Costa Rica

Living in Costa Rica

by Iyna Bort Caruso

There’s an expression in Costa Rica--pura vida--which translates to pure life. It is a catch-all phrase that reflects a kind of eternal optimism and laid-back way of life.

In Costa Rica, there is a lot to be optimistic about. This progressive, Central American country is one of the world’s few without an army. In recent years its infrastructure has been built on a model of sustainability. Resources have gone toward the protection of some 29 national parks and 300-plus beaches. Eco tourism fuels the tourist economy and drives the national mindset. In fact Costa Rica coined the term eco-tourism, a fact which local ticos are justifiably proud.

Twenty-six percent of the land, sandwiched between black and white sand beaches of both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, is protected, which makes a perfect outdoor playground for ziplining, surfing, hiking, horseback riding, among other soft adventures.

Costa Rica has seven provinces with tropical microclimates based on rainfall, elevation and topography. It is compact nation. The coast-to-coast drive is only about three hours.

Central Valley is the population center and home to four out of the country’s five largest cities including the capital of San Jose. Wealthy suburbs with prestigious gated communities are set on hills overlooking San Jose and nearby Heredia. The modern city of Escazu is home to affluent Costa Ricans, retired ex-pats and embassy personnel. Homes here are expensive and fast-selling. 

In the country’s North Pacific region, the Guanacaste area saw a wave of residential construction when a second international airport opened in 1995. Today, Peninsula Papagayo is one of several luxury developments that offers marina condominiums, estate homes and sites for custom builds. Many developments feature impressive golf courses.

Buyers from the U.S. have been driving demand with rising interest from Canadians and Europeans spurred by enhanced air links. With the exception of maritime zones, international buyers have the same ownership rights as local citizens. Costa Rica is especially attractive to retirees for its strong healthcare system and government-issued discounts and tax breaks for those meeting certain criteria.

Costa Rica’s architecture features colonial-era mansions, Art Deco condominiums and contemporary high rises. Globally known architects are making their mark, too, with stunning post-modern estates that incorporate the eco-friendly design ethos.