Costa Rica may be known for its perfect beaches and sunny climate, but the wildlife is even more remarkable in the Central American nation. Despite being only the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica is home to more than 500,000 different species, making up an astounding 4% of all the plant, insect and wildlife species on the entire Earth!
Today, I wanted to introduce you to some of the cool, cute, and even cuddly animals and species that you'll encounter in Costa Rica!
The three-toed sloth
Costa Rica may be best known for its exotic and unique animals like the Three-Toed Sloth. As you might guess, these jungle dwellers are incredibly slow on land (but good swimmers) and lazy (they sleep 16-18 hours a day), living high up in the canopy and descending only once a week to go to the bathroom! In fact, these sloths dig a hole in the ground with their stubby tails, go to the bathroom in the hole, and then cover it up with leaves using its hind legs.
Interestingly, they are homebodies, spending about 20% of their life in the same tree and never venturing too far.
Sea turtles can be found in many parts of the world, but Costa Rica boasts the greatest concentration and variety of any nation. In fact, five of the seven species of sea turtles nest on the beaches of the Central American nation, where you can find leatherbacks, green, loggerhead, and hawksbill. But the most famous of Costa Rican sea turtles if the olive ridley, also called the arribada, which is Spanish for “arrival by sea.”
An incredible natural ritual that’s worth witnessing in Costa Rica is when tens of thousands of sea turtles come to shore, laying their eggs in the sand before leaving en masse. This happens up to eight times a year, and even scientists haven’t figured out how they know when it’s time to do this. Approximately two months later, the eggs hatch and hundreds of thousands of newborn turtles make their way back to the ocean to swim away. There are plenty of beaches up and down the coast where you can see this, but the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best.
If you’ve spent some time in the lowlands or beaches of Costa Rica, you may have been woken up at an un-Godly hour by the ear-splitting shrieks and howls of nearby howler monkeys. In fact, these calls from the adult males can be heard for almost a mile away. They usually “howl” at sunset or sunrise in response to encountering people, rain, thunder, other monkeys, or even airplanes overhead, though some biologists think these noises are their way of communicating with the troop. While they are loud, they’re not dangerous, and you might see a whole family swinging from trees with their particularly long tails or picking leaves or fruit to eat. Howler monkeys make up 69% of the total primate population in Costa Rica.
Toucans sail and swoon through the sky in the Costa Rican rainforest, emitting a unique yipping call. You can usually distinguish their flight patterns from other birds because
they rise with a few flaps of their wings, but then the weight of their beaks pulls them down again, so they rarely fly in a straight line like other birds.
The Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan is largest species of toucan in Central America and eats fruit, insects, and an occasional small snake. In Costa Rica, they prefer the wet forest lowlands of the Caribbean and Cordillera de Talamanca up to Carara on the Pacific side of the country.
Mexican tree frogs
There are a stunning 193 species of frogs and toads from 14 families in Costa Rica, and Tree frogs account for about one-third of their numbers. The tree frog – or Smilisca baudini – is known for making a distinct sound often
described as the horn on a clown car. Despite being named after Mexico to the north, they do inhabit Costa Rica in large numbers and tourists can often hear them in jungle areas.
Costa Rica’s cloud forests, rainforests, and tropical dry forests are the perfect habitat for butterflies, or caligo eurilochus if you want to use their scientific name. In fact, Costa Rica is such a lepidopterist’s (butterfly watcher) dream because 90% of all the butterflies in Central American can be found in the country, as well as 18% of the world’s total butterfly species. That means Costa Rica has more butterflies than all of North America and Europe combined!
I hope you enjoyed these cute and cuddly critters, but don't get too comfortable out in the wild in Costa Rica.
In fact, there are a whole lot of exotic, dangerous, and even deadly animals, from crocodiles to poisonous frogs and more. I'll highlight them in a future blog or you can discover the flora and fauna of Costa Rica extensively in the Moving to Costa Rica Handbook!
When it comes to buying real estate back home, you’ve probably heard that the three most important factors are “location, location, and location.”
The same could be said for choosing the right place to move in Costa Rica (except it’s “lugar” in Spanish!). There is no one “right” location, as everyone values different things.
I suggest visiting as many places as you can and making a list of pros and cons based on the lifestyle and amenities you value most. For some, a lack of suitable roads, ATMs, stores and hotels, dependable Wi-Fi, and sporadic aircon will drive them nuts. For others, getting away from the hustle and bustle and getting as close to nature as possible is just what the doctor ordered!
But here are some great suggestions where to live in Costa Rica in places that are popular with expats.
First, let’s look at where you might want to live by region:
• Includes capital city of San José
• Plenty of well-established expat havens: San Ramon, Grecia,
Alajuela, and Atenas
• Ideal climate due to high altitude with year-round average
temperature in the 70s F
• Great existing communities for expats that have gyms,
restaurants, social clubs, theater groups, game nights
• Conveniently located near San José, go anywhere in the region in
1 to 1.5 hours
• Good infrastructure, amenities, and shopping with American-style
malls, super stores, and warehouse shopping
• Cultural heart of the country with the most theater, art galleries,
• Convenient to Costa Rica’s largest international airport just outside of San José
• Describes the northwest Guanacaste province of Costa Rica
• Most sunny days and the least rain in the entire country
• Ideal beach lifestyle and beach culture
• Good mix of Ticos and expats
• More relaxed and friendlier than San José, but the roads, amenities, and infrastructure are rougher
• Popular tourist places like Tamarindo can be expensive
• Rural, tranquil lifestyle
• Relatively underdeveloped a few B&Bs and small boutique hotels
• Nuevo Arenal is where most expats live, so you will find grocery
stores, pharmacies, and basic necessities
The Southern Zone
• Quintessential Costa Rica environment
• Some of the best beaches in the country
• Plenty of lush, exotic wildlife and nature
• Lacks big resorts or concentrated development
• Great opportunity to get in early on real estate or business before
• Infrastructure like roads and cell towers quickly catching up
• Home to Jacó
• More laid-back, tranquil surf spots like Esterillos, Bejuco, and
• Easy drive to the capital of San José
• Great secluded beaches like Punta Uva, Playa Chiquita and Manzanillo
• Perfect for fishing, watersports, and nature lovers
• Totally different Caribbean culture and vibe – almost like Jamaica
with Creole English commonly spoken
• Far less touristy and developed than the bustling Pacific Coast
• Real estate prices can get high right on the beach but cheaper
Some of the most popular cities, towns, and communities for expats in Costa Rica:
• Great shops and restaurants in the town
• Surfers should check out Hermosa and Esterillos Este
• Easily accessible day trips to great nature hikes
• Easy drive to San Jos
• Flooded with Ticos vacationers and expats on holidays, not the ideal spot for peace and quiet
• Some expats steer clear of Jacó because they see it as over- developed, touristy, and has “Little Vegas” resort town feel
• More drugs and crime
• Very popular spot for beach lovers and surfers
• Hanging on to that small village feel but plenty of shops,
restaurants, and amenities
• Strong and growing international community
• Some issues with petty crime and drugs
• Not an easy drive (3-4 hours) San José
• Closest big city is Liberia, 1.5 hours away with great international
• Not too far from Liberia to get to the Nicaraguan border for visa
• Very expensive place due to tourist activity
• Other expat communities nearby like Playa Coco
• Plenty of commercial activity, restaurants, and supermarkets
• Right along the Pan American Highway, and there are direct bus
lines to San José
• Beautiful mountains right along the coast
• Much less developed than other coastal area
• Great for nature lovers, more secluded and pristine nature but close access to necessities
• Lower cost of living than many other expat regions
• Tons of expat societies/organizations to welcome newcomers
• Very chill, slow-paced lifestyle
• An upscale suburb popular among expats
• Close to central San José
• For expats, most developed place to live for quality schools,
shopping, and western-style amenities
• Good climate with cooler temps and a little breeze that expats
really enjoy because it’s in the foothills
• Very safe community
• Some say expats have driven up prices and made it too
• Gated communities
• Dining and nightlife is limited - trade off with the small town vibe
• Good climate
• Not very exciting, residential
• Safe, convenient
• Small town on the Caribbean coast
• About 2-hour drive to San José
• Plenty of family and locally-run small hotels, lodges and
• Less expensive real estate
• Infrastructure isn’t as developed as resort towns on the Pacific
• Authentic, traditional Caribbean culture and vibe
• Amazing boating, fishing, and fresh seafood
I hope this helps!
Contact me if you need any more help and you can get a WHOLE lot more information in The Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook!
Foreigners can buy real estate in Costa Rica and own a piece of paradise!
Every year, about 2.5 million tourists and visitors touch down in Costa Rica, the beautiful tropical Central American nation, many of them from the U.S. and Canada. Whether they stay for mere days or weeks on end, they often want to find a way to spend a lot more time in Costa Rica.
In fact, a good number of North Americans end up transitioning to Costa Rica, retiring, opening a business, spending cold weather months in the warm, inviting climes, or even moving down south permanently.
Moving down to Costa Rica and renting is one thing, but when it comes to actually buying that idyllic seaside condo or breezy villa nestled in the mountains, foreigners face a lot of uncertainty. You should have lots of questions, but also vast potential for one of the best investments of your life – both financially and in your future health and happiness.
Foreigners should exercise extreme caution when buying property in Costa Rica, doing their homework and using an English-speaking multinational real estate agent and guide who can help them navigate through the sometimes-complex laws.
But here is the good news: foreigners can own real estate in Costa Rica free and clear. Looking back, many expats and Costa Rica lovers say that buying a property in paradise was the smartest thing they ever did.
Here are the 5 most common questions I hear from foreigners who want to buy real estate in Costa Rica:
1. Are property ownership laws different for foreigners and Costa Rica citizens?
The amazing thing about real estate in Costa Rica is that foreigners and locals have exactly the same rights and follow the same laws – which presents a rare and unique opportunity for foreign investors.
In fact, property ownership is protected by the Costa Rican constitution. You don’t even need to live in Costa Rica to buy property or own land – you can buy and own outright with a tourist visa.
2. Do I need a Costa Rican business partner to own land in Costa Rica?
Not for the vast majority of property sales, however, there is one possibility where this would be a requirement, which I cover in detail in the full Moving to Costa Rica Handbook.
3. Should I buy property under my own name, or form a corporation to hold title?
You can hold a title under your own name. However, it’s recommended you look into acquiring property through a corporation (also called a Holding Company), which will give you plenty of legal benefits. Holding the property in this corporation will reduce your potential personal liability, help the closing procedure, and allow for easier sale, transfer, or mortgage in the future, as well as ease the process of registering for utilities like electricity, water, etc.
4. Can foreigners own real estate on the beach?
Pay attention to these clear restrictions and specific regulations.
Here’s how it works:
• No one can own property within 50 meters of the ocean (measured horizontally from the high tide line), which is public domain and protected by the Costa Rican government
• Property located past those first 50 meters but within 200 meters from the median high tide mark is in the Maritime Terrestrial Zone and called Concession property
• You can develop Concession property, but it requires a special grant from the local municipality
• Within this Concession property, native Costa Ricans do hold advantages and special rights over foreigners. For instance, non-resident foreigners can own up to 49% of leased beach property, but the remaining 51% must be owned by a Costa Rican citizen, resident, or corporation.
• These rules apply both on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
• While this may seem complex, there are plenty of mutually beneficial arrangements that aid foreigners in safely and profitably investing in ocean front real estate in Costa Rica, especially condominiums and other similar projects.
5. How can I finance my Costa Rican purchase?
It’s possible to get a mortgage loan with a Costa Rican bank, but most foreigners upon looking into the arduous process and mountains of paperwork decide to pursue other avenues for financing. It’s just simply usually ends up being too hard to qualify, it can take months before a decision is rendered, and the banks charge exorbitant fees by U.S. and Canadian standards.
An interesting side note: one of the reasons why Costa Rica is so stable is because their banking system doesn’t recklessly or easily lend money – something the U.S. could learn from!
But there is a way to finance your real estate purchase in Costa Rica quickly, affordably, and surprisingly simply!
Just purchase the Moving to Costa Rica Handbook and check out our comprehensive section on buying and financing property in Costa Rica.
Or, feel free to email me if you have ANY questions about purchasing real estate in Costa Rica - I'm happy to help!
Every year, 6.6 million U.S. citizens call another country home - including Costa Rica but many others, too.
We do so for a variety of reasons -- work assignments, warmer climates and better medical care, and a cheaper cost of living for example. But whatever the reason for buying a one-way ticket and becoming an expatriate, there are some important choices to make once we get there.
I’ve been lucky enough to live in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and travel all over the world to 47 countries on six continents and counting. I’ve also met expatriates almost everywhere I traveled, and picked their brains every chance I got.
So, if you’re considering a similar move abroad, here are some things to consider:
1. The language barrier
Communication is something we take for granted, but when you are in a foreign country you might not be able to walk right up to someone and express yourself... or ask for life’s essentials, like the bathroom, and beer. You’ll want to study and practice the language as much as possible before you go. Also, taking intensive language lessons once you arrive is a great way to meet people and ease the linguistic transition.
2. Where to go?
There are many factors that go into your choice of a new home country: climate, political stability, crime, proximity to the U.S. for a quick flight home, cost, language and customs, etc. Many people chose to expatriate to places like Panama, Costa Rica, Belize, or the Philippines for these reasons.
3. Taxes, insurance, and other nuts and bolts
Even when you’re living in another country, the IRS expects you to pay U.S. taxes as long as you’re a citizen and make income. You’ll probably also want to stay current with your U.S. health insurance, and many people conveniently forget to tell them that you don’t live in the U.S. anymore so it doesn’t cause complications. You can bank online and pay bills online these days with e-statements, but you can also get your stateside mail sent to a relative or to a post office box.
4. Medical care
It’s important to be aware of the medical services available in your communities, and how they are rated for quality and consistency, as well as access to prescription medications. Many seniors who are expats want to live in countries with medical care that is much less expensive than in the U.S. Luckily, that is most of the world.
5. Buying real estate (or a business, a car, etc.)
Your first instinct may be to plant “roots” by purchasing a home, a car, etc. but I’ve found it’s best to give it some time. Don’t make any major purchases for at least a year until you thoroughly learn the local culture, customs, and business climate. There can be some complex and Draconian rules when it comes to property and vehicle ownership, as well as bizarre registration and paperwork demands.
People get ripped off or make bad decisions all the time, so give it some time until you’re a seasoned expat and enlist the advice of a trusted local. You’ll also want to weigh out the import taxes and costs of having things like a car or furniture shipped down to you, or buying them locally.
The reality is that you have to be careful no matter where you are in the world, but with some common sense, you can stay super safe in Costa Rica. Don’t walk around with expensive (or probably any) jewelry, don’t show off valuables, don’t go into bad areas, befriend locals to show you around and watch after you, always respect others, don’t walk around late at night or get too drunk, and get a dog!
Every country (including and especially the U.S.!) suffers from street crime. But you want to avoid countries where there’s political upheaval or religious extremist groups — and Costa Rica definitely doesn’t have those problems.
7. Working, making money, and doing business
Many expats find out that life isn’t quite as cheap as they anticipated and the savings goes fast, so you’ll have some decisions to make about earning money. But do you try and open a local business? Try to keep working in the U.S., doing your job remotely from your new home country? Or jump into tourism?
Do your research and go for a low-risk consistent paycheck, not a venture that requires a huge up-front investment of time and money. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen open bikini or surf shops, bars or restaurants, but six months later they’re broke, stressed and out of business. Keep it simple.
Technology will be an invaluable tool as you try to stay connected to friends and family, do business, and get things done from your new country. With some adjustment and planning technology will be your best friend. Get a local cell phone. Almost every bar and restaurant has Wi-Fi, so iPads, laptops, iPhones (with your U.S. network turned off!), and e- readers can all be used as mini computers to keep you rocking and rolling.
Applications like Skype, Netflix, WhatsApp, Internet calling apps, language translators, currency converters, and GPS make your life easier. And a GoPro camera or drone will be super fun in Costa Rica!
9. Blending into the local community
Assimilating to the local culture is a long-term challenge, but also a constant source of connection, humor, and fascination. Be naturally curious and open to being outside of your comfort zone. Say hello and show respect to everyone, learn the local sayings, the customs, celebrate the holidays, make local friends, and even get in good with the police and officials. Attending religious services and volunteering to do charity work are great ways to foster good will and positive karma.
10. Residency and Visas
Some expats want to become citizens of their new nation; some are content staying there on extended tourist visas. If that’s the case, you might have some shuffling to do over the border to renew your visa every 90 days.
Sometimes, there are huge benefits to becoming a citizen, while for others, it’s just not worth it. So do your homework and talk to other expats because it could be a lengthy and expensive process to establish residency.
-The Official Expat,
Find out everything you need to know about moving to Costa Rica - or abroad - with my Official Expat Handbook.
Google and the other search engines receive hundreds of thousands of inquiries about Costa Rica every day. I'll share the top ten Google queries (with my answers), starting with the first five today and the next five in weeks to come.
The top 10 Google queries about Costa Rica:
1. 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! But the good news is that the country is relatively small, so intrepid travelers can visit a whole lot of destinations in a short time. 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.
2. Where is the best beach in Costa Rica?
Visitors tend to love different beaches for different reasons: diving and snorkeling, surfing, turtle and whale watching, remote jungle expeditions, or white sand and fruity drinks under an umbrella. Some of the best beaches in the country include Playa Uvita, Manuel Antonio, Samara, Tortuguero, Tamarindo, in and around Jacó, Cahuita, Malpais, Montezuma, Playa Cocles, and Playa Gandoca, just to name a few.
3. What’s the best time of year to visit Costa Rica?
There aren’t summers and winters in Costa Rica like in northern climates, but rainy and dry seasons. The dry season usually runs from mid-November until around May, while the rainy season lasts May into November. December and January are probably the best weather months, but also it’s the time of year where you’ll encounter the most crowds and higher prices. There really isn’t a bad time to visit Costa Rica, as even a little tropical afternoon rain won’t slow down your plans at all. But October tends to be the month with the most rain, so maybe plan your vacation before or after (unless you want huge discounts and no crowds!)
4. Is Costa Rica safe?
Costa Rica can be considered a safe country, but it’s important to use common sense and act responsibly at all times, just like you would in your home country. Travelers who run into problems are usually doing something illegal, wandering around drunk at night, in a place they shouldn’t be, or not keeping their wits about them. Just for peace of mind, you should look into a cheap and easy travel insurance policy for your vacation.
5. Where is the best place to see wildlife in Costa Rica?
Whales, dolphins, sloths, turtles, monkeys, toucans, and many other exotic birds and fish are on display in Costa Rica, which is one of the most ecologically diverse land masses in the world despite its small size.
Depending on what you want to see, Playa Ostional, Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas, Tortuguero National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, Osa Peninsula, Drake Bay, Quepos and Manuel Antonio, Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Manzanillo, Nicoya Peninsula, Gulf of Papagayo, Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, Cahuita National Park, Finca Baru Wildlife Refuge, Camaronal Wildlife Refuge, Manuel Antonio National Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Santa Elena cloud forests in Puntarenas, Santa Rosa National Park, and La Selva Biological Station are all great options for spotting wildlife.
Drop us an email with what animal you’re most hoping to encounter and we’ll be happy to guide you.
Look for the next five Google queries in part two, or just email me if you have any questions.
And you can always turn to the #1 resource in the world for moving to Costa Rica, the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook.
With all of the emails I get from people thinking about moving to Costa Rica, one of the three most common questions is always about healthcare.
It’s not hard to fathom why (they’re usually from the U.S.A. – not Canada, of course) with health insurance premiums and prescription drug prices skyrocketing in the ever-more confusing and ineffective system of medical care in the states.
So, what can you really expect when it comes to healthcare if and when you relocate to Costa Rica?
The great news is that Costa Rica has a top notch system of medical care with plenty of options for expats, from utilizing their state-run socialized system for residents, opting for affordable private healthcare insurance, paying out-of-pocket, or mixing in a combination of U.S. and travel insurance coverage.
You should be encouraged by the quality of Costa Rican medicine, too. It’s no coincidence that Costa Ricans are some of the healthiest people in the world, with higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates than those in the United States. In fact, the World Health Organization frequently ranks Costa Rica well ahead of the United States and all other Central American countries for healthcare.
The amazing thing is that Costa Rica earns all of these accolades for its medical care even though healthcare spending is 87% less per capita than in the U.S.!
So as an expat, resident or just visitor to Costa Rica, you’ll enjoy great quality care for surprisingly reasonable prices.
La Caja, Costa Rica’s national healthcare system:
The state-run health system is called the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, or CCSS. However, you’ll almost always hear it referred to as, “la Caja” or just “Caja.”
It includes medical care in any of the 30 hospitals and 250 clinics throughout Costa Rica in this government-sponsored network.
All citizens and legal residents to Costa Rica get access to Caja.
Each member is required to pay a small monthly fee into Caja based on their individual income.
Costa Rican employees each pay 9% tax to fund this health insurance, with employers paying an additional 18%.
Tourists are eligible and should ensure they have adequate health insurance. However, tourists won’t be turned away from Caja medical facilities in case of emergencies.
But for those expats who plan on retiring or living in Costa Rica, it probably is worth it to establish residency, and therefore get access to low-cost medical care through Caja.
In fact, if you’re going to be a legal resident of Costa Rica, paying into Caja is REQUIRED – you can’t get any form of residency without proof of existing Caja coverage.
You just need to show at least $1,000 monthly income from Social Security, a pension, disability, or any other source to qualify for pensionado (retiree) residency status. Your spouse can even qualify as well.
Once you’re a resident, you’ll only need to pay the low monthly fee based on your income (usually between $60 and $120 for modest incomes) to join Caja.
As a member, you’ll enjoy all the benefits of Costa Rica’s public healthcare system, including free doctor’s visits, diagnostic testing, prescriptions, dental, eye health, and even major surgeries.
There’s no upper limit on the annual amounts paid out by the plan for your healthcare – and you’ll never just be canceled or see your premiums balloon like in the U.S.
An individual doctor and clinic are assigned to each patient, but you can arrange to bill for Caja through many private doctors and hospitals, too.
What’s the downside of Caja?
While it is highly accessible and inexpensive, remember that Caja is socialized medicine. You’ll probably still find it more efficient and user- friendly than many U.S. health plans, but do be prepared for long lines and generic medicines.
Wait times for testing like ultrasounds, CT scans, etc., can be weeks or months in non-emergency situations, and you may have long waits to schedule advanced surgeries or appointments with specialists. However, for the vast majority of low-middle income groups, Caja is a fantastic medical care option.
You’ll find that many of the doctors speak English, but most of the nurses and administrative staff do not, which can prove difficult when it comes time to talking about medical diagnosis and options. So you may want to bring a local Tico with you to help with translation.
Coming up in future blogs, I’ll cover health insurance options for expats in Costa Rica (more good news!), dentistry in this country, as well as typical costs for procedures and surgeries.
The Official Expat,
Want the full prognosis on medical care, health insurance, and other aspects of living as an expat in Costa Rica?
Check out The Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook!
If you're thinking of moving to Costa Rica or just visiting, you may have a lot of questions. For instance, what's the main city? (San Jose.) When is the rainy season? (Around May to November)? What currency of money do they use in Costa Rica? (Colónes.) And how about plugs for electronics and appliances? (110-120 Volts and you probably will need an adapter.)
Want more fast facts about Costa Rica?
Country profile: Costa Rica
Roman Catholicism, but freedom of religion is well respected
Costa Rican Colón (CRC)
Is drinking the water safe?
The water is potable in most of the country. Tourists are safe using the water to brush their teeth, take a shower, etc. However, I recommend using bottled water to consume, especially in rural or coastal areas
$29 USD Country borders: Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east
51,100 square kilometers or 19,653 square miles. To give you an idea, it’s slightly smaller than West Virginia and the 128th largest country in the world
Tropical and subtropical
Dry season is December to April; rainy season is May to November
Government: Unitary presidential constitutional republic
Capital: San José
Voltage: 110-120 Volts (Same as U.S./Canada) or most other areas are 220-240 Volts)
Primary Socket Types:
North American Non-Grounded, North American Grounded
Please note that these may not be identical to U.S./Canadian sockets, and may require an adapter.
Carlos Alvarado Quesada
Tourist revenue: $2.6 billion, with an 8.3% yearly increase
Number of visitors:
2.66 million- a 9% increase from the previous year
Percentage of foreign arrivals:
Calling country code: 506
Driving: in the right lane
Common natural hazards:
Ethnic profile (by percentage):
White or Mestizo: 83.6
Mixed ethnic background: 6.7
Black or African descent: 1.1
Religious profile (by percentage):
Roman Catholic: 76.3
Jehovah’s Witness: 1.3
Other Protestant: 0.7
76.8% of total population concentrated in urban areas
97.8% of population over age 15 can read and write
The name Costa Rica means “rich coast” in Spanish and was first applied in the early colonial period of the 16th century.
Costa Rica’s seven provinces:
Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, San José
A non-military nation:
Costa Rica is the only country in the world without an army or military of any kind
Ranges from humid lowland jungles to arid, bare mountain
Length of the Pacific Coastline:
Length of the Caribbean Coastline:
Costa Rica’s national tree:
Guaria morada, orchid
Need more great information about Costa Rica? Check out the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook - the #1 resource anywhere in the world for making the move to Costa Rica or just visiting!
As you start thinking about moving to Costa Rica, your mind might be preoccupied with thoughts of what you’ll do with income, where you’ll live, and how easily you can get by with limited Spanish. But, eventually, your thoughts will come to the possibility of leaving a beloved four-legged family member behind.
Should you cancel the move/trip/vacation to Costa Ricabecause you can’t bring Fido/Spot/Fluffy along?
Don’t dismay, because your family dog, cat or other pet can come with you to live in Costa Rica – if you’re willing to follow the correct procedures and regulations. Here are some tips and resources for bringing the family pet into Costa Rica as you make the move:
So you want to transport your dog down to Costa Rica, but where do you start? If you’re from the U.S., one of the best resources you’ll find that spells out all of the procedures is the United States embassy to Costa Rica’s website.
According to the Costa Rican authorities:
“The dog or cat must be accompanied by a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian, and endorsed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Veterinary Services (VS) veterinarian.”
You’ll also need a certificate statement from a vet that says, “The dog/cat was examined and found to be healthy and free of any clinical signs of infectious disease.” This should be done within 2 weeks before you leave for Costa Rica.
That includes treatment for ticks and tapeworms. For vaccinations, dogs should be vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, Leptospirosis, parvovirus, and rabies, while cats need to be vaccinated against rabies.
The rabies vaccination certificate must be included with the health documents and be valid for 1 or 3 years.
Use the International Certificate (APHIS FORM 7001) for Small Animals. Within 14 days of arriving, a licensed vet must complete the pet’s Veterinary Certificate for Costa Rica. You’ll be required to have a copy translated into Spanish.
That form must be endorsed by your state USDA office (if you’re from the US) or local CFIA office (if you’re coming from Canada.)
The animal’s health certificate needs to be stamped by the Costa Rican Consular office but doesn’t need to be signed by a Notary Public. However, don’t make out the certificate in duplicate.
All of this documentation will be carefully reviewed once you arrive in Costa Rica, so make sure it’s correct.
You’ll want to notify veterinary officials at your arrival airport so they’ll be ready to inspect your pet upon landing without a big wait. All dogs and cats must be free from any signs of communicable diseases and in good apparent health. If not, you’ll be ordered to have them inspected further by a Costa Rica veterinarian at your expense.
It’s also not a bad idea to carry a personal letter that documents your pet’s market value.
You’re allowed to bring up to five personal pets into Costa Rica without an import permit.
A blood titer test is not required to enter Costa Rica and there are no banned breeds that cannot enter the country.
If you have a pet other than a dog or cat, like a rabbit, guinea pig, etc., you’ll need an import permit to transport them into Costa Rica.
Unfortunately, exotic pets are not permitted entry to Costa Rica. Make sure the species is not protected under including turtles, parrots, and many others. Consult the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to find out.
Of course, you should carefully research your airline’s specific policies and procedures for transporting pets.
Even if you’re sending your pet along on a different flight or any other class of service, you’ll need to obtain an Import Permit.
While it’s not required, you may consider getting your pet fitted with a microchip before you travel, so it can be found and identified if ever lost in its new environment. Remember that pets will be a little freaked out by their new surroundings, too, and may bolt or get lost, so even if you don’t get them micro chipped, get tags made with your name, new address, and contact info in Spanish and English.
The hot and humid tropical climate may be a big change for you, but it can be an even bigger shock to your pet’s system. So make sure they always have a cool place to take shelter and hang out, especially in the first few weeks, provide lots of water, and help them explore their new environment by taking them on walks every day.
However, keep dogs on the leash at first until they’ve grown accustomed to their new home, as cars (not as merciful as drivers in the US), stray dogs, and even different plants and critters like poisonous frogs could pose a threat.
While most pet supplies and foods can be found in stores in the bigger cities, it may be hard to get familiar things when you’re living in the countryside or smaller coastal towns. So plan on bringing any essentials, and making supply runs as needed when you go to San José or the city.
No matter where you end up relocating in Costa Rica, it’s a good idea to locate your neighborhood veterinarian and bring your pet in just to say hello, meet them and get their contact info/hours of operation, etc. and get the pet’s medical history on file.
If you think this information was helpful, you'll find WAY more of the same in
The Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook.
Enjoy your move to Costa Rica!
Want to work virtually from Costa Rica and still make big money? Check out this exclusive interview with Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs.com
The dream is to live on a white sand beach in Costa Rica, but to do that, you still need to make a living.
There are many ways to earn a healthy income while living in Costa Rica, but my favorite is to still work virtually from the U.S. or Canada, where you’ll enjoy time flexibility, higher wages, and you’ll never have to change out of your flip flops for business shoes again.
In order to bring you a rare inside look from one of the world’s authorities on virtual work, I had the honor of personally interviewing Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of Flexjobs.com.
I hope Ms. Sutton Fell’s insight and wisdom answers a lot of your questions and encourages you to build your virtual career!
Norm Schriever from CRexpat.com: Sara, how would you define virtual or stay-at-home careers?
Sara Sutton Fell: Virtual or stay-at-home careers include a wide variety of terms that all come to the same conclusion —a job where your primary place of work is NOT a traditional office, but your home office. Other terms that essentially mean the same thing include telecommuting, virtual job, telework, and remote job.
CRexpat: Do you see a rise in virtual careers?
Sara Sutton Fell: Absolutely!
As technology makes it easier and easier for people to work from a variety of locations away from the office, virtual careers are becoming more popular and more mainstream. According to the Telework Research Network, there has been a 60% increase in the number of people telecommuting for work since 2005. At FlexJobs, we’ve seen the number of open telecommuting and flexible job listings increase over 50% since the end of 2011 and now, going from around 7,000 active listings to 14,800 currently.
CRexpat: What is the best way to go about finding these jobs?
Sara Sutton Fell: Of course, we think FlexJobs is a pretty great resource!
Unlike other job search websites, FlexJobs specializes in finding, screening, and listing only telecommuting and flexible jobs, and we pre-screen every job and employer before adding them to our site.
No matter where a job seeker searches for virtual or telecommuting jobs, they should know to use keywords like telecommuting, virtual job, and remote job. Phrases like “work from home” and “work at home” are commonly associated with scams.
CRexpat: What is the biggest mistake people make or pitfall in getting a virtual job?
Sara Sutton Fell: The biggest mistake people can make when looking for virtual work is to not pay attention to the scams in this niche. While many legitimate at-home jobs do exist, there are a huge number of scams out there, so job seekers need to stay alert and educate themselves on those scams and how to spot them.
At FlexJobs, we help job seekers identify the legitimate, professional- level virtual jobs amid all the scams. Our team of job researchers scour hundreds of job listings every day to weed out scams and find the legitimate listings, which get posted on our site for job seekers to view.
CRexpat: Can you give us a little more information on that?
Sara Sutton Fell: Some examples for job seekers to steer clear of scams: Jobs that sound too good to be true, that promise easy money for no work, that ask you to “invest” or pay to get the job, that require wire transfers through Western Union, or that just sound “off” should be avoided
CRexpat: Where/who are your employers?
Sara Sutton Fell: We have over 3,300 employers with open job postings on our site, and over 20,000 who have posted jobs in the past. They are large and small, from Fortune 500 companies to start- ups and nonprofits.
We mainly have employers from throughout the United States, and we also have companies based in Canada, Australia, the UK, and other international locations. Some of the most widely recognized names of employers who use FlexJobs to recruit virtual job seekers include: IBM, Capital One, AT&T, Rosetta Stone, the IRS, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, TripAdvisor.com, and Kelly Services.
CRexpat: And where are your clients?
Sara Sutton Fell: Like our employers, our job seekers are located throughout the United States, with some living internationally as well. According to a survey we did last year, 77% say they live near a big city, and California (11.7%), Colorado (7.7%), and Texas (6.6%) had the most respondents, though we do have job seekers from all 50 states.
CRexpat: What advantages do job seekers get by using your company?
Sara Sutton Fell: To put it simply, we make searching for a legitimate virtual job easier, faster, and safer.
Because our team of job researchers is doing the hardest work for our job seekers -- spending hundreds of hours every week searching for, screening, and verifying virtual job listings -- our members can spend the majority of their job search time crafting excellent applications, rather than scouring through hundreds of job listings every day.
On FlexJobs, job seekers have access to thousands of pre-screened, legitimate, and professional-level telecommuting and flexible jobs, as well as our Company Database where they can research thousands of employers who offer telecommuting and flexible jobs, and our Community area with hundreds of articles, videos, and advice columns to help their job search and career development.
FlexJobs is the leading job search service of our kind, and we are 100% dedicated to our job-seeking members.
CRexpat: Thank you, Sara - and I'm sure all of the people living in Costa Rica and working virtually would love to thank you, too!
Ready for more life-changing insights that will help you move down to Costa Rica, find virtual work, and start living again?
Go to CRexpat.com for the full handbook.
You’ll probably guess that my favorite thing about living in Costa Rica is being right by the beach, where I can swim, play, and (try to) surf endlessly. Or, it could be the perfect tropical climate, with sunshine every day and gentle sea breezes at night.
A more practical person might even surmise that it’s living in paradise for about half the cost of the United States.
Don’t get me wrong; all of these things are wonderful. Every day, I’m reminded how lucky I am to live in a place where other people come for vacation.
But for me, none of those are the best part of living in Costa Rica. You might laugh when I tell you because it seems like such a small thing.
My favorite thing about living here is walking through town each morning, saying hello to people.
I'm an early riser (the roosters help with that), and the first thing I do is throw on my swim shorts, slip on my flip flops, and take a stroll down to the beach.
This early, the sun is just starting to peak over the palm trees and warm the dirt roads. But there are already a lot of people out, like me. I say hi to them all.
Every morning, I pass the same abuela – grandmother - sweeping in her front yard, and we exchange a friendly “Buenos dias.”
I see the same surfers walking barefoot to the beach, their board balanced under one arm, and we acknowledge each other’s presence with a simple nod.
A talkative expat from New York walks his Chocolate Labrador on the same route every morning, and I stop to pet him (the dog – not the expat!)
I always stop by my favorite coffee shop, Saritas, for a few laughs and updates on the village gossip before I fill my mug and keep walking. I pass the nice French couple that just opened a dive shop, the young teacher from San Francisco on her way to school, and the Tico farmers in their fruit truck, selling ripe mangos, bananas, and coconuts. Finally, I make it to the beach.
There are people jogging on the cool sand, kids splashing in the waves, and surfers paddling out to catch the next set. People walk their dogs, drink their coffee, and sit on lawn chairs, watching the ends of their fishing poles for signs of a nibble.
I greet everyone I run into, whether by stopping and chatting, a quick hello, or just with a warm smile.
It’s comforting to know that these people are always here; always around me; like a big family.
I’m part of their lives, just like they’re part of mine, and it feels like we all belong here.
Maybe that’s the sense of community and oneness that has slowly slipped away in modern U.S. life?
Either way, THAT’S my favorite part of living in Costa Rica!
For you, it probably will be something different.
Or, most likely, you’ll have 100 favorite things and can’t decide which one is most endearing.
And I’d love to hear about them!
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