The International Living Podcast

Episode 56: On the Ground in Costa Rica’s Top Expat Destinations

December 20, 2023 International Living
Episode 56: On the Ground in Costa Rica’s Top Expat Destinations
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The International Living Podcast
Episode 56: On the Ground in Costa Rica’s Top Expat Destinations
Dec 20, 2023
International Living

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In our last podcast of the year, Jim speaks to Lifestyle Editor Seán Keenan about his recent exploratory trip to Costa Rica. He visited some of the most popular areas in the country— and talked to expats in each of them—to share what makes it one of the best places in the world to retire.

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Send us a Text Message.

In our last podcast of the year, Jim speaks to Lifestyle Editor Seán Keenan about his recent exploratory trip to Costa Rica. He visited some of the most popular areas in the country— and talked to expats in each of them—to share what makes it one of the best places in the world to retire.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, we would really appreciate it if you could leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Jim Santos 00:10 
Hello, everyone. I'm Jim Santos, and this is the international Living podcast. In this podcast series, we introduce you to a bigger world, full of communities that are safe, welcoming, beautiful, and sometimes undiscovered. A better world, too. A friendly, warm, great value world where you can live richer, travel more, invest for profit, and enjoy a better life. So let's get started. 

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the International Living podcast. I'm your host, Jim Santos, and today we are traveling to Central America. With beaches on both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The modern capital city of San Jose, thousands of acres of protected jungles, a stable government, great food, and wonderful weather, the small Central American country of Costa Rica seems to have a little something for everyone. No wonder it's been a popular destination for expats for several decades. 

In this episode, we'll be talking once again with the intrepid lifestyle editor for International Living, Sean Keenan, who just recently returned from an exploratory trip to Costa Rica. Sean, welcome back to the international Living podcast, and thanks for joining us today.

Sean Keenan 01:29 
Thanks for having me again. It's good to be back.

Jim Santos 01:32 
We wanted to talk to you today about Costa Rica. Just did an editorial trip there right after Nicaragua, which we talked about. Right?

Sean Keenan 01:39
Yeah. Well, actually, if you remember, that Nicaragua podcast that we did was recorded in Costa Rica. I was in Costa Rica at the time. Yeah, right now I'm not. Right now I'm in Ireland, so everything's got that little sort of step ahead. So I'm back home in Ireland at the moment. I've been back for a couple of weeks and trying to sort of gather the thoughts and the impressions and grab it all together and try and make some sort of a coherent whole in my memories about it, because the thing about it is what I did was I went to Costa Rica really to try and get a full overview of the place. 

So I went from absolute tip to toe. I went know right up on the northwest coast from the Nicaraguan border, and I ended up going right down to practically the Panamanian border on the Caribbean coast, right over the other side of the country, which is. So I stayed a little bit of time in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, right on the most southerly town on the Caribbean coast, which is only about 5 miles from Panama. So I kind of wanted to get an overview over this, which is Costa Rica.

It's very much probably the mainstay of international living. It's the backbone of what we do, really. Costa Rica is one of the first countries that expats really looked at right back in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and really started looking at and going, ‘gosh, we could move there and live better’. I think you could say that US expats had always been going to Mexico prior to that, maybe from the 1940s, when the GI Bill allowed returning servicemen to study in Mexico or in certain Mexican institutions. But I think that's almost cheating in a way, because that sort of came with a government incentive. 

Whereas I think Costa Rica was, if it wasn't the first place that US expats started to look to greener pastures overseas, it's certainly one of the most popular ones and is perennially popular with the IL subscriber and our conference attendees. So what I'm trying to get at, in a very long winded way, is it was about time I went to Costa Rica after so many years in International Living and never having been there before, and it seemed like a massive oversight to have not actually been to Costa Rica, which is possibly the most important country on our beat.

Jim Santos 04:15 
Well, it's always had quite a reputation. I know back in 2012 or so, when we were starting to look at places, when we looked at Ecuador, the thing they were saying about it is, this is going to be the next Costa Rica. And I used to hear that a lot. 

Sean Keenan 04:31
That’s interesting, you know, because, for example, now we start to look at countries now in editorial meetings and so on, we keep our eye out around the world for where we think is up and coming, as well as the established places. Of course, we have to go back to the established places like Costa Rica just to make sure they're still what we thought they were or what we say they are. You've got to really go and check up on these things periodically, too, and regularly. But our narrative these days, we see the phrase coming up quite a lot, is ‘the next Portugal’. 

Because right now, Portugal is super hot, super interesting, and it's got a lot of reasons why people are very interested in it as a retirement location or a relocation destination. But, yeah, before that, before there was the next Portugal, there was the next Costa Rica. Yeah.

Jim Santos 05:21 
Well, let's start on the Pacific coast. Playa Tamarindo, what kind of interests me about that is not too long ago that was basically just a sleepy little village with a dirt road running through it, wasn't it?

Sean Keenan 05:32 
Absolutely. And I think Tamarindo's fortunes changed entirely with Bruce Brown's surf movie Endless Summer II, which was released, got its movie theater release in 1996. And at that point, I do remember there was an interview with a guy called Mike Diffenderfer, and Robert August, the surfers down there who had started, who were featured in this movie as being expats in Tamarindo. And I think the visuals that went along with that—because he made such a beautiful film, such a beautiful movie about various places in the world, Tamarindo was one of them— it looked so beautiful on that, I think an awful lot of surfers looked and maybe were some of the first people that sort of looked at the waves that were in Tamarindo. 

The beaches, the palm trees, the backdrops, the jungle, the forest and the low cost of living, and looked at it and sort of said to themselves, well, what am I doing here paying California prices when I could be going down there and living for one third of the price of California, or even less, and living on the beach? But as you point out, at that time, in the early 1990s or early to mid 90s, Tamarindo was very much just a village.

It didn't have phone connections, for example. And when people say that to me, they always sort of point out the fact they don't mean cell phone connectivity. They didn't actually have phone lines running to Tamarindo at that point. There wasn't consistent electricity if you didn't have a generator. The bar, Nogui’s. Nogui’s bar on the beach. It's established in 1974. It's famous amongst expats for the fact that before Tamarindo got discovered, Nogui’s used to, was the only bar. They used to get a big block of ice delivered to them every Sunday for keeping the beers cool. But over the course of the week, in Tamarindo's very warm weather, 80 degree weather every day, obviously, the ice would melt. 

So there became a tradition amongst the early expats there called Warm Beer Wednesdays, when you go down to Nogui’s to get warm beer. And it couldn't be further from that nowadays. I mean, it genuinely is a very booming resort. It's an absolute boom town. It's gone from being rustic little village to… it's still small. And the smaller roads are still dirt paved. There's only one paved tarmac, paved road running through the main town that takes you to Liberia and then further to Playa Langosta and some of the other beaches further on.

But it's still got dirt roads. There are still dirt roads just off the main road. But saying that, there's a tourism infrastructure there, it feels a little bit like being in Tulum or being in, I would say, Playa del Carmen in Mexico. But no, Playa del Carmen is much more advanced than Tamarindo even now. But something like Tulum in the sense that you really get this energy of a place that is suddenly booming with vigor and life and the economy there has clearly changed into a much more service industry. And the bars that you see? I was going to say they're expat bars. But it's funny enough, it's difficult enough to find expats in Tamarindo. Strangely enough. 

I wanted to find expats to talk to in Tamarindo. And the best way of doing that is actually getting up in the morning and going down to the beach and talking to the people walking their dogs, because anyone who's walking on the beach with their dog is probably there long term. People don't tend to bring pets with them on a vacation. But most of the time when you're walking around in Tamarindo, you will hear English spoken.

Pretty much everybody around you is speaking English. But if you go up to them, you'll find out that they're actually there on vacation more often than long termers there now. And a lot of the long termers, the people who have been there for a while, have moved slightly further up and away from the beach, a little bit further inland and up into the sort of higher areas above that because some of the property there at the beach in Tamarindo has skyrocketed in value and in price.

Jim Santos 10:20 
Yeah, I was going to ask about that. Is there a lot of development going on there?

Sean Keenan 10:23 
Not a huge amount of obvious development, no, there's not a lot of place to build in Tamarindo. It's geographically limited by an estuary on one side, cliffs on another side, and then it comes directly uphill from the beach. And a lot of that land has already been built on. There are a couple of big condo blocks going up in land a little bit around the corner and getting onto some of the other beaches, which are still kind of Tamarindo, but not Tamarindo town. So Playa Portero or Playa Langosta, places like that that are a little bit out of town, that's where you'll see the development. 

But even, like, it's still got that situation, actually, I guess it's pretty lucrative situation if you are considering purchasing property, in that it's got that geographical limitation over what exactly can be built. It's not like, for example, you mentioned Ecuador. It's not know some of those coastal places in Ecuador, like Salinas where you used to live, there's not really a lot stopping anyone from building further inland and inland because it's pretty much flat area and easy to build on, whereas Tamarindo rises a little bit more quickly and has that sort of natural geographical limitation.

So, yeah, there is development, but it's got that lovely sort of that little golden thing where they can't actually physically put much up there. So what they can put up there tends to hold its value really well.

Jim Santos 12:02 
Has the growth at Tamarindo spread to some of the other beach towns? You mentioned Liberia.

Sean Keenan 12:07 
Well, Liberia is quite a lot inland. So Liberia, I don't think, has been touched, really. The significance of Liberia is that it's where the international airport is. Right? Bekah Bottone, actually, who is our Costa Rica Correspondent, she lives in Tamarindo, was telling me when I met her out there that it used to be the case that Liberia, being a regional airport or smaller airport within Costa Rica, used to have a much more limited range of destinations than the capital, San Jose. So she would be faced with a five, six hour drive to get to San Jose if she needed to know viable flights in and out to the US, for example, to her home in Connecticut or her relatives in Connecticut. 

However, she tells me now that the range of options of flights going to Liberia is from North America, very viable. It's almost as good as it is from San Jose. I think Spirit Airlines flies into Tamarindo now, so there's a lot more option there now. Liberia recently got its runway upgraded, which has allowed it now to have those bigger jets and much more in the way of services coming from further away from North America.

Jim Santos 13:24 
Well, how about those other beach towns, then?

Sean Keenan 13:27 
The other beach towns? I can't tell you anything about them, because didn't stop there. 
I really wanted to focus on the sort of…. I really wanted to pick a couple of places where I could talk to people who have either been employed by, or are employed by International Living as a correspondent, or have been working with International Living for a long time. The real reason I went to Costa Rica was to actually film with some of those people, because I wanted to get some video of our writers out there in Costa Rica and get them in their own place and actually show these are people who speak at our conferences. 

So we're talking about Mel Rhoden, who lives over on the Caribbean side. We're talking about John Michael Arthur, who lives in the Central Valley in Orosi, and we're talking about Bekah Bottone, who lives over in Tamarindo. And what I wanted to do was focus my trip on visiting those people and doing some filming with them in their adopted hometowns. So I could actually do that. And as it happened, those are really the only places I saw on this, other than flying over. I didn't explore outside of those destinations where they live.

Jim Santos 14:43 
I know John was at this year's conference in Denver, Colorado, and I was kind of across from where his table was and he was positively swamped the entire time there with people coming over to talk about Costa Rica.

Sean Keenan 14:57 
Yeah, and he loves the attention. He's a great speaker, he's great at holding attention. So obviously when he goes up on stage and talks about the place, he gives a very good account of his home and, having seen it, although he's a great speaker and all, he actually has great subject matter to work with as well because he lives in a small town just called Orosi. 
Now, the Central Valley. When we talk about the Central Valley in Costa Rica is an area that sort of expands from San Jose, the capital, and it's a highland area which is in the center of the country. And because it's quite high, it's over 3000ft high at the lowest point and rises up to 5000ft in various places. So it gets to have that lovely balance of latitude and altitude. I like to think of it as latitude and altitude in that it's at low latitudes, it's quite close to the equator, so it gets a lot of sunshine, but it's at relatively high altitude, which cools the temperatures down a little bit, which means that you can have sunshiny days every day, but without it ever really getting that hot and that Central Valley.

When we talk about the Central Valley in International Living, we very often refer to three specific towns, San Ramon, Atenas and Grecia, which are the expat heartland of Costa Rica. But the interesting thing about where John Michael Arthur lives is that he's not in any one of those towns. He's in a little one south of San Jose called Orosi. He lives in the Orosi valley, which has all the same advantages of those three main towns, but it's a little bit less known, it's a little bit less commercialized, and it's a little bit less discovered. So the value proposition you get there, and things are good value in Costa Rica anyway, but it's even a little bit better where John Michael Arthur lives in the Orosi valley.

Jim Santos 17:05 
Yeah, I know a couple who settled out there as well. They were very interested in being able to farm and they were able to find a decent amount of property and they're building their home on it now. They're living in a smaller place while they build their home there. But they're constantly posting pictures of everything that they're growing in their yard, really, not even in their garden.

Sean Keenan 17:23 
And that's the place to do it for sure, because you got a lovely year round growing season. There's only a few variations. There's a little bit of variation in temperature in those altitudes, but it's really not much. So you're talking about near constantly 70, 75 degrees Fahrenheit, occasionally rising into the 80s, but for a very short period of the day, and then never really going below the 60s. So you've got that year round growing season. Every day is the same length.

So as long as you've got crops which don't depend on more than a twelve hour daylight day, perfect volcanic soil, plenty of water, well irrigated, because you get a rainy season there as well. And it is mountains and it is forested as well. So you couldn't really choose a better place to raise crops unless you were perhaps thinking about wide, wide expanses of wheat fields. But if you're talking about gentlemen farmer, the small crop holding or shareholding or small crop stuff, I think it would be a wonderful place to do that. The only disadvantage I can see is the sort of the steepness sometimes of the valley sides because it's crisscrossed by little streams and rivers.


Jim Santos 18:42 
When I hear any criticism at all about Costa Rica is generally R and R: the rain and the roads. Is that very accessible area, or have the roads gotten better in Costa Rica lately?

Sean Keenan 18:55 
I think the road situation is more to do with the Southern Zone. The Southern Zone, which would refer to the Quepos region or the Ojochal region down on the southwest coast, which apparently can suffer floodings on some of the roads from time to time in the rainy season. The places I was in Orosi for, I mean the roads there are absolutely, they're well established, well tarmaced, well surfaced roads. Same for Tamarindo, that area up there. 

I did hear that there was a bridge got damaged by the rainy season this year in October. Well, by the time I got there, it must have been fixed again because there was no issue getting in and out of the town. The Talamanca coast, the Caribbean coast, it doesn't really get a rainy season as such. It has sort of frequent rains throughout the year, but it doesn't actually have any specific season in which they're more pronounced than others. It rained pretty much every day I was there, but it never rained for more than an hour or so at a time. So it's a case of just watching the skies, knowing when the rain is coming.

But it wasn't enough to flood any roads or damage anything. And I was there in November, so that would be the absolute height of the rainy season, and everything was very accessible at that point.

Jim Santos 20:13 
Well, speaking of Talamanca and the Caribbean coast, I've heard from people that the Caribbean coast is completely different in feel from the Pacific coast.

Sean Keenan 20:23 
Yeah. And they would be absolutely right to tell you that, yeah, the feel is markedly different. And that's not just the vegetation. I guess the vegetation was fairly similar, although I found that the Caribbean coast was even a little bit more abundant, a little bit more vibrant. The thing that strikes you immediately about the Caribbean coast is the scents, the smells, and I mean that in a good way. I don't mean… sometimes you go to places in the tropics and they don't smell too great at all. 

But the smells on the Caribbean side were amazing. The jasmine smells. Jasmine, particularly, was the one that was most noticeable. Mimosa as well, and various tropical plants, frangipanis, the bromeliads, those sorts of very fragrant flowers. Plus the wildlife. The wildlife was much more abundant, more obviously abundant. I saw lots of large birds. I did see a sloth. I saw a sloth. But you'll see those things all over Costa Rica. But in the rest of Costa Rica, you kind of have to go to a national park, more likely to see some of those things, whereas on the Caribbean side, they're just there. But the culture of the Caribbean side was incredible in Puerto Viejo.

Now, anyone who does a little bit of research about Puerto Valliejo will read that this place was a town which was settled, and the main town up there as well, called Limon, or Puerto Limon. Anyone who does a little bit of research will see that these were places which were colonized or settled by Jamaicans, mostly in a wave of immigration in the 1940s that came with the building of a railroad from San Jose to Limon for transporting bananas. 

So there was banana plantations, there was a railroad, and then later there were coffee plantations, because the banana plantations of that period in Costa Rica were hit with a virus called the Panama virus, and it destroyed the banana industry there. Anyway, again, me being long winded and historical, but the point I was trying to make is that you do read, of course, that there's a Jamaican flavor to the culture there or that there are Jamaican settlers when you get there. It's interesting because it's actually quite pronounced. I really wasn't expecting it to be quite as major a part of the culture as it was. I thought maybe this was going to be some sort know, little vestiges.

It's truly, there are about eight families in Puerto Viejo who have lived there. The Jamaican families have been there for a long, long time, for many, many generations. And a lot of the businesses and so on there belong to those families or offshoots of businesses that those families set up. But there's a very distinct push and drive there to try to preserve that culture as well. So you will actually meet people in Puerto Viejo, descent from Jamaicans who speak in Jamaican patois or speak in English with a very strong Jamaican accent. 

And the sense of being on a Caribbean island is actually remarkable there. It feels a little bit more like being on a Caribbean island than many Caribbean islands do, because many Caribbean islands have actually homogenized, become more sort of more attuned to the international tourism industry, and have lost a certain amount of their culture. But this Jamaican culture in Puerto Viejo is incredibly well preserved, and it's very vibrant, and it's very much part of the atmosphere when you get there. And that makes it very much the standout, the different place within Costa Rica, because it doesn't have quite the dominance of the Spanish colonial dominance or the Spanish Costa Rican culture that you will find elsewhere.

And it's very much worth going and visiting and having to look at because there's probably not too many places left in the world that are going to be like that.

Jim Santos 24:41 
Did you find expats in that?

Sean Keenan 24:44 
I did, yeah. There were expats. I talked to a couple of expats in Puerto Viejo. Now, Puerto Viejo is probably more for the slightly more adventurous expat or the slightly more pioneering expat, in that it doesn't really have the tradition of expats or North American expats going there that maybe Tamarindo does or maybe Jaco does or the Central Valley does. So it's a little bit less developed there as well. Puerto Viejo is a town of only really nine blocks. Within those blocks, a lot of the accommodation is, let's call it tico style, which is the phrase that Mel Rhoden gave me, which is basically comfortable and adequate, but it's not North American luxury. 

It's perfectly adequate for the place. As she says, she doesn't need air conditioning she doesn't need heating, just uses fans in the house would have a fairly small kitchen, for example, a small yard and maybe a small house, but very much in keeping with the way locals live out there, rather than importing sort of a whole North American ethos or North American standards out there. So I think you would have to accept that as being your lot in Puerto Viejo.

Jim Santos 26:10 
Well, that can be a good thing. I mean, what I hear from most expats in Costa Rica are things like they're able to slow down, that everything is peaceful, that they feel relaxed.

Sean Keenan 26:22 
There you have it. Exactly. There are plenty of people who suit that lifestyle and for whom that lifestyle suits them. There are plenty of people who are thoroughly disillusioned with what it takes to earn the sort of living that it takes to live that way in North America and are happy to downsize and are happy to simplify. 

And yeah, Puerto Viejo would very much be the place for someone like that, or at least to go and check it out, have a go at it. Anyway, the rewards of living in a place would be amazing, immense, because it truly is beautiful. It's hard to come up with descriptors that are any more specific than beautiful. But if you close your eyes and imagine a Caribbean island or a Caribbean beach with a white sand and those palm trees that sort of lean over the sand and coconut palms and monkeys in the trees and big huge butterflies flapping past and blue, blue waters and coral reefs and so on, it's all there. And what's more is it's really not on the main drag for the know, nobody really thinks about the Costa Rican Caribbean when they think about a Caribbean getaway.

So it does have that. And I know, Jim, you and I always like to talk about the food, but there are restaurants there. There are Jamaican restaurants there which are run by Jamaican families who have been in the region for six generations, more than that. So you can go into a restaurant at Costa Rican prices and sit down and have rondon soup, for example, or slow cooked beef in Jamaican sauce, which is a sort of coconut and spice sauce, or rice and beans, or all these various Jamaican, Caribbean style foods.

Jim Santos 28:25 
Callaloo is one of my favorite soups from the region.

Sean Keenan 28:28 
Which one, sorry?

Jim Santos 28:29 

Sean Keenan 28:30 
Callaloo. Absolutely.

Jim Santos 28:31 
Callaloo with a C.

Sean Keenan 28:33 
So it's all know. It really is a Caribbean culture. It's a Caribbean island culture without being a Caribbean island, which is interesting because it is connected to the rest of Costa Rica, but it's kind of not, I think, physically it's connected, but culturally it's an island.

Jim Santos 28:52 
Yeah, well, I think what's happened in the Caribbean is because so many cruise ship lines are going there that each port tends to kind of blend into the others. They all have the same thing that the people on the cruise ships want. So sometimes it's hard to tell which island you're on without looking at the schedule. And I take it Puerto Viejo is too small to have cruise ships stopping by.

Sean Keenan 29:13 
It is, exactly. The cruise ships do dock in Puerto Limon, which is about 50 miles north of Puerto Viejo. Puerto Limon is. Well, it's a little sketchy. I wouldn't recommend anyone go to Puerto Limon. It's funny that it's ironic that that's actually where the cruise ship stops. I think there's a little crust, know, one block along the seafront where the cruise ships dock that is nice and sort of international standard. But the rest of Puerto Limon is…. Yeah, I think sketchy would cover it.

Jim Santos 29:53 
Now, Costa Rica in general, though, is a pretty stable country. It's been pretty stable for years now and has a pretty low crime rate overall.

Sean Keenan 30:03 
Yeah, I mean, you really are looking at the standout of the region, of the Latin American region between Costa Rica and Panama. You do just have much more stable societies, even without, let's not even get into their governments. But the societies are just much more established, much more stable. They've been democratic for long periods of time. They've really settled into a rhythm, it's not like you have frequent revolutions and so on. They're really nice little stable countries. Costa Rica. Costa Rica and Panama. 

What I always try and sort of get across to people when they think about Central America, which looks like such a small geographical area, but each of those countries in Central America, and I think I've been to them all now, except Belize, each of them is really different from the other ones. So it's hard to kind of get that in mind when you're there and everywhere speaks Spanish and it all looks geographically or topographically quite similar, but there is a different characteristic and different feel to each of these countries. So the contrast between going from Nicaragua, which is quite underdeveloped, then into Costa Rica, which is comparatively very rich and very developed, it's quite a huge contrast.

But then the contrast between going from Panama to Costa Rica is less. It's less economic. The economics of the two countries are fairly similar, but the way that the towns are grouped in Costa Rica is, to me, feels a lot more what I'm used to seeing in Europe, for example, which is that you get clusters of villages with a cathedral or a church and a main playing field then, or a main park in front of the church, and then blocks of habitations and residences sort of coming out from that main, central area, whereas you get a little bit less of that in Panama. I feel Panama is much more like ribbon development, so you get a lot more development which runs along the sides of a highway. Now, that's a very much a generalized look at things.

Jim Santos 32:26 
But I was going to say, it sounds like even just within Costa Rica, you've got a lot of variations. Parts of Costa Rica the same, completely different from other.

Sean Keenan 32:34 
Yeah, yeah, for sure. I mean, the Pacific coast in terms of its climate, for example, is quite different from either the Central Valley or from the Caribbean coast. Now, when you think about how little distance there is between those places, the Caribbean coast to the pacific coast in Costa Rica can't be much more than about 200 miles. 

It's wider than Panama for sure, but it's still a small area. But then you have this central ridge of mountains that goes right through the middle of it, as you do in almost all of the Central American countries, and that gives you a completely different climate on either side. Climate on the Pacific side, for example, is much drier, and it's much more stable climate in terms of its regular rainy season. But as that rainy season dries out over what we would consider to be the northern hemisphere summer months, it dries and the vegetation there gets browner and the grass dies out. So you do get a very distinct feeling of seasons on the Pacific side, even if they're not the same seasons as we have, their seasons are wet season, dry season, whereas on the Caribbean coast, it's green all year round.

So, yeah, the variations. So you have, like mountain climate, let's call it a highland, spring-like climate in the Central Valley. Then you have this wet, dry season climate on the Pacific coast, much hotter. And then you have a sort of a year round green season on the Caribbean coast with a more stable temperatures in and around, with a high of around about 80 degrees fahrenheit, 85 degrees fahrenheit at the hottest time of the day, pretty much year round.

Jim Santos 34:30 
A recent development in the country that's of particular interest to me is someone who's not looking to settle in a foreign country, but wants to spend a lot of time in other countries as we rove about, is that Costa Rica recently changed their visa situation so that you can enter the country for 180 days. Just on your passport?

Sean Keenan 34:50 
Yeah, just on your passport. And what's more, this isn't even just some theoretical idea. I've got it. I've got it on my passport. They've done it. I took a photograph of it. I went, yes, it really does work.

Jim Santos 35:04 
Yeah. So you could go there and spend two months each on the Pacific and the Caribbean and the central area and really get a feel for the, you know, even if you're not roaming, if you're just looking at Costa Rica as a destination to live, it gives you plenty of time to experience all these different parts of the country.

Sean Keenan 35:21 
And that's the better part of six months. I mean, you could really get a feel for the place in six months and really narrow down and locate the spot that's just right for you. Because something that, and I know you've come across this as well, Jim, is that you find people who go out with an idea to become expats and they say, just really want to live on the Caribbean coast. And then they get there, and then they start to explore the country and end up in a completely different place that suits them much, much better. But they didn't even know until they found it that it was the place for them. 

I talked to so many people in Ecuador who ended up in Cuenca, for example, in the Highlands, who were convinced that they were going to go and live in Manta, on the beach. And you would have enough time in that 180 day visa to really figure out which was the place for you, because you wouldn't just be going on first impressions, you wouldn't be going on vacation impressions, you'd really have enough time to dig deep. Yeah.

Jim Santos 36:17 
It really give you an idea of what it's like to live there, not just to visit there, this is it.

Sean Keenan 36:22 
Because until you paid a couple of months’ worth of rent and until you've paid a couple of months’ worth of utility bills and until you've had this experience of watching a season change, for example, and seeing how it fits you to be there in wet season and in dry season, you're really not dealing with the full set of data that you actually need for that sort of decision. And, yeah, 180 days is a good sample period.

Jim Santos 36:53 
Well, we've been chatting with Sean Keenan, International Living's lifestyle editor, about Costa Rica. Sean, thanks for taking the time to share with us on the International Living podcast.

Sean Keenan 37:03 
You're very welcome, Jim. It was a pleasure, as ever.

Jim Santos 37:15 
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That's We'll be taking next week off to enjoy the holidays with friends and families. But don't worry, we'll be back in 2024 with new stories and also reporting on the much anticipated 2024 Global Retirement Index. 

Now, for the first few months of next year, I'll be doing the show from Panama as Rita and I go back on the road in our roving lifestyle. This time basically just to stay warm all winter. 

Speaking of which, if you are interested in Panama as a destination, time is running out to sign up for the Fast Track Panama conference that will be held February 16 to 18th in Panama City. You can get more information and reserve your spot at that's Until then, this is Jim Santos for international Living, reminding you there's a bigger, better world out there just waiting for you.

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