Krain Resource Center

How to Buy Property in Costa Rica




Buying Property Held in a Corporation

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In Costa Rica, it is somewhat common for real estate to be held in a corporation—of which 100% shares are owned by a person—rather than the person owning the property directly. In this case, rather than the parties executing a transfer deed to effectuate the sale of the property, the parties execute a Share Transfer Agreement.  Also, due diligence should be performed to ensure that the company is passive (used only as a holding company for the property) and does not have any undisclosed contingencies (like the presence of debt, etc.).

Owning Costa Rican property in a corporation is sometimes seen as beneficial because it may operate to separate potential personal liabilities, allow for easier transition to relatives in the event of death of the purchaser, and/or facilitate the closing procedure. Prior to 2013, the closing costs were considerably cheaper if the transaction was effectuated through a corporation using a Share Transfer Agreement. However, recent laws have closed this perceived loophole, and this benefit is not as advantageous as it once was. KRAIN recommends that its clients consult with an attorney to determine whether owning property through a corporation is best suited for them.  KRAIN has many legal contacts throughout the country and is happy to recommend qualified and reputable attorneys upon request.

Obtaining Residency in Costa Rica

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Obtaining residency in Costa Rica is not simple, cheap or fast, but for anyone planning on spending a few years in this country or more, it should be considered virtually essential.

Residency confers three huge advantages: You no longer have to leave the country every 90 days, you can get a Costa Rican driver’s license, and (usually) you can legally hold a job.

Here are the main paths to residency in Costa Rica.

The Tourist Visa

The basic tourist visa generally allows nonresidents to stay in Costa Rica for up to 90 days.  Those on a tourist visa are not legally able to work or earn an income as an employee of a Costa Rican business or person.  While the tourist visa is not a type of residency, a significant percentage of foreigners living in Costa Rica use only the tourist visa, choosing to renew it by leaving the country every 90 days. People who do this year after year are known as “perpetual tourists,” and the practice is frowned on by the government, though there is nothing in Costa Rican law that forbids it. 

In the past, the government has made perpetual tourism a more time-consuming and expensive ordeal by (1) raising departure taxes and fees and increasing border-crossing vehicle fees, (2) imposing stricter requirements upon those leaving and returning to the country (in the form of detailed paperwork and proof of departure within 90 days), and (3) in extreme cases, giving as few as 15 days on the newly issued visa when the tourists return to Costa Rica.  All of these hassles and risks have led more and more foreigners to apply for legal residency status.

Types of Residency

• Pensionado Residency

Pensionado residency status is available for those persons receiving a “lifetime pension” (defined as state or federal retirement benefits, social security, a military pension, or a lifetime annuity) that guarantees an income for life of at least $1,000 per month.  This residency status is usually used by retirees, but there is no age requirement to obtain this status.  People who follow this path to residency usually must live in Costa Rica for at least four months out of the year (although exceptions apply to limit the time spent in Costa Rica to as little as one day per year) and must enroll in the national CCSS government health program (the “Caja”).  The pensionado residency status is at first temporary, and after three years can be made permanent. A person classified as a pensionado cannot work as an employee of a Costa Rica entity, but can own a business in Costa Rica and receive income from that business.

• Rentista Residency

Rentista residency status is available for those who can either (1) show a guaranteed unearned income stream (in the form of interest or dividends) or (2) who makes a deposit of $60,000 into a Costa Rican bank.  With regard to the latter option of making a $60,000 deposit, the applicant's money is paid out to him or her at a rate of $2,500 per month for 24 months.  Rentista residency lasts for two years, after which it can be renewed.  Similar to the pensionado, the rentista must live in Costa Rica for at least four months out of the year (exceptions may apply), must enroll in the Caja, has the right to apply for permanent residency after three years, and cannot work as an employee of a Costa Rican entity, but can own a business in Costa Rica and receive income from that business.

• Inversionista Residency

Inversionista (investor) residency is available for those who have invested at least $200,000 in a Costa Rica business or in certain “government approved” sectors, including real property, the tourism business, and certain stocks.  In 2012, the Costa Rica Government passed regulations also allowing an investment of at least $100,000 in a qualified reforestation program.  The inversionista generally must live in Costa Rica six months out of the year, is allowed to collect the income from any underlying project in Costa Rica, and can own and earn income from a businesses in Costa Rica.  The investor may apply for permanent residency after three years.

• Permanent Residency

Permanent residency can be granted to (1) those that have held pensionado, rentista, or inversionista status for at least three years, or (2) any person who is a first-degree relative (mother, father, spouse, sister, or brother) of a Costa Rica citizen.  Couples who give birth to their child in Costa Rica often apply for permanent residency based on their first-degree relative status with their child, a Costa Rica citizen. People who obtain residency through marriage or childbirth are known as vinculados ("linked").

Permanent residents are required to enroll in the Caja and must visit Costa Rica once per year.  Permanent residents can legally work as an employee of a Costa Rica entity, and have every right available to Costa Rica citizens except the right to vote. 

• Other Types of Residency

While rarely applied for, there are other, more specialized types of residency statuses, including those for students, temporary workers, politicians or diplomats, executives or directors of companies that have a minimum number of local workers in Costa Rica, and refugees. KRAIN is happy to answer questions about these types of residencies and has a trusted network of residency attorneys capable of handling these types of applications. 

Assistance in Filing Applications

Please note that the rules for residency are ever changing, as Costa Rica’s immigration department makes adjustments to deal with the continuing interest of foreigners in moving to the country.  Bear in mind that applying for residency can be a long and bureaucratic process.  KRAIN highly recommends that anyone seeking legal residency hire competent counsel to assist them in filing their applications.  Read more about Residency Attorneys, Organizations, and Approximate Costs and Fees.

The above information is to be used for informational purposes only, is not to be construed or taken as legal advice, and cannot take the place of the advice of legal counsel. 

Why Investing in Costa Rican Real Estate Makes Sense

Costa Rica is more than an alluring vacation or retirement destination; it's an attractive place to pursue investment real estate. With young families, adventurous travelers, and new retirees choosing Costa Rica for their next journey, it's no surprise that the real estate scene is thriving. There are all kinds of investment real estate options to consider, whether you want to live onsite, visit the property from time to time, or prefer to use it strictly as a source of income. With a solid infrastructure, a proven record for positive return on investment (“ROI”), and a bright future, investment real estate in Costa Rica just makes sense.

Countless investment opportunities exist.

There are numerous options to consider when looking at investment real estate in Costa Rica. As Central America's leading vacation destination, hotels and vacation rentals are two areas of the market that are extremely easy to pursue. Those who have experience with larger property management opportunities will not be disappointed in the gated and condominium communities in existence, while those who want to build have plenty of land-buying options. With all those tourists passing through regularly and a constantly growing expat community, high-quality restaurants are also more in demand than ever.

You can get a tropical getaway out of the deal.

Investing in Costa Rica real estate comes with one perk your friends and family will be especially excited about–a vacation, part-time, or full-time home in the tropics. If you purchase a rental property, you can plan an escape from the cold winter weather or reserve it for you and your personal guests at any time throughout the year. If you invest in a hotel, there's no reason you shouldn't enjoy the presidential suite from time to time. Even if you choose a commercial investment, you'll always have an excuse to get away from it all with a quick "business-related" trip to Costa Rica.

Your property will generate income throughout the year.

While there are certainly peak times during which most tourists visit–winter, spring break, and summer vacations–there is never a time when travelers stop coming to Costa Rica.  For example, budget travelers like to plan their trips during the “green season” when they know the scenery will be beautiful and they can find discounted rates. Daily rainfall is to be expected during much of Costa Rica's green season, from April to December, though some parts of the country are dryer than others. The northern Guanacaste province, for example, is notoriously dry and has little rainfall. A steady flow of income can often be expected for about 10 months out of the year in popular Guanacaste beach towns like Tamarindo and Samara.

You can incorporate your passion into the investment.

If you so choose, investing in Costa Rica can be more than a financial decision; it can be a passion project. If you've always dreamed of owning a bed and breakfast, there's no better place than Costa Rica to make that dream a reality. If you love the idea of owning a restaurant, an art gallery, or a cafe, the Costa Rican government and business scene will welcome you with open arms. Cattle farms, agricultural properties, and teak farms are also available. Whether you want to build from the ground up or find a turnkey business that's ready to go, Costa Rica has it all.

You don't have to be a resident to own a business or property in Costa Rica.

Fortunately, residency status is not a requirement for purchasing investment real estate or opening a business in Costa Rica. When you do come to visit, you'll be granted a 90-day visa with no questions asked. The only stipulation is that you must travel outside the country at the end of the 3-month period, which essentially serves as an excuse to fit in a quick vacation if nothing else. Starting a business or investing in real estate gives an edge when it comes to gaining residency if that's something you're interested in.

Costa Rica has a strong infrastructure that continues to improve.

There are now two major international airports in Costa Rica, with frequent flights to and from numerous U.S. cities and other international destinations. The Juan Santamaria International Airport is located just outside San Jose, and the Daniel Oduber International Airport is located near Liberia, putting the popular beaches of Guanacaste within a driving distance of just an hour or two. There are also regional airports throughout the country accessible with small planes. The major highways are generally in great shape, including the highway that connects the Central Valley to the Pacific Coast, and the coastal highway south of there. The Interamericana Highway, which runs all the way from the U.S. to Chile in South America, was recently expanded into a U.S.-style freeway from Liberia to Cañas work, and work is ongoing on a major expansion south of Cañas. Costa Rica's government has made it clear that it's prepared to welcome investors and travelers with its well-maintained roadways and modern airports.

Among the reasons listed above, it's worth noting just how economically and politically stable Costa Rica is. Political unrest, riots and anti-government demonstrations are very rare here compared to other Latin American countries. The local currency, the colón, has lost some value in recent years but remains relatively stable. The country has had no standing army since 1948. It boasts a strong public school system and Central America's highest literacy rate. Crime rates are low, and quality of life is consistently ranked among the highest in the world in independent studies. It's one of the few countries in Latin America that has a tropical climate but is outside the main Caribbean hurricane zone. When compared side by side with other Latin American or Caribbean nations, Costa Rica is the clear front-runner for real estate investment.


Why Investment Real Estate in Costa Rica Makes Sense

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Countless investment opportunities exist.

There are numerous options to consider when looking at investment real estate in Costa Rica. As Central America's leading vacation destination, hotels and vacation rentals are two areas of the market that are extremely easy to pursue. Those who have experience with larger property management opportunities will not be disappointed in the gated and condominium communities in existence, while those who want to build have plenty of land-buying options. With all those tourists passing through regularly and a constantly growing expat community, high-quality restaurants are also more in demand than ever.

You get a tropical getaway out of the deal.

Investing in Costa Rica real estate comes with one perk your friends and family will be especially excited about — a full-time, part-time or vacation home in the tropics. If you purchase a rental property, you can plan an escape from the cold winter weather or reserve it for you and your personal guests at any time throughout the year. If you invest in a hotel, there's no reason you shouldn't book the presidential suite. Even if you choose a commercial investment, you'll always have an excuse to get away from it all with a quick "business-related" trip to Costa Rica.

Your property will generate income throughout the year.

While there are certainly peak times during which most tourists visit — winter, spring break, and summer vacations — there is never a time when travelers stop coming to Costa Rica.  For example, budget travelers like to plan their trips during the “green season” when they know the scenery will be beautiful and they can find discounted rates. Daily rainfall is to be expected during much of Costa Rica's green season, from May to mid-November, though some parts of the country are drier than others. The northern Guanacaste province, for example, is the driest region in the country. A steady flow of income can often be expected for about 10 months out of the year in popular Guanacaste beach towns like Tamarindo.

You can incorporate your passion into the investment.

Investing in Costa Rica can be more than a financial decision, it can be a passion project. If you've always dreamed of owning a bed and breakfast, there's no better place than Costa Rica to make that dream a reality. If you love the idea of owning a restaurant, an art gallery, or a cafe, the Costa Rican government and business scene will welcome you with open arms. Cattle farms, agricultural properties, and teak farms are also available. Whether you want to build from the ground up or find a turnkey business that's ready to go, Costa Rica has it all.

You don't have to be a resident to own a business or property in Costa Rica.

Residency status is not a requirement for purchasing investment real estate or opening a business in Costa Rica. When you come to visit, you'll be granted a 90-day visa with no questions asked. The only stipulation is that you must travel outside the country at the end of the 3-month period, which gives you a good reason to fit in a quick vacation, if nothing else. Starting a business or investing in real estate gives an edge when it comes to gaining residency if that's something you're interested in.

Costa Rica has a strong infrastructure that continues to improve.

There are two major international airports in Costa Rica, with frequent flights to and from numerous U.S., Canadian and European cities. The Juan Santamaría International Airport is located just outside San José, and the Daniel Oduber International Airport is near Liberia, putting the popular beaches of Guanacaste within a driving distance of just an hour or two. There are also regional airports throughout the country that allow you to shuttle around in a small plane.  The national highway system is first-rate and is always being improved, and even in most rural areas you will find paved roads and easy driving.

It's also worth noting just how economically and politically stable Costa Rica is. Political unrest, rioting, and anti-government demonstrations are very rare here. The local currency, the colón, has lost value in recent years but remains relatively stable. The country has had no standing army since 1948, nor has it been touched by war since then. It boasts a strong public school system and Central America's highest literacy rate. Crime rates are low, and quality of life is consistently ranked among the highest in the world. It has the delightful tropical climate of Central America and the Caribbean, yet it's outside the main hurricane zone.

For these and many other reasons, Costa Rica remains the premier real estate investment opportunity in Central America.

What to Consider When Moving to Costa Rica

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Choosing to move abroad is a big decision that can bring new excitement and energy to your life. If you've selected Costa Rica for your new home, there's so much to look forward to. From the pleasant climate to the incredible wildlife to the slower, more enjoyable pace, expats easily fall in love with this tropical Central American country time and time again. As with any move, you'll also have a lot to learn about how things work in your new surroundings. There's no doubt that parts of the transition will be seamless, while others may take adjustment. Consider these important factors if you're thinking about making the move to Costa Rica.


Costa Rica has an impressive public school system that extends throughout the entire country, including the most remote of areas. This robust educational system is not just a point of pride among locals; it has been named one of the leading public school systems in the world. Interestingly enough, it has outranked the United States on more than one occasion. The school year in Costa Rica is based on the traditional coffee-picking season, with classes beginning in mid-February and ending in early December.

If you're moving to Costa Rica with school-aged children in tow, you will be pleased to discover a large selection of world-class private schools as well. In the most popular relocation areas, including the Central Valley, Guanacaste, and sizable towns such as Jacó, Quepos, and Limon, parents have their pick of a variety of learning environments in schools of all sizes. Many private schools follow the U.S. calendar, with students being off from classes during July and August, so travel to and from the States during this time doesn't interfere with their studies. Some schools have implemented the prestigious International Baccalaureate structure, which promotes critical thinking and international mindedness. Other schools follow a U.S. curriculum, with students graduating with the equivalent of a U.S. diploma. Parents can rest assured that their children will graduate as responsible citizens prepared for university attendance after graduating from one of these well-respected schools.

Health Insurance

Costa Rica offers its residents low-cost healthcare through a national insurance program known as the Caja. The network covers all aspects of healthcare, including routine check-ups, testing, surgical procedures, emergency medical attention, and more. Foreigners applying for residency in Costa Rica are eligible (and sometimes required) to join this network at their own expense.

Expats have their choice of coverage options through reputable insurance companies, like Cigna or Aetna. You may opt to save money by selecting an international coverage plan with a high deductible, using that coverage only for emergencies. Many expats choose to receive medical care from private hospital networks, which offer a superior level of service at surprisingly affordable rates. CIMA, Clínica Bíblica, La Católica and San Rafael Arcángel all provide world-class medical care in modern facilities, much like you would find in the U.S. Quality medical care costs a fraction of what it does in the U.S., which means it is possible to pay out of pocket in many cases.

Owning a Vehicle

Costa Rica has a growing network of modern expressways and roads, making it easier than ever to travel from one point to another both quickly and efficiently. Expats who make the move will want to learn more about the pros and cons of bringing a vehicle with them versus purchasing a new vehicle after they've arrived. It's important to note that the taxes and fees associated with importing a vehicle are extremely high. Vehicles, both new and used, hold their value very well in Costa Rica, which translates to higher purchase prices. Be prepared to pay significantly more for a vehicle than what you would expect in the States. Additionally, it is highly likely that a purchase will be made in cash, in the presence of an attorney. Opening a bank account in Costa Rica takes some time, patience, and the right combination of paperwork. Fortunately, there is a strong and easy-to-navigate public transportation network, particularly in San Jose and its environs, which means getting around while you handle these automotive needs should not be difficult.

Once a vehicle has successfully been imported or purchased, there are two necessary annual registrations that owners must keep up to date. The Marchamo is a national vehicle registration that is updated at the end of each calendar year, along with payment of a fee, which is determined based on the value of the vehicle. This mandatory Marchamo provides basic liability coverage in case of an accident. Car owners can elect to purchase additional coverage from an independent insurance agency as well. A thorough vehicle inspection, known as the Riteve, is required once per year.


As touched upon above, opening a bank account in Costa Rica is not as simple as it is the U.S. In some cases, foreigners are first required to create a limited liability corporation, which typically costs between $500-$900. Then, the bank account and associated banking is managed in the name of that corporation. The two most popular banks are the Banco Nacional and Banco de Costa Rica, and both have lots of ATMs. You may want to seek the guidance of a lawyer to navigate the process and establishing themselves in terms of banking, car ownership, investment management, and other areas. 


Fortunately, Costa Rica has seen a tremendous amount of growth in the number of offerings available for phone, cable, and Internet over the last few years. Residents can choose from a variety of providers for landline and mobile services. High-speed internet is easy to obtain in most populated area, though service in more rural areas can be a challenge. As far as television providers, both cable and satellite services offer robust package options, with many channels being available in English. Favorite movie channels, such as HBO and Cinemax, plus sports, music, and other popular channels, are widely available as well.


While Costa Rica is a warm, tropical country, there are many vastly different microclimate zones to choose from when selecting your new home. For example, in San José, it's not uncommon for locals to wear long pants, sweaters, and jackets during the green season, from April through November. To the contrary, communities along both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts are consistently warm, with temperatures in the 80s and up into the 90s year-round. In the remote Osa Peninsula, rainfall is to be expected at any time, while the northern Guanacaste region is known for being particularly dry from December through April. Individuals and families who are selecting a relocation destination in Costa Rica have their choice of climates, including factors like humidity, amount of rainfall, and temperature.

The Top 7 Reasons to Retire in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica has long been a popular tourist destination, attracting more crowds than neighboring countries thanks to its incredible wildlife, natural attractions, and abundance of tours and activities. Those who are looking for a retirement destination are attracted to the country's well-established infrastructure, low crime rates, and excellent healthcare – and that's just the tip of the iceberg. The quality of life in Costa Rica is excellent, and, in fact, the more one learns about the Central American country, the more appealing it becomes as a retirement destination. Consider these winning factors and you'll quickly see why so many expats choose retirement in Costa Rica:

It ranks #1 on the Happy Planet Index.

The Happy Planet Index measures "the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them." The index judges life expectancy, experienced well-being, and ecological footprint and ranks more than 150 countries. Costa Rica has often been ranked #1 thanks to its superior scores in all three categories.

The climate can't be beat.

Costa Rica has a generally mild climate that is consistently pleasant. There are no snow or ice storms to worry about, even at the highest elevations. Individual micro climates throughout the country ensure those who retire in Costa Rica can find the ideal temperature and humidity level for their tastes. In the Central Valley, for example, temperatures average around 72 to 78 degrees. Sun seekers can head to either the Pacific or Caribbean coast and enjoy warmer temperatures in the 80s all year-long. Retirees can choose nearly daily rainfall in the lush green tropical zone near the Osa Peninsula or opt for the dry Guanacaste region where rain showers are generally limited to June through November and are much more predictable.

Quality, affordable healthcare is widespread.

Costa Rica has a comprehensive healthcare system that provides care to residents nationwide. Known as the "Caja," this system to open to expats who are seeking residency, and in fact may be a requirement to obtain residency. Those who seek healthcare and medical facilities comparable to those found in the U.S. are pleased to visit one of Costa Rica's private hospital systems, including CIMA in Escazú, Clínica Bíblica and La Catòlica in San Jose, and San Rafael Arcángel in Liberia. These world-class medical facilities offer every department and type of service one could need, ranging from routine check-ups to CAT scans to complex surgeries. Due to the lower cost of health care in Costa Rica, medical tourism is on the rise, and how now become the second largest industry in Costa Rica.

Its time zone is compatible with the United States.

The time zone in Costa Rica is Central Standard Time, or five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Costa Rica does not observe Daylight Savings Time, setting the country just one or two hours behind Eastern Standard Time all year long. Because its time is always comparable to any of the time zones in the U.S., expats who reside there don't have to worry about when to call family and friends in the States. Travel is easier, too, since you don't need to worry about jet lag.

It is a short flight away from the United States.

Though it may feel like you're far, far away from life in the U.S., the reality is that you're just a few hours away by plane when you're in Costa Rica. Flights are not only easy to find, but they're also very affordable. Roundtrip tickets can routinely be found between $500 and $800–sometimes even less. Not only do retirees have the option of easily and affordably traveling to the U.S., but friends and family will want to reciprocate.

Natural beauty surrounds you, no matter where you settle down.

Costa Rica's natural beauty cannot be denied. From beaches to mountains to rain forest, this Central American country has it all. Even city dwellers can drive just 20 minutes out of town and arrive at stunning waterfalls or a mountaintop town with incredible views. Spotting wildlife is a party of daily life in Costa Rica. From a pack of coatimundi along the side of the road to a pair of scarlet macaws snacking in a beach almond tree, you don't have to look hard to see why people around the world are attracted to Costa Rica.

You don't need to speak Spanish.

English-only speakers appreciate how prevalent the language is in Costa Rica, especially in businesses dedicated to tourism. Thanks to the many thriving expat communities throughout the country, you won't have any trouble making new friends without worrying about a language barrier. Expats can feel comfortable ordering at restaurants, visiting the doctor, and living their day-to-day life without speaking a word of Spanish if they so choose. Not to worry if you do feel like practicing your Spanish though–there's no shortage of opportunities to do so.

Finally, you can do it all in Costa Rica. Whether you dream of a peaceful retirement spent relaxing on the beach or an adventurous life full of exploration and activity, you can choose nearly anything in Costa Rica. From beachfront luxury homes to remote jungle retreats to urban residences in the heart of the action, you're sure to find your dream property in Costa Rica. Don't let its small size fool you–Costa Rica offers you everything you could ask for.

Animal Rescue and Krain in Costa Rica

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Closing Your Dream Home in Costa Rica

A personal blog about living Pura Vida and the positive effects it has had on my health and life.

Buyers come to Costa Rica with a dream in mind, finding their dream vacation home! At Krain, we help them find their dream home, we help them make on offer, and ultimately finalize a contract to purchase their home. What we want to help everyone understand today is the process that occurs between the accepting the offer and the final closing day!

            After you find your dream home and the offer is accepted, there is a lengthy process that takes place and it happens in a pretty steady order that is NOTHING like a closing process in most parts of the World. I want to explain this process in a short but meaningful way. We will take this journey together step by step:

  1. Offer acceptance by the seller begins our journey.
  2. Selecting a lawyer is the second step and Krain works with several trusted lawyers that we have worked with for both buyer and seller.
  3. One of the first steps a lawyer in Costa Rica takes is whether a buyer or seller will be in country for the closing or not. If a buyer is not in country, then they will sign a Power of Attorney for their lawyer to sign for them under specific circumstances and with certain powers. This varies from most of the modern world as the buyer and seller need not be present for a closing on a home in Costa Rica.
  4. Escrow must be created (typically within 5 business days) to show good faith that the buyer is going to purchase the property. An escrow Company in Costa Rica will require a copy of the buyer’s passport, copy of their driver’s license or state ID, a copy of a Utility Bill proving their address at home, at least one year of tax returns, and most importantly “proof of funds” which is typically a bank statement showing the funds that will be used to purchase your dream home. Don’t worry the proof of funds can be gathered during the buying process and the bank statement sent just days prior to closing. The escrow process is completed with both buyer and seller signing an escrow agreement that outlines the payment splits that were agreed upon in the contract.
  5. In this step both lawyers will do what is called “due diligence” on a home and the property involved in the sale. During the due diligence period the lawyers ensure that there are no past due taxes owed, that ALL utilities are paid in full up to the closing date, the property is surveyed and that the property being purchased is legally registered in the Nacional Registro, and lastly the lawyers will follow the “chain of title” back as far as possible to ensure that the seller is legally authorized to sell the property. All this is done to protect the buyer and ensure they are legally purchasing the property.
  6. After due diligence is completed, the escrow funds deposited are no longer refundable to the buyer and we move into the final phases of purchase
  7. The buyer’s lawyer will now verify with the buyer whether they wish to “purchase” the corporation that the property is currently registered in or whether the buyers wish to form a new corporation and transfer the property into that new corporation. The difference is that a new corporation limits liability of any unknown legal problems with a corporation and also allows the buyers to name their new corporation and home whatever they please. With a new corporation comes a shiny new name of both corporation and home but also comes with a typically shiny price tag of about $1,000 U.S. so that is a decision the buyers should consider in their closing process.
  8. Once all the legal entities are satisfied and the due diligence period has expired and the corporation decision is made, all parties will receive a closing statement from the escrow company. This outlines the entire payment including escrow and final funds necessary to pay all closing costs by both parties. The closing statement will also outline all parties that receive commissions or payments to legal fees or sales agents. Every penny of a transaction is accounted for in the closing statement and both buyer and seller are required to sign the statement after all lawyers and interested parties approve the statement.
  9. The next to last step of the buying process is the wire transfer of remaining funds to the escrow account and this typically must be started “five” days prior to the closing date. This time frame allows plenty of time for the funds to typically arrive for closing.

10.Upon closing day, the interested party’s lawyers gather together with the paperwork and sign the required documents of which they provide to everyone. This process typically takes about 30 minutes and for the buyers it marks their last step in the buying process and their first day as official homeowners! However, there is a bit more for the lawyers and escrow company to do.

11.The last few layers of closing in Costa Rica involve the depositing of commissions and legal fees and the beginning of the process to file the paperwork with the Nacional Registro.  

12.About 3 to 6 months after the “official closing” the lawyer presents the new homeowners (or their legal representative) with their corporation paperwork and “books” in their names. This is the day that most buyers truly get excited because they can see their names on the legal papers or registry in Costa Rica!

I really want buyers in Costa Rica to be comfortable with the buying process and I hope that each of you “loosely” utilize this guide to help with any questions that you have. While not every home buying experience follows the exact steps above, we, at Krain, do want you to know that we will be here every step of the process to represent your best interests and to answer any questions that you may have. 

Emigrating to Costa Rica

Emigrating to Costa Rica           

I get emails and requests asking how emigrate to costa rica and asking is it safe for the end of the world to come!  Luckily I have some of the best lawyers in Costa Rica to help with your needs. I have personally emigrated here and can help advise you on what it takes to become a resident of Costa Rica. There is some paperwork involved and there are three primary ways to become a resident of Costa Rica and they each come with their own rules and regulations which we won’t fully go into here.

            When you are emigrating to Costa Rica it is always best to obtain a lawyer and documentation prior to arrival. You will need passport photos, a local police report in your hometown, birth certificate, and passport copies (all apostilled or certified). Getting all this paperwork prior to arrival will save you some trips back and forth and many headaches. You will need to do interviews and fingerprinting here in Costa Rica. There is no special visa requirement for Canadians and Americans visiting Costa Rica. So, until you get your residency you will need to leave the country every 90 days to maintain your status as a tourist and not suffer any immigration consequences. Now on to the three main ways to become a resident.

            The most utilized way to emigrate to Costa Rica is what is known as a “Pensionado” or Retiree. All you must do to qualify as a Pensionado is prove that you have a residual income of over $1200 per month coming from disability or retirement. It took me 9 months to get my pensionado residencia approved. The main drawback to the “Pensionado” residencia is that you may only work for your own Corporation or business.

            Another easy way to obtain your residency is through being an investor. Any person can invest over $200,000 in Costa Rica property or business and then apply for your residency. The primary drawback is that you are unable to legally work except for your own Corporation and you must live in the country six months out of the year to maintain your residency.

            The least utilized way to obtain residency is through “rentista” or renter. To be eligible for rentista status you must place $60,000 into a Costa Rica bank and then these funds are paid out to you through the bank at $2,500 per month for a period of 24 months. After 24 months, you will be required to renew the $60,000 deposit and payouts begin anew. At the end of the second 24-month period you will be able to apply for permanent residency. The primary downfall of this program is that you must prove you have a constant income of $2,500 per month, invest $60,00 twice, and you cannot work for anyone except your own Corporation.

Each of the above types of “residencia” are temporary residencies for three years and at the end of the three years you can file for permanent residency.

Residency is not difficult to obtain and Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world! What are you waiting for? Email or call me at 312-888-5558 U.S. or 506 8411-5347 Costa Rica. I look forward to hearing from you. #immigration #emigration #emigrate #emigrating

Guanacaste Private Schools: Your Kids Might Turn Out Smarter Than You Are

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By Karl Kahler

If you’re thinking of moving your family to Guanacaste, Costa Rica, you may be wondering if the schools here are as good as the schools back home. But what if they’re even better?


The Guanacaste coast from Coco to Tamarindo has some outstanding private bilingual schools, and therein lie huge advantages for both parents and children.

Attending these schools, your English-speaking children are virtually certain to learn fluent, perhaps even unaccented Spanish. This is a valuable skill they will have for the rest of their lives.


In addition, they will be exposed to multiple nationalities, cultures and ways of thinking, broadening their worldview and making them well-rounded global citizens. And with the excellent academic programs offered here, they will be eminently prepared to attend universities in the United States, Canada or Europe.

An Arkansas boy in Mexico


When I was 8 years old, my family moved from Arkansas to Durango and later Torreón, Mexico, where my father was director of two private American schools for four years and my mother was a teacher.


I arrived not speaking a word of Spanish, but by my fourth year I won 2nd place in a Spanish oratory contest competing against top students from all over Mexico’s 10th-largest city.


After Mexico we moved to Lonoke, Arkansas, and when two Venezuelan scientists arrived to study local fisheries for two weeks, I was hired to be their translator — at the age of 12.


I also attended the 10th grade in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and when I later enrolled in Spanish IV at the University of Arkansas, I actually spoke better Spanish than the professor.


It’s almost shocking how well children become totally fluent in a second language while attending a bilingual international school. This will give them options that will benefit them for the remainder of their lives, personally and professionally.

La Paz Community School


La Paz, founded in 2007, is an excellent school located at the entrance to the Mar Vista housing development between Brasilito and Flamingo.


It has 370 students, pre-K through 12, ranging from 1 year old to 18. About 60% are Costa Rican, the children of local families who want their kids to be bilingual, and possibly to attend English-speaking universities in other countries. About one-fourth are from North America and the remainder from Europe, South America, Asia and Africa.


La Paz also has a second campus in Comunidad, near the Do It Center, with 250 students from pre-K through 10th (with 11th and 12th grades being added over the next two years). The students here are about 80% Costa Rican.


To serve both English and Spanish learners, La Paz uses a biliteracy program called “Two Way Dual Immersion.” Its website explains: “Students are immersed into the Spanish and English languages through a balanced and socioculturally relevant academic experience where approximately 50% of their day is spent on Oracy and Literacy in each language.”


“The Two Way Dual Immersion approach with the proper supports in place is the fastest way to conversational language acquisition,” said Abel McClennan, director of La Paz. “Some of our students arrive monolingually in grade 9 and then graduate with a bilingual International Baccalaureate Diploma, which demonstrates fluency in both languages.”


Asked about how they prepare students for college, he said, “Top performing IB [International Baccalaureate] graduates have access to the top universities in the world, and many universities award credit for IB courses completed in high school.”


Name: La Paz Community School
Location: At Mar Vista development between Brasilito and Flamingo
Grades: Pre-K through 12
Enrollment: 370 at Brasilito campus, 250 at Comunidad campus

Costa Rica International Academy (CRIA)


CRIA is another top school, located on the southern outskirts of Brasilito. Founded in 2000 as the Country Day School, it has 450 students and is the largest private school on this coast.


On a tour with Lois Maré, who is the curriculum director, admissions director and college counselor, I was impressed by the spacious campus, air-conditioned classrooms, 6,000-volume library, gym facilities and professional-size swimming pool.


Maré said 35–40% percent of the students are from the U.S., about one-third from Costa Rica and the remainder from 24 other nationalities.


“So children are sitting in a classroom, and there’s someone from Argentina, someone from Israel, someone from South Africa, and they get a very international, broader perspective on the world,” she said.


How does CRIA deal with new students enrolling every year who may speak zero English AND zero Spanish, and who need to be taught math, science, social studies and everything else in one of those two languages?


“We have a very wide variety of language learners, both English and Spanish, so they’re given differentiated assessments and tasks and instruction,” Maré said. “Our program, from toddler through Grade 2, is a dual-language program, so 50% of the instruction is in English, 50% in Spanish. Year by year we rotate the academic subject by Spanish and English, so that students are exposed to different academic language and vocabulary for different subject areas.”


The school offers band, physical education, competitive sports, chess club, National Honor Society, student government, yearbook, robotics club, and arts and crafts.


CRIA is known for its excellent academic program, backed by a dozen Advanced Placement classes in which high school students can earn college credit. The school has dual accreditation in the United States and Costa Rica.


“We’ve had kids go to Ivy League schools three years in a row now from this tiny little school here at the beach,” Maré said.


Name: Costa Rica International Academy (CRIA)
Location: 500 meters south of Reserva Conchal in Brasilito
Grades: Pre-K through 12, currently beginning at age 2 but starting at age 3 next year
Enrollment: 450 students, toddler through grade 12; 35–40 percent from U.S., one-third Costa Rican



Educarte is a pre-K through 12 school near Tamarindo that offers bilingual education, especially in primary, with more Spanish in high school. The school is accredited by the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Education.


“Probably the most difficult part of managing an international school is that many students have to learn both languages, English and Spanish,” said Letizia Guglielmino, an Italian woman who cofounded the school in 2007.


Educarte describes its mission as “To be an educational organization that promotes the development of skills in its students and that offers an education that contributes to their integral well-being, and is committed to their academic, emotional, social, and physical growth.”


Name: Educarte
Location: Between Huacas and Villarreal, near the JSM gas station
Grades: Pre-K through 12
Enrollment: 320 students, including from France, Italy, Germany, Russia, Argentina and Israel, though fewer U.S. students than most schools

Journey School


Journey School near Tamarindo was founded by Christa Niven when she moved to Costa Rica in 2017 with six children.


“We had six children at home, and they all needed something different, and there wasn’t really the right school for all of them,” she said. “So we made the decision that we were going to offer a different kind of program.


“We’re bilingual, we’re project-based and we’re multi-accredited. We currently have U.S. and Costa Rican accreditation, and we’re almost finished with an application for an International Baccalaureate, and soon we’ll be applying for Canadian.”


Journey teaches half the day in English and half in Spanish, offering complete immersion for both English learners and Spanish learners. Science and Costa Rican social studies are taught in Spanish, math and history in English.


Name: Journey School of Costa Rica
Location: On the highway from Huacas to Villarreal, right across from Educarte
Grades: Pre-K through 12
Enrollment: 230 students from 34 countries who speak 26 languages; about 25% are either Costa Rican or Nicaraguan, 15% Canadian, 10% U.S.

Tide Academy


Tide Academy is one of the few private schools located in Tamarindo, offering bilingual education, with Spanish immersion up to the 4th grade.


Kindergarten has a bilingual teacher who teaches 50/50 English and Spanish. The 1st through 4th grades have a main English teacher and a main Spanish teacher. After the 4th grade, most classes are taught in English, with Spanish as a second language personalized to the level at which students arrive.


“The biggest thing we tell people is we’re going to do as much as we can, but our school is only four days a week, so if you want to learn any language, you have to practice outside the school walls,” said Chelsea Lisaius of Vermont, who founded the school in 2011. “They’ll pick up the language much quicker, and you need a community effort to learn the language. However, we will be working hard to give you a foundation.”


Name: Tide Academy
Location: On the main road in Tamarindo, across from the Auto Mercado
Grades: Pre-K through 12
Enrollment: 70 students from some 15 countries, including the U.S., Costa Rica, Canada, France, Italy, Chile, Israel

Pacific Waldorf School


Pacific Waldorf School offers bilingual elementary and middle school education near Tamarindo.


The school follows a Waldorf model of experiential learning through blocks of classes — for example, four weeks in English, four weeks in Spanish and four weeks of math in each language. Roughly half the curriculum is in English and half in Spanish. Students can also learn French and German, as well as swimming, gardening, painting, drawing, knitting, physical education, music and more.


Its website says, “Here, on our beautiful campus surrounded by nature, we teach our children with love, respect, and a deep understanding of the needs of the child through all their phases of development.”


Name: Pacific Waldorf School
Location: Cañafistula, between Villarreal and Veintisiete de Abril, 10-15 minutes from Tamarindo
Grades: Pre-K through 7, and offering 8th grade next year
Enrollment: 65 students, about half from Costa Rica, with others from France, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, Costa Rica, the U.S. and Canada

Dolphin’s Academy School


Dolphin’s is the only private school in Playas del Coco, offering bilingual education for students at all levels. It opened in 2005 as a day care and has been at its current location since 2015.


Classes taught in English include language arts, history, geography, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Dolphin’s offers classes in finance, marine biology, band and physical education (basketball, baseball, aerial gymnastics).


Its website says, “At Dolphin’s Academy School, students have the opportunity to develop their creativity, imagination, talent and skills through a calendar that provides dedicated spaces for them, while growing in knowledge in a safe and loving environment.”


Name: Dolphin’s Academy School
Location: Playas del Coco, 300m west of the big anchor at the entrance to town
Grades: Pre-K through 11, in a Costa Rican system where students graduate from high school in the 11th grade
Enrollment: 250 students of some 60 nationalities, including the U.S., Canada, Russia, Czech Republic, France, Iran, Panama, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Mexico. Most students are from Costa Rica, many of them born here to parents from elsewhere.

Lakeside International School


Lakeside is a bilingual school on the highway between Comunidad and Playas del Coco, with a student body that’s about 70% Costa Rican.


“At Lakeside we combine a challenging international curriculum with a holistic approach to learning,” says Rena Willis, general director, on the school’s website. “Our passionate, dedicated and highly trained staff challenges each of our students to reach his or her individual potential.”


The school offers what it describes as child-centered education, small class sizes, dynamic and experienced teachers, a holistic approach to teaching, international mindedness and an integrated and challenging curriculum with clear learning outcomes.


Name: Lakeside International School
Location: On the road between the Liberia highway (Hwy. 21) and Playas del Coco, 2 km west of the Delta gas station at the crossroads in Comunidad
Grades: Pre-K through 11 (students graduate with a Costa Rican diploma from the 11th grade)
Enrollment: 400 students currently enrolled, with 70% from Costa Rica and the rest from the U.S., Canada, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Russia, China, Argentina and Uruguay

This link offers a healthy background on (private) education in Costa Rica, as well as some resources for schools not in our Guanacaste region.   While I’m not sure how current the information is, you’ll find it another good reference point.

HOA expenses in Costa Rica

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HOA is short for “homeowners association,” though given the frequency of their fees, you might think it stands for “Hold On, Again?”

Most condo owners from anywhere will be familiar with the monthly bite of the bill of these HOA fees. But renters and private homeowners are sometimes puzzled by the concept of having to pay a hefty new bill that they never had to pay before.

The concept in Costa Rica is basically the same as anywhere else: All the owners in a condominium development must pay a monthly fee for the upkeep of the common property.

This might include swimming pool maintenance, gardening, landscaping, perimeter fencing, road repair, pest control, elevators, painting, insurance, cleaning and even 24/7 guards at the gate. Sometimes money is set aside for capital replacement or major projects, or as a reserve fund.

There is no single “owner” who is responsible for all of these costs — everyone is an owner. So the costs have to be shared equally, and an HOA is necessary both to manage the workload and to distribute the bill.

Are there any HOAs that manage their properties badly? Our noses would start growing like Pinocchio if we said there weren’t. But good, bad or ugly, HOAs and their fees are a reality that every condo owner will face.

In smaller communities, HOA fees tend to be higher because there are fewer owners to share the cost. But in some cases, maintenance expenses might be subsidized by the developer.

If you’re looking into buying a condo, be sure you know exactly how much the HOA fees are, and exactly what they pay for. Weigh this expense against what it would cost if you had to cover gardening, pool maintenance and security on your own in a private home.

Work with your real estate agent or attorney to obtain financial information on the HOA, including budget and reserves. Talk to the neighbors about their impressions of how the HOA is managed. You might even want to obtain and review minutes of past meetings. 

Your due diligence will pay off when you find a property you love with an HOA that is organized, responsible and reliable. With that combination you can hardly go wrong, and the icing on the cake is that your investment will be in good hands even in your absence. 

Want to Learn About Healthcare in Costa Rica? Have a Baby!

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By Sarah Breitlander

There are so many things I love about Costa Rica that it can be quite a challenge to list them all. But the one thing at the top of my list often catches others off guard. My number one? As a 40-something woman living in Costa Rica? Costa Rica’s affordable healthcare.

That’s right, I’m in love with Costa Rica’s healthcare system. And I fell in love with it even more when I received my bill. 

I happen to be in a unique position to compare Costa Rica’s healthcare system with that of the United States since I birthed two babies, necessitating two C-sections, in two different countries, within 16 months of each other.  (Yes, I was busy!  When you wait until later in life to have children, you have to get on with the program!) 

In the summer of 2012, we welcomed our first child.  He was born in the United States at Northwestern’s prestigious Prentice Hospital in Chicago, one of the top hospitals in the country.  He was a breech baby, and so he had to be welcomed into this world via a scheduled C-section. 

Fifteen months later, my family and I were moving to Costa Rica, and I was expecting our second child.  As it turns out, our second child (our daughter) was also breech, necessitating a second scheduled C-section. 

I must admit, I was initially nervous about having our child in Costa Rica.  Before the move, I tried to calm my fears by conducting relentless research.  I probably went a little overboard in the process.  I researched the quality of health care in Costa Rica, spent countless hours determining whether my U.S. insurance would cover the procedure, personally visited all private hospitals in the Central Valley, and even flew down to Costa Rica to interview doctors. 

Here is what I found.

Costa Rica’s second largest industry is medical tourism. People come from all over the world for Costa Rica’s affordable quality healthcare. For any procedures not otherwise covered by insurance (including pre-existing conditions), dental care, and elective surgery, Costa Rica is the place to be. 

Costa Rica’s Central Valley has several excellent private hospitals from which to choose.  We ended up choosing the world-renowned CIMA Hospital, located in the upscale San José suburb of Escazú. Still, we had no shortage of other quality options, including Hospital Clínica Bíblica and Hospital Clínica La Católica.  All of these hospitals are top-notch and are accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI).    

Costa Rica has a wonderful selection of qualified doctors from all over the world.  After my round of interviews, we ended up choosing Dr. Daniel Nisman, who was by all accounts wonderful.  His knowledge of obstetrics was outshined only by his excellent demeanor.  He was always available, answered all our  questions thoughtfully, and graciously and safely brought our daughter into this world.   Thank you, Dr. Nisman!

Many procedures in Costa Rica’s private hospitals are covered by insurance.  I’m happy to report that my hospital, CIMA Hospital, was considered an “in-network” hospital for purposes of my insurance.   And so I was covered—for 90% of the costs—by my United States insurer.

Costa Rica puts the “affordable” in affordable quality health care.  Even though I was covered by my insurance, I received the total bills, pre-insurance payments, for the births of each of my children.  My total bill for a C-section in the United States at Northwestern’s Prentice Hospital, including doctor and hospital care, was $26,000.  My total bill for the exact same procedure in Costa Rica at CIMA Hospital, including doctor and hospital care, was $6,000.  And I'm pleased to report that I received the same quality treatment from my doctors and nurses at CIMA Hospital as I did from those at Northwestern. 

Of course, I was covered by insurance for both procedures for the majority of the costs.  Still, my insurance covered only 90% of each of my procedures.  So while I paid $2,600 in out-of-pocket expenses for the birth of my son in the United States, I paid only $600 in out-of-pocket expenses for the birth of my daughter in Costa Rica. 

How do I love thee, Costa Rica?  Let me count the ways!

Reserva Conchal: Luxury Living in a Clean, Green Space

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By Karl Kahler

Reserva Conchal is one of the finest beachfront resorts in Central America, and they say those who buy property here may find their lives fundamentally transformed.

Oneness with nature is the mantra at this sprawling eco-resort, which boasts 2,300 acres of green and developed space, a world-class golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones II, the Marriott-branded Westin and W hotels, and the most beautiful beach in Costa Rica.

It’s also home to over a dozen housing developments, each with its own style and character, featuring ready-to-build lots, single-family homes and luxury condominiums. Whether you’re ready to move your family to Costa Rica or you’re looking for a vacation home to generate rental income, Conchal offers an astonishing inventory of sumptuous options.

Sometimes compared to the Four Seasons farther north, Reserva Conchal offers a distinct advantage over Papagayo in that it’s close to towns, grocery stores, reasonably priced restaurants, schools, medical clinics and banks. Located just south of Brasilito, Conchal is a short drive from all these conveniences, and it’s about an hour from the international airport in Liberia.

Playa Conchal, often called the prettiest beach in the country, has sand made of tiny fragments from white seashells crushed by erosion. It faces a beautiful, warm bay along a striking crescent of coastline surrounded by frog-green foliage.

Reserva Conchal offers a 96-acre wildlife reserve with hiking and biking trails. It has over a dozen restaurants, a first-rate beach club, two luxury spas, fitness centers and an adventure park with ziplining and horseback riding.

This is the kind of place that gives you few reasons to leave.

New developments

Below are the latest offerings from Reserva Conchal, launched in 2022.

SOLARIS: 42 ocean-view condominiums with 4 residential towers, known as Acacia, Caoba, Poró and Surá, including 8 penthouses, done in a tropical contemporary style. Penthouses are 400 square meters; the other 34 residences are 270 square meters. Each unit will have 3-4 bedrooms and 2 parking spaces, with floor-to-ceiling windows and big balconies. Common area includes sunset lounge and barbecue area, pool, Jacuzzi, fitness center and yoga deck. Construction begins in December, with three buildings expected to be completed in 12–16 months, and the fourth building six months later.

SAUCO: 17 forest-view lots secluded in pristine natural surroundings. No building time limit, low HOA fees, titled and fee-simple ownership, inside a gated community with 24/7 security. Expected to be ready July/August 2023, starting at $384,000.

GUAYACAN REAL: A view from the heights, with 10 homesites and impressive ocean views. Lots range from 1,334 to 2,715 square meters and start at $915,000.

PUNTA SABANA: A development parcel billed as an “exotic extension” of Playa Conchal, on a ridge that rises from the ocean to the northwest. Not yet for sale.

Existing residential developments

Conchal’s residential communities are all named after Costa Rican flowers. Here’s a brief overview of the existing communities here, listed in the order they were built.

BOUGAINVILLEA (2002): These 62 condominiums feature a Spanish colonial design, high ceilings and French doors with big balconies facing the sea and the sunset. Bougainvillea is known for its community, as many families live here full-time.

MELINAS (2005): Offers buyers the freedom to design and build private residences on 12 lots.

MALINCHE (2006): 27 Spanish colonial condominiums on a hilltop with panoramic views of the golf course and ocean. These homes have a common swimming pool and are flanked by six luxury villas with three or four bedrooms, with private Jacuzzis and pools.

CARAO (2007): Five towers with six units each and 12 luxury villas, with terraces and balconies, and golf and ocean views.

JOBO (2008): 18 condominium units in a tropical contemporary style, popular for their proximity to the Beach Club.

LLAMA DEL BOSQUE (2010): 41 spacious single-family lots for you to build your dream home.

CORTEZ AMARILLO (2013): Five high-end lots allow you to enjoy the breathtaking view of the sunset and ocean from a state-of-the-art tropical contemporary home.

ROBLE SABANA (2014): Affordably priced condos of one to three bedrooms with expansive views of the ocean and golf course.

AROMO (2016): Three lots and six townhomes on high ground, yet close to all amenities, with ocean views all the way to Flamingo.

COCOBOLO (2020): Five exclusive lots with some of the longest ocean views in all of Reserva Conchal.

W RESIDENCES (2020): 14 lots to build W-branded, cantilevered homes, inspired by luxury hotel living and designed by renowned Costa Rican architect Ronald Zurcher.

CEIBO (2021): A new homesite area designed to push the limits of what it means to live in the core of Reserva Conchal.

Come see for yourself

Give us a call at Krain Costa Rica and we’ll be happy to arrange a tour of Reserva Conchal. (FYI, you’ll need a guide, a reservation or a contact inside to get past the security guards.)

You really have to see this place to appreciate its size, luxury and magnificent natural beauty.

If you like, spend a couple of nights at the all-inclusive, 406-room Westin Golf Resort & Spa, or stay at the stylish and irreverent 150-room W Hotel. If you’re considering buying real estate in Costa Rica, take some time to soak this place in.

You won’t be disappointed, and you won’t find it easy to leave. They aren’t just selling houses here, they’re selling a new outlook on life.

Wheels or No Wheels? Buying a Car in Costa Rica

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By Karl Kahler


Buying a car in Costa Rica takes a little bit of legwork, a fair amount of nerve and usually quite a bit of money. But if you’re planning on living here very long, you may find that having your own wheels is virtually essential.

I’ve lived here eight years, and I’ve bought two cars and sold two cars. The first was probably the best investment of my life — I bought a 1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara for $5,000, used it for seven years, and sold it for $3,500. My second car, a 2012 Nissan Murano, cost quite a bit more and … well, I love it when it’s working right.

If you’re thinking about buying a car in Costa Rica, here are some things to consider:

• How long do you plan to live here? If you’re looking at six months or so, you can find alternatives. But if you’re planning to stay for years, you’re probably going to get tired of taking the bus or searching for taxis.

• Do you live in the Central Valley, on the coast or in the boondocks? The metropolitan area of San José, Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago has lots of public transportation options: buses, taxis, Ubers, even trains. But outside the densely populated center of the country, your options will be more limited, involving longer wait times and often higher fares.

• Does your lifestyle (or your work) require you to be highly mobile, or do you not have a lot of transportation needs? Are you the kind of person who wants to go where you want when you want, without having to depend on anyone else? If so, you probably want your own car.

Can I drive or ship my own car to Costa Rica?

When my mother died in Arkansas in 2015, she left behind a gorgeous 2012 Nissan Altima. My brother and I both lived in Costa Rica, and we bought round-trip flights to the funeral. But we liked her car so much we decided to forfeit our return tickets and drive the car home.

And so we did — visiting seven countries in seven days (U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica). We never felt unsafe, though border crossings were always a bit stressful. Shipping the car by sea would have been another option.

However, Costa Rica’s import duties for used cars can be punitively high. According to “In most cases, importing a new or used vehicle will cost about the same — if not more — than buying a similar car in Costa Rica. … In addition to the $1000+ freight cost to ship your foreign car, the Costa Rican government taxes all imported vehicles 45%-85%.”

Unless you are so attached to your car you could barely live without it, I would recommend selling it and buying a new one in Costa Rica.

By the way, we eventually sold my mom’s car, which we managed to do fairly easily by advertising it on the classified ad site Encuentra24.

Buying a car in Costa Rica

Shortly after moving to Costa Rica in 2015 (but before my mother died), I met a German woman in Tamarindo named Johanna who needed to sell her 1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara because she was returning to Germany.

She was asking $5,500, but I talked her down to $5,000. She was a motivated seller because she already had her tickets to Germany, and she certainly couldn’t take the car on the plane.

So if you want to buy a used car in Costa Rica, the first sneaky trick I propose is that you find an expat who HAS to sell their car because they’re leaving. Try prowling expat “buy and sell” sites on Facebook.

Funny story, though: The door of the glove box on the passenger side wouldn’t latch, so the glove box was always open. I told Johanna I would buy the car if she fixed that first. She delivered the car with Super Glue sealing the glove box closed forever. Ha ha! German ingenuity.

The Blue Demon and me

I nicknamed my car the “Blue Demon,” and I drove it everywhere. I managed to get a job as travel editor of the Tico Times, and I spent two years visiting every major tourist destination in Costa Rica (except the top of Mount Chirripó).

The Blue Demon shuttled me across rivers, up and down mountains, along beaches and even one time to the Four Seasons, where the valet parkers undoubtedly thought this was the dirtiest car they had ever parked.

Over the years I replaced batteries, tires and brakes, but the car never gave me a problem that was too costly to fix. Yet by 2022, my constant companion of seven years was feeling her age, and I decided it was time to let go. Plus, my next-door neighbor wanted to buy my car, so all I needed to do was find a new one.

My girlfriend’s savvy sister Hannia said, “If you want to buy a car in Costa Rica, you have to go to Grecia.” Named for ancient Greece, this little town in Alajuela is the undisputed car-sales capital of Costa Rica.

And sure enough, after one long day of searching in Grecia with two women, two chihuahuas and a mechanic, I had closed a deal on an immaculate 2012 Nissan Murano that cost 7.5 million colones ($13,350). It was a little older than I wanted, but it had everything I was looking for: 4-wheel drive, automatic transmission and air conditioning. Yet it was half the price of many cars we looked at.

The car came with a 2-month warranty, which I had to use to repair a leak in the rear that let water in when it rained. At this point I had second thoughts about buying in Grecia, since I live in Flamingo, about five hours away. In addition to the drive, we ended up having to pay for a hotel for three nights while they fixed the car.

So while the selection in Grecia is unsurpassed, there can be an advantage in buying closer to home in case you ever need to take the car back to the same dealer. In some cases, the drive and the hotel might cost you more than paying for the repair yourself where you live.

Costs of owning a car

Every vehicle owner has to pay two annual obligations called the marchamo and the Riteve. (Actually the Riteve is now known as Dekra, after a German company took over from a Spanish company to provide vehicle inspections.)

The marchamo is part registration fee and part insurance fee, covering bodily injury to people in your vehicle in case of an accident. Depending on the age and value of your car, this might cost a few hundred dollars (though I read of one 2018 Porsche that paid 8.8 million colones, or almost $16,000). Also, the insurance is minimal and doesn’t cover liability to other vehicles, so it’s really a good idea to buy additional insurance that does.

The Riteve/Dekra is an annual vehicle inspection fee that is frighteningly thorough. Back in California, I had to take my car in every two years for a quick check of its emissions. But in Costa Rica, this annual ritual involves an inspection of the emissions, tires, drivetrain, steering, brakes, headlights, turn signals, brake lights and seat belts. If any of this doesn’t pass inspection, you have to repair or replace it.

After paying the marchamo and passing the vehicle inspection, you’ll get two new stickers to put on your windshield. If your stickers aren’t current, the traffic police can pull you over and take away your license plates.

Driving in Costa Rica

I find it pretty easy to drive in most parts of Costa Rica, though in the pell-mell Central Valley it can often be stressful and confusing.

A few idiosyncrasies of the roads here: One-lane bridges are common, requiring one side to yield to the other before crossing. Most roads are only one lane each way, and sometimes you have to pass slow-moving trucks on hilly roads. The roads here rarely have shoulders, so you’ll often encounter bicycles, pedestrians and even cows and horses in the road.

Another oddity is intersections that have both stop signs and traffic signals. If the light is green, just ignore the stop sign and roll right through.

Also, drivers frequently stop right in the road to pick up or drop off passengers, conduct some roadside business or even chat with a pedestrian. This can lead to frustrating delays, especially if there’s room to pull off the road and they just don’t bother.

But all in all, these challenges are manageable. In my book, the pluses of owning a car in Costa Rica far outweigh the minuses.

By the way, I sold my Grand Vitara to my next-door neighbor for 2 million colones ($3,500). We had to pay a lawyer 150,000 ($230) to make it official, as it’s oddly impossible to buy a used car in Costa Rica without a lawyer.

So now I have a new car, but I can still see my old car in my neighbor’s parking lot from my bedroom window. It’s almost like having a new wife, but your old wife is still living next door!

But so far, we’re pretty happy with our new relationships.

KRAIN Welcomes Brian Smith | Atenas Highlands Real Estate Group

Brian Smith Atenas Highlands Real Estate Group Krain Real Estate.jpg

KRAIN Press Release    ---DATELINE Atenas, Costa Rica May 1, 2023---

Well known Costa Rica-based KRAIN Luxury Real Estate offices are pleased to announce a new addition to their firm, Mr. Brian Smith, a veteran real estate agent with substantial U.S. and Costa Rica experience.


Smith joins the firm with a solid decades-long career in real estate along with a quarter century of living and thriving in Costa Rica. A Pennsylvania native and U.S. University honors graduate, Smith has been a long-time citizen of Costa Rica while building a storehouse of knowledge along the way.


Mr. Smith’s real estate specialty areas include beachfront properties, luxury residential estates including homes, offices, and condominiums and with investment parcels. His detailed knowledge of local markets including Atenas, Grecia, Orotina, La Garita (including the prestigious Los Reyes community) and more, open doors to new locations for KRAIN customers and marks him as a truly effective agent.  


Bian’s bilingual (English Spanish) abilities provide yet another layer of security for his clients through his abilities to communicate with local buyers and sellers, making him a truly international real estate agent.


Finally, Mr. Smith credits his success and longevity in the real estate field to his dedicated adherence to personal and National Association of Realtors (NAR) ethics throughout his career.


Peter Breitlander, KRAIN Co-Founder (along with his wife Sarah) said “Naturally we are excited to bring Mr. Smith on board and look forward to a long and fruitful association. Brian’s dedication to NAR ethics reflects those of KRAIN while his unbridled enthusiasm for Costa Rica is contagious. We feel Brian will bring our customers the highest level of customer service and quality real estate services possible.


For more information about Brian Smith, visit his bio page

You can contact Brian Smith directly at