Best places to retire in Costa Rica, says specialist
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
According to Kathleen Peddicord, special writer for U.S. News, Costa Rica's remote beaches and dense jungles are both beautiful and exotic.
"You can hike a volcano, visit a cloud forest, relax in thermal waters and snorkel through new worlds beneath the sea," said Peddicord.
Costa Rica's cost of living can feel very affordable to retirees relocating from the U.S. This country has been a popular place to retire overseas for over 40 years.
Here's where you can enjoy Costa Rica's fascinating wildlife on a modest budget.
#1 Montezuma. Is a quiet spot on Costa Rica's Pacific coast at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The last few miles leading to town are unpaved, which means you will be jostled in a car along a pot-holed road.
The upside to this remoteness is privacy and unspoiled natural beauty. The beaches are sandy in some areas, rocky in others, but all are scenic and backed by dense jungle.
Montezuma also boasts rivers and natural swimming pools. There are several waterfalls, and the biggest is almost 80 feet tall. Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve, the country's first protected area, is one of the best places in the world to see seabirds, capuchin monkeys, jungle cats and white-nosed coati.
This coast is a great choice if your retirement lifestyle dreams center around diving, snorkeling and fishing excursions. In Montezuma you'll find a small, but impressive range of restaurants, as well as a supermarket and internet cafés.
#2 Santa Teresa and Mal País. Also on the Nicoya, two towns connected by a stretch of sand that is featured regularly on lists of the world's most beautiful beaches.
This coast is best known for its surfing. The surfing community has fueled the development of infrastructure and services, transforming the area from a fishing village to an emerging retirement option among beach lovers. Surprisingly, this is also a foodie haven.
The high-profile surfing crowd has attracted world-class chefs, who have opened internationally competitive restaurants. Gisele Bundchen and Mel Gibson own homes in this corner of Costa Rica. Yet, this part of Costa Rica remains a budget-friendly choice.
A couple could retire here on $1,500 per month or less. The biggest downside is limited access. Santa Teresa and Mal País are connected by a dirt road that's pot-holed and dusty in the dry season and muddy and occasionally impassable in the wet season.
#3 La Fortuna. In Costa Rica's northern highlands, is centered around an attractive park with gardens and a church. The main attraction is Arenal Volcano.
Rising to 5,358 feet, its perfectly conical shape is visible from everywhere in town. This was Costa Rica's most active volcano until 2010 and is not open for climbing. However, sister volcano Cerro Chato, also in Arenal Volcano National Park, is extinct and offers hiking trails that follow ancient lava flows.
The area is also known for its hot springs. Living here you could enjoy regular dips in the rustic hand-made stone pools filled with thermal waters.
#4 Monteverde. Ecotourism is a major draw to this cool weather, high elevation town in northwestern Costa Rica. The cloud forest is one of Costa Rica's top natural wonders.
The biodiversity it supports is extraordinary. This forest is home to hundreds of bird and mammal species, more than 2,500 species of plants, including 420 varieties of orchids, and tens of thousands of insects. Monteverde is situated at 4,662 feet with a climate similar to that of the Pacific Northwest.
There is heavy precipitation and temperatures hover at about 65 degrees year-round. This is one of Costa Rica's top agricultural regions. Farmers produce dairy and cheese products, garlic, flax and coffee.
#5 Puerto Viejo. On Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, existed in isolation until a road was finally built in 1979. Before the road, access was by boat. A trip into town meant navigating rip currents and reefs or traveling on foot through the jungle.
The area didn't have electricity until 1986. Phone lines arrived only in 1996, and the internet followed in 2006. However, you can now live in this natural wonderland enjoying the support of 21st century services. Puerto Viejo is a cultural niche that's been shielded from external influence until recently.
Spanish, Limonese Creole and English are spoken. A fledgling expat community has taken hold, with foreign retirees building homes and starting businesses catering to their fellows.
#6 Nuevo Arenal. In the highlands of northern Costa Rica, has a strong German influence. Living here, you could become part of both an established expat community and the local community.
The town sits on the northeastern corner of Lake Arenal, an 85-square-kilometer, man-made lake with plenty of inlets ideal for waterfront living. Temperatures are cooler than in Costa Rica's coastal areas, making this a desirable retirement spot for those who are not cut out for a tropical climate.
Life in Nuevo Arenal is lived largely and comfortably outdoors. Most day-to-day basic services are available, including grocery stores, an organic market, a butcher's shop specializing in fried pork belly, a German bakery and a couple of Italian restaurants.
Other lakeside towns are connected to Nuevo Arenal by a well-paved, two-lane road. The lake-view sunsets are a highlight.
#7 Costa Ballena. It is a 65-mile stretch of picturesque coastline in southwestern Costa Rica known for its exotic wildlife and sandy beaches. The key towns along this coast are Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal.
In Dominical, expats are building homes in the lush hills overlooking the surf break. Once a sleepy fishing village, Uvita has become the de facto commercial center, with banks, stores, restaurants and other expat-friendly services.
Ojochal offers supermarkets, a hospital, a hardware store and impressive culinary diversity. You can dine on local street food or treat yourself to fine white tablecloth dining experiences. French, Mediterranean and Italian restaurants serve international fare alongside stunning ocean views.
The area has begun to attract the attention of expats from the United States, Canada and Europe. The cost of living is higher than in other parts of Costa Rica, but the quality of life is hard to beat. This is a clean, safe and welcoming escape.
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