Retiring In Costa Rica


Costa Rica is a great place to retire!



What makes Costa Rica a great place to retire?  

Oh, so many things!  For starters, did you know the unofficial motto of Costa Rica is “Pura Vida”?  The literal translation is “pure life,” but the feeling it transmits is “Life is good!”  What makes life so good in Costa Rica?  This little Central American country has it all:  a year-round tropical climate, a stable government, modern cities and scenic rural villages, mountain rain forests and palm-tree lined beaches. Locals (Ticos) are friendly and welcoming.  The pace of life is slower, and the standard of living is one of highest in Central America.  Here you will have access to top-notch healthcare, high-speed internet, reliable electrical and cell-phone service, and you can drink clean water from the tap anywhere in the country.


It is no surprise, therefore, that International Living Magazine just ranked Costa Rica as the best retirement destination in the world.  More than 20,000 expatriates—many of whom are retirees—would agree wholeheartedly!






We are going to answer a few important questions you might have about the nuts and bolts of retiring in Costa Rica, and when we get done you will see that there is really nothing in the way of you retiring in paradise!

Can I collect Social Security and live in Costa Rica?

Yes, you can. Your monthly payment of U.S. Social Security (including disability compensation but not SSI) can be deposited in your bank account in the U.S., and then you can draw on it from Costa Rica by means of an ATM or a credit or debit card. Although it is possible to have your check mailed to your address in Costa Rica, a much safer and faster way to receive your benefits is by direct deposit of your payment to a financial institution in Costa Rica.  Click here for more detailed information on the payment and receipt of U.S. Social Security benefits outside the United States.  The American Embassy in Costa Rica is trained to answer the frequently-asked questions of American citizens living abroad—feel free to contact them here.  


Does Costa Rica tax retirement income? 

No, you do not have to pay income tax to Costa Rica on your Social Security payment or any other income you earn outside the country.  However, taxes must still be paid on any earned income to the United States government even though you are not living in that country.  You didn’t think you were going to get out of paying taxes, did you??


How much money do I need to retire in Costa Rica?

The answer is, “Location, location, location.”  Costa Rica is one of the more expensive countries in Central America, but happily “you get what you pay for.”  Most American, Canadian and European retirees find overall expenses less here than back home.  Your cost of living has a lot to do with where you choose to live in Costa Rica.  A condo on or near the beach in the Guanacaste province rents for $1200 to $2800 per month and houses run $2000 to $4000.  That may surprise you, but let’s put it into perspective:  Imagine being able to live in fabulously beautiful, exotic, and exclusive neighborhoods like Las Catalinas, Reserva Conchal, Mar Vista, or Hacienda Pinilla--to mention just a few—for less than it costs to rent a one-story ranch in Joplin, Missouri!!   Many expat couples live very comfortably on or near the beach on $1000 to $2,000 a month after rent. Although the cost of living is higher near the beach or in a gated community, that is also where the majority of expats live which gives you the benefit of friends, a support system, and amenities that make life easier.  You can find lower rents far from the beach in small, rural communities; however, in the long run you will find yourself feeling isolated and missing the infrastructure and conveniences that make living here long-term possible.







How can I retire in Costa Rica legally?


Visitors from most countries are legally allowed to stay in Costa Rica for 90 days with just their passport.   As a tourist you can open a bank account and purchase property.  If you want to extend your stay, the law requires you exit the country for a 72-hour period before returning.  Many “perpetual tourists” have restarted their 3-month tourist visa that way for years.  If you are planning a permanent move to Costa Rica, establishing residency is a fairly straightforward process.  You can apply as a “pensionado” (retiree) by proving an income of at least $1000/month from a permanent pension or retirement fund.  The Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR) sponsors a 2-day seminar on residency and other details about moving to Costa Rica—check it out! 



Where is the best place to retire in Costa Rica?

Well, the best place to retire in Costa Rica, in our humble opinion, is by the beach!  Specifically, the northern Pacific beach communities near Playa Tamarindo and Playa Flamingo.  Here you can fulfill your dream of an endless summer where the jungle goes right up to the edge of pristine beaches and crystal-clear water. The area is a mecca for fisherman, surfers and other adventurers.  A teeming expat population makes for quick friends, fun activities, availability of familiar products, but at the same time you can mix with the locals and immerse yourself in their culture.  


As you can see, Costa Rica is a great place to retire!  Come and visit us and you will see for yourself that your golden years will be your BEST years when you spend them in Costa Rica!