If you’re contemplating a move to Costa Rica, whether for expat living or investment purposes, you’re faced with a tantalizing choice: mountains or beach. It’s a question that sparks the imagination of many, including myself, as I find the allure of both options irresistible. However, the reality is that it’s quite challenging to have the best of both worlds.


I currently reside in San Isidro de El General, nestled between the towering Talamancas, Costa Rica’s highest mountain range, and the southern Pacific coast. While I like to think I have the best of both worlds, the truth is that I’m a bit removed from the beach culture. It takes me a good 45 minutes to an hour to reach the ocean from my front door. So, while I’m close, I’m not quite there.


And if it’s challenging to have both here in San Isidro, it’s even more challenging elsewhere. So, a decision must be made, and this post aims to assist you in making that choice.


Since I’m biased towards mountain living, let’s start with the pros and cons of Costa Rica expat living at the beach.


Costa Rica Expat Living at the Beach



Costa Rica boasts some of the world’s most stunning beaches. Whether you’re a beginner surfer or an expert seeking epic waves, you’ll find what you’re looking for. The beach culture is laid-back and bohemian, a unique blend of gringo and tico influences. This coastal paradise offers international cuisine, health food stores, funky bars, and a variety of “hippie stuff” that you won’t easily find in the mountains.


In the southern zone, where I’m located, there’s a smaller mountain range hugging the coast. This allows you to live around 300 to 400 meters above sea level, offering breathtaking ocean views, spectacular sunsets, and refreshing ocean breezes. The coastal flora and fauna, especially in the southern Pacific, are teeming with tropical rainforest life. Waking up to the sounds of monkeys in your backyard is not unusual.


But, here come the cons:



The sweltering heat is the primary downside of coastal living. While you can cool off in the ocean or a pool, even a short trip to the market leaves you drenched in sweat.


Another potential drawback is the distinct culture that often emerges when a large group of foreigners congregates in a foreign country. Dominical, for instance, no longer feels like Costa Rica. With more foreigners than locals, non-tico businesses, and high prices, there can be a disconnect between expats and locals, leading to tensions, break-ins, and even violence.


Now, let’s turn to the pros and cons of Costa Rica expats living in the mountains.


Costa Rica Expat Living in the Mountains



If you have an affinity for mountains, Costa Rica’s lush green landscapes will capture your heart. Unlike mountains in colder regions, Costa Rica’s mountains are rich in diverse flora and fauna. Exploring the summit of Chirripo, Costa Rica’s tallest peak, offers a journey through various ecosystems, from tropical rainforests to cloud forests. The beauty of these mountains is what brought me here and keeps me here.


While you might not be “at the beach” in the mountains, you’re still not far from it. A short drive can take you to the coast for a day of surfing or relaxation.


The traditional tico culture thrives in the mountains, and the people are known for their warmth and friendliness. Rivers, waterfalls, and hidden spots with crystal-clear, refreshing waters are abundant.


Mountain weather in Costa Rica is nearly perfect, with temperatures in the low to mid-70s and low humidity. When the beach becomes oppressively hot, the mountains provide a welcome escape.


Prices are generally lower in the mountains, making it a cost-effective choice for expats.


Now, the cons:



Mountains lack the immediate ocean views found at the beach, and you may need to drive a bit to reach the coast. The mountain culture is more traditional tico, which may not offer the fusion culture found at the beach.


During the rainy season, clouds and rain are a common afternoon occurrence, with the mountains acting as a buffer, delaying rain’s arrival at the coast. This means more clouds and rain in the mountains.


At higher altitudes, the nights can get quite chilly, necessitating the use of a cozy fireplace. While some may find this charming, others might see it as a drawback.


In the end, the choice between mountain and beach living in Costa Rica boils down to your personal preferences and priorities.

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