Costa Rica went down one place since 2019 in International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2020, which is designed to be a useful tool for potential expats trying to find the place that’s right for them. “The Index is constructed of statistics but also of real-world, practical, on-the-ground intelligence, experience, and opinion provided by International Living’s editors and correspondents based around the world”, explains the publication.

The index focuses and scores the world’s top 24 retirement destinations across 13 categories, including, including cost of living, governance, retiree benefits, climate and healthcare, among many other aspects that are important for those looking for a place to retire.

“We also ask our correspondents to use their well-informed judgement when offering up, for example, an apartment to use for comparison’s sake. We want them to be pricing out one that is attractive and in a desirable neighborhood, something they feel an expat would be quite comfortable living in. That’s a matter of opinion, yes. But that’s more useful to the retiree who’s trying to discern how much housing costs in Portugal versus Ecuador than would be an ‘average’ cost of apartments across entire countries”, says Jennifer Stevens, Executive Editor, International Living.

“This Index provides a great jumping-off point for somebody who isn’t sure where to start looking overseas—we created it to provide some well-informed direction.”

According to International Living’s 2020 Global Retirement Index, the world’s top 10 retirement destinations this year are:

  • #1 Portugal
  • #2 Panama
  • #3 Costa Rica
  • #4 Mexic
  • #5 Colombia
  • #6 Ecuador
  • #7 Malaysia
  • #8 Spain
  • #9 France
  • #10 Vietnam

International Living’s correspondent Kathleen Evans wrote the following description for Costa Rica:

“Costa Rica attracts visitors with its tropical climate; low cost of living; top-notch, affordable medical care; bargain real estate; and natural beauty.”

The country has a stable democracy and a peace-loving culture. They abolished their army in 1948 and pledged that budget to education and healthcare. Often called the “Switzerland of Central America” it is known for its safety, neutrality, and good banking system—especially compared to many other countries in the region. The current government is progressive and LGBT rights are respected.

Once you have acquired your residency, you pay between 7% and 11% or your reported monthly income, and the socialized medicine program is available to you. You can also blend public healthcare with a private policy. The country has three JCI accredited hospitals and numerous private clinics. More doctors are also taking the U.S. retired military insurance called Tricare Overseas.

A couple can live a comfortable, but not necessarily extravagant life here for around $2,000 a month.

One of the things you hear often from expats is how warm and welcoming the ticos (Costa Ricans) are. Overall, they are wonderful people, eager to share the magic of their culture with foreigners. You will also find great communities of expats who will help you through the process of acclimating to new surroundings and language. I joined a girl’s dinner group and quickly bonded with women from all over the world. I found it easy to make friends since many folks move not knowing anyone and are often looking to forge new friendships.

Pura Vida is a common Costa Rican phrase. Although it translates to “pure life,” this definition merely scratches the surface of a phrase deeply woven into Costa Rican culture, and used to convey anything from “hello” and “goodbye,” to “great news,” and countless declarations in between.

“Here, there’s more time to actually stop and smell the roses. There’s time to talk to people, and I find that very grounding. Combine that with great waves, an amazing climate, and a culture that places family, friends, and a relaxed quality of life above all, then it’s easy to see why so many people come here for a week, and end up staying for a decade, or even a lifetime.”

Costa Rica also has an outdoor loving culture—with activities from fishing, golfing, and horseback riding to hiking, diving, and yoga. Plus, there are less processed foods, and more healthy choices with an abundance of locally grown fruits, vegetables, organic eggs, and endless seafood. Most of the people I know who have moved to Costa Rica have shed unwanted weight, are taking less prescription drugs, and overall feel better.

And, with a dozen microclimates, there is someplace for everyone to fit your personal weather preferences. Many people love the temperate “eternal spring” climate of San Jose, the capital, and all the surrounding Central Valley. Or the dry, hot beaches of Guanacaste, or the lush, green landscape of the jungles in the south.