Costa Rica’s Medical Tourism: A Growing Part Of The Economy

Affordable & High-Quality Health Care is the reason many visitors come to the country
Costa Rica, a country that’s often overlooked on the global stage, is quietly carving out a significant niche for itself in an unexpected field—medical tourism & highly accessible health care services for its population.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Costa Rica boasts the 20th most efficient healthcare system in the world and ranks second in Latin America, a testament to its dedication to healthcare and well-being.

Some of you might not know, but Costa Rica’s tourism usually goes beyond a relaxed and tranquil vacation. Lots of tourists prefer this destination for its affordable prices on healthcare. Most tourists come here looking for these benefits.

Health Care for All

One of Costa Rica’s historical successes was to implement a universal health care institution (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, CCSS) in the 1940s, tasked with helping the country finance hospitals and medicines for its population.

Over the years, health care in Costa Rica has evolved into a model built upon a robust, community-oriented public health care system, while also allowing for quality private providers to operate separately and at reasonable costs. This is one of the main reasons why Costa Rica has been considered an example for many countries of the region, including the US. 

Medical Tourism: A Growing Success

The growth of medical tourism in Costa Rica has been nothing short of remarkable. Statistics and international rankings show that the country’s supply of private health care services have led to its status as a thriving medical tourism destination.

In 2008, Costa Rica welcomed 23,000 medical tourists, a number that nearly tripled to 70,000 by 2016, generating an impressive $485 million in revenue.

One of the main reasons this sector is growing so rapidly is because of affordable and competitive private services that are welcoming to foreign visitors, often featuring highly trained medical professionals and state-of-the-art technologies. According to some estimates, the cost of private healthcare services in Costa Rica is approximately 30%-40% lower than in the United States.

Premier Treatments in Costa Rica:

Depending on the type of medical service, a standard medical checkup could cost around $60, while specialists range $80 to $100. Another great benefit is the variety of clinics available, with highly competent English-speaking doctors.

  • Dentistry

Costa Rica’s efficient and affordable dental services attract a substantial number of foreign patients, with orthodontics, cosmetic procedures, pediatric dentistry, mouth surgeries, and prosthetics being the most sought-after dental services.

  • Gynecology

Despite restrictive national laws on abortion, gynecological treatments remain an essential part of the medical tourism landscape.

  • Orthopedic Surgeries

The complex nature of orthopedic issues requires the expertise of highly specialized teams, employing state-of-the-art technology and advanced methodologies. Various clinics offer solutions in this area.

  • Plastic & Cosmetic surgeries

Aesthetic surgeries are another significant attraction for medical tourists in Costa Rica. Featuring many available options and renowned surgeons, people come from various countries due the quality of service. However, due to potential risks, it’s recommended to consult with medical tourism facilitators before embarking on a journey for cosmetic treatments.

  • Stem Cells

Various Costa Rican stem cell clinics use cutting-edge technologies to ensure patients receive the best care. It is even possible to find clinics that specifically target clients in North America, or that are open to both local and international patients.

Alternative Medicine as part of the Medical Industry

As novel health approaches and natural-based treatments gain global momentum, Costa Rica stands out as a hub for holistic well-being.  Ongoing development in provinces and coastal areas has also resulted in the appearance of numerous alternative health centers.

Various retreats and hotels now provide a unique therapeutic experience that combines medical treatment with the tranquility of a soothing environment. The widespread use of alternative medicines is notable in the country, with natural lab manufactured supplements available in Green Stores and Pharmacies.

These supplements undergo lab testing and adhere to regulations set by the Ministry of Health. Costa Rica is also at the forefront of embracing new medicines such as medical cannabis & cannabidiol (CBD), which are both legal and regulated. This has positioned the country as a pioneer in offering innovative alternatives not commonly found in the region.

According to the Costa Rican Chamber of Health, medical tourism provides a significant contribution to the national economy, generating approximately $46 million annually.

Without a doubt, Costa Rica’s vast array of accessible health care services will continue to be a substantial draw for different kinds of visitors, especially if you plan to be in the country for two weeks or more.

Andres Vedova

CR Nomads Commercial Director

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