Discovering Costa Rica, the start of an adventure

Services for Real Estate Pros with The Oaks Tamarindo

I have been coming to Costa Rica for about two and a half years now, and have been living and investing here for about two years. While this by itself does not qualify me as an "old-timer", my journey may be one that others choose too, each in your own way and to your own place. Mercifully for the reader, only two and a half years to cover.

First a confession. I did not come here for the real estate. My journey began wholly  by accident. While living in Miami, I began dating a special Latina. It turned out that she had grown up in Cartago, on the south side of San Jose. I was retired and ready for a new adventure. So after a while we began flying frequently to San Jose, spending time with her family, and for me, getting to know Costa Rica. Luckily, I had taken Spanish lessons off and on over the years, spoke Spanglish, and was able to get by as long as whoever was speaking with me took their time.

My first impression of Costa Rica was of San Jose, or more accurately, its suburbs. Although the language is the same as Miami (actually, the Spanish here is a lot better), the culture and climate are totally different. I love it.

We settled in Bello Horizonte de Escazu, an older neighborhood in what for me is the best part of town. Others have their favorites, but I love the mountains of Escazu and of another suburb, Heredia. Mountains are hard to find in Miami.

The change from a warm humid climate to a warm fresh mountain climate was and is great. Eventually I moved to a place higher up in the mountains, above a terrific French restaurant and bar with sensational views called Le Monastere, which everyone insists on calling El Monasterio, just like we would call it The Monastery in the U.S., except in Miami where we probably would call it El Monasterio, too. Because it never gets very hot or very cold, my monthly electric bill runs around $30. Supposedly this is gringo central, but I speak 95% Spanish here, much more than at the beaches.

My impression of the culture can be summed up in two words: laid back. In Costa Rica, they say Pura Vida, or pure life. It has a multitude of meanings, depending on how it is used, but it always includes the idea of "laid back". Totally different than Miami.

What is not different is the driving. Here, Pura Vida sits in the back seat. Until you get used to it, this is one of the country's major negatives. Like Miami, it is a game of dodge'em, only conducted at slow speed. Probably more accidents here, but fewer fatalities. Not much road rage, either, just a cheerful attitude of "me first". My recommendation. Buy a big SUV. Really. Everyone buys a diesel because the fuel is cheaper. I like the Toyota LandCruiser.

The roads have multiple uses, one of which is for driving. Others include parking. The courteous driver parks in one lane on a two lane road, puts on his double flashing lights, and lets others go around him when oncoming traffic permits. The forgetful driver forgets the flashing lights. Also walking. This week pilgrims are walking from all over to Cartago to commemorate the miraculous appearance of the image of the Virgin Mary on a stone in Cartago some 500 years ago. Walking is done in family, three or four abreast, on the road. On weekend nights, it is done by friends going to or from a bar, still three or four abreast, on the road. Roads also are used for a cool game called dodge the potholes. The current administration of President Oscar Arias has begun taking some of the sport away by actually filling in potholes. If I had a vote, I would put him up for another Nobel Peace Prize just for this. But the residual left by years of benign neglect will keep the pothole  game alive for a while longer.

Next installment........ getting around the country, and one man's slow descent into real estate.

Comments (10)

Randy Lyon
Kettley and Company - Oswego, IL
I can not believe how far Costa Rico has come in the last 10 years. It sounds like paradise. I look forward to your future blogs.
Jul 31, 2007 04:56 PM
Patrick Harfst
Realty Executives - Phoenix AZ - Gilbert, AZ


Thanks for this post - you've reminded me to get myself down there and visit an old frined who moved there years back, and turned me on to that little corner... Sounds great!


Jul 31, 2007 04:57 PM
delete me delete me
delete me - Dixon, CA
I've always wanted to go to Costa Rica. My little brother went there on a foreign exchange program to learn Spanish for 3 months. He said everywhere he went someone spoke English so it didn't help but he had a killer time hanging out with the locals and experiencing the cultura.
Jul 31, 2007 05:11 PM
Keith Stonehouse
Franklin Title Agency, LLC - Rochester, MI
Franklin Title Agency
I know someone right now looking to build in there.. any connections? They sold in Panama and their great hobby is sailing,,, 
Jul 31, 2007 05:15 PM
Todd and Danielle Millar
Glenn Simon Inc. - Edmonton, AB
Nineteen years of excellence!
I love Costa Rica, when I was 21 I took the bus from Victoria, British Columbia to Playa del Coco in Costa Rica. Yes the bus.  It took about 3 months and I stopped in Honduras, Guatamala, Nicaragua on the way it was a fantastic trip and REALLY budget.
Jul 31, 2007 05:42 PM
Robert Irvin
The Oaks Tamarindo - Igloolik, YN
Randy, thanks for your comment. I can't believe how much change we've had in just two years. Tamarindo is a whole different town now, going through growing pains, but don't have to squint to see the future.
Aug 01, 2007 02:31 AM
Robert Irvin
The Oaks Tamarindo - Igloolik, YN
Hi Patrick, thanks for your comment. Give me a shout when you come down. I'm usually found in the Tamarindo/Flamingo/Conchal area, or up in the hills!
Aug 01, 2007 02:37 AM
Robert Irvin
The Oaks Tamarindo - Igloolik, YN
Hey Rondel, you really should come down. At the beaches, you prettty much can do the whole thing in English, but you'll have more fun if you can pick up a little Spanish. Start with this. No me jodes! (Just kidding.) When I lived in So. Cal. for a while, I was always looking to get out in Feb and March, when the Pacific storms came. Also, it's a great time to visit the beaches here.
Aug 01, 2007 02:42 AM
Robert Irvin
The Oaks Tamarindo - Igloolik, YN
Hi Keith. Yes, I do have some connections. The key to your sailor friend's deal is timing. There are only a couple of first class marinas now, but there are some great sailing spots, and some new or reopened marinas on the way. What kind of boat does he have? My personal area is Guanacaste, especially Tamarindo/Flamingo, because of the beaches, access to the airport and drier weather. Some prefer the Central Coast, more humid, like Panama, but a great marina at Los Suenos.
Aug 01, 2007 02:47 AM
Robert Irvin
The Oaks Tamarindo - Igloolik, YN
Hey Todd and Danielle. You took the bus?? That's amazing! And I thought I was adventurous on a EurRail pass! I hear there are charters now from Canada, so I guess you can still do budget travel, although I think I'd prefer the bus.
Aug 01, 2007 02:50 AM

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