4 Years in Costa Rica: Settling Into the Every Day

Another year update. It seems surreal. When we first moved to Costa Rica in 2013, we counted those first weeks, months, and even years with amazement. “Wow, I can’t believe that we live here,” we would say. Things like beautiful waterfalls and exotic fruits would linger in our minds for days. That honeymoon phase has worn off now as we pass the four-year mark. Life just feels more normal and routine. But we still have those special Costa Rica moments. Maybe we aren’t running for our camera every time we see a toucan or sloth anymore, but we still stop and take it all in with appreciation. And we do so often, especially with our son exploring at our heels. Here is our update on year four of living in Costa Rica.


Living in Costa Rica: 4 Year Update

A Busy Year

Much like year three, year four had a lot going on. Sam entered the toddler stage, which meant that he was suddenly much more mobile (read: running around like crazy). As we did more traveling around Costa Rica, he had some fun experiences with us. From pointing out the Arenal Volcano from different spots all around La Fortuna, to dipping his toes in the waters of the Caribbean Sea, or even just visiting a playground in Quepos, he is absorbing everything pura vida. With those trips, we also learned about some limitations that come with toddler travel. A few things broken at hotels and some tantrums at dinner after waiting too long for food teaches you quickly.


Living in Costa Rica: 4 Year Update
Seeing the Caribbean Sea for the first time


Back at home on the Pacific Coast, finding a work-life balance was one of the biggest struggles in year four. With our website still growing and demand for our travel-planning services also growing, we often found ourselves working seven days a week. This was mostly because we are both part-time while also taking care of Sam (a good thing, by the way, and something we are very happy to be able to do). But as we end year four and go onto year five, we have started to figure out that balance. We have enlisted the help of a Costa Rican woman who comes a couple of times a week to help with childcare. Sam loves it and is already picking up Spanish words. It is improving our Spanish too. We also hired our first employee at Two Weeks in Costa Rica! She works online for us and has helped take off some of the workload, which we really needed.

Much like having a baby here did in year three, our growing business allowed us to see a different side of Costa Rica in year four. Learning the intricacies of how business is done, dealing with dozens of new companies and numerous banks, and a little government red tape left us wanting to pull our hair out at times. But it also has been rewarding. We have built some strong business relationships, figured out a lot of things logistically, and continue to expand and offer new services to our clients. All of the struggles that have come with this process, though, make us sympathize with those (many) people who move here to start a business only to give up and move back a short time later. The frustrations really can get to you. But hopefully at the end of the day, the good outweighs the bad. A beautiful sunset here, some amazing wildlife there, and a dose of Costa Rican kindness from a local helps a lot.


Living in Costa Rica: 4 Year Update
Sunset in Cahuita, Costa Rica


One big reward for us literally just happened: our applications for permanent residency were finally approved! We submitted our applications on our own without a lawyer in May 2016 and they were approved in July 2017 (14 months later). There has been some additional paperwork that we needed to do in the month since (signing up for the health care/pension system), but we picked up our final papers and will have our ID cards (cedulas) soon!

So what does this mean for us? We aren’t required to leave the country every 90 days anymore (the length of a tourist visa and a requirement to keep your foreign driver’s license valid) and are now members of Costa Rica’s socialized medical system and pension/retirement system. That means that we pay into the system, and in return, can use the hospitals and clinics for care. It also means that banking is a little easier (we now have a DIMEX number, which allows transfers from bank to bank), we can get a cell phone plan, national park entrance fees are a fraction of the price, we don’t have to wait in the long line for foreigners at the international airport, and some other benefits like that.


Living in Costa Rica: 4 Year Update
Picking up our residency papers in downtown San Jose


Looking back at the residency process, we do have some advice. The process is long, not that inexpensive, and navigating all the paperwork and bureaucracy can be daunting. I think we have had to get our apostilled marriage certificate from the US about six times at this point (for various reasons). DHL loves us and our credit card. We have also had to make several trips to Migration in San Jose to check on our applications, which is a fun excuse to explore the city, but it really adds up.

Our advice for those moving here recently would be to wait until you are certain you want to stay long-term. It seems like a lot of newbies last about two years before deciding it was fun but not for them. Those who make it past the two-year mark usually stay for quite a bit longer or maybe forever. So do the tourist-visa route for a while, make your border runs to renew your visa, and then, when you are sure you want to stay, apply for residency.

Final Thoughts 

For us, as we move past the four-year mark of living in Costa Rica, life is good. While we have had frustrations, we also have had a lot of good things happen. We still love it here and don’t regret breaking away from the rat race back in the States. Even though we are working hard, we are doing something that we enjoy and are working for ourselves. And most of all, we get to spend every day with our son, watching him grow up and learn. That has been amazingly rewarding and we wouldn’t exchange it for anything.


4 Years in Costa Rica: Settling Into the Every Day


So that’s it for the year four wrap up. We hope that you long-time readers keep following along and we welcome all of the newcomers. Two Weeks in Costa Rica has turned into something much more than we expected and we are glad to have such a great audience. ¡Pura vida!

Want to follow our story from the beginning? Check out these posts:



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  1. What a great update! It has been fun reading about your exciting adventures, and nail biting trials, and tribulations. Your stories have helped us so much with our move to CR and with navigating the system so far in our short 9 months here.

    Congrats on your residency! We love it here so far but will take your advice on waiting at least the 2 years before we apply for residency and keep doing our borders runs.

    Now that we have moved here your site is still very helpful for navigating the systems here or on weekends when we don’t know what to do. We can pull up an article and find something fun to do based on your experience. Keep the awesome stories coming.

    ¡Pura vida!

    1. Hi Kim, Great to hear from you again! That’s wonderful that our website has been helpful…and for fun stuff and not just doing border runs 😉 Glad you’re enjoying Costa Rica so far. Pura vida!

  2. Congrats on 4 yrs in CR! Especially with starting a family – you have begun a pretty ambitious journey! Glad to hear it’s going so well so far. We love you acounts of places and activities and will be using your info for many years I’m sure. Looking forward to exploring that special beach you describe south of Uvita, for example.

    We are retiring next year and will be neighbors of yours – our development is just between Dominical and Uvita so we should run into you folks sooner or later.

    Keep up the good work – love your writing and ideas. Do you both write or is it just one of you mostly?

    Look forward to seeing you sometime soon.

    Dennis and Dorothy

    1. Hi Dennis and Dorothy, Thanks for following along! That’s exciting that we will soon be neighbors. If you see us around town when you get here, be sure to introduce yourselves. We both write for the blog. We usually rotate and try to write with one voice so that no one can tell who is writing what. Glad it is working 🙂

  3. Hello — just found your site today. I’m leaving for my third trip to CR in 17 hours, this time on the hunt for a property I can rent out rather than on vacation. But still, can’t wait to be down there again! I really love reading blogs by people who have lived the Pura Vida and who are building their lives there. My wife and I are hoping to retire in CR in a few years. In the meantime, we’ll have to live vicariously though bloggers like you. Thanks for sharing your story! BTW, we spent part of our last trip in Lagunas/Baru with a great ocean view and loved the southern Pacific zone. For retirement, I worry that there might not be the larger healthcare facilities there that there are closer to San Jose, but please correct me if I’m wrong!

    1. Hi Alan, Thanks for following! Glad that our site has been helpful and a fun read until you get here for good. You are right that the bigger private hospitals are around San Jose. Of course, there are public hospitals and clinics all around the country, but the quality of care varies depending on where you are. Glad you enjoyed our neck of the woods too! Best of luck finding a property to buy.

  4. Your site has helped me plan our trip to CR the end of this month! I’m forever grateful. How inspiring that you’re making this site work for YOU and that you can spend so much time in such a beautiful environment together as a family, raising your son to appreciate pura vida.

    Thank you from one at-home blogger/website owner to another,

    1. Hi Kirsten, Thanks for the kind words. It’s always nice to hear from a fellow blogger who understands where we’re coming from. Hope you have a wonderful visit to CR!

  5. Hi Jenn and Matt:

    Just discovered your blog and so glad I did. I have finally started the process of building a second home in Nosara, actually Pelada. Loving the adventure and the process so far.
    After many visits to the country, finally taking it to the next level. So nice to see you
    are living your life your style. I love it.

    1. Hi Jackie, How exciting! Pelada is a great area. Hope the construction process goes smoothly for you. What an awesome adventure you’re starting. Best of luck with everything.

  6. I have enjoyed your blog.
    We are a family of 4 (kids-7&10) plus a dog and we are looking at doing a “gap year” in Costa Rica January 2019-August 2019 (with some travel to other countries on each end). I would welcome ANY advice you have on long term rentals in the ojochal/uvita areas, anything you know about schools that you may have learned from your experience/friends/Ticos. We want the kids learning /speaking spanish and with Ticos so we are considering the bilingual school or the local public school.
    Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

    1. Hi Joelle, For long term rentals, there’s a Facebook group called CR Southern Zone Long Term Rentals. A lot of people go through a local real estate agent too. You will probably want something lined up in advance at least for the first couple of months since it will be high season for the beginning of your stay.

      For schools, yes, there is the new Kabe school that is supposed to have a mix of foreign and Tico kids. You have probably heard of the Christian Academy and Escuela Verde – a lot
      of people take their kids there. We have a friend who has her 5 year old in the public school in Uvita because she wanted her to get the immersion, and that has been working out great. She is the only one who doesn’t speak Spanish (she’s learning) but loves it. A lot of it probably depends on the kid.

      Best of luck with your plans!

  7. Hi there! Love your stories. Is it possible for you to do a cost of living blog? All updates that I see on other sites are way outdated.

  8. I’m so glad I found your site, it is very inspirational. My partner and I plus our daughter (she’s 9 ) are seriously thinking of moving to Costa Rica. Very excited but nervous at the same time. Your site has given me such much useful information, keep up the good work all the best Carol

    1. Thank you Carol! Glad that our site has been helpful. We are planning to come out with more articles about moving to Costa Rica soon, so feel free to subscribe to our newsletter to get notice of when they come out. It’s free to do this. You can sign up right through our homepage.

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