10 Reasons Why You Don’t Want To Move To Costa Rica

10 reasonsI keep seeing articles that say Costa Rica is one of the happiest countries to live in.  And while that can be true for some, I wanted to point out various reasons why someone may not want to move here.

1. You don’t want to move to Costa Rica if… you really like the four seasons.

two seasonsWell, there IS a “Four Seasons” hotel in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, but there is definitely not four seasons of the year here (it should really be called the “Two Seasons Hotel”). No changing of the leaves. No crisp season when the snow melts and it’s that “light jacket” weather. No snow or ice or sleet or slush.

Costa Rica has two seasons: a “summer” (dry season) and a “winter” (rainy/wet season).  The summers are beautiful. But so is the rainy season – the mornings are usually clear and sunny, and if you venture out in the afternoon, just do like the Ticos do and go about business as usual, just pop out your umbrella when it rains.  Costa Rica really has a climate for everyone (except if you want snow).

2. You don’t want to move to Costa Rica if… you’re an introvert and never want to talk to anyone.

So you want to have a quiet day, go into town and do your grocery shopping and return home all in peace and quiet? Well, good luck. People are gosh-darn NICE here. You can’t get away with going out and NOT having a “Buenos días!” thrown at you with a smile, or running into a friend, or an acquaintance even, and chatting a bit. It’s just the way it is here.

OH WAIT – I’m a semi-introvert(!), can sometimes feel awkward, and there are definitely days where I’d rather not talk to anyone…  But I’ve found even on those days, the Ticos genuine smiles and kisses cheer me up regardless, and later – I feel like I didn’t “just go into town for errands”, but someone remembered who I was and greeted me with joy, and really, how could that not brighten my day?

3. You don’t want to move to Costa Rica if…. you are neurotic about your personal space.

I met a Tica for the first time the other day. We told each other our names, shook hands, and said mucho gusto (“pleasure to meet you”). Today I saw her for the 2nd time – and she greeted me like a long lost friend! She had a huge smile, arms opened wide, and she ran out to greet me with a kiss on the cheek. That’s not unusual here. After you’ve met someone, the next time you see them, you are bombarded with kindness. It sounds crazy to us “stiff Americans”, yet this is how the Ticos are – they are genuinely kind and happy to see us. They are sweet when I stumble around with my awful Spanish… they are patient when I say mas despacio, por favor. They smile and laugh and disagree with me when I say !Mi Espanól no es bueno! (“my Spanish is not good at all!”).  Sounds like a crazy way to treat foreigners, doesn’t it?  But I’ll take it!

4. You don’t want to move to Costa Rica if… you must have a smooth car ride everywhere you go.

Granted, some of the roads are ok here, but most are heavily laden with potholes. Sometimes people will stick a tree in them, so you know to avoid while driving. If you ride around in the car a lot, it will be a bumpy ride.   This is not that big of a deal to me when someone is kind enough to give us a lift (unless I’m carting some homemade éclairs and they’re being bounced all over the pretty platter they are carefully placed on). However, we recently were with a friend and this really bothered her. When she said “oh my, the roads are quite bumpy here” about every 5 seconds, we knew this person would not last long in Costa Rica…

pot hole

5. You don’t want to move to Costa Rica if…. you expect immediate service everywhere you go.

This is just not the way things are done here. Yes, the people are nice, and they want to help you, but they are also extremely laid back. They don’t get too worked up or stressed out about anything. Everything gets done in its own time, pura vida. At a restaurant, when you take that last sip of your drink, a waiter will not instantly appear at your side and ask if you want another one. You’ll typically have to wait. Sometimes for quite a while. And you might need to flag down your waiter and request it. And then wait some more while he/she gets it and brings it back to you in their own time… NOTHING is in a hurry here, folks.

However, I must say, that I really enjoy this (hey, I don’t have to race back to the office to punch a time clock!). It is what it is here, and once you accept that, life can be pretty darn pura vida.

6. You don’t want to move to Costa Rica if…. you have a bug phobia.

With Costa Rica never having a winter season and many areas being beaches or rain forests – YES, there are bugs here. What did you expect?

executeOH WAIT – I moved here with a bug phobia! And when I say “bugs” I’m mainly talking about roaches and extra-large spiders (tarantulas). However, I’M STILL HERE. And I really haven’t seen these certain bugs that much, certainly not every day. I also really think the bug experiences I have had, have helped to diminish my phobia. I can’t control the bugs here, but I can control how I react or deal with them (sometimes typing words like this helps me to actually believe them). Click here for my secret tool that helps me deal with them.

7. You don’t want to move to Costa Rica if…. you’re offended by people hanging their dirty laundry out to dry.

Well, more accurately, their clean laundry. Most Ticos do not own a clothes dryer. Sure, they are available. But why would they buy one, when they can hang their clothes outside to dry for free? This is the mind-set of most Ticos I have come across, and I think I can really learn something from them. Why buy something if it’s not necessary? Seeing clothes hung out to dry in front yards – over fences, on top of shrubs, over roof overhangs – is a most common sight here.


8. You don’t want to move to Costa Rica if… you either hate or love dogs.

Let me explain. If you’re not a dog person (squeamish at the mere site of a puppy wagging its tail), Costa Rica might not be for you. You will see a lot of dogs roaming around on the streets, sides of roads, everywhere. Sometimes they will bark at you, and come up to you (which I know would scare people who don’t like dogs). However, I’ve never encountered a dog that actually touched me, I’ve always been able to “scare” them away with a grunt or shout.

On the other hand if you are a dog lover, Costa Rica might also not be for you. Having a dog for a pet here is a more recent thing. Most dogs (if owned) are kept outside, a lot of times on a chain. It doesn’t occur to most Costa Ricans to neuter their pets. So they multiply. And multiply. And multiply. The good news is you can definitely get involved in dog rescue projects here. Some of the best people I know head up dog fostering, rescuing and neutering projects.


9. You don’t want to move to Costa Rica if…. you want to drive a brand new flashy sports car.

Well, you CAN buy such a car here, but #1 it would cost you loads of money, and #2 you’d be severely limited as to where you could drive it (see above potholed roads). And if you think you’ll just bring your car with you from the States, you will pay for that too; tack on 52% of the value of the vehicle (if 6 years old or under) plus the cost to ship it over seas.

IMG_7323We don’t have a car, and WE LOVE IT.   We get around just fine by bus, it’s only 80 cents a fare into town or $8 for a direct ride to either the west or east coast. We really save so much money this way without the price of a car, and all the inspection/insurance fees to go along with it. Sometimes I do miss driving my Mini, and Greg would love to get an old Toyota Land Cruiser – they’re everywhere here, there’s even a bumper sticker that says OTRO TOYOTA (“Another Toyota” – how cute is that)…  but we have stuck to our guns and stayed with the bus, as we know we do not need a car, and so far it’s been great – lots of adventures happen this way.

10. You don’t want to move to Costa Rica if…. your diet consists of Dr. Pepper, pretzels, and football.

Well, let me revise, for a price, you can get Dr. Pepper and pretzels, as well as watch American football if you pay for cable TV or visit some sports bars in bigger cities.

However, there are great (and cheaper!) substitutes. You can find batidos (fresh fruit blended with either water or milk and ice) everywhere, which are refreshing and let’s face it, a lot healthier than a Dr. Pepper. And Pringles are a great and healthy substitute for pretzels.  Kidding, but Pringles are pretty cheap here, and look at this cute little pack “Sólo para mí! (“Only for me, Gregorio!”).  Also, futball (soccer) is the national sport here, you will find soccer fields everywhere you go. Added bonus ladies: much easier to see how fit the men are without all that American football paraphernalia on!


Now, if all the above reasons were true, I wouldn’t be living here.
And the ones that are slightly true for me (bug phobia, slightly introverted, oh and
I do love dogs) have only helped me to become a better person.  I think I’ll stay!
heartPura Vida! — Jen


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60 Responses to 10 Reasons Why You Don’t Want To Move To Costa Rica

  1. Love this blog! FAVORITE LINE: “People are just gosh darned nice here!” That made me laugh out loud: Not just the verbiage, but the passionate expression of it’s truth! <3

  2. Great comments! We sincerely hope to move to CR once I retire in 5 years. The people there are SO friendly and wonderful. Thanks for writing this blog!!

  3. Hi Jen Jen!

    I was pulling out the suitcases and then you had to mention Dr Pepper. 🙁 You know Mighty can’t (won’t) live without it!

    We will have to save up mucho dinero, so I can purchase a big stash when we get there!

    I love the post and you, Chica Bonita!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • I know, I was TOTALLY thinking of you when I wrote about the Dr. Pepper! lol It’s pricey, and you can only get at Automercado (an expensive “gringo” store here!). But don’t worry, I’ll take care of you if you come and visit me! 🙂 Love you too!! xx

      • As a recovering Diet DP addict, I can say that giving up my drink of choice was the hardest! However, as you mentioned, the batidos are sooooo good and so much better for you! While back in the states for the holidays, I had my share of DDP, but actually didn’t enjoy it nearly as much. Getting ready to head out the door in a bit and get my favorite treat at the feria….guanabana and srawberry batido!!

        • That’s awesome Cindy! Good for you on giving it up, and now hearing when you indulge “it’s just not the same”. I love hearing that! I agree on the botidos!

  4. Great post. We are currently in Panama but will be spending several months in Costa Rica next year. Your blog is great and much of it applies here to. We especially have trouble with #8 because we are big dog lovers. I’m sure once we settle down we will get involved with a rescue org. My big fear is that we will want to adopt everyone. I found this blog very entertained and also very informative. Well written!!!! Thanks.

    • Hi Suzi! Yes, the dogs – can be heartbreaking, and we have not fostered, because we know we’d have a whole dog farm living with us in no time… Thank you so much for reading!

  5. Thanks for the great article. I’ll put up with creepy crawlies, much preferred over the lovely “spring” weather here in Chicago, 2 inches of snow and coming down hard. Only a few short months to go!

  6. Great article. I’m getting ready for trip #4, and 1st into Nicaragua in June as I contemplate retirement. Well written and fun article :).

  7. Jen,thanks for this very informative and interesting blog! I really enjoyed it.
    I lived in Guatemala years ago and is very similar to many things you are describing in Costa Rica. Maybe someday we will decide to move there, and if not, just to visit it!! Gracias y Feliz Dia 🙂

  8. Jen,

    Love the list — 100% true! I am the proud owner of the ONLY dog in the
    Zona Sur who is on a leash, ever. She is a reactive dog, and caused me such anxiety when I first arrived in my town, but people came up and asked
    why she was restrained, what she would do if I let her free (Fly?), what
    breed she was (Zaguate- Mutt), and it has all worked out just fine. I
    have a great vet, a dog groomer (she still looks ghetto), and I can
    honestly say both dog and I are happier here than in USA. And true, it
    takes heroic self control to not adopt every stray in the hood! Ticos
    are truly weird about their dogs, but it’s all part of the cultural learning curve, right?

    • Hi Carol – your dog sounds awesome – good for you for bringing her here and making a happy life for her! Yes, hard not to adopt/foster every single dog out there! 🙂

    • I’ve seen several dogs on leashes in San Isidro. Every day. I walked the Quebradas Road yesterday to catch the morazon bus and passed 6 people walking their dogs on leashes.

  9. I love Costa Rica. Been going there for 10 years. Own a home there in Flamingo. Plan on moving there soon. It’s paradise and I love the people.

  10. Hi Jen.

    I am from Costa Rica ….. I laughed a lot with the blog, everything is true. I am glad you enjoyed this little country, we are not the richest country, we do not big buildings and our laws are not the best, but you know what we are “Pura vida”.. 😀


  11. Having a dog for a pet here is a more recent thing…wait what? do you actually know costaricans? we are HUGE animal lovers, my grandparents had dogs, my parents had dogs and I do have dogs and cats. we have a lot of respect for animals. Do you actually know we were the first country in banning animal hunting in the americas? Man fun read but you included a lot of awful generalizations and stereotypes from rural areas and 70% of ticos actually live in urban areas. the more you know…

  12. Some of the things you are saying are “nice” some others are quite offensive, like point 8… I totally disagree with point 8… Having dogs as a pet is new for us? Neutering pets is new for us?? we have quite a lot of neutering projects out there, sucessfully working month after month, year after year. The perception the foreign people may have of the ticos is nice, most of the times, some other times is just offensive.

    • Definitely did not mean to offend. I really have the utmost respect for Ticos, they have treated me so well and I love living in this country. Maybe it is just the are I live in (which is rural), but there is not a lot of neutering going on here.

  13. There is a lot you still don’t know about Costa Rica. The court system is a nightmare. Heaven help you if you have some kind of legal problem. The emergency medical services are a nightmare. If someday you will need an ambulance quick, you better live somewhere else. And then there is the problem with Costa Rican men being notoriously unfaithful…if you get together with a Tico, watch out. I could go on and on…I’m just tired of these PollyAnnaish posts written by newbies who don’t know about some of the crazy sh*t that goes on here.

    • I definitely know there is a lot of “not so great” stuff here, but there is in the United States too. For now, I am definitely enjoying being in Costa Rica for a different adventure. Luckily I already have my great man (Greg), so do not need to date any Ticos…

      • Dear Jen I am so proud to be Tico and know that people like you love our country, I work in the tourism sector and I feel so glad to hear this kind of comments. Unfortunately You and I know that each person has their own way to think and see the things, I know that my country is not perfect, but I can say that I wake up every day with the blessing to walk without fear and without complexes, smiling at everyone who stop on my way. if someone does not feel comfortable with public health services (which are the best of Central America) can opt for a private service as CIMA as well as other private hospital, I am sure will be able to receive better service (Of course paying a lot extra money) and about the unfaithful ticos, Yes this is true, Ticos as well as the rest of the men’s in the world are unfaithful, nevertheless, I can say that I feel so happy with my 10 years married and I love my wife. (Lo siento por mi ingles, si no es muy bueno, yo tambien entiendo a los que no saben hablar español jijijijiji)

        • Thank you so much for commenting! I’m honored to hear from you, and your exactly like I think most Ticos and Ticas are here – nice and happy and super sweet to everyone. It is so appreciated by me, a foreigner in your country. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Pura vida! PS – your English is perfect!!

  14. How long have you lived here???
    Hahaha! Just wait….
    Paradise has its price. I wish people would quit trying to sell things and tell it like it really is.

  15. I’m a 100% costarican girl, to tell you the truth, I don’t quite understand why people feel offended by point #8, if you are a true costarican, you should know how it is in rural areas, it’s pretty different from the urban panorama, we have a lot of different areas, for example, in San José the pro-animal movement is amazing, there are castration and adoption campaigns all year long, a lot of rescue organizations but for rural areas this is not the case, without trying to be disrespectful, a lot of our rural population is not academically prepared, but that does not mean it’s a bad thing, it only means that those organizations need a little bit more support from everyone, so this way of behaving can be adopted everywhere, generally people in Costa Rica are very nice, so taking propper care of cats and dogs should not be that hard. I love everything you wrote about our country. Ofcourse not everything is pretty pink, but in general, this is a good country. I’m happy to have someone as passionate about this place as you are.

  16. That is a fun article! I may pull the trigger on moving to Costa Rica in August. I would stay for AT LEAST 6 months and live in fully furnished place I found in Flamingo. I wonder is there some resource, any kind of guide that will tell you everything you need to know about the proper paperwork; about riding a motorcycle down and how long you can keep it in CR without having to pay the tax, etc, etc?? I don’t know anybody down there! Any help would be appreciated!!

  17. Hey Jen, just recently found your site (and your husband’s) and are enjoying them. Although I live in an island in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico), I am retired and seriously considering moving to Costa Rica. Life is cheaper, including medical insurance and local food produce. I found that the climate in San Ramon, for example, is perfect for me. Only thing I’m worried about is them BUGS! Are they mostly found outside city areas, or generally everywhere?

    • Hi Manuel! Unfortunately everywhere – BUT, like our house – we keep very clean and have “sprayed” for bugs every 6 weeks or so – and we really don’t see any inside the house. If we do, they are usually dead. The house is also very well sealed at the base boards. Hope that helps. If I can do it, you can do it (I was very paranoid about bugs before moving here)!

  18. ive lived in costa rica for 10 years now and it was the best decision ive ever made and people there are so sweet and i know absolutely love it here and n the capitol san jose it is a city so those comments about people leaving there laundry out to dry and also its clean laundry there drying after they washed it, and the one about your new sports car so many people in the capitol have them so no if you do want to move to costa rica and you have a sports car just move to the capitol instead of places like the province of guanacaste which has amazing beaches and beautiful jungles and when you wake up in the morning you here the beautiful birds and howler monkeys and squirrels in the jungle and its just beutiful so if you move to costa rica you will probably love it!!

  19. I’ve just discovered you and your blog. You’ve brought a ray of sunshine to my cloudy, windy, cold Pennsylvania winter (2 days until the biggest fore-casted Blizzard in years). My husband and I have visited 8 times over the past 5 years (and are heading down again in March). We, too, have an early-retirement plan, so I’m inspired by your book and your blog. I’d love more details and information about your preparation – we are counting down – under 5 years to launch! Peace and Pura Vida!

  20. Hey! I was just searching some things on the internet and I found your blog.
    I’m from Costa Rica and for me it was pretty funny, and tuanis (nice) too, I’m glad you liked the country and the people, something like this means a lot to us (los ticos) so thank you and “Pura Vida”!

  21. Hi Jen!!
    I have been to Costa Rica twice, and I bawled my eyes out both times I had to leave. I stayed at Tulemar Bulgalows both times so I really love the Manuel Antonio area. Ever since, I have been dreaming of moving there. I read the first couple pages of your book here, and I feel exactly the same way you felt before moving. I don’t know how much longer I can hang in there; my life is so full of despair. I am a SUPER friendly, open, laid-back, girl who is tired of the American perspective and way of life. I am SO excited about coming across your book, and I can’t wait to buy it. Help me move there!!! I don’t know where to start, but I can’t stand this place much longer. Can’t wait to read your book! Thank you for paving the way!!

    • Hello Ashley! That’s so cool you love Costa Rica so much, it is truly a great country. Also so happy you got my book! Keep reading. You’ll get here… Pura vida!! — Jen

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