Costa Rica Business Ideas for Expats

Thinking of throwing in the towel, tired of being bossed around and underappreciated by your boss or the company you work for? The Team at RE/MAX Tres Amigos in Playa Hermosa, came up with a list of Costa Rica business ideas we think would be profitable for the owner and good for the area as well.


We hear all the time from people that want a new adventure and a life in Costa Rica, “what can I do to make a buck”? Now I am not recommending you start a business that you know nothing about and I am not saying you are going to make a fortune, but that all depends on you and your work ethic. Most of us in the group have lived and worked in the area for an average of 10+ years, we see the opportunities that are needed.

Of course, there are a lot of legalities working in a foreign country and setting up a business. The most important thing I can tell you is you need good legal advice to help you do things correctly and legally. As an example, here in Costa Rica a foreigner cannot legally work until they have their full permanent residency, without restrictions or they must be sponsored by a corporation and can prove your skill set is something that cannot be filled by locals.  However, you are legally allowed to be the owner of a business, you just cannot take away the job of a local, that is until you have your full residency.

Below is the list of ideas we came up with and I placed a few comments after some of them

  1. Salad bar with all the fixings:

Fresh produce is abundant in Costa Rica and with great farmers market in Liberia this would do really well so long as you also promote to locals as a way of eating healthy.

  1. Home Inspection Company:

Being in the Real estate industry we do have 2 options we offer our clients but would really like more.

  1. Pet Sitting Service:

I know many expats that adopt loving Tico dogs and cats but they like to travel back to their home country and if you’re an animal lover this could be a great option for you

  1. Traveling Food Truck, road coach as it used to be called years ago:

With the big trend of food truck in the US and Canada, it is making its way here, someone serving original, different and fresh foods will surely be popular. Think about going from beach to beach while serving great food.

  1. Official Translator that is fluent in both English and Spanish:

I know many times I am in need of this service and so are others. If you 100% fluent in Spanish the gringo expats will be knocking down your door.

  1. Appliance Repair:

We utilize one guy who is great and does a really good job. The problem is he lives an hour away and you have to wait till he is in the area. Imagine no refrigerator for a week and half?

  1. Boat Mechanic:

This is a no brainer, we are on the Pacific coast and to find someone that really knows what they are doing, without taking the boat to Puntarenas (about 2.5 hour away by car) would be a God send.

  1. Senior Care Giver (in Home):

This is an important one especially since we have many retirees that move to the area and well we all will get old and sometimes need some help.

  1. Any Online Based Business:

Now that we will have fiber optic lines being laid throughout the Playa Hermosa, and Playas Del Coco areas providing much better highspeed internet.

  1. Plumbers:

I mean a real plumber, not just a guy that can do some basic stuff.

  1. Home Security Systems:

We have a few companies here but the follow up is much to be desired and of course there is the communication issue.

  1. Electricians:

See Plumbers above same thing.

  1. Golf Cart Rentals and Especially Repairs:

Being a small area, a lot of people own them here, and vacation renters like to use them as well. But most are electric, gas would be so much better and people that are certified or trained on how to repair them properly.

  1. Activity Equipment Rentals:

You know, items like bicycles, or scooters, kayaks, beach stuff, fishing gear, stand up paddle boards. Since we are right on the ocean these would be great to have that maybe even deliver and then pick them up after you are done.

  1. Home Decor Store:

No explanation needed here, Heck when I wanted new pillows for my sofa it was a chore to find nice ones and I had to go to San Jose just to get new lamp shades.

  1. Exterior Window Washing:

If you start this type of business, your hired, I live on the third floor, you won’t see me trying to clean the outside windows

  1. Real Delicatessen with Smoked Meats:

This is probable the best one on the list as far as I am concerned. I miss this the most from the US

  1. Sporting Goods Store:

And not just Soccer supplies.

  1. Real Asian Food:

Yes, there are sushi joints around and so called Chinese restaurants and they are ok, but I would die for some real Thai food, or even north American style Chinese food. It is really easy to turn Arroz con Pollo (rice and chicken) in to Chicken fried rice. Just add soy sauce, and stir. HAHAHA.  Indian cuisine would be great, different curries, Tandoor cooked meats and fish and let’s not forget naan. Yummy, I’m getting hungry.

So, if you’re thinking of making a move and want to start a new life in the tropics, there are many options to consider that can keep you busy and make you money. Do you have a specialty you’re good at? Want to know if it is needed here? Just send me a note and let’s discuss.

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14 thoughts on “Costa Rica Business Ideas for Expats”

  1. First of all, what a great Thank You letter. Very well written. You ran a list of businesses that a person could start and one of them was a Food Truck. They are against CR law as Perla and I tried. If it would be possible I would start one tomorrow.

    1. Thanks Dave,
      I will have to double check into the Food truck, as I have seen them and bought food from them in the San Jose market. It might be a local municipal thing

  2. THis is a great list Joe!

    Soup and salad would be nice to have.

    Pet/house sitting is a gr8 idea too!

    Any reliable good home repair person is hard to find.

    See ya soon…

    1. Thanks Steve,
      Hope all is well down in Tamarindo. Hi to Kat from me
      See you guys some day soon i hope

  3. Any clue if the regulations have changed for food trucks? Interested in bringing a shave ice truck down to CR, especially near Tamarindo.

    1. Hi Meagan,
      Besides the import tax on the truck you want to bring, I believe the rules and laws are still the same. You have to meet certain criteria from the minesterio de Salud and also get a petente from the Municipality of Santa Cruz.

  4. I was looking for ideas to open a business in Costa Rica and found a lot of good ideas on your site. I lived in Costa Rica for 22 years and moved back to the US about 2 years ago. I want to return and start a business since I loved living in Costa Rica. Thank you I will consider these options.

  5. I’m a real Plumber, Electrician, and home repair man in NC.
    Have semi-retired but still take work.
    Have my steady SSI of 2000 and have built a Mission Ranch near San Yasidro del General that’s family owned.
    If I start a business there will I be allowed to do the repairs or have to train on the job a Tica?
    Yes, I wear a Kilt cause my heritage is Scottish.
    Been 30 yrs a Plumber and Electrical.
    Thanks for the info and please contact me back.

    1. Hello Raymonde,
      thanks for the comment on my blog.
      the short of it is legally you can not work in CR unless you establish a corporation and then actually train a Costa Rican to do the work.
      If you have applied for residency, once you receive your permanent residency you can then legally work.
      Thanks and hope this helps

  6. Thanks for the article,amazing reading sounds like Costa Rica here I come .
    What are the chances of running a construction company over there ?

  7. We are looking to move to Costa Rica and are interested in starting a business. Not sure what’s available and the list you supplied is great. I’d like to know if there are dental assisting schools there to teach one to become a Dental Assistant? Also is there a list with more opportunities that I can find somewhere?

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