Guanacaste, Home to Costa Rica’s Largest Solar Park

Coopeguanacaste is the rural electric distributor in for most of the province of Guanacaste and they are very close to completing constructing the largest solar panel plant in all of Costa Rica with an installed capacity of 5 Megawatts (MW) and generating 9 Gigawatts (GWh) of energy per year.

The solar park is located in Belen de Carrillo, Santa Cruz, about a 40-minute drive down rt. 21 from the Liberia International airport. The main reason for picking Guanacaste is the abundance of sunshine. With Costa Rica’s goal of reducing its carbon footprint and working towards being fossil fuel free for the generation of electricity, is hoping to reduce about 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. This equates to roughly planting over 5000 trees to achieve the same thing.

According to data supplied by Panasonic, the company in charge of project design and construction, the solar park has 15,456 photovoltaic panels with high-efficiency HIT technology of 325 Watts each.

The park costs an estimated $8.6 million USD, funds came from the MGM Sustainable Energy Fund (MSEF), a private equity fund that promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in Latin America.

If Green energy is a big thing for you there are some great options here in Costa Rica to add them to any home.

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Yes! Costa Rica Has Great Chocolate

When I first came to this country in 1999 I was looking for locally made, Costa Rica chocolate as I had read that there is a large cocoa-growing region in the country. What I found was a bit of a disappointment, but that has all changed.

Recently I came upon Chocolate Sibö. found it at a local tourist trinket shop. At first, I was thinking “ok I will spend the cash and hope it is at least ok”. I just had this craving for chocolate so what the heck, let’s give it try. I’ve wasted money on other stupid things in my life and well if good it would be a win-win for me. Well, I have to be honest with you, I am not a true connoisseur of fine chocolates but I have enjoyed some pretty good chocolates from all over the world in my time and Hershey Bars are not one of them. I was pleasantly surprised at how good the bar was and really enjoyed the rich flavor as it was sweet but not overly sweet. So I did a bit of looking online to find out more about this Costa Rica homegrown chocolate.  Julio Fernández, owner of Chocolate Sibö started the company with a clear business vision: to make world-class chocolate from Costa Rica utilizing exclusively organic cocoa grown in Costa Rica while trying to bring Costa Rica to the forefront of the cocoa industry.

Last month at the International Chocolate Awards, Sibö was awarded the silver medal for an apple and lemon-covered milk chocolate that contained 55% cocoa. There were over 650 competitors and Sibö was the only one from Central America that won an award for its chocolate.

However, when you are in Guanacaste, you need to stop by Cata Chocolate in Playa Del Coco, on the main road close to the beach located upstairs from the souvenir shop “Sussy”. You will be quiet impressed with the homegrown fresh chocolate made here. Lots to chose and I have never been disappointed with anything I purchased there. They use cocoa grown in the Bijagua Valley that is nestled between 2 volcanoes, Mirravales and Tenorio in Guanacaste and sit at an average of close to 1500 feet above sea level. Here is the website for Cata Chocolate, check it out you won’t be sorry.

So next time you come to Costa Rica, just don’t think of coffee, tropical fruits, great beaches and the list can on and on, stop and get some Costa Rica chocolate and enjoy.

Take a look at some of my great Costa Rica lots for sale; they go great with the local chocolate and coffee

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Guanacaste Getting a Bio-Fertilizer Plant

Well here we go again, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) along with the Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock, Environment and Energy, and Economic Planning and Development are working to improve the environment. Well, I hope so.

A common occurrence once any government agency gets involved, and I don’t care what country you may be talking about, there always seems to be a delay or overrun of projected costs. Hopefully sometime by the end of this year, if completed on time and no hold ups, operations will start at the new bio-fertilizer plant in Upala, Guanacaste that will convert leftovers from pineapple production into bio-fertilizers.

One of the good aspects of this new Bio-fertilizer product is that it will be dedicated and used for the cultivation of organic pineapples. Most people do not know that there is a lot of natural by-product in the production of pineapples. If you have been in the Upala area of Guanacaste and for that matter a lot of other areas of Costa Rica, you will be amazed at the size of the plant that produces only one fruit at a time most of the time.

This operation, when completed, will help eliminate and make good use of the more than 220 tons of cut plant stubble- a term used to describe surplus from the pineapple harvest. The byproduct of pineapple production is over 440,000 pounds per 2.5 acres of pineapple farms. Considering that Costa Rica alone is in the top 10 pineapple producers in the world, that’s a lot of by-products and why not uses it to make a bio-fertilizer? It only makes sense!

Want to have your own small-time farm or just a garden to grow your own pineapples? Check out some opportunities to buy a farm or some land near Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.

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National Symbols, How Many does Costa Rica Have? Updated: May 9, 2022

The National Symbols embody Costa Rica’s rich culture, history, traditions, and values. These symbols preserve the identity and legacy of Costa Rica. 

It took me some time to investigate some of the non-obvious ones and with my so-so Spanish. I put this list together, I am sure I may have missed some but here are 10 that are pretty cool. Of course, some were really easy so I really did not have to dig too hard.

Costa Rica has declared a new national symbol! Lucky number 18 is the Morpho Helenor Narcissus butterfly or commonly known as the blue morpho. This stunning electric blue butterfly can be found fluttering in many parts of the country or on the 50,000 colones bill! Butterflies are important to Costa Rica’s identity, about 18% of the entire world’s species can be found here. Declaring the blue morpho butterfly as a national symbol will ensure conservation of these beautiful creatures. Small but mighty, the blue morpho is a recognized worldwide ambassador of environmental beauty.

Costa Rica flag

First, of Course is the Flag – The easiest one to remember, Costa Rican flag declared its flag a National Symbol on September 29, 1848. The Costa Rican flag has five horizontal bars, starting at the top with blue, then moving down to white, red, white and blue again.

Second is the Emblem
– The emblem or as some call it a national coat of arms has been a national symbol since 1848, over time there have been a lot of changes. In 1998 it was finally settled on the following criteria that the National emblem must include three volcanoes with steam coming out of them, greenish blue mountains, a light green valley, the side arches be gold and made of coffee beans, seven starts representing the provinces, a rising sun and oceans at each side with a three-mast sailboat.

The third is Pabellón Nacional – the National Pavilion, this is actually the combination of the first 2 items in this list. It is basically the Costa Rican Flag with the emblem on it and is normally only used in official government acts.

Fourth is the National Anthem – Or in Spanish El Himno Nacional. It was written by José María Zeledón, and the Music by Manuel María Gutiérrez. Here is a link of the Costa Rica National Anthem with the words to a YouTube video. Enjoy!

Fifth is the Guaria Morada – This is the beautiful purple orchid that grows primarily in moist areas of Costa Rica’s forests and is the national flower. Orchids have always been one of my favorite flowers.

Sixth on the list was easy, the Guanacaste Tree– The word Guanacaste is actually a Choratega Indian word meaning “EAR”, the tree was given that because of the seed pod resembling a human ear. In 1959 it was declared a national symbol. This tree is all over the Guanacaste province and is just majestic.

The Yiguirro, the national bird of Costa Rica sitting on a limb

Seventh is the Yiguirro– I know it’s a strange word but a bird and not a very exotic looking bird at that and not very attractive compared to some other species in Costa Rica, but it was declared the national bird in 1977 because of the beautiful song it sings.

Eighth is the Ox Cart- The ox cart at one time was the main means of transporting coffee beans from the farms to the distribution centers on the Pacific Coast. These beautiful hand-painted carts with incredible detail are considered a symbol of work. In some areas, you still see them in use today usually with two huge oxen pulling the cart.

3 men playing the Marimba in Costa Rica

Ninth is the Marimba- It is a musical instrument that originally came from Guatemala. The marimba is a percussion instrument made of a set of wooden bars struck with mallets to produce musical tones. The bars of a marimba are arranged like the keys of a piano. This instrument is used to play most of Costa Rica’s traditional music and anthems.

Costa Rica Independence Day Torch

The Tenth is the Independence Torch – The torch represents the liberty and independence of Costa Rica and the rest of the Central American countries. Every year just before Independence Day the torch is light and carried by foot from the Nicaraguan border to Cartago the original provincial capital when Central America and Costa received its independence.

As the country evolves, new symbols are added to represent the principles and standards that define the nation. Much has changed since 1848, and the past decade has introduced many new symbols. 

Sloth – In 2021, we celebrated the sloth joining the national symbols of Costa Rica! Declaring the sloth as a national symbol will force Minae, MOPT, ICE and the municipalities to take more action in protecting this species. These peculiar yet charming creatures have captured the hearts of millions. Costa Rica is striving to save their environment for future generations. 

Sloth in Costa Rica

The Crestones – This incredible rock formation in the Talamanca mountain range became a national symbol in 2011. The Crestones represent the natural wealth and the importance of tourism activity for the country. Costa Rica embraces its natural beauty and protects it for future generations to enjoy. This is the first tourist site to be declared a national symbol! 

Stone Spheres of Diquis – The spheres became a national heritage symbol in 2014. These pre-Columbian spheres are fascinating due to their abundance, size, and geometric perfection! The sizes range from a few centimeters to over 2 meters (6.6ft) in diameter. Some of these stone spheres can weigh up to 15 tons! Not an easy thing to sculpt or carry. You can see a replication of one of these stones at the Liberia airport only 25 minutes from Playa del Coco. 

Stone Spheres of Diquis

Manatees – Also in 2014, manatees became a national symbol to expand the dialogue about conservation. Two young school children from Limon started the initiative to protect these gentle creatures. The Costa Rican government passed the law not only to protect the species but also to show the youth that they can have an influence in their government despite their age. 

National Theatre – Constructed in 1897, the National Theatre in San Jose did not become a national symbol until 2018! This theatre is considered one of the most historical buildings in Costa Rica. It represents the values of education, culture, and peace which are the pillars of this country. You can stop by this theater at any time during operating hours and take a self guided tour. Often there are free musical programs at noon or on Thursdays at 5:00pm. 

Coffee – The coffee plant was first introduced to Costa Rica in the late 1700’s. Coffee became the national symbol on January 20th, 2020. Since its introduction, it has been a critical element for economic development in Costa Rica. The export tax placed on the coffee in the late 1800’s funded the construction of the National Theatre! Costa Rican coffee is considered among the best in the world. It is truly the “golden grain” for this country. 

coffee - a national symbol of Costa Rica

Costa Rica may be a small country…But that has not stopped it from having so many official national symbols. Ticos have truly taken the time to embrace, observe, and place value on their surroundings. They have crafted a beautiful national identity. 

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My Adventure Visiting Rio Celeste Using WAZE

I have to say, I do not know what took me so long to go visit one of the most spectacular national parks in the area. You know, I have lived here for almost 10 years now, my 10th anniversary is coming up in November but that’s another topic. I have seen and maybe you as well, some fantastic photos of the crystal clear almost light blue fluorescent waters of the Rio Celeste or “Heavenly River” it is a site to see firsthand to really get the full experience.

Just this past week, my girlfriend and her daughter were visiting and I asked what do you guys want to do tomorrow as I am free from work and clients. Both responded, “Can we go to Rio Celeste”. I asked them if they have ever been and the resounding answer was NO. How come I asked, you have lived here in Costa Rica your whole lives? I got this look like; really do you know what it takes to get there by bus? That look was enough, “Sure let’s leave early as I heard it is a long way away from here. So I looked it up using the app WAZE, it a free GPS mapping /alert system I found it to be better than others. After a few minutes of trying to find the correct route to drive to Rio Celeste, I plotted the course to drive, not bad from where I live only 78 kilometers or roughly 48 miles and the app stated it should take about 1 hour and 33 minutes. So I am thinking that’s not so bad about an hour and a half drive or just a bit more. Next morning bright and early we were off for a day’s adventure.

The drive from Playa Hermosa into Liberia then south on the Inter Americana highway to route CR 6 was a breeze; we got to this point in about 40 minutes. Rt. 6, just north of Canas, is a great paved road all the way and the views of the mountains and volcanoes are just breathtaking.  So, about 20 minutes after turning onto Route 6, I am following WAZE directions and we get to the town of Bijagua, a quiet mountain town sitting between two national parks, tons of lush greenery and flowering plants in people’s front yards, and along the highway. Bijagua is a very typical Costa Rica small town and very charming. Mind you now when I say highway, here in Costa Rica 95% of the highways are only two lanes, that is, one way in each direction, so a distance of only 48 miles can take longer than just an hour or so.  After passing through Bijagua the Waze App says turn right here and go for 12 kilometers, so I make the turn. Holly crap this had to be the worst rock/dirt road I have ever been on, the girls started laughing and said: “thanks pops for the free kidney massage are we almost there”.
After the 30 minutes of killing everyone’s kidneys,  WAZE tells us to turn right in 100 meters and you are at your destination. Hooray!! We all screamed. Liar!! I made the turn and continued to drive for 3 more miles, and nothing. So we stopped at this small roadside restaurant/soda and asked if we were any near the Rio Celeste and the national park. The owner was quite pleasant and laughed “sure follow this road for 7 more kilometers and you are there. He then said I guess you are using WAZE.” We all hung our heads low.

Finally almost two and three-quarter hours later we arrived at the entrance to the park. I have to tell you it was worth the trip. After paying the entrance into the park (and by the way for locals as I am considered since I have full permanent residency it was only $1.50 entrance fee, non-residents pay about four times the local fee).  So if you decide to go to the national park be ready to pay about $6.00 USD but it is worth it. So off we go with water bottles in hand for the hike to the river and waterfall. I had heard that the hike can be really muddy and it is about a 2-mile hike in the jungle up and down hills, I was ready and prepared! Just a short distance from the entrance trail all of sudden we come upon a concrete paved walkway, I thought “wow this is cool how easy is this?”. Well at times I should just shut up my brain and not listen to it. 200 yards later the path ends and turns to rock and dirt and I thought, “ok here comes the muddy part because we are in the middle of the rainy season so I am sure it will be”. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was not a muddy mess but still a bit of a challenging hike as we were climbing uphill and the dirt was wet but the rocks helped out. Now, it was not like climbing on hands and knees, but a good incline. I was amazed at some of the tropical flowers that were along the trail and saw many different types of butterflies, birds and, of course, insects. Not to worry not one mosquito bite amongst us and we used no repellents. Along we go and the trail flattened out and we come to a big sign in both Spanish and English welcoming us to the falls. You could hear the waterfall very clearly but still could not see it. Just past the sign was a concrete set of stairs with handrails leading down the ravine towards the falls.
We took a few minutes to enjoy the sites and watch some incredibly beautiful iridescent blue butterflies dancing around us. Just incredible to see these creatures live in nature. As we are getting ready to trek down towards the waterfall and rive a couple slightly older than me, I assume as the had a heck of a lot of gray hair than me, huffing and puffing with faces red as a clown’s bulbous nose. When they got to the top step, the gentleman looked at me and said good luck getting back up here. I knew I was in for it at this point. So I thanked him offered him my water and he said thanks, I have one and you will need yours.

So, off we headed down the steps and they were pretty steep. As we got close and the stairway made a turn the waterfall and river came into view. We all stopped in our tracks with amazement. We had never seen anything as beautiful as this. As we continued down we just could not believe what we were seeing, I said to Karla, “why did we ever wait this long to come here! We finally made it to the bottom and there is a nice landing area that holds about 20 people comfortably with a railing to prevent you from falling into the river. At this location you are restricted from swimming in the pool at the base of the waterfall, later I investigated other areas and will surely return. The color of the water is mind-blowing to me; we never saw anything like this in our lives. After spending about an hour and taking tons of photos we decided to hike back up to the top. Well, I am going to make this short, It is over 280 steps almost straight uphill, I had to stop every 80 or so and catch my breath, good thing there were handrails.

After leaving the park, we decided to have a late lunch and there are 2 restaurants right at the entrance to the park. Good local Costa Rican food, I love Casado, the national dish, some kind of meat, rice, beans, plantains and a salad all on one plate.
After having a full belly we decide it’s time to head back to the beach. Oh great, I am thinking almost three hours to get back so I decided to check WAZE again to see if there is a shorter way back. While I am messing with the app, Karla asks the parking attendant, where does this road go to? She said oh just 5 kilometers straight ahead in the opposite direction you came from and you are in Bijagua.
At this point, I wanted to throw the phone out the window or delete the app WAZE. From the park, it took only an hour and forty minutes to get back home and the road from the park to Bijagua was paved on all the up and downhill parts and the flats were dirt but in great shape even in the rainy season. So if you decide to come to Guanacaste for a vacation just send me a note and I will give you the direction to the national park and the Rio Celeste, without the hassle of an additional hour on the road by a GPS system that works most of the time. Either way, it was still a great day and I will do it again.

Here is a link to a YouTube video I took while at the Rio Celeste Falls, enjoy! 

Thanks for reading my rant.  If you have any interest in buying a home in Costa Rica, check out a few of my homes in Playa Hermosa.

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The Heart of Costa Rica

“What am I truly seeking in life?”

Have you ever asked yourself that question? Or maybe, you are so busy with day to day life that you are convinced you just don’t have the luxury to think about anything else but work.  Well, it’s time to stop and savor this very moment.

Since time immemorial, we are taught that to be successful, we have to work very hard, the proverbial “work our ***es off.” But nothing could be further from the truth. What we don’t realize is that we are forever stuck in the cycle of living to work when we should be working to live.

The very things we are sacrificing are the things we truly seek — more time, good health, pleasures, and happiness. These are not concepts but realities which comprise a happy life in its purest form.

Ah, yes…pure life! But does it exist?

Yes, it does. And this pure life we seek can be found in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a country in which a laid-back, easy-going and slower paced life is the norm rather than the exception.

The Pure Life or “Pura Vida” is what defines the Costa Rican lifestyle. It is an intrinsic part and the essence of Costa Rican culture. It is a way of life void of stress and worries.

Pura Vida is unique to Costa Rica.  Costa Ricans use these two words as a greeting, as an expression of satisfaction, as an assurance, as a reminder or simply as an exclamation.   You will often hear someone say “como estas?” (how are you?) and the reply “Pura Vida!”.  Translation? Good, fine, cool…

Poison Dart Frog Costa RicaPura Vida living is a picture of calm, peace, serenity, relaxation, appreciation of what life has to offer while awakening your senses to the beauty surrounding you. It can be as simple as being mesmerized by a brightly-colored Poison Dart Frog, listening to the singing of a Quetzal, feeling the wind on your face while walking along the beach of Guanacaste, or enjoying a sumptuous Ceviche on a hot day at the beach.

The Pura Vida philosophy values the intangibles, and this is where the heart of Costa Rica lies.

No wonder, this tiny Central American republic has been named several times as the Happiest and Most Sustainable Country on Earth, according to the Happy Planet Index, and is regularly among the top 15 Happiest Countries in the World, according to the World Happiness Report.

The Happy Planet Index measures health, happiness, and sustainability. The formula takes into consideration “the well-being and longevity of a population, and how equally these are distributed, with the result set against each country’s ecological footprint.”

This award means that, in Costa Rica, people live longer, happier lives at little or no cost to the environment.

The Story of the Mexican Fisherman (as told by Heinrich Böll) is a compelling and inspiring story that could very well sum up what Pura Vida is —

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed. “I have an MBA from Harvard, and can help you,” he said. “You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening up a cannery. You could control the product, processing, and distribution,” he said. “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “Oh, 15 to 20 years or so.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO, and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you could retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

The truth is we don’t need to “work our ***es off” to achieve something in life. On the contrary, overwork proves to be far more damaging to the quality of our work output, our relationships, our health, and our ultimate success.

After all, we cannot put a price tag on “Pura Vida”.

Many have made the decision to seek the Pura Vida life and retire in Costa Rica.  Have you made yours?

Contributed by Vivian A.

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