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Costa Rica Expat Interviews

I find that hearing from people about what it’s like living in various environments is one of the best ways to hear the nitty gritty details about what it’s actually like living there. Today, I present you some interviews from people who live in Costa Rica, who kindly shared their experiences about what it’s like living there. Costa Rica has long been a desired retirement destination, and I proudly lived there for many years. Today, I share with you a transcript, as well as video, of actual interviews from people living in Costa Rica.

Interviews With Expatriates Living in Costa Rica

Presenter: The Living In Costa Rica Interview Set gives you access to eight in-depth interviews with people currently living in Costa Rica. They share their personal experiences of buying a business, running a restaurant, teaching yoga, investing in real estate, building a home, working and raising a family in Costa Rica. Interview topics include: the cost of living, safety, health care, health insurance, vivid descriptions and personal experiences. Here are a few examples

Interviewee 1: Well, in Montazuma the vibe for me is magical. I’ve had a lot of existential moments here just from walking in the nature. There’s all these different small niches within Montazuma. You have one beach that’s really big and broad with a lot of jungle and nature. You have another beach that’s closer to the road and more people access it. You have the waterfall that’s totally different. I love Montazuma as opposed to other beach towns because it has a small center. The town center has the one bar there where people go meet and hang out, have a drink. Also, all the stores are there, so it has that feeling like if you want to go out to town, you can just go. You don’t even need to gather your friends. You can just go downtown and you’ll find somebody who you know. It’s right there on the beach. There’s artisans who make their own jewelry and you can find pretty much all types of food. There is that little community vibe. Every Saturday we have a farmers market and then you’ll see a lot of people, like-minded people get together, health-conscious people who live here. It’s just generally very quiet. It definitely has that peaceful, wellness vibe here.

Interviewee 2: Compared to the other areas in Central America, it’s just very developed. Some of the other places like Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala are becoming more popular but it’s been in the last 15 to 20 years while Costa Rica has been popular for probably 30-35 and so it has an extra 15 years of social development with expats coming down. You just you just see that in a huge way. You notice it when you go to towns there’s always some expat there pretty much there’s usually some Italian who has an Italian restaurant. You see it in the service industry. When you compare that to the other places that you could go, it’s just head and shoulders above and what that means is easier living.

Interviewee 3: Costa Rica went through a real estate boom just like we did in the US. Costa Rican real estate activity is very much related to the US market. In 2008 when the bottom fell out of the US real estate market, the same thing happened here to a large extent because a lot of the development that was being done was focused on the US market. The market has changed considerably since then, but I think there’s still opportunities. It’s not as easy as it was. You need to really do your due diligence, you need to understand your investment and what you’re going to do with it.

I think people used to come to Costa Rica and say, “Hey this a great deal,” buy a piece of land, two years later flip it and make X multiples on their dollar. It was great business. You didn’t really need to be too smart about it. That’s not true anymore. However, I think that if you do your homework, if you come with a good idea, there are still great deals on land or on real estate for a rehab. There’re areas of Costa Rica that are gentrifying where there’re opportunities to get in early. There’re concepts that are new to Costa Rica that can be developed if you have some outside knowledge. I think the opportunities are there for those who are prepared to identify them and capitalize on them.

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Interviewee 4: The energy here is is really interesting. You have all sorts of people. With lots of people coming through, you’ve got a transient element to it, you have local Costa Rican families who’ve lived here for many years, you also have Nicaraguan families coming over to work as well. You have lots of people who are being attracted here because of the surf and yoga and wanting to live healthy lives. Then, you’ve also got, I don’t know don’t think it’s a case anymore, but it used to be like a port for distributing cocaine, so you have lots of drug use as well as another side of it that potentially is happening. You have this really light, pure way of living and then also more hedonistic party elements to it that come in as well.

Santa Teresa has got this, there’s Mal Pais, Playa Carmen, Santa Teresa. Everyone refers to the general area of Santa Teresa. There’s just this dusty road that goes all the way through it and then along the dusty road there are restaurants and bars and cafes and surf, lots of surf shops. There’s a wildness to it. There’s lots of vegetation, jungle. There are loads of monkeys. There are the howler monkeys that sounds like in Jurassic Park, so you’ve got those dinosaur sounds coming through. Then the beaches are just stunning, they are sandy beaches, you’ve got trees for shelter. The sunsets are just absolutely phenomenal. They’re just really beautiful, so yes it’s very beautiful here.

Interviewee 5: The beach comes to mind first. If you’ve not been to Nosara, it’s an incredible beach. They have a maritime zone, so there’s no building on the beach. Unlike a lot of tropical places where you’ll go and you’ll see palapas on the beach or bars and restaurants on the beach, it’s really vegetated and wild. My wife and I, we love that. In addition to it, it’s an incredible surf beach, really one of the top beginner and intermediate surf breaks in Costa Rica and Central America.I can remember one of the first times being there was in 2009 and my wife and I were out for a sunset and it was just loaded with families, kids and parents drinking wine or having a beer and kids running around playing in the surf, surfers out there. Just the whole demographic of people was so varied and everybody catching the ceremony and ritual of the sunset. That’s the biggest draw to that area. It’s an incredible beach.

I think secondarily, it has enough creature comforts for me. My wife and I pride ourselves on eating out probably four or five nights a week. There’s enough variation there to keep us curious and interested and the quality is really high. That means a lot to us that there’s some creature comforts. When I say creature comforts in that sense, eating out is one of ours, so that’s big. Third on the list, it’s not as accessible as some other places. You have to be willing to drive on bumpy, dusty, dirt roads for two and a half hours in one direction maybe three, three and a half hours in another direction from the airport in Liberia. That means that you seem to get a particular type of person that’s willing to do that and that wants to go to that “off the beaten path” a little bit and be in a real community that prioritizes the environment and water sports and yoga.

Interviewee 6: When we came down we bought a house, we were all in. Not that we were going to move here permanently for 12 months out of the year but we bought a home to be all-in with the restaurant and the house. We loved it, it was very nice, we got to work on it and started remodeling some things and it became a second or a third or a fourth job depending on how you want to look at it. It got to the point where after two years I said, “You know what, I’m not making progress going forward on the house, we’re going backwards because there was so much to do to maintain.” We just made the decision to sell the house. In the short run, we rent a condo and we’re looking to buy one just because the condo is so much easier than a house.

You would think, coming from North America, where seasons change and it destroys things around your house inside and out that it would be easier if the temperature was the same all the year and that’s not true. It is probably worse when it’s 90 degrees all year long. I love the 90 degree part but it’s not so good on the house. I think if you just own the inside of four walls that’s probably a better way to go, for me at least. There are a lot of long-term rental options down here, so it’s very easy to rent something and just ease yourself into it rather than having to buy something right up front.

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Tim Schmidt

A Florida-based Entrepreneur, Author, and Life Hacker, Tim Schmidt decided to take control of his retirement portfolio several years ago by setting up a self-directed IRA. This website shares his thoughts and opinions on retirement, investing, and managing credit. You can follow his career and travels on his Official Website as well as on his Instagram page.