Why Retire To Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has quickly become an up and coming retirement destination for baby boomers from North America and Europe who are looking for an affordable change of pace. The motto of this tropical country is Pura Vida, or “pure life,” which translates into “good life” in English. Many are discovering that the good life is easily attainable in Costa Rica after retirement.
The Republic of Costa Rica, as it is officially known, is a country with an area just under 20,000 square miles (about the size of the state of West Virginia). Situated in Central America, it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Panama, Nicaragua and the Caribbean Sea. The U.S. Department of State estimates that approximately 20,000 American expatiates currently reside in Costa Rica. The number of baby boomer retirees choosing Costa Rica as their new home is growing for many reasons, including but not limited to its affordable cost of living, high standard of living, beautiful landscape, and tropical climate.
Topography of Costa Rica and Deciding Where to Live
The beautiful natural environments and diverse topography of Costa Rica is the number one advantage to many baby boomer retirees who are attracted to the tropical paradise. Not only are there the expected sandy beaches, but one can also surprisingly find mountains, valleys, rain forests, villages, rural areas and cities. Whatever one’s topographical preference, one can find it in Costa Rica.
The Central Valley region of Costa Rica is popular with many baby boomer retirees. This area surrounds Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose, and is conveniently close to its international airport. Additionally, within the Central Valley, the countryside surrounding San Jose is quite rural and provides a nice getaway from the city.
The Guanacaste province, also called the Gold Coast, lies on the northwest Pacific coast of Costa Rica is a popular area near the water in which many retirees settle. In addition to natural wildlife and beauty, the Gold Coast is a paradise that is famous for its nightlife, dining, outdoor adventures and, of course, shopping. While this area has long been a favorite of tourists, it is just now becoming more well-known with baby boomer retirees.
The Central Pacific Coast, which is a thin strip of coast stretching from the towns of Jaco to Quepos, just south of Manuel Antonio, is another popular retirement destination. This area is full of busy beach towns and is a bit more touristy, although when one gets a bit farther away from the beach, one can discover the beautiful national parks and protected wildlife areas of Costa Rica.
The Southern Zone of Costa Rica, also called the Southern Pacific Coast, shares the border with Panama. This area is more laid back and is quite popular with eco-tourists and those who enjoy deserted beaches and rain forests. Eco-friendly homes exist within the jungle and offer spectacular coastal views. Many retirees love this quieter area, also because it’s known for excellent gourmet dining!
Another area of Costa Rica popular with baby boomer retirees is Lake Arenal. This undeveloped lake lies three hours northwest of San Jose and offers a pristine area with homes and villages. It is a peaceful area that still offers its share of outdoor adventures, dining and shopping activities. Lake Arenal appeals to eco-minded retirees and tourists who love spending time communing with nature.
Climate and Weather of Costa Rica
When choosing a retirement destination, weather and climate is of utmost importance to most baby boomers. Costa Rica’s tropical climate appeals to those who love warm weather. in the Central Valley area, temperatures average 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Higher elevations, of course, experience lower average temperatures as well as cool breezes and mists.
Cost of Living in Costa Rica
SmartAsset.com has estimated that a single retiree can live quite nicely on $1500 per month in Costa Rica, while a retired couple can be very comfortable living on $2500 per month. This cost of living is far below that to which baby boomer retirees coming from the United States or Canada are accustomed. Of course, it costs more to live in the city or on the beach than in the rural areas of Costa Rica.
Most baby boomer retirees choose to rent in Costa Rica rather than purchase a home. Rent within the city or at the beach can vary from $350 to $850 per month for a small apartment or house, and $1200 to $2000 per month for a larger home. Rural areas outside of cities and beaches can cost up to 20 percent less. Should you decide to purchase a home, their prices vary widely from $75,000 to $300,000 depending on size and location.
Fresh foods, including fruits, vegetables and meats, are available for low prices across Costa Rica, which is a novelty to many baby boomer retirees who move here. No more shopping at huge supermarket stores like they would do back home (if they don’t want to).
Applying for residency is fairly simple in Costa Rica. A Pensionado Visa, which is the most common visa for retirees, requires an income of $1000 per month from a retirement fund or pension. These funds must automatically be transferred into a Costa Rican bank monthly, then exchanged into local currency before you withdraw and spend it. The second category of residency in Costa Rica is a Rentista Visa, which mandates an income of $2500 per month for two years or a deposit of $60,000 in a Costa Rican bank (where it will be exchanged into local currency and withdrawn/spent as described above). The third option for residency in Costa Rica is the Inversionista Program. This program requires an investment of $200,000 or more into an approved Costa Rican property or business.
Additional fees to apply for residency include a $250 application fee, $40 per document authorization fee, and $100 renewal fee. There is a nice caveat: if one spouse applies for residency in Costa Rica, the other spouse is automatically covered as a dependent. All categories of residency require renewal of status every two years. If one maintains a residency status for three years in a row, he or she may then apply for permanent resident status, if desired.
If one has residency status, one may import certain used personal and household goods into Costa Rica without paying import duties. Taxes and duties still apply to new goods imported by residents, however.
Higher Standard of Living in Costa Rica
Costa Rica boasts one of the highest standards of living in all of Central America. This is another reason that the tropical paradise appeals to many baby boomer retirees. In terms of recreation, there’s plenty to do, including (but not limited to) art galleries, theaters, outdoor activities, shopping, and dining out at fine restaurants.
Healthcare, which consists mainly of a universal, government-run system, is surprisingly good in Costa Rica. It is the best in cities such as the capital city of San Jose, which boasts the top medical facilities and professionals. The universal, public system charges residents a monthly fee based on income, which covers doctors’ visits, prescriptions and most procedures. There is also a privately-run health care system that some choose to use, in which one can obtain private health insurance and pay the rest of the medical costs out of pocket.
Baby boomer retirees who are used to the convenience of technology will be happy to learn that high-speed Internet can be found countrywide, even in the rural areas of Costa Rica. Cellphone coverage is also widespread and fairly even. Electricity is generally reliable all across the country. Satellite and cable television is available in Costa Rica as well. The water in Costa Rica is known to be clean and disease-free. Additionally, the cost of labor is low in Costa Rica, so many baby boomer retirees who could not afford a housekeeper back home now find themselves able to do so in their retirement years.
Costa Rican natives are said to be quite friendly to visitors and expatriates who settle there. While Spanish is the country’s official language, English is widely spoken so communication is much easier for baby boomer retirees who might not speak the country’s native language.
What seems to attract most baby boomer retirees to move to Costa Rica is its slower pace of life, which is achievable without giving up the conveniences to which they have become accustomed. Many retirees love the fact that there are no huge shopping centers as there are “back home,” yet there are still lively dining, shopping and entertainment areas available when desired. An easier way of life beckons to baby boomer retirees who decide to move to Costa Rica.
Taking all of these factors into account, it’s no wonder why throngs of baby boomer retirees are flocking from their home countries in North America and Europe and moving to Costa Rica in their golden years. What better place to enjoy the fruits of one’s working years than a warm, laid-back, beautiful country such as Costa Rica?