Retiring in Costa Rica: a complete guide

1 min readLast updated May 2, 2024by Rachel Carey

Discover the possibilities of retiring in Costa Rica, where vibrant culture, natural wonders, and cost-effective living converge to create an idyllic tropical paradise retirement destination.


  • Retiring in Costa Rica offers stunning landscapes​ and​ a warm climate​.​​​ 

  • The average monthly budget to retire in Costa Rica ranges from $2,000 to $3,000, covering housing, groceries, transportation, and entertainment. 

  • Various residency programs for retirees, such as the Pensionado Program and the Rentista Program, make it easier to emigrate to Costa Rica. 

  • Unbiased will match you with a financial advisor who can provide expert guidance for planning your ​dream ​retirement​​. 

Is Costa Rica a good place to retire? 

​​Costa Rica has become a go-to spot for retirees seeking that perfect blend of tranquility and excitement. ​​​ 

With its stable democracy, welcoming culture, and affordable living, retiring in Costa Rica checks all the boxes for those looking to spend their golden years abroad.  

What are the pros and cons of retiring in Costa Rica? 

​​​While ​​​Costa Rica​ is a dream retirement destination for many, there are​ pros and cons ​you should consider before making your move. ​​ 

​​Let’s look at some of the advantages and drawbacks of retiring to the region: ​​​ 


There are many great reasons to retire in Costa Rica, including: 

  • Natural beauty: Costa Rica's stunning landscapes offer amazing opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, birdwatching, and surfing. 

  • Affordable living: Costa Rica offers lower housing, grocery, and healthcare costs than the U​​S​​ retirees can stretch their savings further. 

  • Quality healthcare: Costa Rica's universally accessible healthcare system ensures retirees have access to quality medical care at a fraction of the cost compared to the U​​S. 

  • Warm climate: Year-round sunshine and warmth create an ideal environment for retirees seeking relaxation. 


​​Some of the drawbacks of ​​​retiring in Costa Rica include:  

  • Language barrier: Challenges may arise for retirees not fluent in Spanish, impacting integration into the local community. 

  • Bureaucratic processes: Time-consuming paperwork for residency, healthcare, and property transactions can be frustrating. 

  • Cultural adjustment: Adapting to a new culture and lifestyle may pose challenges for some retirees. 

  • Limited infrastructure: Rural areas may lack amenities, impacting retirees living in remote locations. 

What are the best places to retire in Costa Rica? 

​​Costa Rica offers a diverse range of retirement destinations, each with its unique charm and appeal. ​​​ 

When thinking about the best place to retire in Costa Rica, here are some ideal locations to keep in mind: 

  • San Jose: As the capital city, San Jose offers urban amenities, cultural attractions, and a bustling expat community. 

  • Guanacaste: Known for its stunning beaches and vibrant expat scene, Guanacaste is ideal for retirees seeking a coastal lifestyle. 

  • Central Valley: With its pleasant climate, affordable housing, and proximity to healthcare facilities, the Central Valley region is popular among retirees. 

  • Arenal: Nestled near the iconic Arenal Volcano, this area boasts natural beauty, hot springs, and outdoor activities for adventurous retirees. 

  • Manuel Antonio: Home to Manuel Antonio National Park, this coastal town offers pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and abundant wildlife viewing opportunities. 

What age can you retire in Costa Rica? 

​​There is no official retirement age in Costa Rica. ​​​ 

​​Retirees can choose to retire whenever they feel financially ready and wish to enjoy a slower pace of life. ​​​ 

However, many expats choose to retire in their 50s or 60s, taking advantage of Costa Rica's affordable cost of living and quality healthcare system. 

What is the average cost of​​​ retirement​​​ in Costa Rica? 

The cost ​of​​​ ​retirement​​​ in Costa Rica offers a significant financial advantage for many American retirees, who often find their day-to-day expenses substantially reduced compared to ​those of those ​back home.  

​​The cost​​​​​ of living ​in Costa Rica​​​ ​varies​​​ depending on lifestyle, but overall, it ​is​​​ a much more affordable option. 

On average, a retired couple can live comfortably on a monthly budget ranging from $2,000 to $3,000, covering all essential expenses such as housing, transportation, medical care, utilities, food, and entertainment.  

​​Real estate is notably more affordable in Costa Rica, whether rented or purchased. ​​​ 

The average home price hovers around $200,000, but prices can vary significantly depending on the location and property type. 

When it comes to food, adopting a local shopping and dining approach can lead to significant savings. Retirees can take advantage of Costa Rica's weekly open-air farmers' markets, known as "ferias," where locals gather to purchase fresh produce at affordable prices. 

Medical care is high-quality and low-cost, and those retiring in Costa Rica have the option to access healthcare through the public system or opt for private health insurance plans for additional coverage and flexibility.  

Whether ​you need​​​ a routine check-up, specialized treatment, or emergency care, retirees can rest assured ​​that healthcare in Costa Rica is accessible, affordable, and reliable. 

Do you pay taxes after retirement in Costa Rica? 

​​Retirees who emigrate to Costa Rica may be subject to taxation on income earned within the country. ​​​ 

​​However, foreign-source income, such as pension payments, ​Social Security benefits​​​, and investment income, is generally not taxed. ​​​ 

​​Retirees may also qualify for residency programs offering tax incentives for retirees, further reducing their tax burden.​​​ 

​​It’s important to remember that even if you retire to Costa Rica, you will still have to pay US taxes, as all US citizens and resident aliens abroad must still file their US tax returns. ​ 

What programs are there for​​​ emigrating​​​ to Costa Rica? 

​​Several residency programs are available for retirees looking to emigrate to Costa Rica. ​​​ 

​​The Pensionado Program, for example, is designed for retirees with a guaranteed income source, such as a pension or social security benefits. ​​​ 

Other options include the Rentista Program for individuals with ​steady investment income​​​ or the Investor Program for those making a significant investment in the country. 

What are my healthcare options in Costa Rica? 

​​In Costa Rica, healthcare is a standout benefit for retirees. ​​​ 

​​The country offers universal healthcare through the government-run Caja system​​​. This system charges residents a low monthly fee based on income and covers a wide range of medical services​, such as doctor​​​ visits, medications, surgeries, and more. ​​​ 

Anyone who retires in Costa Rica also has the option to access private health insurance for additional coverage.  

How do I save for retirement? 

​​Saving for retirement is a crucial aspect of planning for your future. ​​​ 

Here are five tips to help you build a secure retirement nest egg: 

  • Start early: The earlier you begin saving for retirement, the more time your investments have to grow. 

  • Maximize contributions: Take advantage of employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k)s or IRAs and contribute as much as you can. 

  • Diversify investments: Spread your investments across different asset classes to reduce risk and maximize returns. 

  • Monitor expenses: ​Track​​​ your spending habits and identify areas where you can cut costs to increase your savings rate. 

  • Seek professional advice: Consult with a financial advisor to create a personalized retirement plan tailored to your goals and circumstances. 

Get expert financial advice 

Retiring in Costa Rica offers a unique blend of natural beauty, affordability, and quality of life. Whether you're drawn to its stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, or warm climate, Costa Rica has much to offer retirees seeking adventure and relaxation.  

That said, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons of retirement in Costa Rica carefully. By planning ahead and making informed decisions, you can embark on this new chapter of your life with confidence and peace of mind.  

Let Unbiased match you with a financial advisor for expert retirement advice to ensure a smooth transition into retirement abroad. ​​ 

Senior Content Writer

Rachel Carey

Rachel is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She has nearly a decade of experience writing and producing content across a range of different sectors.