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,
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