Living in Costa Rica: Three Year Update

It seems like it was only a few months ago that we were writing our two-year update on living in Costa Rica. But this past weekend, we just breezed by the three-year mark. How did that happen so quickly? It’s probably because we have been extremely busy and have had a lot of life changes. In this post, we’ll focus on the big things that happened in year three, and as usual, take a look to the future.


Living in Costa Rica - Three Year Update

And then there were 3!

Our biggest change this year, of course, has been the transition to parenthood. If you’ve been following our adventure, you know that we welcomed our son, Samuel, into our lives last December. He was born at a small private hospital nearby and has been the love of our lives ever since. Having a baby back in the States would have been a big change too, but going through the process in Costa Rica only complicated things. Sure, it was a little scary, but it also solidified our life here in a way. A lot of times living in a foreign country, you get scared and hold back out of fear of the unknown. Having a baby forced us to get out there and do things that were totally new to us and totally unique to Costa Rica. It was like taking the next step.

The greatest challenge about having a baby here was figuring out the medical system. As relatively healthy 30-somethings, we had been avoiding this up until Jenn’s pregnancy. While we don’t know everything, we did learn a lot about how certain things work in the private and public systems. We had bloodwork done at a local lab, filled prescriptions at pharmacies, and saw doctors and nurses at private and public hospitals, clinics, and offices. Jenn delivered a baby (!) alongside nurses speaking Spanish, and we navigated the public healthcare system after the birth. We sat next to other new parents, all Ticos, waiting to have their babies weighed or vaccinated, or mothers who were there for breastfeeding counseling. Finally, we felt like we could relate to the people around us and they could relate to us.


Living in Costa Rica - Three Year Update
Sam getting a checkup


These interactions not only helped us to better assimilate into the culture, but were also great for our Spanish. Even though we haven’t been studying as diligently as we did when we first moved here, we have been picking up a lot by going to places we’ve never had to before. In the process, we’ve also learned about a dozen ways to say that a baby is cute, including precioso, muneco, que lindo, cocito, and many more. 

With our little Costa Rican by our side, we’ve needed to learn about how certain local government processes work. Going to the Civil Registry for his birth certificate or the public hospital for a carnet (healthcare card) was intimidating, but felt like great accomplishments afterwards.

Even with some of the challenges of having a baby abroad, we couldn’t be happier that we started our family in Costa Rica. We feel so fortunate to be able to spend time with our son every day and to not have to put him in daycare like we would back in the States. On the other hand, we do wish that we were closer to family and friends so that they could see him more often (and maybe babysit once in a while).

Work and Life Balance

With Sam’s arrival, we also have had some big changes in our day-to-day work lives. Before, we were both working during the day, writing articles, making custom vacation itineraries for clients, or doing website maintenance or social media. We worked a nine-to-five schedule and usually took weekends off. But now, with a baby in the house, one of us is always on “daycare,” while the other works. We switch off every couple of days so that the workload is divided, but overall, we are pretty much down a whole person. This has been challenging, especially since our website has been growing rapidly. Don’t get us wrong, we are beyond excited about the growth of our business and consider this a very good problem to have.


Living in Costa Rica - Three Year Update
Getting some work done with the help of Sam


With a little experimenting, we have started to figure out how to make it work. Like many new parents, we have become much more efficient when we sit down at the computer and probably get twice as much done as before. We also fit in some things after he’s gone to bed, during a nap, or on the weekends. Because it is very affordable in Costa Rica, we’ve been getting help around the house and want to have someone take care of Sam for a day or two a week too.

Sense of Community

If you read our two-year update, you might remember that we were feeling a bit isolated last year. That’s because, prior to our current long-term caretaking position, we had been house sitting all around the country. That lifestyle was great for our website as we were able to travel extensively, but also meant that we didn’t spend much time in one place. This made it hard to “belong” anywhere and make lasting friendships. We’re happy to say that this is starting to change.

For over a year and a half now, we have lived in the same house near Dominical. And now that we have been in the area for a while, we know a lot more people. Some are only casual acquaintances, but seeing the same friendly faces at the grocery store, farmers market, or bank has helped make us feel like we are part of the community.

Having Sam also helped solidify this. Throughout Jenn’s pregnancy, everyone (Ticos and Gringos alike) took an interest in us and made us feel welcome. Everywhere we went, people would ask about the baby, and in turn, tell us about their own life and family. Now that Sam is here, those same people say hello, ask how he’s doing, and how old he is now. We’ve even run into neighbors who knew everything about him (and us), even though we had never met. Over time, we’ve also developed some meaningful friendships in the area. Some are with local Ticos and others are with expats like us.


Living in Costa Rica - Three Year Update
Enjoying a birthday pool party with our Tico friends


Applying for Residency

After having Sam, applying for residency in Costa Rica was a priority. Waiting for him was partly strategic, since as parents of a Costa Rican-born citizen, we are able to skip temporary residency (like rentista, pensionado, or investor) and go straight for permanent. This is a more favorable status as you don’t have to commit any funds and also can work as an employee if you want.

Committing to residency was a big deal for us. It meant we knew that we wanted to stay in Costa Rica longer term. The residency process isn’t cheap and is a bit daunting with all the paperwork. And if you have done any research about it, you know that the approval process can take a while, even years.

Since we still love it here, the only big factor for if we would stay and commit to residency was financial. Our website has been steadily growing since we arrived in 2013, but only recently have we felt confident that it could be what sustains us long term. In the past year, we have seen significant progress and are so happy that our hard work is finally paying off. We are reaching more and more people every day with our articles and are excited about the success of our vacation planning services. Going forward, we plan to continue on, writing articles for our site. We are also going to expand the services side of our business to help even more people with their Costa Rica travel plans.

Looking Forward

Looking to the future, we hope that our residency applications get approved soon. We applied ourselves, without the help of a local attorney, back in May. The process is supposed to take 90 days, but as we mentioned, can take years or more. Hopefully, we are one of the lucky ones who have a speedy approval so that we can share our experience navigating the public healthcare system and more.

In the next couple of years as Sam gets older, we’ll also be figuring out some of the challenges that come with expat life and children. Childcare, schools, keeping family back home in his life, and teaching him about both of his cultural backgrounds are all things that we will be thinking about and sharing with you.

For now, we’ll be enjoying our time with Sam, showing him different areas of Costa Rica and writing about it for you all to enjoy. Year three was a big one for us and we are excited about the future. We owe a lot of that to our readers, so thank you as always for following along!

Have a question or comment about our three years in Costa Rica? Let us know below (Email subscribers, click here to post your comment online.)

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



Related Posts

Living in Costa Rica for 10 Years
10 Years in Costa Rica
vehicle inspection building
Dekra: Costa Rica’s Annual Vehicle Inspection
Installing Pool Costa Rica
Installing a Pool in Costa Rica: Our Experience
Living in Costa Rica During Rainy Season
What It’s Like to Live in Costa Rica in Rainy Season


  1. I’ve been traveling around Costa Rica with my husband for the last 15 months, and have been following your blog for most of our time here. I just wanted to say thanks for what you do and for sharing your knowledge! I also blog about our Costa Rican adventures at Happy Coconuts Travel Blog. I didn’t realize you guys live so close to us, we live at an organic farming community outside Uvita, called Osa Mountain Village. So maybe we’ll see you around the area 🙂 Pura Vida!

    1. Hi Kari, Thanks for following along! That’s really cool that you guys are in CR too. We’ll have to check our your blog. Hopefully we’ll see you around town sometime!

  2. Have you taken your son to the San Jose Children’s Museum? I took my son there this summer. He is 2 yrs and 6 months old. He had a blast and it was only 2,400 colones per person and my son was free. It was educational and fun. Some of the exhibits are in English and Spanish. Even I had fun and learned something. We spent about half a day there and still didnt see it all.

    1. Hi Todd, We have been waiting for him to get a little bit older because he’s only 8 months now, but want to go soon. Everyone always says it’s such an awesome place. Thanks for the tip! We’ll definitely do a post about it after we go.


    I posted the following on this Facebook page.  I really don’t know how to use Facebook it but I try to use it to communicate with kindred souls on their Facebook pages. Awesome!  Just what it was designed for according to a documentary I saw on Steve Wozniack and Steve Jobs.

    Hello, So sweet of you to offer this blog.

    I want to bring my 1995 Ford Explorer.  I have spent a good deal of money to make it trip ready for Roll On Roll Off delivery only to be told by some international shipping companies that Roll On Roll Off is no longer offered to Costa Rica.  Fine. 

    So I was told I could put it in a 20 foot cargo container.  Fine.

    Then I was told that no car older than 4 years would be allowed.  Is this true?  I am very confused but determined. 

    The truck was my husband’s and his parent’s before given to them by his sister and brother-in-law as a thank you gift. Needless to say it has sentimental value.  I get it … it will cost a lot to import especially since I am just moving and it takes 24 months to obtain retiree residency. 

    How can I get a straight answer?  How can I determine what the value will be considered to be by the powers that be and is it now 30% fees of that value to import?

    I am this close to saying forget it and buying a horse for transportation!

    I can’t wait to read your blog.  How fortunate I found you!  Not the first incredible kindly soul who has helped me beyond what words can express.  I  am hoping to move to my dream home by the end of the year. Wish me luck! 

    But back to the topic at hand … I need my truck! 

    Although I have been searching for a source to look at horses.  What do the locals use for locating and purchasing horses?  My horse would be for home use … a friend, companion, a thrill to ride.  Dirt roads only where I want to move and easy access to the beach for riding. Too much paradise for one person!

    Look at what I just found …  

    Unfortunately the date of the article is 2012 and I haven’t been willing to look at the authority sites. I am very tired of trying today. So … I will as soon as my strength returns.  There is a way.  I need to find it … overcoming the obstacles placed before me … I know that is what they are there for … all in good time.  

    I had a realization today …

         If I can’t get my truck  …  I need a horse,
         If I get a horse  …   I need a truck!

    very interesting!  Definitely related to the cosmos of design!

    I am going to call the airlines and see if I can bring my bike when I fly! 

    And my cat on the same flight!  I will not be defeated!

    And I can read a sign when I see it!  Bless me!

    Ahh!  I just confirmed the word for my dilemma, a conundrum! 

    It is pathetic how often I consult the dictionary!

    1. Hi Field, Thanks for your comment. You can determine the amount of tax you will owe when importing a car by going to the government website. It is in Spanish but you basically select the marca (Ford), write in the Estilo (Explorer), and then hit the Buscar button. It will come up with a chart with all the different variations of that car. Click on the one you think it is and another chart will come up that gives the year of the car and the tax they charge for importing it. Just really quick I looked up a 1995 4-door Explorer and it was around $2,000 USD for the import taxes. The Eddie Bauer Edition was almost $4,000! Add shipping to that cost and maybe the horse is the way to go!! Not sure where people buy theirs but hopefully you can get a reliable one. Hope this helps and your move is successful 🙂

  4. Hello,

    I just found your blog. It’s incredibly useful. We just moved to Costa Rica a couple of months ago with our almost two year old son. We actually live quite close to you. We are up in Playa Hermosa. Would love to meet you guys sometime. Hope all is well with the adorable new baby.

    1. Hi Lauren, Welcome to Costa Rica and congrats to your family on the big move! We lived in Playa Hermosa for a bit a couple of years ago, it’s a really beautiful spot. We’d love to meet up sometime. I’ll send you an email so we can figure it out. Pura vida!

  5. Awesome info, and thank you so much for sharing. I have already shared your website with several friends and family! I do have a question you may know. My father is a born Costa Rican citizen. Will I be able to apply for residency through him? He is still a valid citizen here, however, I was born in the US, California. Beginning the process as you outlined, but have not been able to find if this is possible. I see an age limit of 25, have been told 21, etc. Any thoughts?

    Thanks again for all of your contributions!

    1. Hi CJ, Thanks for spreading the word about our website! We aren’t sure if there’s an age limit when applying for residency through a parent. I vaguely recall seeing some talk about this on some of the Costa Rica expat groups on Facebook so you could check there (there is a search function to read old threads). Links to those groups can be found at the bottom of our FAQs About Moving to Costa Rica post. Wish we could be of more help. Good luck!

  6. My husband and I are Canadian and have been travelling to Costa Rica for the last few years. We have also caught the “Pura Vida” bug and are considering retiring on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. We are definitely beach people and want to live very close to the ocean. When we are not there, we would also like to rent out our beach house. We share your pros and cons listed of the various towns where you visited – we also loved Dominical and Uvita. However, we are concerned with the distance from the airport. We also love southern Jaco but it can be quite touristy. Recently on a trip to the Northern Pacific, we really loved some of the beaches there and were wondering how you feel about the Samara/Carillo area.

    1. Hi Kat, The Uvita/Dominical area where we’ve lived for the past couple of years is quite far from the airport (about 3.5 hrs). You can take a small plane from Quepos fairly affordably, though. The main downside at this point for us is not the airport, but the distance to San Jose itself, where we have been going every month or two for various appointments because that’s where most business gets done in the country. Otherwise we love this area and enjoy being a reasonable drive from Manuel Antonio.

      We really like Samara but wouldn’t want to live there ourselves because it gets so dry and hot during the dry season. A lot of people love it, though, and it has a big expat community. Nosara to the north also has a lot of expats. These areas are closer to the airport (Liberia), but still fairly remote. Liberia and Nicoya have some amenities as far as doctors, shopping, etc., but you would probably still have to go to San Jose for some things. Hope you and your husband find a nice place to settle. Pura vida!

  7. Hello Jenn and Matt,
    I am writing with questions on vacationing. Unfortunately not a possibility of moving , however after reading about you and your family it is highly attractive. Therefore, future moving plans once the kids graduate will be in the back of my thoughts.
    We will be traveling from Texas to Costa Rica early June.
    We will be staying at the Westin in Playa Conchal.
    We were searching for entertainment possibilities. This can be a little overwhelming with all the mixed reviews.
    I am reaching out to you for advice and suggestions.
    We are active and we are looking forward to experiencing as much of Costa Rica as we can in the alotted time.
    I would love to hear from you and any recommendations.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Tiffani, Lots of choices for things to do in that area. Our Playa Conchal post has some ideas, but a lot of people do catamaran tours, horseback riding, and ATV. There’s also a lot for day trips, but you have to be careful that you’re not going to be in the car all day. A lot of the tour companies there market tours that are actually 3+ hours away each way. You should also spend some time reading our Playa Brasilito post. That’s the town right next to Conchal. We give a lot of ideas for little-known beaches and other fun things to do in the area in that article. Hope your family has a great trip. Playa Conchal is beautiful!

  8. Jenn & Matt,

    I can totally identify with your trepidation to start out with, followed by your acceptance of your surroundings, and finally beginning to settle in while coming up the learning curve there. I lived in San Jose and Puntarenas for three years on and off. I originally went to Jaco on vacation and ended up flying back and forth form the U.S. and Costa Rica for the next three years. I had a house there and I lived near the beach. I think that the Ticos and Ticas are such a wonderful culture. I never met anyone that was so open and ready to accept me and unconditionally too. At first, I was suspicious thinking that maybe the Costa Ricans had alterior motives, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I became friends with most everyone that I met there. They were not only ingratiating, but they were so helpful and honest for the most part. I left my wallet in the mall in San Jose and I realized it a half an hour later. All of my bank cards, identification, and money were in there and when I went back to find it a man was waiting there with it and he gave it back to me. Nothing was missing.

    I traveled around by bus and taxi alot. I found the most beautiful place to visit was Manuel Antonio. It has a great beach. There is a tropical rain forest adjacent to the beach. It also has a wonderful little barrio to visit. San Ramon is nice too. I liked the less commercialized areas best of all. The Caribbean side(Limon) is nice, but there is more crime there. The beaches and the water on that side are much nicer. I loved taking the ferry from Puntarenas to places like Tambor. There are lots of monkeys and parrots there. Tortuga is a beautiful place to visit, also.

    Anyway, I plan to return there, because now that I have returned to the states, I find the people here to be more disingenuous. There is alot more stress here too. Life is much more healthy there on many levels. Have a wonderful time. Thanks for sharing….MP

    1. Hi Mason, It’s always great to hear from someone who has also lived in CR. It sounds like we share a lot of commonality with our experiences. The people really are so forthright and kind for the most part. We see it even more now that our son is in our lives. Hope you get back here soon!

  9. I just returned from my second holiday in Costa Rica and it was breaking my heart leaving this beautiful country. I am from Austria, so it is quite a looooong way to go but I know already, that I will re-visit again. I just wanted to drop a little note say “thank you” for all the information you provide. It was so helpful when planning this trip. I was out and about for three weeks, with almost a week in Drake Bay (loved it) and about 2 weeks in Uvita, where I rented out a casita from a friend. It was awesome because after a couple of days I felt and lived like a local…. My favourite routine was going for a run on Playa Hermosa and enjoying a refreshing coconut water after my run. Oh my – how I miss it!!
    I wish you all the best for your life in one of the most beautiful countries of the world 🙂

    1. Hi Su, Thank you for the kind words! I’m so glad that you enjoyed Costa Rica and it sounds like you felt quite at home here. Hope you make it back for another visit soon. Until then…Pura vida!

  10. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    I just returned to Denver from celebrating my 40th in CR (Dominical to be specific), and absolutely fell in love with the area, so I was happy to see that you ended up ultimately choosing that location to settle for a while. We have an almost-one-year-old son, and for me, he has been my biggest holdup with regards to making a move. At this point I’m considering renting a place in/around Dominical for a few months starting in January or February, and seeing how it goes. Do you have any advice on where to search for rentals? I’ve looked through Craigslist, but not sure if I should go through an agency instead. Thank you! Phillip

    1. Hi Phillip, A good place to start is a Facebook group called CR Southern Zone Long Term Rentals. That is a newer group that is fairly active. Going through a reputable real estate agent can be really helpful too, especially since you are looking for high season. Let us know if you would like a referral- we know of someone near Uvita.

  11. Hi Matt and Jen. My wife and I have been to CR twice a year for the last 3 years. Been all over the Wedtern side. We want to move down in 4 Years once I can access my 401 money. We don’t have a lot but plan on living on 2500 a month. We will have money from our house sale in the US to purchase something small and reasonable. My question is. Will this monthly amount be enough. We will get SS about 2 Years after moving down and my wife’s 401 will be available 2 years after that. Just looking for general cost. I know when we are down on vacation with rental car and BnB we pay a lot more then residing there. Any info would be helpful. We will be down again in May in the Dominical area. If you guys are still in that area would love to meet you. Thank you. Bob and Susie Lashua

    1. Hi Bob and Susie, $2500 a month is definitely enough to live on, especially if you purchase a home and won’t need to pay rent out of that pot. In the beginning, you will have more expenses since you will be buying many things for the first time (unless you plan on shipping everything) and will still be figuring everything out. But even then, that amount is plenty for food, transportation, utilities, and entertainment expenses. Some things are cheaper here, like produce at the farmers market and professional services like doctors, dentists, mechanics, etc. Cars get expensive but are nice to have so either plan on buying something fairly new or have money set aside for repairs for an older car. Our FAQs post about moving to Costa Rica may be helpful if you haven’t seen it already. Best of luck with your plans and let us know when you’re in Dominical!

  12. Well, we also have caught the Pura Vida bug! Our family came here on a dream vacation and happened to rent a house in Uvita and absolutely fell head over heels. We also visited Monte Verde, Manuel Antonio and San Jose. Our hearts were in Uvita and NO OTHER PLACE has felt a magical. We fell all deeply in love that we decided to buy land and build a house that we can live in part-time and rent the remainder of the year to help pay it off. We have four children (9, 9, 5, and 3). We are seriously contemplating living in our new home PT to help our children acclimate to the culture and lifestyle for an extended period of time like 6 months to 1 year. Who knows if we will continue to live between both as we dream, or take the plunge to fully relocate. My husband is in real estate and we currently live in Orange County CA. His parents are from a Mexico and he is fluent in spanish. I also am fluent after studying abroad in Spain for a year during college and majoring in spanish Lit during college. Our children do not speak Spanish though, despite looking like locals and many assuming they do! We want to give them a better and more simple life. Thank you for all you have shared as it has been extremely helpful. Bless your beautiful family and will continue to follow you life adventures. Pura Vida!

    1. Hi Erin, Sounds like you’ve found your family’s perfect spot. Uvita is a wonderful area. Great for kids too since there are a lot of young expat families. Good luck with building the house and attaining your dream!

  13. Hello you two! I stumbled on this while considering what to do about a car once we retire there! We are visiting a few areas in March 2019, starting with a VRBO in ojachal for a week, on to jaco for a couple days, then up to Lake Arenal area. Our plans to move there will be later innthe year. We have been following international living for a couple uears now, and I came to visit alone in August staying outside of San Jose. I was so intrigued by your journey and wish we had started much sooner! We visited as a family back in 2011, flying into Liberia, staying in La Fortuna, then off to Playa Hermosa. Simply fell in love with the Tico lifestyle, the country, snd the people. Would love to talk more if possible! BTW, your addition to the family is adorable!!

  14. Hello, my name is Liane and my husband and I will be coming to Costa Rica in June with the intention of living there full time. We are looking at Jacó and I wondered if you had been there and, if so, what your thoughts are.

    1. Hi Liane, We love the Jaco area and actually live nearby. Jaco has a lot of amenities but if you’re looking for a more low key town, there are several to the south like Esterillos and Playa Bejuco. Follow the links we just gave for more information.

  15. Hello Jenn and Matt!
    What an inspiring story. Are there any expat forums that you can recommend? Would love to converse with people’s experiences. We are thinking about moving from San Francisco.
    Am starting to read the books you listed.
    I hope you are still taking emails!
    Audrey and Patrick

  16. Fantastic blog! We are planning our 1st trip, our friends say tubing and water adventures are a must. Other have told us there are Crocs and you can’t be quite sure where they may be.
    We have 4 little ones and I don’t want to have to worry about this, but, don’t want to stay confined to the pool. Please advise if you guys swim in the ocean, rivers, etc.
    Thanks again and Congrats.
    Oh, Happy Thanksgiving..

    1. Hi Ronald, Yes, we definitely swim in the ocean (several times a month). There are some places where you need to be aware of crocodiles but most beaches are totally fine. Some we can think of off the top of our head is Dominical Beach near the river mouth, Tamarindo near the river mouth, and Manuel Antonio near the southern end where an estuary dumps out into the ocean. It’s always near fresh water like rivers. By and large though, crocodiles are not a problem. Lots of people swim in river, but personally we usually don’t. Unless we know it’s a very clean river. Unfortunately there can be some gunk in the rivers here due to poorly treated water or chemicals. There are clean rivers/waterfalls, too, but it’s just good to be aware of that.

  17. In 2023 we plan to spend part of our years — Januarys through Mays — in Costa Rica, as I retired in 2023. My husband is already retired and, as the result of a spinal cord injury, uses a wheelchair. The ice and snow in Minnesota is too much for someone using a wheelchair. We have been attracted to Costa Rica because it is reputed to be the best Latin American country for the disabled. We will be doing work for the Universidad Biblica Latinoamericana in San Jose so we will need to spend some time in San Jose, but we are hoping for a wheelchair accessible beach/area.

    1. Hi Heidi, Costa Rica has improved wheelchair accessibility at beaches a lot in recent years. Some beaches that we know of that are accessible include Samara, Jaco, and Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste. This website has some more information. It’s all in Spanish but you can use Google Translate if you need to. Samara and Jaco are probably the easiest in general with a wheelchair since they have a centrally located downtown with with sidewalks. Good luck with your plans!

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Add Trees to Your Order


Become a Subscriber!

Receive our newest articles by email. It’s free.