According to InternationalLiving.com's 2018 Global Retirement Index, Costa Rica takes the top spot for the first time in the index's history.
It topped the categories of healthy lifestyle and healthcare while scoring well in the fitting in, governance, entertainment and amenities, and climate categories.
"Costa Rica has it all! Perfect year-round tropical climate, your choice of Caribbean or Pacific beaches, mountains and volcanoes, big cities and nightlife or tranquil rural settings," says John Michael Arthur, IL Costa Rica Central Valley Correspondent
"There's state-of-the-art healthcare at about one third the cost of the U.S. and the cost of living reflects that reduction in expenses, too. Adventure waits around every corner. And with the relaxed Pura Vida lifestyle, living is easy. What's not to love?
"Costa Rica is laidback and slower-paced. And there's none of the drama that's coming out of the United States right now. This country is one of the most prosperous and politically stable in Latin America."
In an increasingly uncertain world, Costa Rica is a beacon of dependability--a country that "has its act together."
"Expats report regularly that the Costa Rican people are gentle and welcoming, the politics are low-key, and there's a truly 'live-and-let-live' feel about the place," says Jennifer Stevens, International Living's Executive Editor. "This is a country that's stable and steady, and that definitely appeals to retirees who are ready to be done with the relative volatility at home.
"A perennial front-of-the-pack finisher in our annual Global Retirement Index, we're thrilled to award it top honors this year, for the first time. It's a safe, good-value, beautiful country that offers a wide variety of climates and lifestyles amid what can only be described as a natural wonderland," Stevens says.
Costa Rica invests more in education and health as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product than the U.K., for instance. As a result, Costa Ricans enjoy a literacy rate approaching 98% and a long life expectancy. The country regularly wins accolades as having the happiest people on earth.
"Healthcare, education, and the environment are the country's top 3 priorities and it's abundantly apparent in everyday life here," says Jackie Minchillo, IL Costa Rica Coastal Correspondent, who lives in the beach town of Tamarindo on the Pacific coast. "There's a general happy and friendly disposition amongst the population here and a sense of people looking out for one another."
Ticos (the moniker Costa Ricans give themselves) have established in their country one of the world's most stable democracies. Costa Rica dissolved its standing army in 1949 and the reallocated funds are spent on education, healthcare, and pensions.
"For me, in the way Costa Rica and the people who call it home, embrace the country's 'Pura Vida' slogan is what makes it a magical place to live," says Minchillo. "People prioritize things that are natural and pure and just make you feel good."
And in sun-splashed Costa Rica, a retired couple could live very comfortably on $2,500 a month, or even less.
Paul and Brenda Maxfield live in Jaco. He says, "It feels good to know that we can live comfortably in this beautiful beach setting...and still have the resources to travel and spend time with family back home."
Here a couple can enjoy the luxuries only the wealthy can afford in the States--like a housekeeper that will come and clean once a week for $50 a month.
"We load up with fresh fruits and vegetables at the Friday morning farmers' market for less than $20," says Maxfield. "That includes several large pineapples for $1.63 each."
He's not the only happy expat thrilled with the low cost of living and high quality of life it buys. Lance and Mary Miller both grew up in small towns, he in Iowa and she in Maryland.
"We wanted to escape from northern winters, a slower-paced lifestyle, good healthcare, a tropical climate, beach access, and a sense of adventure, as well as ways to stretch our retirement dollars," says Mary Miller. "We found it all in Costa Rica."
The Millers live in the hills a few miles outside the small southern beach town of Quepos. Their house has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, a fully equipped modern kitchen, and porches front and back. The rent is $760 per month.
"We're living our own version of paradise and have come to love Costa Rica and its people."
Tens of thousands of U.S. and Canadian expats already live in Costa Rica full- or part-time. And millions have traveled there over the years for beach-resort vacations, surfing, fishing, rainforest treks, and more. With many Costa Ricans speaking English, it's pretty easy for retirees to navigate while learning more Spanish.
In Costa Rica, there is a focus on preserving the environment, with 25% of the country's territory protected. And there is commitment from the government to power the country on solely renewable sources, especially hydroelectric, wind, and geothermal.
While Costa Rica wins the top spot in this year's annual Global Retirement Index, it's just one of 24 countries examined in 12 categories, including: buying and investing; renting; benefits and discounts; visas and residence; governance; cost of living; fitting in; entertainment and amenities; healthcare; healthy lifestyle; development; and climate.
For the past 27 years, InternationalLiving.com has used an extensive network of editors, correspondents, contributors, and contacts based around the world to amass the information, data, and insights used to prepare this Annual Global Retirement Index.
The key aim of the Index is to help retirees find locations where their dollar goes further-- where they can get the best bang for buck in terms of real estate, cost of living, and overall quality of life.