Living ‘the life’ in Costa Rica

It’s not unusual for a visitor to imagine what life would be like to actually live in Costa Rica. For most it is only a daydream, but for others it is a serious consideration. The perfect candidate to move here is one whose ties to his current home are minimal. In my own case, I have no close family… no aging parents, no children, no brothers or sisters, even. I did move down here when my brother was still alive, but we were both rather independent types and it really wasn’t an issue. Having family ‘back home’ isn’t always a problem for those with children or grandchildren if they have the means to visit when the need arises.

That brings us to the second thing: money/income. If you come down here expecting to find some way to earn a living, you had better think again. The cliche is, if you want to leave Costa Rica with a million dollars, start with two million. But this doesn’t pose a problem to many mongers. If you’re retired and your pension isn’t horribly small you can live here. If you have enough assets or some kind of revenue from ‘the old country’ you can do it as well.

I get asked all the time how much it costs to live here. The problem is that lifestyles and requirements differ. I know guys down here living on $1000 a month and feel just fine about it. I know other guys on $4000 a month who feel they are roughing it. If you want to live a lifestyle similar to a gated community with a golf course and all the amenities of home, you won’t get by much cheaper, if at all, here. You’ll save on heating and air conditioning costs (assuming you don’t move to the coastal areas) but gringo style food is probably even more expensive than back home, as are appliances and almost anything not made locally. That means almost everything except fresh produce. Cars are ridiculously expensive here.

But if you can accept that your home may not have hot water in every room, no central air, the kitchen doesn’t have granite counters and so on, rent isn’t all that bad. I share a large 3 bedroom apartment and my 1/2 is $250 a month. It’s unfurnished, but since I plan to live here the rest of my life, the furniture paid for itself rather quickly. I can’t tell you what the golf course home costs because I couldn’t afford it in any case. But real estate prices aren’t any cheaper here for a Gringo style home than they are in Florida, probably higher than some areas.

So why even CONSIDER moving down here? You know the answer to that one already. It’s why you read this blog. But even there it varies greatly from one guy to the next. I know guys that are all about variety, seldom do the same girl twice, while others seem to be fated to fall in love, the only question being with whom and how it’ll end up. Some have a lineup of regulars they add to and subtract from over time.

Another thing I get asked a lot is just what I do all day. I guess the presumption is that I spend all night doing the wild thing with one of the zillion available women down here. We’ll skip that for the moment, and get back to what to do all day. The real question isn’t what I do all day, it’s what the questioner would do all day. I usually ask what they do all day at ‘home.’ If they watch television news all day, well you can do that here too. Do you like girl watching? The parade never stops. Do you (like I do) futz around on the internet? No problem. Like sitting around drinking beer with other old duffers? NO PROBLEM. Many of the things you might do ‘back home’ are things you can do here.

There are some exceptions, of course. My dear departed father wouldn’t have been happy here for a number of reasons, but the main one would be that he loved to putter around the garage. Now you CAN probably buy yourself a house somewhere and put in a state of the art security system but a decent workshop is mostly an invitation to thieves, which is one of the few professions more popular in Costa Rica than sex work.

I’ll discuss other considerations in the next installment, stay tuned.

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  1. You forgot about drinking beer all day at the El Bohio on Jaco Beach and watching the girls.

  2. I have now been to Costa Rica 4 times. The longest 2 weeks. Great response and it makes me want to come and spend more time. I will be in town in end of July for 2 weeks then next march for a month.


  3. Yep,I have been going to Costa Rica 2-3 time a year from the early 80's and have read lots of articles and statements but non so incisive as this one.You have seperated the haves and the have nots very well.Some of the guys I have met have next to nada and others live the good life.

    • thomasobrien says:

      Living the good life isn't dependent on money for everyone, but for some life can not be good without granite counter tops. If you need and can afford a totally Gringo lifestyle here, more power to you. If you don't need it and can't afford it, you can do fine as well. If you don't need it and can afford it, why don't we go out on the town and you pick up the tab? Just a thought.

  4. What would it be like to be a distance runner training in Costa Rica? Larry

    • thomasobrien says:

      Larry, where do you do your running? Running on the open roads here would be foolhardy. The drivers pay no attention to pedestrians and the roads have no shoulders. The altitude would be a plus, and I suppose there are some reasonably deserted places even higher up than San Jose.

  5. I spent 9.5 weeks in CR this winter–most of it in beach towns. I am 57, self employed, divorced, independent, just a college age child. I had a car the whole time and did manage to spend time in San Jose on 3 separate occasions. Hotels run the gamut in price and degree of comfort, and once outside a major city do not expect many modern conveniences or paved roads. Having said all that, I plan on spending 12 weeks in CR next winter! The weather during their summer is great, the food is OUTSTANDING, the women in "the hotels and clubs" are outrageous, and life is grand all around. As Thomas reviewed, prices do run the whole range but you can get by fairly reasonably if you choose to rent, do not own a car (taxis are cheap), mainly eat at home, do not have expensive hobbies, and do not make the DEL REY your daily hang out.