Thinking about moving to Costa Rica? That's a damn good decision in my opinion. But don't take my word for it, as I've been traveling there since 1999 and made the move there in 2011. So whether you're planning on retiring in Costa Rica, living there for part of the year, or just taking a nice vacation, here are 20 reasons why Costa Rica is the coolest country on earth!
1. It’s ecologically friendly
Costa Rica is considered one of the most ecologically conscious countries in the world, instituting a goal to be carbon neutral way back in 1997 – and coming close these days. In fact, Costa Rica is ranked no. 5 in the world on the Environmental Performance Index, the best country outside of Europe. It’s probably also the no. 1 eco-tourism destination in the world.
2. It has the oldest constitution in Central America
Costa Rica is the longest-standing democracy in Central America, thanks to a national constitution drafted in 1949. This governing document affords many rights and protections to its citizens, allowing Costa Rica to enjoy stable and peaceful growth. Costa Rica consistently ranks the highest of any Latin Nation on the Human Development Index and United Nations Development Program.
3. It’s a country with no army
With their progressive constitution in 1949, Costa Rica decided to ban any armed forces, making it one of only countries in the world without an army, still to this day.
4. A model education system
By investing in education instead of funding an army, Costa Rica now boasts a 96% literacy rate, the highest in Latin America. Their commitment to education has allowed them to attract good skilled jobs and boost income for their citizens.
5. Unmatched natural beauty
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. 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. Costa Rica is also known for its sloths and turtles, which can be seen in protected habitats and beaches. But if you’re more of a monkey, lizard, or exotic bird lover, Costa Rica will be your favorite place! In fact, the country became the first place in the Americas to ban recreational hunting.
7. Adventure sports galore
Zip lining, sky diving, jumping off waterfalls, repelling, exploring caves, horseback riding, 4×4 runs, jet skiing, and just about every other adventure sport you could imagine are all on the menu in Costa Rica.
The landmass of present day Costa Rica is the result of volcanic eruptions 75 million years ago – and still is active today. In fact, Costa Rica still has five listed active volcanoes and more than 200 volcanic formations. The most famous of these is Arenal Volcano, an easy day trip from San José. It last erupted in 1968, but it’s now considered safe and you can still enjoy the hot springs at its base.
9. Protected nature reserves
Costa Rica is on the forefront of environmental conservation, long ago protecting about 25% of their country as national parks. Manuel Antonio National Park on the west coast is the most famous, but Tortuguero National Park and La Amistad International Park are amazing, too.
10. A top surfing destination
Costa Rica is ranked as one of the three best surfing destinations in the world, home to year-round warm water and a unique microclimate that bring consistent offshore winds. Big competitions like the Billabong World Surfing Games are often hosted by Costa Rica, but even beginners can wax up their boards and catch some waves.
11. Their “pura vida” attitude
A common saying among locals is “pura vida,” which means “pure life.” Everywhere you go in Costa Rica you will be welcomed with a smile by the locals, and they will truly make you feel at home in their country.
12. It’s so close to the U.S. and Canada
One of the best benefits about Costa Rica is its close proximity to the United States and Canada. San José is only a 3-hour flight from Miami and 4 1⁄2 hours from New York, and there are more and more nonstop, cheap, and direct flights all the time.
13. The happiest country on earth
The World Database of Happiness ranks Costa Rica as the #1 happiest nation on earth out of 148 countries. (The United States ranks no. 20, by the way.)
14. Gender equality
According to the World Economic Forum, Costa Rica ranks higher than even the United States in the gender gap index. The female population is educated, enjoys advanced healthcare, voting, and employment equality. In fact, Costa Rica even had a female president recently.
15. Superb coffee and chocolate
Thanks to their mountain terrain and tropical weather, Costa Rica is known for producing some of the best coffee and chocolate in the world. Those just happen to be two of our favorite things!
16. A world-class healthcare system
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.
17. Modern and improving Infrastructure
Costa Rica has gone to great lengths to modernize and improve their infrastructure in the past decades. There are efficient international airports, paved highways connecting the country, and modern amenities in the capital of San José, as well as any popular touristy area.
18. Diving and marine life
Costa Rica has some of the best diving, snorkeling, and accessible marine life in the world, such as such the Cocos Island National Park (also a World Heritage Site), and the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refugee. In fact, Costa Rica’s oceans are home to at least 6,777 species, which is 3.5% of the known marine species on the planet!
19. Bull fights...that are safe for the bulls
Bullfights are a Costa Rican tradition at every small village festival and the grand events in San José. But unlike the bullfights in Spain and other countries, the bulls are never harmed in Costa Rica...although they do dish out some serious damage to whoever is brave enough to jump in the ring with them!
20. Costa Rica welcomes expats
People from all over the world choose to move down to Costa Rica and make it their new home. Retirees, surfers, young families, and those who just desire the simple, beachside life move there every year by the thousands – and Costa Ricans general welcome them with open arms.
To find out more about life as an expat in Costa Rica, download my free special report, “50 Facts About Moving to Costa Rica” here.
Are you serious about moving to Costa Rica? Download The Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook to answer all of your questions.
(This CRexpat.com article was published in the Huffington Post)
Costa Rica welcomes expats!
People from all over the world are choosing to move to the breathtakingly beautiful country of Costa Rica, making it their new home. In fact, every year, about 2.5 million tourists and visitors touch down in the nation ranked #1 on the World Happiness Index, and about 50,000 North American expats and retirees now live there permanently.
Whether they’re retirees, surfers, nature enthusiasts, young families, or those who just desire a simpler, sunny life by the beach, Ticos (what Costa Rican people are called) welcome them with open arms.
But life is not perfect in Costa Rica for expats and retirees – nor is it always easy or cheap. So you'd be wise to seek out plenty of practical information and honest advice before moving there.
Here are 12 facts about moving to Costa Rica to get you started:
1. If you’re going to move to Costa Rica, one of the biggest decisions you’ll make is where to live. While Costa Rica is typically divided into five regions: Central Valley, Gold Coast, Arenal, Southern Zone, and Central Pacific, the expat communities are strongest in the Central Valley, Gold Coast, and a little in the Southern Zone.
Towns like Jacó, Tamarindo, Dominical , Uvita, Ojochal, Escazu, Atenas, Grecia, and Puerto Viejo are most popular with expats.
2. Costa Rica has a modern and highly rated healthcare system, even more highly ranked than the United States. Costa Rican citizens enjoy universal health care insurance and have a life expectancy of 77 years, one of the highest in the world.
3. 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. A standard 90-day tourist visa allows you to buy an existing business, like a hotel or B&B, or to build your own.
4. 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.
5. U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica, only a valid U.S. passport (make sure it is still good for at least six months after your trip) and proof of a plane ticket to exit the country. Residents of the U.S., Canada, Australia, France, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, and many other countries do not need a visa, and can enter and stay for 90 days as a tourist.
6. It’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between citizenship and residency in Costa Rica Most people from North America/Europe will not qualify for citizenship. However, for those wanting to live the normal expat lifestyle in Costa Rica, having residency is sufficient under the law.
7. The amazing thing about buying real estate in Costa Rica is that foreigners and locals have the same rights and follow the same laws as Ticos. 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.
8. For those looking to rent an apartment or house, accommodations in Costa Rica can range from $400 to $900 for a simple apartment, $700 to $1,800 or more of a small house, and upwards of $2 or even $3k per month for larger homes, private villas, or luxury condos.
9. 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.
10. 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. 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.
11. 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.
12. You should be able to live modestly for a minimum of about $1,500 a month in Costa Rica, or $50 a day. However, Costa Rica shouldn’t be considered a “cheap” country to live in. A decent local standard of living for a single person is at about $1,500 to $2,000 a month.
While that is possible, if you add eating meals out at restaurants, drinking out or other entertainment, activities and side trips, I’d say you’d be far more comfortable at $2,500 - $3,500. Likewise, a retired couple can live comfortably for about $2,500 to $3,500 a month for two people including the cost of housing, food, transportation, medical care (that can vary greatly), and entertainment.
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