Costa Rica’s remote beaches and dense jungles are both beautiful and exotic. You can hike a volcano, visit a cloud forest, relax in thermal waters and snorkel through new worlds beneath the sea. Costa Rica’s cost of living can feel very affordable to retirees relocating from the U.S. This country has been a popular place to retire overseas for over 40 years.
Consider these retirement spots in Costa Rica:
— Santa Teresa and Mal País.
— The Guanacaste Coast.
— Puerto Viejo.
— Nuevo Arenal.
— The Central Valley.
Montezuma is a quiet spot on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The last few miles leading to town are unpaved, which means you will be jostled in a car along a pot-holed road. The upside to this remoteness is privacy and unspoiled natural beauty. The beaches are sandy in some areas, rocky in others, but all are scenic and backed by dense jungle. Montezuma also boasts rivers and natural swimming pools. There are several waterfalls, and the biggest is almost 80 feet tall. Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve, the country’s first protected area, is one of the best places in the world to see seabirds, capuchin monkeys, jungle cats and white-nosed coati. This coast is a great choice if your desired retirement lifestyle centers around diving, snorkeling and fishing excursions. In Montezuma you’ll find a small but impressive range of restaurants, cafés and a supermarket.
[Read: How to Retire in Costa Rica]
Santa Teresa and Mal País
Located on the Nicoya Peninsula are Santa Teresa and Mal País, two towns connected by a stretch of sand that is among the world’s most beautiful beaches. This coast is best known for its surfing. The surfing community has fueled the development of infrastructure and services, transforming the area from a fishing village to an emerging retirement option among beach lovers. This is also a foodie haven. The high-profile surfing crowd has attracted world-class chefs, who have opened internationally competitive restaurants. Yet this part of Costa Rica remains a budget-friendly choice. A couple could retire here on $1,500 per month or less. The biggest downside is limited access. Santa Teresa and Mal País are connected by a dirt road that’s pot-holed and dusty in the dry season and muddy and occasionally impassable in the wet season.
The Guanacaste Coast
Featuring 630 miles of Pacific coast as well as mountain ranges, jungle and rain forest, Guanacaste Province has been a magnet for beach lovers for decades. Top beaches include Playa Hermosa, a picturesque beach situated between two mountains, and Playa Conchal and Playa Flamingo, which are famous for their white sands and clear waters. Along the Guanacaste Coast are restaurants and bars, adventure tour companies offering trekking and deep-sea fishing excursions and luxury coastal communities popular with retirees. The region is bolstered by Liberia, the biggest and best developed city in this part of the country. With solid infrastructure and an international airport with flights to several U.S. hubs, proximity to Liberia makes life along the Guanacaste Coast convenient.
Ecotourism is a major draw to this cool-weather, high-elevation town in northwestern Costa Rica. The cloud forest is one of Costa Rica’s top natural wonders. This forest is home to hundreds of bird and mammal species, more than 2,500 species of plants, including 420 varieties of orchids, and tens of thousands of insects. Monteverde is situated at 4,662 feet with a climate similar to that of the Pacific Northwest. There is heavy precipitation, and temperatures hover at about 65 degrees year-round. This is one of Costa Rica’s top agricultural regions. Farmers produce dairy and cheese products, garlic, flax and coffee. Monteverde is a great retirement spot if you’re after a quiet, secluded lifestyle where you can easily forget about the world’s troubles.
Puerto Viejo, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, existed in isolation until a road was finally built in 1979. Before the road, access was by boat. A trip into town meant navigating rip currents and reefs or traveling on foot through the jungle. The area didn’t have electricity until 1986. Phone lines arrived only in 1996, and the internet followed in 2006. In this laid-back community the main mode of transportation is the bicycle and reggae music seeps from homes and beach bars onto the streets. A fledgling expat community has taken hold here, with foreign retirees building homes and starting businesses catering to their fellows.
Nuevo Arenal, in the highlands of northern Costa Rica, has a strong German influence. Living here, you could become part of both an established expat community and the local community. The town sits on the northeastern corner of Lake Arenal, an 85-square-kilometer, human-made lake with plenty of inlets ideal for waterfront living. Temperatures are cooler than in Costa Rica’s coastal areas, making this a desirable retirement spot for those who are not cut out for a tropical climate. Life in Nuevo Arenal is lived largely and comfortably outdoors. Most day-to-day basic services are available, including grocery stores, an organic market, a butcher’s shop specializing in fried pork belly, a German bakery and a couple of Italian restaurants. Other lakeside towns are connected to Nuevo Arenal by a well-paved, two-lane road. The lake-view sunsets are a highlight.
Quepos is a small harbor town along Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, just 60 miles southwest of San José. It offers great beaches and natural beauty as well as a selection of charming restaurants, shops and galleries. However, Quepos is most famous for being the gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park, which is full of secluded beaches, hiking trails and exotic wildlife. Quepos is one of the world’s premier big-game fishing destinations. Marlin, tuna and grouper thrive off this coast. Other popular recreation opportunities include horseback riding, kayaking and rafting.
The Central Valley
The Central Valley is a sprawling area just south of San José where the majority of Costa Rica’s population lives. It’s ideal for expats who crave the conveniences of the capital, including a well-connected airport, hospitals, diverse shopping options, restaurants and entertainment, without the downsides of big-city living. Laid out across a plateau, elevation varies from 3,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level, affording the Central Valley cooler weather than the lowlands. A lush and fertile area, there’s bucolic scenery and fresh locally grown produce, including coffee. There are many opportunities to engage with the community, including clubs, sports and volunteer groups.
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Update 07/30/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.