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Things to know!


Canadians can enter Costa Rica as tourists without a visa and have 90 days to present a residency application to become a Costa Rican resident. Once the application is sent in, the applicant can stay in Costa Rica until the submission is resolved. The temporary residency lasts two years and is renewable. After three years, a temporary resident can apply for permanent residency.

Types of Temporary Residency:

      Retiree (Pensionado) – requires proof of a pension of at least US $1000 per month for life

      Investor (Inversionista) – requires an investment of at least US $150,000 in a business or property

      Fixed Income/Rentier (Rentista) – requires proof of an income of at least US $2500 per month for the next two years


According to the Global Peace Index, Costa Rica is in the top quarter of countries in the world and first in Latin America due to its long history of peace and its stable democracy. In addition, it is considered one of the safest countries in Central America and the Caribbean.  

Some safety facts:

      Most crime is opportunistic petty theft of tourists’ belongings

      Beaches often have riptides and no lifeguards


Costa Rica is known for the quality of its universal healthcare, so much so that it is one of the world’s top destinations for medical tourism. The Costa Rican national healthcare system is called Caja Costarricensede Seguro Social, known as Caja or CCSS for short. Caja is funded by monthly payments from Costa Rican citizens, allowing for extremely low healthcare costs. For example, most procedures, appointments, and prescription medications cost a third to a quarter of what they would cost in the United States.

      Most expats use a mix of private and public healthcare

      Most major hospitals are in or around San José

      Costa Rican healthcare has a heavy emphasis on preventative care

      In emergencies, no up-front payment is necessary for public hospitals, but it may be in private hospitals


Costa Rica’s weather is beautiful and warm. There are two seasons – the dry season, from December to April and the rainy season, known as “the green season,” from May to November. Temperatures vary by elevation rather than by latitude. The coastlines stay around the mid-20s to mid-30s Celsius, while areas at mid-level elevation remain in the high teens to 20s.

      The rainy season generally sees a few hours of rain each day, bracketed by clear sunny skies

      Flooding can occur in the rainy season

      Hurricanes generally do not make landfall

Tourist Attractions

Costa Rica is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, and most tourist attractions are expressions of that. Popular activities include hiking in the rainforest, lounging on the beach, and soaking up Costa Rican culture.

      San José – museums, theatres, shopping, dining

      Lake Arenal – adventure sports, hot springs, Arenal Volcano National Park

      Jacó – surfing, nightlife, nearby national parks

      Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve – nature hikes, wildlife spotting

Geographic Areas

Costa Rica can be broken down into six regions. The heart of Costa Rica, which houses the capital city of San José, is the Central Valley, a mountainous region. To the east is the Caribbean coast, which stretches all along Costa Rica’s eastern border. To the west is the Pacific coast, which has the Northern Pacific, a hot and nearly arid region with some of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches. The Central Pacific is known for its proximity to many national parks and to the Southern Pacific, a lush jungle area. Finally, the Southern Zone covers the Southern Pacific coast and inland, down toward the Panamanian border. 

Expatriate Locations

Expatriates (expats) from many countries have flocked to live all over Costa Rica due to its desirable climate and laid-back lifestyle. Though there are expats living in most Costa Rican towns and cities, some places have larger populations. These places include San José and its suburbs of Santa Ana and Escazú; Heredia; Alajuela; La Fortuna; Tamarindo and surrounding beach communities; and Playa Dominical, Playa Uvita, and Ojochal in the Southern Zone. 


Costa Rica has many ways to get around, including car rentals, domestic flights, buses, trains, Uber, and private or shared shuttle vans. However, roads are often not well-maintained, especially in rural areas, and drivers tend to be aggressive.

      Officially licensed taxis are red with yellow triangles on the side, a sign on top, and a meter (but airport taxis are orange)

      Buses are a cheap way to get around but can be slow since they make many stops

      Car rentals have gone up in price since the pandemic

      Trains are limited to the greater San José area


Costa Rica has a wide variety of restaurants, both in price and cuisine. Traditional Costa Rican fare is available at small local eateries called sodas, but international tastes have also spread to Costa Rica. There are American chains, as well as numerous upscale and budget-friendly restaurants, that serve food from all over the world. Italian and Chinese cuisine are especially popular among Costa Ricans.


Costa Rica has many hotels, from all-inclusive luxury resorts to eco-lodges, Airbnbs, international chain hotels, and independent B&Bs. A place to stay can be found for any budget or desired experience. However, hotels tend to fill up quickly, especially from December to April (the dry season and tourist high season).


The top five Costa Rican residential building companies by sales revenue are Bilco Costa Rica, Escosa, Hogares de Costa Rica, Grupo la Constancia, and Alfaco Company. 

Oceanfront Property

Oceanfront land in Costa Rica is divided into two types: titled land and concession land. Titled beachfront or oceanfront land is extremely rare, while concession land makes up the majority of oceanfront land. The first 200 metres from the average high tide line are divided into two sections: the first 50 metres are public property, and the next 150 metres are usually concession land. This concession land can be leased from the local government and built according to specific land use permissions.

Real Estate Prices

Real estate prices in Costa Rica vary widely but, on the whole, are much less expensive than in North America. Houses can start at US $100,000, though US $200,000-$300,000 is more likely to buy a home with North American amenities. Of course, luxury furnishings, construction details, and proximity to a beautiful view will increase prices. Rent usually starts around US $700-$900 per month, but it can be as low as half that in specific communities. 


Costa Rica is full of things to do!
Both coasts are ripe for water activities like swimming, surfing, sport fishing, scuba diving, sailing, and snorkelling. The Pacific coast’s beaches are especially good for simply relaxing on and lying in the sun.
For something more inland, tennis and pickleball are both available. San José has the highest concentration of places to play tennis, though Guanacaste province also holds a few courts around Tamarindo and Nosara. Many of these courts are affiliated with hotels. For pickleball, the most established places to play are San Ramón, Tilaran, Tamarindo and Hacienda Pinilla.

There are over a dozen golf courses in Costa Rica. Some of these are around San Jose, while Guanacaste has a number of challenging but rewarding courses, and there are a few more on the Pacific coast.

Costa Rica is famous for its incredible biodiversity, so looking for wildlife or birdwatching are very rewarding pastimes, especially in the national parks.

And all of this is without mentioning the cultural activities in Costa Rica: visiting museums or theatres, eating at local restaurants, exploring historical heritage sites, and soaking in the ambience of the surroundings.

Gated Communities

Gated communities are very common in Costa Rica. Generally, there is a mix of smaller and larger houses and people from different socioeconomic backgrounds in Costa Rican neighbourhoods. However, gated communities are for middle-class or upper-class residents, and they tend to have people all from a similar economic bracket living within.

There are a number of gated communities in Guanacaste province, including around and in Tamarindo and Playas del Coco. Many of these communities are very close to the beach, and some of them are affiliated with a resort that offers residents access to the resort’s services.
San Jose, the capital city, has gated communities that are especially concentrated in the Escazu and Santa Ana areas, which often have their own amenities like parks, tennis courts, and swimming pools, and are close to the shopping, dining, and other conveniences of those regions.
There are gated communities throughout every province, but Limon has the fewest in Costa Rica, and there are more limited options for gated communities in the Southern Zone.

Jobs & Industries

The main industries in Costa Rica are tourism, agriculture, manufacturing (especially of electronics and medical equipment), and the service industry. There are job opportunities for expats in Costa Rica, but Costa Rican law prioritizes hiring local candidates over foreigners. Popular jobs for expats in Costa Rica include:

  • English teacher
  • Call centre agent
  • IT specialist
  • Business consultant
  • Freelance writer, editor, translator, IT consultant, web designer

Wages in Costa Rica are much lower than in North America, with the average salary being around US $500 per month, while upper management salaries are around US $2000-2500 per month. Owning a business is an option to earn income, but foreign business owners are not allowed to work in their businesses, as this is considered taking away a position that a Costa Rican could fill instead. Income earned from a foreign source–outside of Costa Rica–is not subject to income tax, so working remotely for a foreign company is a very viable option. A Digital Nomad Visa is available for remote workers earning at least US $3000 per month from a foreign employer.

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