How to Find a Doctor in Costa Rica as an American or Canadian Expat

Note: This blog is our personal view on the best service providers for expats. We make no money on referring customers to these services.


One of the things you’ll want to do shortly after arriving in a new country is develop a detailed medical plan that includes: pick the right health insurance for your needs, identify a primary care doctor, and understand how to meet your day-to-day, medication, emergency, and/or specialist medical needs. Here’s our advice on where to start when making a medical plan in Costa Rica as an expat.

Understanding the Costa Rican Healthcare System

First, you should have a basic understanding of the Costa Rican healthcare system, and decide if you’ll be seeking care through the public system (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, or “Caja”) or private system.

Public healthcare in Costa Rica

Under the public system, you must first be a resident or citizen of Costa Rica, be enrolled in Caja, and have received your residency card (DIMEX). Once you’ve met these requirements, you’ll want to register at your local ébais (clinic). From then on you can access care at your ébais whenever you need, without paying at the point of use. You can also access care at any public hospital or clinic around the country. Your care options are pretty straightforward under the public system. You also have less choice on doctors – you will need to be flexible in receiving care from whichever doctor is available.

Private healthcare in Costa Rica

If you want to use the private health system you’ll have the ability to select a primary care doctor, specialists, and hospital of preference. The private system is also more likely to have English-speaking doctors and offers quicker wait times. We generally recommend that expats, particularly recent arrivals, rely on the private system.


The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica has an informational sheet to help Americans receive quality care in Costa Rica. Many of the doctors on their list speak English and/or have had medical training in the United States:

Recommended hospitals in Costa Rica

Commonly recommended private hospitals include:


Finding a Primary Care Doctor

Once you understand how to navigate the Costan Rican healthcare system, you will want to identify the right primary care physician for y

Ways to find primary care physicians

One way to find a doctor is to search the hospital doctor listings. Search Hospital CIMA here and search Hospital La Católica here. You can also search on HuliHealth, a public site with doctor listings and verified reviews.


If you’re looking for a recommended doctor outside of the top hospitals, perhaps in a location other than San José, we recommend searching a local Facebook group specific to your area of Costa Rica. For example, we’ve personally connected with groups in Lake Arenal and Sámara. You can first search historical posts to see if any recommendations have already been made, and then post your own query to the group if you’d like. Note these are private groups and you’ll need to apply for membership and likely wait a couple of days before you’re accepted.


Verifying credentials

Once you’ve found a doctor you’re interested in, before booking an appointment we recommend looking up the doctor in the Costa Rican national registry, to ensure that they are 1) registered, and 2) registered in the appropriate category for the services they are offering. You can conduct a doctor search here.


Asking questions and developing a plan

Once you have narrowed in on the doctor you’d like to work with, we’d encourage you to make an appointment for a check-up or wellness visit to get to know the doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask whatever questions you may have about managing your health in Costa Rica, and ensure that this doctor is the right fit for your needs. You can also work with the physician to develop plans around special care, medications, and emergency care contingency planning.


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