If you like to unwind at tropical beaches, experience incredible adventures, discover natural wonders, explore new cultures, befriend friendly locals, and enjoy delicious food, you’ll want to retire in Costa Rica. Besides, who wouldn’t want to live in a place where life is slower and less stressful? Sure, all that sounds like the dream life, but you might want to consider some things about retiring in Costa Rica.
Reasons not to retire in Costa Rica include the country having a lot of rain, and not having real summer or winter due to its proximity to the equator. Despite being one of the world’s safest countries to visit, crimes do exist there. It is also not a cheap place to settle down in.
Now let’s take a detailed look at why you should not retire in Costa Rica. Putting all these reasons into perspective will help you decide whether or not Costa Rica is the best place for you to spend your retirement.
A Little About Costa Rica
Costa Rica, literally “Rich Coast,” is located in Central America, bordering Nicaragua, the Caribbean Sea, Panama, and the Pacific Ocean. About 5 million people are living in an area of 51,060 square kilometers in Costa Rica. The largest city is San José.
Small groups of indigenous peoples inhabited the country before the Spanish rule during the 16th century. There are volcanoes and lakes in Costa Rica, with the Irazú volcano being the highest and Lake Arenal being the largest. According to the World Happiness Report, Costa Rica is the 12th happiest country in the world.
In Central America, Costa Rica is the most-visited country. In 2016, 1,000,000 Americans traveled to Costa Rica, and 434,884 people from Europe. That’s not surprising, considering Costa Rica’s fantastic ecotourism.
Costa Rica won second place after Mexico in the 2011 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index among Latin American countries. Indeed, Costa Rica seems like an ideal place to retire, but consider the following 12 reasons not to retire in Costa Rica to help you decide whether or not moving to Costa Rica is the right option for you.
Costa Rica Is a Rainforest, So Expect Rain!
Costa Rica has a tropical climate. In other words, there will always be rain and rainy season. Costa Rica’s rainy season generally begins in May and ends in November. You can experience a lot of rain in different parts of the country.
With rain always falling from the sky, Costa Rica’s lush jungles thrive. Many animals come out when it rains; expect to encounter animals you may or may not have seen before. You’ll need to pack rain-friendly outfits, like a parka, raincoat, or waterproof boots.
In places like San José and Cartago, the temperature during the day is around 70 °F (26.7 °C), but if you go up the mountains, the weather is cooler, and it tends to rain (starts around mid-April) slightly more. It is much drier and humid on the Pacific coast, with a temperature around the mid-80s. You will experience the rainiest months in places like Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo sometime in June and November, although rain can occur anytime.
If it’s not the rainy season, you have all the time in the world to relax at Costa Rica’s beaches. There will be a little bit of rain outside of the rainy season, so if you don’t like rain and think it will spoil your day, you should not retire in Costa Rica. It would be helpful to tolerate every drop from the sky because that’s life in Costa Rica.
There Are Volcanoes
Costa Rica has 14 known volcanoes, six of them being active in the past 75 years. The highest volcano is the Irazú volcano, standing at 3,431 m, and its last eruption was in 1994. Many people visit the volcano about 30 kilometers away from Cartago for its majestic beauty.
While it is nice to admire the beauty of the Irazú volcano during your visit to Costa Rica, living with the stratovolcano is a different story. That’s because the Irazú volcano is one of the most dangerous and unpredictable volcanoes in Costa Rica. The Irazú volcano had its last big eruption in 1963, and it went on for nearly three years — San José, Cartago, and the Central Valley had rain of ash clouds in those years.
Living among volcanoes is not much of a big deal for people who have lived close to them for a long time, but it will be very uncomfortable for those who do not like living in their proximity or those who have never lived close to volcanoes. If you are from the States, you probably know that there are dangerous volcanoes (169 active). If those volcanoes did not bother you, Costa Rica’s volcanoes will not, either.
There are only six active volcanoes in Costa Rica, with Arenal being the most active. Compare that number with the 169 active volcanoes in the States, living with Costa Rica’s volcanoes is less worrying. You don’t need to live close to active volcanoes, anyway.
If you do not want to live close to volcanoes, however, then you should not retire in Costa Rica. Optionally, you could go somewhere else, like Thailand.
The Weather Can Be Extreme
Costa Rica’s climate consists of two seasons: wet and dry. The rainy season goes on from May to November, and the dry season happens from December to April. Humid and dry areas in Costa Rica that cannot handle excess rain may experience floods that can significantly impact crops, homes, and people.
Costa Rica has a hurricane season that lasts from June to November. Fortunately, the country is in a location where it is usually safe from the worst impact. Heavy rain will still follow and bring natural disasters such as landslides, mudslides, flooding, and rock blocks.
Landslides killed more than a dozen people in November 2010. Bad weather scenarios are something to keep in mind if you want to live in Costa Rica. Living in Costa Rica is not always sunshine and rainbows.
Earthquakes Are Common
Due to Costa Rica’s geographical location, it is common for earthquakes to happen. In 2009, central Costa Rica experienced a magnitude 6.2 earthquake that killed 34 people. On Jan 5, 2021, a magnitude 4.7 earthquake struck Costa Rica.
Since earthquakes are common in Costa Rica, you may want to think again about retiring in Costa Rica if they would be a significant concern. In the end, you will want to retire and live in a place where you feel safe. Fortunately, modern areas in Costa Rica are usually well-prepared for earthquakes.
Many buildings in Costa Rica are earthquake “proof” to prevent collapses. These buildings do not use natural gas pipes either, which reduces fire risks. So when a deadly earthquake struck north of the central valley back in 2009, 369 tourists managed to escape with minor injuries, most likely because of Costa Rica’s higher quality modern constructions at the major attraction sites.
If you have lived in places where earthquakes happen occasionally or regularly, then earthquakes should not stop you from moving to Costa Rica. Right, Costa Rica has earthquakes; but major or life-threatening earthquakes do not happen frequently. However, if you find frequent earthquakes stressful and troublesome, you might want to retire elsewhere.
Tsunamis Could Happen
When Tsunamis struck southeast Asia, Japan raised awareness on the topic — offshore earthquakes can have more significant impacts than onshore earthquakes. Costa Rica’s seabed off the shores is not well-suited to Tsunami waves. When earthquakes happen in nearby countries, Tsunamis could happen in Costa Rica, as well.
A Tsunami happens when an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or movement beneath the ocean or lake cause massive waves. Despite many seismic activities happening in Costa Rica, there have not been Tsunami disasters in Costa Rica, thankfully. However, if it were to happen, it would be less likely to produce a highly intense Tsunami due to Costa Rica’s geomorphologic structure.
“Pura Vida” Lifestyle
Retirement is all about relaxing and having the best, relaxed life possible. If that’s what you’re after, Costa Rica is the perfect place to be. Life there is slow and far less stressful than in many places on earth.
Since Costa Rica has a laidback lifestyle, you should expect everyone to go about their day at their own pace — you might even have to wait 20 minutes to take money out from the ATM. Waiting at the restaurant for your food to arrive could take some time, too.
If you are rarely in a rush, then life in Costa Rica will be just fine for you. However, if you cannot tolerate even the slightest delay, you might not want to retire in Costa Rica. Things are done differently there. If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t be there because you cannot take away their “Pura Vida” lifestyle.
Note that if you want to get the best out of living in Costa Rica, it would be beneficial to learn Spanish before getting there.
No Four Seasons
Costa Rica should not be your retirement paradise if you cannot live without the four seasons of the year. You won’t be able to watch the snowmelt or build a snowman. Instead, you’ll have hot, dry, and rainy weather.
The country is beautiful in summer. Even when it rains, Costa Rica is gorgeous, and you will likely get to see animals along the way. If it rains, all you need is an umbrella, a rain jacket, and waterproof footwear.
Costa Rica is perfect if you want both hot and cold weather. You’ll have plenty of time to build sandcastles in summer or put on a good winter jacket during the rainy season.
People Hang Laundry Outside
Hanging clean laundry is common in Costa Rica because many locals do not own a dryer. People in Italy hang their laundry outside, too. Why buy a dryer when you can dry your laundry out for free?
Not everyone is a fan of hanging laundry outside, though. So if that’s you, you will have to get yourself a dryer then. If you have a problem with other people hanging their laundry outside, you should rethink your retirement plan in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Is a Bug Paradise
You don’t want to retire in Costa Rica if you are terrified of bugs. People with Entomophobia (fear of insects) will find living in Costa Rica stressful. There are bugs everywhere — indoors and outdoors — and some of them are scary.
Costa Rica is home to over 20,000 species of spiders, with some being harmful to humans. Costa Rica is home to the most dangerous spider globally: the Banana Spider (Phoneutria Fera). Also called the Brazilian wandering spider, the Banana Spider is the world’s most toxic spider; its neurotoxin can lead to muscle control loss and paralysis if not treated.
As you know by now, Costa Rica has a lot of rain, lush jungles, and lovely beaches, so it should not surprise you to find many bugs in the country. You cannot get rid of the bugs, but you can manage how you react to them if you want to retire and live in Costa Rica. If you can’t, well, the bugs are another reason you should not retire in Costa Rica.
Many Dogs Roam Free
There are many dogs in Costa Rica — and they roam freely on the streets. Stray dogs could be a problem if you are not a dog person or are afraid of dogs. Chances are some dogs are rabid, and getting chased by a rabid dog on the street would be scary.
Some dogs are chained or locked up in a cage. It is a sad sight often to be seen in Costa Rica. Many dog owners do not neuter their dogs, hence too many dogs around.
If you love dogs and want to help them, there are dog rescue projects you can participate in when you live in Costa Rica. It will be a good idea to move to Costa Rica if you want to do this. However, if you do not feel comfortable living somewhere dogs can run up to you, then retiring in Costa Rica might not be for you.
Costa Rica Is Not Immune to Crimes
Although Costa Rica is very safe compared to many countries around the world, crimes do exist. As long as you use common sense, you will do fine in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is generally very peaceful — no riots — and often referred to as Americas’ Switzerland. Crimes that exist usually relate to property.
If properties are often broken into, that means settling down in Costa Rica is not that safe after all. Not exactly. Properties that are often broken into are usually homes that are left unattended, like holiday properties. If you do settle down in Costa Rica but want to leave the country occasionally for vacations abroad, you will have to find ways to secure your house better, like installing CCTVs or hiring someone to look after your home while you’re gone.
Life is simple in Costa Rica. It makes more sense to dress minimally, not covered in flashy jewelry or anything expensive, or showing loads of cash, making you a prime target. Also, avoid keeping luxurious things at home, especially if you won’t be around all year round.
Costa Rica Is Not the Cheapest Country To Retire
Living in Costa Rica is cheaper than living in the States, but Costa Rica is not the cheapest place to retire with other cheap countries in mind. If you are from the States and want to move somewhere not too far from your home country, Costa Rica might be your best option. If you do not mind moving halfway across the world to retire cheaply, Asian countries, such as Thailand, are not a bad idea either.
Thailand’s living cost is cheaper than that of Costa Rica. But if moving to Asia is out of the question, then retiring in Costa Rica is ideal. If you can, buy a home in Costa Rica — real estate in Costa Rica is more affordable than in the States. Even if you choose to rent in Costa Rica, the home’s cost is more affordable than what you’re paying in the States.
If you live in beach destinations that tourists like to visit, your cost of living will be more expensive. You will also spend a lot on air-conditioning. If you aim to find the cheapest retirement destination (without sacrificing fun and happiness) anywhere globally, Costa Rica does not have to be your only option.
Costa Rica is a great country to visit, but if you’re planning on retiring there, you might want to consider visiting the country first and spend some time there before committing to retiring there. Do your homework and learn about the country. It would be helpful to learn Spanish before you get there.
Ask experts or anyone living there, or who have lived there, about Costa Rica to give you insights on what life might look like if you were to retire there. If you don’t need to live in the Americas, there are always other options.
- VisitCostaRica: Essential Costa Rica
- Wikipedia: Costa Rica
- Wikipedia: Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report
- UniverseToday: Stratovolcano
- AmericanGeoSciences: How many active volcanoes are there in the United States?
- NationalGeographic: These are the most dangerous U.S. volcanoes, scientists say
- Earthquake: M 4.7 – 3 km WSW of Puerto Armuelles, Panama
- TicoTimes: Could Tsunami Happen in Costa Rica?
- MyLifeElsewhere: Cost of Living Comparison