Costa Rica is no longer the next new thing. Neither is it old hat. As Costa Rica has matured into a major tourist destination, things have gotten easier and easier for international travelers. That said, most travelers—even experienced travelers and repeat visitors—will want to do some serious pre-trip planning. This section provides a variety of planning tools, including information on how to get there, tips on accommodations, and quick, on-the-ground resources.


While its rich biodiversity and paradisiacal beaches may first catch the attention to visitors of Costa Rica, there are a number of other factors that have helped make Costa Rica one of the world’s favorite expat destinations. The country’s stable government and economy, as well as good and inexpensive healthcare, have attracted as many as 50,000 North American expats and retirees who live there formally, by establishing residency, plus tens of thousands of others who live there informally.

LIVING EXPENSES: It’s true, however, that the cost of living in Costa Rica is not quite as cheap as it once was. A cup of coffee here may cost as much as one in Miami and real estate prices have skyrocketed in some parts of the country, especially in major resort areas. Still, some have found they’re able to live in some parts of the country, such as the Central Valley, for less than $2,000 a month.

WHERE EXPATS LIVE: While there are always exceptions, there are two main clusters of expats in Costa Rica. Many retirees—especially U.S., European, and Canadian retirees—tend to reside in beach communities on the Central Coast and Guanacaste, while young professionals and families that require more infrastructure tend to stay closer to San José, living and working in Central Valley towns like Santa Ana and Escazú.

BUYING PROPERTY: Foreigners and locals have the same property rights and follow the same laws as ownership is protected by the Costa Rican constitution. You can even by a house on a tourist visa it’s so straightforward.

ESTABLISHING RESIDENCY: While many temporary expats continually exit the country every 90 days to renew their visa, this isn’t exactly legal. Most who plan to stay for a while apply for legal residency, which requires a guaranteed income stream, which may include a pension; to have an investment of at least $200,000 in Costa Rica; or to be working for a company doing business here. There are many restrictions, but numerous law firms can help the process go smoothly. For North Americans to qualify for Costa Rican citizenship they’ll need at least 7 years of residency or have a Costa Rican spouse.

WORK VISAS: Work visas tend to involve a lot of paperwork. For those wanting to take over an existing business, such as a hotel or restaurant, that can be done on a tourist visa.

SCHOOLS: Most of the best schools in Costa Rica tend to be in the Central Valley, such as the American International School of Costa Rica or the Country Day School. Obviously, that limits options for many young families.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.