You’ve made the big leap. You’ve found a place you love, made the move, and now you’re sitting in your own personal paradise. Congratulations! Now that the dust has settled, you may be wondering what to do now that you’re really here.

We’ve witnessed many people make the big transition of retiring in Costa Rica, and we’ve learned that there are a few important things to keep in mind. Here’s seven ways to spend your first seven days in Costa Rica.

  1. Learn Spanish. Not everyone who retires in Costa Rica learns Spanish, but those who do have a much deeper and more fulfilling experience here. Learning the local language allows for sharing, expanding, and understanding that would otherwise be impossible. It allows you to more easily connect with the locals, get things done much more simply, and feel at ease in your new home. Plus, learning Spanish is a sign of respect for the people here.
  2. Get to know the locals. It can be easy to stay on the periphery of the local community and make strong friendships only with other ex-patriots. This is understandable, but we find that those who make strong attempts (often requiring much bravery at first, especially for those who don’t already know Spanish) have a much more fulfilling experience. Integrating with the local community leads to strong friendships that expand boundaries, open minds, and warm hearts.
  3. Find local community groups. One way to get involved with both the ex-pat and the local community is to find local community groups, especially those oriented towards service. In Arenal, there is a weekly Spanish breakfast where ex-pats gather to practice Spanish and catch up. There are frequent spay/neuter clinics for dogs and cats in the area. Look around to see where you might belong, and ask around.
  4. Enjoy nature. Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen. You probably agree if you’ve chosen to retire here. One of the most fulfilling parts about living here is simply breathing the fresh, green air. Take a walk, or just sit outside. Choose an activity that suits you and do it every morning. You’ll be glad you did.
  5. With so much available to do, it’s easy to forget about relaxing. But what’s the use of a tropical paradise if you can’t take a good nap right in the middle of it? Give yourself permission to relax in the midst of attending to all the parts of living in a new country.
  6. Plant a garden and fruit trees. One of the best parts about retiring in Costa Rica is that fruit trees will grow in no time. Plant a few bananas, papayas, and mangoes, and reap the rewards soon after.
  7. Find a waterfall. Waterfalls are abundant, majestic, and relaxing. Find one. Sit by it. Sit in it. Let it pound your shoulders. Read a book. Swim. Enjoy life.

These are our suggestions as to how to spend your first week of retirement in Costa Rica. But of course things change, and you have to trust your own sense of what is best.