21 Reasons Not to Retire in Costa Rica

A photo of Rio Celeste Waterfall in Costa Rica. It shows a small waterfall pouring into a light blue water hole, surrounded by lush vegetation

Costa Rica is undeniably one of the most popular retirement destinations. It continues to attract international retirees with its tropical beaches, incredible adventures, natural wonders, and new cultures. Besides, everybody wants to retire in a place where life is less stressful. Yes, it may sound like living the dream life, but you might want to consider some reasons not to retire in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a country that has lots of rain. It doesn’t have a real summer or winter because of its proximity to the equator. Even though it is one of the safest countries to visit, crimes still exist, and it’s not a cheap place to settle down after all. Let’s take a detailed look at the reasons not to retire in Costa Rica.

Reasons Not to Retire in Costa Rica

The country seems like a perfect place to retire. However, consider the following 21 reasons not to retire in Costa Rica to help you decide whether moving to this country is the best option for you.

#1 Costa Rica Is a Rainforest, So Expect Rain!

Costa Rica is a tropical country, which means there will always be rain. The rainy season usually begins in May and ends in November. So, if you are in Costa Rica, you will experience a lot of rain in various parts of the country. 

With frequent rain, the lush jungles of the country thrive, and many animals, which you may or not have seen before, come out. If it is not the rainy season, you can relax at the country’s beautiful beaches. However, there’d still be rain even during the summer season. So, if you think constant rain can spoil your stay, you should not retire in Costa Rica.

#2 Creepy crawlies are everywhere

Other reasons not to retire in Costa Rica are the creepy crawlies. It might not be the right retirement destination for you if you have a phobia of crawling insects and other small creatures. Just imagine waking up and realizing half of the potted fern on your patio is gone. 

You won’t also get any privacy when showering because crabs, frogs, or geckos can somehow manage to get in and keep you company. And don’t forget about tarantulas. Seeing one outside your home doesn’t mean they can’t get inside. Creepy crawlies are really everywhere.

#3 There Are Volcanoes

The country has 14 volcanoes, and 6 of them are active. The highest among them is the Irazú volcano, which is also one of the most unpredictable and dangerous in Costa Rica. Living among volcanoes isn’t much of a big deal if you have lived close to them for such a long time. However, it may be uncomfortable for you if you haven’t lived close to volcanoes in your entire life.

#4 Extreme Weather

An image of dark storm clouds rolling across a large mountain in Costa Rica

Extreme weather is one of the many reasons not to retire in Costa Rica. There is a hurricane season in Costa Rica lasting from June to December. Heavy rains follow bringing in natural disasters such as flooding, landslides, and rock blocks. During the dry season from December to April, humid areas in Costa Rica couldn’t handle excess rain, which may result in constant flooding that can significantly affect crops, people, and homes.

Landslides caused by heavy rains killed at least twenty people in November 2010. Extreme weather conditions are something you need to consider if you want to retire in Costa Rica. Living in this country isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.

#5 Earthquakes are common

Earthquakes are very common in Costa Rica due to the country’s geographical location. The central part of Costa Rica experienced an earthquake of 6.2 magnitude in 2009, killing 34 people. You may want to rethink retiring in Costa Rica if earthquakes are a significant concern for you. In the end, we all want to retire in a place where we feel safe.

If you have lived in places where there are occasional earthquakes, then moving to Costa Rica is not a problem. However, if you find it troublesome and stressful, consider retiring elsewhere.

#6 Possibilities of Tsunamis

There are also possibilities of tsunamis in Costa Rica. When earthquakes occur in nearby countries, they could trigger tsunamis in Costa Rica. Tsunamis happen when any movement beneath the ocean, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, causes massive waves.

This is something you need to consider if you want to retire in Costa Rica. Retire elsewhere if the possibilities of tsunamis are a major concern.

#7 No Four Seasons

Costa Rica is the perfect retirement destination if you love both hot and cold weather. You have lots of time building sandcastles during the summer season and putting on a fashionable winter jacket during the rainy season.

However, this country shouldn’t be your retirement destination if you can’t live without the 4 seasons of the year. There won’t be any building of snowmen. Instead, you only have hot, dry, and rainy seasons.

#8 People Hang Laundry Outside

Many locals don’t have their own dryer at home so they usually hang their laundry outside. This is quite a common sight in the country. Even people in Italy do this, too.

But not everyone is a fan of hanging laundry outside, though. So, if that is you, then get yourself a dryer. And if you don’t like seeing other people hanging laundry outside, then rethink your retirement plan in this country.

#9 The bite of the world’s most poisonous snake

A photo of Fer de lance, a deadly snake native to COsta Rica

One of the reasons not to retire in Costa Rica is it is home to the world’s poisonous snake, Fer-de-Lance. The bite of Fer-de-Lance can be fatal, and if you ever meet someone having long scary scars found on their legs, they have probably encountered the most poisonous snake.

#10 Water Hazards

Costa Rica is known to have some of the best waves in the world. There is no doubt a lot of tourists come to Costa Rica for surfing adventures. However, those who love the thrill of surfing need to be wary of the dangers, as well. While Costa Rica’s beaches are beautiful and enticing, they can be very scary, too. There could be large rocks, powerful rip currents, and underwater caves, to name a few.

Playa Sirena is one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica. It is also one of the wildest and most dangerous, too. You better be careful because you can run into caiman and sharks while in the waters, and jaguars and pumas on the land.

Now, while most of the swimmers usually worry about sharks in the ocean, let’s not forget about the rivers. In Costa Rica’s rivers, crocodiles are known as the most common predators.

#11 Fruits and Vegetables

If you’ve been to Costa Rica, you might notice that every Costa Rican town has a weekly ‘La Feria’, or farmer’s market. You can find many inexpensive fruits and vegetables. It is truly a vegetarian’s paradise.

However, it’s not all good news! These fruits and vegetables can be loaded with pesticides. Ironically, the world’s most eco-friendly country is also the biggest consumer of pesticides. High levels of pesticides are dangerous for human consumption, and in fact, they are banned in many countries. So, if you think of retiring in Costa Rica, better be cautious about the fruits and vegetables you purchase and consume.

#12 Pura Vida

Pura vida is a Spanish term for ‘pure life’. This defines a relaxed way of life – the ‘Enjoy Life’ philosophy. The locals are always positive, friendly, smiling, having fiestas, laughing, and celebrating life. Those who don’t know much about the English language still try to communicate with you.

However, the downside of this, is that the relaxed way of life even extends to the workplace. If you hire a local for a certain job, chances are they might not complete it in time. Even if they say, the job will be ready ‘tomorrow, sometimes it might take a few more days or even a week to complete the job.

#13 Many Dogs Roam Free

An image of a black dog scratching it's chin. Feral dogs like this are common in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has so many dogs freely roaming on the streets. Stray dogs are a major concern if you are not a dog person, or just afraid of them. Chances are some dogs are unvaccinated and potentially rabid, and it’s pretty scary to get chased by them. 

Most locals don’t understand what responsible pet ownership is, and seeing dogs locked up in a cage is a sad sight you can always see in Costa Rica. Dogs are not spayed and neutered, which contributes to the overpopulation of stray dogs.

Related: Can U.S. Citizens Buy Property in Costa Rica?

#14 Uncomfortable Public Transport System

While the bus system in Costa Rica is both inexpensive and efficient, do not expect to get five-star comfort or even air-conditioning.

If you are not comfortable using the public transport system, you can get a rental car. However, they aren’t cheap at all.

#15 Driving May Lead to Death

Driving on Costa Rican roads may lead to death, and it could be one of the reasons not to retire in Costa Rica. You can easily get intimidated if it’s the first time you drive there. The roads in Costa Rica give you freedom of driving which you can’t find elsewhere. You will find their roads in poor shape, curvy and unpaved. Some of their bridges may look very unreliable. You will also find their mountain roads don’t have guard rails at all, and there is always the risk of falling debris.

During the rainy season, the roads and bridges are entirely washed out. Despite all these risks, the Costa Ricans are not afraid to pass and take over cars in blind curves. Sadly, semi-trucks and buses also have the habit of doing this, too.

#16 Sketchy Health System

You probably hear stories about tourists flying into Costa Rica to avail of cheaper medical care, most especially dental treatment. In fact, medical tourism is indeed booming in the country because of the high-quality services offered for a fraction of the price you need to pay back home. 

For example, a procedure that costs $20,000 in the U.S can cost as low as $5,000 in Costa Rica. So, even if you have to pay for your plane tickets and hotel accommodation, you’d still be flying into Costa Rica. Another thing is many doctors in Costa Rica speak English well, so the language barrier is totally not an issue.

However, these medical procedures still have risks of causing complications. That’s why if your purpose of retiring is cheaper medical care, ensure that you do a lot of research first before making plans to go to Costa Rica. If possible, read a lot of reviews and talk to people who already have traveled and availed themselves of the medical services and treatments you specifically want to avail.

Related: Costa Rica vs Panama for Better Place to Live

#17 Drugs and Prostitution

Next to the list of reasons not to retire in Costa Rica is the case of drugs and prostitution. In certain towns of Costa Rica, it’s no longer unusual if someone approaches you to sell drugs. It’s also pretty common to be approached by young women in bars. Of course, this comes with a price. It may be shocking but in Costa Rica, prostitution is legal. It’s pretty ironic because the country is predominantly Catholic, yet prostitution is practiced openly everywhere, even in popular tourist spots.

Sadly, these places are destinations for child sex tourism, too. One example is Jaco Beach which employs young girls from all over Latin America. They work as prostitutes, carry ID cards, and are said to be checked regularly by doctors. Well, most of them actually don’t.

#18 Quality Food Not Given

Traditional meals called Casados (rice, black beans, fried plantains, fried egg, and small salad) are often served in almost all small restaurants called ‘sodas’ in Costa Rica. However, do not expect consistency because you’ll find that not two Casados are the same. Don’t be surprised as well if you see dogs walking around the restaurants, or cats jumping on the table.

Giving a 10% tip is also not common, as the tip is already included in the bill. So, most Costa Ricans won’t pay extra. However, as a tourist or foreigner, giving a 10% tip will earn you a lifetime friendship. Employees become eager to serve you more and make sure that once you come back, you are satisfied with the service.

You might also think that the country would have burritos, tacos, and enchiladas everywhere. But, it’s not the case here. Restaurants rarely serve Mexican food and don’t be shocked when you order chips and salsa, and they give you chips that are topped with mayonnaise and ketchup.

#19 World’s Best Coffee?

The country is home to the world’s best coffee. However, only a few know that the country struggled to save their crops a few years back from the African beetle which destroyed almost 50% of their coffee berries. They managed to solve the problem by spraying pesticides on the coffee plants, which is very bad for consumers and the environment. These beetles end up in the cloud forest, contributing to the decline of amphibians.

Fortunately, several bird species started to feed on these beetles which reduced their number significantly. But if you are environmentally conscious, only buy coffee that has a label of ‘Fair Trade’ or ‘RainForest Alliance Certified.’ Only these products received certifications that use a lesser amount of pesticides, recycle their trash, and pay their workers right.

#20 Not Immune to Crime

Costa Rica is considered safer than many countries worldwide. But still, crimes exist and it could be one of the reasons not to retire in Costa Rica. Crimes usually relate to properties. It makes sense if you dress simple, not covered in fancy and flashy pieces of jewelry, or showing lots of cash, which can make you a prime target. Additionally, avoid keeping expensive and luxurious stuff at home, especially if you won’t be around your house all year round.

#21 Costa Rica Is Not the Cheapest Country to Retire

The cost of living in Costa Rica is a lot cheaper than in the US. However, Costa Rica isn’t the cheapest retirement destination with other cheaper countries available. If you are from the US and want to move somewhere not so far from your home country, then, Costa Rica is a great option. However, if you don’t mind moving far away to somewhere really cheap, you might consider Asian countries such as Thailand and the Philippines.

But if you choose to retire in Costa Rica and love to live in a beach destination where tourists flock, the cost of living is more expensive. You need to spend a lot on air-conditioning as it is very hot and humid. But, if you aim for the cheapest retirement destination anywhere around the globe, Costa Rica isn’t the perfect choice for you.

Final Thoughts

Costa Rica has become a hot spot for expats and retirees. If you are retiring soon and you want to stay in Costa Rica, it might be best to visit the country first and try to spend some time before fully deciding to retire there. Knowing the list of reasons not to retire in Costa Rica can help you decide whether or not you spend your remaining years there. Do your research and learn more about the country. Ask anyone living there for insights on what life might look like if you wish to retire there.

Did you find this article relevant? Have we missed something on the list? Let us know in the comment section down below. We love to hear your thoughts.

Related: Cost of Living in Costa Rica