Is Costa Rica Safe for Visitors?

Is Costa Rica safe?  Unfortunately, there is no where in the world where you can say you will be 100% safe, 100% of the time. In the U.S., unlike Costa Rica, children are not safe even at school. And if there is little or no crime in the area where you live, there are still natural dangers—tornados, floods, fires—that rob you of complete peace of mind.

That said, however, Costa Rica is safe in general, and it can be considered VERY safe if you take reasonable common sense precautions.

Here are some things that are very safe in Costa Rica:

1. Water is potable everywhere in Costa Rica. That is, unless you are buried in the jungle somewhere and your only water source is a mud puddle. Then maybe not so much. But everywhere else, Costa Rican water is clean and tasty, except for some strange reason in the San Jose airport water fountains—yuck!

2. Food offered in restaurants will not make you sick. Costa Ricans are sticklers for cleanliness. However, I am not making any promises about roadside stands where proper refrigeration of perishables may be lacking.

3. Unless you are sleeping overnight deep in the aforementioned jungle, you will not be attacked by wild animals. Big cats and snakes wisely avoid populated areas; attacks by the former are unheard of and by the latter very rare.

4. The government will not be overthrown during your visit. Costa Rica experiences almost no civil unrest. It abolished its army in 1949, and protests and marches take place rather quietly.

The criminal activity that blights most Latin American countries is also prevalent in Costa Rica, although to a much lesser degree that most of its Central American neighbors. Pick pocketing and petty theft are common here, but chances are you will be able to enjoy your vacation without incident if you take these precautions:

1. Beaches. Swimming in Costa Rica is safe owing to almost no incidents of shark attacks, jellyfish flotillas, or red tides. Beaches where the currents are strong (surfers love those!) and where riptides are possible are well marked. Read up on what to do if you feel the current taking you out. Here is a good Link to Read. Stay calm and you will be fine. If worried about it Come to Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste, you won’t have that issue. By and large, Costa Rica’s beaches are safe from forms of personal assault, but petty theft of belongings is common. Do not leave your things unattended on the beach while you are playing in the waves! Park your car in sight or in guarded parking areas. Even then, do not leave valuables in sight in your car. However, don’t make a big, noisy show of moving everything to the trunk, either. Trunks are not impregnable! It is better to leave your valuables back at your rental villa or hotel when you are traveling around.

2. Do not carry a lot of cash or wear expensive jewelry. Carry a copy of your passport and leave the real one in a safe place at your residence. Conversely, carry a credit card but leave copies of your cards back home so you will have the card number and customer information in case your card is lost or stolen.

3. Use good judgement after dark. Do not walk around alone, and if you need directions, ask persons in lighted establishments, not someone sleeping under a tree. Do not accept help from persons who approach you. Better yet, take a taxi—the red or orange ones are licensed and safe. Frankly, if you are wandering around alone on dark streets after midnight, you are on your own. I can’t help you.

4. Don’t use the overhead shelves on buses. People can easily take your bag when exiting the bus while you are looking out the window. If your bag is too big to fit at your feet or on your lap, store it in the luggage compartment under the bus and ask for a ticket.

5. When you get back to your condo from the beach, you may want to leave all your wet stuff drying outside your condo. This is not a good idea if your porch or balcony can be accessed by others or if you are on the ground floor. If you do leave things outside, make sure you bring everything in before going out for the evening or going to bed.

6. Just say “No” to drugs anywhere anytime.  They are never worth it.

So, is Costa Rica safe?  Yes! Costa Rica can be a very safe place to visit and live. If you are from a small town in rural USA, you will have to take precautions you are not used to. But if you do, then Costa Rica can be the paradise of your dreams.

Coronavirus and Costa Rica

Although the spread of the coronavirus is of serious to concern to the world’s citizens, it is a relief to know that as of last week on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, the Health Ministry announced that Costa Rica does not have any suspected cases of the deadly virus.

Corona Virus Map

Here is a link to a world map that is updated daily showing areas affected and number of people that have this horrid virus. You can see that Costa Rica is free of the virus.

https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

Protocols have been established for public and private health centers to follow in the event of a suspected case of the virus, reports the English-language newspaper The Tico Times. These protocols stipulate that the infected person(s) will be quarantined and all people with whom they have come in contact in the days prior to the onset of symptoms will also be examined. Previous viruses were processed according to these protocols, namely the AH1N1 and SARS viruses, and an epidemic was avoided.

No Coronavirus in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has no direct flights from China, so passengers are not being screened at the airports at this time.

The virus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in the Hubei province. According to WebMD, symptoms of coronavirus are similar to any other upper-respiratory infection, including runny nose, cough, sore throat and sometimes fever, making detection tricky. However, as the virus advances it can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure. Persons who have recently returned from a trip to China should keep a careful eye on their health and seek medical attention should any of the initial symptoms appear. Immediately inform the attending medical personnel of your recent travels.Be aware of the symptoms and be safe.

coronavirus

Butterflies of Costa Rica

Something you will notice in Costa Rica is that there are butterflies everywhere! Unless you are in the concrete jungle of downtown San Jose, it is unlikely that a single day will pass without seeing a butterfly.

Butterflies of Costa Rica

One guidebook says that “there are more butterflies in this tiny country than in the entire United States.” There are more than 1,200 different types of butterflies fluttering around Costa Rica—18% of the world’s species and 90% of the species found in Central America.

Morpho Butterfly costa rica

One of the largest and most beautiful butterflies in Costa Rica is the Blue Morpho. The intense royal blue of its 8-inch wingspan seems lit from within. But the striking iridescence of its wings is not due to a metallic pigment of some sort. The glowing blue is actually produced by some pretty ingenious engineering. Rows of tiny concave surfaces on the wings reflect light in various ways, resulting in a final mix called “structural color” because the complex way in which it is produced.  In the case of the Morpho, the structure of its wings singles out the blue spectrum of light and Voila! Wings that glow neon blue.

Playa Hermosa Butterfly

Butterfly wings are so fragile that even the weight of specks of dust or drips of moisture could make flying difficult. But far from looking like they are struggling to stay afloat, butterflies glide effortlessly. What is the secret? Though appearing smooth to the naked eye, the wing surface is covered with minute overlapping scales that resemble tiles on a roof. Grooves on the surface of these scales cause dirt and drips of water to roll off with ease. As a result, butterfly wings are always clean and dry.

Costa Rica Owl butterfly

Another of the largest of Costa Rica’s butterflies is the Owl Butterfly. This nocturnal butterfly owes its name to the giant spots on its wings that resemble an owl’s eyes. It lives in lowland forests and feeds on fermenting fruits.

 

 

Costa Rica

The Variable Cracker Butterfly can be hard to spot because its intricately patterned wings in beiges and browns camouflage it as it rests on trees and branches. This butterfly’s name comes from the snapping sound it makes with its wings when defending its territory and during courtship rituals.

 

Glass winged

There are 64 different types of the Glass Wing Butterfly in Costa Rica, and they have habitats on both coasts. They all share the unique feature of transparent wings outlined or spotted with color. Some are so see-through that they are actually difficult to spot!

 

 

The Malachite Butterfly has green, blue and gold patterned wings similar to the colors of the mineral malachite. Their delicate coloring and dainty flight contradict their strong dietary choices that include decaying fruit, deceased animals, and bat droppings.
Butterfly gardens are a great place to learn more about butterflies and interact with them. Most have large enclosures where you will be immediately captivated by a kaleidoscope of dazzling colors floating and fluttering around you.

 

Just a short drive from Playa Hermosa at the El Diamante Eco Adventure park, you will find a great many of these beautiful creatures in a natural setting. Diamante is known for its world-class habitat designs that address the needs of each species. The unique design of the habitats allows guests to view and learn about key aspects of biology, ecology and natural history of the animals.

The Butterfly Observatory, located in the Arenal Volcano area, is an education and research center that hosts the largest butterfly exhibit in Costa Rica. They offer a tour of the facility led by a very knowledgeable guide. There is also a lovely nature trail.

The Monteverde Butterfly Gardens are open every day of the year, 8:30-4:30. The one-hour guided tour through the facility alive with fluttering butterflies is incredible. You will have the opportunity to see the most stunning species up close since they often come to rest on your shoulder or outstretched arm.

The butterfly enclosure at La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a chance to enter a paradisaic garden where hundreds of butterflies flit around you to the sound of new age jazz. There are also hundreds of chrysalises in various stages of metamorphosis. If you are patient, you can watch a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, unfold its wings as the sunlight dries them, and fly away. The on-site laboratory breeds 25 native species, making it a perfect place to experience all the different stages of a butterfly’s short life.

The Butterfly Farm in La Guacima was the first of its kind in Costa Rica and has the biggest export operation in the country. Each month it exports 4000-6000 harvested pupae (cocoon or chrysalis) to other butterfly gardens and institutions around the world. Tours of the farm are offered daily, and here too you can learn about the life cycle of butterflies and the native species of Costa Rica.

So when coming to Costa Rica, make time to go to one of the listed above butterfly farms you won’t be disappointed. “Happiness is like a butterfly,” said author Nathaniel Hawthorne. “When pursued, it is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will set down quietly, may alight upon you.” May that be your experience in Costa Rica. As you sit quietly, may both butterflies and happiness alight upon you.

Costa Rica Waterfalls

There is something very magical about Costa Rica waterfalls! How can something roaring and powerful also be serene and calming? Costa Rica is blessed with hundreds of these natural wonders and Guanacaste has some of the nicest.

Costa Rica Waterfalls

Some waterfalls surprise you by jumping into view as you round a bend in the road. Others require more effort to get to, but the anticipation that builds as the roar increases is as rewarding as the destination itself. Who can deny the appeal of diving into a pool at the bottom of a waterfall after a long, hot hike? Or standing under the falling water as a million drops massage your head and shoulders?

Costa Rica Playa Hermosa

There are several beautiful waterfalls that can be visited as day-trips from Playa Hermosa. Just enter the name in your GPS or favorite travel app for exact locations. I prefer to use Waze, it seams to work the best here and is a free download.

 

Cortez falls Costa RicaPlaya Del CocoCatarata Llanos de Cortes–This waterfall is quite the surprise if you are visiting Costa Rica during the dry season. After traveling through the tropical dry landscape you would swear any water in the area would be long-evaporated. But after parking and a short walk downhill, you are shocked to find a tropical oasis with a 40-foot high, 50-foot wide curtain of water as its centerpiece! There is a small beach and a clear pool for swimming in as well as trails along the river that lead to other smaller waterfalls and deep blue swimming holes. The lushness of the forest and the cool water of the pond are a perfect escape for any time of the year. Of all the Costa Rica waterfalls, it’s one of the closest to Playa Hermosa–only about 45 minutes drive.

Waterfalls Costa Rica

Catarata La Congreja—Once more Guanacaste offers the proverbial ‘pot of gold at the end of a rainbow’ in the form of a refreshing waterfall at the end of a long 3.5-mile hike. You will find this magical 130-foot high waterfall, Catarata La Congreja in Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The churning white water river shoots out of the green forest and plummets to a transparent pool of blue water far below. It is about a 1 hour drive to the entrance of the park from Playa Hermosa on all paved roads.

rio celesteRio Celeste Waterfall—Rio Celeste is one of the most striking of all Costa Rica waterfalls.  A sky blue river runs through the lush Tenorio Volcano National Park. The almost unnatural color of the water, it turns out, isn’t unnatural at all! The water is tinted by very naturally-occurring chemicals in the water in this mineral-rich region. Because the waterfall is picture-perfect, it has been featured in almost every postcard and travel video of Costa Rica. It can get pretty crowded January through April, but those are the months the water is at its bluest, since the rains can muddy the waters during that time of the year. So try to beat the crowds by getting there as soon as the entrance opens at 8 a.m. The 2-hour trip from Playa Hermosa takes you to Liberia, and then south down the Pan American Highway to a turn-off near Canas.

waterfallMontezuma Waterfall—Farther afield is the waterfall at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula near the town of Montezuma, made famous by quarterback Tom Brady posting a video of himself jumping from the top. The 60-dive is not for the faint of heart (Tom looks really scared), so maybe those of us who do not face 300-pound linemen trying to sack us shouldn’t try it. The waterfall is actually a series of 3 waterfalls that can be hiked to, the first one you come to being the last in the series. It takes 4 hours to travel to the tip of the peninsula, but the waterfall is only one of many attractions in the area.

The Costa Rica waterfalls I have mentioned in this article are either on private property or in a national park, so entrance fees are collected. You will need to search online for current pricing, since fees tend to fluctuate. Thanks to social media and increased tourism, there are very few natural hidden gems in Costa Rica anymore, and landowners have figured out they can take financial advantage of what used to be a secret. That said, this is a country full of rain-soaked mountains and cascading rivers—the raw material for the creation of perfect waterfalls. So anywhere you go, hike down- or upstream a bit and you may just stumble across your own private waterfall. Like so many before you, you will find yourself ‘water-falling’ in love with Costa Rica!

Costa Rican Tamales–A Christmas Tradition

Costa Rican tamales are kind of like the Christmas cookies of Latin America.  They are everywhere in December, and they’re a tradition worth experiencing.

Costa Rican tamales

However, Costa Rican tamales differs both in appearance and flavor from Mexican tamales. What they have in common is the “masa”—the cornmeal filling. Both are often made with pork and cooked in a pork broth. But the Mexican tamale’s additional fillings vary greatly from its Costa Rican cousin. The biggest differences are that the Mexicans wrap theirs in dry cornhusks and that the tamales are spicy! Costa Rican tamales are wrapped in plantain leaves and generally have a mild flavor.

tamale not Costa Rica

The tradition of making tamales is a labor-intensive, family affair with the women in the family joining forces to prepare them. First the pork broth is prepared with pork chunks, vegetables and spices in a ridiculously large pot—often a 5-gallon cauldron. While that is cooking, rice is prepared, potatoes are boiled, and carrots, peppers, peas and cilantro are sliced and set aside. When ready, the cooked pork is removed from the broth and cut into large, bite-sized pieces. Plantain leaves are washed, veined, and cut to size. Don’t think you can substitute banana leaves—they are too thin and flimsy and will tear apart during the cooking process.

Playa Hermosa Tamales

Now it is time to prepare the cornmeal filling. costa ricaBlend together the cornmeal (masa) and potatoes with some of the pork broth until a wet dough is formed that has the consistency of creamy mashed potatoes. Add salt and/or bouillon to taste. Pork fat you have rendered or purchased at the butcher shop is added to the mix. Here in Costa Rica it is called “Manteca”.  Now for the “fun” part, because the dough is usually mixed with your hands, and before you know it you’re up to your elbows and feeling like a kid again!

 

playa del Coco Tamale

It is time to assembly your Costa Rican tamales, with everyone taking an ingredient! First 2 layers of plantain leaves are laid down. A large spoonful of the masa mix is plopped down in the middle of the leaves. On top of this is placed a spoonful of rice, a piece of meat, a few peas, a slice of carrot, a slice of pepper, and a small stem of cilantro. Some add raisins, cooked garbanzos or green olives—you can tailor them to your tastes!

tamale Playa Hermosa

Folding the package is a more important step than you might imagine, and your workmanship will be tested in the crucible of the cooking pot. Raise the edge up lengthwise and fold it over twice to seal the seam. Lightly flatten, and then fold the sides in over the center, making a tidy package. Using string or twine, tie 2 tamales together to make a “piña”, or a pair of tamales—they cook better tied together.

When all the tamales are prepared, drop them into the boiling pork broth. Cover the pot and boil for 30 minutes, at which point the tamales can be removed from the pot, and cooled to a palatable temperature. Enjoy unwrapping your little meal-in-one tamale! Or let them cool and store them in your fridge or freezer to be reheated another day by boiling in a bit of water or microwaving.

Playa Hermosa Tradition

Many Ticos enjoy Costa Rican tamales as a mid afternoon snack, with coffee. I know sounds a bit strange, but heck its their tradition so don’t knock it.

 

As a reminder, the plantain leaf is your plate and it is NOT to be eaten. Ticos often tell a joke about a gringo who was asked if he liked tamales. He said, yes, except for the lettuce which was really tough (indicating he had mistakenly eaten the plantain leaf). This is hysterically funny to Ticos, so try to beat them to the punch line!

 

Makaing tamales In Costa Rica

Where did the tradition originate? Tamales came on the world scene centuries long before Christ. The Mesoamerican cultures including the Aztec and Maya were wrapping and cooking foods in banana leaves or corn husks long before any of them heard of Christmas. It is believed that foods offered to the gods were presented in leaves and husks, therefore creating the association with religious events and special occasions. When the Mexican population was “Christianized” by the Europeans, the tradition transferred to the most important holiday on the Christian calendar.

Playa Del Coco

So next time you are here during the Christmas holiday, make sure you try some Costa Rican tamales! I like mine with a touch of hot sauce after unwrapping the little extra Christmas package.

Costa Rica’s Cocos Island

“When you get here, everything turns into a green paradise, full of wildlife. It cannot be described in a few words. It is absolutely fantastic. On earth, under water, everything is indescribable.” Where am I? Costa Rica’s Cocos Island.

Costa Rica Cocos Island

Cocos is a 9-square-mile island about 300 miles off the southwest coast of Costa Rica that is known for its stories of buried treasure. It is believed by some that Robert Louis Stevenson based his famous book Treasure Island on tales of pirate treasure hidden there. It is so remote and pristine, the island was featured in the opening scenes of Jurassic Park.

Playa Hermosa Costa Rica

Volcanic activity on the Cocos Ridge gave birth to its only island. This rugged speck of land is the only major island in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that receives sufficient rainfall to support a tropical rain forest—275 inches annually—making it a freshwater oasis for sailors who came across the island.

 

That fresh water was one of the things that attrCocos island Costa Ricaacted pirates in centuries past. Legend has it that the captain of one pirate band chose Cocos Island as his base of operations and the perfect place to hide his booty. According to one version of the story, all the pirates on his galleon decided to bury their share of the treasure somewhere on the island. Using ropes to climb the cliffs that dominate the island’s coastline, each pirate disappeared into the tropical forest. While some trusted their memory, others returned with maps that only they could decipher. After stashing their goods, the pirates sailed away in their galleon in search of more dishonest gains. As it goes with pirates, there followed much double-crossing and mutiny, ending in executions. It is assumed that not every individual pirate made it back to Cocos Island to reclaim their treasure. This assumption has fueled much treasure hunting. There have been more than 500 organized expeditions to the island. According to available information, none have discovered treasure.

Playa Del Coco Costa Rica

However, Cocos Island is full of treasures—natural ones! The entire island has been designated a national park since 1978, and there are no permanent residents other than park rangers. It is a treasure trove of flora and fauna on land and of marine life in the surrounding waters. Several species make Cocos Island their only home on earth. One of the species of birds on the island is the white tern. It has the amusing characteristic of hovering in the air just above people’s heads, giving it the Spanish nickname espiritu santo, or holy spirit, referring to the Biblical account of Jesus’ baptism.

Costa Rica

Cocos Island has been rated one of the top 10 best places in the world to scuba dive. Scuba divers treasure the location for the clarity of the water and the dense population of marine creatures. There is an especially high concentration of hammerhead and white-tipped sharks which travel in schools of between 40 and 50.

 

Live aboard vessels are the only option to visit the island. It is about a 36-hour trip each way from the mainland. If you are planning an upcoming dCosta Rica Manta Rayive trip or travelling to Cocos Island, it is a really good idea to invest in travel insurance for scuba diving. There are no medical facilities on the island, so your policy should also include evacuation insurance.

Just enjoy the beauty of Costa Rica’s Cocos Island and hope to see you in paradise!

PriceSmart Costa Rica is coming to Liberia!

PriceSmart Costa Rica has announced plans to open its eighth warehouse club in the country—this time in Liberia! It is expected to open in the summer of 2020. The good news is that it is already under construction, and it is located right in front of the Liberia International Airport.

PriceSmart Costa Rica logo

What is PriceSmart? And why is this exciting news for those of us who live in the northwest region of Costa Rica? Because PriceSmart is a membership warehouse that’s very similar to Costco or Sam’s Club, and it offers similar benefits. One can buy in volume, thereby reducing trips to the store. Often imported items are available at lower prices than in Costa Rica’s other grocery stores. Considerable savings can be found on cheese, pickles, olives, peanut butter, pet food, and so on. And most products are high quality. In many instances, one can get better pricing on items than in other stores in your area.

Membership costs $35 annually, but if you shop wisely, you will recuperate that amount compared to what those items would have cost at local grocery stores.

PriceSmart Playa Hermosa vacinity

The PriceSmart Costa Rica membership allows you to shop at the other stores in Latin America. Those living near the Panamanian border often take advantage of the David location. To use your card outside of Costa Rica, head for the customer service counter to see if your card will scan. If it doesn’t, you will be issued a temporary pass. Though PriceSmart and Costco were related at one point in their past history and carry similar products, they are no longer affiliated and your PriceSmart Costa Rica membership will not be valid at a Costco. Conversely, your Costco card is not valid at PriceSmart.

Produce Costa Rica Playa Hermosa

PriceSmart doesn’t have sale or offer discounts. There are no express lines, and the lines can be pretty long on weekends or after pay periods. Completely avoid the place in December if at all possible. There is no hassle with returns and refunds.

Playa Del Coco Shopping

The city of Liberia continues to attract investment. The presence of the Daniel Oduber International Airport and its proximity to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches and large expat communities make it an excellent hub for business. Other retailers who have established themselves in the area are DoIt Center and WalMart. PriceSmart is yet another notch on Guanacaste’s belt making it more convenient and liveable—it was always gorgeous!

Liberia

For those that want to know some of the down and dirty of PriceSmart keep reading!

PriceSmart is headquarted in San Diego, California, and owns and operates U.S.-style membership shopping warehouse clubs in Latin America and the Caribbean. In fact, it is probably the only U.S.-headquartered retailer without a single outlet in the States. PriceSmart was founded in 1976 by the father and son team of Sol and Robert Price and opened its first store in Panama. The company began its big push into the rest of Latin America in 1996, opening 7 stores that year.  PriceSmart Costa Rica was established that year with its first store opening in San Jose. In 2009 PriceSmart was on Fortune Magazine’s list of 100 fastest growing companies.

Some negatives are that stocking at PriceSmart is hit and miss. Your favorite item may not always by available. Just like at a Sam’s club or Costco Also, do not expect the inventory to be identical to the warehouse store you frequented back home. PriceSmart tailors its catalog to Latin American tastes and stocks many local brands. For example, you may prefer Philadelphia cream cheese, but you will find Dos Pinos or Monteverde cream cheese in PriceSmart’s refrigerator case.

Either way the important thing is a PriceSmart is going to be close by and no more having to drive to San Jose to do club membership shopping!

Costa Rica Renewable Energy Sources

Costa Rica renewable energy comes from 5 different sources: hydro-power (78%), wind (10%), geothermal (10%), biomass and solar (1%). Recently, the country went 271 days without burning fossil fuels for electricity. More than 99% of Costa Rica’s electricity is produce this way.

As a country, Costa Rica has a geographical advantage over others because of its high concentration per capita of rivers, dams, and volcanoes. Additionally, we come in fourth place worldwide for rainfall with an average of 115 inches of precipitation per year. The rain fall depends on the region–areas to the south and east tend to get substantially more than the Pacific Northwest and the Playa Hermosa area. Plus, we, as I include myself as this is now my permanent home, are a smallish nation with a population of only 5 million and no major industries requiring strong energy infrastructure; hence the lower energy demand.

Costa Rica renewable energy from Hydroelectric Dam

Costa Rica’s largest dams include the Lake Arenal Dam, Lake Cachi Dam, Rio Marcho Dam, Pirris Dam and the Reventazon Dam. Lake Arenal provides enough electricity to power 12% of the country. The other dams are all powered by the Reventazon River and its tributaries. The Reventazon is now the largest hydroelectric project in Central America.

 

Rincon de la Vieja Costa rica

Guanacaste province is home to another source of Costa Rica renewable energy, namely geothermal fields powered by the subterranean heat of the Miravalles, Rincon de la Vieja, and Tenorio volcanoes. It is a cool concept but costly to get started: Drilling large tunnels into the core of the volcano, extracting the steam which turns the turbines to create electricity. Then the byproduct–water–is pumped back down into the volcano to reheat and make more steam.

Costa Rica wind power windmills

Windmills are becoming a common sight in Costa Rica. Wind power is primarily used in Costa Rica during the months of December to March. These particularly windy months coincide with a period of decreased rainfall which decreases hydropower output, making wind power the perfect stand-in.

Electric car in Costa Rica

However, the country’s demand for oil is actually growing because of its gasoline-dependent transportation sector. According to Costa Rica’s State of the Region report, the country has approximately 287 cars per 1,000 people, surpassing both the world and Latin American average. In a recent year, more vehicles were registered than births. In a previous blog, I mentioned what the government is doing to promote the purchase and/or importation of electric cars to reduce the carbon footprint.

Solar panels installed in Costa Rica
What Costa Rica renewable energy options  are available to you, the homeowner? Being located near the equator, Costa Rica has a high amount of sunny days during the entire year, so the country has a huge solar power potential. This is especially true in the drier (read: sunnier) region of Guanacaste, where energy consumption due to air conditioning is high.

Solar power would seem to be a no-brainer. So, why doesn’t everyone have a solar panel on their roof? Solar power has been pushed aside due to political concerns that home-generated power would cut into the state electricity company’s (ICE’s) profits, on which they have a monopoly.

But wouldn’t the cost of installing solar panels be more than the cost of paying your electric bill? Only at first, maybe? It has been estimated that the cost of installing solar panels on a typical 1200 square foot house would be recouped in 5 years through energy savings. Though ICE will not buy your power from you, they will “bank” it for you to use when your consumption exceeds your generation, effectively zeroing out your electric bill from the start. After 5 years, you will be living scott-free, as far as electric bills go.

That said, there are a lot of conflicting thoughts out there on the subject. Some think it is the greatest thing since white bread, until they have to purchase more panels or new batteries and the 5 year payback ends up being much longer. Only time will tell if solar is the way to go. And not to leave out, the waters are further muddied by sales pitches and marketing, so do your research and calculate accordingly.

People enjoying Costa Rica's natural energy on the beach - the sun

In the meantime, use Costa Rica’s natural resources to fuel your happiness: bask in the sun, bathe in the water, let the wind fill your sails, and soak in the hot springs. You will find yourself re-energized without the need for Costa Rica renewable energy!

Costa Rica Nicaragua Border Crossing for the Perpetual Tourist

Costa Rica immigration law allows visitors to stay up to 90 days. However, non-residents are required to leave the country at the end of that period. After a brief stay outside Costa Rica’s borders, they are allowed to return for another 90 day period. Some who choose to live in Costa Rica make a run to the Costa Rica Nicaragua border every 3 months for years. These individuals are what the Costa Rica Immigration department calls perpetual tourists.

Costa Rica Nicaragua borderIs this legal? Well, really no, sometimes it is a necessity when waiting for your Costa Rica resident paperwork to be approved by the immigration department. Do I recommend this? Actually NO! If you decide to make Costa Rica your permanent residence, start the process before moving here. If you need assistance email me at JosephEmanuelli@remax.net and I can assist you.
For those that still want to be a perpetual tourist continue reading this step by step guide to the process of crossing the Costa Rica Nicaragua border at Penas Blancas and back on foot. It will get you to the border, tell you what you need to leave Costa Rica and enter Nicaragua and vice versa, all the fees involved, and finally some safety tips.

You can drive your rental car to the border but that is as far as you can go since rental cars are not allowed to cross the border. There is a house right at the border where the family that lives there will watch your car for $3-5 per day. Do not leave any valuables inside.

Perpetual Tourist Costa Rica

You can take the Transbasa public bus to the border from Liberia which leaves every 45 minutes 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. If you are planning to spend a few days in Nicaragua, you can take a Ticabus and you will do the border crossing with the bus. That process will not be described here–you simply follow the instructions given to the passengers.
To cross the Costa Rica Nicaragua border, you will need a valid passport that is not within 6 months of expiring, a receipt of payment of the Costa Rica exit tax, a plane or bus ticket dated at the most 90 days in advance, and small US bills ($1 and $5).
Upon arrival at the border, you must pay an $8 exit tax. All the tax offices are on your right as you face the border and are well-marked by signage.
Walk towards the border, passing by the lines of trucks and vehicles and enter the Costa Rica exit office. There is usually not a lot of people in line. Hand you passport and exit tax receipt to the officer. He may or may not ask you questions, such as where you are staying.

Playa Hermosa Boarder run
After exiting the office, you will walk a few hundred yards toward the Nicaragua Entrance Office. Along the way you will pass through checkpoints where they will check for the Costa Rican exit stamp in your passport. The officers are generally friendly–don’t be frightened! Continue to follow the signs leading you to the Nicaraguan Immigration office, a modern white office building. You will pass buy lots of vendors and persons offering to “help”; it is best to just keep walking. DO NOT USE their “service” as it is illegal and the stamps you get could be bogus.

After entering the air-conditioned immigration office, you will need to pay a $12 tax to the immigration officer who takes your passport. After stamping it, you will receive a receipt for safe-keeping. He will ask you where you are staying in Nicaragua. Your bags will be put through a scanner and, after collecting them, you are officially in Nicaragua! Outside the building there are restaurants, taxis, and a bus stop.

Bus at Costa Rica Boarder

Costa Rica requires you to be outside the country 72 hours in order to re-enter with duty free items, as you are allowed up to $500.00 duty free every six months. If you’re just getting a passport stamp for another 90-day tourist visa, you just may want to go to lunch and return. San Juan del Sur is only a 30-minute cab ride and should not cost more than $35.00, so this is a good time to get to know our neighbor to the north. Other popular destinations are colonial Granada, or metropolitan Managua, even Lake Nicaragua.

Costa Rica BoarderTo re-enter Costa Rica, the process is basically the same, just reversed. Upon entering the Nicaraguan immigration office, you will pay a $1 municipality tax at a small booth on your right, and then $2 to the exit officer who checks your passport. Once again you walk along the main road towards the Costa Rica Nicaragua border, and once again there will be checkpoints. Enter the right side of the Costa Rica Immigration office and prepare to stand in line anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours (if there are big bus groups). When you get to the window, you will need to present a plane or bus ticket that shows you will be leaving Costa Rica within 90 days. If you do not have either, you can buy a bus ticket to Nicaragua for about $25 at a booth nearby. Upon being shown proof of departure, the officer will stamp your passport. Before leaving the window, make sure the stamp says 90 days. Then retrieve your luggage after it has been sent through the scanner and Bienvenido! You are back in Costa Rica for another 3 months!

A few words of caution are in order. You will be approached by persons offering to help you, some even say they will do it for free. Of course, it will never be for free. This is not a complicated process. You are completely capable of doing it yourself, and no one can streamline it for you any more than it already is. NEVER give your passport to someone. A few people may be making an honest living “helping out”, but there are many scams and con artists out there, and you cannot possibly know which is which (they don’t wear signs). So just view the process as an adventure and enjoy! If you are traveling alone, join up with others going through, as there is often more ‘safety in numbers.”

 

Costa Rica ImmigrationOr you can avoid all these headaches every 3 month and just apply for your residency. There are many benefits to it. Contact me if you would like more information.

What Does it Cost to Live in Costa Rica?

What does it cost to live in Costa Rica? On average, 100 North Americans and some Europeans ask that question each month. They have the dream of a better life in paradise, and they wonder if they can afford it. One way to answer the question is with the average cost of living.

According to data on the website numbeo.com, the average cost of living in Costa Rica, including food, utilities, health care, and transportation, is 24% lower than North America. Rent is factored separately, and it’s 59% less in Costa Rica (if you average all U.S. cities).

Cost to live in Costa Rica

However, averages can be deceiving. You can drown in a lake with an average depth of one foot. So, what are the depths and shallows, financially speaking, of Costa Rica? What does it really cost to live in Costa Rica?
Some aspects of life in Costa Rica are more expensive than in North American, and some are considerably less. Living in Costa Rica on your budget depends on the life style you want to live and are accustomed to.

 

Playa Del Coco butcher

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite—food. There are plentiful deals to be had, and fortunately, fresh fruits and vegetables are one of them. Many communities have a farmers’ market, known as la feria in Spanish. Each weekend, local farmers display their recently harvested produce as well as eggs and dairy products. The prices are so low that you can fill two big bags for $20-30. And many vendors even offer free samples so you can try before you buy. But you may not want to turn vegan, so there are great butcher shops with very reasonable prices. Just last week I purchased a complete “lomito” or full tenderloin of beef, AKA-filet mignon. The price was $8.75 per pound all cleaned up ready to cut into steaks. Now you can’t beat that!

Playa Hermosa Options

Have a taste for your favorite brand of beer, chips, or other processed food from your home country? You’ll probably pay a premium if you decide to buy them. Such imported goodies, basically any imported product, cost more in Costa Rica because of the additional costs of transportation and importation tax. Having said that many of the local brands are as good if not better than “favorites” from back home. So buying local is one way to reduce the cost to live in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica transportation

Transportation costs are a mixed bag. Bus service is inexpensive and available in most areas, but the schedule may not be to your liking. But you can’t beat the price. A one-hour bus ride is only about $1. Taxis and Uber are another reasonably priced option if the trip isn’t too long. Would you like the convenience and flexibility of owning your own vehicle? You may be shocked to learn that the purchase price can be almost 40% more and possibly higher, than what you would have paid in your home country for a new car.

So how can you reduce the cost to live in Costa Rica? Some choose to drive a vehicle that’s older than what they used to own. Gasoline is also much more expensive in Costa Rica than in North America and Europe but you may not drive nearly as many miles once you switch to the laid-back Costa Rica lifestyle.

Rent can consume a large share of the budget. How much? Once again, it depends on how and where you live. Rents tend to run higher in popular beach areas, especially if the home offers all the amenities you enjoyed before and has an ocean view. On the other hand, simpler homes within a short drive of the beach can be quite affordable. If you own your own home, property taxes are remarkably low, Only .25% of the assessed registered value. Basically $250.00 U.S. dollars per year for every $100,000.00 of registered value. As a real estate agent, I can help you sort out the options and find the one that’s right for your budget.

Electricity is expensive in Costa Rica, it can be as much as twice the amount per kwh than many places in North America.

Costa Rica health care offers great savings compared to costs in the U.S. As an example, when I visit my cardiologist the fee is $120.00 plus tax. Those who become Costa Rican residents are required to enroll in the national health care system called the “caja”. For a relatively low monthly fee, your visits to the clinic, hospital, and some prescriptions will all be free.

So when you add it all up, what does it cost to live in Costa Rica? In very general terms, a single person could live well on $1,500 a month, and a couple on $2,500. But as the aforementioned examples illustrate, your results may vary. Depending on your lifestyle, those estimates could be high or low for you. So come on down and see for yourself. Costa Rica just might be what you’re looking for.Cost of Living Costa Rica