Winters are long in Connecticut. By March, we are desperate for some sun and sand. This year we spotted cheap tickets to Liberia, Costa Rica. While we have often threatened to quit our jobs and retire in Costa Rica, we’d never been. There are plenty of articles about how you can retire early in Costa Rica for very cheap. We had to see for ourselves how much truth there was to this, and what kind of a living this would entail.

Picture of JFK.Early Morning at JFK

Our first glimpse of Costa Rica

Flying into Costa Rica for the first time was exciting. The hilly terrain of Central America with all the farms and forests was new to us. It was March – apparently the hottest month for the beach areas near Liberia. The landscape this time or year is of dried golden grasses and barren trees.

While the area around Liberia and to the west are very much like a savanna, to the east, the landscape changes to lush green as the mountains rise to the clouds. On the flight back out of Liberia, I caught this shot of the Maderas Volcano which rises up from a giant lake in Nicaragua.

Picture of volcano.Volcan Maderas, Nicaragua

Exploring Liberia, Costa Rica

We like it hot, and decided to spend our time in the beach towns to the west of Liberia. Since we had also just learned to surf in Puerto Rico, we sought out a beach to experience some of Costa Rica’s legendary surf.

We found a great place that was basically an efficiency apartment attached to a house with a very well landscaped yard and a swimming pool. Best of all, it was about a 3 minute walk to the beach. This deluxe beach side apartment was only $75 a night.

Renting a car in Costa Rica

We rented a car which doubled in price to $50/day when the $25 mandatory insurance was added. We had already read up on the expensive rental cars, so this was no shock. What we were not certain about was whether we really needed a 4X4 vehicle.

Being cheap, we decided to go with the compact economy. Capable of carrying us and a surfboard, it was all we needed. Some roads were pretty much dirt and rock. We mercilessly beat the crap out of the car’s suspension, but it held up fine. Like us, most locals did not have 4X4 vehicles. While we were fine during the dry season, we’ve since returned to Costa Rica and found that driving can be a little more dicey during the rainy season.

Picture of rental car.Our BYD F0 with board rental

Surfing Costa Rica

There are several surf shops and we found the best deal on a long-board for $75/week and boogie board for $25/week.

On the second day, we got some zinc oxide sunscreen and rash guards. The sun can be brutal down there, and with the rough surf, most other sunscreens don’t survive very long.

Being so close to the beach, we could easily check the waves. When it looked good, we just grabbed the boards and went surfing.

Picture of beach.

How is the food in Costa Rica?

Picture of Casado.$5 Fried Chicken Casado

We always like to do the local thing, so we sought out a small soda the first day we were there. We ordered some casados which are basically a standard lunch/dinner meal that comes with rice, beans, salad, fried plantain, and one type of meat. Our casados turned out awesome! The beans were well seasoned and delicious, the fish was fresh, the plantains nice and caramelized, and the salad refreshing.

On average, we paid $6 for a casado at local sodas, including tip! The meals tasted amazing and provided nutrition packed fuel for our adventuring. I could eat casados everyday and we pretty much did.

Picture of casado.$6 Casado with Corvina

At another soda, Mrs Crazy Kicks ordered a fish casado. We were not sure what kind of fish it was when it came out, but it was amazingly good. With a nice chewy texture and some rich tasty fat on it, this was the BEST fish either of us had ever tasted! Then we hit a big bone in one piece and after double checking the menu realized that Mrs Crazy Kicks had really ordered the pork… Our Spanish could probably use some more work.

Picture of beach.

#Is it cheap to retire in Costa Rica?

As far as living in Costa Rica, it can be cheap but this depends on how you live. The food at local sodas was delightful and inexpensive. We also caught up with some of my friends who moved to Costa Rica, and are living in Playa Flamingo. They rent a nice apartment near the beach. With utilities, including A/C, they’re paying around $700 a month in rent.

Local fruits and vegetables are cheap, but imported snacks and chips can be expensive. The beer was pricey, even for local brews. Imperial, which is a light lager, went for $10 a six pack. Craft beers were obviously hard to find and much pricier.

From talking to our friends, cars cost about double or triple what they do in the States and this seems to be true for anything imported. So if you want to live a typical American lifestyle, it could be more expensive than living in the States. But if you can live like a local, nice surf and stunning beaches are here in spades.

While we haven’t moved to Costa Rica yet, we are still making regular trips down to surf and chow down on casados 🙂 You can see what we thought about Costa Rica just after the rainy season here.