If you have been spending all your time on Costa Rica’s Pacific “gold coast”, you may be surprised to find that there is what feels like another country completely on the Atlantic side. The Caribbean coast of  Costa Rica has a distinct Afro-Caribbean influence, which is completely different from the culture of the central highlands or the northwest province of Guanacaste.

Map of Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica

From San Jose you take Highway 32 as it hugs the steep mountainsides of the Braulio Carillo National Park. It is a Jurassic park experience, driving through the rugged terrain carpeted with virgin rain forest. The jungle is always trying to erase man’s path with landslides and falling rocks. So be careful and keep an eye out. Be sure and check a GPS system like WAZE for road closings before you head out.

Roads damaged by landslide in Costa Rica

After coming down out of the forest, the road flattens out as it passes through the banana and pineapple plantations of the Atlantic lowlands. When you start to see transoceanic vessels in the distance, you have arrived in Limon. Not much to see in Limon so don’t waste your time it is a port town (it is a bit dirty and down-in-the-mouth), so take a right and head south down the coast. Limon tends to be a bit rough so you have been pre-warned.

 Limon Costa Rica

Down the coast you will find several charming beach towns. First comes Cahuita and its namesake Cahuita National Park. The waves can be seen breaking on the coral reef offshore—a good place to snorkel.

Caribbean beach Costa Rica

Next up is Puerto Viejo, which is a tiny bit more bustling if you could call it that. To call these little towns laid-back is an understatement of epic proportions! However, around the back sides of the blocks or hidden down a tree-covered lane are all manner of rooming and food, even boutique hotels and international restaurants.

Continuing south you can choose your personal paradise: Chiquita, Cocles, or Punta Uva beach. All are palm-lined coves of pale, soft sand washed by turquoise water and dotted with tidal pools.

Caribbean beach Costa Rica

At the end of the road is the remote and exotic Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. This reserve includes a 10-kilometer stretch of completely empty beach and a 740-acre forest with hiking trails.

Banana plantation Costa Rica

As you drive, eat! There are a lot of cool funky places along the trip. The dish “rice-and-beans” (sounds like “risanbean”) is made with coconut milk, thyme and Scotch bonnet chilies. YUM and SPICY. Ask around for a local who makes and sells “patty”—a spicy meat pie. Try the “agua de sapo” (frog water) which is water sweetened with crystallized sugarcane syrup flavored with ginger and lime. And then there’s the seafood gumbo called “rundon.” No reason to go hungry!

Heading to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is a great adventure, for a week or so. One piece of professional advice–do not invest in the area.  Please do not make the mistake as many have done, unless you plan to live there till the end, because you may not get your investment back if you need to sell.

You will enjoy the lush forests dripping with flowers and wildlife, and the funky vibe that is The Other Costa Rica. Pura vida mon!

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Yes, it is true my friends, there are active Costa Rica volcanoes. That’s what makes living here and vacationing here exciting. But no need to be scared unless you try to get too close when they erupt.  Always take precautions. I decided to write this blog because of the recent eruption of Volcan de Fuego in Guatemala.

Volcanoes are one of the great features of Costa Rica, along with nature, great beaches, and #1 in my book, the loving Ticos.  Ticos are incredible people and once you get to experience being part of this culture you will never want to leave.

When thinking of moving to Costa Rica, it is important to know that there are active volcanoes in the country.  If you happen to find an area that is just right for you but close to a volcano (I am talking within a twenty-mile range) it is advisable to monitor one of the many Governmental volcano alert systems, such as: OBSERVATORIO VULCANOLÓGICO Y SISMOLÓGICO DE COSTA RICA

Here is a list of the top Volcanoes in Costa Rica not necessarily in any specific order.

#1 Arenal Volcano

This is the most visited national park and Volcano in the entire country. The last major eruption was Fifty years ago. Arenal is dormant now but I remember when it was still active and I stayed in a hotel with a view of the crown, at night I would sit on the veranda of my room and watch the red embers flowing down, was more like a trickle but you could still see them. Located sixty-six “direct” miles from Playa Hermosa, I have no worries if it was to blow again.

Costa Rica volcanoes - Arenal
#2 Poás Volcano

Located in the Province of Alajuela and only 14 miles from my second home in Costa Rica experienced some eruptions just last year in 2017. The eruptions cause the closure of the national park but no real damage was reported, tourist lookout spots were demolished and some close vegetation was burned but mostly just a lot of steam and ash. Poas is considered an active volcano that has had forty events since the early 1800’s.

Poas Volcano in Costa Rica
#3 Irazú Volcano

Located just 22 direct miles from the capital City of San Jose and in the province of San Jose, and even closer to the city of Cartago, Irazu had some strong eruptions in the 1960’s. When visiting the park and while hiking to observation points, deposits are still visible from past pyroclastic flows. Listed as the highest active volcano in Costa Rica, it measures over 11,200 feet tall.

Irazu Volcano Costa Rica
#4 Turrialba Volcano

Located as well in the in the province of San Jose it is very close to Irazú, just over 6 miles apart. The last eruption was in 2016. This volcano as well is one of the tallest reaching peaks of over 10,900 feet. It is estimated that there have been five large explosions over the last 3500 years. It is said that from the peak of Irazú you can see both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. I don’t know about that as I will never hike that far up.

Turrialba Volcano Costa Rica

Now for the three in Guanacaste, my home province.

#5 Rincon De La Vieja Volcano

This is the closest volcano to Playa Hermosa, where I live and the area and the Gulf of Papagayo. Just over 29 miles away, I am sure if it blows I would be safe from a pyroclastic flow but not necessarily ash debris. Rincon De La Vieja (The Old Woman’s Corner) has been active since early 2017 with small eruptions and rumbling. Measuring just over 6,200 feet high it is one of the lowest volcanos in Costa Rica. The National Electric Company, ICE, opened a geothermal processing facility there a few years ago and generating electricity for a good part of Guanacaste. This is a great national park to visit, I have been there many times and always enjoy the waterfalls, the Toucans and tons of other natural sites.

Rincon De La Vieja Volcano
#6 Miravalles Volcano

Just on the line of the provinces of Guanacaste and Alajuela, this volcano is being utilized just like Rincon De La Vieja with a geothermal processing plant to generate electricity. Miravalles has great hiking and waterfalls to visit along with eco-adventure tour operators – well worth the visit. The is the tallest of all of Guanacaste’s volcanoes, measuring just over 6, 600 feet high. There has been only one recorded explosion in 1946 and it was just letting off steam. Miravalles is just over 37.5 miles from my home.

Miravalles Volcano Costa Rica
#7 Tenorio Volcano

The last and furthest south of the Guanacaste Volcanoes, measure 6,200 feet high and over 44 miles away from My home. Tenorio volcano includes four volcanic peaks as well as two craters. This national park is a must see with the Rio Celeste “The Blue River” as a highlight. Easy to hike and well worth the trip. An Active volcano with Fumarolic activity, a legend that exists of an eruption in 1816, but the volcano was densely forested at the time of an 1864 visit and is not considered to have erupted in historical time.

When you considering a trip to Costa Rica, it is well worth visiting one of the many active Costa Rica volcanoes, you won’t be sorry. Of course if thinking of moving here, just remember to keep your investment a safe distance away.

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Is the idea of a trip to the local Costa Rica health clinic scary to you? Does it bring to mind visions of dirty sheets, rusty needles, and a tank of leeches in the corner? Is that how it is in Costa Rica? No, my paranoid friend, it is not. Well, maybe the sheets are not spotless. But your local health clinic in Costa Rica—while simple—is relatively clean and modern.

Health Clinic Costa Rica

Foreign residents of Costa Rica are required to pay into the national social security and health care system, the “caja.” If you are here as a tourist, you cannot use these clinics. You will have to go to a private clinic and pay. However, a visitor can use any emergency room at any hospital in the country and work out how to pay for it later.

Costa Rica Social Security

So, let’s say you are a foreign resident and you are ready to get your first appointment at the Ebais (Equipos Básicos de Atención Integral en Salud, in case you were wondering). First of all, you will need to take in the receipt (comprobante) as proof of your first month’s payment to the “caja”. Equipped with that and your cédula (government ID), you approach the receptionist and ask for a carnet (healthcare ID card and record of appointments). They will then make a personal manila-file folder with your name on it that is kept on file in the office. An electronic file will also be opened.

At this point, you ask for a “cita” (appointment). They may take pity on you and give you one right then and there, or they may give you a phone number and tell you to call. If your Spanish is that of a beginner, have a neighbor get the appointment for you. The operators talk REALLY fast and are barely intelligible. Follow the recorded prompts asking for the area where you live and your carnet number. Often they ask us, gringos, for the cédula number also, which is several digits longer than the Tico’s number and always a source of confusion.

Costa Rica CCSS website image

You are asked to arrive at the health clinic 15 minutes before your appointment, but you often wait an hour or more before you are called to see the doctor. The on-time arrival saves your place in line, though, so it is worth it. Take your cédula, carnet, and comprobante to the receptionist and she will locate your file and give it to you to take to the doctor.

The doctors can be men or women, old or young. I swear one of the last ones that saw me was not more than 12 years old! The doctors are assigned to your area by the government and, just when you are getting used to yours, they may be transferred. Sometimes they are very capable and communicative, and others barely look at you much less talk to you. Sometimes it seems the leeches in the tank in the corner would be a more proactive approach to your treatment. But here’s the thing: These state-assigned doctors are not raking in the bucks. They have a limited array of medicines at their disposal, and they cannot rush a system that moves at a snail’s pace. So, don’t get frustrated. Remember you are getting what you paid for, and you didn’t pay all that much.

a local EBAIS clinic in Costa Rica

The doctor will write out prescriptions to last you the next 3 to 6 months, depending on when they want to see you again. After leaving the consultation room, take your prescriptions, cédula, comprobante, and carnet to the pharmacy window and hand them in. They will return everything but the first month’s prescriptions and hand you the tear-off receipt (colilla). You will wait for about half an hour for them to call out your (mispronounced) name. And now you have a plastic bag of bubble-pack pills to last you a month!

Now, that didn’t hurt, did it??

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More and more people from all over the world are moving to Costa Rica. There is an incredible number of reasons for this. One of the top reasons is the great health care offered here, but the question: “can I get insurance”, is always asked.

Logos of insurance companies in Costa Rica
The short answer to that question is a definite YES! Private health insurance is now offered thru many different well-known international carriers as well as the national INS (Instituto Nacional de Seguros), the government-run insurance company. There are also many different brokers offering services and help clients find the right type of coverage for their needs. A good number of the brokerage companies are owned by individuals that are either North Americans, or Ticos that speak great English.

Costa Rica insurance options
The are many types of policies available to a homeowner and you can get riders as well. Car insurance is also available, from liability only to collision to complete comprehensive coverage. Of course, there is individual health insurance as well, with coverage from companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield and Best Meridian Insurance to name a couple.

Costa Rica Insurance

How about the boat you want to eventually buy or bring with you to Costa Rica? Yessir, your boat can be easily covered as well. Are you getting ready to build a home and need insurance to cover the workers so you can get the building permits? That type is also available from multiple providers.

There are many types available, even plain liability is available to protect your investment, say if you’re renting it out, or if you have a business. Someone asked me the other day, “well what about earthquake or flood insurance“. It is all available.

Home flooded in Costa Rica
When making to move to Costa Rica and thinking of insurance, take a deep breath and relax, it is available and lot more affordable than in north America.

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