Costa Rica for Expats


Costa Rica Flag

Costa Rica has a remarkably striking combination of the exotic unknown and the familiar such as rain forests and contemporary town centers. It is an attractive global destination with a characteristically local feel. A sophisticated feel prevails where life is still propelled by basic, unpretentious warmth and affability. If you like leading a more peaceful life in the middle of an ecologically rich corridor without the stress of big cities and the chaos that accompanies it, Costa Rica is an option worth exploring. It is a hub of environmentalists, artists, musicians, writers and performers who want to practice their art by communing with nature in more non commercial non chaotic ambiance. Coupled with rapid real estate development, a good lifestyle for much less compared to the United States and Europe and less stringent expat laws, this nature hub draws hordes of expats for its fuss-free vibe and peaceful living conditions.

Costa Rica has forever been celebrated for featuring some of the most spectacular beaches in the world. Other than the beautiful shoreline, the near perfect surfing conditions and incredible wildlife has attracted expats for decades. Today many coastal towns in Costa Rica are well established for those looking to relocate to another part of the world that features a pleasant climate, a lush environment, peaceful living and good standard of living.

Though it has become a popular tourist destination, Costa Rica manages to maintain the laid-back hippie roots that made it popular in the first place. Health and environmentally conscious expats comprise most of the transplants in Montezuma and this is clear by the businesses that thrive here. Several yoga studios sit in town and on the beach and it’s even possible to take free community yoga classes several times a week.

The landscape in Costa Rica is quite unusual compared to many other beach resort destinations. Though it has witnessed a flurry of tourist activity in recent years, it is still unfazed by tourist activity and frenzied real estate development, making it an easy, relaxed, uncrowded and unspoilt place to live in the midst of beautiful rocky cliffs, isolated beaches, natural tide pools, and great surfing conditions. There are also two spectacular waterfalls within walking distance of town.

Costa Rica is instantly likeable to the outsider and it inspires to give in to your bohemian, no return to the real world spirit. You will want to stroll, swim and surf, while enjoying the region’s white sands and crystal clear cerulean waters. The untamed ocean, the noisy with animal sounds jungle and the an inherent artist boho vibe that attracts an expat community comprising artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers and other creative professionals from all over the world.  The art-spiritual beach hippie culture is evident everywhere in the form of yoga classes or spa/wellness treatments or film/music festivals and volunteering programs. Whether it is its eco-conscious, vegetarian/organic eating culture that attracts environmentalists or its unflinching adventure sports soaked reputation that does it; bottomline is global travelers love Costa Rica as a relocation option.

Main Industry and Jobs for Expats

The main industry in Costa Rica is tourism and allied activities. Most people that move here from different parts of the world set up their own tourism related venture such as hotels, restaurants, bars/pubs/clubs, tour companies or work for already existing businesses like teaching English at the school or a local language institute. Many also sign up for volunteer programs.  Those who know how to play musical instruments are often seeing volunteering with the SINEM children’s orchestra. There are several volunteer and conservation programs that expats can participate in. The biggest volunteer expedition is based in Tortugero National Park, one of the most secluded and gorgeous regions of the Costa Rican rainforest. Expats can work, live and explore the Costa Rican rainforest alongside an international team and pitch in to the progress and administration of long-term conservation efforts along Central America’s Caribbean coast.

Talking about local Costa Rican food, one of the best ways to experience a culture is said to be through its local cuisine. In Costa Rica, typical small diners specializing in authentic local food, serve generous meals for a couple of dollars. There are soda places throughout the country, even in small towns. You can get hearty portions of reasonably priced food throughout the country though the swankier looking eateries are priced on the higher side.

Residency Types

There are countless types of residency, from refugee to diplomatic status, but for the purposes of the average North American or European, four of these will be of interest: permanent resident, pensionado (pensioner or retiree), rentista (translated as “small investor”), and inversionista (large investor). After a couple of years, pensionados, rentistas, and inversionistas can apply for permanent residency, which gives them all the rights of a  Costa Rican citizen other than voting. Other ways of obtaining permanent residency include being a citizen of another Central American country or of Spain and having lived in Costa Rica for a period of five years, marriage to a Costa Rican citizen, or having an offspring in Costa Rica.

Property Rights

The best thing about Costa Rica is that irrespective of their nationality or immigration status, expats enjoy almost similar property rights as native Costa Ricans. This is not the case with all Latin American countries. Costa Rica’s solid and equal property rights are huge incentive for several investors and migrants to invest in a property here. Non-resident foreigners in Costa Rica can own up to 49% of leased beach property; the remaining 51% must be owned by a Costa Rican citizen, resident, or corporation.

It’s easy for an immigrant to start an enterprise here. Foreigners can do it even if they only have a tourist visa. Many expats successfully find jobs and start businesses in the growing tourist sector. Though there will be standard regulations to follow, in comparison the constraints here for expats run enterprises are fewer than most countries.

Surrounded by a tropical landscape replete with flourishing vegetation and living in close vicinity to some of the most picturesque beaches in the world, Costa Rica is an excellent place to introduce children to the joys of nature and wildlife. There are countless adventure activities and attractions for children to enjoy in the region.

Renting Property for Expats

Properties for Expats

Properties for Expats

Those planning to move bag and baggage to Costa Rica can try renting a place here for a few months, to gauge how they like the weather, lifestyle and every day facilities here. Living in different regions before deciding where to stay put is also a good idea as it will give you more choice and an instinctive feel of different areas within the country. Furnished long term rentals can be found in plenty in Costa Rica. They will be pricier and more challenging to bag by the beach areas, where home and condo owners do a thriving business in during the peak holiday season. Many expats from the United States and Europe purchase multiple properties here and offer them up for rent during the peak vacation season.

Northern Pacific Coast

Northern Pacific Coast

Northern Pacific Coast

Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast is a much sought after expat living destination for those wanting a glamorous beach lifestyle and a sultry, balmy weather climate. Referred to as the Gold Coast, this part of the country barely receives any rainfall and sees more sun days than other parts of the country. At about half an hour from here is the Playa Flamingo and the adjacent town of Potrero. Flamingo features a stunning beach, replete with several homes and condos. It is more of a residential community than a complete city/town. Potrero, to the north, also has several expat houses.

Arenal Region for Expats

The Arenal region is where majority of the expats live. The shoreline is pristine. The green field and lush hill elevated rainforests are replete with homes. There are several eco-lodges and boutique hotels in the vicinity, most of them owned and operated by members of the expat community. Most expats in Arenal are concentrated in small gated communities and individual homes on both sides of the town. Tronadora and San Luis are tiny village communities on the two shores with uncomplicated and reasonably priced houses.

Central Valley

Central Valley Costa Rica

Central Valley Costa Rica

The Central Valley region is another expat hotspot. Many town here have become the hub of expat activity over the years. San Ramon, Grecia, Alajuela, and Atenas, to the west of the are well developed real estate zones. The region is known to have the perfect climate. Another plus is that since expats have been living here for so long it has now become an expat stronghold with facilities especially built for them like expat community clubs, performing theater groups, poker and card game nights. Its accessibility to most regions in Costa Rica also makes this a much sought after expat base. One can reach San José in an hour’s time from any part of the Central Valley. It’s a norm for expats living in the Central Valley to visit San José for their dinner, shopping, dinner, and entertainment requirements.  Even the Pacific beaches are merely an hour’s drive from here.

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