You Call This Tourism?

 Posted by on December 3, 2013  Costa Rica Culture  No Responses »
Dec 032013

I spent some time at Playa Hermosa last Sunday. There were quite a few people there, mostly Ticos (Costa Ricans), causing me to reflect on times past. Granted, when I say “quite a few people” it is relative to The Zone. The fact that there were a number of people in the water and that the beach just near the parking area had a fairly steady line of towels & blankets on it indicates a subtle shift in progress.

Playa Hermosa is a beach just north of Uvita, towards Dominical. There are several “Playa Hermosa” beaches in Costa Rica. As a family, we used to go out to this one and marvel at the beauty of the 2 mile-long stretch of beach that extends down to Uvita’s Whales Tail rock reef, and how there was absolutely nobody there. We used to joke about trying to find a place to put our towel, like what you find on so many such beaches in various parts of the world.

Playa Hermosa is also a hot spot for beach-break surfers. Due to their constant observation of “swell” and wave conditions, when the conditions are right, there will be lots of surfers at Playa Hermosa. You can sit on the beach and watch some fairly epic rides, dude.

There is also a lifeguard tower on Playa Hermosa now to which has been attributed a numerous number of saved lives.

So, the idea of picking your way through the towels looking for a spot, well… we’re not there yet, and frankly, it is still hard to imagine that Playa Hermosa would ever get to that, but I suppose maybe it could (or will)… someday.

Sunday is a unique day here in Costa Rica. It is a day that the Ticos (Costa Ricans) treasure. They truly define a family outing with their packed lunches, barbecue’s and general good-time feeling. Still, any other day of the week there will be very few people on the beach.

I recently found an older article that I had written for the local magazine “Montaña al Mar” back in 2009 that speaks of tourism as it was then, and really, hasn’t changed all that much since then.


She says: “Honey, where should we go this year?”

He says: “Oh, I don’t know, the kids got a real kick out of Disney World last year.”
She says: “How ‘bout someplace tropical, maybe Cancun or Rio?”
He says: “Yeah, that sounds good. What was the name of that country that the Smorgenfrieb’s went to last year?

She says: “Dominican… no.. that’s an island. Oh, I remember, Dominical… in Costa Rica. How ’bout there?”
He says: “That might be fun.”

In the recent past, Dominical, and its surrounding areas, Uvita, Ojochal, and points south, wouldn’t even be mentioned in such a conversation. This is an indicator of the change that is going on in the Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica. The word is out: its pretty darn cool here.  This is an extraordinary part of the world, and tourism is kicking in with a vengeance, but, it isn’t “tourism” in the conventional sense of the word. You won’t find large, five star resorts and high rises here, and, you won’t find chaise lounges on the beach with waiters in attendance.

What you do find are gorgeous beaches, lush jungles teeming with wildlife, and perfect tropical weather. The mountains come right down to the ocean from just north of Dominical to Uvita. The country itself is narrow enough that there are central spots in the central mountains where a really good spitter can hit both oceans by simply turning 180 degrees.  The narrowness of the country, sandwiched between two oceans results in a pleasant, ocean breezy-type climate.

I remember when I first visited Costa Rica in ’98. I was amazed at how far off the beaten path one could get and still find a little enterprise open for business. One time, I was lost with my family, lord knows where but it had the definite feeling of being the edge of the planet, we stumbled upon this amazing little shack, right on the beach — bright reds, yellows, blues and greens accenting the simple architecture. It turned out to be a little Bed & Breakfast.

Elsewhere in the world, the 3 prevailing factors for a successful commercial endeavor are, as we all know: location, location and then finally, location. Costa Rica seems to defy this. Some of the interesting local exceptions to the “location” rule of commercial real estate are: Jolly Rodgers in Escaleras with their amazing chicken wing-hamburger menu. Chef’s Table in Uvita offers an excellent dining experience up in the jungle above Uvita.  The Thai-Indian fusion at Madras is surprisingly good, yet situated off the beaten path.
[Note: Jolly Rodgers is still very much a thriving concern and is a “Guys” recommended dining place during your visit. Both Chef’s Table and Madras have closed since this article was written.]

There is an influx of creative minds moving into The Zone. Setting up a B & B or vacation villa is a common strategy, and it is frequently accompanied by: dining, massage, meditation, yoga, and/or booking one of the many eco-tours enjoyed on land and on the water. This is a far cry from a parasol-cocktail served in a chaise lounge on the beach.

Many people who visit the Southern Pacific Zone fall in love with it and return soon thereafter.  And, many of these people end up buying and settling in or doing a migration pattern of spending part of the year here and part elsewhere. There is a wonderful blend of consciousness; old world Tico and modern western, occurring in the area.

In fact, one of the big activities that happens in the Southern Pacific Zone is conversation.  If you are enjoying your morning cup of coffee with your family and friends while looking out over the ocean, the conversation sometimes runs into lunch time. This was our experience as a family when we first visited Costa Rica. No TV, no nearby mall –  whadaya do? You talk. We noticed that as TV time went down, quality time went up.
[This point has changed a bit since 2009 when this article was written. Now, with the ubiquitous cell phones, I suspect that some of the “quality time” aspect of Costa Rica has been affected.]

Another trend I have found personally, and observed in my clients’ lives, is a strong interest in quieting down. The Ticos say “tranquilo” when someone appears hyper-concerned about something. They are the masters of being “tranquil”. They are a very tolerant people. This quality is truly important to them, and it seems to pervade the air, causing an agreeable affect on us extranjeros (foreigners) when we get here.

After roughly day 4 of being in Costa Rica, the mind stops considering what the Left is doing to the Right, whether Brittany’s outfit was appropriate for the Teen Choice Awards…. and we start to think purely about what we want to think about. It has been over ten years since I experienced this initial moment of quieting down, but I do remember it as an agreeable experience, and sometimes it does me well to revisit that moment. [Click here for an article about this “moment”]

Tourism in The Zone is a time to quiet the soul, to see how one feels about one’s own company, to quiet that internal dialogue that has, in many cases, been augmented artificially by intelligent marketing companies. Of course, there are those of us who simply have a blaring internal chatter going on naturally, no matter what. But even so, to stand on a beautiful beach, with maybe 5 other people visible as far as the eye can see, and to watch a stunning sunset, and to consider what it’s all about; this is tourism.


Nov 162013
Earth coming apart

Traveling around the U. S. I find an inordinate amount of interest in Costa Rica. I probably shouldn’t be surprised at this, there has always been a reaction to saying “I live in Costa Rica”, but now… well it seems to be more than ever. Why is this? I am inclined to default over to observations I’ve made in past articles.

Earth coming apart

End of the Worlders” is a handle that I give to the smaller of the group categories that I use to define those moving to Costa Rica. So many say that they feel like it “is all coming down” or, “I need to slow/quiet down” and so on.

Here are some notes of my observations from the road.

I traveled from Davis, which is in the northern part of California, to southern Utah where I camped in Zion National Park for about a week. Despite not being at all what I expected (I was set up to backpack), this was an extraordinary trip. Zion is pure magic.

I showed up in a cab that I had caught in St. George, so I found myself in “South” campground in Zion. I was essentially car camping without a car. All around me were spacious and NICE tents, trailers and motor homes. One of the tents that I saw had a lanai. I noticed the elderly gal sitting in her lanai, all screened in, nice & cozy, reading a book.

After being there for a while, I had determined that everyone, and I mean everyone, was interested, or at the very least, available to stop and converse a bit. So, later on, when I saw the owners of the aforementioned lanai-equipped tent stepping out of their tent, I felt compelled to approach them and tell them of my gawkings of their abode. They were more than happy to tell where they got it and make expressions of how much they loved their tent (they bought it through Cabellas for those who are curious).

It soon became evident that lanai equipped tents were not so rare. That older couple must have wondered at the guy that made such a fuss about it.

Anyway, my camping trip ended up being as much a social visit with people I had never met before as it was a visit to an extraordinary National Park with mind blowing hikes, views and sandstone configurations that stagger the mind.

Now, getting back to the topic at hand: there I am, out in the middle of remote desert in the southwest of the US, engaging in LOTS of conversations on the trail and in the campground, and I re-affirm that there is indeed a general interest in the country where I live – Costa Rica.

I wrote about my evening giving a talk on Costa Rica here in Davis. It was an experiment to see if the reported interest really was true. “Reported” being what visitors to Costa Rica tell me. “Everybody is talking about Costa Rica” they say.  This they say to a guy while  there in Costa Rica – to a guy that lives in Costa Rica – while the conversation is about the topic of moving to Costa Rica. Hmmmm, is this unbiased, truly objective positiveness about Costa Rica?

One has to wonder if it is true, and if, outside of that particular setting there really is anybody the least bit interested in Costa Rica.

You’re from Costa Rica?

  • “My wife and I are considering moving there.”
  • “My son is going to honeymoon there for a month.”
  • “We have wanted to simplify our lives. Would a move to Costa Rica be a good way to do this?”
  • “I used to live there.”
  • “I own some land there.”

When I say that part of my work there in Costa Rica is consulting with folks that would like to move there, they ask for a card.

Here are some of the discussion points.

 Is it less expensive there?

Yes, and no.  There are some specifics here that are actually more expensive. Gas is more expensive. I’m paying a little over $5.00 per gallon for diesel. Electricity for the home is quite expensive.  Cheese is really expensive and not that good, IMHO (look it up).

Overall you can make a fixed income go further here, but it requires one to let go of some of the comforts so common in the good ole’ US of A. Things like medicine and dental are reasons for at least visiting Costa Rica, if not living there.

Can I quiet my racing mind there?

Yep, you can. (Read up on the “4DOTS” theory here.)

I can only speak first hand of the air in the States, but I have had some Canadians and Europeans tell me it is the same there. The air in the States is saturated with fuss. Mental fuss. The powers that rule the air-waves are telling us what to think about, and they are good at it. As much as we might like to think that we are immune, I don’t think so.

To get away from that, to unplug, and to then think a thought that originates from whatever propensity we were born with… well this is the stuff that 4DOTS is made of.

Costa Rica provides an opportunity, not only to unplug from media, but to connect with nature. There have been studies that suggest that as we humans grow past the age of 45 (give or take), we have a decreasing ability to manage stress, and an increasing need, and beneficial result from, getting out into nature.

I think that these points made up the bulk of conversations in my travels around California and the southwest this trip. I became cautious of mentioning where I live when I would meet someone. If I had any interest in talking about something besides Costa Rica, I would say I live “out of the country” or some such. Then, if they asked, I’d try and say “Latin America” or “Central America”.

Although for the most part, I am more than happy to talk/write about my life in Costa Rica. It truly is a fascinating and wonderful place to live, and I totally get why so many would be interested in visiting, or moving to Costa Rica. But yes, there are times when I would like to talk about something different. Imagine that!

Sep 222013
Costa Rica Real Estate 101 Book

Back in 2004 I found myself running a small real estate company in Dominical called Horizon Properties. At that time, the concept of a property listing having a value within the agency, and amongst the various agencies, was non-existent.

As the chief cook and bottle washer of the company, I pretty much expected to procure the listings. I would oversee the posting of the listing to the website, and then would hope that the agents that worked there with me would sell them. I was paid a percentage of all that the office did as well as a normal commission on any sales that I did, so there was compensation for my listing work.

Costa Rica Real Estate 101 Book

Back to basics

Prior to starting Horizon Properties I didn’t have any real estate experience.  Oddly, this fact inured to my benefit. My pre-Costa Rica career had been in the managing an art gallery for a number of years. In the art business we never talked about who represents who. I would select an artist to display in the gallery, and the sales team would do their best to sell the works. We knew what the artist wanted for a given piece and we would broker the deal. A sale would happen when both artist and buyer were reasonably comfortable with the negotiated terms.

The non-MLS real estate business in Costa Rica ran/runs essentially the same way. I was well suited to the rough & tumble Costa Rica real estate business and stepped right into it without a hitch. I did however, notice that when I would hire someone who had extensive real estate experience from North America or Europe (or pretty much anywhere else on Planet Earth), there seemed to be a difficult learning curve for them. They were of the “representation” state of mind. “Who’s listing is this?” they would ask. I’d answer “no one’s”. To which they would say: “well then who is going to represent the seller when a prospective buyer wants to make an offer?” to which I would then respond with a puzzled look and say “you will. you represent the seller and the buyer and you will do a good turn for both in your dealings.”

So to understand the real estate business in Costa Rica and the changes that it is going through, we have to understand what it is and what it is not.

NUTSHELL – The Costa Rica Real Estate Business:

Is Not: There is no central database that an agent can access to see what properties are available for a prospective buyer. By extension, there is no representation. (This is changing – read on.)

Is: The real estate business in Costa Rica is OPEN, there is no Multiple Listing Service. Each agency has their own, self-contained database of available properties. This database can usually be viewed online at the agency’s website. This is where the agent will go to look for a listing in the price range and with the features that the prospect is looking for.

Changes: Cooperation between the agencies. The pressure is towards a system more in line with what we see in other countries, more like an MLS. To have a central database of available properties, and to have an agent assigned and responsible for a given property is a superior system to what we use here in Costa Rica. As we grow and change here, we are growing towards an MLS-like system. It has not yet been achieved, but out of necessity, it is mimicking aspects of an MLS as it grows and matures.

It is a common event now to receive an e-mail from an agent in a competing real estate agency describing what a client is looking for, and asking for any listings I may have that satisfy the prospect’s criteria. It is understood that if I provide a listing that another agent’s prospect purchases, that I am inline for one half of the commission. In this construct, there is actually a buy-side and a sell-side, with both sides enjoying that elusive and oh-so-important term: representation. The positive repercussions of this construct are vast and result in a much better chance that full disclosure will result for the buyer, and that the seller’s interests will be protected as well.

You are likely asking: “why not just make an MLS for Costa Rica? The country is not that big. There could a central database of all properties that are available, along with their characteristics. Why not?” Good question. There have been numerous efforts at this. We’ll go more into that in future articles on this topic.

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Jul 182013
Should I buy or buy and build a house in Costa Rica?

I’ve left the day-to-day real estate activities of owning and running an office. I’ve still got a foot in the business, but not to the level of before.

In order to do a State of the Market report, I’ve had a number of conversations with realtors regarding the past season which, by the way, was a good season here for real estate sales.

Should I buy or buy and build a house in Costa Rica?

To buy a house, or to buy land and build one? THAT is the question.

I’d like to preface the current report by referring back to our last report here at Guys In The Zone. In that report I stated that the world of real estate here in Costa Rica’s southern Pacific zone has changed considerably since the time when I first started working in it (2004). In that report,  I said that there is now – for the first time in our history – a good inventory of houses. AND, that the primary area of interest on the part of single family buyers here has ALWAYS been a house.

I don’t know the exact percentage but I’d guess at around 90% of the visitors to our offices here start the conversation stating that they would like to buy a house. They are not interested in building. Until recently, this desire went unfulfilled. After looking at the meager house options, the actual base-line interest of the buyer would be exposed: they wanted to own property in The Zone. A house would be the first pick, but barring that, a raw piece of land that they could then build on would be an acceptable fall-back position to fulfill the fundamental interest that they had in owning something here in The Zone.

Most prospective buyers wanted to buy a house. Most prospective buyers bought raw land.

Now things have changed. The buyers have got a nice selection of houses to choose from. And the houses have been selling – as have hotels interestingly enough. 2 years ago, essentially every hotel in The Zone was for sale. There are still some on the market here, but a good amount of them have now sold. There’s essentially been a run on them.

I spoke with Rod Martin (click here for Rod’s real estate website), of former Guys in the Zone fame about the current state of the market. He says that you can’t give away a lot (raw land). Everybody is interested in a house.

I also spoke at greater length with John Weiland of Coldwell Banker (click here for John’s real estate website), and typical of John’s style, he had some interesting data to report.

24 months ago, there were roughly 21, single family lots for sale in Uvita Costa Rica. Today, there are roughly 21 lots (maybe more) still available in Uvita. For the most part, the prices on these lots have not changed.

Now, from where I sit, these properties in Uvita are NICE and they offer what folks used to stand in line to buy: good ocean views, whale’s tail view (specific to Uvita), reasonable access and distance to town, 2 – 5 acres, all services in place and so on. During the 2004 – 2006 years, we realtors would talk about having enough inventory to show. The inventory was getting wiped out by all of the buying. In the early days, ocean view lots for under $100k were not hard to find. They became totally non-existent as that period progressed.

Well, those days are back. You can get an ocean view lot in Uvita for prices that bracket the $100k mark. But interestingly, they aren’t selling.

My guess – (read: attempted prognostication) – about what is going to happen has been that as the perceived economic recovery takes place, we will see a surge in house sales. Which we have, and are seeing. The next logical step in this progression is that as the house inventory declines, we will see an uptick in the sale of single family lot sales.

So far we have not seen this. There are lots of languishing lots on the market. The logical conclusion then would be that these sellers simply are not lowering their prices to where they need to be in order to sell. Logical, right? Well… I wonder if that is the WHOLE picture.

One agent told me about a couple of prospective buyers that he had worked with recently. They came to Costa Rica with a budget of $400k for buying a house. They went home empty handed…

To which I respond: “How can that be?” If they had $400k and couldn’t find a house to suit their needs, why didn’t they buy one of these lots in Uvita for around $100k? You can build a PDN (Pretty Darn Nice) house for $250k – $300k! They would be right in their budget, AND have exactly what they want.”

The answer to this questions is “I don’t know”.

All of this leads me to a conclusion that might be a bit different than the years that I was in the daily grind. I’m thinking that there is a two pronged explanation for the languishing lots situation here.

  1. The buyers have changed.
  2. The Realtors have changed.

With the finishing of the coastal highway between Dominical and Quepos/Manuel Antonio, we have seen a different type of buyer here. In the early days, I would carry with me in my car, 5 different pairs of rubber boots of varying sizes. Most realtors to this day have at least one machete in their car, but they aren’t so needed these days. Back then they were essential. The boots were necessary and were used regularly by my prospective buyers as we hacked our way into the available properties.

These types of buyers are not so present these days. Extra boots and machetes are not necessary for seeing the available properties in The Zone. The access has been improved to where the former “hardy” status required to even come here is now gone. We are seeing buyers here now who would perhaps normally be seen in posh areas of North America & Europe, looking at condos. I don’t mean to be harsh here, but this is what I see.

As for point #2, I wonder if the real estate agents are doing their prospective buyers a good turn in not urging them to consider buying and building. Why not? In the past this was our main market. Points numbers 1 & 2 are addressed with the ease of buying a completed house and the higher price points (and commission) represented by the sale of such a property… well one has to wonder. Raw land was the default fall-back position of house-hunters here in The Zone for years. Why not now?

Maybe it has to do with questions like: how does one go about building in Costa Rica? What if you can’t move here to supervise the 12 – 18 month building time-frame? And so on. We’ll be discussing these points and others in coming posts to this blog.

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My suggestion, dear reader: if you are looking for a deal in Costa Rica real estate, consider buying a piece of raw land. There is a tremendous selection and the prices are compelling. AND, the building process is not nearly as dicey as it was years ago when raw land was the order of the day.

Jun 112013
Costa Rica governmental education program on hydroponics.

I sold my house in San Isidro. I got a decent price for it. I followed my own counsel and did seller financing and it has turned out to be one of the “good” business transactions in my business life. I’ll write about the construct of the deal at some point. In the meantime I am available to respond to any questions about selling property in Costa Rica with seller financing.

Costa Rica governmental education program on hydroponics.

The author hard at work, learning hydroponics with fellow studen, Christian.

The point I’m getting to with this article is that I now, for the first time in years, don’t own any property, and it is a strange feeling. I rent. Not only that, but I am renting a house in a small Tico community where no English is spoken, and some of my neighbors can’t read. We are talking “simple” living here.

On Saturday a couple of weeks back, my landlord (who by the way is the best landlord in the world – he maintains my yard and responds immediately to any problems, though few, that I may have with the house), he says to me: “there is going to be a talk on hydroponic gardening at the Salon Communal on Tuesday, you ought to come.”

I have always been curious about hydroponics, although nothing too dramatic. I can make that statement about lots of topics in my life, like how to knit and so on. I like this topic since it results in homegrown food. One of my interests in life is in reducing, and eventually eliminating, my dependency on the grocery store. (I’ve got a chicken coup and am the proud owner of a goat, with the prospect of goat cheese on the horizon.)

So I went.

This turned out to not be a “talk” on hydroponics as stated. This was an enrollment in a course on hydroponics, put on by the government agency INA. This was a full-blown certification course on hydroponics that would run for about 3 weeks, 2:30 – 6:00 Tuesday through Friday. Most of the worker Ticos work until 2:00 and so this was the schedule.

Well, I didn’t have that kind of time to dedicate to one of my many curiosities, but I went ahead and sat through the presentation regardless.

I was impressed.

INA stands for Instituto Nacional del Aprendizaje or National Institute for Learning. I had heard of it but hadn’t paid much attention to it. For many of us here in Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone, we marvel at the hub-bub made in Costa Rica information books and websites about the high level of education in Costa Rica. We simply don’t see it.

This course stands in stark contrast with that observation.

The course was being offered free, totally government sponsored.  But you had to be a resident. I had to provide a copy of my residency cedula, as well as fill out a form with all my information in it, all of which intrigued me that this course was something authentic. I jumped through the various hoops thinking that I would probably pull out at some point. Long story short, I didn’t – I did the course, and in fact, am doing it.

This coming Tuesday is the final class and I will there receive my title as a certified hydroponist (my spell-check says this isn’t a word – hydroponicist? hydroponics-meister? well… you get the point). How ’bout that? I now have a new passion in my life here in Costa Rica.

The course has been excellent.

I am enjoying this rather unique experience of reporting on a government program that is, simply put, quite good.

The teacher’s name is Miriam. She has been teaching hydroponics for INA for 16 years. I’ve never been to Harvard, but as the eminent standard for good education, I would be surprised if there is a higher quality professor of anything there. She is engaging, and extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of gardening, soil chemistry, bugs, insects, fungi etc…

Miriam is the author of a book on hydroponics and she feels that she’s got a dream life. She travels around to remote parts of Costa Rica, teaching people how they can improve their lives by means of cultivating foods that are high in nutrition, and that can be used as a supplemental, or even a primary source of income.

I find it interesting that when I mention to an expat here that I am studying hydroponics – everything from hydroponic science, to green house construction, to substrate composition etc… the expat will say, “would you mind coming over and sharing what you’ve learned with my family? Maybe help us get setup?”

So, in answering the question: “what are we doing here in Costa Rica?”, I would say that the search for a healthy diet, and being more involved in the process, factors into the answer for many who live here.

Here are some photos of the class.

[nggallery id=6]

May 182013
The Avid Reader Bookstore

This is the outline that I used for my presentation.

May 11, 2013

Presented by Ben Vaughn & The Avid Reader

(Davis, California), free of charge for anyone interested in the topic of what is involved with living in Costa Rica as an expatriate.
Ben Vaughn:
• grew up in Davis
• spent 20 years in the Aspen valley in Colorado
• has lived in Costa Rica since 1999
• currently serves as a consultant for those that are interested in making Costa Rica their home

The Avid Reader Bookstore

This is the store front for The Avid Reader where I gave my talk “How to Live in Costa Rica”

(POV Shift)
I come up to Davis every 6 months to visit my family who still reside here.
Regardless of whether I’m visiting Davis, or some other area of the country, I find that there is  considerable interest in Costa Rica and what is involved with living there as a foreigner.

Today, my sister Audrey and I went to Whole Earth week out at U. C. Davis. In conversation there with the various venders, they would ask if we lived here in Davis or were just visiting. When they find out that I’m visiting, but not only that, I’m visiting from Costa Rica – well, now that involves some questions.

  • How long have you been there?
  • What area are you in? We went there for our honeymoon / family vacation / recently etc…
  • Is it expensive?
  • Can you own land?
  • What currency is used there?
  • Do you have to learn Spanish?
  • Are there lots of bugs?
  • Etc…

Continue reading »

May 162013
Ben's talk How to Live in Costa Rica at Avid Reader

I have just returned to Costa Rica from my regular visit to Davis California. This trip was predicated by the fact that my mother had been diagnosed with cancer. The preparations for the trip were rushed. My mother’s surgery to remove the cancer from her throat was scheduled on Monday, so the Monday prior, my sister Audrey made the arrangements and I spent the week getting things in order to fly.

Ben's talk How to Live in Costa Rica at Avid Reader

Here is the setting. I have retouched the photo to insert my head onto the guy who was actually in the pic. We didn’t take any pics at my event. 🙁 But, it gives the setting 🙂

My mother had specifically requested that I come before her surgery.  She didn’t say, but we suspected that she was scared. Also, since her surgery was to be in her throat, she would likely not be able to talk for some time after the surgery.

We had a couple hours on Sunday and then the surgery was on Monday.

When the doctor went in to do the incision, he was a bit taken aback. There really wasn’t much cancer to speak of. So he just did a biopsy. The next day, Mom was up walking around, talking and eating.

All of which resulted in the point of this article, which is to tell you about my evening giving a talk at a bookstore, The Avid Reader in Davis. But first I should probably finish the lengthy lead-in part.

My mother had been diagnosed with Continue reading »

Apr 062013
New friends in Costa Rica.

The reasons for moving to, or visiting Costa Rica are diverse. In my time here I have been asked the question “why did you move to Costa Rica?” so many times I’ve lost count.

However, I am not just the askee of this question. I am the asker of the same question, different sense. “What is your interest in Costa Rica?”, the answer to which tells me volumes about the person I am talking with.

New friends in Costa Rica.

The cultural mix. A great reason for being here.

Cultural Convection: Things are changing here in the southern zone. I think of it as a “cultural convection”. It’s like the ever-present breezes here on the coast around The Zone. The breezes come in off of the ocean in the morning. As the earth warms throughout the course of the day, the inland flow changes and the breezes push back out to the sea in the afternoon and evening.

I think that there is a parallel with the human element. Continue reading »

Mar 182013

There might be a b… b… A b-b-b… Hmmm I can’t quite bring myself to say that word, maybe later. Let’s just say that we seem to be experiencing a hot time in the real estate business in Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone. I feel like we are at a new beginning of sorts here in Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone.

State of the market Costa Rica real estate

Get it while its hot! The latest on what is going on in the real estate market in Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone.

From where I sit, overlooking the industries of real estate and hospitality, I’d say we are at the beginning of a new day here. What exactly this means for real estate is a bit hard to say.

Hospitality Sector: Vacation rentals and restaurants are enjoying a brisk business. ICT, the Ministry of Tourism for Costa Rica says that the overall numbers are up. However, the numbers for Hotels are down. I find this interesting. Hotel occupancy is generally the indicator of how tourism as a whole is doing. Costa Rica may be an exception since so many find alternate lodgings, such as vacation rentals, B & B’s, hostels and so on. Pam, over at the Flutterby House (beach hostel) in Uvita says that they are having a swell year.

From Frank Walker’s March Newsletter:
Where Have All The Tourists Gone???
– If you listen to the ministry of tourism people are flocking to Costa Rica.  However, figures from the hotel industry tell a different story.  Figures indicate that the occupancy rate for 2012 was just slightly above 54%.  That’s below 2011 figures.  Industry wide the breakeven point  is 74% occupancy.   A recent survey by the Camera National Turismo which is separate from the ministry of tourism revealed that for the two months of December 2012 and January 2013 which are supposed to be the height of the tourist season occupancy rates ranged from a low of 22.1% in the central valley to 45.3% in Guanacaste. 

Real Estate: There have been a number of sales here on luxury homes above the $2 million mark. One fellow come into the area and has so far purchased a hotel and a number of high-end homes. Reportedly he pulled out of his homeland entirely and has chosen to work with his available resources in this way. Not to discuss the merit of his strategy, but the effect of his acquisitions – they can skew the trends a bit. He is one buyer that caused a number of high-end sales.

In recent discussions with realtors, across the board they are BUSY. Continue reading »

Interested in Costa Rica real estate as an investment. They primarily live somewhere else, but they own property in Costa Rica for the asset appreciation potential as well as possible rental income. Some just buy and hold (land-bank). For developed properties, the investor has a vacation home to visit as desired.

Migrators spend a regular amount of time in Costa Rica during each year.

Re-locators are those that are looking to move to Costa Rica from wherever they are. They will live full-time in Costa Rica.