Retire to Paradise?

Richard Connor

I RECENTLY WROTE about how my wife and I downsized to our beach home. It had long been a dream of ours and we’re thrilled it came about. Right after the move, we climbed on a plane and experienced another common dream of retirees—living in an exotic tropical paradise.

We visited our son, daughter-in-law, grandson and their Boston terrier in Nosara, Costa Rica. Nosara is a beautiful village and resort area carved out of the jungle on Nicoya Peninsula, part of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. It’s known as a yoga center, for its gorgeous beaches and as a mecca for surfers from around the world. It has a large expat population and a great vibe.

Andrew and Ashley had been living at our New Jersey shore home since May 2020, when COVID-19 drove them out of their Hoboken, N.J., apartment a few months after their first child, James, was born. This winter, they decided it was time for a bit of an adventure, so they rented a home in Nosara for 10 weeks.

It’s worked out great for them. They’ve been able to work, found top-quality childcare, made friends from around the world and even learned to surf. The house they rented is gorgeous, has a beautiful pool and plenty of room for visiting grandparents. It’s a 10-minute walk from one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. In the morning, we’d drink coffee on the veranda while watching monkeys lounge in a nearby tree, and then stroll to the beach to watch the kids improve their surfing skills.

You often see articles about the best places to retire abroad. Central American countries are always mentioned, often for their inexpensive cost of living. International Living magazine recently rated Costa Rica as the No. 1 place to retire. The article stated that a retired couple could live a relaxed and comfortable lifestyle for $2,500 to $3,000 per month.

Having spent eight days there, I understand the attraction. It’s a beautiful place, the lifestyle is healthy, and the people are as friendly as anywhere I’ve been. If this is something you’re thinking about, here are a few points to consider:

  • The estimates of housing costs that you read about may not be representative of some of the country’s more desirable locations. In Nosara, you can easily pay well over $1 million for a nice two-bedroom house.
  • Costa Rica is known for its health care system, but accessibility can be an issue. The closest hospital to Nosara is in Nicoya, about an hour away. There is also a “life flight” service that can pick you up in Nosara by either plane or helicopter to get you quickly to San Jose, the capital.
  • Transportation can be a challenge. Nosara is a grueling two-and-a-half-hour drive from the closest airport, Liberia. The village is mostly bumpy dirt roads. People get around on dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, electric carts and pickup trucks. The plus side: You’ll be doing plenty of walking.
  • The infrastructure in Nosara is generally modern. The water is safe to drink, the electric grid is compatible with U.S. devices and fast internet is available. Reliability, however, is a bit of an issue. We had regular though brief electrical outages, as well as a planned four-hour outage one day.

As much as we enjoyed our short sojourn in the tropics, I don’t think we’re ready to move there permanently. It’s too far from friends and family, and it’s pretty hot and humid. But we enjoyed the excitement of learning about a new place, meeting new people and stepping out of our comfort zone. We want that feeling to continue.

Our plan is to visit different parts of the world that interest us and look at staying for longer periods, so we have the chance to embed ourselves in new and strange places. In the past, we’ve enjoyed renting homes and apartments throughout the U.S. and Italy. You feel a part of the community, and you can save money by shopping in local markets and cooking meals. Another way to save money, and broaden the experience, is sharing costs with friends and family. I’m thinking of a few weeks on Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula during the fall, somewhere warm and sunny in winter, the Pacific Northwest in spring and Canada’s Maritime provinces in summer. Sound good?

Richard Connor is a semi-retired aerospace engineer with a keen interest in finance. He enjoys a wide variety of other interests, including chasing grandkids, space, sports, travel, winemaking and reading. Follow Rick on Twitter @RConnor609 and check out his earlier articles.

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