Do Expats Actually Love Living In Costa Rica?

May 13, 2023 in Discover Costa Rica, Discover Costa Ballena, Life in Costa Rica

Do expats actually love living in Costa Rica in 2021? We asked the internet and found more than a few expats who had a number of things to say about why Costa Rica is right for them.

This is a topic that we cover over and over in our weekly blog (sign up below this article to stay up to date) and it’s one that keeps coming up on expat forums all over the internet: why do people love living in Costa Rica and what’s keeping them here?  People not only want to know what brought others to Costa Rica.They also want to know if the hype lives up — and we all know how much hype there is about Costa Rica today. Picture perfect beaches, green jungles filled with waterfalls, and the pura vida attitude are enough to fill anyone’s dreams of a better life. But those who have yet to take the leap of faith want to know how much of their dreams can actually make it to reality. We gathered some of the most helpful responses from friendly people on the internet answering why they love living in Costa Rica. Here they are, straight from the expats’ mouths.


Many retirees, solopreneurs, and young families have moved to Costa Rica in 2021 to get away from bad habits and routines they no longer enjoy. The last two years have changed the way people see their futures and they want to seize the moment now to make a more permanent change in their lives. So many more people today are capable of this big step but there are many with concerns about not learning the language fast enough or having trouble integrating with people. They want to know things like what daily life will be like, or what school will be like for their kids, and if their pets can come on the journey, too. Todd from Massachusetts now lives near San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. He says there are a number of international schools where English is the language of instruction. He says that the key is to “seek housing in a known area where there are bilingual high schoolers” if that is one of your priorities in moving here. However, he continues to say that English is not the only option because “the people here are really, really nice. I have found Ticos to be sincerely nice people. Kids will be fluent in under 6 months if they attend a local school and everyone communicates to them in Spanish. You will be surprised how fast you can learn a language when you listen to it constantly and you are forced to speak it.” Linda from the Central Valley says that it helps to “smile, be adventurous, embrace the changes, be open-minded and eager to learn, and you’ll discover the opportunity for an amazing life here.” Graham is a high school teacher in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. He says that he sees a lot of expat children integrating well with Costa Rican kids. “The level of English for teens today is generally excellent. A lot of the private school kids speak better English than a lot of native speakers. Spanish is a challenging language, but if you immerse yourself in it when you arrive you will pick it up so quickly!” Many expats choose Costa Rica because new experiences help us grow and learn more broadly. Some parents may still choose to keep their children integrated with their home country’s school system through programs like Costa Rica International Academy, which offers accredited programs.  Online school is more and more easy, especially with the increasing speed of the internet throughout the country. Nikki is a mom whose teens are enrolled in high school online. “We do online and love it. If my kids had been in grade school, I would have put them in the local Spanish school just so they could learn Spanish.” And when it comes to our furry family, Kaz reassures newcomers that pets are no problem to bring into Costa Rica. “Pets will be fine. If you do all the necessary paperwork to the letter you will have no worries bringing them into the country.”  “However,” she says. “Do find tick protection for your dogs especially as ehrlichia is easy to contract from local ticks and it can be deadly if not treated. Cats don’t suffer as much since their grooved tongues can pull them out.”


Costa Rica is so popular because of how welcoming it is to foreigners. And it can afford to be welcoming because it is so politically stable. This is a country where rule of law is well established but more importantly people are cultured and respectful of each other’s needs, putting healthcare, education, nature, and family at the forefront of policy and decision making. And the expats who are most attracted to life in Costa Rica are those who can accept this type of system with a strong social safety net built in. Lillian is from the U.S. and lives in Costa Rica because of the people and their culture. “As an Indigenous woman, I strongly believe in the protection of the environment. Water, trees, and animals need our protection as they are sacred in my culture as well. I want to live a simple life because that's how I was raised. I advocate for world peace and the protection of women and children. I live and dream about Costa Rica everyday.”


We keep reading that one place or another is less expensive than Costa Rica. Sometimes, it’s just plain untrue. Other times, people are not taking the full picture into account. One such “cheap” expat haven that is often referenced in comparison to Costa Rica is Thailand. What many fail to consecutively mention is that in Thailand, you cannot own land as a foreigner, only the structure that sits on the land. Ray, who lives in Nicoya, knows that cheap isn’t necessarily good, and good isn’t necessarily cheap. “We came to Costa Rica for the standard of living. If cost of living is more important then you're right; there are cheaper places to live. But that’s not necessarily what most people are looking for. We want ease, stability, and peace of mind in our day to day lives.”


One of the most common refrains from expats about Costa Rica is how friendly the people are. Costa Ricans are proud of their country because of the amazing ethics here and they absolutely love to share that pride with those who visit and want to move here. They appreciate those who appreciate Costa Rica! Debbie is an expat in Ojochal who learned this about Costa Ricans. “I chose Costa Rica because the people are so friendly and caring. They are very happy and content with what they have and live life in the present.” Jairo is a proud Costa Rican married to a U.S. native, who he says loves the pura vida motto.  “My wife loves our pura vida motto, and how after saying thank you, we reply with ‘con mucho gusto’ literally equivalent to ‘with much pleasure.’ Our nation, in general, is very chill, so, our peace of mind usually comes first, even before our word.” He suggests that this is a big reason why Costa Ricans are so happy.


Costa Rica is known to be a tropical country. But it may not be evident to all that there are twelve different microclimates found all over the landscape and there is different weather in each of them. Due to its latitude, most parts of Costa Rica are warm for most of the year. But rain variance and elevation play key roles in the climate and people choose which part of the country they move to based on these factors. Rebecca says she loves living in the Southern Zone, “where the mountains meet the sea.” She says, “we live in the mountains, just ten minutes from beautiful, warm beaches and we don’t need to use AC in our home.”


To many of us, it’s the wildlife that keeps us absolutely enthralled with life in Costa Rica. Many expats have homes outside of the cities and big, residential enclaves. We prefer to live side-by-side with nature, surrounding ourselves with tall trees and flowering bushes that invite all sorts of wildlife to our doorstep. Julie, who lives in Dominical, is one of these nature aficionados. “I love Costa Rica because the culture is friendly and in tune with nature. I am seduced by the natural world and Costa Rica is as good as it gets. You have such a variety of climates and scenery. When you settle down, you can take short trips to other climates and scenery to enjoy everything Costa Rica has to offer. It is a magical place to many who visit and live here. The variety never ends in Costa Rica.”


There are many places around Costa Rica that are tranquil and feel “away from it all,” and yet they are still quite close to important services and amenities. Many of us move here for the “away” feeling but don’t necessarily want to go on a mission to do daily or weekly tasks. That’s why places like the mountains above Uvita are so popular with expats.  Sarah, who is originally from Colorado, loves living in Uvita and says, “I feel like we live in a pretty remote area, but Uvita has restaurants, stores, banks, pharmacies, and we are only 35 minutes away from a larger town of San Isidro (Perez Zeledon) where we can find just about everything we need.” 

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