Maybe you’re planning to retire in Costa Rica or simply have a Costa Rica vacation home. You’ve bought a beautiful property in Costa Rica and now you’re building your dream home. The most important time for planning is the beginning stage of construction. This is when you need to thinkahead about all of the features you would like in your new home – music system, alarm system, air-conditioning, appliances, aesthetic details, etc. Rather than wood framing and drywall, home construction in Costa Rica is mostly solid concrete walls and floors. So, all of your electrical and plumbing planning has to be done at the outset of construction when the conduits are being prepared. Even if you’re not sure you are going to want a certain feature, plan for it in the beginning so you’re prepared when you decide later that you do. Breaking concrete walls to install wiring or piping is not only labor intensive, it can be terribly expensive.
If you’re moving from the United States, there are many features that you may be used to having in a home that are either not done in Costa Rica or not easy to find. You should know this ahead of time so you can understand your home construction, and also in case you need to bring that hard-to-find element with you from the States.
1. For instance, it is not common to have central heating or central air-conditioning systems in homes in Costa Rica. Central heating doesn’t exist and central air-conditioning is a specialty item that would have to be ordered by a specialty company. Wall unit air conditioners are the norm.
2. If you live in a place like Atenas, Costa Rica, you don’t want air-tight seals on your doors and windows because it will interrupt the flow of breezes during the day and hot air going out at night when it cools down. You definitely don’t want to trap heat or cold in your house, or trap humidity. This is specific to Costa Rica’s Central Valley and mountain regions where people don’t often use air-conditioning since temperatures are cooler; as compared to the beach areas which need air-tight homes for efficient air-conditioning use. A lot of people are worried about bugs, but in the tropics, insects are part of life.
3. If you’re from the USA, you are probably used to having a garbage disposal in your kitchen. However, until just recently, you couldn’t buy a garbage disposal in Costa Rica; they are now sold at EPA hardware stores. To be safe, if you want one in your new home, bring what you need from the U.S. But remember to let your builder know at the initial stage of your house construction so that the proper electrical wiring and extra switch are planned for and installed.
4. If you want a high-tech or surround sound music system in your house, or a security alarm system, again, make sure your builder knows at the outset to plan for the wiring in the wall conduits. Or you will end up with wiring on the outside of your walls.
5. Water softeners are not common practice in Costa Rica. You will need to plan ahead for this because of the plumbing, and the systems are hard to get in Costa Rica.
6. Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), or Residual Current Devices (RCD) – a common element in U.S. homes – are not found in Costa Rica. You will need to bring these with you from the U.S. if you want them in your home. A GFCI device is an electrical outlet that shuts off the electric power circuit when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path, such as through water or a person, or there is a short circuit with an appliance.
7. Like the idea of a decorative gas fireplace in your Costa Rica mountain home? Plan ahead and either specialty order it in Costa Rica or bring it from the States. They are hard to find here.
8. When choosing lighting for your home, choose lamps and lights that use common size light bulbs. Otherwise you’ll be searching for forever for that specialty light bulb to fit that funky imported lamp you bought.
HOMES IN ATENAS, COSTA RICA
Atenas, Costa Rica is not only known as a best place for international retirement, but also a fun vacation destination for its ideal location halfway between the capital city of San José and Pacific Coast beaches. Contact Atenas Costa Rica realtors Dennis Easters and Gerardo Porras Gonzalez at Pure Life Development of Atenas for your Atenas Costa Rica real estate needs. For more information about Atenas, check out the Guide to Living in Atenas, Costa Rica and the recent list of restaurants in Atenas.
Article by Shannon Farley
Costa Rica Realtors Chamber
Tours in Costa Rica
Pure Life Development of Atenas is a full service tour company. We feature full vacation packages and day trips for the family. Our tour director Nelson Conejo is very experienced and provides a personal service and attention to detail second to none in Costa Rica. Please write Nelson or give him a call to arrange your next Costa Rican vacation at (506)2446-0447 or
Retirement Living in Atenas
Interview with Pure Life Development co-founder and certified realtor Dennis Easters, about Costa Rica ranked by AARP as "one of the best places to retire abroad".