Costa Rican Zaguates

You are probably wondering what is a Zaguate?! A Zaguate is the Costa Rican way of referring to a stray, mix breed, or street dog. Basically, it is the national breed of Costa Rica.

Zaguates can be large or small, wire-hair or short-hair, young or old, black, white or anything in between. There is no combination of traits, colors, and looks that a zaguate has not achieved. Who wouldn’t want a wire-hair labrador dachshund terrier or a golden mini husky poodle? Many expats or tourists who visit will unexpectedly fall in love with a Costa Rican zaguate. These pups often end up wandering into your life when you least expect it.

one of my Zaguates in the front yard
Costa Rica unfortunately has a large stray dog population, especially in the more rural areas. Thankfully, many people have taken it upon themselves to help these charming zaguates. One of the largest shelters in Costa Rica is called Territorio de Zaguates or “The Land of Strays”. This shelter is home to over 1,300 dogs! Territorio de Zaguates strives to teach the citizens of Costa Rica the importance of castration and proper pet care. Another well known rescue organization in Costa Rica is Charlie’s Angels. Charlie’s Angels works on a much smaller scale, usually only taking in 15-20 dogs at a time. Both of these organizations often take in very neglected and abused animals. They work extremely hard to make sure every dog has its needs met and is restored back to good health. The best moment is always when they find the perfect home for each of their wonderfully unique pups.

My 4 Zaguates taking a nap
The best news is, you can find your very own zaguate locally! Here in Playa del Coco, we have our own organization called Patas y Manos. Patas y Manos is a nonprofit aimed at helping animals and humans within our local community. Many people living in Playa del Coco, Playa Hermosa, and Playa Panama help Patas y Manos foster dogs in need. This organization is always looking for someone to open their hearts to a zaguate of their own. I know I have 4 of them, the best dogs I ever had. Many people I know, one in particular, is my partner and he has 13, yes I said 13!

A group of Costa Rica Zaguates on the beach
Another great way to help a dog in need is to simply chat with your neighbors. Everyone knows someone who knows a zaguate that needs a home. Keep in mind that not every dog wandering on its own is a stray. Many people allow their castrated, adopted zaguates to continue visiting around the neighborhood or taking themselves on walks to the beach. Before adopting a dog right off the street, make sure you post on local social media groups or ask around in the community. If no one claims the pup, you now have a zaguate of your own! The local vet in Playa del Coco, Dr Jessica Jimenez, will give your zaguate an overall health check and help with any medical needs. After that, the only thing left to do is enjoy the company of a one of a kind, new best friend in paradise.

Street Dog (Zaguate) with a funny tooth
For those who cannot adopt, please donate to any of the beautiful organizations mentioned above. They all need your support!

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Rincón de la Vieja National Park

Costa Rica is home to a plethora of incredible national parks. We have a total of 6, just in Guanacaste! Rincón de la Vieja National Park is just a short drive away from Playa Hermosa and Playas del Coco.

Waterfall in Rincon de la Vieja national park

Rincón de la Vieja, which translates to “The Old Women’s Corner/Nook”, protects over 34,000 acres. This national park offers hiking, swimming, horseback riding, camping, picnicking, and endless sightseeing. It is conveniently located only 1 hour from Playas del Coco or just 30 minutes from Liberia. This park is divided into 2 main sectors; Las Pilas & Santa Maria. Due to the size and the position of the park, the two sectors offer dynamically different climates. The west side of the park experiences a dry season during December-April.

While the east side stays perpetually lush on account of the Atlantic trade winds. So lush in fact, that the Santa Maria sector is actually responsible for supplying 40% of the water that is consumed by Liberia. You can discover over 30 rivers and streams throughout the landscape, all brimming with life. With all that water, along with a large range of elevation come many exquisite waterfalls! There are 4 major waterfalls with beautiful refreshing pools to swim in. The bright blue water will take your breath away!

Waterfall and pool in Rincon de la Vieja

Within Rincon de la Vieja you will also come across monkeys, anteaters, sloths, mountain goats, coatis, peccaries, agoutis, snakes, lizards, armadillos and over 300 bird species. Keep in mind to walk quietly and slowly not to miss anything while on the trails and don’t forget your binoculars. For the plant lovers, there are a 1000 species of orchids that can be found all over. The flora and fauna of this area will transfix you.

Rincon de la Vieja national park is named after the largest and most active volcano within the area. This volcano is over 600,000 years old and is often referred to as the Colossus of Guanacaste. For the past few years, the active crater trail has been closed due to constant volcanic activity. Hopefully in the near future, the volcanic activity will subside so this trail can be enjoyed once again! The Rincon de la Vieja volcano also has a dormant sister named Santa Maria. These two volcanos dominate the landscape. They speckle the park with craters, caverns, mud baths, saunas, and hot springs. No matter which of the trails you end up taking, you will not be disappointed.

Colorful bird in Rincón de la Vieja national park

Visiting the Rincon de la Vieja national park is easy! Less than one hour away from Playa Hermosa and Playas del Coco, all on paved roads. The park is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00am to 3:00pm. It is always closed on Mondays. The price to enter is $17 for adults and $6 for children, unless you are a resident of Costa Rica it is only $4.00. this is one of the many advantages of owning property in Costa Rica and applying for residency. There is a visitor center with park rangers always present and available sanitary services. Make sure to wear good shoes and pack a hearty lunch and plenty to drink so you can spend the entire day taking in the beauty of this ecologically diverse paradise.

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Buy Land and Build in Costa Rica

Many people have the dream of building a tropical home on the beach or perched on a mountain top with views of the ocean.  Some want lots of acreage to spread out and feel “off-the-grid”, not having neighbors close by.  It can be a reality, and it’s not too hard to achieve, but you need to know the different kinds of property designations.

View of Playa Hermosa from a hillside building lot
Before I get in to the types of plots of land or building lots, let me say that there are many types. I will focus on the most common one. It is important to know the local municipality will actually set the high requirement. Some are setbacks from the boundaries, the maximum percentage of construction that is allowed based on land size and the use of the land, also called in Spanish “Uso de Suelo”. This should be part of any due diligence before actually closing sale on the property so you know what can be built.

Residential Lots There are a few different types of residential lots. Let’s get started here first. Many people that owned large pieces of land may have segregated or sub-divided the plot off of a bigger piece of land. These lots can be situated on public roads or a sometimes on an easement. These types of lots have to be a minimum of 350 square meters in order to build a home.

Home built on a lot in Costa Rica

A) “Horizontal Condominium lots”. These lots can be of any size however most are bigger than 350 square meters. Anyone who purchases in a “horizontal condominium” are required by law to adhere to the registered covenants and restrictions. This could include style of home, roof material retirements, monthly maintenance fees and so on. Horizontal condominium lots are always in a gated community and the roads within are private. These types of lots cannot be subdivided without 100% of the condominium association in agreement.

B) Then there are developments that have been set up under “agricultural” designation. Agricultural lots need to be, by law, a minimum of 5000 square meters, or 1.23 acres. With this type of lot, the roads in the development are easements, meaning that the road will actually pass-through another person’s property and vice versa. This will all be shown on the title of the deed and property registration as well as the registered lot survey or “Plano”.  Agricultural development land can be subdivided but only if the two new properties are still over 5000 square meters. Many developments were set up this way and most do have a home owners association to take care of the common areas and costs. By law, the main home on a agricultural lot can be a maximum of 300 square meters or 3229 square feet of construction.

Costa Rica Rainbow over a piece of agricultural land

C) Urbanization lots. This type of lot is segregated off of a bigger piece of property and the roads going through the development, or area, are public and anyone can drive on them. The size of these lots varies.

Farm land or “Fincas” – There are many large pieces of land for sale in Costa Rica. Heck you dive around and see signs on trees and fence posts declaring “Se Vende” or for sale. You see so many of them it makes you think the whole country is for sale. With large tracks of land usually over one “hectare” or 2.5 acres, you can build just about anything, but why over-build when you probably want the space. Again, as mentioned above, the local municipality will set the use of soil “Uso de Suelo”.
Important things to know – When you find the piece of land you want buy, and build on, one of the most important things I recommend is that you have a legal source of potable water.

Whether the water it is supplied by the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados or AyA (the Spanish acronym for the water authority of Costa Rica), a legally registered private well; or if the property is in a outlying areas, water supplied by a “ASAD. A Spanish acronym for Las Asociaciones administradoras de los Sistemas de Acueductos y Alcantarillados.  This is a legally registered local association that delivers water to properties via piping. Make sure you ask the attorney that is helping you purchase the property to verify all this during the due diligence period. Otherwise, it can be very costly.

When looking for a piece of land in Costa Rica and there are many beautiful spots to build the dream home, make sure you know what you are getting into before you actually close the sale.

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Buying a Car in Costa Rica

We discussed shipping a car to Costa Rica in a previous blog post. Have you decided it would be better to leave your Jaguar in the United and States and buy a vehicle better suited to the conditions in Costa Rica? You need to find something to get you around the country you now call home.

Selection of Costa Rica used cars

There are many affordable used cars in Costa Rica from a variety of sources. is the number one online clearinghouse for used cars. Craigslist Costa Rica is also a great resource, especially for fellow expats looking to sell their car before moving back home. Other sites with classified ads are Encuentra24 and Facebook Marketplace.

The car lots in and around San José have the biggest inventory. Alternatively, the small town of Grecia is famous for its used car lots that line the road from the Pan American highway into the center of town.

Many of the vehicles at the used car lots have been imported from the U.S. These are an advantageous choice because they have not yet been beaten to death on Costa Rica’s potholed back roads. Check any car’s history by looking up the VIN number on Carfax or similar online services. Many used car dealers buy vehicles at auction in southern states like Texas (no rust from road salt) for resale here.

Buying a used car in Costa Rica

Asian brands like Toyota, Suzuki, Hyundai and Mitsubishi are some of the most popular vehicles on the road. Spare parts and qualified mechanics are readily available, making them some of the least expensive cars to repair. Honda and Subaru are great brands but parts are harder to find and generally pricier.

Four-wheel drive is not a necessity unless you live in an isolated area or have a steep, ungraded driveway. However, an SUV’s tougher, higher suspension is helpful when navigating rougher roads.

There are a few models of vehicles never sold in the U.S. that are great vehicles for use in Costa Rica. They include the Hyundai Terracan and Galloper, the Toyota Fortuner, which I have one, the Daihatsu Terios, or the Mitsubishi Montero Sport Turbo Diesel Intercooler.

Buying from a private owner can get you a better deal. Get to know the expats in your area and let them know you are in the market for a vehicle. As far as buying from Ticos goes, it is the same as anywhere else. There are honest people and scam artists. You need to be discerning and do your due diligences the same as you would anywhere. Be sure to have a trusted mechanic give it a go over before laying out any cash.

It is important to make sure that the registration (marchamo) and vehicle safety inspection (RITEVE) are current. Both stickers are located in the upper righthand corner of the windshield. The marchamo is paid toward the end of each calendar year. The month the annual inspection is due coincides with the last number of the license plate (1–January, 2–February, etc).

Once you’ve decided on a vehicle, hire a lawyer. “But I didn’t commit a crime!” you exclaim. There, there, relax. A lawyer is required by law for a valid transfer of title. They search the government database to make sure there are no liens or fines on the car from the previous owner and they write the bill of sale. Usually, the buyer pays for this service, but it can sometimes be split between the buyer and seller. The lawyer’s fee is set by the government based on the value of the car.

Howler Monkey near Playa Hermosa Costa Rica

If you are just too nervous to buy a car from a used car dealer or a private party, you can also buy a new car at a dealership. Check online for the location of the dealer who sells the make of vehicle you are interested in. When buying a new car, the registration and inspection is taken care of by the dealership and included in the price. They also get the license plates for you. 

In Liberia where I purchased my car there is a Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Chevrolet and a Ford dealership, all carry their brand names and some of the dealerships carry more than one brand.

The great news about buying cars in Costa Rica is that they hold their value. If you get a good deal up front and take good care of the vehicle, you may be able to sell it for the same price you paid or only slightly less a few years later. Another advantage in Costa Rica is that cars are cheaper to maintain. Repairs that would cost thousands back in the U.S. will only be in the hundreds here.

Whether or not you ship or buy a vehicle, or decide to walk everywhere, the important thing is to get out and start exploring this beautiful country you call home!

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Shipping a car to Costa Rica vs buying a vehicle here

“I have heard vehicles are really expensive in Costa Rica,” you say to yourself. “Maybe I should ship my car down to Costa Rica. Surely that will be cheaper!”

Shipping a car to Costa Rica

Here are the answers to your questions: You are right that vehicles cost more in Costa Rica than in North America, for example. You could certainly ship your car here–there are well-established arrangements to do just that. However, it will not necessarily be less expensive to do so.

Before inviting your vehicle to join you in your new life, make sure it is the right vehicle for Costa Rica. If your vehicle was manufactured in America or Europe, you will find it more challenging (and possibly more expensive) to find parts and get repairs. The most common parts available are for Asian vehicles, and every mechanic can fix them. Does your car ride low, hug the road, and fly along at high speeds smoothly and comfortably? You will not enjoy those features nor the experience in Costa Rica. Though most highways are paved here, they are not even close to the Autobahn or a U.S. interstate highway. Rough patches and potholes abound, and slow-moving trucks and congestion make hitting 60 mph an uncommon occurrence. Though you may rarely use the 4-wheel-drive feature of your SUV, you will find the higher, sturdier suspension more important than speed and comfort.

If you decide your vehicle is a perfect fit, make sure it is in good shape before loading it on a boat since it will undergo a thorough inspection upon arrival by the agency Revision Tecnica de Vehiculos (RITEVE) before you are allowed to take possession. This is the same inspection your vehicle will need to pass on an annual basis.


Importing a car to Costa Rica is a common practice, and there are many reputable car importers. The cost of shipping from the closest port, Miami, is about $1000 plus the cost of maritime freight insurance. Shipping insurance covers the vehicle being lost at sea or loss of the container but does not cover damage to the vehicle inside the container or during transit. If you are interested in shipping your car from Seattle, Los Angeles, Houston, or other port cities the price will be higher and fewer shipping dates offered, but it could be more convenient for you.

Your vehicle will arrive at one of Costa Rica’s two ports–Moin (Limon) on the Caribbean side and Caldera on the Pacific coast. Once your vehicle arrives, the shipping company may transport it to their warehouse in the San Jose area. Warehousing fees will be incurred. The officials at the port and the import company will help you deal with customs paperwork and will assist if you don’t speak Spanish. It is possible the car may have been damaged or–rarely–have parts missing. Unfortunately, there is no recourse to recoup those losses.

Now we arrive at the reason cars cost so much in Costa Rica: customs duties. The customs duties on any car 6 years old or newer can be as high as 80% of the value of the vehicle according to importation laws, not the actual price you paid or the Kelly Blue Book value. This website tells you how much that tax will be for your particular vehicle: CR Government’s Vehicle Import Tax Calculator. It is a good idea to look up your car ahead of time. “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.” Armed with your wallet that is.  The government’s market value calculator takes into account every factory feature, option and extra. Mileage and condition are not taken into consideration nor are modifications.

After paying taxes, the customs office will issue a document called a DUA (documento unico administrativo) which is your temporary title for 24-48 hours. This gives you enough time to take your vehicle to be inspected. Once you pass, you can now hire a lawyer to draft the legal document to register your vehicle. Expect to pay around 4.5% of the value of the vehicle to get it registered. Additionally, you will pay the annual road circulation tax (marchamo) and mandatory liability tax. The National Insurance Institute (INS) posts its rates on its website. Once the vehicle is registered, you are assigned license plates. The registration process can take up to one month, but hang in there. You are on the home stretch!

To ship or not to ship? If it is a car that you have owned and cared for, and you have verified that it is a version that is popular here, then it may be to your advantage to ship your vehicle to Costa Rica. You may or may not save money, but there is a lot of peace of mind in driving the ‘devil you know’ versus the devil someone sold you. Which leads us to the next question–Should I buy a car in Costa Rica?

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Utility Costs in Costa Rica, How Much?

Depending on how and where you live, you will experience substantial savings on utility costs in Costa Rica, living in this Central American paradise. There is no need to pay heating bills anywhere in the country–a huge saving over the $300 per month you pay for heat in northern climates just to survive the winter! Water is abundant and high quality.  Phone, Internet and cable TV packages are reasonably priced.

Meters for measuring utility costs in Costa Rica

Other than housing, electricity will be the biggest expense for you. If you choose to live in the beautiful Playas del Coco and Playa Hermosa areas, you will likely need to air condition your residence to some extent. Not only do temperatures remain around 70-90 degrees all year long, but the average humidity is between 70-90% during the month of May through November depending on your exact location. Mid-November through April the humidity averages from 25-60%. Without AC, your home may be too hot and humid for you to feel comfortable, and you may also find it a challenge to stay ahead of mold and mildew growth. However, ceiling fans will alleviate this, depending on how you like it.

So, what can you expect your monthly electricity bill to look like? A two-bedroom, 1000 square foot house will cost about $125 per month to cool. If you only cool your bedroom at night, your cost could be around $80 a month. If you run two or three AC units all day and night in a larger home, your monthly bill could reach $400. It all depends on your standard of living and how you feel comfortable.

Looking out over Playa Hermosa

Some have wondered why electricity costs are so high in a Third World country that gets most of its electricity from renewable sources. Some expats believe they are victims of “gringo pricing,” meaning they believe that the local utility knows that they are foreigners and charges them more than their Tico neighbors. That is absolutely false! The truth is however, your electricity bill IS likely higher than your Tico neighbors because the electric company’s rates favor low consumption. Coopeguanacaste is the electricity provider for the area. It charges 11 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for the first 200 used. After that, the rate increases to 15 cents per kWh. The Ticos simply consume less energy, so they may stay below the 200 kWh threshold. Even in very hot climates, most locals do not air condition their homes. Generally speaking, they have smaller refrigerators and stoves than their foreign neighbors, and they do not use (or in some cases even own) energy-sucking appliances such as water heaters, ovens, toasters, clothes dryers or hair dryers. If you are accustomed to using these types of appliances then, yes, your utility bill will be significantly higher than your Tico neighbor’s.

So, depending on where you lived before moving to Costa Rica, and how much electricity you consume now that you are here, your monthly utility bill could be lower or higher than you are accustomed to. It is really quite unique to each individual.

Phone, Internet and cable TV packages run about $80 a month. There are several companies offering these services. Kolbi and Claro offer phone, cable and Internet bundles. Movistar is a cellphone service, and CableTica and Sky Satelite offer satellite TV and Internet packages. Most offer excellent services, but it is important to do your homework and see what services are the best in your area and have the most attractive prices. Talk to neighbors and other expats for recommendations.

Costa Rica doesn’t have city gas, only tanks of propane gas, which can be purchased in most small grocery stores. You only buy the tank the first time; after that, when your tank runs out, you simply exchange it for a full one, paying only for the actual propane.

As far as sewage goes, it is “to each his own.” There are a couple of exceptions in upscale neighborhoods in San Jose and Escazu where there are community sewage lines, but in the rest of the country each home or condominium complex has it own septic tank or other wastewater treatment system.

Garbage pickup is typically done twice a week and is the responsibility of the municipality where the property is located. The cost is minimal and is paid when you pay other municipal taxes.

Costa Rica has excellent quality water which is readily available and reasonably priced. Monthly bills for water for normal household usage will be $10-15 per month. If you are watering your lawn and garden every day, that is a different story. Your real estate agent can let you know the particulars of the availability of water in your specific area.

As most expats will confirm, life in Costa Rica may cost less than where you lived before, but it will most certainly be a happier, healthier life that you lived before!

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Covid-19 Update 2021

Update on Covid-19 in Costa Rica: February 18, 2021

Well, we have lived with the Covid-19 virus for about a year now. What a life-changing year it has been! Here is an update of how see things.

Because of Covid-19, we have washed our hands more times this year than in our entire life prior. We no longer see people’s mouths when they talk as we strain to understand their muffled speech. The hug or kiss hello is a thing of the past–a huge change for those of us living in a Latin culture.  We have discovered that almost all social relationships can be maintained through video conferencing. We have binged on comfort foods and our favorite TV shows. We have exercised more (or less) and done more projects around the house (or none at all). All in all, it has been a unique year, no doubt about it!

Best place to be during Covid-19 pandemic

What will life be like in Costa Rica during 2021 with COVID? It seems there will be improvement, but it is unclear yet how much or how fast as new case number are going down. Almost 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered, the office of the President announced Monday. With a population of 5 million, that puts our percentile behind the States and Canada. As has happened in most countries, vaccine supplies have lagged behind the hoped-for schedules, but Pfizer is working to improve the supply chain of its vaccine and plans to resume deliveries in mid-February. Costa Rica has also signed up for the AstraZeneca vaccine which recently was approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use.

After health-care workers, first responders, and nursing home residents, the vaccine will be given to citizens and residents age 58 and older. The next group to receive the vaccine will be those 18-58 who have risk factors. After them are the teachers, followed by those who work or study in clinical fields.

Joseph with his Covid-19 mask

The country’s tourism board is certain that visiting Costa Rica is low-risk during the COVID mess. And even though they are the tourism sector, the truth is most things tourists do are outside. Worldwide it has been discovered that there are different strains of the virus, some more virulent than others. In my unskilled opinion, the strain that plagues Costa Rica does not seem to be as deadly as in other countries. In some small communities here a large percentage of the population has had the virus (as it spreads through families), and almost no one has been hospitalized. The mortality rate is extremely low. Even persons with high risk factors have beaten the virus without hospitalization. The maximum capacity of the country’s ICU beds has never been reached.

Of course, I am not promoting a false sense of security. One does not want to become complacent. Wearing an appropriate mask, washing one’s hands regularly and social distancing are still an absolute necessity. The advantage we have in Costa Rica is our year-round summer weather. There is no risk of cabin-fever! And socializing is even possible (with 6 feet of separation) at the beach or hiking in one of the many beautiful national parks, at restaurants with outdoor dining facilities. All that sunshine and fresh air is the best possible thing you can do for your lungs and immune system!

Many airlines have resumed flights to both international airports in Costa Rica. To enter the country, you will need to have completed the online “Health Pass” form which can be found at You must have proof of having obtained travel insurance, either a pre-approved Costa Rican policy from INS or Sagicor, or an international policy that covers COVID-19 medical expenses of at least $50,000 and $2,000 for lodging. A negative Covid test and quarantining upon arrival are NOT required.

However, you may need a negative Covid test to get back to your home country, check with your local and authorities. The test is readily available in the Playas Del Coco area, if you are coming contact me (see below) and I will send you the information.

Certainly, we all long for the time when life will be “normal” again. In the meantime, Costa Rica is a better much option to be located when deal with this pandemic. Be safe, be healthy and Pura Vida.

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Costa Rica Property Tax, How Much?

Many times, I get asked “how much is the property tax in Costa Rica?” The sweet and short answer is: it is very low.

property tax in Costa Rica

Costa Rica property tax is based on the registered value of the property. The value is registered with the local municipality and the national registry. Say for example you purchase a great ocean view lot in the Playa del Coco area. The lot has views to die for and you getting ready to build your dream home. The lots cost you as an example, $100,000 US dollars.
The property tax will be only $250.00 per year, plus garbage and parks tax. Depending on the municipality it could be roughly another $100.00 per year. Still, that is incredibly low. But hold on, you want to build your dream home, right? Well, the property tax will go up. Let me explain.

Before you even start the construction you of course need building permits. It is a bit of a process, but a very good one. First your final design and blue prints need to be sent to the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos de Costa Rica, this is the Federated College of Engineers and Architects. They will review your plans to ensure that the design of construction and plans meet Costa Rica building codes. By the way, the Costa Rica building codes are very strong, some of the best in the world actually, especially pertaining to earthquake resistance strength.
Once the College of Engineers and Architects grants approvals for the plan, they will place a value of the construction based on formulas they have created and adjust annually based on material costs. This dollar amount is always less than what you are paying a builder to construct your home – I know I have built 2 homes already in Costa Rica.
How does this relate to the property tax value? When it is time apply for the building permits with the local municipality, they will require the approved plans and construction value the College of Engineers and Architects, along with other items, but that’s another topic to cover.
The registered value of your lot, that was previously registered is now added together with construction value. Another example to get to the final number: the piece of land cost you $100,000 the construction value let’s say for fun is $200,000, Now the new registered value in the municipality for property tax purpose is $300,000. Your new property taxes would then be $ 750.00 per year. Now that is low!!
When purchasing a property that is already constructed, the formulation is different but the percentage of tax remains the same, .25% of the registered value. With property taxes this low, it is no wonder many people are buying property in Costa Rica and making Costa Rica their next adventure.

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Costa Rica Corporation Tax

Once upon a time in Costa Rica, it was relatively simple to form a corporation, and it was even easier to maintain it. The government imposed no annual fees, and the requirement for the corporate officers to meet once each year was no problem to fulfill.

Sample Costa Rica Corporation Tax document

Two factors worked together to change that. In the first place, the previous low maintenance system was prone to corruption. Unsavory types used a corporation to hide their identity and their ill-gotten gains. They could own a Costa Rican corporation anonymously and use it to launder money from the illegal drug trade or other illicit activities. Money and property could change hands without anyone knowing who the participants were. The second factor was taxes. The government realized that it was missing out on an important source of tax revenue. Tens of thousands of corporations were being used to hold assets, but the government wasn’t collecting a dime in taxes or fees from them because they didn’t have any income to report.

A new law enacted in September 2019 requires that a Costa Rican corporation  disclose the identity of their shareholders or owners. That adjustment addresses the first factor. It prevents corporations from anonymously engaging in illegal activities. Other new requirements address the second factor. Now all Costa Rican corporations must pay annual fees and make yearly reports to the government about their income, assets, and ownership.

Costa Rican corporations must hold an annual shareholders meeting either in person or by proxy. The date, time, and place of the meeting as well as the names of those in attendance are recorded in the corporation’s legal registry. Any modifications that are made to the corporation’s structure are also recorded. All corporations in Costa Rica must maintain three legal record books. If the corporation does more than hold assets–that is, if it engages in economic activity–it must also maintain three accounting record books.

The corporation’s legal representative must file annually in April with the Registry of Transparency and Final Beneficiaries of the Central Bank. The filing includes details about the corporation and the name, address, identification number, and contact information of each shareholder or owner and their percentage of ownership. To file, the representative must first obtain a digital signature card from an authorized bank. Such cards are only issued to Costa Rican citizens and residents. A non-resident who owns a corporation can comply with the reporting requirements by granting a power of attorney to a third party who will then obtain the digital signature and file the disclosure.

The government charges an annual fee that must be paid to keep the corporation in good standing. The fee is approximately $120 for non-active corporations that are used only as holding companies for real estate. The annual fee for active corporations is based on income and is typically between $200 and $380. According to law 9428, the tax must be paid by January 31 each year. The company’s legal representative is responsible to declare and pay the tax. If you have don’t know if the taxes are current or overdue, you can consult the National Registry database (

What will happen if the tax isn’t paid? According to the Costa Rican code of taxation rules and procedures, sanctions and penalties will apply. A short term consequence of non-payment is that the National Registry will not issue, certify, or register any documents for the corporation until the taxes are paid. Neither the government nor any public institution will do business with an overdue corporation. The long-term consequences are even more severe. If the tax is not paid for three years in a row, the corporation will be dissolved. What about dissolving the corporation voluntarily? Even then, any outstanding debts must be paid first.

Clearly, the task of maintaining a corporation in Costa Rica is not as simple as it used to be. Especially if you were thinking to use one for the sole purpose of holding a property in the name of the corporation. Now it is a lot easier and more simplified to just purchase a property and put it in your personal name. The key to success is to hire a knowledgeable notary to keep you up to date and help you stay legal.

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Whales in Costa Rica

Humpback whales have been wintering in Costa Rica’s warm coastal waters for thousands of years. How you can you time your visit to be here when the whales arrive?

One way to perfectly time the arrival of Humpback whales is to have a home to call your own! Then you will never miss whale watching season, and you’ll have a place to enjoy year-round.

Whales leave the Pacific northwest in the late fall as the water begins to cool. They travel south for 5,000 miles arriving off the coast of Costa Rica in December and staying until April. Their South American brothers depart the southern Pacific, as that hemisphere’s winter approaches, and spend July through November in Costa Rican waters. Their migration is the longest of any mammal in the world–they journey up to 11,500 miles round trip! There are no long layovers for these travelers. One humpback was recorded making a 3,000-mile trip in only 36 days.

Beautiful bay for watching Humpback Whales in Costa Rica

When the humpbacks arrive, do they do what other tourists do? Lay around a pool with an umbrella drink in hand? Of course not, and they are not here on vacation. Humpbacks use the months in warm water to go about the serious (yet fun) business of finding a mate, breeding, and rearing their young. Since one female will have multiple male partners during her lifetime, competition for her attentions is fierce. The magnificent displays of breaching, lob-tailing, tail- and fin-slapping, rolls, lunges and dives ending in a flourish of the tail are all for the benefit of the ladies. Males also attract females by singing and making elaborate bubble displays. Eleven months later, a baby whale is born that weighs up to one ton and is 12-16 feet long. That seems to be where the female whale’s fun ends, but from the displays of affection that pass between Mama and Baby, it doesn’t seem as though she minds motherhood too much. The baby stays by its mother’s side for up to a year.

The two migrations do not overlap, so there is an opportunity to see humpback whales in the waters off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica nine months out of the year. The Antarctic migration has the most whales and peak season is August to October. This is also a great time to come and visit.

Costa Rica’s northern coast has fewer whales passing by, but humpback whales and other types of whales are often spotted on catamaran, snorkel, or dive tours during the peak months of the migration. Every year though, a female whale comes to Bahia Culebra in the Pacific northwest and birth a calf. If you are fortunate enough to spot the whale near your boat you will never forget it. Watching the mother teach her baby to rise and breath or dive is just an incredible site. Humpbacks are a friendly species that interact with bottlenose dolphins and other whales. Not all the antics have to do with mating. Whales have been observed playing with other species in various locations around the world.

It needs to be mentioned that Costa Rica does not allow swimming with dolphins or whales. Of course, if you are swimming and they approach you, it means they are unaware of the rules and you are not at fault. But resist the urge to dive from your boat and join them.

If seeing a humpback whale is on your bucket list, make plans to visit Costa Rica when they do: August and September. Have your camera in hand and your sense of awe at the ready. You are about to have an experience you will never forget.

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