Costa Rican Oxcarts

Brightly painted Costa Rican OxcartFew objects are as iconic as a Costa Rican Oxcart. With its brightly painted wooden wheels and matching ox yoke, “la Carreta” is the quintessential symbol of Costa Rica’s past. It played an important role in Costa Rica’s history since it made the of export of coffee and other goods possible. Fittingly the Oxcart is considered one of the country’s national symbols.

Two bulls pulling a Costa Rican OxcartThe idea of the oxcart was bought to Costa Rica by the Spanish colonizers, but the original design had  spoke wheels that kept getting stuck and breaking on the country’s rough terrain and muddy roads. During the 19th century the oxcart, as we know it, was born. The spoke wheels were replaced by solid wood wheels bound by a metal ring that held up much better on rutted, muddy roads. The side and back panels were made removable in order to accommodate different types of cargo–walls for coffee and corn, none for sugar cane. Some carts had a front bench where the driver and a passenger could sit, but usually there was just the cargo area and the driver and his passengers rode in the box when empty, or walked alongside when loaded. The oxcart was the only means of transportation for many families and became a vital part of their lives.

Oxcart loaded with coffee in Costa RicaThe first exports of coffee were transported from coffee plantations in the Central Valley to the ports by oxcarts in the mid-1800’s, and this continued for almost 100 years, making the oxcart a key player in the economic development of Costa Rica.

Traditional Oxcart on a mountain path in Costa RicaThe first oxcarts were plain and functional. Painting and decorating the oxcarts started early in the 20th century, predominantly by Joaquin Chaverri, founder of his namesake Oxcart Factory in Sarchi. He first painted his family’s cart orange, and then painted decorations on it for family outings. To this day, orange and red are the traditional backgound colors. As time went on, each region developed its own unique design allowing for identification from afar and in crowded markets. Soon, each farmer created designs distinctive to his family. They used bright colors, geometric designs, stars, flowers, birds, animals and even portraits and landscapes to decorate the entire cart–including the wheels. The quality and intricacy of the painting indicated the social and economic status of a family.

Painted oxcart wheel, a national symbol of Costa RicaNo two oxcarts are painted the same, and, in time, contests were held to reward the most creative and inspiring designs. Some oxcarts even had their own song–a chime created when a metal ring struck the hub nut of the wheel as it turned. Though oxcarts are used all over Central America, only Costa Rica decorated their carts, making them unique.

Closeup of a painted oxcart wheel in Costa RicaSince oxcart painting originated in Sarchi, it is the cultural home of the oxcart. There is a museum, and in the town’s central park you can see the “World’s Largest Oxcart” built in 2006.




Replaced by trucks and tractors, nowadays the colorful oxcart is mostly seen in parades and festivals and on display as a work of art. But in rural areas, it is not uncommon to see an old farmer walking alongside his loaded cart, prodding along his pair of oxen. There are still muddy, rutted roads barely wider than a path that only an oxcart and its team can navigate.

In his book La Carreta Pintada (The Painted Oxcart), Michael Sims wrote: “It is not an exaggeration to say that the Republic of Costa Rica was built on the strong tenacity of the oxcart. In each aspect of agricultural labor, the countrymen relied on the strength of their oxen, plowing the earth, hauling harvests, and bringing sugar cane to the mills. As a mode of transportation. it took products to and from the market, transported travelers, was an ambulance for the sick and a hearse for the dead.”

In fact, in 1988, the vibrantly painted, traditional oxcart was designated the National Labor Symbol for Costa Rica, and UNESCO declared it an Intangible World Cultural Heritage in 2005.

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In case you haven’t heard yet, let me be the first to tell you – and put your mind at ease – RE/MAX Tres Amigos along with RE/MAX Prestige Properties and RE/MAX Ocean Village have all merged together to become TRES AMIGOS REALTY GROUP. The ownership along with all the agents had agreed that it was time to move in a new direction.

Costa Rica Global Association of Realtors Logo (CRGAR)What is important for you to know is that I am still with the same group of seasoned professionals as always. Although we are not flying the “Balloon” we are still the same group of over 15 people that you have known for the last 17 years.

National Association of Realtors LogoOur three offices will remain open and staffed with same agents and support folks to always take care of your real estate and other needs while you enjoy owning your own property and living in Costa Rica. We are committed to bring you honest, dependable and reliable service with your best interest in heart, as we always have and will continue to do.

Over the past 17 years the group has dominated the region of Playa Hermosa, Playas del Coco, Playa Ocotal and the surrounding areas.  We have more transactions thank all of the other agencies combined. Many of our agents, including me, have been RE/MAX top performers the entire time and will continue to meet or exceed that level of performance. You may be asking yourself: “how without the Balloon?” Well, let me tell you real estates is a people business.  You don’t list or buy a property because of a logo; it is the people you meet and trust that will put your best interests first.
Certified Luxury Home Market Specialist

TRES AMIGOS REALTY GROUP holds the most NAR designations of any real estate group in the area. Personally, I hold the following NAR Real Estate Designations: Certified International Property Specialist, Certified Luxury Home Market Specialist, International Real Estate Specialist, Resort Second Home Property Specialist. As well as being a legal certified SUGEF realtor and member of the Costa Rica Global Association of Realtors.

Certified International Property SpecialistResort and Second-Home Property Specialist logo






For those that have listed property with us, rest assured, the reality  is that we will actually be doing even more heavy marketing than before. We still have all our websites that are top rated, along with our worldwide network of buyers and real estate agents, with whom we have built strong relationships over the years.

If you have any questions at all please feel free to email me at, call me on my direct number 011-506-8385 or 1-877-661-6074 or visit my personal website often to keep up with the latest news and details of what is happening with Tres Amigos Realty and the Playa Hermosa region of Costa Rica.

As always, I am looking forward to hearing from you and seeing you in person here in Playa Hermosa.

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Recession and Real Estate

Image of Mark TwainAuthor Mark Twain once said, “Buy land. They’re not making it anymore.” There is a lot of wisdom and truth in that humorous statement by the renowned American writer. The middle of a recession is one of the best times to invest in real estate. Why is that?


Aerial view of a Costa Rica luxury home

Financial advisors tell us that real estate has many advantages over other kinds of investments. It is less volatile than stocks. It offers a better return than bonds and, as a result, provides a more stable income. The worst-case scenario? You have a place to live. Of course, that is not true of every property in every location but, if you study the market and make a sound investment, parts of the real estate sector can offer insulation against economic downturns like a recession.

Recessions cause Fire Sales in Costa Rica

When you study a real estate market that interests you, you may find prices have gone down because some property owners were unprepared for the recession and need to liquidate some assets. It is also possible that prices are steady but sellers are more willing to negotiate. Deep discounts and “fire sales” may give you an opportunity to pick up a property at a rock-bottom price. When there is a true fire sale, that’s the time to invest. If you start over thinking it, someone else will get in before you. Don’t think of it as taking advantage of another’s misfortune.  Think of it as an opportunity to help someone get out from under a financial burden and put cash in their pocket!

Trend line going down, indicating recession

Interest rates in the United States are at historic lows and expected to remain low for some time. So, credit that was not previously available may now be offered through your lending institution. Here in Costa Rica most, if not all, banks do not offer financing to foreigners. Your best option is to bring the financing with you.

Graphic of coronavirus causing recession

If you invest in real estate during a recession, as the economy rebounds your property will increase in value as buyers feel more confident to spend money. How long will the current recession last? The fact this economic downturn results from the COVID-19 pandemic rather than a financial crisis of another sort makes it unique and difficult to predict. This is uncharted territory for the financial industry. Most business leaders and financial experts believe it will take many months—or even years—for the economy to recover, and there may be an extended period of virtually no growth before it rises again. Unfortunately, only hindsight is 20/20, but what we know is that real estate prices are lower at the bottom of a recession.

RE/MAX Balloon

As mentioned, it is important not to assume any property purchase is a slam-dunk “nothing-but-net”. You should consult local real estate experts and study the market thoroughly. As in most places, real estate value is based on three things: location, location, location. This is especially true in Costa Rica. So, it is important to consult local realtors about which areas are likely to appreciate in value.

Prices for real estate in Costa Rica tanked in 2009-10 following the crisis in the United States. But prices are steadily rising again and have a long record of growth. You may come across an opportunity to “flip” a property, or you could hang onto it to realize its long-term potential. Investing in a rental property during a recession could give you a vacation home that pays for itself when you are not there. Win, win! The Playas del Coco and Playa Hermosa communities are home to several property management companies that can ease your worries about renting and caring for your property while you are away. When you reach retirement age, you can live in a home that has paid for itself by the time you retire, and give you a place in paradise to enjoy your “golden years.”

Recession and real estate may seem like strange bedfellows, but they can be “a match made in heaven” in Costa Rica!

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Opening of Costa Rica

Finally, the opening of Costa Rica is taking place, slowly but at least happening. Here is the most updated information I could get my hands on as of August 23, 2020. Opening the Airports is a major first step to getting back to some kind of normalcy in Costa Rica and is a welcome relief for many, not just the people of Costa Rica.
Liberia International Airport
The Costa Rican government has been evaluating each week how to restart the economy, as well as how to best protect the people of Costa Rica.  As tourism is a major economic factor for this country, the Government recognized the need to start allowing more tourists in the Country. It can feel like a moving target at times as their plan changes almost every day. However, with the opening of the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) near San Jose, and by September 5th the Liberia International Airport (LIR), it is a good start. The first flights in to Guanacaste (LIR) will be operated by United Airlines, starting September 5, while Air Canada will follow with flights in October.

In early August the government declared that tourists from Canada, the EU, Great Britain, and a few other countries are allowed to visit but there will be strict protocols to follow and hence there was a lot of confusion. Then in mid-August, the opening of Costa Rica was expanded to 44 more countries. But the United States was not included. Restrictions for temporary residents as well as permanent residents was also changed to allow these people to come back home to Costa Rica.
Map of 6 US states approved for travel with the opening of Costa Rica
On August 19th the announcement was made that residents of 6 US states; New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Connecticut will now be allowed to travel to Costa Rica. There are additional requirements for US citizens.  Here is the most recent information:
A) All people entering Costa Rica must complete the digital epidemiological form. This is known as the “Health Pass” or “Pase de Salud.” Here is the link to the form:

B) Everyone arriving to Costa Rica must obtain a negative PCR-RT coronavirus test. The sample for this test must have been taken within 48 hours of your flight to Costa Rica. Best to have the form in hand upon arrival.

C) Everyone must purchase travel insurance that covers accommodation in case of quarantine and medical expenses due to COVID-19 for the duration of the stay. The insurance policy can be international or purchased from Costa Rican insurance companies that offer the required coverage, such as The National Insurance Institute (INS) and Sagicor .  It is important to know that if you choose a foreign insurance policy it must demonstrate proof (in English or Spanish) that their policy is valid during the entire planned trip to Costa Rica. The Insurance must cover medical expenses in cases of COVID-19 while in Costa Rica, for a minimum of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000.00 USD). The policy must also include a minimum coverage of two thousand dollars ($2,000.00 USD) for expenses of extended lodging due to the pandemic.
If you happen to be a property owner in Costa Rica but do not have residency, you are still required to have the insurance coverage.

D) All persons from the United States must prove by showing their driver’s license, that they live and reside in one of the states that are allowed to come.

In the coming weeks the Costa Rica government will continue to evaluate which tourists from areas in the United States and other countries will be allowed in to the country. The opening is slow and cautious, but continuing.

Starting August 22, to the 30th, most establishments with sanitary permits are allowed to operate nationwide. This opening of business is a welcome relief for locals as well as expats living here. Basically, any retail company like auto repair shop, a barber shop or salon can legally now open if they have a up to date health certificate.
Medical worker wearing a face mask in Costa Rica
Please note with the opening of the country to tourists, masks, face coverings or face shields are required to enter any indoor establishment that is open for business.

So, if you have been planning a trip to Costa Rica, keep those plans open and be patient, your time will come. As my mom used to tell me when I was a kid, “it is well worth waiting for something you really want than to just give up your dreams”.

A Boating Paradise, Costa Rica Has it All

Boating In Costa ricaDo you like boating, if you do, you’ll love Costa Rica. The combination of hundreds of miles of ocean coastline, beaches and countless rivers, estuaries, and lakes equal abundant opportunities to enjoy life on the water. Let’s consider some of the great boating opportunities.


Groups of people rafting on the Corobici river in Costa RicaRiver rafting:
It’s boating but a simpler style.  The leisurely end of the rafting spectrum includes peaceful floats down lazy rivers like the Coribici in Guanacaste. Such tranquil trips with occasional class I and II rapids are ideal for families with young children or people just wanting to relax and enjoy the scenery. Along the riverbanks you will likely spot iguanas, monkeys, and a great variety of birds. If you crave the adventure of whitewater, head to the Pacuare or Savegre river to experience class III and IV rapids in virgin rain forests. Some outfitters offer overnight trips so you can satisfy your thirst for excitement.

A boat traveling on an estuary in Costa RicaEstuary tours:
Estuaries–brackish pools that form where rivers meet the sea–are teeming with wildlife. Boating is the best (and sometimes only) way to discover them. If you prefer self-propulsion, you can rent a kayak and explore on your own. If you would rather ride than paddle, hire a panga–a local open hull center console fishing boat that is also used for touring. The coastal town of Tamarindo is popular for guided estuary tours. You’ll be glad you’re in a boat when you see the crocodiles float by.

Joseph offshore fishing in Costa RicaFishing:
If your idea of fun is hooking and fighting a big catch, Costa Rica is the place to be.

The fishing options can be divided into three categories: lakes and rivers, inshore, and offshore. If you’d like to cast your bait in Costa Rica’s largest lake, head for Lake Arenal, home of the Guapote. This bass-like fighter can top 10 pounds, but most are in the 2 -3 pound range. A local guide and boat will help you find the big ones. Inshore fishing–ocean fishing in water that is less than 100 feet deep–doesn’t require a big boat. However, that doesn’t mean that the fish aren’t big.

Costa Rica RoosterfishThe Rooster fish, known for its distinctive dorsal fin and the battle it gives, can grow to 100 pounds. The tasty Snapper can also be found in shallower saltwater. If you’re determined to reel in a trophy fish, you’ll need to hire a boat and crew capable of going 20 or more miles into the open sea. Maybe the Sailfish, Tuna, or Marlin you catch offshore will break one of the 95 fishing world records that have been set in Costa Rican waters.
Catamaran sailboat in Pacific Costa Rican waters
The Papagayo region of Guanacaste is famous for its beautiful bays. The best way to see them is from the water aboard a catamaran. Just imagine sailing across the tranquil water at sunset or dropping anchor in a crystal bay to swim or snorkel. In addition to the gorgeous beaches and shoreline, you may be privileged to sight dolphins, sea turtles, or even a whale. Numerous tour companies can arrange half-day catamaran cruises that include drinks and a meal prepared by the crew.

Jet Skiing in Playas del Coco area of Costa RicaJet ski:
If you’d like to explore the same beautiful bays but at full throttle, rent a Jet ski.  Personally, I don’t call this boating but it is a blast and it on the water.

It’s a fast and fun way for you and a friend to check out fascinating islands just offshore or discover your own private beach. You can rent your personal watercraft by the hour, or you can join a guided tour group. Either way you’ll have a blast.

Huge sailfish caught off Costa RicaCanal tour:
Venice may boast famous canals, but Costa Rica has canals too. These natural waterways stretch for miles along the Caribbean coast. A leisurely boating ride on a powered pontoon will bring you into close contact with the abundant flora and fauna of the Tortuguero region. You may sight sloths, monkeys, toucans, and crocodiles–all from the comfort of a shady boat.

Whale breaching in the Pacific off Costa RicaCosta Rica truly is a boating paradise. Whether you crave adrenaline or serenity, sport or leisure, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the oceans, lakes, and rivers of Costa Rica.


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Selling your Costa Rica Property…some things you need to know

Someone dreaming of selling his home in Costa RicaAs the saying goes “All good thing can come to an end”. The same can be said about your Costa Rica property. Selling your property doesn’t have to be difficult, provided you are well-prepared in advance. Selling will be much easier if the property is properly priced and marketed, but there are some things you need to know beforehand to make the selling process as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Most properties are held either in a person’s name or a Costa Rican corporation. Note that property here in Costa Rica can be held in your name, in a Costa Rican corporation, in a trust or even a a foreign corporation (outside Costa Rica).  No matter how you choose to own your property, it is important to know what is required to complete a sales transaction.

Example of corporation legal books in Costa RicaThe things required to complete the sale of a Costa Rica property depends on how the offer to purchase your property is written, and how in-depth the due diligence will have to be (as requested by the buyer’s attorneys).

No matter how your property is held (in your name or the name of a corporation), I highly recommend you use your local Costa Rican “Notario” (notary) or an attorney to assist you in the selling process, which will include obtaining a number of documents required to complete the transaction.

Here is a list of items that may be required to sell your home:

1) Proof of legal water availability: whether from AYA (Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados), local municipality where the property is located, legally registered private well or from an ASADA (Asociación Administrativa del Acueducto) in other words a legally registered private water association.

2) Proof of electrical service along with the company providing service and the current contract number.

3) If the property is a house or a condo, Municipal building permits will be required to ensure it was legally built.

4) Proof of property taxes paid up to the date of closing.  You can obtain this from the local municipality where the property is located.

5) Proof of all utilities being paid up to the date of closing (water, electricity, cable and telephone).

6) If your property is a home or a large condominium, proof of the Solidarity Tax Assessment and, if subject to the tax, proof that payments are up to date from 2009 to the date of closing (Impuesto Solidario para el Fortalecimiento de Programas de Vivienda or roughly translated as the Luxury Home Tax).

7) If the property is in a registered Home Owners Association, or a Legal Condominium Association, you may need to provide the rules and regulations of the development, the minutes from the last meeting, as well as the financial report of the development. All Special assessments as well as monthly maintenance fees will need to be paid up to the date of closing.

8) A “Certificado Catastral” or certified plot plan/survey of the property.

9) A “Literal de Inmuebles” or a certification of the property.

10) A copy of your valid, non-expired passport.

Costa Rica home for saleIf your Costa Rica property, whether a house, condo or raw land / lot is registered under the name of a Costa Rica corporation there are benefits that make selling the property easier.

These benefits may include: A) Not having to be present at the closing. By having a detailed special power of attorney (SPA) and an updated shareholders meeting (which can be done by proxy) logged in the corporation legal books reflecting the special power of attorney, then the person you designate can sign the closing on your behalf here in Costa Rica.

B) Shares of the corporation can legally be transferred to a new buyer and, again, a special power of attorney (SPA) will be needed for this as well.
View of the Pacific from a Costa Rica mountain lot
If your Costa Rica property is under your personal name most likely you will be required to be present at the closing to sign all documents, which is not a bad thing when you get to experience Costa Rica maybe one last time?

However, you can still do a special power of attorney signed in front of a registered Costa Rica “Notario” Notary. The least expensive way to do this is to have you attorney draft the special power of attorney and send it to the closest Costa Rica consulate near you. Once the SPA has been approved then an appointment date and time will be set for you to go to the consulate and sign the document.
So, in order to make selling your Costa Rica property a hassle-free experience, be prepared before an offer to purchase is presented.

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Picadillo, Who Wants to Try Some?

Picadillo de papas in Costa RicaDo you know what Picadillo is? If you have been to Costa Rica, I am sure you may have had it and did not even know. I don’t know about you, but I am a fan of multiple-ingredient dishes. Therefore, I am a huge fan of a common Costa Rica dish called Picadillo

Picadillo de papas as part of a CasadoPicadillo comes from the verb picar or to chop. Adding the suffix -illo means small, so picadillo means something chopped into small pieces. Picadillo refers to several dishes that are prepared by chopping up a vegetable and sautéing it with things like garlic, onions, peppers, or cilantro. It is often served as a side dish with a Casado–the typical “Blue Plate Special” in Costa Rica consisting of a portion of meat, rice, beans, and ripe plantain. A portion of this tasty dish served on a tortilla is called a boca, which is a small snack or appetizer served in a bar-type restaurant.

PicadilloThere are many delicious picadillos you can order in a restaurant or prepare for yourself at home. To prepare the dish, always start with sautéing a bit of the aforementioned minced garlic, onion, sweet pepper, and achiote for color. Other spices such as cumin, oregano, or even curry, can vary the flavor, although that is up to the individual chef. The vegetables are usually boiled until al dente and then diced. Chopped cilantro can be added at the end of the cooking time for an added bright flavor.

Picadillo de papa, or potato, is one the most most common. Potatoes are boiled and chopped up and then added to cooked ground beef or chorizo. It is similar to what you might know as “hash”, although it is often moister. Alternately, boiled yuca (cassava) can be used in place of the potatoes and added to chorizo. That combination is absolutely delicious!

Picadillo de VainicaA lighter version is prepared with chayote, a light-green, very mild vegetable. Often canned corn is added to this dish. This picadillo, and the one that follows, includes chopped raw vegetables added to saute. A little water may be needed if the mixture becomes too dry.

Picadillo de ayote en leche is similar to the picadillo de chayote except it is made with a squash with a bright yellow interior encased in a dark green skin called ayote tierno is used. Milk or cream is added to the finished product.

One of my favorites is picadillo de arracache. Arracache is a root vegetable, a bit like celery root or a white carrot. Its distinctive flavor has been described as “a delicate blend of celery, cabbage, and roast chestnuts.” The root is roughly ground, boiled for 10-15 minutes, and all the liquid squeezed out. It is then combined with cooked chorizo or shredded meat. Yum!

Boiled green plantains can also be made into picadillo, and a very delicious version has shredded meat and cream cheese or heavy cream. It sounds strange, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

Another tasty version is made with green papaya. Once again, the papaya is chopped small and parboiled before adding it to the frying pan with the other ingredients.

And finally, there is the ubiquitous picadillo de vainica, or green beans. Green beans are chopped up small with diced carrot and prepared as described above.

Picadillos do not have to be just a side dish–they can be a complete meal by themselves or with a serving of rice. It is a tasty and satisfying way to eat a variety of vegetables, and there are so many combinations you will find it a joy to consume your daily requirement of veggies. The chopping process may be a bit labor-intensive, but once the ingredients are in the pot, all you have to do is stir.

Which picadillo would you like to prepare for lunch today?

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Can I Work from Home in Costa Rica?

Man working from home in Costa RicaCan I work from home in Costa Rica? I decided to write about this subject again.  Many ask me this question due to the recent Covid-19 pandemic. The high risk of transmission in many places and government mandates have forced workers and students alike to stay at home and limit contact outside the family. Even prior to the worldwide health crisis, it was a question frequently asked by those seeking greater flexibility and less commute time in their work. Working from home can also open up the opportunity to relocate and move to Costa Rica. So, is working from home a viable option in Costa Rica? It certainly is.

Zoom meeting while working from homeCosta Rica offers ideal conditions to work from home. It’s in the same time zone as central North America, so you’ll never have to make or receive phone calls in the middle of the night if your work contacts are in the same hemisphere. An obvious requirement is reliable, high speed Internet and phone service. Costa Rica ticks those boxes with the best telecommunications infrastructure in Central America. And multiple Internet service providers guarantee competitive pricing and constant technology upgrades.

Forbes magazine (August 16, 2012) listed tips from experts on how to successfully work from home. It’s remarkable how well the recommendations can be put into practice in Costa Rica. Here are some of their suggestions and how they fit the Costa Rican lifestyle.

Get organized. Costa Rica is a great place to get organized, both in your daily life and in your work. When moving to Costa Rica, most expats leave behind the mountain of accumulated stuff that they weren’t using anyway. When they set up in Costa Rica, they only purchase what they really need. As a result, life is simpler and better organized. The slower pace also lends itself to staying in control of home, office, and lifestyle. Being organized includes maintaining balance between work, family, and leisure time. The service of housekeepers and gardeners is reasonably priced, so you can afford to free up your schedule and keep your balance.

person working from home in their pijamasHave a set work space. Your work from home will be more efficient if you designate a specific room or area as your home office. Just like I do, in my third bedroom, which is now set up as an office. If you store your computer and any other work-related materials in one place, they will always be right where you left them, ready for you to continue your project where you left off. It won’t be difficult to find the ideal office space in your Costa Rica house or condo. Homes here are known to be spacious and brightened by natural light in every room. However, be careful that the gorgeous views don’t distract you while you’re working!

work from Home in Costa RicaTake breaks. Your productivity while you work from home will actually increase if you schedule breaks. Putting down the phone and pushing aside the computer once in a while is beneficial both physically and mentally. Costa Rican homes often feature places to get up, stretch, walk around, and breath fresh air. Many have outdoor living spaces–balconies, patios, or decks–where you can rest your mind and body. Some houses and condos have pools which is another great place to get away from your work.

Get out of the house. While a short break from your home office is nice, sometimes you need to change your work setting completely. When you’ve had enough of the same four walls, Costa Rica offers a wide variety of options. The aforementioned pool can be a peaceful, but different, place to continue your labors. Or the beach if you really want to get away from it all but still get something done. A Skype call or a Zoom meeting from the pool or beach doesn’t seem like office work at all. Coffee shops, smoothie huts, and restaurants with wifi are also readily available. They provide a much needed change of setting where you can check your emails or finish a report. And with the great year-round weather, you don’t have to wait for a nice day to leave the house.

So don’t be afraid to try working from home in Costa Rica. The great living and working conditions make it the ideal place. In fact, it may feel like you’re not even working at all. I know I didn’t when I wrote this blog from my home in Costa Rica!

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How Much Does it Cost to Own a Condo in Costa Rica?

Beautiful condo complex in Costa Rica with a poolHow much does it cost to own a condo  in Costa Rica?

Current listings of condos for sale starts with a simple studio unit for $35,000 and ascends to a 4 bedroom ocean view penthouse with roof top deck for $699,000. In between, you’ll find more than 100 offerings in a variety of sizes, styles, and prices. The point is, you’ll always find a condo available that fits your needs no matter what your taste or budget.

How to own a condo in Costa RicaIn addition, owning a condo offers numerous advantages. It’s a great investment. Year in and year out, Costa Rica real estate is one of the soundest investments you can make. The government and economy are stable, and property values continue to increase at a reasonable rate. Another bonus is that when you own your own condo, you can decorate it to your taste and use it whenever you want. That’s not the case when you rent. And finally, you can rent your condo out for extra income. Which brings us to the next question.

How much money can I make renting out my condo?
View from the living area of a condo in Costa Rica
A weekly condo rental in a gated community with a pool in Playas del Coco is currently priced between $900 (1 bedroom/1 bath) and $1400 (3 bedroom/2 bath). Those prices go up about 50% during holidays such as  Christmas and Easter. However, there are many variables that can affect the price including location, amenities, furnishings, security, season, and many other factors. The occupancy rate of a rental properties is another factor that determines your return on investment, and it too is variable. One real estate website estimates that yearly occupancy rates average 65%. So, is it worth it to rent your condo out? If you are looking for the maximum return on investment, you may be better off to put your money elsewhere. But if you consider that you can enjoy a vacation home that practically pays for itself through rentals, the option becomes much more appealing.

What are the typical costs to maintain a condo?
Rooftop deck overlooking the Pacific in Playa Hermosa Costa Rica
One of the advantages of owning a condo in Costa Rica is that someone else maintains the property. The disadvantage is that you have to pay for those maintenance services. How much should you expect to pay to the homeowner’s association for security, maintenance, landscaping of common areas, pool care, and road repairs? HOA fees can be as low as $100 per month in developments with fewer amenities and public areas. On the other hand, monthly HOA costs can reach as high as $500 or more in complexes that have more employees and more common areas to maintain. Additional expenses are property taxes (a low 0.25% of the appraised value annually), utilities, and insurance on the contents of the condo. Insurance on the structure is usually included in the HOA fees but not always, it depends on the condo association and what the owners have decided upon.

Do condo owners use Airbnb or other means to rent condos?
Luxury condo for sale in Playa Hermosa Costa Rica
Airbnb currently lists hundreds of condos, apartments, and townhomes for rent in the region that encompasses Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, and Playa Panama. lists at least 100 more. Some condo owners list their properties on these websites and then manage the reservations themselves. Others entrust that duty to a host who lives locally and perhaps manages multiple properties. Another option is to hire a property management company to care for everything and send you regular financial reports. It’s a tradeoff between personal involvement and cost that each owner must decide.

What if I need to sell my condo?
Graphic about the top 10 things to do when selling a home
I am here to help you buy your condo, and I will be here for you if you need to sell it. Whether you decide to use me or someone else, always look for a SUGEF registered real estate agent with experience and a good reputation. I know the market as well as the legal requirements for real estate transactions. Just let me know what you would like to do.

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Can I Open a Bank Account in Costa Rica?

Banco BCT in Costa RicaI get asked this all the time. “Can I open a bank account in Costa Rica”? The simple answer is yes! But you need to know the limitations that are involved. It also depends if you are opening a personal account or a corporate account. There are restrictions set by the “SUGEF”, the General Superintendent of Financial Institutions. This is basically the banking regulatory commission of Costa Rica.
Sample of a DIMEX card or Cedula in Costa Rica
Most foreigners that own property in Costa Rica come for three months of the year or maybe three to four times a year on vacations. It makes it a lot easier if they have a local bank account. Then there are expats, like me, that live here year-round and have gone through the immigration process.
Banco Nacional in Playas del Coco Costa Rica
There are government-owned banks in Costa Rica as well as private banks and financiers. Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) is the largest and most-utilized, then there is Banco Nacional (BNCR),  Banco Popular, and more. Personally, I bank with Banco BCT, a privately owned bank that is more of a business bank, yet it offers everything the government banks do and in my branch, they speak great English.

If you are a resident of Costa Rica, meaning you have gone through the residency process and have been granted residency (not a perpetual tourist and that’s another subject altogether) it is very easy to open an account. You can open a savings or checking account in either dollars or colones, the local currency, or both. The bank will require copies of proof of identity, such as a passport and proof of legal residency, your DIMEX. DIMEX is a foreigner’s residency card, sometimes referred to as a Cedula. The bank, depending on which one you choose, may need to know how much money you plan on depositing and withdrawing in the account per month. I know it sounds weird but it is all related to the prevention of money laundering. Being a resident, the service options are even greater, let me explain.
Banco de Costa RicaBy having a full account, whether checking or savings, you can pay your Costa Rica bills online through the bank’s online banking system. Services like water, electricity and cable. If you want to transfer or wire money to someone else in the country you can do it through the SINPE wire system of Costa Rica. If you want to wire funds out of Costa Rica, no problem, that can be done as well. Basically, every type of banking you do in North America or Europe you can do here – all right from your smartphone or laptop.

If you are the owner of a Costa Rica registered corporation, you are in luck.  Even non-residents of Costa Rica can have a full working bank account in a company name.  However, you will have to secure certain documents from your attorney here in Costa Rica. For example, a shareholder’s certification. A lot of foreigners that buy property in Costa Rica own them through corporations for both liability protection and the opportunity to open a full bank account.
Banco Popular in Costa RicaEven if you are not a legal resident you can still open a personal bank account in Costa Rica, but you will be limited to only $1,200.00 USD per month in or out of the account. You will be able to pay local bills online but you cannot wire funds to anyone.  These strict policies related to non-resident bank accounts can be a hassle but they are designed to stop money laundering.

So, can you open a bank account in Costa Rica?  YES is the answer!

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