8 Reasons Why Not To Retire To Costa Rica

Costa Rica might sound like a tropical paradise but there are definitely some reasons why you may not want to live and retire there.. In this article we will discuss these reasons so you can make a more informed decision.

Here are some downsides of retiring to Costa Rica you should consider:

  • Crime Rates
  • Inadequate Health Care Systems
  • Limited Types Of Public Transportation
  • Extreme Weather
  • Earthquakes
  • Very Wet During Rainy Season
  • Only Two Seasons
  • Poor Infrastructure
  • Rising House Prices

You now know the main drawbacks of retiring to Costa Rica. It’s time to take a thorough look at these cons in order to determine whether Costa Rica is the right country for you to retire and start a new life.

Introduction To Costa Rica

Costa Rica is without a doubt among the most desirable retirement locations in the world. With its sunny beaches, natural attractions, diverse culture and welcoming people it continues to draw retirees from around the world.

Costa Rica means “Rich Coast” in Spanish. It is a country in Central America that borders Nicaragua, Panama, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Costa Rica has a population of about 5 million people and San José is the largest and capital city.

Before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century the land was inhabited by small tribes of indigenous peoples. Costa Rica is home to both volcanoes and lakes with the Irazu volcano being the tallest and Lake Arenal being the biggest.

Costa Rica is by far the most visited country in Central America. In 2016 a total of 1 million Americans and around half a million Europeans visited Costa Rica. Given Costa Rica’s excellent ecotourism, this is hardly surprising.

Costa Rica came in at 5th for the whole of the Americas in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index behind the USA, Canada, Barbados and Mexico. Costa Rica appears to be a perfect destination to retire.  So why are we talking about the negatives of retiring there?  Well with this increased focus comes many issues that may not make your retirement so cheap.

Why You Shouldn’t Move To Costa Rica

Crime Rates

Costa Rica is often regarded as being safer than many other countries across the world. However, crime does exist and this is perhaps one of the reasons why you should not settle in Costa Rica. Costa Rican crime is on the rise, and Americans are regular victims. While petty thievery is the most common issue, muggings have been reported in broad daylight. While the majority of crimes are nonviolent, some felons have shown a higher inclination toward violence in recent years.

To avoid this, expats are advised to exhibit caution and be aware of their surroundings especially in larger groups in tourist areas.  This is the same as you would in any other city on the planet. Avoid wandering around late at night (especially in San Jose’s downtown area), and avoid carrying big sums of money, wearing excessive jewelry or otherwise showing off your wealth.

PRO TIP: Always check for the travel advisory by your country before going abroad.

LINK: USA Travel Advisory For Costa Rica

Inadequate Health Care Systems

You’ve definitely heard stories about visitors coming to Costa Rica to take advantage of lower-cost medical services, particularly dental care. Medical tourism is booming in the country, thanks to the high-quality services available for a fraction of the cost you’d spend back home.

A surgery which costs $20,000 in the United States can cost as little as $5,000 in Costa Rica. You still fly into Costa Rica and it is still cheaper even if you had to pay for your flights and accommodation. Another point to consider is that many physicians in Costa Rica are fluent in English which is great for communicating what you want.

All medical procedures have potential side effects and issues. As a result, if you want to retire to Costa Rica for cheaper medical treatment make sure you do your research first. Look at not only the surgery but the after operation patient care and for major surgery what a live-in or daily nurse will cost you.

When going to another country it is best to have private health insurance especially if it is a less developed country. An international insurance starts at 253 USD a month in Costa Rica.

Here are a few recommended international private insurance: 

Limited Types Of Public Transportation

Costa Rica boasts a well-developed local bus system that travels the length and breadth of the country for under a dollar or two per trip. The bigger cities have well established routes but the smaller towns may only have one regional stop in the centre of town. Buses are usually overcrowded, with limited spaces and also no air conditioning. 

Expect a longer journey than if you took a taxi like any bus ride with the stop times included. It will take around nine hours to travel from San Jose to the Osa Peninsula, for example. Schedules are prone to frequent changes and must be closely monitored. It’s important to check the calendar a few days before a big trip and make plans appropriately. 

Most resorts and tourist areas are served by buses. The Gray Line Costa Rica for example offers a better quality transport service with much more comfortable chairs and air conditioning, but they’re more expensive than normal buses.

San José to Guanacaste’s northwest beaches. If you’re traveling in a group you could also rent a small van with a driver for a fraction more but be able to work on your schedule and stop where you would like too. You’ll have to determine whether the low price of the normal bus service is worth the inconvenience. 

LINK: Bus Itinerary in Costa Rica

Extreme Weather

The hurricane season is from June to November and although Costa Rica is fortunate in that it is located in a region that is usually spared from direct hits. Hurricane season is dangerous because of the heavy downpours that follow these severe weather patterns.  These can cause landslides, mudslides, flooding as well as service interruptions for power and internet. Landslides and flooding are more common on the country’s Atlantic Ocean side.

Unfortunately, many natural disasters are unpredictable or offer little time for preparation. While traveling, keep an eye on local and worldwide weather information from the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center so you can be prepared for anything Mother Nature throws at you.

And like in any hurricane prone area be prepared as recommended by the CDC below:

LINK: CDC Hurricane Preparations


Small earthquakes occur on a daily basis in Costa Rica, with aftershocks strong enough to be felt several times a year. Major earthquakes occur around once every ten years, but no expat has ever lost their lives or been seriously injured in a Costa Rican earthquake.

Costa Rica’s tourism facilities and modern neighborhoods are largely earthquake-resistant. Building regulations require earthquake “proof” architecture to avoid collapses, and natural gas pipelines are not used which reduces the risk of fires significantly. Emergency personnel are well-trained, and they responded promptly and effectively in the aftermath of the quake in 2009.

Relocating to Costa Rica is not really a problem if you have lived in areas where earthquakes occur on a regular basis. Still, if you find it bothersome and stressful, you may want to consider retiring somewhere else.

Very Wet During Rainy Season

Costa Rica is a tropical country where rain is almost inevitable. The rainy season normally lasts from May until November. As a result, if you retire to Costa Rica you will see a lot of rain in different areas of the nation. When it is not raining you can unwind on one of the country’s lovely beaches. 

Even during the summer you will also get a little rain as well. This is common in any tropical country and it is part of the reason they remain so rich in plant life.  During the rainy season as it is with any town that has one you will just want to carry a raincoat or umbrella as any day can turn on you and have a downpour.

Only Two Seasons

If you enjoy warm weather all year round then Costa Rica is the ideal retirement destination.  The warmer weather is great for arthritis and many other ailments.  During the summer, you spend a lot of time swimming and laying in the sun at the beaches. In the rainy season you will spend a lot of time inside or using an umbrella as you run between shops.

If you like the turn of the seasons then Costa Rica is not really for you.  There is only wet season and dry season and the temperature is pretty much the same all year.  The humidity ranges from 70% to 80% throughout the year as well.

Poor Infrastructure

Driving in Costa Rica is quite risky which may be one of the reasons why you should not retire there. Their roads are in terrible condition, hilly and most not gravelled or with bitchumen. A few of the bridges may also appear to be a bit shaky. 

You’ll also notice that their mountain roads have no guard rails at all posing a constant danger of collapse debris especially during wet season.  It also means there is nothing that will stop you from driving off if you get tired or swerve so just be careful.

The ports as well need upgrading so shipping your household goods down there will take a little longer than expected and then add the extra time based on roads and if it is in the wet season.  Since Cosa Rica rolled out the retiree welcome wagon through easy visa’s the rapid growth has taken them off guard and they have lots of infrastructure projects underway to try and catch up from power to communications, roads, bridges, ports and more. 

Rising House Prices

With the growing popularity of Costa Rica as a holiday and retiring destination the house prices are being driven up quickly.  Most of these are US buyers that want their place on the beach.  While this is great for having a community it has meant a shortage of housing and this has led to the housing prices climbing.

This is shown in San Juan where a 2 bed 2 bath unit will cost $300k USD which is now way outside that of what a local could afford.  It also may be a lot more than you are willing to spend if you are looking to retire cheaply to a country.  Before you commit, go down and spend time there on holiday to see what you get value for money.

Here is a local real estate website so you can look at current prices as well:

LINK: Helcor Real Estate San Juan Costa Rica

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