Choosing a Location

The choices for anyone planting roots and settling down here are virtually endless.  Costa Rica has a multitude of towns and regions that are wide and varied. Some are tiny farming communities, some are remote mountain towns, some are bustling beach towns or even urban sprawl. But only a handful of these areas are best suited for those wanting to retire, relocate or purchase vacation property.


Where YOU decide to settle depends entirely on your present lifestyle as compared to your desired lifestyle, your budget and activities you wish to pursue. And there’s also specific needs you may have such as proximity to health care, schools, shopping, activities and transportation. It’s possible for people of all types, ages, singles, couples, families and investors  to satisfy almost any preference in climate and lifestyle amenities when moving to or buying real estate in Costa Rica.  In deciding which lifestyle appeals to you, some important questions should be answered.  This checklist will help you to gravitate towards the property best suited for you.

Relaxing by the Water

Lifestyle Checklist

  • What activities do you enjoy? (surfing, beach, fitness, nature hiking, nightlife)

  • What is your budget? (consider initial investment and monthly/annual budget)

  • Proximity to work (are you relocating, semi-retiring or retiring?)

  • Health Care considerations (proximity to hospitals, clinics, doctors and emergency care)

  • Proximity to education (pre-school, elementary, college - public & private)

  • Transportation (proximity to highway, airports, public transportation)

  • Worship facilities (proximity to facilities and others in your faith)

  • Lifestyle preference (urban, rural, beach, mountain, jungle)

  • Do I know (or will I need to learn) Spanish?

Comparison Grid by Location

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Not sure if this is redundant... as there are only 3 areas here and there are 8 total in the full list....

North Pacific - Guanacaste


 Flamingo, Liberia, Potrero-Surfside, Playa Grande, Tamarindo, Playas del Coco, Nicoya, Playa Negra, Playa Azul, Papagayo, Samara, Nosara

Guanacaste is a province of Costa Rica on the Northwest coast of the country and often referred to as the North Pacific region, or the Gold Coast of Costa Rica for it’s golden sandy beaches. The most sparsely populated province of Costa Rica, Guanacaste is considered to be unspoiled by urban growth, but tourism flourishes in this area with the copious accommodations and plethora of activities to choose from.  The climate in this region is unique to the rest of Costa Rica as it gets less rain than most any point south in the country. Typical tropical, beach-like weather is common from November to April which makes it the high season for tourism as it’s much warmer than typical winters and less humid than most beach states. And May to October sees a more tropical feel through the day with comfortable breezy evenings, punctuated by semi-daily showers that are usually brief and welcome. The unique climate contributes to the tropical dry-forests as a natural adaptation to the seasonally dry conditions.  Here you will find an international airport (Liberia), public and private hospitals, an immigration office, big box stores, great diving off of Las Catalinas island and more championship golf courses than the rest of the country.  If you like a touristy international town with lots of restaurants, different food choices and things to do, Playas Del Coco or Tamarindo are perfect.  This region also offers the highest number of private and public school options so a great choice for families.

Image by Robin Canfield

Lake Arenal/La Fortuna

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Located in Guanacaste, in the north Pacific region of the country, Lake Arenal is Costa Rica’s largest freshwater lake. The lake extends up through rolling hills, pastured farmland and thick primary forest, 22 miles north from the foot of Arenal Volcano. Many beautiful towns line the lakeside like Fortuna, Nuevo Arenal, Union, Tronadora and Tilaran.  At an elevation of 1,785’ above sea level the average annual temperature is 72.2 F degrees/22 C degrees with an average annual rainfall of 188” / 478 cm.  This area boasts landscapes of rolling pastures throughout primary and secondary jungles and is renowned for its multitude of outdoor activities like fresh water fishing, natural thermal spas, windsurfing, underground cave exploring, horseback riding, biodiversity tours, forest bike riding and waterfall hiking.  This is why tourists, backpackers, nature enthusiasts, vacationers, retirees and outdoor enthusiasts flock here from around the world.  This region has stunning scenery and perfect weather and makes for a choice location for retirement, relocation or investment. Many of the developments here feature eco-friendly homes, condos and building lots for sale as well as farms and large tracts of development land.  It sits on this beautiful thirty-three square mile freshwater lake and many of the newer homes that they’re building in the small towns that top the lake come with a boat slip so you can actually enjoy water sports or fishing out on the lake as well.  This is country living. So a lot of people who like the big city activity might find it a little bit too quiet here. However, the expats who live there, enjoy that area because they’re completely one with nature. There are mountains surrounding you and it’s very quiet and you’ll have no need for heat or air conditioning.


Central Pacific

Jaco Beach, Manuel Antonio, Quepos

The west coast area of Costa Rica that stretches roughly from the city of Puntarenas and extends south east, along the coast, to Manuel Antonio is commonly referred to as the Central Pacific region. The city of Puntarenas has grown recently into a nice beach town and is popular for it's ferry dock that takes you across the Bay of Nicoya to the Nicoya Peninsula. A bit further south is the region's largest and most popular city, Jaco Beach, a small, bustling beach town that is active with nightlife, casinos and tourism commonly known as the “Vegas of Costa Rica”.  Jaco's rapid growth encouraged local municipalities to implement standards to prevent overgrowth and preserve the quaint beach community feel that is typical of Costa Rica. This is clearly evident as you continue south on the coastal highway to popular spots like Herradura, Hermosa, Esterillos, Quepos and Manuel Antonio, where you’ll find Costa Rica’s most visited and stunning Manuel Antonio State Park. The warm and sunny year round weather here is typically tropical, but up in the coastal mountains, there's cooler temperatures and comfortable breezes.  Arguably, the most popular region in Costa Rica, there's never a shortage of activities to enjoy in the Central Pacific. And because of that, many real estate options are available to those who want to retire, vacation, invest or relocate. Affordable beachfront condos in Jaco, ocean view mountain homes along the coast, luxury estates in Los Suenos, there's not much of anything you can't find. Condominiums are often purchased as rental income units to recover costs, and used as a vacation home when it's not rented.  There are two big marinas in this area, one at Los Suenos and one in Quepos so the area attracts a lot of great sport fishing as well as some fantastic surfing spots.  These areas are a little more tropical and lusher so there’s a bit more of a rainy season here then Guanacaste.  In this region you can find lovely housing all along the coast and there is more clear title property in this part of the country where you can actually own the title to the land on the beach compared to other areas.