Entrepreneurship in Costa Rica

Excitement fills the air when the topic of business opportunity arises in any conversation, and buying or starting a business is all about finding the perfect fit for your future. Costa Rica presents an interesting opportunity and challenge for those who are willing to dive in. Most expats and locals who have made the move and started their own business or bought an existing business, have plenty of advice to give. While advice varies, what resonates is that there are real opportunities that await. After all, Costa Rica, although no longer an emerging market, is a market that is experiencing growth. The need for professional skills is increasing in order for that growth to flourish, especially in rural areas, such as Costa Ballena. Those who get in early, are the ones who will see the biggest gains.

While Costa Rica tends to be more expensive relative to other Central American countries, the advantages, such as political stability, access to education for the general population, and a mindset towards foreign investment, are well worth the prime. Businesses that create jobs are welcomed with open arms, particularly in areas with high unemployment. In addition, Costa Rica’s effective marketing campaigns have benefited the tourism industry and country as a whole. As tourists worldwide show growing concern for eco-tourist destinations, Costa Rica, being the world’s “poster child”, will certainly help all businesses operating in the country. Alongside the global economy showing signs of recovery, and climate change affecting weather patterns for much of Northern America, Costa Rica is well positioned.

Whether you’re looking to expand into new markets or simply planning on funding your retirement outside your home country, a few practical reminders can help kick start your venture:


• Learn current business practices. Cultural differences, ways of operating, language, each country has their unique characteristics. Approach business as if you were a newbie. Sit back and observe. There may be a reason locals operate in a specific way, learn the reasons why they do;

• Rely on local experts for legal counsel, taxation rules and regulatory requirements. Understand the legal implications of your purchase and rules that govern access to that country. Experts will be aware of the often changing regulations, customs, and tax issues Hiring help will lighten the load and speed up the transaction process;

• There are no short cuts, plenty of planning is required. Have a solid business plan. Plan for the unexpected. Cash remains king, plan to have enough cash on hand to ensure a smooth operation within the set up period. Time your purchase when the exchange rates are favourable. Determine how you intend to manage your business prior to purchase.

• Be aware of seasonality. Make an effort to visit at various times during the year to get a broad view. Plan for the high and low seasons. You will find those who are successful and live in the area year-round have multiple ventures on the go at any given time;

• Investing into a new area of business? Make it your hobby to learn about the ins and outs before you try to make it your livelihood. Plan a transition out of your current business, and try not to cut off income sources cold turkey – they may come in handy if unexpected expenses or setbacks come up;

• Learn Spanish. It will facilitate the experience and it could be what turns your business into a success. It’s a sign of respect towards the country, and Costa Ricans will appreciate the effort;

• Be mindful of your community. Businesses that show concern for the wellbeing of its members are well received. A community project can help you get introduced into the local circles and it helps forge new relationships and shows interest in the area not only for personal gain, which can open up doors for the future; and

• Be creative, versatile and flexible. Finding creative solutions at low cost is both challenging and rewarding. Have fun, think outside the box and go with the flow! Entrepreneurship is about effectively identifying an opportunity, working hard to develop it, and utilizing resources to make gains. Be true to your ambition and drive, the best business owners succeed, not because they stick to a rulebook, but because they look for ways to take initiative and create a path for themselves. This is entrepreneurship! Welcome to the land where ideas become possibilities.



You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” – Zig Zaglar

Photo by Mario Albi
Photo by Mario Albi

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