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Everything You Wanted to Know About Living in Costa Rica

Translated into English, its name means “Rich Coast,” and even the most cursory glance affirms that Costa Rica is graced with an innate wealth beyond mere currency. It is a highly literate, peaceful, healthy, and environmentally conscious democracy. Costa Rica’s literacy rate is 94.9 percent, it constitutionally dismantled its military in 1949, and it has a health care system ranked third in the world and first among the Americas in the 2010 Environmental Performance Index.

What to Do and See in Costa Rica?

The incredible natural riches found in this small land include countless lakes, rivers, and waterfalls; some of the world's best beaches, rainforests, and fiery volcanoes; and thousands of diverse species of flora and fauna. An essential ecotourism destination, Costa Rica’s biodiversity is also visually dramatic. The terrain encompasses a vast panorama of natural sights, from the immaculate Pacific beaches on the west to the exotic Caribbean shores on the east, upward through rugged and prolific mountains, and culminating in the towering peak of Cerro Chirripó at 12,530 feet.

San Jose

Commanding a plateau in the Central Valley, the capital city of San Jose is a dynamic metropolis connecting its paradisiacal surroundings to the rest of the world. With the Juan Santamaria International Airport just 20 minutes from downtown, international visitors can effortlessly enjoy the National Theater, world-class museums, vibrant bars and nightlife, restaurants, colorful outdoor markets, and regal historic buildings. Unusual experiences can be found in the cutting-edge Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, gleaming gold work dating from 500 AD can be seen in the Museo de Oro, and delicate greenery enjoyed in the Museo de Jade and the enchanting Spirogyra Butterfly Garden.

Costa Rica Provinces

Each of Costa Rica's seven provinces harbors unique treasures. Heredia, encircled by mysterious cloud forests, has a charming capital called the “City of Flowers.” In Alajuela, the Arenal Volcano regularly produces thrilling pyrotechnic displays. Along the Pacific coast, Puntarenas, or the “Pearl of the Pacific,” holds many wonders, including Manuel Antonio National Park with its untouched beaches, emerald green landscape pierced by accessible trails, and fascinating wildlife. Further south is the secluded Osa Peninsula, which offers whale-watching; access to one of the tallest rainforests in the world; and viewing of rare species like the puma, jaguar, scarlet macaws, and harpy eagle. The northwestern province of Guanacaste provides a stunning backdrop for many of Costa Rica’s popular pastimes, including horseback riding, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving among brilliant tropical fish, and top-tier golfing. Here, one can soak any woes away in nearby hot springs, watch a spectacular sunset from a hideaway on the “Gold Coast,” or embark on a deep-sea fishing expedition from Playa Flamingo, whose waters teem with marlin, tuna, swordfish, and snapper.

Where Are the Expat Communities in Costa Rica?

Many expats are attracted to Costa Rica for its affordable cost of living in exchange for a luxurious tropical lifestyle. Popular expat communities can be found in Escazú—a suburb of San José, Manuel Antonio—a tightknit expat community in the Central Pacific Coast, Uvita—with a range of art galleries, restaurants, and a good international school, and Ojochal—a town with a bustling expat community.

Can Foreigners & Non-Residents Buy a Home in Costa Rica?

Yes. Foreigners and non-residents have the same right to buy and own property in Costa Rica as citizens do. The only exception applies to owning land within the maritime zone—150-200 meters inland from the high tide mark. A foreigner or legal non-resident of 5+ years cannot own a majority percentage of land in this zone.

How Many People Live in Costa Rica?

As of 2016, the population of Costa Rica is approximately 4,857,274 people.

What Language Is Spoken in Costa Rica?

The official and most commonly spoken language in Costa Rica is Spanish. There are also six indigenous languages still alive in Costa Rica today—all of them belonging to the Chibcha language family. In addition to Spanish and indigenous languages, English, an English-based/African-influenced creole, and an older variant of English dialect that arrived with Quakers can be found in the Limón Province.

What is the Currency in Costa Rica?

The Costa Rican colón has been the currency in Costa Rica since 1896.

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