Costa Rica is a relatively small country, comparing approximately in size to the US state of West Virginia. The small size is often a draw to people looking to move abroad as they feel they can explore the region more easily and start to feel at home in their new country so much more quickly than they could elsewhere. A common mistake, however, is underplaying the importance of the location of your new home base. Costa Rica may be small, but it has a wide range of geography, each region offering a significantly different culture and lifestyle. As accessible as travel may be in your new country, your home town will make all the difference. The city you decide to reside in will be the biggest factor affecting your experience as a new Costa Rican ex-pat. The beach, Central Valley, and the mountains are the three most significant geographical regions, each with its unique climate, available amenities, prices, and local culture. Before making the big move to Costa Rica, we encourage you to consider your priorities and how each region would best help you meet your goals.
A major reason people flock to Costa Rica is the tropical weather. Nothing feels better than a cold beer on the beach, napping in a hammock under the swaying Costa Rican palm trees. For most of us, however, the move to Costa Rica does not indicate eternal vacations, and conducting business and every-day life in tropical conditions is significantly different from a two-week tour. Regardless of which side of the country you’re on, beaches in Costa Rica are hot. With high humidity and temperatures over 90 degrees most days of the year, permanent beach life is not for everyone. You always have the option of an air-conditioned home, but this can easily cost twice the monthly electrical rate you might expect in the states. Although the scorching sun can be a deterrent when running mid-day errands, the beach is a popular choice for incoming residents. The chill vibe and access to cool waves is worth a bit of afternoon sweat. Central Valley is significantly cooler, yet far from cold. Offering temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s, the Central Valley is famous for its ideal climate. The humidity is much lower in this region and the comfortable days lead to cool, breezy nights. Deciding to air condition your home in the Central Valley is an uncommon choice as the climate is perfect to naturally maintain indoor conditions. The mountains, unsurprisingly, get significantly cooler. With days in the low and mid-70s, nights often dip into the mid-50s. Cloudy days are more common, and during the 7-month rainy season, road access can start to be an issue as well. The weather and occurrence of cloud forests, however, offer some of the most amazing flora and fauna, and with hiking trails and look-out points, you’ll never miss the ocean view.
Amenities are another significant consideration when searching for your home region. Costa Rica is more modernly developed than its Central American neighbors, but small towns will still not offer access to products or services you may consider a necessity. While each region and city offers unique access to amenities, the gist of the situation is this: the further you wander from Central Valley, the harder it will be to access important services. This includes newly paved roads, shopping malls, a variety of restaurants and entertainment, hospitals and clinics, internet and phone services, and much more. While Central Valley certainly offers the most products and quality services, these services can of course be found in beach towns and mountain villages as well, but you may have to sacrifice option variety and travel time. For many people relocating to Costa Rica, this is not a deal breaker. You will always have access to large cities for periodic shopping trips, but for those of you working online or foreseeing health care access being a major factor, a large city in the Central Valley may be your best bet.
While the climate and amenities change depending on your region, the most drastic range you will experience will be in pricing. Known as a rather inexpensive country, Costa Rica’s product prices and cost of living varies significantly depending on the area. If the tropical weather pulls you to the beaches, be prepared to pay for the view. The beaches are a very popular destination for tourists and long-term residents alike, and while the climate is enticing and the business opportunities great, the cost of living is the highest in the country. Not to fear, finding beach towns dedicated more toward local living and less toward tourist attractions will slash your monthly budget significantly. The Central Valley has prices all over the charts as well. While the cities may be more inexpensive, some gated communities and suburbs will have similar costs of living as the beaches. If you’re looking for true value, head to the hills. The mountains offer the least expensive cost of living, with developed real estate from only $60,000. While prices are certainly of concern when making this decision, don’t let it scare you off from the beach or Central Valley. “High costs of living” in Costa Rica are still very affordable to incomers from most countries, and while you may pay more for services, these costs are balanced out by the growing business opportunities.
Climate, amenities, and prices aside, we are well aware that a huge part of this decision-making process relies heavily on the culture and lifestyle of the regions. For beach bodies, the sea will always call to you. Breathtaking beaches, backyards filled with coconut trees, and easy access to an after-work hammock and beer will sway your decision regardless of your pros and cons list. For those of you drawn toward a more fast-paced lifestyle, the cities in the Central Valley will give you the modern lifestyle and quick access to the products you desire. For the adventurers, the mountains may be a perfect home. With natural beauty surrounding your every step, it’s hard to let life’s pressures get you down. No matter where you choose to move, we know Costa Rica will charm you into staying.