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What are hospitals in Costa Rica like?

Hospitals in Costa Rica: A Comprehensive Guide

Costa Rica is not just one of the happiest countries in the world but also one of the healthiest. The Tico Times reports  Bloomberg research paper that Costa Rica ranks as the healthiest country in Latin America and 24th in their world standings.



According to a 2018 Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica’s life expectancy of 80.3 years old and HPI score of 62.1 ranks #1, with Canada at #105 and the USA at #122. 



Most medical institutions outside of North America and Europe have a reputation for being in decline. Thus the condition of the country’s medical facilities may be a cause for concern to the unfamiliar. This is exceptionally reasonable for older citizens contemplating retirement in Costa Rica due to the country’s cheaper cost of living. While the “decline” may be the case in other nations, Costa Rican hospitals provide medical care comparable to most Western countries. Healthcare here is renowned for being among the finest in Latin America. 


Types of Hospitals in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a mix of public and private hospitals. Public hospitals are run by the government and are typically less expensive than private hospitals. However, they may have longer wait times and less advanced equipment. On the other hand, private hospitals run by private companies tend to have shorter wait times, more advanced equipment, and more luxurious amenities.


Quality of Care

The quality of care in Costa Rican hospitals is generally high. The country has a well-trained workforce of doctors and nurses, and international organizations have accredited many hospitals. The government also has strict regulations to ensure that hospitals meet specific quality standards.


Cosmetic Surgery

Costa Rica is particularly popular for its plastic surgery and dental work. The country has several highly skilled plastic surgeons and dentists, and the prices for these procedures are often much lower than in the United States and Canada. Other popular procedures in Costa Rica include weight loss surgery, orthopedics, and fertility treatments.


Language Barriers

Many of the hospitals in Costa Rica have a few staff members that speak English, but it’s always a good idea to bring a translator if you’re not fluent in Spanish. Additionally, many hospitals offer translation services to help communication between patients and medical staff.


Choosing a Hospital

When choosing a hospital in Costa Rica, it’s essential to do your research. Look into the hospital’s accreditation and reputation, as well as the qualifications and experience of the medical staff. You should also consider the hospital’s location and whether it offers the necessary procedures. Also, keep in mind any hospital outside of the central valley area will not be as well equipped.


The Condition of Healthcare in Costa Rica

Residents of Costa Rica and those with valid work permits are legally obliged to apply for the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, or CAJA. This is Costa Rica’s national healthcare program and is considered one of, if not “the” best public health insurance program in Latin America.

The healthcare system in Costa Rica has been recognized as one of the best in the world by The World Health Organization, which ranks the country 33rd, ahead of the United States, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, the United Nations ranks Costa Rica’s healthcare as one of the top 20 in the world.

According to a study by the world health organization, Costa Rica has a greater life expectancy than the United States because the health gradient is less severe, and lower socioeconomic groups in Costa Rica outperform their counterparts in the United States. This is thanks to the current healthcare system.


Tourism for Medical Purposes

The dozens of private hospitals and clinics providing quality treatments at reasonable costs have made Costa Rica a popular medical tourism destination, drawing around 20,000+ and growing individuals annually.

While medical tourism here is a relatively new phenomenon, it all arguably began with aesthetic (plastic surgery) and dental procedures in the early 2000s. Since then, the other sectors are increasingly gaining popularity. Particularly for various types of high-caliber surgical operations and other unique medical treatments. Typically, leading surgeons and physicians here have studied and gained professional experience overseas in the United States, Canada, or Europe.

Luckily for North Americans, Costa Rica is just a short flight away, with daily, frequent flights from the United States and Canada. Most Europeans and North Americans are exempt from strict visa requirements and are often granted up to 90 days on a tourist visa. As a result, it may also be an excellent chance to get to know this lovely country personally and save more money than if they had their medical procedures done at home.


Preexisting Conditions

The medical care from CAJA includes coverage for preexisting diseases, dentistry needs, eye care, and more for new residents. These procedures and more can be complimentary if a doctor deems the therapy received was necessary. Also, you may not be required to pay for some of your ongoing prescription needs if they are on the official drug list of CAJA.

Are you interested in becoming a Costa Rican resident and receiving healthcare for preexisting medical conditions? Fill out the quick 30-second assessment here from CRIE – Costa Rica Immigration Experts, and find out if you qualify for a residency category.



Costa Rica offers a high standard of healthcare and a wide variety of hospitals to choose from. The country has something to offer whether you’re looking for a specific medical procedure or a general check-up. Do your research and choose a hospital that meets your needs and preferences. You can expect quality care in public or private hospitals. With its many skilled doctors and nurses at a lower cost than the USA, Costa Rica can be an excellent option for medical tourism.


-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of Grupo Gap)

+506 8500-2085


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