Imagine a small, beautiful beach town surrounded by jungle and wildlife with a peaceful multicultural community and many of the comforts of home. That place, named by National Geographic as one of the top surf towns in the entire world, exists. It is called Nosara.
Expats who live in Nosara will tell you there is no better place on earth.
One need only walk down the remote and dusty roads of Playa Guiones, pop into an organic café, take a class in one of the many exceptional yoga studios, visit some of Costa Rica’s best real estate, surf the clean consistent waves, or watch a stunning sunset to understand why.
With a strong expat community, excellent international academies for kids, and accessible health food Nosara has many of the luxuries and comforts of home tucked into a small Costa Rican beach town surrounded by nature. Many consider it the perfect place to relocate abroad.
Nosara is famous for its surf and world-renowned yoga, and arguably put Costa Rica on the map as a yoga retreat destination. This strong surf and yoga culture has brought sophisticated health conscious expats from all over the world.
For decades local associations have kept the beaches clean and the surrounding protected national parks and forest relatively undeveloped. It has the cleanest water table in all of Costa Rica, with clean ocean water and no dumping of gray or black water into the streams or beaches. It is one of the few coastal towns that lacks nearly any development on the beach.
This unique combination of North American culture and pristine Costa Rican wilderness attracts all kinds including the rich and famous. Woody Harrelson, Liv Schreiber, and several wealthy individuals have either lived here or visited in recent years. High demand has led real estate to soar but people continue to move and to buy. The quality of life here is so high, many choose to relocate regardless of the cost.
Location and Geography
The Nosara region is located on the North Pacific Coast of the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste about 100 miles west of the capital, San Jose, and sits between the popular beach towns of Playa Samara and Playa Tamarindo.
It consists of five beachfront towns: Playa Nosara, Playa Garza, Playa Guiones, Playa Pelada, and Playa Ostional. When many people cite Nosara, they are usually referring to the most popular beach town of Playa Guiones where most of the restaurants, yoga studios, surf shops, and hotels can be found.
The Ostional Wildlife Refuge borders Nosara and is the largest Olive Ridley turtle nesting site in the world. The Nosara and Montana Rivers are two of the longest in Costa Rica and are also teeming with wildlife. The rivers meet the ocean in Playa Nosara.
The official town center of Nosara is located about five miles inland from the beach and is where most of the local, Tico population resides. It has medical facilities, supermarkets, a local airport, a pharmacy, banks, and a post office.
Like most of Central America, Nosara has a rainy and a dry season but enjoys warm weather year round. The dry season coincides with the highest season for tourism and runs from late November through April.
Temperatures average in the mid eighties. Days are long and sunny with stunningly beautiful sunsets. With no clouds in the sky you can enjoy incredible nightly stargazing. The offshore winds create clean, consistent surfing conditions and surfers can ride waves all day long. The jungle tends to be dry and brown but there is still plenty of wildlife to observe especially near the beach and river.
The rainy season begins in May and ends in November. During this time the jungle becomes green and the foliage comes into bloom, bringing tons of wildlife. It tends to rain during this time in the afternoon and evening with sunny mornings for beach time.
Temperatures are about five degrees cooler and many tours and accommodations are available at discounted rates. The rainiest months are September and October when rain can fall all day. During this time many businesses close, reopening in November.
The land around Nosara was used for generations primarily for cattle pasture. As a result large areas of land were deforested. Much of the beauty of the landscape was destroyed during this time.
In 1962 a U.S. resident decided to purchase the entire coastline of land known as Nosara and implemented The Nosara Project which was the original master plan of the area. In fact, Nosara is the only town in Central America that was master planned. The development originally entailed 500 residential lots interspersed with commercial sites, parks, and a golf course.
The project was never fully completed as finances ran dry. Individual investors began acquiring the lots and formed the Nosara Civic Association in an attempt to carry out the vision of the original city plan. They fight to keep Nosara relatively undeveloped and free from pollution.
Today Nosara is dense with forest and much of the region is protected.
Like the rest of Costa Rica the primary language in Nosara is Spanish and the culture is Tico. Local Costa Rican phrases, cuisine, and art are enjoyed here. However, Nosara is culturally distinct from the rest of Costa Rica due to its strong expat population as well as its residence in Guanacaste.
Until 1846 the state of Guanacaste where Nosara lies once belonged to Nicaragua to the north. As a result Guanacastecos developed a strong sense of independence and cultural pride. You may even notice a variance in their accent.
Today Canadian, American, and European expats lend a unique flavor to the local culture. It has one of the oldest expat communities in the entire country. Organic cafes, yoga studios, and Italian restaurants are all foreign businesses that add appeal to the area. English is widely spoken and at times in Playa Guiones you may feel like you’ve landed in the hidden gem of Southern California.
The Beach Towns
Playa Garza is known primarily as a fishing village. The offshore reef protects the bay from nearby currents and fishermen anchor their boats here as a result. In fact, it’s possible in the afternoon to purchase fresh fish right off the boat. The beach itself is lined with quaint restaurants and bars. At low tide a small cove with pink sand made from seashells is accessible.
Playa Guiones is the area’s longest and most popular beach. It stretches three miles with white sand and great surf. The beach has a large swell window, which gives it the most consistent surf in the entire country. The waves are fun for all levels, with swells that challenge the most experienced surfers and waves for complete beginners.
The town itself has several excellent yoga and pilates studios, expat-owned cafes and restaurants, several hostels, surf schools, and a few laid-back bars.
While Guiones is the beach for surfers, Pelada is the beach for swimmers. Snorkelers and divers can explore the caves and a local fisherman can take you on a boat tour to observe dolphins, turtles, and whales during mating season.
The town is very small and laid-back with a stunning restaurant, La Luna, that overlooks the beach with epic sunset views.
The ancient dark volcanic rock in Nosara created the dark sand beach of Nosara. It sits on the Nosara Biological Reserve and has two of Costa Rica’s longest rivers running through it, the Montana and the Nosara. You can spot 270 species of birds here, as well as monkeys, coati, raccoons, armadillos, anteaters, crabs, and crocodiles.
Many kayak, boat, and stand up paddleboard tours explore this beach, its rivers, and mangroves. You must wade the rivers to reach the beach or take a boat.
Located in the Nosara-Ostional Wildlife Refuge, this seaside village protects the largest nesting site in the world for the Olive Ridley sea turtle. Hundreds to hundreds of thousands of turtles come onto the shore to lay their eggs on the darkest nights following a full moon. Peak season takes place between May and November but you may see small groups year round.
Following the nesting it is possible to see the turtle hatching, where thousands of baby turtles run into the ocean to begin their aquatic lives. Volunteers can help protect the turtles from nearby dogs and vultures.
Surf is also prime here, however rip currents are strong making it unsafe for swimming.
The exceptional schooling available in Nosara is one of the key reasons families come from all over the world. The two private schools, Del Mar Academy and HSBA Academy, offer high quality education in an international setting.
Classes are taught bilingually exposing children to a second language and offering them the opportunity to build relationships with students from all over the world. These schools provide smaller class sizes for more one-on-one attention and focus not only on academic development but also on community and environmental involvement.
Del Mar Academy
Located in the jungle at the end of a small road, this Montessori school is surrounded by nature and wildlife. The school uses the Montessori teaching approach as well as curriculum from the non-Montessori educational community.
This approach encourages hands on learning to aid children in developing observational skills through activities that use all five senses. The classes are designed to accommodate each individual in his or her learning process. They accommodate children from toddler age until seventh grade.
The core subject areas covered include nutrition and health, multicultural environments, English and Spanish language, music and movement, creative art, and natural science as well as highlighting the importance of community service, the environment, and social awareness.
Field trips are planned throughout the year and involve curriculum related activities intended to enhance the student’s areas of study. Activities include nature hikes, fishing trips, visits to farms, museums, seashores, and eco preserves. There are also many extracurricular activities including dance, surf, swimming, baseball, tennis, and soccer.
The HSBA Academy caters to a wide age group offering classes for kids from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Creativity and curiosity are fostered through experiential learning and classes are taught bilingually.
The curriculum focuses on Math, Science, Language, Social Studies, and Art. Many extracurricular activities are available including yoga, art, music, cooking, physical education, and surfing. Classes take field trips frequently to local destinations to learn about the area.
Every Friday afternoon students and families can come to the surf club in Playa Guiones for free surf lessons from members of the Costa Rican surf team. Students also participate in community events like Nosara’s Festival of Lights and the Sustainability Fair to encourage community involvement and giving.
Casa de Las Estrellas Waldorf School
Casa de Las Estrellas is an irresistible little school on the beach with a focus on Waldorf Education.
Currently the school goes through the 6th Grade, but there are plans to add two more years.
Children can learn about the world through nature in the large gardens, on the beach, or in the Jungle. Parents who visit the campus first hand often have the reaction of their jaw hitting the ground because the magical looking school and beach location.
You can learn more here
In Nosara one could easily spend days on end soaking up the sun and lazing on the beach admiring its beauty. But with so much to do, why would you? Nosara is home to world-class surfing and yoga and has plenty of other athletic activities and nature excursions for you to participate in.
The Nosara Yoga Institute paved the path for many yoga studios in Costa Rica today. It had long been a destination for yogis looking to receive their teacher training or simply deepen their practice. Unfortunately NYI has closed its’ doors, but the influence it had can seen in the several studios open to the public today.
Nosara has several studios that offer drop-in classes several times a day, and even more that have yoga teacher trainings and retreats. High competition means high quality and it’s hard to go wrong. Many special yoga events are held in Nosara that are not available elsewhere in the country.
If you are passionate about yoga, you will never be at a loss for things to do in Nosara. It is not uncommon to see groups practicing yoga on the beach and you may feel inspired to get playful with some acro yoga in the sand.
Public Yoga Classes
The Bodhi Tree Resort
The newest mecca for all things healthy, Bohdi Tree Resort offers several classes per day including Yoga and Pilates. (There is even a yoga class where you can hang from the rafters) After class, healthy food is easy to find as there are many option eat. Look for the Juice bar, the Breakfast Buffet, or even Cascada in the Bodhi Village.
Pro Tip: If you get a chance try to attend the Akasha Shala for class as this is the premier location on the grounds.
Harmony Hotel The Harmony Hotel is a beautiful addition to the neighborhood of Playa Guiones with its luxury rooms, peaceful gardens, delicious restaurant and café, and amazing yoga classes. The open air studio sits across from a tranquil lily pond.
Classes are offered several times a day in a variety of styles including Vinyasa, Hatha, Yin, and Kundalini for $12. All props and mats are included. They also offer aerial yoga classes for those looking to get upside down. The pliable hammock cradles your body as you stretch realigning your body with the compression of gravity.
Those who suffer from back or neck injuries can particularly benefit from these postures as it allows you to take deep inversions without lower back compression. It is a truly unique style of yoga worth exploring. They often host yoga workshops as well for those looking to deepen their practice in specific areas like arm balances and hip openers.
Costa Rica Yoga Spa Up in the hills near the Montana River is the Costa Rica Yoga Spa. They typically run retreats and yoga teacher trainings, but do offer public classes once a day, for $15, from their ocean view studio. For another $10 you can stay for one of their organic meals using produce from their garden. They occasionally host events open to the public as well.
Located right in the center of town, Nalu has one of the most aesthetically pleasing studios around. The founder offers classes in Muay Thai, but there are several other options including Yoga and other movement classes.
Open to the public classes are offered on most days and there are epic ultra modern bungalows you can rent by the day or the week.
The Buena Vibra Collective
Buena Vibra offers several classes per week in a Costa Rica style rancho that is a beautifully designed yoga space. It is a quiet space just steps from the beach and was definitely influenced by the Grateful Dead. Buena Vibra also offers lodging, and Naked Foods the best vegan restaurant in the area is part of property, so grab some plant based food and take a class.
The Guilded Iguana
With a recent redesign of the Guilded Iguana changed from an old favorite to a new favorite. A hotel designed by surfers for surfers with restaurant and studio open to the public.
If you are in North Guiones this could be the place to go to train.
The Guilded Iguana has a weight room and the studio offers several other classes besides yoga like Jujitsu, and HIIT classes.
Yoga Retreats and Teacher Trainings
With its beautiful relaxed setting and exceptional yoga centers, Nosara is a great place for those looking to complete a yoga teacher training or take a yoga retreat. There are many studios offering Yoga Alliance accreditation as well as relaxing, deepening retreats.
Blue Spirit Blue Spirit is another famous yoga center in Nosara. They host yoga teacher trainings through YogaWorks as well as many retreats hosted by a variety of groups and teachers. All trainings and retreats include accommodations, gourmet vegetarian meals, and use of their stunning ocean view facility with a saltwater infinity pool.
Pilates Nosara offers several drop-in classes per day for $10 of both mat pilates and reformer pilates. Private pilates appointments are available on weekends. They also offer pilates retreats at the Costa Rica Yoga Spa often in combination with daily yoga. For those interested in becoming pilates instructors or simply improving their understanding of the practice they have teacher training courses and workshops.
Check out the website here
The Enchanted Forest Hostel and Gym offers daily boxing classes led by a professional female boxer from the U.S., “Tiger Brenda”. Classes begin with a challenging, creative circuit workout before transitioning to the ring on the other side of her property. Brenda’s boxing classes are a fun way to get a workout and release tension.
Nosara was named by National Geographic as one of the top 20 surf towns in the world. With clean, consistent surfing for all levels, it’s easy to see why.
Playa Guiones has some of the best waves to learn surfing in all of Costa Rica. Right at the shore are rows of clean white water, perfect for beginners taking lessons. The shape of the wave is just the right curve for beginners and challenging enough to trim for experts. These waves can be surfed at any tide level so you can take lessons and practice in the water virtually any time of the day.
Nearby Playa Pelada has a volcanic reef break that can be surfed at high tide with the right south swell.
There are plenty of other nearby breaks that can be explored by vehicle including Playa Ostional which has heavy hollow breaks and Playa Marbella that has hollow but smaller waves.
Board rentals and private lessons are readily available, particularly in Playa Guiones, and there are several surf schools including Olo Alaia and Coconut Harry’s for those looking to really delve in.
Coconut Harry’s The famous surf shop in Playa Guiones, Coconut Harry’s offers board rentals, lessons, and surf packages. They even sell boards for those who are dedicated to the sport. Lessons are taught by trained, certified instructors who offer professional services.
Group surf lessons start at $35 and go up to $70 for private. They offer a variety of surf lesson packages for kids and adults as well as all-inclusive packages which include transportation to and from the international airports, breakfast and lunch, accommodations, and twice daily surfing.
Safari Surf School Voted “Best Outfitter on Earth” by National Geographic and an Official Billabong Surf School, Safari Surf School has the most accolades of any surf school in Nosara. All instructors are certified and the company has been in operation for over 13 years.
They have surf camps for various skill levels from absolute beginner to advanced helping people at all stages in their practice improve. Packages start at $2000 and include twice daily surf lessons with certified instructors, breakfast, accommodations, airport transfer, and other activities including ziplining, yoga, and jungle hikes.
They have a surf school specifically for women with an all female crew of surf instructors. The women’s surf school offers walk-in lessons as well as week-long camps. The camp experience is essentially a retreat that focuses on health and wellness in addition to surfing.
Starting at around $2000 the retreat includes transport to and from the airport, twice daily surf lessons, daily yoga and guided meditation, $100 spa credit at Harmony hotel, adventure excursions like ziplining and hiking, six nights of accommodation, daily breakfast and lunch, several dinners at local restaurants, and other goodies.
Stand up Paddleboarding
Stand up paddleboarding has become a popular water sport across the world. It builds core strength and improves balance but is also downright fun.
Experience Nosara Paddlesurf and Coconut Harry’s run tours along the Rio Montana and Rio Nosara to the rivermouth at Playa Nosara. These tours weave through mangrove shoreline allowing you to see nature up close and personal. It’s almost like taking a hike on the water. Spotting nearby wildlife like exotic birds, snakes, and crocodiles makes it an adventurous ride! Tours cost around $60.
Blue Zone SUP runs a stand up paddleboarding camp where they offer enthusiasts immersive one week programs. Camps cater to all levels from absolute beginner to highly advanced. Each day participants enjoy SUP courses, nature excursions, and yoga. Packages include accommodation in Playa Garza and gourmet meals and start at $2,250.
If you want to do some exploring on your own, Coconut Harry’s rents stand up paddleboards for $30 a day.
Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga
Nosara occasionally hosts stand up paddleboarding retreats where you can test your balance on the water surrounded by nature. Nosara SUP Yoga offers tours where you can test out this new sport or rent a board and experiment on your own.
5 Rhythms Dance
The 5 Rhythms is a moving meditation that is occasionally taught at Harmony Hotel in Nosara. This style of dance is intended to heal the mind, body, and spirit through free-form movement. It usually lasts about three hours and is a unique and deepening practice not offered elsewhere in Costa Rica.
The rivers in Nosara can also be explored by kayaks if that suits your fancy. Nosara Paddlesurf leads half-day tours from down the Nosara River to the ocean, spotting wildlife along the way.
Drifter’s Kayaking does a similar tour and rents kayaks by the hour, allowing you to take your own self-guided tour.
Costa Rica is famous for its canopy tours, and Nosara has not only the longest of its kind in the world with over 11km of line, but it’s also one of the safest. Miss Sky Canopy Tours takes participants on 21 runs that are double lined which goes beyond the national safety standards.
You can enjoy wildlife and incredible waterfall and nature views on the lines, then you stop at a waterfall for a nice cool swim. It’s a great way to see the countryside.
The beautiful protected countryside surrounding Nosara makes for great hiking. The Nosara Biological Reserve has 35 hectares of flora and fauna on the south side of the Nosara River. In the wilderness here you can find monkeys, coatis, armadillos, deer, wildcats, and 270 species of birds. This particular hike takes two hours and is best done early in the day before it gets too hot and the animals are the most active.
Riding along the beaches of Nosara at sunset on the back of a horse is a memorable experience. Playa Ponies leads guided horseback tours along the beach and through jungle trails past howler monkeys, parrots, and crocodiles along the river.
Nosara is known for being one of the best places for sportfishing in Costa Rica. Here it is possible to catch sailfish, blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi, snapper, and more.
Fishing Nosara offers all-inclusive fishing vacation packages which include transportation, lodging, and fishing excursions. They also charter private boats for day fishing trips. Agua Azul is another company that takes groups on private fishing trips. You can also ask around to find a local fisherman who will take you out on his boat.
Snorkeling in San Juanillo
The laid-back white sand beach of San Juanillo might be one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. It’s a short drive from Playa Guiones but feels worlds away. The town is small, authentically Costa Rican, and surrounded by fishing boats. Several tour companies including Playa Ponies operate half-day snorkeling trips here where you can explore the offshore reef and its tropical fish and marine life.
Activities for Kids
Most activities in Nosara are kid friendly, like ziplining, hiking, kayaking, and more, but Nosara also has many programs and camps catered specifically to children.
Nosara Kids Camp
Keep the kids busy learning to surf and all about ocean safety. This camp is dedicated to kids having fun with other kids their age while they learn to ride the waves.
This is ideal for children from 5 to 12 to meet other kids while you stay in Nosara
Learn about their services here
Nosara Day Camp
With a focus on getting out of town and learning about the surrounding area this camp offers a great opportunity for children to learn about the ecology around Nosara.
Bat caves, waterfalls, and local Guanacaste traditional life are all things kids can experience in this curriculum.
Snacks are included!
Learn more here
Kids in Motion
Teaching children about themselves and one another through movement, Kids in Motion allows kids to express themselves with rhythm, art, and dance. They focus on encouraging the uniqueness within each child to build confidence. Programs include beginning acrobatics, musical theatre, ballet, hip hop dance, and even introduces kids to the 5 Rhythms of Yoga.
Boxing for Kids
The Enchanted Garden also offers boxing classes specifically for kids from 7 to 15 years of age. Classes are taught bilingually and enable kids to play and exercise in a boxing ring inside the jungle. Classes are $10 each.
Most surf schools in the area offer private and group lessons specifically for kids. Safari Surf School offers a kids camp which has a variety of activities including surfing. Beach activities like soccer, volleyball, board games, and tide pool excursions are also part of the camp experience.
Half-day and full-day options are available depending on the needs of your family. Camp instructors speak bilingually, simultaneously teaching your children Spanish. They also educate children on environmental conservation and the importance of keeping the beach clean. A half day costs $90 and includes snacks, a full day is $150 including lunch.
Scuba Dive Introduction
Paskis Adventures based in San Juanillo introduces children over 8 to the world of scuba diving.
Participants swim in a safe, supervised, shallow water area playing and learning to breathe underwater. It’s a great way to begin to learn about the underwater world.
Café de Paris has a mini golf course, which is great fun for kids and families. It is the biggest mini golf course in Costa Rica with 18 holes. There is also a playground and pool.
Think daycare on the beach. This organization arranges art classes, sports, and Spanish classes for your kids ages 4 to 12 daily from 9am to 4pm including lunch for $120. It’s a great way to relax on your own time while your kids learn some valuable skills and have fun.
Bars, Cafes and Restaurants
The Guilded Iguana
This bar and restaurant is a local hotspot near the beach in Playa Guiones. They serve modern food with a healthy twist. Breakfast lunch and dinner is served.
Café de Paris
Incredible freshly baked breads and pastries are served in a lovely garden with pool, mini golf course, basketball court, and playground. Elegant Parisian breakfast and lunch is also served here.
Perched on the beach in Playa Pelada, La Luna is one of the best places to watch the sunset in all of Costa Rica. The outdoor tables all have an excellent view of the ocean for peace and relaxation. The menu boasts a wide variety of fusion dishes including fried calamari, beet salad, fresh fish, and grilled steak. Enjoy cocktails and wine on their full bar menu.
Olga’s Bar and Restaurant
Olga’s is another place to enjoy a lovely sunset in Playa Pelada. The fare is traditional Costa Rican cuisine served on a beachfront patio. Enjoy live music here seven nights a week.
Naked Foods in Playa Guiones sells truly raw, organic, allergy-free foods and beverages. They offer amazing juices like coconut water, ginger, cayenne, cucumber, and honey, bottled and refrigerated for you to take to the beach. Raw goodies and snacks include cacao spread, spirulina fruit roll ups, and dehydrated bananas. Jars of fresh spices are also for sale.
La Dolce Vita
Believe it or not you can find delicious, authentic Italian food on the beach in Costa Rica. La Dolce Vita is Italian-owned and serves up homemade delicacies like antipasto platters, lasagna, ravioli, grilled fish, and steak. They even have gluten free pasta options!
Harmony Hotel Restaurant
Tucked away in the beautiful garden at Harmony Hotel is their lovely fine dining restaurant. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner featuring fresh, local ingredients, many of which come from their very own farm.
The menu is fusion with Hawaiian style shrimp, crispy falafel, sushi menu, and more. The open air restaurant has a full bar and mixologist crafting fine cocktails and mocktails.
Harmony Hotel Juice Bar
The Juice Bar is a casual alternative to the Harmony Hotel Restaurant for those looking for lighter fare. Inside of a lovely ranchito you can enjoy fresh organic juices, salads, and sandwiches on whole grain bread made in-house.
Up in mountains 20 mins from the beach is a wonderful restaurant called with a fantastic view. Coyol offers several high quality middle eastern, mediterranean, and Eastern European dishes, it is a unique atmosphere that is truly a destination unto itself. Great for a couples night out or a family looking for an experience.
This is one of the most popular restaurants in town, this is because it is easy to get to, has several options for all kinds of people and great prices. From Pizza to Casados, Salads to Sandwichs 10 pies has you covered. Get there early because this place fills up pretty quickly.
Located in Northern Guiones this restaurant specializes in Breakfast and Lunch. The setting is a mediterranean inspired courtyard with palms and boutique stores. A great place to sip expresso and hang out with friends or just to try some healthy breakfast food creation then go shopping in one of the stores.
The David Kitson Public Library
Nosara boasts an impressive public library, a rare commodity in Central America. Their collection includes over 6000 books in both English and Spanish. They also offer community workshops, computers for public use, and meeting rooms.
Organic Grocery Store
Like in North America, communities can often be found where the food is. Organic Deli-Market in Playa Guiones is one of the only organic grocery stores in Costa Rica. They sell organic produce every day, a rarity in much of Central America, bulk spices and nuts, local cheese, and delicious ready-made soups, salads, and sandwiches. It’s like a mini Whole Foods. Expat locals frequent here often and community events are advertised on fliers when you enter.
Every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. is an organic Farmer’s Market selling organic meat, fruits and veggies, and homemade bread and pastries. You can also set up an account with Rainbow Organic, a local company that allows you to pre-order your farm box online. They offer organic produce, meat, and local cacao, honey, and coconut products. Franklin’s offers excellent and original products as well like homemade coconut oil, dried fruit, cacao treats, and other specialties.
Nosara Nannies is a local service in Nosara that provides short- and long-term childcare for children of all ages. Childcare providers are experienced and English speaking.
Watching the sunset
In the dry season, without fail there is a stunningly beautiful sunset every evening in Nosara. In Playa Guiones surfers come out of the ocean and land dwellers walk to the shore to sit and watch this impressive performance. It is a great way to feel connected with the entire community and to meet other expats and families.
Crime and Safety
Nosara is known for being a very safe place to visit. The local community is quite friendly and there is little crime in the area. However, theft is a problem in Costa Rica in general, so always take care and use your head. Never leave valuables unattended on the beach nor inside of your parked vehicle.
If you do encounter any problems in Nosara there is a police station in the town of Nosara and a Tourist Police Center in Playa Guiones. Here you can report any stolen items or crimes you encounter. There are also paid security guards at many restaurants, hotels, and businesses and local police patrol the area on motorcycles and ATVs.
Roads in Nosara are unpaved and very dusty in the dry season. They typically have potholes and at times farm animals blocking them. Take a deep breath and be patient and you should be able to get around just fine.
Nosara is reachable from the San Jose and Liberia airports by air through Nature Air, shuttle, car, and buses.
Once in the Nosara area there are roads and buses connecting the different beach towns. ATVs, rental cars, and bicycles are available for rent and can be helpful if you plan to explore other neighborhoods. Playa Guiones is quite walkable on either the road or the beach. On average a quad costs around $50 per day and a bicycle costs around $10 per day.
If you decide to rent a car you will need your driver’s license from home as well as your passport.
Government and Economy
Costa Rica operates under a democracy, headed by a president in power over a four-year term. Balance is kept in place with an elected congress and appointed ministers. There is no military as it was constitutionally banned in 1948.
The funds once used to sustain the military force became available for business development and social programs like healthcare and quality education. Over 90% of Costa Ricans enjoy public healthcare coverage and the country has significantly higher literacy rates than most Latin American countries, 94.7% to be exact.
As a result, Costa Rica is one of the fastest growing and most stable countries in Latin America. It has a significantly higher growth in income compared to Latin America as a whole, as well as lower poverty rates. The economic and political environment is stable, the country has strong institutions, open markets, and a well-educated workforce.
The government also has laws to protect citizens from foreign investors. Foreign-owned businesses must hire local citizens as their work source.
Costa Ricans are facing a new challenge as their country becomes an increasingly global marketplace. Do they conform to the free market economy of first world nations or continue to support the many social structures in place?
The national currency is the Costa Rican colone which typically exchanges to 1/500 of a dollar. Banks usually distribute bills in 10,000 notes, which equate to a $20 bill. The smallest bills are 1,000, or $2, and coins start at 5 colones and go up to 500.
Healthcare in Costa Rica is rated highly internationally. Citizens here have the health and life expectancy of developed nations due to inclusive universal health insurance and reputable private and public hospitals.
The public health insurance system, Caja, is available to all citizens and legal residents.
Throughout the country there are ten major public hospitals affiliated with the public health insurance program. Small clinics called EBAIS are located in nearly every small Costa Rican community. In Nosara you can find a clinic in the town center.
To join the public health care system one must pay roughly 10% of his or her income. This low cost and high quality system attracts many people, therefore wait times are long for all matters from regular checkups to important surgeries.
Costa Rica also has private hospitals and clinics for those willing to purchase private insurance. These facilities offer high quality medical care at a sliver of the U.S. equivalent cost. This is one of the key reasons why Costa Rica has become so popular with expats and many tourists come simply to receive medical care.
Private insurance plans are available through the government-owned insurance company, INS, and include dental work, optometry, general checkups, and annual checkups. Prescriptions, exams, and hospitalization are covered at 80% cost and surgeon costs are covered fully. This insurance costs about $60-130 per month per person.
Expats may also choose to purchase international healthcare insurance which covers most private hospital costs but these plans tend to be much more expensive than private healthcare through the INS.
Pharmacies offer many drugs without a prescription, including birth control pills, cholesterol medication, etc., and pharmacists can diagnose and treat many problems. Typically residents head to the pharmacy first and consult the pharmacist about their ailments. He or she will either provide a solution or send you to a hospital if they believe the condition is more serious.
Keep in mind, there may be some pharmacists who are eager to sell many products and may misdiagnose you to prescribe you things that you do not necessarily need. Think of it like getting an oil change and take what they say with a grain of salt.
Nosara has several pharmacies including one in the town center and one in Playa Guiones.
Visas and Residency
North Americans are allowed to legally stay in Costa Rica for a maximum of three months at a time. Obtaining a visa prior to entering the country is not necessary, however proof of onward travel is required. After three months one must leave the country for a minimum of 72 hours, then may return for another three months. Tourists without residency are legally allowed to own vehicles, property, businesses, and generate income from self-employment.
If you wish to obtain residency, you must receive a minimum of $1000 per month in pension or other approved source or receive an investment income of $2500 per month or more or invest $200,000 in an approved sector of the economy like property.
After three years of this type of residency, you may then apply for unrestricted residency. It costs about $1100 per family member, $600 per child, to process. Renewals are required every year and you must reside in Costa Rica for 4-6 months in order to renew.
Money earned outside of Costa Rica is not taxed for residents and personal income taxes tend to be low compared to North America. Many personal expenses are deductible from locally-earned income and corporate taxes are also low.
Sales tax is 13% and import duties are high, from 50-90% of a vehicle’s blue book value. They are in the process of decreasing the import duties. Tourists may pay an exit fee of around $25 and exit fees are even higher for foreign residents. License plate fees are paid annually for vehicles but tend to be low. Property taxes are also very low compared to those in North America.
While the infrastructure may not be to North American standards, the country is much more advanced in this area than other countries in Central America. Most utilities are much more affordable than those in North America.
The phone system is owned and operated by a government agency called the ICE. This agency controls most of the utilities in the country. The phone system itself is excellent, however it can be quite difficult to obtain a landline if you are not already residing in a house that has one.
This option is only available to residents, so tourists will have to rely on cell phones. There are also limited phone lines available so wait times can span from weeks to years, particularly if you are in a rural area where poles and lines need be installed to get you a new number.
Installation can cost around $100, activating an existing line costs $30, and basic monthly use is $10 per month. These rates can change often.
Because land lines can be so difficult to obtain, it’s important to include them in rental and purchasing contracts to ensure your home or business has a fixed line.
Cell phones are readily available, but often use pay as you go SIM cards rather than plans. The two most popular companies offering this service are Kolbi and Claro. If you have your own unlocked iPhone, you can purchase a SIM card with unlimited data use for $18 per month compared to iPhone plans with AT&T in the U.S. for over $100 per month.
Those looking for fixed cell phone numbers and plans must obtain them from the ICE. This service is only available to residents and there is a limited supply of numbers.
Cell service in general suffers from coverage problems throughout Costa Rica as there are many dead zones in rural areas.
Costa Rica does have high speed internet service, however it is slower and less reliable than North America and Europe. Availability of high speed DSL lines is a big problem and you will need to contact ICE to see if DSL is even available for your home. Other internet service providers do exist, Amnet, Cabletica, and RACSA, but not all will be available in your area.
Basic internet can cost anywhere from $5 to $100 per month depending on your area and usage.
Internet sticks are a great option and are widely available throughout the country. These sticks use cellular service for internet so they can be used anywhere you go. The SIM cards provide the service and can be used interchangeably between the stick and your phone. You can purchase an unlimited SIM for $18 per month. The speed is not as fast as high speed in the U.S. but it’s fast enough to use Skype and stream video online.
Depending where you live, cable and satellite television service are available. Cable is widely available in the Central Valley near San Jose and in some of the more developed beach towns.
Satellite is available everywhere but is less reliable particularly during storms. The cost for cable is about $25 per month and provides many North American channels as well as local Tican channels. Sky TV and DISH Network are available but you will need to find the satellite dish and hardware locally.
The national postal service in Costa Rica can be difficult to accept. They do not use an address system, therefore locations are described in proximity to landmarks. Zip codes have recently been implemented but are not widely used yet. Consequently, most homes do not have delivery to their door. It’s best to get a postal box at the post office, however you may wait up to a year to receive one depending on your location.
Sending mail overseas can take five days to a month and mail sent to you may stop in customs where you will need to pick it up. Theft does occur so it’s best not to send valuables through the mail.
Private mail services are prevalent and offer courier mail to and from your doorstep. Rates differ but tend to be around $15 per month.
International couriers like FedEx, UPS, and DHL are options as well.
Electricity and Gas
ICE supplies electricity throughout the country. While most areas, and certainly all of Nosara, have electricity, power outages do occur, particularly during storms. It can take all day for ICE to repair power lines that have broken from trees and you will simply have to be patient and accept that there is not electricity that day.
Electricity costs about $20-30 per month depending on the size of your home and your usage.
Costa Rica uses plenty of electricity-conserving devices like on-demand water heaters and energy saving appliances.
Most homes use stoves powered by propane tanks, which can be purchased at supermarkets and local suppliers. This comes in handy particularly during power outages.
Water and Sewer
Many are surprised to learn that water throughout Costa Rica is clean and drinkable. 95% of homes are connected to the municipal water supply, which is treated. Most water bills amount to $5-10 per month. Most homes use energy efficient appliances like on-demand water heaters used primarily in the shower, and semi-automatic washing machines that use less water.
In Nosara, water is provided by the Rural Aqueduct Administration of Nosara and comes from nearby wells. Water testing is performed quarterly and residents are able to access the reports. Water is currently plentiful in the town but conservation is still practiced and encouraged, particularly in the dry season.
Costa Rica has a wide range of trash services, and in Nosara garbage and recycling are collected twice per week. Many other parts of the country do not even have proper garbage collection as they end up dumping the trash in nearby rivers and vacant lots.
The recycling program in Nosara has been initiated by the community and is quite comprehensive. Costa Rica as a whole has begun consolidating landfills and implementing a public education program on recycling and waste.
You can limit your waste considerably by reducing the amount of plastic you use by refilling plastic bottles, composting all of your organic scraps, and recycling as much as possible.
Who Might Not Want to Move to Nosara
While Nosara is a wonderful place well suited to some people, it is not for everyone. Costa Rica in general may be more developed and Americanized than the rest of Central America, but it is still a developing nation.
Those who need consistent reliable internet and modern conveniences may become frustrated with the limitations here. Additionally life moves at a slower pace in Costa Rica, particularly in small beach towns like Nosara. For some this brings peace, for others aggravation.
The dusty rough roads in Nosara may be difficult for some people as well as the proximity to nature. Few can deny the beauty of wilderness, but exposure to insect infestations and wild animals can be undesirable. Also, during the dry season there is little to no rain at all and the landscape can dry up and become covered in dust. The rainy season is greener and more beautiful but roads can become difficult and many outdoor activities are not possible to partake in.
Contrastingly, those who wish to be completely immersed in Costa Rican culture may find areas of Nosara, particularly Playa Guiones to be overly Americanized. Those seeking a singles or party scene will also likely be disappointed as Nosara is a very laid-back, family-oriented area and may prefer towns like Tamarindo, Jaco, Dominical, or Puerto Viejo.
Who Might Want to Move to Nosara
There are many reasons why a person would want to relocate to Nosara, and hopefully this article has succeeded in illustrating them. In summary, here is who would likely benefit from a move to Nosara.
Those looking for a community with many of the comforts of home like good healthcare and reputable schools will likely enjoy Nosara. Beach lovers, surfers, yogis, and most athletic individuals will also enjoy the many physical outdoor activities available in beach towns like Playa Guiones.
Those interested in living a healthy lifestyle will find that the many health-oriented restaurants, cafes, and markets in Nosara as well as physical activities and surrounding nature make it much easier than in other areas of the world. The laid-back, quiet, peaceful nature of Nosara is a huge draw for families looking to relax and live off of the grid.
Also, those who have some hesitations about moving to Central America due to language and cultural barriers may find Nosara to be an easier transition as it has an established English speaking North American expat community.
Making the decision to move abroad should never be taken lightly, but it can also be an incredible life changing journey. Perhaps Nosara is the place for you to start?
Nosara Fast Facts
- Population: About 4,700
- Typical temperature:Mid 80’s
- Nearest airport with U.S. flights: Liberia
- Nearest U.S. consulate: San Jose
It’s easy to find tons of articles and information out there highlighting all the great benefits of living in Costa Rica.
But it’s also easy to read those blogs and marketing pieces and think, “Yeah, it sounds great and all, but can it really be as perfect as all that yoga and ‘pura vida’ and dazzling sunsets I keep hearing about.”
Yeah, it can. But that doesn’t mean that living in Costa Rica is without its share of annoyances and headaches. It is after all a developing country, albeit a breathtakingly gorgeous one with a relaxed vibe and some of the most welcoming people you’ll ever meet.
To help you decide if it’s really the right place for you to work and live and play, we’ve unpacked the whole truth about living in Costa Rica.
Our intent is not to discourage you from making the country your expat home. Costa Rica is one of the most popular expat destinations in the world for a reason. It’s because the amazing benefits easily outweigh the bad, in the minds of most expats.
What we do want to do is to give you a clear picture of what you could expect in your day-to-day life living in Costa Rica.
For some, pura vida can be an acquired taste.
Meaning “pure life,” pura vida is the unofficial slogan of Costa Rica, or at least the country’s collective philosophy. This laid-back attitude is one of the main characteristics that draws many expats to the country in the first place. Yet it’s also one of the ones that frustrates North Americans the most, after the honeymoon phase wears off.
This concept of slowing down to enjoy life, letting things just roll off your back, and relaxing your expectations is a great outlook to adopt. It’s likely one of the reasons Costa Ricans are among the healthiest and happiest cultures in the world.
Side effects of a pura vida overdose
Living and doing business in a pura vida culture can involve things like not receiving your mail for unexplained reasons, waiting days for your power to be restored after a minor outage, or even having a string of multiple repairmen fail to show up to fix your roof.
One big contributor to the pura vida frustration is the phrase “mañana,” which you probably thought meant “tomorrow.” It doesn’t. At least, not usually. It could mean Friday, next Tuesday, the beginning of October, or even never. However, the one thing it does always mean is “not today.”
The same relaxed approach to getting things done applies to most services and government operations as well. Most infrastructure is poorly maintained. The roads are in poor condition. Street signs and building numbers rarely exist. And buses are somewhat unreliable since they change their routes depending on road conditions, especially during the rainy season.
The steps you were told you needed to take last month to get your visa or a building permit may be completely different than the response you get when you go back to the same office with that first set of paperwork completed.
It’s even worse than your worst experience at the DMV. Processes that should take weeks can take years, and that can be incredibly frustrating to someone who’s accustomed to much more consistent and systematic ways of doing things.
Your best bet? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. If you go into the process knowing what to expect, you can be better prepared to roll with the punches, remain patient and calm, and just keep moving the ball forward at every opportunity.
Losing your temper and blowing up at the underpaid, overworked immigration employee or customer service representative will get you nowhere. A deep breath, a polite “gracias,” and a smile can work wonders.
When living in Costa Rica, you can’t escape the country’s untamed natural surroundings.
Costa Rica’s economy is heavily dependent on ecotourism. And if you’ve even seen so much as a single photo slideshow highlighting the country’s natural beauty, then you can easily see why.
This Central American country literally has it all, with terrains and eco-climates ranging from long stretches of undeveloped coastline to towering volcanoes to dense jungles and rainforests to lush valleys to waters teeming with all sorts of exotic marine life to inland lakes, streams, and rivers with cascading waterfalls. We could go on and on.
These wild and rugged settings form a backdrop for all manner of tropical species. And you don’t have to go to a nature preserve to see them, because they’ll come to you!
Sounds awesome, right? Well, not always.
This could mean everything from spotting monkeys and toucans in your garden to finding scorpions in your house or even bats in your toilet.
Among the most prevalent unexpected guests are insects. There are crawling critters in Costa Rica of which you’ve never seen the likes in North America. And, unfortunately, they’re unavoidable. The humid beach towns, particularly along the Caribbean coast, are often plagued with mosquitoes, which can carry dengue fever.
Ants are a problem everywhere, and they bite. So clean kitchens and secure food storage are essential to ward them off. Termites can also invade and cause considerable property damage. And you might see cockroaches as big as your hand.
What can be done about these unwelcome intruders? Not much. However, they do seem to be more prevalent (and grow quite larger) in the coastal areas. So, the less humid mountainous regions might be a better fit for you if you’re someone who loses his cool over the tiniest spider sighting.
Outside of trying to find a spot less populated with critters, just do your best to be on the lookout for them. Check your shoes before you stick your foot in. Shake out blankets and sleeping bags before you curl up in them. Things like that.
The weather is great most of the time, but when it rains it pours.
In North America, the way you choose your desired temperature is by adjusting your thermostat. In Costa Rica you can tweak your weather by carefully selecting your location and, more specifically, your elevation.
Are you looking for a year-round consistent climate with temps in the low 70s and the anticipated daily shower each afternoon? Try the Central Valley, near San Jose, which thousands of expats already call home.
Are you OK with enduring a little more heat and humidity in exchange for the laid-back lifestyle of one of the country’s amazing beach towns? Then try a quaint little village on the coast.
A word of caution, though. The country’s rainy season runs from May to November. And, depending on where you live, “rainy” could mean anything from the aforementioned afternoon shower to torrential downpours that go on for days on end. The Caribbean coast gets more rainfall than the Pacific, particularly the eastern slopes of the Central Cordillera mountains.
How bad can a little bit of rain be?
Here’s how that plays out in real life. As we mentioned, Costa Rica isn’t know for the quality of its roads. Add 10 or more inches of rain in a month’s time, and that situation doesn’t exactly improve. The roads, as well as your own property, will at times be a muddy mess.
The rest of the country’s infrastructure can also fail, with power and water outages being quite common. And the utility companies’ attitudes towards affecting a speedy restoration of service can be enough to send an impatient North American right over the edge.
The persistent rainfall, plus the lack of sunshine to dry things out, can result in a lot of your belongings (Think outdoor furniture and patio cushions.) becoming moldy. Oh, and all that nature we talked about? The rain and flooding often send select members of it (Think bugs and snakes.) right inside your home looking for refuge.
How can you combat these issues as a newcomer? For starters, use care when selecting your destination city and make sure to experience what it’s like in the wet season before you buy property.
Outside of that, there’s not much you can do. Except rest in the knowledge that once the balmy summer weather arrives (December to April), the downpours and flooding will all just seem like a bad dream. Until next year.
You’ll love the many opportunities for adventure, but you won’t be the only one.
Costa Rica’s [mostly] great weather and amazing natural beauty have made it extremely popular as an expat and tourist destination. As a result, there are tons of ways to experience the outdoors and get your adrenaline going.
You can go deep sea fishing and reel in a record-breaking catch, soar through the canopy and see the rainforest via zipline, go whitewater rafting on a raging river, hike to the top of a volcano, learn to surf on some of the world’s best waves, or even just enjoy the exotic flora and fauna that’s all around you.
It would be wrong to keep all this a secret.
With so many great opportunities to enjoy nature, there are understandably a lot of visitors to Costa Rica. So much so that some expats complain that it’s a bit too touristy.
It really depends on your preference whether or not that presents a problem for you. Some expats welcome the constant influx of individuals from all walks of life. Some would rather feel more like pioneers who were the first and only ones to discover such a hidden gem of an expat destination.
The general consensus? Most people who’ve settled in Costa Rica for the long haul agree that the varied and diverse culture is part of what makes the country so great. The welcoming, anything goes approach affords a lot of chances to meet new people and learn about other cultures.
The country’s popularity as a tourist destination can also be quite profitable for entrepreneurs living in Costa Rica. All those visitors need food, lodging, tour guides, and other niche services that savvy expat investors are more than willing to provide. Costa Rica is a great investment opportunity.
Costa Rica is incredibly safe, as long as you use good sense.
Compared to many of its Central American neighbors, Costa Rica is extremely safe. Its homicide rate is 10.3 people per 100,000, second in the region only to Nicaragua at 8.7.
Violence like rape and hate crimes are almost unheard of, even though–when they do occur to visiting North Americans–you’re very likely to hear about it on the news. Due to the country’s peace-loving nature and stable government, there are also no riots or other political uprisings. In fact, it’s often referred to as the Switzerland of the Americas.
No country is immune to the increasing global crime rates
That being said, Costa Rica still has its share of petty crimes. The good news is that much more of them are property-related.
Homes, particularly those that are only used seasonally, are frequently broken into. Tourists are often pickpocketed. And leaving items unattended in an unlocked vehicle or lying around outside your home is a good way to ensure they won’t be there when you come back.
Prevention is key for those visiting or living in Costa Rica. If you’re a tourist, try not to look or act like one. Don’t wear loads of flashy jewelry, accessories, sunglasses, etc. Limit any excessive carrying of electronics like camera, smartphones, iPods, and other devices. And, whatever you do, don’t go waving around wads of cash, particularly large bills.
As long as you use common sense and stick to the more traveled and well-lit thoroughfares, especially at night, you should be just fine.
If you’re a resident, don’t leave expensive items outside your home. Lock up any outbuildings. And install a security system on your home, especially if you don’t live there year-round.
The cost of living is good, but not the best in the region.
A major perk of becoming an expat in Central America is the low cost of living, compared to the price of the same goods and services in North America. Fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as some great health food options, are widely available. They’re also extremely affordable.
Some great properties can be had at a fraction of what a comparable sized home (in the same incredible setting) would run you in the U.S. Utilities are cheap, as in many areas you don’t even need to heat or cool your home. Indulgences like a hour-long massage might cost as little as $10.
Taxes are also low, with property taxes rarely exceeding a few hundred dollars. There are also significant tax savings for foreigners.
Two of the biggest savings for those living in Costa Rica are domestic help and health care. The services of a maid, gardener, or other domestic worker can be as low as a few dollars per day, a luxury most people could hardly afford in a first-world setting.
Health care, while arguably first-world caliber, is also a great deal. Costa Rica has a state-run health system whose quality has been ranked higher than that of the U.S. The hospitals are clean and modern. Most doctors are U.S.-trained and English-speaking. These are some of the reasons Costa Rica has become a popular destination for medical tourism.
How could there be a downside to this?
Well, there isn’t really. Except for the fact that there are definitely cheaper places to live in Central America. So, while Costa Rica is not the cost leader, it makes up for any higher prices with its exceptional quality.
If cost is a driving factor in your decision-making process, then you might want to look at some other destinations in Latin America. However, just remember that the old adage about getting what you pay for is true more often than not.
There are a lot of North American expats living in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has long been a hotspot for North American expats, and it shows. The North American influence is everywhere.
There are large, well-connected expat communities in most of the more popular towns. They have gardening clubs, gringo poker night, food and wine tastings, and other social gatherings. There are even programs specifically geared towards helping newcomers acclimate to their expat home.
You could literally find something to do every night of the week if you wanted to.
Why is this a problem?
This type of North American-influenced lifestyle is precisely the reason that many expats left in the first place. As a result, it may be a turnoff to some. Again, it really depends on your preference.
Decide now what level of expat community you’re after. The good news is that it’s easy to gauge your tolerance for a high density of other expats. Just visit the place and see what you think.
If you want more opportunities to immerse yourself in the authentic culture, without having English constantly spoken to you or receiving flyers about the latest production at the expat theater, then choose a less-developed spot with fewer North Americans.
If you think being around other folks who’ve walked a mile in your shoes might help you and your family better transition to your new life, then it’s as simple as looking for posters announcing the next meeting of the expat group or finding a forum where you can get connected before you even make the move.
Also take into consideration your other family members, like your children, and their needs. Having English-speaking friends can make a world of difference in those all-important first weeks and months in a new place.
While many of these and other factors about living in Costa Rica may seem like a lot to sort through, most all of them can be easily weighed by just scheduling a trip to bring your family down and decide for yourself.
Worst case scenario? You’ll have one of the best vacations of your lives. Best case? You could find the home you’ve always dreamed of.
Map of Costa Rica
Costa Rica Fast Facts
- Population: About 4.8 million
- Typical temperature: Mid 80’s
- Nearest airport with U.S. flights: San Jose
- Nearest U.S. consulate: San Jose
A deeper look at Nosara and its history will quickly reveal that this long-time mecca for surfing enthusiasts offers so much more than just the sand and sea. The increasing interest in the area as a destination for families looking for a healthier lifestyle has helped Nosara evolve from its early beginnings into a place where both body and soul can be nurtured.
The town’s metamorphosis from surf haven to an established community immersed in sustainability, healthy living, and dedicated to the “green” lifestyle continues to draw both visitors and expats looking to find a destination that can help body, mind, and spirit thrive in concert with each other.
Discovering Nosara: A Brief History
From their arrival in the mid to late 16th century, the Spanish converted much of the Nicoya Peninsula, including the area that we know now as Nosara, into large cattle ranches. It remained in that state until 1962 when Alan Hutchinson, an entrepreneur and developer, purchased a large tract of land (roughly 3,000 acres) that he hoped to transform from pasture land into something more desirable.
It was his concept to build a sustainable upscale resort community known as “The Beaches of Nosara.” Hutchinson’s idea, which became known locally as the “American Project,” never materialized although it did lead to the creation of the Nosara Civic Association. This local organization has dedicated itself to reforestation and the preservation of the natural and ecological beauty of the region and directly to the growth of the Nosara of the 21st century.
Ironically, it was a short time later when surfers began to discover the great potential for surfing in Playa Guiones and the surrounding beaches. The combination of great surf breaks, a laid-back vibe, and the “off the beaten path” location made Nosara the perfect place to find that “endless summer.”
Fast Forward to the Present
As the 20th century drew to a close, Nosara transformed itself into the focal point for expats desiring an all-natural lifestyle with an emphasis on healthy living. The proliferation of yoga retreats and alternative healing centers has merged well with the surfing community.
For those discovering Nosara for the first time, there are a number of yoga surf camps that combine the best of both worlds. In addition to the surfing schools in the area, the Nosara Yoga Institute has gained worldwide acclaim as one of the premier training centers for yoga instructors.
Nosara and the Nicoya Peninsula have also gained prominence as one of the “blue zones” for longevity thanks to Dan Buettner’s popular book of the same name. This aesthetic mixture of lifestyles found in and around Nosara is unique, not only in the Latin Tropics, but across the globe as well.
Merging Sustainability and Planned Growth
The Nosara Civic Association has worked tirelessly to ensure that real estate development can occur in a planned fashion that will not sacrifice the environment and ecological beauty of the region. The permanent 170-acre “Green Zone” and the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge are two prime examples of the importance given to balancing nature with growth in the area.
Finding property that can be developed, or purchasing an existing structure is still an affordable option. While there are a number of upscale owners seeking to build higher-end homes in the Nosara area, there are also opportunities for those with more modest budgets.
The Desirable Intangibles of Nosara
Beyond the surfing and the yoga, Nosara has many other, less obvious, features that commend it as one of the most desirable expat locations in the Latin Tropics. Nosara’s intangible benefits are equally important considerations for those considering relocating to the region.
One of the biggest draws of Nosara, Costa Rica is the family-centered community in and around Nosara. Unlike many surfing communities, Nosara is not a “party town” but features a close-knit sense of belonging that welcomes families with children and retirees as well as outdoor sports enthusiasts.
The creation of two bilingual schools has helped foster this type of lifestyle that offers more time for parents and children to interact. Additionally, the wide variety of outdoor activities (beyond surfing) helps to nurture young bodies in concert with educational growth.
Language Is Not a Barrier
One of the intangible benefits of the growth of the expat population in Nosara is the increasing use of English in the area. Being able to shop, make appointments, and even interact with your neighbors, without constantly needing a translator, can make adjusting to your new expat life much easier.
Nature and Art: Two Forms of Beauty
The Nosara region combines the natural beauty of the environment as well as a growing arts community. The hamlet of Montezuma, a short distance from Nosara, is home to the annual Costa Rica International Film Festival as well as a number of artist communes and craft shops.
The Ostional Reserve (mentioned above) is home to olive ridley and leatherback sea turtle populations that are known across the globe for their ecological importance. Nosara’s beaches are recognized annually with the Blue Flag award for cleanliness. Its water table is the cleanest in Costa Rica, thanks largely to the commitment of community leaders to maintaining this standard for quality of life.
Nosara Is Waiting for You
With everything that it has going for it, discovering Nosara should be at the top of your list if you are considering a move to the Latin Tropics. Visit, experience and immerse yourself in this eclectic tropical location and find out if Nosara, and all it offers, are right for you.
What was once the up-and-coming expat haven of Nosara, Costa Rica, has blossomed into one of Costa Rica’s most established expat communities that continues to be ranked near the top of the list of most desirable destinations in the Latin Tropics.
There are few places on earth that can boast of having a dedication to outdoor activities, such as surfing, blended with a lifestyle focused on sustainability as well as the environment, and other beneficial pursuits, such as yoga and meditation. Add in the Costa Rican vibe of “pura vida” (literally “pure life”), and the result is a magnetic draw for retirees, young families looking for a slower pace of life, and investors seeking a great return on investment.
Expats Still Like Nosara for Its Real Estate Potential
One of the reasons that expats still like Nosara is the variety of options that exist in the real estate market. While there are an increasing number of upscale owners seeking to build or buy luxury homes, the Nosara Civic Association continues to make a concerted effort to ensure that the natural beauty and the environment are not overwhelmed with development.
At the other end of the economic spectrum, there are many affordable and rustic properties in and around the village of Nosara itself. Importantly, there are also a number of lots that can be reasonably purchased so that expats can build their own tropical escape.
Looking at a list of properties in the area can help potential expats explore the potential that exists. Whether you are seeking your tropical retreat, or considering a longer term investment option, it can be found in Nosara.
Nosara Is Poised for the Future
As the brainchild of American developer Alan Hutchinson Nosara was originally planned to be a resort community. While the “American Project” never materialized, the foreigners who discovered the beauty and potential of the region dedicated themselves to aggressively reforesting the former cattle ranch into one of the premier “Green Zones” that exist throughout Costa Rica.
The Nosara Civic Association zealously protects the roughly 170 acres of Green Zone land that is distributed throughout the former project site. Any future development in the Nosara area will be part of a planned growth model to maintain the balance between humans and nature. This measured approach has become a model for other projects throughout Costa Rica and the Latin Tropics.
Activities for the Body and Soul
One of the premier reasons that expats still like Nosara is the unique mix of outdoor activities with more spiritual aspects such as yoga, meditation, and alternative health. Being able to immerse oneself in such a wide variety of pursuits, in a stunning and diverse ecological location, continues to provide an irresistible draw for those who are seeking to find a place outside the ordinary.
Surfing and More
As a top-rated surfing destination, Nosara’s beaches and natural surf breaks have drawn enthusiasts who seek the “endless summer” for decades. The near-perfect year-round climate makes enjoying the beach, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, and other outdoor pursuits an easy and enjoyable task.
Yoga, Meditation and Alternative Health
As a counterpoint to the surf culture, Nosara has also become known, particularly in the last decade, as a destination for yoga and yoga retreats, meditation camps, and alternative medicine and health. Combining a holistic lifestyle with high-energy sports may seem like a cultural contradiction but these pursuits are actually the perfect complement to one another. In Nosara the two approaches blend perfectly.
Expats Still Like Nosara for Its Family-friendliness
For younger expat families, finding a place where children can thrive can often be a difficult challenge. Nosara, Costa Rica has become one of those rare destinations that can truly be said to be welcoming to families of all types.
The creation of two bilingual private schools, as well as the great variety of kid-friendly activities like sports and nature-focused initiatives, have contributed to the growth in the number of expat families considering a move to Nosara. Even more important is the relaxed pace of living that allows for more interaction between parents and children, something that is often lacking in the 24/7/365 hustle of major metropolitan areas.
A Healthier Way to Live
Dan Buettner’s recent book, “Blue Zones,” identified the Nicoya Peninsula as one of the places around the globe whose residents seemed to live longer, healthier lives. Nosara’s location, in the middle of the peninsula, has become a focal point for many expat families who want to add longevity to their lives and the lives of their children. Having a focus on a sustainable lifestyle continues to be one of the major considerations for those looking for a better quality of life.
The Best Way to Discover Why Expats Still Like Nosara Is to Go There
Nosara promises to be an important expat destination both now and moving forward. But what makes Nosara desirable differs from person to person. So don’t just take my word for it. The best way to see if Nosara is a fit for you and your family is to visit and experience both the ambience and the activities that await you there.
When you hear people applaud Nosara for its laid-back rustic vibe, what you may not realize is that despite it’s off-the-beaten-path atmosphere, Nosara is also surprisingly well connected. As such, this Costa Rican hotspot continues to be one of the most desirable locations for expats and visitors to the Latin Tropics.
Nosara, Costa Rica perfectly combines the beauty and tranquility of nature, the high-energy infusion of surfing, and the mellow, relaxed vibe of yoga and meditation. It’s truly an all-encompassing piece of paradise.
But what it also has, that many similar destinations lack, are 21st century conveniences and amenities that rival those you’d find in many First World cities. Buildings feature high-end materials. Cellular service and internet connectivity are easily available. All this is due largely in part to the careful and intentional way the town has grown.
Contemporary Homes in a Rustic Setting
Nosara’s founders had a plan to see their town grow the right way, with a commitment to complementing, not overwhelming its natural beauty. And those who have followed in their footsteps have retained this same approach. The result? Modern, contemporary homes surrounded by the beautiful, untouched tropical landscape.
Indoor/outdoor living is king, with many homes having spaces that expand from interior living rooms onto outdoor patios with tropical canopies before trickling out into gardens, pools, and outdoor kitchens. Homes offer bonus features such as solar panels, greenhouses, yoga floors, and many other amenities necessary for sustainable, healthy living.
As you might expect, there isn’t a lot of bargain basement real estate in and around Nosara. But if “cheap” is your Number 1 criteria for finding your perfect place in paradise, then you’ve probably already figured out that Nosara isn’t right for you. What Nosara offers is an unrivaled quality of life, and its real estate — while not the lowest prices in the Latin Tropics — represents an incredible value.
Nosara: Many Options to Experience “Pura Vida”
The phrase “pura vida” (literally “pure life”) has become the catchphrase to describe living in Costa Rica. There is no place in the country that exemplifies the essence of “pura vida” better than Nosara.
Life Is Still a Beach
Nosara’s long standing reputation as a great beach and surf town has not diminished with the growth in the area. National Geographic lists Nosara among the top 20 surfing cities worldwide while TripAdvisor lists it as number 8 in the top 10 beaches in Central America.
Nosara and Guiones Combine Natural Beauty with Luxury
The area around Nosara, including Guiones, has become a magnet for upscale expats seeking to build high-end retreats with 21st century amenities. Even with this growth spurt, the Nosara Civic Association aggressively works to preserve the natural beauty and the environment of the 170-acre “Green Zone” to ensure that development will not overtake the essence of what makes Nosara special.
Eco-tourism lodges, yoga spas, surf hostels, and high-end hotels provide an eclectic range of lifestyle options. Whether you need to stay connected to the 24/7/365 world or want to be completely “off the grid,” you can find a place in Nosara to fit your desire.
Connections to Nosara: Virtual and Logistical
Getting to Nosara is easier than one might imagine. While the traditional method of driving the length of the Nicoya peninsula is still popular, Costa Rica is not exactly known for the quality of its roads. The good news is that SANSA, a domestic Costa Rican airline, offers inexpensive flights from both Liberia and San Jose to the regional airport in Nosara.
For those looking for a more relaxing and scenic alternative, the ferry across the Bay of Nicoya provides a different way to experience the Nicoya Peninsula. This roughly one hour ferry trip from Puntarenas is a great way to get you and your vehicle to the Nosara area without the need of navigating the roads on the peninsula.
One of the key benefits to the growth in and around Nosara is the improvement in Internet and Wi-Fi services. Many of the hotels, hostels, and cafes offer free Wi-Fi that can make staying connected much less stressful.
Nosara: Rustic, Connected, and Waiting for You
If you are seeking a place that combines a rustic, laid-back vibe with modern connectivity and easy accessibility, Nosara may just be the answer for you. Planning a visit to this special area in Costa Rica is the best way to decide for yourself if this is the place for your tropical retreat. Go once, and you may just decide to stay and live the pure life forever.
There are surprising facts about Nosara that highlight why it continues to be the top expat destination in Costa Rica. While the region has long been known as a surfers’ mecca, there is more to this tropical location than meets the eye.
The essence of what makes Nosara a unique place begins with its history and continues to grow to this present day. There are few places in the tropics that bring together the natural and aesthetic vibe like this special location on the Nicoya Peninsula.
Surprising Facts About Nosara’s History
There are a couple of surprising facts about Nosara from a historical perspective that many expats are not aware of. This background is one of the primary features that has contributed to the desirability of Nosara as a place to build a tropical paradise.
Nosara was not always part of Costa Rica.
One surprising fact about the Nosara area is that it did not always belong to Costa Rica. Prior to 1824, Nosara and the entire Nicoya Peninsula were part of the Spanish province of Nicaragua. On July 25th, 1824, the Central American Federal Republic signed a law transferring the entire Guanacaste Province, including the Nicoya Peninsula, to Costa Rica.
Even then, the region maintained a unique autonomy of its own. Finally, in 1848, the territory gained provincial status as part of Costa Rica.
A North American put Nosara on the map.
Another surprising fact about Nosara is that it was actually the brainchild of a North American. Alan Hutchinson, an entrepreneur and developer, purchased a large cattle ranch (several thousand acres) in 1962, with the idea of building a resort community he called “The Beaches of Nosara.”
The “American Project” (as it came to be known locally) never came to fruition. However, it did call attention to the region and its attractiveness for expats looking for someplace different.
One of the most positive aspects of the American Project was the creation of the 170-acre permanent Green Zone. This vital natural area is a testament to the community’s desire to balance the interest of people with the interests of the environment.
More Surprising Facts About Nosara
The kind of opportunities for expat living that can be found in Nosara today cover a wide range of choices. There is something for everyone in this unique location.
Yoga in Nosara, Costa Rica is the new surfing.
Nosara has long been recognized as one of the best surfing destinations in the world. In 2017, Nosara was ranked number one among the fastest growing surf towns worldwide. The combination of unsullied beaches and good natural surf-breaks have helped build on Nosara’s reputation as a surfers’ paradise.
What fewer people know is the fact that the area in and around Nosara has become home to a large number of yoga, meditation, and alternative health retreats. There are also a number of spas that combine yoga and surfing, two activities that complement each other well in so many ways.
Live a longer, healthier life in Nosara.
In his book Blue Zones, Dan Buettner identified the Nicoya Peninsula as one of the top “longevity hotspots” around the globe. Nosara’s location, in the heart of the peninsula, may well be “ground zero” for longer life spans.
Expats seeking to escape the incessant drumbeat of the 24/7/365 “always on” existence of the modern world can immerse themselves in the more laid-back ambiance of Nosara and rediscover what it means to just stop and take a breath. With a lifestyle focused on sustainability, combined with the cleanest water table in Costa Rica, Nosara can provide a healthier approach to daily life.
It’s family- and language-friendly.
A truly surprising fact about Nosara is that, unlike most surf/beach towns, it is not a frenetic party town. The more relaxed atmosphere is conducive to a family-friendly environment. The location of two bilingual schools in a neighborhood setting can make transitioning for the youngest expats much less stressful.
Additionally, with the growing number of expats and visitors to the region, finding English speakers is easier than it might be in other parts of the Latin Tropics. Daily tasks, like shopping or making appointments, do not require such a robust command of the Spanish language.
The Most Amazing Fact About Nosara: The Price Tag
With all of the interest in the Nicoya Peninsula, and Nosara in particular, it may come as surprise that real estate is still affordable. Although the market has rebounded from the lows of 2008, there is still a great deal of potential for both expats and investors to explore.
Here are a couple of examples of the kind of opportunities that can currently be found in Nosara:
1-Bedroom Home, Great Investment, Lots of Room to Build Your Dream House on Remaining Land. The home is 1-bedroom, 1.5-bath on over 1 acre of land. It is located about 15 minutes from the beach, 9 minutes from shopping and 6 minutes from the airport. It has water, electricity, and a 1-bedroom guest house with septic system and it can all be purchased for only $137,000.
Diamond Point – 2BR Condo Facing the Pool. 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo beautifully designed and comes furnished so you can start living the lush jungle life immediately. It is located on the ground level with a patio facing one of the nicest pools in Nosara that has a waterfall feature and a shallow area for lounging or for kids to play. Priced at $99,500.
Affordable, Flat Lot in Quiet Area of Playa Pelada. This is for those who want to build their tropical dream home from the ground up. It has recently been reduced in price to $74,999.
Finding your place in a tropical paradise may never be easier. And the even more exciting news is that property values in Nosara are headed nowhere but up. With its incredible natural beauty, first world amenities, family atmosphere, and increased interest from developers, Nosara is poised for even more growth in the future.
The Most Surprising Fact About Nosara
Perhaps the most shocking fact about Nosara is that you have yet to experience it for yourself. Take that first step and see if Nosara may be the tropical paradise that you have been longing for.
Mexico is great for expat families looking for a destination that combines a good work-life balance, along with close proximity to the U.S., and a chance to immerse themselves in a culture that is both new and somewhat familiar. The welcoming environment is further enhanced by the number of long-established expat communities in a wide variety of locations throughout the country.
With a favorable exchange rate, currently about $0.05 U.S. to $1.00 Mexican peso, it is very easy to get more for your dollars south of the border. With the large number of multi-national corporations that maintain operations in Mexico, there is also a growing number of employment opportunities for expats looking to take their careers in a new direction.
Many Choices for Your Home in Mexico
A major concern for those moving abroad is finding the right place to live. One of the main reasons that Mexico is great for expat families is the wide variety of homes that can be purchased or rented.
Non-residents can own property in their own name throughout much of Mexico; direct ownership in the “restricted zone,” areas within 64 miles of international borders or 32 miles of the coastline, is prohibited except through something called fideicomiso, or a bank trust. Under this system, the bank is the actual title holder with the purchaser being the beneficiary of the trust, with full rights of ownership.
With favorable property prices to match the exchange rate, finding the perfect casa for your family is easier than you might imagine. Whether you are seeking an urban villa, a beachfront hacienda, or a pastoral setting, Mexico has a place for you and your family.
Survey Says: Mexico Is Great for Expat Families!
For expats with children, there are many additional factors to be considered in making a decision to move abroad. In addition to financial and logistical concerns, there’s also education, health care, and other family-friendly services that play an important role.
A recent survey conducted by InterNations, the largest global network of expats, explored 43 life aspects that factor into the decision to move abroad. On one important component, the Family Life Index, Mexico was the only country in the Americas to rank in the top 20. With a great work-life balance and family-friendly attitude, Mexico is a great place for expat families to live and grow.
Living Day to Day As an Expat Family in Mexico
One of the greatest things about living as an expat family in Mexico is the wide variety of settings in which you can choose to live. No matter what your interests or desired pace of life, there’s something for everyone in Mexico.
Many expat families, especially those who move to Mexico for employment, are drawn to the major metropolitan areas like Mexico City, Acapulco, Monterrey, and Guadalajara. The modern amenities, educational choices, and lifestyles in these locales are the ones that most closely mirror major U.S. cities.
Additionally, the number of English speakers and expat-centric communities is also greater. However, these pluses do often come with a higher price tag on things like housing, utilities, food, and other essentials that families need to sustain their lifestyle.
For those expats fortunate enough to be able to work remotely, beach and tourist locations such as Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, and Rivera Maya may be desirable. In addition to the wide variety of leisure activities, these destinations have established expat communities that make fitting in much easier. As might be expected, however, the cost of living in these areas is also higher than less developed parts of the country.
Rural and Rustic
Though not for everyone, Mexico is great for expat families seeking to immerse themselves in a new and foreign culture. Smaller towns and villages afford the opportunity for children to be exposed to a lifestyle far different than that which they had back in the U.S.
The lower cost of living can offset the fact that many modern amenities may not be as readily available. Being able to truly live an authentic Mexican lifestyle can provide an unparalleled experience that expat children can carry with them as they grow and develop.
Things to Consider
While Mexico is great for expat families, there are some important considerations that should be factored in to making the decision to move. Understanding the pluses and minuses involved in such a decision can provide a good assessment of whether moving to Mexico is the right choice for you and your family.
Crime and Safety
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Mexico has certainly made its share of headlines with its problems with various drug cartels and other criminal activities. The good news is that, while certain areas appear to be hotspots for these types of incidents, the majority of the country is largely unaffected.
Prior to moving to any new location, make sure you do your research on its safety. Actually visiting prospective choices (preferably more than once) can help you decide if these are the kind of places you want to raise your family in.
Education and Language
It is important to remember that, in spite of the large number of English speakers present, Spanish is still the principal language in Mexico. Living in the country can provide an excellent opportunity – especially for children – to learn a second language, but it can also make navigating daily life rather difficult.
While there are a number of school options in Mexico, the overall public education system still needs improvement. Rural schools, in particular, seem to lag behind the rest of the country. In a recent study, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked the public system as below average in mathematics, science, and reading.
There are a growing number of international schools that offer alternatives to the public system. Home schooling and parochial schools are other alternatives that may be considered to provide educational options for children.
The election of 2016 appears to mark a dramatic shift in immigration laws that will impact both the U.S. and Mexico. As a result, there is a growing uncertainty about how these shifts will impact expats seeking to move to and work in Mexico. Keeping abreast of all current developments and changes in the laws is a necessary step in making the decision to move south of the border.
Is Mexico Right for Your Family?
There are many reasons that Mexico is great for expat families. Its affordability, relaxed pace of life, abundance of leisure-time activities, and close proximity to friends and family “back home” are all positive elements.
There is no better way to begin the discussion about moving than for you and your family to visit places in Mexico that may appeal to you. Seeing firsthand the places you could call home and seeing how your family interacts is the best barometer for measuring the success of such a life-changing decision.
I can’t remember a time when the U.S. political scene was in such a state of turmoil. These days you can’t talk politics on social media (or even with family over a holiday meal) without somebody getting worked up and going into an all-out rant.
During election season, there were plenty of people on both sides threatening that they were going to “leave the country if [fill in the blank] gets elected.” And apparently some thought pretty seriously about it, as Google reports that searches for the phrase “move to Canada” hit an all-time high in the days following Super Tuesday.
Well. It’s all over. The chips have fallen. Donald J. Trump has officially been inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. So now the question becomes…who’s really going?
How many people are actually leaving the U.S.?
Sure, they threaten. It happens every time there’s an election. But does anyone actually even follow through on their threat to expatriate merely because they’re unhappy about a change in the presidential administration?
The answer? Well, no one really knows.
That’s because, as concerned as the U.S. is with how many people are coming into the country, they’re actually surprisingly lax on tracking how many are leaving. In fact, among developed countries, the U.S. is almost the only one that doesn’t collect any data on its emigrants.
That’s right. The U.S. government has absolutely no idea how many of its citizens are living abroad. If you ask the State Department, they’ll tell you it’s somewhere between 3 million and 8 million. (Really narrows it down, right?)
But other sources indicate there are closer to 9 million non-military U.S. citizens living abroad. That’s more than double the 4 million estimated in 1999, and it’s increasing every year, as is the number of U.S. citizens renouncing their citizenship.
Where are they going?
The next question is, of the estimated 3 million U.S. citizens who could potentially become expats this year, to which countries are they emigrating?
What little data that does exist suggests that most U.S. expats move to locations physically close to the U.S., those whose residents speak English, countries that are political allies, and those that have a large number of immigrants to the U.S.
Not surprisingly, the largest number of U.S. expats live in Mexico, with some estimates putting that number as high as 1 million people. The countries in the Latin Tropics also rank high on the list. In fact, there’s practically no country outside of the Caribbean or American possessions where more than 1% of the population is U.S. citizens.
Why are they leaving?
Sure, there are people who actually do leave the U.S. based on nothing more than election results. A ton of folks moved down to the tropics after Obama was elected. They bought houses right next to people who left because they hated Bush, and guess what happened. They all got along swimmingly.
It’s not because the political systems in the Latin Tropics are any better. In fact, in many ways they’re way worse. Newly installed political leaders come in and clean house, all the way from cabinet leaders down to the guy who’d been reviewing your building permit request for a month already.
The entire government shuts down for weeks. When things do get up and running, it’s with all new people who have no idea what the hell’s going on. It’s a nightmare! Not to mention, corruption is rampant.
The biggest difference is that, while there’s plenty of political turmoil in the tropics, not much of it affects your average expat. Even the laws that do exist (like some really ridiculous traffic regulations) often aren’t enforced, because there simply aren’t enough resources available.
If not politics, then what?
That being said, politics is still very low on the list of reasons people move away from the U.S. So what are the top draws that entice so many U.S. citizens into living abroad?
This one dates back as far as the 19th century, when the increase of whalers and clipper ships led Americans to travel all across the globe for commercial reasons. Treaties with China, Japan, and Korea paved the way for North American traders to settle in those countries.
After the Cold War, the countries of Eastern and Central Europe and Central Asia represented new opportunities for U.S. business owners. With the U.S. dominating the world economy, there was also an increasing need for English as a Second Language (ESL) education in these emerging markets.
Technology and globalization have continued to fuel overseas emigration. Then the economic crisis of 2008 led even more U.S. citizens to look outside the borders for job opportunities or more affordable retirement. Overseas jobs have also become increasingly popular among new graduates facing a tough job market after college.
You can thank Cecil Rhodes for beginning this phenomenon when he created the Rhodes Scholarship in 1902 to foster cooperation between the U.S., Germany, and the British Empire by allowing students to study abroad. The trend caught on as other similar initiatives, like the Fulbright Program, were created to allow students to participate in cultural exchanges.
Today the number of college students studying abroad continues to increase. Not to mention, more and more students are realizing that experiencing life in another part of the world and learning to adapt is a valuable part of preparing to live and work in an increasingly global society. As a result, many are choosing to take a gap year and spend time overseas before resuming their studies.
Quality of Life
But the number one reason that most expats I meet choose to leave the U.S. is simply because of a desire to experience something new and to immerse themselves in another culture. For this trend you can thank the “Lost Generation” expats in Paris: Ernest Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, to name a few.
Paris was the place to be in the 1920s. So that, as a result, was where they were. Other European cities like Amsterdam, Rome, Berlin, and Prague also grew in popularity among North Americans. Today, an increasing number of expats are choosing the Latin Tropics as their destination abroad, where they can enjoy a more laid-back lifestyle, often at a fraction of the cost.
U.S. citizens are moving all over the globe for no other reason than the fact that they’ve identified a place (or perhaps many places) that offer something they want to experience. It could be culture. It could be a slower pace of life. It could be a value system that more closely aligns with their priorities.
Whatever it is, they’re finding it elsewhere. And that trend is going to continue in the years to come. It doesn’t matter who’s sitting in the Oval Office.
What’s your motivation for setting your sights overseas?
The investment and securities industry can be a complicated thing for most people to understand. As a result, many depend on the services of a licensed broker or financial advisor to help them navigate the many options available for building wealth and preparing for retirement.
And, while most of these individuals are very knowledgeable and well-meaning professionals, they’re not necessarily the only (or even the best) solution for determining how to invest your dollars. But you won’t hear that from them.
Of course, your broker has your best interest at heart. But he also has some interests and limitations of his own. Ones he’s not likely to disclose to you. Here are five statements that, while true, probably won’t ever come up in your quarterly review.
1. “I’m a salesman, not a stock analyst.”
Your adviser probably sounds like he’s up-to-the-minute on market trends and the hottest new investment products. He may also provide colorful graphs and charts and use lots of financial jargon. But the fact is that selling investment products has no education or experience requirement. Candidates just have to pass a test, albeit a relatively difficult one.
That’s because, at the end of the day, the role of a financial advisor is essentially a sales job. The company your broker works for has experts who research individual stocks, mutual funds, and other financial tools. Any insights he offers to you he’s learned from reading his corporate literature, not analyzing the annual report of every company in the S&P 500.
2. “I have ulterior motives.”
Brokers are sometimes offered extra incentives for selling certain mutual funds or products. So, while he would never intentionally recommend something that’s a BAD investment, he could have his own selfish reason for suggesting one investment vehicle over another.
Not to mention, he may also have a quota to meet. Even if your portfolio is performing just fine, he could suggest that you buy into a different fund or company, since he only gets paid when you make a transaction.
These practices do happen, but that doesn’t mean they’re true of every broker or firm. It might be worth looking into how your advisor gets compensated.
3. “I’m biased towards domestic investments.”
Most advisors suggest putting anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of your portfolio in international investments. This recommendation reflects something that’s know as “home country bias.” People tend to assume that their home markets are less volatile and more likely to earn higher returns, when that isn’t necessarily the case.
While it’s true that international markets do fluctuate, they’re no less stable overall than the U.S. market. In fact, looking over a long range of time, the results have actually been quite similar.
Furthermore, while the U.S. once made up over half of the global market, that’s no longer true. So, if you want a portfolio that more closely resembles the global ratio, you’d end up with closer to 50% in foreign investments, leaving you better poised to shoulder both the political and economic risks.
4. “You should be thinking outside the box.”
Your broker has probably talked to you about the importance of diversifying your portfolio. He may have stressed the importance of having a mix of large- and small-cap or domestic and foreign funds.
He’s probably touched on any other business or personal property that factors into your net worth, such as your home. But outside of that, he’s probably never mentioned any product that he doesn’t offer.
When it comes to investing, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are only part of the picture. You shouldn’t overlook the myriad of other options out there, such as real estate. These non-traditional ventures are often very profitable options, but they’re probably not on your advisor’s radar. Not even close.
5. “Your best investment option may be one I could never sell you.”
Not only will your advisor probably not mention any non-traditional investments, he might not even be able to help you with any that you suggest on your own. International real estate is a good example.
Buying land or a home overseas can be a fantastic investment, particularly if you’re able to hold on to it long-term. There are a number of areas in the Latin Tropics where real estate is getting ready to take off, due to infrastructure improvements or other development nearby. Plus there are many tax advantages to buying foreign real estate.
The problem is that your broker’s firm probably won’t allow him to assist you with the purchase. That’s not because it’s a bad or risky investment. It’s merely because it’s beyond their capacity. They simply don’t have the time or resources to research these kinds of investments for every client. So they’ll have to send you elsewhere.
However, for those who want to include international real estate in their financial portfolio, there are plenty of options available. It’s just a matter of finding a custodian who deals with these types of transactions and is better equipped to work with a more informed, entrepreneurial client.
Bottom line…there’s no need to fire your broker just yet. When you make money, he makes money. So, for personal and professional reasons, he wants to see you build as much wealth as possible. But you should definitely go into your next quarterly review with a more open and inquisitive mind.
He knows a lot of ways to get you a great return on investment. But only you can decide what’s truly the best strategy for your future.
If you’ve settled on the place you plan to live in retirement and haven’t yet made an offer on your dream home, then what are you waiting for? Not only does owning a home in the tropics mean that you have a place to stay whenever you come down to visit, it’s also a great retirement planning strategy.
Buying a home that can also serve as a rental property when you’re not using it, is a great way to help the home pay for itself. It may even be another way to generate income to help you live even more comfortably in retirement.
But while owning and renting out a home in another country may seem like quite a challenge, it’s one that can be easily managed. Literally, in this case.
When it comes to rentals in the tropics, the services of a qualified rental manager or management company can be priceless. From making sure your property stays booked to getting repairs made in a timely manner, here’s how to make sure your rental manager will make, not break, your experience of owning a rental property in the tropics.
Find the person before the property
Rental managers know better than anyone else what are the most sought-after locations for rentals in the cities where they operate. They also know which types of properties rent the best and what kind of renters you can expect to attract.
As such, they can be just as helpful in finding you the right property as they will be once it’s ready to rent. So, if you plan to buy a property to rent, your rental manager might be a good person to have on your home buying team.
Just as the right rental manager can be the key to your property’s success, hiring the wrong one can be an absolute disaster. So, how do you know which management company to choose?
You can start by asking for recommendations if you know any other expats or property owners in the area. Try consulting expat forums focused on your town. Find out who’s happy with their manager and who isn’t.
Also, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of a basic online search. But don’t just type “rental managers in Nosara, Costa Rica.” Search the way your target audience would.
For example, if you’re wanting to market your Panama City condo to local business professionals who might stay more long-term, try searching “departamentos amoblados Panama City.” The top listings you see for furnished apartments are the same ones your prospective tenants will be seeing as well.
That’s not to say you should hire the first company that comes up in a Google search. That’s just a place to start. It’s absolutely essential to research and thoroughly vet any potential candidates, and even interview a few, before making such an important decision.
Iron out the details
Once you’ve found a rental manager you’re comfortable working with, the next step is to agree on their duties for managing the property, as well as how they’ll be paid for their services. So, before you sign any contracts, make sure every detail has been covered.
At the very least, your rental manager will be responsible for marketing the property, screening potential renters, handling check-ins and check-outs, collecting rent and deposits, scheduling cleanings, and inventorying contents for damaged or missing items. But they may be able to do more.
Find out if they’re willing to enforce any restrictions you want to impose (e.g. no pets or smoking). If they handle property management, they may also be able to handle items such as overseeing property maintenance, paying utility bills, or even taking care of the taxes on the property.
Don’t let out of sight be out of mind
Even though a qualified rental manager can be more than capable of effectively managing your rental property, don’t blindly assume that no news is good news. Check in regularly with your management company to make sure things are running smoothly.
You can request that they submit monthly statements showing any income and expenses for your property. They should also be able to produce receipts for any maintenance performed, items replaced, or bills or taxes paid.
It’s also a good idea to come down as often as possible to check things out for yourself. Pictures and statements are great. But there’s no substitute for seeing the state of things with your own eyes. Plan to meet with your rental manager to speak personally about how things are going and discuss any changes that need to be made.
Not only are frequent visits a great way to keep things in tip-top shape. They’re also a good excuse to take a vacation and start building up your anticipation for retirement, in your tropical dream home that’s now paying for itself.
Quick! What are the first five adjectives that come to mind when I tell you to think about the Latin Tropics?
All done? What were they? I’m guessing most of them were probably pretty positive. Words like “breathtaking,” “eco-diverse,” and “relaxing.” And those all describe the region quite well.
But there’s a small chance there may have also been a few negative attributes that popped into your head. Things like “unfamiliar,” “expensive,” or “muggy.” And those can certainly be valid descriptions of certain parts of the area as well. However, many of them might not be quite as prevalent (or even accurate) as you might think.
Let’s take a minute to debunk some commonly held misconceptions about living in the Latin Tropics. This should help you banish those negative terms from your vocabulary in favor of some more positive impressions about this incredible region.
1. The climate is unbearably hot and humid.
A commonly held misconception about the Latin Tropics is that it’s unbearably hot and humid everywhere you go. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Beating the heat in the Latin Tropics is as simple as changing your altitude.
While it’s true that most coastal cities can get pretty warm, there are plenty of fantastic places to live in the inland mountains and valleys that are so mild that most homes don’t even require air conditioning. All you need to do is open a window and let in the tropical breeze.
2. Everything is really expensive.
If your only experience in the Latin Tropics was at a fancy resort or in a highly developed city that’s popular with expats and tourists, it’s easy to think why you might hold this belief. But when you live like a local, it’s actually a very affordable place to call home.
In fact, the low cost of living is a factor that attracts many people, retirees in particular, to the region in the first place. Housing and utilities are inexpensive. Fresh produce is dirt cheap. You can even splurge on the services of a domestic helper, like a maid or gardener, for a fraction of what you’d pay for the same services in the U.S.
3. I can’t own real estate in the Latin Tropics.
This is another fact that many would-be expats incorrectly assume. In most countries in Latin America, foreign buyers have the same rights as citizens. They can buy property outright and, in some cases, even obtain financing.
There are some exceptions, though, like beachfront property and land within a certain distance from national borders. If you decide to buy, you’ll also need to be aware of property laws governing issues like “squatters” and other things that aren’t a concern in the U.S.
4. I need to learn Spanish before I can move there.
While it’s a good idea to know at least a few key phrases before beginning your expat journey, being fluent in Spanish is hardly a requirement. Most cities that are popular with expats and tourists are very friendly to English speakers. You won’t have a hard time getting your questions answered.
Once you’re settled in, you can start focusing on broadening your vocabulary. There are also plenty of language schools, tutors, etc. who can help you learn the lingo after you arrive. Not to mention, there’s no better way to learn than being immersed in the culture day in and day out.
5. The Latin Tropics are “disconnected” from the rest of the world.
Yeah, I get it. Quaint fishing villages and ethereal cloud forests don’t exactly scream “high-speed connectivity,” but you might be surprised by how far this region has come in recent years when it comes to things like Internet access and cellular coverage.
Many countries have seen government initiatives targeted at improving infrastructure and Internet connectivity. Most mid- to large-sized cities have cafes and other businesses that boast free wi-fi. And with all the technology available these days, it’s never been easier to keep in touch.
6. Locals don’t care for North Americans.
This could be the most ludicrous assumption that North Americans make about the people of the Latin Tropics. They’re an incredibly welcoming culture, eager to make new friends and share stories.
As long as you’re open to new people and ideas, you’ll fit right in with the locals in the Latin Tropics. Come across as an arrogant gringo, on the other hand, and they likely won’t give you the time of day.
7. It’s not safe there.
Unfortunately, the Latin Tropics has earned itself a bit of a reputation as a haven for crime and corruption. The reality, though, is that it’s cleaned itself up quite well and today is no less safe than your average North American city.
What crime that does exist is mostly drug- or gang-related and generally only affects those involved in those activities. The rest is mostly minor offenses like petty theft. In general, just stay away from the bad parts of town after dark, lock your doors, and don’t leave valuables lying around to tempt would-be thieves.
8. The Latin Tropics are not open for business.
Many people steer clear of moving to the Latin tropics because they’re afraid they couldn’t get a viable business up and running in order to sustain their livelihood. This is yet another false assumption. For the entrepreneurial expat, there are plenty of options for making money.
As more and more people move to the region from all over the globe, there’s a growing need for more businesses catering to expats and tourists. Everything from boutique hotels to dry cleaners. Investing in real estate is another popular option, as the savvy buyer can often score a great deal on land or homes.
Whether you’re worried about making ends meet, swatting at mosquitoes, or learning how to order a sandwich the way you want it, there’s no reason to let those fears or misconceptions keep you from realizing your dream of living in the Latin Tropics.
Plan a trip down to check things out for yourself. Get to know some locals. Have them show you where they buy their groceries. Ask them where it is and isn’t safe to go at night. Then pop into an Internet cafe to email your family and friends back home. Tell them to start getting excited about coming to visit you in your new home.
Expats thinking outside the box means finding destinations that can offer a combination of adventure and the challenge of living in a different environment. The Latin Tropics have a number of locations that can offer both an adventurous lifestyle and the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone.
The list below contains locations that range from rustic, provincial places, where you can immerse yourself in a new culture, to regions where high adrenaline activities are the theme of the day. These unique spots are not just for visiting but, for those who dare to try something different, places where even the most adventurous expats can find long-term fulfillment.
Locales for Expats Thinking Outside the Box
The list below is by no means exhaustive. However, these destinations are great examples of places where you can find more than just your run-of-the-mill expat hotspot.
Boca Chica Island, Panama
For those looking to escape from the 24/2/7/365 rush of modern urban communities, Boca Chica, Panama is the perfect getaway. This 400-acre private island, just a mile off the Panamanian coast and six miles from the town of the same name, combines natural beauty, world-class sport fishing, snorkeling and diving, and tremendous investment potential.
Boca Chica’s close proximity to Enrique Malek International Airport in David makes it easy to access this lush tropical oasis. Once experienced, it is easy to see that Boca Chica is a desirable place for relocation.
Adrenaline junkies who are looking for a place that combines high energy sports with the ambiance of a small tropical fishing village will find that rare blend in Crucita, Ecuador. This beachside town has become known as a premier destination for paragliding and hang gliding with stretches of open beaches, constant Pacific breezes, and a number of businesses that cater to “gliders.”
Given the small population (12,000) and rustic beach lifestyle, Crucita may be the ideal spot for adventurers who are looking for the magic of that “endless summer” without the tourist-centric atmosphere that many beach towns have. More than just a place to visit and play, Crucita has potential for investment while maintaining the irresistible draw of being a location where high-flyers can spread their wings.
Santa Teresa/Mal Pais, Costa Rica
Nestled on the southern tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya peninsula, Santa Teresa (and the surrounding region of Mal Pais) has become a haven for those expats seeking a life less cluttered. The region around Santa Teresa has become a go-to spot for surfers from all over the world seeking to find that perfect wave without the over-development that marks so many beach communities in the region. Surf camps and shops are plentiful; there are even two surf camps – Chica Surf Adventures and Pura Vida Adventures – that are for women only.
The perfect balance to the high-energy world of surfing, the region has also become home to a growing number of yoga retreats and alternative health spas. Close proximity to the first national park in Costa Rica, Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve and Curu Wildlife Refuge, provides special opportunities to experience a wealth of biodiversity.
Needless to say, this symbiotic merging of meditation, natural wonders, and adrenaline sports has made the Mal Pais region a popular place to visit and play. While there is an increasing push to develop more contemporary living in Santa Teresa, it is still possible to live there and immerse yourself in the eclectic ambiance of rustic small villages where the spirit of “pura vida” remains alive and well.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Nature lovers could ask for no better place to live than the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador. While the Galapagos archipelago is made up of 19 islands, only five are inhabited: Baltra, Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz. The largest city, Puerto Ayora, home to about 10,000 people, is located on Santa Cruz.
Long admired as one of the premier destinations for wildlife viewing, this group of islands is home to various types of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. The few villages and towns scattered throughout the archipelago are rustic settlements that are reminiscent of an earlier, less complicated time.
Living in a location that is unsullied by modern construction, surrounded by a unique and biodiverse environment, seeped in historical relevance, is what a move to the Galapagos Islands promises. More than just a place to visit, these islands can be a retreat from the modern world like no other place on Earth.
Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
Labeled by such figures as Aldous Huxley and Alexander Von as being the most beautiful lake in the world, the highlands area of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala has become a favorite for expats looking for a unique destination off the beaten path. Located in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range, the Lake Atitlán area has a cooler, less tropical climate that may appeal to expats who find the heat along the coast less inviting.
The nine villages that surround the lake offer both a rustic lifestyle and a chance to become immersed in the local Mayan culture like nowhere else in the region. Being able to see and experience Mayan culture, not just as a tourist presentation, but as a way of daily life, is a profound experience that cannot be had in many places in the world.
Less developed than other parts of Guatemala, this region holds great investment potential for those who are intrepid enough to create their own version of a Latin Tropics escape. Balancing growth while maintaining the special cultural vibe of the region is a focus of the area’s residents, and it shows.
Sanctuary Belize, Belize
Nestled between Mexico and Guatemala, the tiny country of Belize melds a unique blend of eco-lifestyles, adventures on land and sea, and Mayan ruins. Formally known as British Honduras, Belize is unique in that it is the only Latin Tropic country where English is the official language.
Belize offers a diverse selection of things to see, do and experience. Numerous Mayan ruins await those who wish to see the remnants of this amazing culture up close and personal. For those looking for aquatic adventures, the Belize Barrier Reef is the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and second-largest in the world behind Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Sanctuary Belize has become a unique experiment combining eco-tourism and a “green” lifestyle on its 14,000 acre location. Having the opportunity to live green in the tropics while enjoying the natural beauty of Belize is certainly an exciting option for expats looking for something more than just an oceanfront existence.
Dare to Think Outside the Box
One of the best parts of the expat experience is discovering new vistas and new ways of living that can take you beyond the life you had before. Visiting these locations (or others that peak your interest) can be the first step to leaving your comfort zone to find your own road less traveled.