Last fact-checked: 22 November 2020
Costa Rica has emerged as one of the world's top destinations for medical tourism, particularly for North Americans who are able to fly directly into San Jose and its sister city Escazu, to undergo affordable cosmetic surgery.
As well as taking advantage of lower prices at medical facilities with trusted reputations, patients can also enjoy a pre-surgery vacation before recuperating in one of San Jose's comfortable, affordable hotels, many of which are located close to our verified partner clinics.
Learn more about traveling to San Jose for plastic surgery and other cosmetic treatments with this Medical Departures' destination guide.
San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and its largest city. It is the center for commerce and financial activities, and for tourists, it is also a gateway to many of the country’s tourist attractions, both nearby and further afield. It is by far the most populated city in the country, although with a population of just over 300,000, it still retains a friendly atmosphere with plenty of quiet, charming neighborhoods to be discovered.
With an international airport just 30 minutes from the city, San Jose is easily accessible from all over the US and Canada. The flights are generally inexpensive with short flight times, taking less than three hours from Miami and just over five from Los Angeles. Not having to endure a long-haul flight is especially important post-surgery as you will still be healing (note: always consult with your surgeon as to when you will be able to safely fly home).
The city has many historic buildings that have now been converted into house modern shops, department stores, art galleries and restaurants. "Chepe", as the city is affectionately known, also boasts museums, parks and a pedestrian-only Central Avenue with myriad activities and shopping.
In terms of medical tourism, the city is home to many cosmetic clinics and hospitals that cater to both a local international clientele who flock there from the US and Canada for affordable treatments and surgeries.
San Jose is in the Central Valley region of Costa Rica, in the middle of the country. The Talamanca Mountains are to its south and volcanoes to the north of the city.
Top reasons to consider undertaking plastic surgery in San Jose are:
Since cosmetic treatments and plastic surgery are generally not covered by medical insurance, it's an unfortunate fact that you must pay for these procedures out of your own pocket. Fees for most cosmetic procedures are high in Western countries and can be prohibitively expensive for most people living in the US and Canada.
However, the same surgery or treatment carried out abroad in places like San Jose can be much more affordable, with rates between 50 and 80 percent less than at home. Even taking into account travel and accommodation costs, you can realize substantial net savings. For example:
The Quality of the Medical Facilities:
With Medical Departures, you can find state-of-the-art hospitals and clinics in San Jose. Our partner facilities here use the latest medical technology and instrumentation. Modern amenities and friendly, English-speaking staff making you feel at home.
Many of the doctors have trained either fully or partly in the U.S. and are likely to be US board-certified, or have memberships and affiliations with international professional organizations, like ISAPS. They are comfortable dealing with patients from the US, Canada and all over the world as Costa Rica grows in stature as a medical travel destination.
Doctor Training and Qualifications:
Costa Rica ensures that doctors are well-trained since medical studies take at least five years to complete. After completing basic medical studies, doctors may go and study for specialties or even sub-specialties in the U.S. or Canada. In fact, Costa Rica has some universities that are accredited in the US.
Great Accommodation Options:
The Costa Rican capital can be easily reached from across North America, with direct flights from dozens of major cities.
Once there, you can opt to stay in a high-end luxury hotel with impressive facilities for considerably less than you would at home. You can also check into recovery retreats where the staff is trained to deal with medical patients, particularly if you need special post-surgery care.
If you prefer chain brand-name hotels, you can find Marriot, Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Radisson, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Sheraton and Best Western among others in San Jose and Escazu (San Jose's upscale suburb), as well as plenty of other options to suit all budgets.
Other apartment hotels (or "condotels") are more like a home from home with kitchens, living rooms and on-site services.
You can find all kinds of plastic surgery options available in San Jose. Popular procedures include:
On the whole, San Jose is safe and has a low crime rate.
Be careful of random, petty crimes that can take place in congested areas, such as pickpocketing. Keep valuables in the hotel, carrying a copy of your passport with you. Avoid using credit and debit cards except at bank ATMS and change your money at the airport, bank or a large money-changer shop. These are only normal precautions you should take, just as you would at home if you are in a strange town or city.
All surgery carries an element of risk, regardless who performs it, or where. Unforeseen complications can and do arise, and although rare, they can happen even in the world's best of facilities to highly experienced and skilled doctors. That said, you can minimize your risk by choosing surgeons and facilities with good credentials.
At Medical Departures we carry out our own investigations into the background and education of the doctors; this includes looking into their qualifications, accreditations and training. We also make sure that the clinics and hospitals meet international standards in every aspect that is important to conduct successful surgeries, and we publish real patient testimonials online for you to read.
To see the quality on offer now, get started with these three top-rated clinics in San Jose for plastic surgery:
No surgery in the world is risk-free, and sometimes things can go wrong. This is because everybody is unique with a different medical history; the human body can react to something even if it has never previously faced any problems.
At Medical Departures, we are always on hand to address any problems and will do our utmost to see things are put right in the rare event that things haven’t gone according to plan. Just so that you have peace of mind as far as extra expense goes, we recommend purchasing additional insurance for medical complications, which will at least cover the extra costs for travel and accommodation should you need to travel back to see your surgeon.
While Spanish is the first language of Costa Rica, English is spoken by our partner surgeons and medical staff, so there's no need to worry about communication problems if you don’t speak Spanish.
International debit and credit cards (such as MasterCard or Visa) are freely accepted in San Jose. In case you want to use other payment methods like wire transfer, you can check with us. Most clinics and other venues in Costa Rica also accept American dollars, though you are advised to keep some local currency for making small payments.
While medical facilities are open throughout the year, the best time to visit Costa Rica is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. Plus, before Christmas to New Year, lights are on in San Jose, lending a festive look. May to November it is generally wet and cloudy but the countryside (just outside San Jose) is particularly green and lush during this time.
From November to early December, you can get the best of both worlds–some rain and yet cool weather, so you can enjoy waterfalls and greenery along with temperatures that are cooling down. Keep in mind that Christmas is peak season so rates of flights and hotels will be higher and places will be crowded.
When traveling to any foreign country for medical reasons, may inevitably feel somewhat apprehensive as you won't be in familiar surroundings or among familiar people. However, flying in a few days before surgery and booking into a good hotel will help you get used to the city, also giving you a chance to do a bit of sightseeing if time permits.
Do think of the positives as well–you save a great deal of money, yet are treated by experienced doctors. When you stay at a hotel, you are away from the cares of your normal daily life and your routines. You can actually have time to relax and recuperate.
San Jose has many rich cultural and historic museums. For instance, there is the Gold Museum that has pre-Colombian gold works and artifacts; the Jade Museum has attractions made of jade and even a museum with exhibits concentrated just on insects.
You can go for bird walking tours, a day of golf, check out a butterfly farm, visit a coffee plantation, and discover hidden waterfalls, hot springs and white water rafting amidst Costa Rica’s incredible countryside. Back in the city, sample the vibrant nightlife at the clubs and bars, have a flutter at one of the many casinos or dine out at one of San Jose's myriad restaurants.
San Jose is a great city to use as a base to get around different parts of the country seeing the natural wonders or to go diving and snorkeling at a beach resort.
San Jose is accessible from most international destinations, with Juan Santamaria Airport is 27 kilometers from downtown. Approximate flight times from major international destinations:
These times vary and depending on the airlines, the number of stopovers, and the waiting time to catch another flight.
Private buses are available very easily and are reasonably priced. You can also get taxis to take you wherever you want to go or use a trusted ride-hailing app. You can also book luxury transportation in the form of chauffeur-driven cars from the airport or a hotel. Your chosen clinic may also offer shuttle services to and from your hotel, or the facility. We can help you with that!
If you reside in the US, Canada, Japan, Schengen area or an EU country, you can obtain an entry permit in San Jose, valid for 30 days. Citizens of Britain can stay for three months, visa-free. For other countries, check online whether you need a visa or not.
Find the latest international entry requirements for Costa Rica here.
With Medical Departures, you can safely and securely book at one of the clinics listed on our site.
Look below for easy ways to contact us; our Customer Care Team is on standby 24 hours a day to help you with the booking process or answer any questions you may have about undergoing plastic surgery here.
Stephano, Renée-Marie. Top 10 Medical Tourism Destinations in the World. Medical Tourism.com. Website accessed: 7 September 2020. https://www.magazine.medicaltourism.com/article/top-10-medical-tourism-destinations-world
International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Website accessed: 28 October 2020. https://www.isaps.org/
San Jose Neighborhoods. Costa Rica.com. Website accessed: 7 September 2020. https://www.costarica.com/destinations/san-jose/local-neighborhoods
San Jose. Lonely Planet. Website accessed: 7 September 2020. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/costa-rica/san-jose
Visit Costa Rica. Website accessed: 7 September 2020. https://www.visitcostarica.com/en
Visit Costa Rica - Entry Requirements. Website accessed: 7 September 2020. https://www.visitcostarica.com/en/costa-rica/planning-your-trip/entry-requirements
Whitlock, Jennifer. Understanding the Risks Involved When Having Surgery. Very Well Health. 1 November 2019. https://www.verywellhealth.com/understanding-the-risks-involved-when-having-surgery-3156959
(Main Image by Arturo Saltillo)