It’s no secret that Costa Rica is one of the most popular countries to visit in the world, thanks to its beautiful beaches, biodiverse landscape, and friendly locals. It’s also one of the best expat nations to make money in according to Expatria, so it’s no wonder that many people are deciding to move to Costa Rica on a more long-term basis.
Interesting in moving to Costa Rica and bagging yourself some of that Pura Vida lifestyle? Well, it’s not all stunning beaches and adorable sloths! Costa Rica does have considerable issues with slow services and long waiting times, especially where the government is concerned.
So, here are 12 pros and cons of living in Costa Rica that you might want to consider before making the leap into expat life.
What Are The Pros of Living in Costa Rica
1. Affordable Healthcare
So, even though healthcare isn’t actually free in Costa Rica, it is pretty affordable, especially by US standards! According to InterNations, private, government-backed health insurance only costs between 60-250 USD per month.
One of the best things is that the Instituto Nacional de Seguros or INS, which plays a huge role in the Costa Rican insurance market, might actually cover some of your healthcare costs, up to a massive 80% in some cases.
2. Beautiful Beaches
Let’s be honest, one of the main reasons why many people move to Costa Rica is for the gorgeous beaches. Whether you’re on the Caribbean coastline, on the mainland Pacific coastline, or on the bustling Nicoya Peninsula, there are plenty of beaches to go around.
From world-class surfing beach breaks to turtle-hatching hotspots to relaxing places where you can just chill with a good book, Costa Rica has them all!
3. Transport Connections to the US/Europe and Central America
With international airports in both Liberia, at the top of the Nicoya Peninsula, and of course, the country’s main airport in the capital, San Jose, Costa Rica has a ton of worldwide flight connections. Realistically, the prices are pretty decent. You can get return flights to Europe for as low as £400 at certain times of the year. You’d be hard-pressed to find those rates from the US to Europe right now!
4. Healthy Lifestyles are Encouraged
With a life expectancy average of around 80 years old – that’s at least three years older than in the US – healthy lifestyles are a huge part of the Pura Vida. You’ll have a balanced cooked breakfast with beans, carbs, veggies, and fruit, and then spend your day out in nature. As the public transport network isn’t always great (more on that later), walking and cycling are both popular and cost-effective ways to get around.
5. Safe Drinking Water
Unlike many Central American countries, Costa Rica’s tap water is completely safe to drink and is actually delicious. This will save you a ton of money on bottled water and won’t leave you with anxiety when you want to wash your fresh groceries or brush your teeth!
6. Biodiverse Paradise
This is another huge reason why a lot of people visit and live in Costa Rica. In fact, Costa Rica is the 28th most biodiverse country in the entire world. You can be in a tropical rainforest one minute and be on a stunning beach the next.
If you love wildlife and being surrounded by beautiful native flora and fauna, you’re going to be spoiled for choice in Costa Rica. From sloths to monkeys to interesting birds to turtles to whales, it’s a biodiversity hotspot for a reason!
7. Great for Outdoor Pursuits
Whether you love to hike, kayak, surf, paddleboard, fish, or more, you can do them all in Costa Rica. There are dozens of world-class surf schools on the Nicoya Peninsula alone. On the Caribbean side, you can find some of the best scuba and snorkeling experiences.
Away from the coasts and beach breaks, you can hike volcanoes, swim in waterfalls, zipline through cloud forest canopies, and so much more. If you’re an outdoorsy person, then Costa Rican living is going to be right up your street.
8. Great Retirement Program
If you’re looking to retire in paradise, Costa Rica has a great retirement visa system to welcome you to the country. If your pension, passive income, military pension, etc., equals at least 1000 USD per month, you might be eligible!
9. Healthy Political System
Unlike a lot of the countries in Central America, Costa Rica has not been militarized or subject to a coup in recent years – the last civil war was in 1948. In fact, Costa Rica doesn’t even have a military.
As a result, the country has a pretty fair and functioning democratic government where all adults can vote in government elections. Given the political messes in much of the world right now, this is a huge bonus.
10. Fast Internet
With the exception of the occasional blackout during the rainy season, you can get really fast internet in Costa Rica. High-speed internet and fiber-optic are fairly common, especially in touristy spots or places where there are a lot of digital nomads. You have a few different providers to choose from so the prices are fairly competitive.
11. Sustainability is Part of the Culture
If sustainability and eco-friendly living are high on your priority list, then you’ll be pleased to know that Costa Rica ranked 31st on the global sustainability index. The government, businesses, and organizations are all working hard to become carbon-neutral and they’ve actually reversed deforestation in the country – that’s pretty spectacular!
12. Friendly Locals
Locals, otherwise known as Ticos, are some of the friendliest people that you’re ever going to meet. Community spirit is huge in Costa Rica, so people tend to be welcoming and helpful, especially to newcomers to the neighborhood!
Suggested Reading: The Best Hostels In Costa Rica
What Are The Cons of Living in Costa Rica
13. Poor Road Conditions
Anyone who has either driven in Costa Rica or been on a bus in the country will tell you that the roads can be pretty bad. As there are only a handful of proper highways, it can be difficult to get around, especially in the rainy season.
There is also a distinct lack of signage, lights, and railings along many of the roads, so it can feel really sketchy at times, especially with the winding mountain and rainforest roads!
Given Costa Rica’s location, earthquakes and tsunamis can happen. In fact, there are around 200 earthquakes a year in Costa Rica on average. Of course, some of them are tiny tremors and some only have a small radius. However, it is a downside to be aware of moving forward!
15. Slow Business Services
Pura Vida is a way of life in Costa Rica that allows you to slow down and appreciate all the beauty and good vibes around you. Unfortunately, this also applies to business services and red tape that is often super slow to progress. There’s definitely a laissez-faire attitude to deadlines and time in Costa Rica that isn’t going to change any time soon.
16. Public Transportation System
So, if you’re a tourist, the public transportation system is passable. You can get to most of the popular spots and there’s probably one bus a day that you can jump on. However, if you live in Costa Rica and you just want to go about your business and run errands, having one bus a day that’s packed with tourists isn’t ideal.
The routes are also super long which is partially due to the poor road conditions and low speed limits. So, if you like cramped, slow buses that show up a handful of times per day and rarely have air-con, you’re going to love Costa Rica.
17. Reckless Driving
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure if there are any traffic laws in Costa Rica. The yielding pattern seems non-existent and who has the right of way is just whoever decides to go. So, if you’re a pedestrian or a driver that’s new to the country, it can be really dangerous. You need to look extra hard for any motorbikes, buses, or cars coming your way because they’re unlikely to stop for you.
18. Rainy Season
So, Costa Rica doesn’t have four seasons like a lot of the US and Europe, they have two: the rainy season and the dry season. As the name suggests, the rainy season offers tropical downpours for around half of the year. While this does make the forests and mountains lush and green, daily rainstorms can be annoying and make many roads impassable or just plain dangerous.
19. Extreme Heat
On the flip side, in the dry season, you can experience temperatures as high as 42.8°C. As well as being very hot, the humidity also gets extremely high which can make being outside dangerous. Hats, water, sunscreen – you’ll need it all!
It’s pretty common to have tropical humidity levels across Costa Rica. The most humid month is October with around 88% humidity and the lowest is March with around 66% humidity. That being said, it’s not unheard of for it to hit the 90s.
20. Long Healthcare Waiting Times
As healthcare is super affordable and really high quality, there are often long waiting times to get seen. Surgery can have waitlists of up to a couple of months depending on the specialty and where you are in the country.
If you’re trying to get a standard GP appointment, this might take a few days or weeks, depending on your location. So, it’s important to try home remedies and over-the-counter fixes where possible before adding your name to the waitlist!
21. Shipping Can Be a Pain
So, Costa Rica’s laidback Pura Vida culture and terrible roads have created the perfect storm when it comes to shipping and the postal service in general. Sending and receiving parcels can be a bit of a nightmare, and you’ll need to allow at least the double expected shipping time for your goods to arrive.
22. Bugs and Other Creepy Wildlife
As a biodiverse paradise and largely tropical country, it’s common to see bugs and mosquitos crawling around your house or property. You can buy mosquito nets and shutters for your place, but somehow a six-legged friend always seems to show up! There are also geckos around, but we like them because they eat up all the annoying bugs!
23. Permanent Residency is Difficult
To make the switch from temporary resident to permanent resident, you’ll need to have lived in Costa Rica for at least three years and hit a minimum income requirement. As with everything else involving the Costa Rican government, the process can be very slow and tedious with a lot of back and forth.
24. Air-con isn’t a Given
Considering how hot Costa Rica gets every year, you’d think that pretty much every property and shop would have air-con, right? Wrong. Many Costa Rican units don’t have air-con so you might have to pay to install your own system. Similarly, hot water isn’t a given, so check if your unit has a water heater as well!
So, there you have it, 24 pros and cons of living in Costa Rica. Of course, some of them are a bigger deal than others, but everyone has individual priorities when it comes to what they want from their new home.
On the whole, if you’re not bothered by the rain and don’t mind slow services, the pros definitely seem to outweigh the cons. After all, that’s why so many expats from all around the world call Costa Rica home!
Do you live in Costa Rica or have you visited? What do you think about moving to this amazing country? Share your thoughts in the comments below.