A Fresh Start in Costa Rica
For decades, Costa Rica has drawn enterprising expats and part-time retirees who want to earn an income while enjoying a relaxing, affordable life overseas.
The reason the country is so popular with expat entrepreneurs is that it allows foreigners to own businesses and land outright, using just their passport. So, it is not unusual in Costa Rica to meet expats who are running boutique hotels, restaurants, cafés, gyms, spas, or other ventures. Now to be clear, you are not permitted to work for a “salary” prior to acquiring permanent residency, which you can apply for after three years of temporary residency. But expats can run businesses and, of course, collect the profits.
Take the example of Chip and Jennifer Little. They moved to Costa Rica from North Carolina in August 2015 and later launched a golf cart rentals company. Their business, Rent a Golf Cart Costa Rica, turned a profit in its first year. So they invested in additional golf carts, doubling their capacity. Today, the business provides all the income they need to live a comfortable life in this tropical expat haven.
The couple say they’ve found the local business environment to be welcoming and supportive. “We have not had problems with any government bureaucracy. We have a really good attorney and accountant,” says Chip.
Back in the States, Chip and Jennifer both worked in high-stress jobs, in real estate development and media sales, respectively. Now, thanks to their golf cart business, stress is a distant memory. Chip and Jennifer settled in Potrero, a quiet fishing village, and have plenty of free time to soak up everything Costa Rica has to offer, from golf and the delectable local cuisine, to leisurely sunset strolls on the beach.
Another couple who found business success in Costa Rica are American expats Casey Siemasko and Dan Moore. They arrived in Costa Rica with just two backpacks and no intention of staying long term. Once they’d spent some time in Costa Rica, however, they knew they’d found a place they could call home.
In December 2017, the couple opened Mosaic, a wine bar and restaurant in a small town called Uvita on the Pacific Coast of southern Costa Rica. The business is operated by Casey with Dan’s sister, Sarah Moore, and showcases regional produce and a variety of imported wines.
The couple say there is a vibrant expat community in Uvita. The beautiful region is popular with digital nomads, and Dan and Casey, who also run a profitable online blog, note that it’s great to have the support of other expat entrepreneurs. “We have impromptu brainstorming sessions and help each other out,” says Casey.
Costa Rica has been growing in popularity among digital nomads in recent years thanks to its attractive mix of excellent infrastructure, stunning climate, and amazing affordability. In Costa Rica, there are also zero income taxes on foreign-earned income.
Across the country, you’ll find expats earning as remote workers or from all kinds of internet ventures. Among these is online life coach Mike Sassarossi. Although he has the freedom to live and work anywhere in the world, Mike told me that he chose Costa Rica so he can spend his free time swimming in the tropical waters and exploring the spectacular natural countryside on his motorcycle.
Since 2017, Missouri native Brittany Braucher has been working remotely as an accountant for a U.S. construction management company from the resort town of Tamarindo. She told me that not only is her quality of life here better, but thanks to the significantly lower cost of living, she is able to build her nest egg for retirement.
With its solid infrastructure and attractive business ownership laws and tax regime, it’s easy to see why Costa Rica is such a big draw among expat entrepreneurs and digital nomads. If you’re looking for a fresh start this year, then maybe you too can find it in Costa Rica.
By Kathleen Evans