Did you know that about 10% of Costa Rica’s population is comprised of foreign residents, immigrants, and expats? Indeed, the country is a tropical melting pot that tops many best-of lists of where to live, where to raise a family, and where to retire abroad. The real question is why people choose Costa Rica to live abroad.
Is it the cost of living? The people? The weather? Or something else? The truth is, it’s all of those things and a lot more. The decision on whether Costa Rica is right for you will be a very personal one. While you’re mulling it over, though, here are a few great reasons why the world’s top scientists and backed metrics, as well as your perhaps future fellow expats, think Costa Rica is such a great place to call home.
Costa Rica: The World’s “Happiest” Country
There are many ways to gauge happiness. The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is one of them. And in all the years that the Happy Planet has ranked world happiness, Costa Rica has achieved #1, four times running.
Now, granted – happiness is relative. And living in the “happiest country” doesn’t guarantee everyone is always happy. But it does mean something. Specifically, the Happy Planet Index defines happiness as sustainable well-being for all and specifically, in how well a country is at helping its residents achieve “long, happy, sustainable lives.”
The HPI has found that this likely comes down to “strong social networks, investment in health and education, and a deep connection to nature,” which allows Costa Ricans to live longer and more satisfying lives. That tracks, as many residents will tell you.
So, wondering why people choose Costa Rica to live abroad? The answer is complicated but it comes down to many of the same factors and metrics that
Why People Choose Costa Rica to Live Abroad: 6 Great Reasons
There are a lot of factors and considerations that go into choosing where to call home. If Costa Rica has made your shortlist, then here are a few good reasons why this may be your happiest decision yet.
Reason #1: We’re a Long-Lived Blue Zone
There’s something fascinating happening in Costa Rica’s northwestern region (and specifically, along the Nicoya Peninsula): People here live longer. As in, longer than elsewhere in the world. It’s what researchers call “Longevity Island” and, more generally, one of the world’s few Blue Zones.
Long story short: Here, Costa Ricans (especially men) who reach age 60 are more likely to live longer than their contemporaries elsewhere in the world. Researchers William H. Dow, David H. Rehkopf, and Luis Rosero-Bixby found that “for a 60-year-old Nicoyan male, the probability of becoming centenarian is seven times that of a Japanese male, and his life expectancy is 2.2 years greater.” Additionally, the region has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle-aged mortality.
There’s no one answer to why people live so long here, but scientists do think they’ve narrowed it down to a handful of various factors: people here move naturally; they have a purpose; they know how to downshift; they practice the 80% full rule; they eat plant-based foods; they drink moderately; they feel a sense of belonging; they put loved ones first; and they have found their tribe.
Read more about Costa Rica’s Blue Zone.
Reason #2: The Weather is Close to Perfect
In the grand scheme of life, we cannot sufficiently emphasize the glorious Costa Rica weather. Honestly, it’s a huge part of why people choose Costa Rica to live abroad.
Imagine living somewhere where temperatures are in the 70s (~24ºC), 80s (~28ºC), or 90s (~33ºC), year-round. Where “winter” is defined as an uptick in daily rain. And where the sun shines, every day of the year.
Here on Costa Rica’s North Pacific Coast, specifically, you can expect year-round daytime temperatures from about the mid-80s to the mid-90s (29-35º C), with a cooling to the high-70s or low 80s (25-28º C) at night. Our province of Guanacaste is also Costa Rica’s driest province, which means lower humidity and sunnier rainy-season days.
If you suffer from joint aches and pains, our heat and relatively drier weather can be a serious comfort-saver. Additionally, our slightly drier climate is still rainiest during pollen season, thus tamping down those flying allergens and helping many allergy sufferers.
Reason #3: People Are Friendly
This doesn’t feel like a reason why people choose Costa Rica to live abroad… until you live abroad.
The benefit of genuinely friendly people cannot be understated. We’re not talking about neighbors willing to call out “hi, neighbor!” or strangers who throw you a friendly smile on the street – although both of those are lovely! – but rather a genuine, deep-seated friendliness that means people will go out of their way to help you.
Ask any long-term visitor, resident, or expat, and you’ll likely hear tales of heart-warming random acts of kindness: Costa Ricans who have gone out of their way to help them communicate in Spanish or find an address or locate a lost item or… well, the stories are many. This kindness resonates throughout life in Costa Rica and, in all the small ways that lead to much bigger ways, they make a difference to your experience here.
Once you see it for yourself, you’ll know why so many point to Costa Rican kindness as a reason they love living here.
Reason #4: There’s Public & Private Healthcare
One of the most important considerations before moving abroad is your health: your well-being, lifestyle, and access to medical care in your new home. And when it comes to healthcare here, you’ll see this cited as a major reason why people choose Costa Rica to live abroad.
Of course, there’s the off-cited WHO ranking: 36th-best in the world (one spot higher than #37 United States) and the longer-than-average lifespan (as of 2021, 80.8 years vs. 77.e in the USA). But it’s also about ready access to healthcare and a choice between public and private options, including a mix of both (which many residents choose).
The public system, known as the Caja, is excellent at preventive and emergency healthcare – a big reason why life expectancy is higher here – while the private system offers more flexibility, a personal touch, and English-speaking healthcare. Both options are also relatively affordable.
Read more about public, private, and mixed-medicine Costa Rican healthcare.
Reason #5: The Path to Residency is Clear
Knowing that you are legal and welcome in a country cultivates a certain peace of mind and yet, legal residency can be nigh on impossible in some countries.
In Costa Rica, there are four common paths to residency for most expats and immigrants. They include investor (inversionista) residency, retiree (pensionado) residency, fixed income (rentista) residency, and temporary or permanent residency for spouses and parents of Costa Ricans.
And residency is more than just an official invitation to reside: It’s the legal fast-track to a host of benefits, which include ease of everyday life (getting a driver’s license, banking, etc.), Caja healthcare, resident discounts, certain duty-free imports, tax exemptions, and the option for permanent residency (and the right to work locally).
Reason #6: Happiness and Satisfaction Are About More than Money
Granted, we probably all know this. And granted, it’s such an in-depth topic that entire studies are being conducted into it. It’s not something we can easily cover in a paragraph or two.
But we will say this: Costa Rica demonstrates the veracity of the idea that there’s something more than money that is important to people. This is that hard-to-quantify aspect of the World Happiness Index: How does a country with a GDP per capita of $11,630 outrank much wealthier countries (the U.S., for example, has a per-capita GDP of $59,531)?
Long story short, it’s not always about how much money you have, but in how you use your money. And this is often at the heart of why people choose Costa Rica to live abroad: Here, where life is a little simpler (and imports are a little more expensive), people often learn how to live with what they need, rather than accumulating stacks of things they don’t.
Yes, it’s about how the country invests its GDP into well-being, welfare, and social benefit. But it’s also about us, as people. It’s about having access to warmth and sunlight every day. It’s about regularly shopping for fresh produce at the feria. It’s about knowing that we can surf or hike or kayak outside our door. It’s really all about the Costa Rican lifestyle and how it impacts our lives, when we choose to call this nation home.
Looking for Your Reasons Why to Choose Costa Rica to Live Abroad?
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