.
Likewise, expats, visitors, and vacationers from the U.S., Canada, and Europe often come down to Costa Rica for a holiday, fall in love with the place, and look to purchase a vacation home here.
In general, retirees tend to enjoy the cooler, spring-like temperatures and convenience of living in the hills of the Central Valley, while others like the sun, sand, and fun of the coastal regions.
Lastly, many large foreign companies have flocked to Costa Rica’s Central Valley, with their execs and high-paid foreign workers looking to buy property.
How was the market affected by the economic collapse of 2008?
When the mortgage market, real estate market, and economy collapsed in the United States in the mid-2000s, it hit Costa Rica especially hard. Up until then, the market had been white-hot in this country, with developers unable to break ground and finish projects fast enough for eager foreign investors and vacationers to gobble them up. But all of that came to a screeching halt when the mortgage market imploded in the U.S. circa 2007. Soon, second loans, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), huge profits on home sales, and sending casual investors and would-be buyers of vacation homes into a panic.
The bubble had burst, and it didn’t just trickle down to Costa Rica but slammed it like a hurricane. All over this country, you could see the shells of half-finished real estate developments. Bankruptcies, legal battles, defrauded investors, and disappearing principles became the norm.
For many years, the housing market was near rock bottom, with most new construction at a standstill.
How has it recovered?
An interesting exception to the real estate swoon in Costa Rica was that the micro-market in the Central Valley – in and around San Jose – wasn’t affected as adversely. After all, most big developments and vacation home sales were taking place in the coastal communities by the beach, and San Jose was/is still the business capital of the country.
In fact, the number of foreign companies that moved to Costa Rica and started hiring only went up in the years of the Great Recession in the U.S., as they looked to outsource and save costs.
Now, there is cautious but healthy growth in the Costa Rican real estate market again. You’ll find more new development and cautious growth across the country. While U.S. lenders aren’t throwing loans and cash around like they used to (and that’s a good thing!), more people have equity and are looking to invest in a piece of paradise in Costa Rica.
Prices have stabilized, but aren’t skyrocketing by any means like before the bubble burst. No matter your price range and what you’re looking for, there is probably plenty of inventory in Costa Rica, as it’s a true buyer’s market with plenty of good deals to be found.
What’s the biggest challenge for foreign buyers in Costa Rica?
Here’s the drawback of a buyer’s market – it’s harder to get financing to purchase a property, and that’s especially true in Costa Rica. In fact, the majority of foreign investors either pay cash for their properties in Costa Rica or have to arrange financing through a bank in their home country.
While Costa Rican banks do lend for home purchases, the rates are much higher, the terms less favorable, and you’ll have to put way more money down than for comparable mortgages in the U.S. For foreigners, the process of getting approved for a home loan in Costa Rica can be so lengthy and arduous that it doesn’t make much sense – or outright impossible. Seller financing is sometimes available – but will be even more expensive and unfavorable than a bank loan, and can sometimes be a scam.
So if you don’t have cash to buy in Costa Rica, sell your house, take out some equity, borrow against your 401K, go in with friends, or approach a U.S. bank for a loan, because those are probably your only options.
What’s the long-term outlook for real estate in Costa Rica?
There are many factors that point to the long-term health and stability of the real estate market in Costa Rica.
After taking a dip during the dark days of the world’s financial collapse, tourism is back with a vengeance, with nearly double-digit growth year over year since 2012.
To help all of them arrive and depart efficiency, a massive new international airport is planned to open by 20025 in Orotina, just west of where the international airport is now.
Not only will this heat up the surrounding real estate markets, but attract new foreign businesses and jump-start commerce in the region on par with Panama City.
There is massive investment in improving infrastructure around the country, including roads, highways, marinas, and even communication networks – something that’s vital to decentralizing good jobs and the business community in the country.
Furthermore, while most of the popular tourist hot spots are on the Pacific coast, growth in the Caribbean side of Costa Rica is primed to take off, creating fantastic opportunities for foreign investors, retirees, expats, and Ticos.
In whole, the future is bright for development and real estate in Costa Rica!
Want more information on buying real estate, property, or opening a business in Costa Rica?
You'l find it all - and much more - in the Moving to Costa Rica Handbook!
Or, you can always email me for direct help.
-The Official Expat,
If there’s one thing that can enhance your time in Costa Rica, it’s knowing the language. You’ll be able to get by with only a basic understanding or a few words of Spanish, and many of the locals and people who work in tourism speak some English.
But I’m talking about learning some real, authentic Tico (Costa Rican) sayings. Dropping a few of these charming (and sometimes hilarious) phrases, sayings and slang will quickly endear you to the locals and open up a whole new amazing experience.
Here are some popular Costa Rican sayings:
Mae usually is used like “dude” between friends in the U.S., a word you’ll hear peppered in young peoples’ speech.
Pura vida means “pure life,” a national philosophy that embraces chilling, good vibes, and sunny dispositions.
Tico / Tica
Costa Rican citizens are called Ticos because of their affinity for adding –ico on the end of some words. Women are called Ticas.
Estar de goma
I am hungover or I have a hangover.
A surfer slang expression that roughly means, “cool,” it’s a Spanish adaptation from the phrase “too nice.”
Bored or boring.
Work or job.
Little thing or similar to the English saying “Thingamajig.”
Another way of saying “the thing.”
How’s it going with you this morning?
Dolor de jupa
Estar de chicha
To be angry.
Usually a foreigner that is a blond female.
This literally translates to “[with] much pleasure,” but Costa Ricans use it to express gratitude at meeting someone, to say you’re welcome, or goodbye.
No joda!/no jodás!
A strong saying that means, “Don’t bother me” or “Leave me alone.”
Pinches mean something totally different in Mexican Spanish, but means “stingy” in Costa Rica.
One of the small corner stores that are in every big city and small village in the country.
Bullshit or crap.
What’s up, or what do you have to tell me?
Que mala nota!
What a bad person!
What a downer or drag!
So unlucky or too bad.
The small, usually family-run typical eateries in Costa Rica, sort of like a local lunch counter or diner.
Una teja refers to 100 of anything, but usually denotes 100 colones, or 100 meters if someone is giving you directions.
Thousand Colón note.
Two thousand Colón note.
Five thousand Colón note.
Si Dios quiere
Only if it’s God’s will.
What’s the matter?
What a problem.
Me cayo la pelota
I finally get it or I understand.
What a pity!
If you only knew!
Andar de tanda.
Bar hopping or crawling.
Compliments or cat calls.
Gossip or rumors.
This list is just a start, and I share a TON more endearing Costa Rica sayings in the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook! Check it out!
Costa Rica has been considered one of the best places in the world to surf for decades, attracting millions of visitors to the country’s 40 mapped surf beaches. In fact, with year-round warm water temperatures and consistent waves, Costa Rica is every surfer’s dream.
So, if you want to get away to catch some rays and waves, whether for a long weekend or to ride out the whole winter, here are some of the top surf destinations in Costa Rica (in no particular order):
Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica
While Jacó is Costa Rica’s hotspot for holidays and sunbathers, it also offers great surfing, as it hosted the 2016 International World Surf Championship last August. Just a few kilometers south you’ll find some great waves in Playa Hermosa, home of the 2009 Surf Championship.
Pavones, Costa Rica
Good news travels fast among surfers, and Pavones, located on a small peninsula near the Panamanian border, is now a must-surf destination when you visit Costa Rica, with one of the best left point breaks on the entire planet.
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Don’t forget about Costa Rica’s Caribbean side, with amazing surf from December until May in this charming coastal town, including the heaviest waves around.
Ollie’s Point, Costa Rica
Head north along the western Costa Rican coastline and you’ll find Ollie’s Point near the Nicaraguan border, named after the disgraced U.S. military figure Ollie North. You can only get to this epic right point break that runs about 300 yards by boat, but the waves can still get crowded since it’s on every surfer’s Bucket List.
Malpaís & Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Malpaís & Santa Teresa in the southwestern corner of Península de Nicoya are great options to catch some amazing waves alongside some of the best natural beauty in Costa Rica.
Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Tamarindo (or “TamaGringo” because of the hordes of North Americans that vacation and live there) is Costa Rica’s most popular surf destination. It’s managed to hold on to its beachy village vibe (just barely), even as modern resorts, luxury condos, and high-end restaurants pop up. But the long expanse of beach – and great surfing near the estuary and other spots – has never ceased.
There’s plenty of room and smaller waves for beginners to improve their chops, but also a handful of great surf beaches not far out of town like Playa Grande and Playa Langosta that will be virtually empty.
Playa Avellanas, Costa Rica
Speaking of Tamarindo, when you’re there, go check out nearby Playa Avellanas, known as “Little Hawaii,” where the big, hollow, and fast waves create some dream tubes near the river mouth.
Witch’s Rock, Costa Rica
Or take a day trip to the legendary Witch’s Rock, made famous in the iconic surf movie, Endless Summer II, where you can enjoy perfect lefts and rights on either side of the offshore rock formation.
Dominical, Costa Rica
This tiny little beach town south of Manuel Antonio and just north of Playa Uvita is growing in leaps and bounds thanks to its reputation as one of the most consistent spots to catch some big waves in all of Costa Rica.
Matapalo, Costa Rica
Just south of Drake’s Bay in the Osa Peninsula you’ll find Matapalo, a crazy right-hander worth taming.
Nosara, Costa Rica
Beautiful white sand beach with good waves!
Cabo Matapalo, Costa Rica
Far less touristy surf spots on the tip of the Osa Peninsula.
Playa Bejuco, Costa Rica
Good waves just north of Manuel Antonio, but with far less tourists.
Playa Negra, Costa Rica
Amazing black sand beach with great right-hand barrels.
Boca Barranca, Costa Rica
Great break in summer and less crowded but not as much natural beauty around.
Maybe you’re heading to Nicaragua or Panama to get your tourist visa renewed, or you just want to expand your surf vacation to Costa Rica’s neighbors?
San Juan del Sur and Popoyo, Nicaragua
Nicaragua is no longer a best-kept secret, with thousands of North American surfers hitting the white sand and thick jungle of Popoyo every winter, usually passing through charming San Juan del Sur its surrounding beaches. You’ll find everything from gentle swells for beginners to a dozen huge breaks a short boat ride away.
According to Johnny G., owner of SanJuanSurf.com, “With friendly locals, offshore 300 days a year, and uncrowded spots all along the coast, your chance of scoring here is much higher than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere.”
Santa Catalina, Panama
Thirty years ago, an intrepid surfer hacked his way through the jungle in search of this pristine and untouched surf beach (or so the legend goes). These days, Santa Catalina is still one of the best places to surf in all of Central America, with consistent right and left breaks for more than 200 yards over lava reef – and it’s a lot easier to get there.
Bocas Del Toro, Panama
This cluster of islands off of Panama’s Caribbean coast includes some of the best reef breaks and hidden beaches in Central America, all accessible by water taxis. “The Mouth of the Bull” is truly a unique and beautiful place for those that make the trek, and when the surf is on, it’s on!
Your friend (and NOT a good surfer),
PS Wanna surf the internet with all of the info you need to make the move to Costa Rica (I know: a terrible segue!)? Download the Moving to Costa Rica Handbook!
Still thinking about moving to Costa Rica?
Why the hell not, as it's one of the most beautiful and enjoyable nations on earth, serving as a perfect place for your retirement, long-term move, or just surf trip through the winter.
To help encourage you to make the leap (it will be the best decision you ever made!) I wanted to offer these 10 fun and useful facts about moving to Costa Rica, with many more to come!
1. One of the best benefits about Costa Rica is its close proximity to the United States and Canada. San José is only a 2-hour flight from Miami and 3 1⁄2 hours from New York, and there are more and more nonstop, cheap, and direct flights all the time.
2. Costa Rica has a modern and highly rated healthcare system, even more highly ranked than the United States. Costa Rican citizens enjoy universal healthcare insurance and have a life expectancy of 77 years, one of the highest in the world.
3. They don’t have summers and winter seasons like in the U.S., but a dry season (high season) that runs December-April and a rainy season (low season) that runs May through November. It’s far more crowded with tourists during the high season, and costs for hotels, apartments, etc. also skyrocket for a few months.
4. The #1 Google search term about moving to Costa Rica is “Where is the best place to visit in Costa Rica?” There are so many wonderful places to visit in Costa Rica, that’s impossible to answer! Some of the top destinations and points of interest include San José, the capital, Jacó Beach, Santa Teresa, Malpais, Montezuma, Arenal Volcano, Monteverde and Santa Elena, Tamarindo and Guanacaste, Manuel Antonio, Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side of the country, and the many incredible national parks that dot the country.
5. Costa Rica has not one but two gorgeous coastlines, with more than 800 miles of shoreline and tropical beaches between the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country.
6. It also has the most diverse wildlife on the planet. There are over 130 species of fish, 220 of reptiles, 1,000 butterflies, 9,000 plants, 20,000 species of spiders and 34,000 species of insects in Costa Rica. That represents 5% of the world’s biodiversity even though it is just about .03% of the earth’s total landmass.
7. These days, U.S. dollars are widely accepted in almost all areas that foster tourism in Costa Rica, including hotels, restaurants, airports, etc. ATMs usually give you the option to take out U.S. dollars, which you can then spend and receive local colones as change.
8. The government makes it easy for foreigners to do business in Costa Rica, in part because they want more jobs created for Ticos. You don’t even have to be a resident of the country – you can start a business on a tourist visa.
9. A standard 90-day tourist visa allows you to buy an existing business, like a hotel or B&B, or to build your own.But, the vast majority of expats that live in Costa Rica and work in-country find jobs in these fields:
• Teaching English
• Booking for tourism
• Blogging, books, websites, and other online content
• Selling real estate
• Working for a U.S. or international company in Costa Rica
10. Work visa can be a little difficult to qualify for. You must first prove that you are filling a position that a Costa Rican is not qualified for or incapable of doing, and an employer must sponsor you.
Do you want to read all 50 fun and useful facts about moving to Costa Rica? You can download it here.
Or, if you're serious about moving to Costa Rica and living the expat lifestyle, check out the #1 resource in the world.
-Pura vida, The Official Expat,
I covered the basics of renting an apartment or home with a long-term lease earlier, but I wanted to touch on another important aspect of the rental market you’ll find in Costa Rica: vacation property.
Even if you’re not an expat who’s moving down to Costa Rica and settling in permanently, vacationers and tourists find that renting an apartment, house, or vacation property is a great alternative to hotels and resorts. It’s less expensive, more private, more personal, more spacious, and with all the comforts of home.
There are several things to take into consideration to make sure you get renting right. Let’s dive right in with some great tips to help you find your perfectly pura vida vacation property!
Although we’ve lumped info about short and long-term stays alike here, you’ll notice that a lot of this information is geared towards vacation rentals.
Start with some Internet research (but double check)
Visiting one, or several, of the many useful vacation rental sites on the Internet, is a great way to start the process of renting vacation property in Costa Rica. They’re often well organized and will help you narrow down the areas that are most appealing to you. But remember – PHOTOS OFTEN LIE or misrepresent the property or beachfront, just like at hotels. So it’s best to double and triple check as you browse online, then contact an honest, informed local expert to arrange the booking.
Once you’ve chosen a vacation destination, it’s time to find a place to stay
When searching for a vacation rental home, it’s best to comparison shop. Keep your options open and consider several different rental properties to give you a variety of places to choose from, as well as a variety of prices and available amenities. Compare properties to get a local baseline.
The early bird catches the best property
Remember that the busiest tourists season in Costa Rica is during the best weather holiday months of December, January or February. Many regular vacationers book a year in advance, so it’s never too early to start looking. In many parts of Costa Rica, like Playa Jacó, you’ll find creatures of habit that will rent the same house for the same block of time year in year out, especially waterfront properties. For the largest selection, start early and be sure to ask about early booking discounts. Sometimes you’ll find that in exchange for the security of having their property rented, an owner and agent will offer a good discount.
Patience pays off
In the most popular vacation destinations like Playa Jacó and Tamarindo, supply outweighs demand for most of the year outside of the busiest three months. For this reason, the closer the high season gets, the more agents and owners are scrambling to fill houses. If you’re flexible about your dates and amenities, you can find significant savings on your vacation rental by searching at the last minute. Just don’t get your heart set on a particular property and remember that this is a game of risk vs. reward.
Remember that long-term rentals in the Central Valley around San José are easier to come by and available year-round, while properties on the beach owners tend to be hit or miss depending on the peak travel seasons.
Read the fine print
Before making a rental commitment, be sure you understand what it involves. Start looking as far in advance of departure as possible so that you can absorb all the nitty-gritty about terms and rules, physical layout, furnishings, cleaning and repair services (if any). Also pay attention to local transportation, proximity to services that you need, financial arrangements and obligations, deposits, liability and property insurance, and the like. Doing so will minimize your risk of unpleasant surprises when you arrive and when it’s far too late to back out.
Check the amenities
Whether you’ll be staying at the property for two days or two weeks, you want to make sure that you’ll have all the amenities you want and need. And the only way you’ll know is if you ask. More is better in this case, and owners will be happy to provide information and photos to anyone seriously considering their rental home.
Many vacation rental sites now offer reviews and feedback from past guests. Read these reviews carefully and reach out to the homeowner about any follow-up questions, as the owner may have fixed any problems or changed processes as a result of a negative review. Reviews are such a useful tool when searching for your ideal vacation property rental in Costa Rica. Past renters can paint a pretty clear picture of what a guest experience is truly like – the good, the bad and the ugly. In addition to looking at photos and chatting with the owners, it’s the most surefire way to guarantee that you’re picking a good place to stay.
How about advice specifically for expats who want to rent?
Like I’ve mentioned adamantly before, be careful about jumping into purchasing real estate when you first get there. Rent for a while and take your time. Be patient, as it’s best to try a number of places if you are okay with moving every couple of months.
Is it furnished?
Places come both furnished and unfurnished. Keep in mind that unfurnished may mean that there is no refrigerator or washer and dryer, and conversely furnished may also include linens, dishes, etc.
Will your rent go up?
According to Costa Rican law, if you rent for as little as six months, your landlord is prohibited from raising your rent for the next three years, even when renting to foreigners (does not apply to short- term, vacation rentals).
In addition to utilities, the Internet and other services, check if the price includes condo fees. If you are renting in a condominium, ask for a copy of the bylaws and regulations to avoid potential conflict with neighbors. Before signing, present the landlord with a list of anything you might want fixed or changed – document by getting everything via email and photos!
Need anything else or help booking amazing rental properties - at a discount? Just email me anytime!
The Official Expat.
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