Oh, I didn't see this thread and posted on another that I was surprised there was no Central American tribe. This is a good start!
I am married to a Costa Rican and we are moving back there in a year, possibly sooner, to make our lives there. We lived there for two years in Santa Ana (Central Valley) but our property is near the coast in Guanacaste. We are planning to build something there and live off the income from our hotel or commercial centro or whatever we decide to build. We just bought a house here in the U.S. too about a year and a half ago but we just don't see the point of being here anymore. In Costa Rica we can hire a maid and even a nanny if our business venture succeeds, which it should. Here we are just kind of stagnating. Dh's job is awful and pays peanuts and we live paycheck to paycheck. Our life in Costa Rica was waayy better and despite the cons of living there, the pros outweight the pros of living here by far.
One thing that concerns me is a growing crime rate in Costa Rica. When I met dh there in 2001, crime was only of the petty sort, and we camped out n the jungle near the beach and left all of our belongings there for two months and nothing was ever stolen. Most importantly, we always felt safe even though we were quite isolated. Things have really changed in 5-6 years. Crime has become more violent, and there is not an adequate police force due to lack of resources. My SIL had four armed bandits enter her home with machine guns and rob her blind. Thankfully, they left her alone (mostly). This happened in Santa Ana near Escazu. We haven't heard of many incidents like this in Guanacaste (the northern Pacific coast). A lot of people live in gated communities because of the home invasion robbery issue in the Central Valley.
I hope I didn't scare anyone away yet! We are still going. I was watching the news tonight and crime is up all across the U.S., and it seems that it is a worldwide thing. You just need common sense and know what you need to do to best protect your family. Some things are more obvious than others. Don't leave your belongings on the beach or they may not be there when you get back. But then there are things that you may never have thought of. It is a nation with a long legacy of thievery, it is in the people's blood, or so dh insists. There is a reason why most homes have bars on their windows and guys watch your car, when you park in the street, for a small tip. That said, Costa Rica is still a lot safer than Guatemala or Honduras, for example.
I just think there are bad people everywhere, really. If things progressed to a point where I did not feel safe in my own home then I would leave, but at this moment, I think we could do a lot better financially, emotionally and otherwise in CR than in the U.S., given that we have struggled for 3 years here to achieve the "American dream". Good jobs have been impossible to come by, and so now we move on to plan B. I'm also a writer and I feel so much more inspired in CR. Every day it seemed brought about a new sensation of aliveness, an awakening of all my senses, and profound contemplations about life provoked by the people, who are both simple and complex, humble and proud, passionate and composed, and the indescribable nature that is so beautiful as to bring tears to your eyes. From a poetic standpoint, CR is heavenly. From a practical standpoint, it can be aggravating for some, but statistically speaking, about half of the people who move there stay, and the other half find they can't hack it.
It is far easier for me "hack it" since dh is a native. It also helps to have a steady income of some kind coming in or be independently wealthy. You can teach English there, but you won't want to do it longterm. Dh and I stayed at a home and our only expenses were food and gas and entertainment, and we did fine on $500 a month. Rents are fairly cheap. Maids and nannies are very affordable. My friend, a single mom, lived there for 4 years and had a maid/nanny all day, 6 days a week for $250.00 a month. She cooked, cleaned, and cared for the child. My friend returned to the U.S, had a reality check, and now wants to go back to CR. You might complain about it, but you will miss it when it's gone. I miss the wonderful food, my daily breakfast of "gallo pinto" (rice and beans mixed together, lightly pan-fried), with tortillas and sour cream and a bit of hot sauce, and all the wonderful fruits. Most tropical fruits are naturally organic. They don't need pesticides. Bananas, mangos, pineapple and coconut are all in this category. Most areas of Costa Rica that have enough people will have an Automercado supermarket and these supply quite a few imported things that Americans and other foreigners can't live without. I imagine if the free-trade agreement passes, many more things will be available, and for cheaper.
So, for me, Costa Rica represents a chance at a lifestyle I could never afford here, and the time is great to invest in the country. There are many different areas to live in. Many places have such perfect weather you need no heating or a/c ever. My medical and dental expenses have been wayyy lower than the States. In fact, I had 10 mercury amalgams replaced with resin, and a platinum crown put in, all for 1k. Here we can barely afford to have insurance, and the deductibles are ridiculous. They have a special at the Cima hospital in Costa Rica. It's to have your child there, regular delivery, all drugs included, if desired (i.e. epi), plus celebration dinner for two for $1500.00 US. I went to the ER there once for a stomach bug and my total cost was $150.00 including IV drip, blood tests, etc. I had giardia which they didn't know, but was later identified when we had our well water tested and the culprit was discovered.
Anyway, sorry to ramble on! It's neat that there are several mommas considering the move to CR. I know there are many, many young American families down there, particularly in the area we are moving to. Things are really changing there, for the better and the worst. I kind of somehow feel safer there, at least on a large scale, than the U.S., even though you have to be more cautious in CR about petty theft. It's a poor country, but it has no enemies either. I look forward to a new life there with my kids, challenges notwithstanding, and I will probably homeschool for awhile, but there is a new U.S. quality school being built that my dc will probably attend. Most of them are not cheap but you could probably work as a teacher at one and get decent pay plus free tuition for your kids. Also, homeschooling seems to be a more popular choice. Hope this info helps some. Feel free to ask me anything.