The Pros of Living in Costa Rica
If you are thinking of moving to Costa Rica or have just recently relocated here, you will surely find that, like most countries in the world, Costa Rica is full of wonders and delights even
If you are thinking of moving to Costa Rica or have just recently relocated here, you will surely find that, like most countries in the world, Costa Rica is full of wonders and delights even though it can simultaneously be a source of frustrations and aggravations. These wonders, delights, frustrations, and aggravations can sometimes be caused by the same thing which can lead to its own sense of wonder or irritation. Yet, in my experience, there is a very unique set of pros and cons to living here and I will attempt to explore both in two separate articles in order to give each the attention it deserves.
Pros of Living in Costa Rica
One of the primary advantages of living in Costa Rica is the geographic location. If you are from North America, Costa Rica is a relatively short flight away. Indeed, Miami is only a couple of hours away and most cities in the Midwest and East Coast are within a reasonable day’s travel away. South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and other Central American countries are right on your doorstep as well, enabling travel to exotic places like Machu Picchu, the Mayan ruins of Guatemala, or sun-soaked beaches on an island in the Caribbean. Europe is also relatively accessible from Costa Rica with many flights connecting through Miami.
Not only is Costa Rica close to home (if you’re from North America) or to other world-class travel destinations, but it has many, many interesting places within its own borders to explore. I’ve been here for over 15 years and feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. There are mountains to hike, beaches to relax on, waterfalls to delight in, volcanoes to see, rivers aplenty to raft down, and forests and jungles to birdwatch in. Additionally, Costa Rica is small enough to be able to travel relatively easily within the country. If you are based in the Central Valley, you are really only about four or five hours away from any but the most remote places in the country (Best Places to Live in Costa Rica).
Costa Rica’s mountainous geography along with its hundreds of kilometers of beachfront means that there’s a climate for nearly everyone’s preference. If you like hot weather, head to the beach. If you like cooler climates, head to the mountains of Cartago or Heredia. If you like a moderate climate, stay in the GAM (Greater Metropolitan Area). Unless you’re looking for snow, you’ll find nearly any climate you could hope for within Costa Rica’s borders.
The past decade or so has seen a real burgeoning of real estate developments around the country. There are condo developments, developments where you can buy lots to build a house to your own specs/budget, and, naturally, homes and apartments outside of these developments as well. Whether you plan on buying or renting, you can find a place for nearly any budget despite the fact that Costa Rica is generally one of the more expensive countries in Central America. If you plan to buy, you’ll be happy to know that you can buy a property with clear title which isn’t the case in other countries, such as Mexico.
Variety of Activities
As mentioned above, Costa Rica is renowned for its diverse geography. Due to that diversity, there are a wide variety of activities available. It’s easy to get to the mountains no matter where you live which means hiking, birdwatching, ziplining, or night hikes to look for some of Costa Rica’s myriad species of wildlife. You can also find whitewater rafting in some of the mountainous regions (10 hidden gems).
If you prefer the beaches/coast, you will find a veritable smorgasbord of activities. If you’re the active type, you can try out surfing, paddle boarding, fishing, snorkeling or scuba diving, or even try parasailing. If you’re more into rest and relaxation, you can chill out on the gorgeous beaches while sunbathing, or you can take a catamaran tour and enjoy a cocktail while enjoying the fresh sea breeze, or hit the spa at the hotel for a massage or beauty treatment.
Not into the beach or the mountains and, instead, more of a city person? While San Jose (and the GAM) perhaps isn’t in the same category as world-class cities like New York or Paris, it does have a growing restaurant scene and (beyond the pandemic) live music can be found on a nightly basis somewhere. There are fantastic bars to go salsa/merengue/swing criollo dancing and a handful of high-quality museums. In addition, there are malls a-plenty for those looking to do a little shopping.
Costa Rica is well-known both regionally and across the world for being a nation full of friendly, well-educated, family-oriented, and hard-working people. I’ve travelled around the world and find Ticos to be among the easiest group of people to get along with. Ticos are often quick with a smile and are dedicated to their friends and family above all else. It’s easy to become friends with Ticos with their Pura Vida attitude.
Due to this friendly nature, I’ve found that the customer service here in Costa Rica is generally top-notch. This is particularly true in the tourism industry where everyone from front desk clerks to minibus drivers to the wait staff are attentive, patient, kind, and (usually) speak enough English to answer any questions you may have and attend to your needs.
Values of the Country
Education: The values that Costa Rica and its citizens tend to cherish often go unnoticed or uncelebrated. This begins with a strong dedication to education. While it has some warts, Costa Rica’s educational system does a great job of producing an intelligent, diligent, and literate workforce. According to the World Bank, Costa Rica’s literacy rate stands at nearly 98% which is remarkable in and of itself and the highest in Central America.
Economy: This strong workforce, in turn, attracts many large and medium-sized multinational companies such as Intel, Amazon, or Western Union (among many others) that then provide high-quality jobs to Costa Ricans. This strengthens the economy which also helps stabilize the country, making it safer than many other countries in the region. There are also governmental efforts such as the Empleate program which is designed to help create jobs in the country.
Safety: Costa Rica definitely has some room for improvement in this area, but compared to other countries in both Central American and the Caribbean, Costa Rica is a safe country. Events such as school shootings are unheard of here as is murder in general outside of drug or gang-related activities. Most crime tends to be of the petty variety (theft, pickpocketing) and it’s usually safe to be out and about without fear of being mugged or assaulted so long as you aren’t in some of the more dangerous neighborhoods.
Health Care: The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS or CAJA) provides nearly universal health care to Ticos and it’s easy to get for foreigners on the individual plan. The Caja also has some issues, but by and large, it is an effective institution that treats people for any malady they may have. I have seen friends of mine successfully go through cancer treatment through the Caja without paying a dime. I’ve also personally had some excellent care through the Caja. Having access to free and effective health care is an amazing boon which can lead to some serious peace of mind. You don’t need to worry about a disease wiping out your life savings here if you are enrolled in the Caja. In addition, if you prefer and can afford private medicine, there are world-class doctors and private hospitals as well.
Eco-friendly: If you are concerned about the environment, Costa Rica is the place for you. According to the Tico Times, Costa Rica is primed to generate more than 99% of its energy for the power grid from renewable energy. A truly remarkable feat for such a small country and Costa Rica has proven to be a world leader in this area.
The National Park System: I mentioned above that Costa Rica has a wealth of activities available and this is, in large part, thanks to its massive national park system. Over 25% of the country is in this system which provides a habitat for an amazing wealth of flora and fauna. Any nature lover will find endless enjoyment in all of the animals and beautiful plants that are found in these national parks. Ticos rightly protect this system and also benefit from the tourism that this protection generates.
As you can see, there are many benefits to living in Costa Rica. These range from the natural beauty and wide variety of activities available to the set of values that Ticos themselves hold. These bring peace of mind to people living here which helps bring about the ever-present and famous Costa Rican credo of Pura Vida. Indeed, living in Costa Rica is “pure life” and pure tranquility.