The reasons and motivations for people to decide they want to leave their home country behind in order to experience life in Costa Rica are, of course, extremely varied. Some relocate as part of an expat assignment to the country, assuming key positions in large companies. Others simply fall in love with Costa Rica and the Ticos, for example during a holiday there, and want to spend a good portion of, if not all, their life there. Others again want to make their vision of retirement in a tropical paradise reality. There is no single category that could possibly fit every expat and immigrant in Costa Rica, but they all have one thing in common: perseverance and thorough planning helped them achieve their goal.

paradise costa rica

Seeking paradise in Costa Rica

Planning is Key

Having chosen their future hometown – their pick was Atenas in the Central Valley – they spent a week in San José to get all their paperwork in order. After dealing with red tape, Diana and her husband got right on the issue of finding a place to stay, which took them about a month. Communicating with different people was key, as she explains herself:

san jose costa rica

Occasional trips to San José become customary, no matter where you decide to live in Costa Rica.

We started planning as far in advance as possible. I kept a flip chart in the dining room (Move Central) with a page for each month for a year prior to the move. Each month contained goals that needed to be met. Sometimes they got carried forward to the following month. This way, we were able to see what we had accomplished, what still needed to be done and if we had missed anything important.”

“It was not difficult at all to find housing. Someone we talked to suggested a real estate company in town that handled rentals and that’s how we found our present house. Highly recommend talking to as many people as possible because you never know where that important lead will come from.”

However, Diana realizes that not everyone may have planned as meticulously as her and her husband did, and offers this useful tip:

“Rent your house here before buying – try out different areas to see what suits you.”

Kim, who runs her very own expat blog with tons of useful info and beautiful photos at, has a very different story to tell: wanting to leave her old life working desk jobs in the Midwest U.S. behind, she decided she wanted to operate her own farm. Still, for her, everything began with lots and lots of planning as well. While Kim had researched suitable properties online, it took her and her husband several trips to Costa Rica before they finally found what they were looking for – they had quite a few of the specifics in mind.

“We had come to CR years before looking for a farm. After many visits, we finally found something that was what we wanted and that we could afford. We knew that we wanted our own water source, a view, proximity to a town and the beach.” 

What to Bring, What to Leave?

Something that is always hard to evaluate in advance before going to Costa Rica as an expat– or, in fact, any other country in the world – is which, if any, of your possessions to take along with you. In Kim’s case, the chosen method of transportation – via pickup truck through most of the U.S. and Mexico down to Central America – presumably did not leave room for all that much.

moving to costa rica

What do you bring with you when moving to Costa Rica???

“I did bring one special item. I brought a marble side-table that I acquired when I traveled through India. It has no equal so I decided to bring it.”

However, it seems that it might have been wise to bring a few more items after all:

“Now that we have lived here a few years there are many things we wished that we would have shipped down, our mattress being the main item. The mattresses here are not the same quality as what our backs were previously used to. We are also very happy that we brought our own power tools. The tools here are twice as expensive as in the U.S.”

Diana, on the other hand, has a somewhat different answer to the question what to bring:

Get rid of as many of your possessions as you can. If you can’t bear to part with very much, store them in your home country. Unless you are very sure Costa Rica is where you want to live – forever or for a while – it is so much easier to move around without a container load of stuff to haul.”

What about you? How did you plan? Did you bring anything you wish you had left behind or did you leave behind something you wish you had brought?

– This guest post was written by the editors of Internations