Though Costa Rica may be small in size, this Caribbean country has much to offer. The landscape is chock-full of awe-inspiring geographical features, including rainforests, beaches, canyons and even volcanos.

Expats flock to Costa Rica to enjoy an excellent quality of life in this beautiful environment. In fact, not only do expats enjoy a good quality of life, but they may even expect to live a bit longer by relocating to Costa Rica, as the country has one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

Living in Costa Rica as an expat

Expats in Costa Rica are sure to come across plenty of British and American retirees drawn to this stable democracy’s affordable healthcare, low cost of living, excellent climate, friendly locals and spectacular views. Roughly 10 percent of Costa Rica's population is made up of foreigners.

The capital, San José, boasts the best nightlife, shopping and restaurants in Costa Rica. Centrally situated, with gorgeous colonial architecture alongside modern galleries and cafes, the city offers expats an ideal base from which to explore the rest of the country, ranging from sleepy, picturesque villages to lively resort towns.

Those looking to work in Costa Rica may find it difficult to secure a work permit unless they have exceptional skills. Although pensioners are allowed to own and profit from businesses in the country, Costa Rica is not considered ideal for investment.

Cost of living in Costa Rica

Costa Rica's low cost of living is one of its biggest drawcards, especially for retirees looking to enjoy their golden years in the sun. Retired expats from the likes of the US and UK find that their pensions from back home can stretch significantly further in Costa Rica.

Housing can be up to 60 percent cheaper than the national average in the US, and healthcare is extremely affordable as well as high quality. Markets sell locally-grown fresh fruit and vegetables at low prices, so eating healthy is not only easy but also inexpensive.

Expat families and children

Though Costa Rica is largely thought of as a retirement destination, expat families can also find an exceptional quality of life here. Local schools teach in Spanish, but there are several international schools scattered around the country. The majority teach the US curriculum in English, though there are a few that offer other options such as the International Baccalaureate. 

Costa Rica’s healthcare is top quality, particularly in San José’s private hospitals, and as a result, it is a popular medical tourism destination. Residents are required to subscribe to Costa Rican social security via monthly contributions, giving them and their spouse access to free public healthcare. Many expats also take out a private insurance policy and use a mix of both public and private healthcare.

Climate in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a favourable climate allowing plenty of sun and surf, with most days being in the range of 77°F (25°C) to 90°F (30°C). This, of course, comes in handy when exploring the country's bounteous natural beauty – just be sure to remember the sunblock and stay hydrated.

There's no doubt that Costa Rica is a fantastic holiday destination, so it's no surprise that expats frequently decide to settle down here for good. With friendly locals, good infrastructure and a stable political situation, Costa Rica stands out as one of the region's most popular expat destinations.

Fast facts

Population: 5.1 million

Capital city: San José

Neighbouring countries: Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the southeast.

Geography: Costa Rica lies on the Central American Isthmus, the narrow strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea linking North and South America. The landscape comprises peaks and volcanos, as well as lower plains and forests.

Political system: Unitary presidential constitutional republic

Major religion: Christian 

Main language: Spanish

Money: The Costa Rican Colón (CRC) is divided into 100 centimos. ATMs and card facilities can be found in all major urban centres.

Tipping: Most places add a 10 percent service charge to their bill, but extra tipping for excellent service is appreciated.

Time: GMT-6

Electricity: 120V, 60Hz. Flat two-pin plugs and three-pin (two flat blades with a round grounding pin) plugs are used.

Internet domain: .cr

International dialling code: +506

Emergency contact: 911 (general), 117 (police), 118 (fire), 128 (ambulance)

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. Buses are the most commonly used form of public transport and the cheapest way to travel. Taxis are more expensive but more flexible than bus travel. Foreigners can drive with a valid licence from any country for the first three months of residency.