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Costa Rica Retirement: What’s it like retiring to Costa Rica?

retirement advice for costa rica

 

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Costa Rica Is Perfect, Right?

No, and it's probably unreasonable to expect that any place where you can live on a social security income will be.

You will have to compromise.

what's it like to live in costa rica?

Our preferred vacation destinations were in the Caribbean. Maskall, Belize, Negril, Jamaica, Bridgetown, Barbados, Cancun, Mexico, Nassau / Bimini Bahamas were some of the spots where we vacationed. We usually chose 3-star destinations and tried to find local hot spots and marketplaces that closely represented living in these areas. The point is: we knew that we didn't require or expect the same amenities that many expect while on vacation.

Mexico? Belize? Panama?

We are warm weather people so we put these countries on our short list of places to retire:

  • Mexico
  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • Panama

After more research, we decided to make Costa Rica our first destination for due diligence for retirement living.

Wing It? Or Get a Guide?

While researching Costa Rica, one site popped up regularly in our search results: TheRealCostaRica.com. We decided that what worked best for us was to hire Tim to show us the area of Costa Rica where most expats live successfully. While captive with him in his car, we were lectured on "the real Costa Rica." Tim makes it clear from the get-go, he is not selling Costa Rica or anything else (real estate.)

Tim teaches expats what life is like in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. If you are thinking about retirement in Costa Rica, we recommend (with a caveat) hiring Tim to help you with your due diligence. If you don't hire him, at least thoroughly review his website. It is far and away the most complete and accurate and unbiased.retire overseas

It’s Costa Rica, Now What?

After taking a weeklong tour (two days with TheRealCostaRica.com and four days on our own) we returned home to do more soul-searching and research. For one reason or another, the other countries were eliminated and Costa Rica kept rising to the top.

Rent or Buy in Costa Rica?

We purchased a home near Atenas, Costa Rica. Here's why: we put our home on the market and three days later had an acceptable offer of 96% of our asking price with 90 days possession. We originally figured it would take 12-18 months to sell our home. When the house sold so quickly, it moved my retirement up. We had four dogs, renting a place for a year or so in the U.S. while we looked for a place to live in Costa Rica would be difficult.

All the advice is to rent before you buy. Even real estate agents offer this advice and most are property-managers for rental property owners. Renting has many advantages:

  • Flexibility to live in different parts of the country or even different parts of the same town.
  • Somebody else deals with home-ownership issues.
  • No maintenance.

With that said, renting a home in Costa Rica is not easy. Every person we have been in contact with has a horror story about their landlord or gardener or neighbors.

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Mark and Nancy Van Patten are in their mid-sixties and retired to Costa Rica in July 2011 to live on their social security income. He blogs at GoingLikeSixty.com about baby boomer stuff and living in Costa Rica and she blogs at KeepingYouInStitches.wordpress.com about knitting and other stitchery as well as her "adventures" in Costa Rica. If you have questions, please put them in the comments and they will respond - eventually. After all, they are retired... In friggin' COSTA RICA!

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8 Comments

  1. Don Reinhardt

    There's much food for thought in your article, but it does capture the essential points of interest to most readers, I think. I expect the movement from the US to other places will increase more and more each year.

    • Tina

      I absolutely agree. For one thing, living in Seattle is too cold for me. Long story... medical and boring. But, the cost of living in other countries is so much less than the US. So, I think you're right.

  2. Judy Kovacs

    Very interesting - thanks! Question - can you tell me why you discounted the other countries you were looking at? We're a few years from retirement and are also looking at Panama and perhaps Belize as well as CR.

    • Tina

      Judy,

      This is Tina. I will forward your question to the author. I'm curious, too, and I haven't had a chance to ask him. Mark is very upfront, so he's a good resource for answers.

      Cheers,

      Tina Boomerina

    • GoingLikeSixty

      Good for you for looking at all the alternatives.

      Belize and Panama have advantages over CR, but we felt CR was a better fit.

      In a nutshell, Belize is was too hot and wet year around. (Corozal is the area we considered. 200 inches of rain in the hurricane belt)

      Panama housing seemed too expensive. Since we have moved we have talked to a number of people who moved to Boquete or David Panama and they report that daily living is cheaper, but it rains a lot more than where we live in Costa Rica.

      Good luck,

      Mark

  3. Tina

    Garcinia,

    Thanks. I didn't write it. I live in the states, but the guy who wrote it is super. Might use your services when I get more articles on my site. Soon...

    Cheers,

    Tina Boomerina

  4. Retire in Costa Rica - International Living

    You certainly hit the nail on the head as far as the motivation that many have for moving to Costa Rica and the reality of scouting your location and settling in. And thanks for your unvarnished look at the pros and cons of the country. It really does offer a lot to North American retirees as far as low cost of living and great healthcare. But it is a different culture and it takes some getting used to.

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Dear Retire,

      I didn't write the article, but I'll try to pass on the message to the author, Mark Van Patten. He is very honest and forthright about the pros and cons.

      Best,

      Tina Boomerina