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  • Writer's pictureJeanne and James Bellew

How Much Do I Need to Retire in Costa Rica?

Updated: Jun 5, 2023


Retiring in Costa Rica is a dream for many. But, for some, the question of cost stops them from taking the leap and moving.


So, how much do I need to retire in Costa Rica?


The honest answer is that the cost of living in Costa Rica depends on several factors:


· Where do you want to live? Mountains? City? Ocean?

· What’s your lifestyle? Renting? Owning?

· What’s your eating preference? Cook at home? Eat out? Combination of both?


According to International Living Magazine, Costa Rica remains in the Top 10 places for retirement affordability. Additionally, their 2023 Global Retirement Index puts Costa Rica at #5.

When pulling all the numbers together, the consensus of experts making it their mission to research retirement abroad is that ex-pat retirees can live between $1,200 and $2,200 + in Costa Rica. (However, it is also possible to spend up to $5,000 :-)


Overview of 3 Cost-of-Living Charts—


If you are retiring or thinking of retiring, your considerations differ from younger people or young families.


You are probably more concerned about having the insurance you need, being able to get to healthcare facilities more quickly, and wanting to be closer to an airport.


Retirees have multiple considerations when considering moving to Costa Rica, so just showing you one chart of retirement expenses isn’t sufficient.


The three charts below take into consideration four things:

  • Renting v. owning

  • Living inland v. close to the beach

  • Owning v. not owning a vehicle

  • Belonging to CAJA* v. not


*While CAJA is available to residents, you must become a resident. The residency process can take eight months – 2 years and costs money and time with much paperwork.


1. Cost of living for two people with the following variables:

  • Renting and living inland, not at the beach

  • Not owning a vehicle

  • Belong to CAJA – social security program available for residents only



2. Cost of living for two people with the following variables:


· Rent and living at the beach with closer proximity to healthcare and airports)

· Own a vehicle

· Belong to CAJA - social security program available for residents only


3. Cost of living for two people with the following variables:


  • Own living at the beach, closer proximity to healthcare and airports

  • Own a vehicle

  • Not belong to CAJA – not a resident private insurance

*NOTE—The beach towns for this budget include the pacific north, Tamarindo, Flamingo, Surfside Potrero, and Coco). These beaches are more expensive because they are also more touristy and closer to an airport and healthcare.


There are beach towns such as Santa Teresa and Uvita that would be less expensive, but they are further from airports and healthcare. For retirees, this may not be optimal.


The variables that make the most difference to the cost of living in Costa Rica as a retiree are whether you rent or own and live inland or at the beach.


As you can see, however, you can live in Costa Rica, choosing the location that suits you best and living with your expenses between $2000 and $3000


And what about my social security?


According to AARP, you can collect social security while living in Costa Rica.


When living abroad, social security will send a questionnaire every two years (depending on age, country of residence, and other factors, to confirm that you remain eligible for benefits.



How do I become a temporary resident of Costa Rica and join CAJA?


The Costa Rican government offers three ways to get temporary residency.


Temporary residency means you can take advantage and participate in CAJA, and you don’t have to leave the country every 90 days.


1. Retiree or ‘Pensionado’

To qualify, you must be retired from your usual occupation and receive pension benefits.

You must show proof of monthly income from a qualified pension plan of at least $1,000 per month.


2. Legal Resident or ‘Rentista’


To qualify, you are 1. Not retired yet, 2. You don’t need to work while living in Costa Rica, and 3. You are receiving guaranteed, unearned income of USD 2,500 per month from investments, savings, or other sources, and 4. You can ensure that your non-earned funds will be received for at least two years (24 months).


3. Business Investor or ‘Inversionista’


To qualify, you must make a direct investment in Costa Rica of at least USD 150,000. Your investment can be made in any business or real estate.


You must prove that the amount already invested (not the current or future value) has a registered or verifiable value of at least USD 150,000.


You can look into any of these options by going to U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica.


A Final Thought


Costa Rica is a beautiful place. In the slow-go stage of life, you’ll find it aligned with everything you might want—slower pace, sunshine, affordable, excellent healthcare, and proximity to the U.S. and Canada.


If the numbers shown on our charts are consistent with what you can do, maybe it’s time for you to take that leap?


Pura Vida! 🌺


James, Jeanne, Cousteau & Ferdinand 💕🐩🐩



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