The naysayers did not stop us from moving to Costa Rica

Retire in Costa RicaWhen we first decided to move to Costa Rica the reactions to the move came from two types of people. There didn’t seem to be any middle ground.

Maybe not so surprisingly they were from two demographic groups:

  • the retired rich
  • the working

It was hardly your Mensa challenge for the day to determine which group was close-minded about the move. The negativity was coming from those who retired rich. They have theirs and just can’t understand why we want ours.

These were the people who were self-employed and sold the business, paid off their credit cards and mortgage and lived where they chose: close to where they were raised. Their idea of a vacation home was to move to The Villages and live next to the same people they lived next to before retirement. Or… they retired with a big pension plan because their union negotiated it – or they lived the corporate life and were banking the big bucks and were living in some gated community.

They just could not understand why we would want to move to Costa Rica, land of eternal spring-time, low crime, low housing costs, mountains, rivers, oceans, affordable and good medical care, with a government that is stable, an economy that is strong and diversified, and live around people that are educated and actually like people from the United States.

Their comments were usually really ignorant and never said to our face… “They will be back in six months”… or …” do they know anything about where they are moving?”… or … “I sure hope they don’t believe everything they are told.” In other words, because they could not fathom making such a life change, they closed their minds to the possibility that there are many more people like us loving, but leaving the United States.

The other group was the working-group (not to be confused with this breed of working group):

Retire in Costa Rica

The people who were still working usually said something like: “well it’s not for me“… or… “we could never do it” … or… “I hope you are really happy” They acknowledged that even if what we were doing wasn’t for them, they were open-minded enough to realize it may work for us.

The following quote (from a real estate agent/tour guide), may not be a purely objective opinion but summarizes what I am talking about:

  The country (Costa Rica) enjoys a stellar international reputation. You never hear anything negative about it in the U.S. news. Costa Rica is also famous for having the longest enduring democracy in Latin America and for abolishing its army over 50 years ago. The country has other achievements like a literacy rate of 95% and universal medical care for its citizens and residents. The year-round spring-like weather in the Central Valley is a strong attraction. Low utility bills and domestic help are another plus. It really all comes down to lifestyle. It’s reflected in the national motto, pura vida, which means pure life or pure living. As an American friend of mine often says, “If you get hooked on the lifestyle here, you won’t ever want to return to the U.S. to live. Heck, they’d have to drag me back.”  

Pura vida, if you are open-minded.

If you fall into the other category maybe it is time to change your mind.

Click for other information about Costa Rica.


  1. Whatever it takes to justify your decision. Be forewarned, though, that the failure rate for US citizens moving there is pretty high. Whatever you do, though, rent at first. Do not buy right away. The real estate market there is not like in the US. There is no real MLS and it can take years, not weeks or months to sell a place. Some expats end up walking away from their purchases just to get back to the states. It’s not like vacation. Simply moving there doesn’t secure right away access to that cheap, universal health care that you mention. Also, I’ve heard horror stories of neighbors stealing electricity, with no recourse from the police or utility companies. You go there with US rules and laws in mind, but they have their own systems and ways of doing things. Many expats get frustrated with all of it and move back to the states in six months. Food items you are familiar with in the US costs lots of money in CR. So, get used to brand names that you never heard of if you want to have the cheap food you’ve heard about. If not, those Lays potato chips will cost more than they do in the US.

    But, good luck to you. Hope it does work out and exceeds all your expectations. Just don’t go into it expecting rainbows and unicorns. You’ll be sorely disappointed.

  2. It’s been four years since we moved.

    ….Just don’t go into it expecting rainbows and unicorns. You’ll be sorely disappointed….

    Well put!

  3. Not Poor Not Rich but somewhat in between. I keep seeing a number of articles/Blogs etc about Cheap/Cheaper/Cheapest concerning retiring in Costa Rica. They all seem to geared towards living on $2000 or less per month. I can’t seem to find anything that is useful to understand what one could expect if one had $5000/per month to spend. I am not seeing the benefit of investing i.e. buying a property if it is cheaper to rent. It would also seem that change ones mind and then move to say Panama would be less stressful. I say this as someone that has lived in Six states and moves when I need a change of pace, scenery etc. When I say I move my wife would correct me as say when “we” decide to move. My wife is a vegetarian so for me to tell her that the beef is tough she would say then don’t eat it.

    I am scheduling a trip in October or November and am interested in getting the best view of the good, the bad and ugly.

  4. Hi Larry,
    For $5000 bucks a month you can live very high on the hog – very!

    You could afford to have a few houses: one at the beach and one in the mountains and one in the city… AND pay to have a staff of employees to take care of your every need.

    Re: rent vs purchase, personal choice, but remember if you don’t have residency you are a perpetual tourist and be required to leave the country regularly… and the risk there is you may not be allowed back in the country – or be allowed in for a very short time (a few days.) Enforcing this rule is arbitrary. You can’t get a bank account or driver’s license without residency.

    Good luck doing your due diligence. If you’re in the Atenas area and want to connect, drop me a note.

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