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En Sus Palabras: Words from those who have made the move to Central America

Costa Rica

I’m from California and chose Costa Rica as my pick of retirement places because I found in Guanacaste, at the beach, a climate nearly identical to Hawaii, only much prettier.  And when I purchased my property here, land values and construction costs were much more affordable than they were in Hawaii or California.

Now that I’ve lived here for four years, I feel I’m qualified to make a few important comments.

For people who are looking to retire here I would first say: Be careful. Get a good attorney (that is easier said than done) and make sure you are ready for a culture that is different enough to test even the most patient person.

A good “catch phrase”, which I can’t take credit for since another gringo retiree told it to me, is, “Bring two suitcases…one full of money, the other full of patience”.

Some things are a bargain compared to the United States, such as labor costs, fruits, vegetables, rice, and beans.  But like Hawaii, many of the durable or “hard goods” need to be imported since there is very little industry here.  And there is an import tax that, along with the cost of transporting products here, makes the majority of the types of products that we gringos like to fill our houses with more expensive than in the states.

But the people are generally wonderful, the county is beautiful, and the “pura vida” attitude, if you chose to have it, can make living here very pleasant.

–Gary Davis, from Huntington Beach, California

I have retired in Costa Rica a little differently. For almost 40 years I have been spending our winters here to avoid the cold in my home state of Ohio. However, I still enjoy the summers back home.

Costa Rica is missing out on a huge market of folks like me who want a second home for the winter when we retire. Most of my retired friends in Ohio also have homes in Florida, Texas, Mexico or a Caribbean Island, where they go when it gets cold up north.

Can’t the government see that they are alienating this huge segment of retirees? Older people do not want to leave their homes and families permanently.

We want to maintain our relationships with families and life-long friends and enjoy our hard-earned northern homes for the remainder of our lives. We just want to spend the cold months where it is warm and are willing to pay for it.

Why aren’t these people coming to Costa Rica? Because we are only welcome for 90 days at a time, and our winters last four or five months.

Most of us leave the north in late October or early November and do not return until March or April.

If we become residents of Costa Rica, I understand that we are required to stay at least six months of the year – that is longer than we want to be away from our northern homes.

We want to return in time to plant our gardens, open our pools for the summer and mow our lawns before the grass grows too tall.

Why is Costa Rica trying to attract tourists and retirees, but also passing laws to shut us out? We don’t want to go somewhere else for 72 hours to spend our money – we’d rather spend it right here.   

-June Nickerson, from Granville, Ohio   

I am 63. I moved to Costa Rica for several reasons:

1. I liked the idea of a neutral and peaceful country with no army since 1949.

2. I thrive on the healthy tropical fruit and fresh fish available everywhere here.

3. I wanted a country where U.S. Social Security could be direct-deposited in a local bank.

4. I needed a home in the tropics where no home AC or heat expenses are necessary.

5. I wanted to live ecologically and cut expenses.

6. I wanted a country with North American-owned call centers and Sportsbooks where I could work part-time speaking English.

–Bill Reynolds, from Austin, Texas


We moved to Granada, Nicaragua in September, 2006. With all of our travels we knew we would retire overseas and finally decided to do it sooner than later. Many countries were considered but we kept coming back to Nicaragua. Not sure if it was the beauty of the country, the rich culture, the gentle people or the adventure of just selecting a country that was off most people’s radar.

We are busier than ever. Amy has an art studio and gallery on the main street of Granada teaching tourists, expats and locals. We work with different foundations and are involved in many community activities. We dabble in real estate and try to help others considering a move to Nicaragua. But as my wife says, you are totally immersed in a new culture and every day is an adventure.

When we must do some serious shopping, see a movie or have those irresistible McDonald’s fries we head into the capital city of Managua, just 40 minutes away. Hospitals there provide the best of health care.

We always give the same advice: Live in your favorite location of your chosen country for at least a few months before buying anything. It takes a while to determine what is really important to you for your new lifestyle. Our only regret is that we did not come sooner.

–Amy and Darrell Bushnell, from Charlotte, North Carolina

My sister and I visited Granada, Nicaragua 9 years ago. We came to visit and now it is nine years later and we are still here loving every moment of it.  

I have lived in many foreign countries but this place has it all: first and foremost are the people, friendly, kind and hard-working.

There are so many things to do, and we can help in our community. I know this adventure is not for everyone, but I feel safe here and love having such a close group of friends, both Nicas and foreigners.  

The only drawback is the hordes of friends and family that always seem to be visiting.

–Terry Leary, from San Francisco, California


I moved to Panama City 14 years ago. It’s a safe place to live. There are areas of town you wouldn’t go into at night, but there are areas of D.C. I wouldn’t go into during the daytime.

You can buy pretty much anything you need here, furniture, clothing , auto, communication. It’s a transportation hub, so it’s easy to get around.

The Bandwidth is fabulous and much less expensive here than in the U.S. Cable Onda provides 500 channels: ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX – if you don’t watch out, you’ll forget where you are.

So the fact is that you can move in here and in many ways you are still at home.

 If you are a retiree, what are you looking for? Communications, transportation, medical and style of living. And here you got it all.

It’s enough different to be pleasing, but enough the same to be safe.

   –David Hunt, from Washington, D.C.


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