This article looks at the 12 best places to retire in Costa Rica. If you want to skip our detailed analysis of the economic landscape of Costa Rica and its allure for U.S Expatriates, go to the 5 Best Places to Retire in Costa Rica.
Economic Landscape of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a beautiful country in Central America, with coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific. It is exemplified by lush rainforests, diverse wildlife, and picturesque beaches, making it a stunning natural paradise. The upper-middle-income country has demonstrated steady economic growth over the past 25 years. However, in 2020, Costa Rica experienced its most significant decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), contracting by 4.1% primarily as a result of the pandemic. This decline resulted from less foreign demand for goods and services, a drop in tourism, and logistical delays.
In 2021, the country experienced a robust economic rebound, with GDP surging by 7.8%. As of 2023, growth is anticipated to moderate to 2.7%. Owing to its well-educated labor force, living conditions, low levels of corruption, physical location, attractive trade-free zone initiatives, and dynamic investment promotion board, the country holds a strong appeal to investors. The Costa Rican Central Bank reported the inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to be an estimated $1.7 billion in 2020.
Moreover, FDI Intelligence reports that Costa Rica, North Macedonia, and the UAE were the world's best foreign direct investment (FDI) performers relative to the size of their economies in 2022. Foreign direct investment inflow in 2022 as estimated by the Costa Rican Central Bank was $3.045 billion, or 4.45% of GDP. The last two decades have also been remarkably successful in establishing and promoting a well-founded business ecosystem.
However, the U.S. Department of State notes that some factors threaten the Costa Rican business climate, namely, high energy costs, deteriorating infrastructure, and underperformance of crucial government service provisions such as healthcare. Its political and economic leadership needs help exercising budget discipline while simultaneously responding to demands for improved government-provided infrastructure and services.
Nevertheless, the country has taken great leaps to diversify and improve its economy. It is home to more than 300 high-tech companies and 29 of the Fortune 100 companies. These companies include Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company (NYSE:HPE), The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), amongst others. Many of these companies have been investing in the country as well, such as Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC). According to NASDAQ, Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) aims to invest $1.2 billion in Costa Rica over the next two years.
Costa Rica's Allure for U.S. Expatriates
Owing to the promising business and economic landscape, natural beauty, and low cost of living, Costa Rica has been witnessing a significant influx of immigrants from around the world. It is also one of the easiest countries to retire to, which is why many expats choose to move here. According to the Costa Rica Immigration Experts, as many as 120,000 U.S. expatriates live in Costa Rica, many of them as retirees. A lot of these retirees choose to live in the Central Valley in the country, often regarded as one of the best places to retire in Costa Rica from the USA.
Retirees are also flocking to Costa Rica because of its pleasant climate, lush rainforests, and serene coastlines. For this reason, we have established an entire list of the best places to retire in Costa Rica for retirees. The country is a popular choice for many who want to move from their countries in hopes of stretching their retirement incomes further. Retiring to Costa Rica has many pros and cons, too. For starters, Costa Rica boasts the highest standard of living compared to other Central American countries.
There are top-notch amenities available, such as healthcare, communications, dining, galleries, and theaters. Moreover, the people in Costa Rica have access to both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The Central Valley, for instance, boasts year-round spring-like temperatures that average around 74ºF (23ºC). There is also a sizable expat community, so retirees will find it easier to socialize and integrate into the community.
However, retirees may also need some help retiring in Costa Rica. For instance, some areas face frequent power outages and slow internet connections. Road conditions are poor in some parts of the country, and there is potentially heavy traffic in a big city like San Jose. Moreover, the pace of life is relatively slow here. This might be fine for retirees who wish to make the move for some peace and quiet.
Investing in Costa Rica from Abroad
Since Costa Rica boasts a positive business and economic climate on the whole, many investors may like to invest in it, either from within the country or from outside the U.S. Investing in Costa Rica from abroad is very much possible, and there is more than one way to do so. One popular choice for retirees and snowbirds is buying residential real estate, as the country offers a vast choice of vacation and retirement homes.
The country also has an extremely low property tax rate of 0.25% of the registered property's value, making it an excellent incentive for retirees who want their dollars to stretch further. Home buyers can choose from mountainsides, lakefronts, and even beaches to purchase real estate in the country.
Real Estate Investment Funds (REITs) are one way of investing in Costa Rica without having to buy a property. The only US-accredited fund that operates here is the Costa Rica REIT. Costa Rica REIT focuses on vacation rental investments and offers clients the opportunity to invest in Costa Rica properties at a discount. Individuals can also choose to start a business in the country, owing to the country’s geographic “free zones” with special tax breaks and similar incentives that aim to invite job-creating businesses.
Lastly, individuals can also choose to invest in Costa Rican stocks. Known as the Bolsa Nacional de Valores, Costa Rica's stock exchange is extremely small and has about 60 companies listing stocks. The stock market has little liquidity compared to other markets, so it isn't as lucrative. Other countries offer easier access to foreign stock investors through an American deposit receipt (ADR) or an exchange-traded fund (ETF). Unfortunately, Costa Rica does not have an ADR or ETF.
To compile the list of best places to retire in Costa Rica, we have used a total of 10 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) sources. We also surveyed several expat forums to determine expat experiences and opinions regarding the best places to retire in Costa Rica.
A consensus approach was used to determine the best places. Each time a source mentioned a place, it was awarded one point. Scores were added, and places were ranked in an ascending order from the lowest to the highest scores.
The cost of living discussed is for a single expat retiree living in the country per month. Rents mentioned are for one-bedroom apartments in the city/town centers. Figures have been sourced from Nomad List, and International Living, amongst others.
Here are the best places to retire in Costa Rica:
Insider Monkey Score: 2
Montezuma, a charming Bohemian beach town, is one of the best places to retire in Costa Rica. The town is in the southern part of Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula. Retirees are attracted to the Bohemian laid-back lifestyle, embracing a "pura vida" (pure life) philosophy. The town is also comparatively affordable compared to the rest of Costa Rica. Rents for a one-bedroom apartment in the town are around $500 on average, while the overall cost of living for a single expat retiree is $1,500.
11. Puerto Viejo
Insider Monkey Score: 3
Another popular retirement destination in Costa Rica is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. This picturesque town is located on the Caribbean coast of the country, brimming with lush rainforests, serene beaches, and vibrant coral reefs. The town is ideal for retirees who wish to focus on their health and well-being, as it is home to several holistic healing centers, yoga retreats, and organic food options. Puerto Viejo is also affordable; a single expat retiree can manage to live on $1,608 monthly.
Insider Monkey Score: 3
Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast is home to a beautiful town called Quepos. The town is an ideal place for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Some of the many activities retirees enjoy here include snorkeling, hiking, fishing, surfing, and wildlife viewing. The town also offers quality healthcare services. Moreover, the local culture is easy to integrate in. The climate is tropical, with pleasant temperatures all around the year. Typical tico houses are available between $39,000 and $69,000, while monthly rentals are available for $300 to $400. Overall cost of living is between $1,150 to $2,300.
9. Puerto Limón
Insider Monkey Score: 4
Puerto Limón, the capital city of Limon province, is another of the best places to retire in Costa Rica. The city is known for its stunning natural beauty, Caribbean culture, and cultural diversity. Several cultural events and festivals are hosted in the city throughout the year. Its location on the Caribbean coast also allows retirees to enjoy coastal living. A couple can live a moderate lifestyle in the city for $2,360, while a single expat retiree can do so for $1,500.
Insider Monkey Score: 4
Heredia is the fourth largest city in Costa Rica. The city is a popular retirement destination in Costa Rica due to its natural beauty, affordability, and modern amenities. Medical care is affordable here. Based on retirement income, CAJA, Costa Rica's government-provided system, costs $50-$100 per couple. The city is deemed the "City of Flowers" because of its plentiful gardens and pleasant climate. Based on lifestyle choices, rents can be between $800-$2,500, while the overall cost of living can be anywhere between $1,732-$5,372.
Insider Monkey Score: 5
Dominical is another picturesque beach town that has made it to our list of best places to retire in Costa Rica. Known as a surfer's paradise, retirees get to enjoy many water-based activities here. The beach town is also revered for its healthcare services, beach-town living, abundant wildlife, and lush rainforests. The region has a tropical, warm climate. A single person can live here for between $1,400 and $1,700 a month.
Insider Monkey Score: 5
Escazú is a beautiful, upscale community and a suburb of the capital city of San Jose. It is one of the best places to retire in Costa Rica owing to its excellent healthcare system, safety, welcoming atmosphere, and availability of modern amenities. Dining and entertainment options are diverse and classy, as evident by the region’s higher-than-average cost of living. Rents run between $1,200 and $4,000, while overall living costs are between $2,429 and $7,600.
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Disclosure: none. 12 Best Places to Retire in Costa Rica is originally published on Insider Monkey.