Spending many years researching retirement areas from Portugal to Panama, my travels led me to Costa Rica. My wife and I visited the country several times before deciding to relocate here in 2008. My older sister was up for an adventure, so she moved along with us and we settled in together in Playas del Coco.
Visiting the country a few times, and actually any country where you plan to retire, was key to our selection of Costa Rica. Before we settled down we tried to experience different areas of the country so we could observe all the different climates available within CR, and of course at various times of year since the weather changes quite a bit.
Which brings me to the glorious rainy season; though the dry season in Guanacaste gets very dusty and hot, it seems worth it for the luscious rains that fall between May and October. And with luck you get both a sunny day and a rainy day at the same time.
Within a couple of years of our move, my wife and I undertook ownership of a small art gallery near the Liberia airport. At the time it was just two rooms of art, but we quickly learned that although this area had an abundance of souvenir shops, it was deprived of a fine art gallery, and with so many talented artists within the country, it was natural to start an expansion.
As most anyone getting familiar with the country either knows, or will quickly learn, there are many legal requirements and tax laws in Costa Rica, but of course that is true in any country. However, what is different here is, of course, the language. If your native tongue is English, and you typically think the “fine print” of any document is hard to read, wait till you see it in Spanish! Plus, we hadn’t realized that so often rules and regulations change, and though you rely on experts to guide you, they sometimes don’t even know which way things are headed. So we’ve learned to have a lot of patience. And patience is definitely a virtue here whether it’s in business dealings or having household repairs done.
There’s a slower pace here than in Chicago, where I was born, and (most of the time) that’s a good thing.
It was with great trepidation that I navigated through both the private and public health systems here when my sister was diagnosed with a stage IV cancer. Both systems have their strengths and weaknesses, but all in all, I would rank them high with the level of care and concern given. For as many disappointing stories I have heard about the public healthcare system, I have heard gratifying and uplifting stories as well. Though the public facilities may look worn and tired, the people within their walls are knowledgeable and compassionate.
So my wife and I are continuing our adventure, eight-plus-years as we forge ahead. We’ve adapted well to the mosquitoes and occasional scorpion. We coexist with most of the other insects and batten down the hatches when there is a deluge. Sometimes there are visitors that are thinking about moving to Costa Rica, so after their tour of the art they want to spend some time to talk about the area before they take the plunge.
My main advice is always to live here for at least six-eight months before making any kind of permanent commitment. It’s not for everybody. Pura vida is truly a state of mind.