When it comes to living in Costa Rica, either temporarily or permanently, there are many different options in terms of where (and how) to live. There are cheap, often small apartments; ecologically-friendly huts and tree houses; gated communities; fancy resorts and hotels; condos, and so much more to choose from. One of the most popular options, particularly among ex-pats, are gated communities.
Gated communities offer a higher level of security and privacy than many other types of living arrangements in Costa Rica, but they aren’t perfect. No, as is the case with anything else, there are both pros and cons to living in a gated community in Costa Rica.
A Booming Social Life
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of choosing a gated community in Costa Rica is that you’re instantly introduced to a built-in social network. Your neighbors—those who live in your community alongside of you—will very likely be from similar walks of life as yourself. You’ll all likely be of the same economic standing, and many gated communities, if not most, are made up almost entirely of ex-pats, which can be very helpful if you only speak English or if your Spanish is limited. Many gated communities even offer special activities and get-togethers to help you to get to know others in the community and to build relationships among neighbors.
Of course, not everyone is going to like living in such close proximity to others or having that built-in social network. If you’re not a very social person, you might feel a little out of place in a more tight-knit gated community, or you could even be annoyed by the constant invitations and activities going on around you. Plus, some people feel that hanging out with only ex-pats or only members of the gated community keeps them from truly experiencing Costa Rica, making native friends, and really becoming a part of the true culture and way of life that is at the heart of Costa Rica. You’ll have to decide for yourself how you feel about the issue, but do keep in mind that not all gated communities are the same. While many do have thriving social scenes, others are quieter and the residents keep more to themselves. If the social life of the community is important to you, don’t be afraid to ask about how the community members interact before you sign a rental agreement or buy property.
It’s a well-known fact that gated communities offer an increased sense of security to residents; in fact, that’s one of their main draws. Most gated communities are locked at a certain time each night or may remain locked at all times. In order to gain entrance into the community, non-residents will usually have to enter a special code or call you at the front gate to have you accept or deny their invitation to enter. This can keep intruders out and, furthermore, can keep you from having to deal with unwanted visitors!
Those same security features that you love so much about gated communities and that cause you to feel so safe in your Costa Rican home can also prove to be a bit of a hassle. Guests may not want to deal with calling up to your home, entering codes, or speaking with the security personnel each time they come to visit you, which would put a dent in your social life outside of the community. Furthermore, some communities have and enforce very strict rules about who can enter the property and when, which can make you feel like you’re dealing with an over-protective parent! Make sure you inquire about the community rules and the level of security before you move in.
There’s No Need to Covet Your Neighbor’s Home
When you live in a gated community in Costa Rica, there are no worries about “keeping up with Joneses.” Most of the homes within a given community will be of around the same quality. Not only does this mean that you’ll never feel out of place, but it also means that all of the homes will meet certain standards of cleanliness, order, and good taste, so you never have to fret over your neighbor’s property being an eyesore or bringing down the value of your own home.
As you might expect, gated communities can be a bit on the pricey side, and that goes for both renters and buyers. All of that safety and socialization comes at a cost, and gated communities may not be within your financial reach. There are cheaper living options out there, but in the end, you’ll have to decide if the positive aspects of living in a gated community outweigh the negative and if the extra expense is worth it to you.