Retire In Belize Vs Costa Rica

When it comes to retiring for cheap, leaving the United States to a cheaper region is possible and two places worth considering are Belize and Costa Rica.

Key Takeaways

  • Costa Rica is the better retirement destination compared to Belize because it has a bigger expat community with more cities to settle into.
  • The Belize retirement visa also requires a $2,000 per month in income compared to only $1,000 per month for the Costa Rica retirement visa.
  • Costa Rica is also a much safer area to settle into and it’s considered one of the best international locations in the world for Americans to retire.

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When it comes to retiring for cheap, leaving the United States to a cheaper region is possible and two places worth considering are Belize and Costa Rica.

Retiring in Belize is cheaper and the country is known as a popular banking hub with low taxes for foreigners. English is also the primary language so it’s easier to meet people. Costa Rica is more expensive but it has better infrastructure, better safety, and there is a larger expat community.

For anybody looking to retire in a remote location with a tropical climate, then Belize and Costa Rica are two good places to consider. Both countries have a high quality of life, friendly communities, and stable governments. All information and research below has been compiled by experts in the region with travel experience to both countries too.

Table of Contents

Retire Belize Vs Costa Rica

The primary reason most people choose Belize or Costa Rica to retire is because of its proximity to the U.S and amazing benefits like low taxes, safety, affordability, and much more.

Both countries are tropical, so you can expect warm weather year-round. Belize and Costa Rica offer a convenient location so you can travel easily to other parts of Central America or even to South America.

They also have stable governments and are considered safe destinations for retirees. Belize and Costa Rica have a high quality of life for both retirees and their medical facilities are modern and well-equipped.

Let’s take a look at how both countries stack up in some of the most critical categories for retirees to consider.


Both Belize and Costa Rica are considered safe destinations for retirees. There are no restrictions on travel within the country and there are no areas of concern.

However, based on experiences in the countries and according to the US government, Costa Rica is the safer location with only a level 1 rating while Belize has a level 2 rating.

Both countries have a low murder rate, stable government, and police force that is well-trained and equipped to deal with any potential issues that could arise.

Retirees can expect a low crime rate and both countries are ranked as the safest places to retire in Central America.


Another reason why both Belize and Costa Rica are popular destinations for retiring Americans is the tax situation. Both Belize and Costa Rica enforce zero taxes on all income derived outside of the country.

This means payments from social security or stock dividends are untaxed. Retired persons inside both of these countries have no taxes to worry about in the country, but all US citizens are required to file taxes.


The primary form of health care in Belize and Costa Rica is public health care, which is provided and paid for by the government. However, there are some drawbacks like longer waits and less reliable services.

Costa Rica has much better healthcare and it’s often considered a medical tourism destination for cheaper procedures. The prices for private healthcare in Costa Rica are extremely affordable too.

Belize has much more basic healthcare and we recommend avoiding Belize as a retirement destination for anybody with special medical conditions.


Retirees can choose to live in a small town or in a large city in either of these countries. Both Belize and Costa Rica have a very stable and friendly community.

However, Costa Rica is larger and there is a much more extensive expat community with tons of Americans in different cities.

It’s possible to find a place that meets each person’s needs and preferences, whether it is in Belize or Costa Rica. Both countries have suitable retirement communities, but Costa Rica wins this category.


The lifestyle in Belize feels much more like life on an Island because of the access to the Caribbean sea and smaller communities. The country is 2.2 times smaller than Costa Rica.

Life in Costa Rica can vary based on the city. It’s possible to live a faster paced life in a city like San Jose or a slower life with lots of beach life in one of the coastal cities.

Visa Requirements

In Costa Rica, the Pensionado Visa is available to anybody earning a lifetime pension of $1,000 per month or more. This includes any type of income like Social Security.

The Qualified Retirement Program in Belize is similar and available to anybody aged 45 or older, but monthly income must be at least $2,000 per month or $24,000 annually.

Both countries don’t require much for retirees to relocate. These visas offer lifetime residency in the country as long as the minimum requirements continue to be met.

Why Choose Belize To Retire

Belize is one of the most popular retirement destinations in Central America. The country is rich in culture and hosts a wide variety of traditions and festivals that make it a unique place to call home. Belize is also a good place to retire because it is very affordable.

They have no taxes for foreign income for retired residents in the country. There are some  expat communities in Belize to meet other retirees and make friends in the area too.

We have listed some of the primary reasons why somebody should choose to retire in Belize instead of Costa Rica.

Cheaper Alternative

When comparing the same budget, it stretches much further in Belize than Costa Rica. This is one reason why many people do decide to retire in Belize.

It’s easier to live on or near the beach for cheap and local goods are less expensive. Costa Rica is a bit more expensive.

Primary Language Is English

The other great thing about Belize is that the primary language is English. This doesn't mean all people speak English, but over 60% of the population does and it’s much easier to get by only knowing English.

This is helpful for people who don’t know Spanish or any other second languages. Life is easier this way for many retirees too.

Secure And Reliable Banking

Lastly, the banking in Belize is secure and reliable. It’s also a popular off-shore banking destination for Americans and businesses because of their friendly policies.

The system is designed to protect assets while allowing for excellent money and asset diversification. For people retiring here, they don’t need to worry about economic collapses or banking issues either.

Cons of Retiring in Belize

In general, Costa Rica has more to offer than Belize and there are certainly some downsides to retiring in Belize. We have listed a few of the most notable ones below for anybody considering the country.

Higher Crime Rate

Belize has a higher crime rate than Costa Rica, but this doesn't mean it’s dangerous. Generally, it’s extremely safe and retirees and tourists have nothing to worry about.

However, the murder rate of 34 murders per 100K population is higher than surrounding countries and it’s certainly higher than Costa Rica. But most of these crimes occur in the southern areas of Belize City which are avoided by retirees anyways.

Impoverished Country

Belize is not a very wealthy country and many areas struggle with extreme poverty. In fact, it’s considered the 36th most impoverished country.

This translates to 41 percent of the country living under the poverty line. Once again, these numbers get skewed by specific regions which are easily avoided for most tourists and retirees.

Low Quality Healthcare

The country’s health care system is underfunded and there are shortages in staff and supplies. However, it is affordable and available to everyone, but it is reported that the quality of care is not very good.

It’s also much worse compared to Costa Rica, especially for specialty care. Belize is not the most recommended retirement destination for anybody with serious health conditions.

Why Choose Costa Rica To Retire

Costa Rica is a popular retirement destination for many people and has a lot to offer residents of all ages. The country has a stable government, modern healthcare facilities, and rich history and culture.

In Costa Rica, retirees are entitled to certain benefits. They are exempt from paying taxes on their pensions, and they don’t have to pay for their health care.

Some of the best places to retire in Costa Rica include San Jose, Samara, and Arenal. These are some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, but they are also great places to live if you are looking to retire.

Below are some of the benefits of choosing Costa Rica as a retirement location.

Safer To Live Long-Term

Costa Rica is much safer to live long-term and violent crime is rare. It’s easy to avoid the dangerous areas in the major cities and most surrounding towns and cities near the beaches see very little crime.

More Advanced Infrastructure

Costa Rica also boasts much more advanced infrastructure compared to Belize. This results in better real estate options and an overall improved lifestyle.

Larger Expat Community

Lastly, the large expat community is well-known in Costa Rica because of the history for expats relocating here during retirement. There are some towns and cities overrun by expats too.

It’s possible to live isolated away from these communities or move into these communities to build relationships with other American citizens too.

Cons of Retiring in Costa Rica

We do love Costa Rica as the better retirement destination when compared to Belize. However, we cannot go without mentioning some of the negatives too.

Spanish Is The Primary Language

For any Americans considering Costa Rica, it’s worth noting that Spanish is the primary language here. It’s possible to find local communities with English speakers but conversational Spanish makes life easier.

This turns away some people who are unwilling to learn the language or those who fear a decreased quality of life because of the language barrier.

Long And Harsh Rainy Season

One common complaint about Costa Rica is the extensive rainy season. However, despite the rain the area is not known for any high-level weather events like hurricanes.

The rain is negative, but this is the worst anybody retiring in Costa Rica should expect. It lasts from May through November and reaches its peak in October.

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