Go for the beaches, if a lazy, warm, swimming and laying on the beach experience is what you want – Costa Rica is by far one of the best places in the world to do it. Water temperatures in the ocean that mean you just walk in with no temperature shock, hours of lazily soaking in the sun – even in the rainy season. I have done this with my wife and I’ll give lots of info on this option. If you are from North America, Guanacaste (low humidity < 90%), if you are from Europe, most Europeans seem to prefer the Limón province (humidity > 90%)
Dental/Medical tourism. For Canadians, Dental, for my US neighbours – Dental and Medical. Costa Rica has arguably the best medical system in the world – higher survival rate for things like heart attacks, and quicker recovery than even Canada and the US systems. A recent comparison (2018) Person 1: July, got 1 cap done in Canada for $5000 over a period of several visits that took several weeks. Person 2: July as well, 2 caps, 2 fillings, general checkup, cleaning: $1250 total plus $900 in flight costs plus $700 for 10 day’s hotel (because he decided to make sure the dentist had lots of time between the 1st and 2nd appointment 🙂) plus several side tours at about $50 each, plus rental car at $300 including all the insurance, plus food bill at $400 (he ate out almost every day), total: $3900 – far far cheaper than if he had it done in Canada, no matter how cheap the Canadian dentist. In 2019, I had my annual dental checkup done at Asembis in San Jose for $1.75USD (yes, that is less than the price of a Big Mac) and an eye exam for the same price. I didn’t get x-rays at the dentist for that price, but I did get a checkup. I didn’t need any work done, so I can’t speak to the more advanced work.
Assisted living: If you want a low cost assisted living plan, the cost of labour in Costa Rica is such that you can set up for less money than many (all?) nursing homes in Canada/USA and have a full time aid as part of your plan. This takes some planning to ‘get it right’ and to prepare for contingencies as you get older, but you can save the Canadian and US tax system a lot of money and for most people you can live your last days in Costa Rica for less of your (and taxpayer’s) money while helping the Costa Rica economy! You, your native home and Costa Rica all benefit – that’s a win, win, win. When it comes my time, I plan to do it close to a good hospital, and I really do think this is a win for everyone.
If I had 10-20Million spare, I’d set up a retirement community ‘village’ that allows husbands and wives to always live with each other until their dying day no matter what the difference in medical needs. Family and friends to visit short or long term, I think that would be a great business that would be a win, win, win, win (the 4th win is the business venture setting this up and running it.) But alas, I don’t have 10-20 million spare right now, most of my excess money through the years has gone to charitable giving and my companies typically have only been about 3million a year revenue companies. But if anyone were interested in pursuing this and felt they have or could have access to at least $10Million, I would be very interested in spearheading this project as a profitable venture at low cost for the consumers and with this you could easily get Costa Rica residency visiting only one day every 2 years if that appeals to you. One of my personal goals is to, in a non-Canadian (lower tax) company, earn that amount of money and then build a complex like this before I need to have this type of living arrangement. I might start smaller, ($10Million or maybe less if it is my own money, but)if I’m doing it in collaboration with someone else, I’d want to do it fully and not ‘build slowly’.
Wild and Crazy bar and surf scene: Tamarindo Guanacaste based. (But since 2008 it appears that a lot of the illegal activity has been cleaned up.)
Similar, if you want to do gambling, that is not big in Costa Rica – but I’m told that Jaco and the capital San Jose have some options.
Culture, Museums, theatre etc.., San Jose (The Capital, the San Jose with the airport – there are several other San Jose’s in Costa Rica), no beaches, cooler temperatures.
Raw, Wild country, fewer ‘tourist’ amenities and fewer restaurants etc.., Puntarenas
Adrenaline rush and other tours: There are many 2,3,4 and 5 hour and whole day tours in the country, from what I can tell, most are in Guanacaste and several in a neighbouring province. No matter where you start in Guanacaste, there are several tours ‘in your area’, and there are many tours that are a couple hours or more away from your base location. If you want to do one or two of these tours a week, then you can find months worth of tours if you start somewhere in the Liberia to Samara area. There may be other areas you can start from as well, but I don’t have good advice for that. BUT … if you want to have a vacation that is a week full of various tours like zip lining, boat tours and so on, then you should consider booking with a tour company that will move you from one hotel to another each night, doing 2, 3 or 4 tours per day – really – as you travel from one hotel to the next.
From what I can see (as well as read on signs in the airport – both 10 years ago in 2008 and in 2018) Costa Rica has been ‘cleaning up’ the country the last decade by clamping down on the sex tourism. My wife and I didn’t see any obvious signs of prostitutes, even in Tamarindo, in 2018. It was nice.
Go to live. Many people chose to ‘retire’ in Costa Rica, and from the ones I have talked to, most pick Guanacaste and a much smaller number pick the Capital San Jose area. While I’d be happy to sell you a very nice place to live, I’d recommend you first go and spend several months in the country, travelling around and decide what part you like. If you agree with me, we can talk, I have some good contacts for you to buy from and some will pay me a commission, but you really are best to check out the country before retiring there. (Plan on learning Spanish well if you make this decision.)
If you plan to work, be aware that you need permanent residency or citizenship. There are ways, very difficult I’m told, to get permission for jobs where there is no skill in Costa Rica, but this is rare, and no, despite what people who charge you to train you, ESL (English as a second language) is NOT one that you can get a job legally in. You can own a company – various ways – but you can’t do labor that a Tico can. The rules here are quite strict and the penalties high. So, plan on getting your permanent residency, or be a business OWNER and hire people to do the work. And check out the rules carefully before you start.
To learn Spanish. I know several organizations that send their workers to Costa Rica for a year to learn Spanish, apparently in Costa Rica they speak slower than many other Spanish countries making it easier for those learning.I still think they speak fast, but several of my friends down there are from Nicaragua or have family/friends from Nicaragua so maybe that is why. Several provinces like San Jose and Guanacaste have lots of places that have Spanish as a second language, so pick where you want to be on other factors, then pick your Spanish training methodology. From what I understand, the Spanish in Costa Rica is a good ‘general’ one, unlike
a) Mexico, which is laced with special idioms used nowhere else
b) Spain/Argentina, which speak the more formal version of Spanish ‘Castellano’.
c) And several other countries that just speak so rapidly that it makes it hard for beginners.
Go to do volunteer or mission’s work. If you don’t get temporary residency, periodically you need to leave the country for 3 days and then return, and make sure you aren’t doing any ‘work’ that a Tico could – like building a house. Many people go to Nicaragua for the 3 days, especially those located in Guanacaste province, if you live in the South you’d choose Panama as your regular ‘out of country’. I’m told it is much cheaper to spend 3 days in Nicaragua than to spend them in Panama, but I don’t know. The solution for me was the Residency route.
Any other significant reasons to go to Costa Rica? Let me know and I’ll add it to this list.
And why Costa Rica vs:
Nicaragua – Costa Rica is safer. (No wars, no guerilla warfare, less crime – but still some like the US)
Panama – Costa Rica is lower cost, Panama is more developed. Costa Rica has better beaches. But Panama has a famous canal! Note: This may be changing, Costa Rica prices have risen in the last decade.
Hawaii – Costa Rica in general is lower cost, shorter flight time (and lower cost), not as ‘commercial’ as Hawaii, warmer beaches, more reliable weather (in the rainy season you usually have 7 or 8 hours of beach time if you are willing to get up at 6am, whereas I have heard of people who going to Hawaii were rained out, and the water was not as warm ever.) Both have active Volcanos.
US and Canada – lots of reasons to visit all 3 countries. Costa Rica has warm water beaches – much warmer water than any Canada/US beaches, even San Diego ocean water is much colder. Canada and Northern US has snow, skiing and other winter sports.
Mexico – Costa Rica is generally considered safer, some Mexico Beaches I’m told are just as warm as Costa Rica’s.
Siberia – it’s warmer in Costa Rica.
Our 2 bedroom units are single story (3 bedroom are 2 story), 2 bedrooms each with a full bath (shower, toilet, sink), with a queen bed in the master bedroom, and either a double bed or a twin and a single ‘bunk’ in the second room. Both bedrooms have AC. The kitchen/living area has a couch that is a twin bed, table, fridge, stove, counterspace. The back has a deck, washer, dryer and drying line. The front has a covered porch with furniture and covered carport (nice in the rainy season!) The complex has a BBQ, Pool, eating area.
Located about 25 minutes from Samara (longer in the rainy season – because of the roads!) The exact time depends on how you like to drive, it can be shorter or longer. The 25 minutes is based on driving at about 25kph then slowing down at the rough spots. I was able to drive 40kph but my wife didn’t enjoy the ride in the little car we had and I didn’t want to damage the vehicle.