Feb 122015
Towns for the Vegan Lifestyle - Ojochal Uvita or Tinamastes

Preamble: this article is my response to question I received from one of this blog’s readers. Its a bit unusual, but I see it as demonstrating a growing interest in The Zone – wellness – in its many forms. This one is specifically “vegan”, but the principles apply to all aspects of wellness.

Tinamastes is mentioned quite a bit. This is a high-altitude (relative to Costa Rica) area between Dominical and San Isidro.

Towns for the Vegan Lifestyle - Ojochal Uvita or Tinamastes

Which town is best for the vegan lifestyle?

Here is the question:

Hello Ben. I’m ——, from Venezuela. I’m planning to move to Ojochal, where I bought a 1000mts lot for $25k a year ago, very close to Tortuga river, next to ———-‘s house. I went one of these days and figure out there’s no farmers market in ojochal (only a project on the way to Pto Cortes). On the other hand I have the impression that the community in Tinamaste and Uvita are more organised in many fields (organic and local farmers market, vegetarian people… since I’m vegan) and its nearer to a bigger city. So I’m wondering if it’s worth or not selling my lot to buy a similar one in Tinamaste/Uvita. I also think that relations in Tinamaste are more based on solidarity, co-creation instead of Ojochal where people are  wealthier and live kind of an eternal vacation… Pura Vida!

Here is my response that I sent via e-mail. I am seeing the concerns mentioned in this question as growing in frequency here in The Zone, so I feel that there will be a benefit to posting this thread.
Hello ——,
My what an interesting question to receive through my blog.

Short response: yes, I think that your estimation of the differences between the towns of Ojochal, Tinamastes and Uvita are accurate. For overall “wellness”, I see the Tinamastes area as becoming a central point, a mecca if you will. Uvita is more so than Ojochal, but not to the level of Tinamastes.

As for whether this issue warrants the move that you mention of selling Ojochal and buying Tinamastes or Uvita, that is a much more involved and frankly, very personal issue, but I’ll go ahead and venture into it a bit here.
The vegan lifestyle is sufficiently different than the mainstream that I can see how being closer to a community of such minded ones would be appealing. However, I would need a bit more information on your purpose for owning a property in Costa Rica to offer counsel. Are you moving here full time? Just going to be here part of the year and somewhere else for the rest of the year? Is your purchase indicative of your “land” budget?
It sounds to me like you bought one of Pacific Lots properties around Ojochal. Do I have this right? To get a lot you’d want to live on elsewhere in The Zone for $25k is difficult to non-existent. There is a development in Uvita called Villa Del Sol that has 525 meter lots for sale for $42,500. These are walk-to-the-beach and near to the town center. Other than that, one of your big issues may be to find a property that you can afford.
I really enjoyed your description of the Tinamastes community:
“I also think that relations in Tinamaste are more based on solidarity, co-creation…”
I think that is fairly accurate and well put. I’m curious as to how you came to that observation of Tinamastes. Frankly, supposing that your vegan course is central to your lifestyle, Tinamastes would merit a good look-see. This would involve getting to know the community.
The Tuesday farmers market there is bigger and better than the Uvita farmers market (Uvita’s is on Saturday). Both are intensely cultural weekly events and are a fantastic way to get a feel for the community. I live in Uvita and so don’t go to the Tinamastes much due to the drive.
My lifestyle is undeclared. I live essentially “vegan” in my home, and don’t when out and about. I buy my weeks allotment of kale, spinach, turmeric root, carrots etc… every Saturday at the Uvita market. I also supply my larder with Himalayan salt (ALL of the salt served in Costa Rica has fluoride in it and is pure, demineralized sodium chloride. I carry my own so as to avoid these when in sodas & restaurants), also biologically sound soaps and indigenous plants for growing my own produce at home. So, as you can see, there is some of this in Uvita, but there are entire sub-communities of organic & vegan folks in the Tinamastes area.
With the little bit of information that I have of your situation, I would suggest consulting with residents there in Tinamastes, and it would certainly warrant a more extended stay there in that area. Tinamastes is much higher in altitude and is less “beach” centered. Yoga, organic farming, wellness and ceremonies abound in the community.
I can provide you with a couple of connections there that would be good starting points for a more in-depth understanding of the community.
Hope this helps.
Apr 162012

What’s in a name? In the case of our company, I’ve heard comments about the name “Guys in the Zone” that range from: “not professional” to “that’s cool”. It all came about quite innocently. Spend any time at all in The Zone, and you’ll hear the term “The Zone” somewhere. We are a string of small towns and neighborhoods all along the southern pacific coastline of Costa Rica. From just north of Dominical, let’s say from Portalon south to Palmar Norte.


The Zone: Where the mountains meet the Pacific Ocean.

The area around Dominical (named after a type of short banana called a dominico) caters to a large degree to tourism.  Dominical beach is world famous for its consistent break and is a challenge for the best of surfers.  So in Dominical you’ll find lots of surf shops, surf camps, surf schools and surfers from all over the world.  There are a few restaurants and gift shops as well.

There is a rather large-ish flat area around Dominical that is currently undefined.  I suspect that in time it will house various services and shops for the tourism industry: restaurants, hotels, shops, tours etc… But the area really isn’t that large. And, the area is finite.  It has the Baru river on one side, and it has the coastal mountain range running at an angle that pinches the usable flat area down to a configuration of a slice of pizza. There is room for growth there in Dominical, but not much.

The room for growth is in Uvita (meaning- little grape). The coastal mountain range that snugs up against the beach at Dominical, runs parallel to the ocean along the zone between Dominical and Uvita. At Uvita, the coastal mountain range angles inland and then comes back toward the ocean. This results in a triangular rim of mountains creating a bowl-like configuration around the flats that are Uvita. But that’s not all.

Right at about that point, where the ridge runs inland forming a triangle, there is a complimentary triangle of land jutting out into the ocean that is then adorned by Uvita’s famous Whale’s Tail. These two triangles of land, laying as they are, side by side, form a diamond, well – loosely speaking. But the point is (no pun intended) that the area around Uvita is vast in comparison to the flat usable area around Dominical, which leads us to the point (eh…) that Uvita gives all indicators of being the area where commercial, social and cultural happenings will be centered in the future.

This is important to the topic of real estate and investment concerns.  Early recognition of a trend can help to position oneself well for future payoffs.

Current News

Uvita is an interesting study in the melding of several cultures. European, Canadian and United States-ian cultures converge here with the existing Costa Rican culture.  I can’t say the existing “indigenous” culture since even the Ticos (Costa Rican’s) are European transplants, much like North Americans.

The Ticos seem to have an amazing tolerance for noise. Our Guys in the Zone office is located right in the heart of Uvita, on the coastal highway. The coastal highway is the main artery through Costa Rica now, connecting Nicaragua to the north, with Panama to the south. Consequently there are lots of trucks using this highway. Some trucks use the Panamericana Highway (which runs through the middle of the country), but most use the coastal highway through the main center of Uvita.  The trucks themselves are not the problem. What causes the problem is the fact that the drivers like to use their jake breaks as they pass through town, often at a higher than desired speed.

Now, to any civilized member of the human family, this borders on the ridiculous. These guys know that they are passing through an area of business, families going about their day and life in general going on – all of which is interrupted as we wait for them to pass through town with their truck blazing out the most obnoxious of noises.  This is what it sounds like:


There’s even a “No Jake Brakes” sign hanging across the highway in Dominical, but truck drivers either can’t read it or don’t care.

Now, I’ll grant you that some of the more professional minded Ticos, such as the restaurant owners, will roll their eyes in frustration at the racket, but for every one of them that responds this way, there is someone whooping and waving to the truck drivers in greeting.

From where Rod & I sit in our front row office, Uvita could be one of the most beautiful little coastal hamlets in the world.  Everything grows here, especially the truly exotic varieties of flora that the Earth has to offer. Why the town resembles more of a strip mall than an exotic tropical oasis is a bit difficult to understand.  So, we weren’t surprised today when we received the request to post this announcement in our window:

“United We Can Achieve” – The Development Association of Uvita invites you to the Community Center of Uvita Costa Rica.  Important issues on the agenda:

  • Local control of ocean park entrances
  • The Boulevard – control truck speed & beautify the Costanera in Uvita

“The Boulevard” idea for the Coastal Highway is something that has got me a bit excited.  There is enough room to run a center area down the highway that can be planted with Almendra trees, that produce a type of almond. These are the type of trees that make lots of shade and are the main, if not the only, food for Scarlet McCaws.

    One of the strengths of The Zone is there are many people from different parts of the world.  We talk to most of them on a regularly basis, and to an individual, they want to create an active, beautiful life here.  Whatever growth Uvita experiences, moving forward, it’s nice to know that industrialization will be met with a vibrant and educated counter force.  That’s just some of the latest news for Uvita, Costa Rica.  If you want to know about all of the latest gossip and goings on, you have to take the plunge and make Uvita your home.

Apr 212011

Episode 12 features a candid look at community in the Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica. If you’re considering relocating, buying a house, raw land, or a commercial business in the greater Dominical or Uvita areas, we encourage you to watch. And, please feel free to share your comments or questions. Gracias.

Talk Show – Episode12 by GuysInTheZone

Nov 272010
Costa Rica Realtor Face

The Guys are doing quite well, thank you very much.  We are currently made up of 4 official Guys, as well as a smattering of several honorary “Guys”.

My name is Ben Vaughn and I am no longer the oldest Guy, since Chan has made his business acumen available to the Guys on a consultant basis, and he is older than I am. Rod & I are the originators of Guys In The Zone and we have now also been joined by Richard, a very welcome presence in the Guy’s office as he brings his enthusiasm, energy, and of course, solid business practices into the fold.

Costa Rica Realtor Face

Ben - Living the Life

Our office is located in what is now known as the BM Supermercado (Supermarket) building. We are where the Rainforest Internet Café was located. If you go to the south end of Uvita, and look to the left (inland) side of the highway, you’ll see our blue spiral staircase in between two rather garish yellow background Farmacia signs.

We stand a good chance of moving to a ground floor location over next to the Marino Ballena restaurant. Stay tuned on this, but if we do, we’ll be just that much easier to find.

Richard - the newest Guy In The Zone

Richard - Guy In The Zone

We, like the other agencies in The Zone, are gearing up for what promises to be a rather busy “busy” season.  Our business barometers are the vacation rentals and hotels, who are all saying that their bookings are strong for the coming season.  We are setting up property viewing appointments and understand from our competitors that they are doing the same.

The general feeling is that we have endured the worst of the global economic downturn.  It is felt that our world has definitely changed here in Costa Rica, just as it has in

other parts of the globe, but that there is a newly defined and emerging system taking shape.

Basis for Optimism

At the very core of any successful market is the element of human

Good living in Costa Rica

Rod - Happy Living

desire.  You can analyze a market every which way, but if the product or service lacks a strong appeal, it is likely going to do nothing more than flash (as a result of a marketing effort) and then burn out.

Properties in Costa Rica have always had, and continue to have, a strong desirability.  Couple this with a return to much more affordable prices, and you get what we feel we’ve now got, a genuine, non-boom real estate market place.

We aren’t looking for the white-hot action of the early to mid 2000’s.  We are looking for buyers and investors who peruse our online listings, e-mail us, come into our offices and shop what is available to initiate what for many, is the achievement of a life-long goal – moving to, and owning a property in, Costa Rica.

It is interesting that we seem to be returning to some of the demographics of years past.  We have been working with people that have 3 – 7 years as their projected timeframe for moving to Costa Rica.  It may be that retirement is on the horizon or kids will be getting out of school, or there might be an aged parent that needs care, and so on.  These folks come down now while the prices are low, and secure their property.

At the risk of repeating what I’ve written before: there are 5 basic reasons why people buy property in Costa Rica:

  1. Relocation to be a full time resident
  2. Migration lifestyle.  Live part of the year in Costa Rica and part elsewhere.
  3. Income generating property. Use it as a vacation getaway that rents out when you’re not here.
  4. Land bank.  Buy land at a good price, wait 5 years and sell it at a reasonable rate of return.
  5. Build a community, retreat or family compound.

This last point (#5) has been enjoying a surge of activity as of late with what I like to refer to as the Escapists.  These ones generally are looking for larger parcels of land that can accommodate numerous structures.  These folks predict a crashed economy or currency back home.  Or an un-payable national deficit promising increasing tax hikes. Or simple uncertainty of what the future holds as society’s former standards and immortal icons topple and go by the wayside.  Going off-the-grid is frequently in the mix for #5. Oh, and the year 2012 prophesies helps a bit with this group as well.

What’s Selling

Our message to sellers is always the same.  If you want to sell, you have to lead the market in lowering your pricing.  There are basically 2 groups of sellers: those that know they have to lower their price in order to get listed with the real estate agencies, and those that REALLY have to lower their price in order to convert their land holdings here in Costa Rica into cash.  These are motivated by the need to protect something “back home”.  It is this second of the 2 groups who is mostly selling here now.

We are enjoying the re-appearance of under $100,000 ocean view single family lots.  These were gone for a number of years as the ocean view category’s bottom pushed up to somewhere around $150,000. Good quality houses in the $300,000 to $400,000 range are selling briskly.

There are some gorgeous luxury homes on the market but activity is soft in this category.  One could say it is a great time to buy a luxury home in Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone.

This is an interesting category since there are definitely capable buyers around, but the availability of credit is low. If a buyer is liquid to the tune of $1,000,000 or more, they may be reluctant to spend it in a single acquisition.  Consequently, we feel that seller financing is going to play a larger role in the coming season than ever before.

The Guys are enjoying life, and are here to serve.  Please let us know if we can help you achieve your goal of making Costa Rica your home.

Jul 262010

[This article is a continuation of Education In Rural Costa Rica, Part 1]

Private School

Simply put, the reason most tico families do not send their children to private school is the cost. The best private elementary school in San Isidro runs around $275/month. Even by gringo standards this can be viewed as a lot of money; however, most parents understand the benefits are significant, like— bilingual studies, text books, well-equipped teachers and classrooms… to name a few. “After school” extra-curricular activities often include— art, dance, and sports. These creative activities teach kids so much more than memorizing dates in history. They prepare them for life beyond the farm, should they choose to pursue it.



To give you an idea of how “private schooling” has become synonymous with success, there are currently 6 public and 60 private universities in Costa Rica.  The southern Pacific region is fortunate to have the Int. University San Isidro Labrador, only 45 minutes drive time from Dominical.[1] According to StateUniversity.com, “…higher education is free for nearly 50 percent of the enrolled students.” My guess is that scholarships are a significant part of the aforementioned $2 million (6.3%) of budgetary spending on education[2].

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.
– C. S. Lewis

Escuela Verde

The increase in private universities is a good sign for the future of the Costa Rica, but what about options for the parents of younger kids?  Let me share a quick story about Escuela Verde, a new private grade school that opened in 2009 in Uvita.  The school was founded by a couple of parents who were unimpressed by the public school options in the area, and their mission statement is clear,


“Escuela Verde prepares children to be resourceful and independent while inspiring them to give back to their multi-cultural community and the natural environment.”


After securing a building in Uvita Centro, they quickly rallied support from the parents and community.  The teachers follow guidelines for Costa Rica and U.S. grade level guidelines, and many subjects are taught in both English and Spanish.  Unlike many of the public schools, the kids are even responsible for completing regular homework assignments.   They even have scholarships for tico families that want to expose their children to the best educational option available in the area.  It is my understanding that they already have a long waiting list.  For more information, you can go to Escuela Verde’s website.

A Melting Pot Of Ideas


Compared to crime and politics, education does not receive a lot of publicity in the media.  However, it is a hot topic for parents who want to make Costa Rica their new home.  Perhaps the best news I can offer our readers and potential clients is that the Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica is a melting pot, ala the United States of the 19th and 20th centuries.  A blend of ideas, talents and energy has created a lively, international community… one that is keenly focused on sustainability, preservation, and education.

[1] http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/300/Costa-Rica-HIGHER-EDUCATION.html#ixzz0ix0kJIPU

[2] http://www.ticotimes.net/dailyarchive/2008_09/090208.htm#story1

Apr 032010

Education… it elicits warm images of smiling children, colorful classrooms and fundamental ideas like opportunity and a brighter future.  I am happy to say I see all of those elements unfolding here in Costa Rica, albeit sloooowly.

Did you know that the Costa Rican government is constitutionally required to budget at least 6% of the country’s GDP on educational programs?  In fact, the only countries that spend more on education (as a percentage of GDP) are Saudi Arabia and Norway at 9.5% and 6.8%, respectively.[1] Costa Rica also sports the highest literacy rate in Central America at 95.8%[2].  That said, there are a couple of gaps this learning curve, and I’m specifically referring to the parents and educators in this rural region, not the kids.

Elementary school classroom.

Ben and I often receive school-related questions from potential clients.  So, here’s a quick synopsis of public and private education in our region of Costa Rica.  Public school is free and for children between the ages of 6 and 13 (e.g., 1st through 6th grade).  Unlike most of the public schools in the United States, Canada and Europe, students are required to wear a uniform, typically dark blue pants with a white or light blue shirt.  The curriculum includes the usual core subjects of Spanish, Math, History, and Science.  Since 1998, English and Computer Sciences are also standard.  After kids pass their final elementary school testing, they have the option of a five-year stretch in colegio (i.e., high school in North America and Europe).


Judging from the local tico parents I have spoken with, their public school system offers a decent education for their children.  Judging from the growing number of expats living in the area, the school system is far from acceptable.  Leveraging my sources, namely my girlfriend (who has an 11 year old son) and a variety of local parents with school-age children, I embarked to uncover the real education story.


Frustration In An Emerging Country

“They don’t have school today… again!”  My girlfriend was beside herself.  Apparently, the parents of her son’s public school (he was in 5th grade) chained the front doors of the school demanding the removal of an (allegedly) drunk principal.  This comical Latin American story quickly turned ridiculous, as the protest went on for almost a week?!   Then, there was the teacher’s constant infirmity with no substitute.  Then, there was the partial flooding of the campus for a few days during the rainy season causing… yep, no school.  In reality, her son probably only attended half the number of days scheduled.

On top of that… the school didn’t have any books.  The teacher cited the importance of learning dictation and penmanship, but at what expense?  Early in the first parent-faculty meeting of the year, my girlfriend asked for an explanation?  The answer was they didn’t have any money.  Then, education in rural Costa Rica came into focus when each of the parents decided to budget money ($2.75/month for 10 months) for a “Christmas Party” for the kids.  The party turned out to be a success; the kids sang a few songs, played a few games, and ate what amounted to $20 worth of candy and cake.

This year, her son is attending a new “better” public school in Uvita.  The only problem is they don’t have any text books either.  But, hold on… before prospective mothers and fathers cross Costa Rica off the list, please allow me to share another option available.

Multi-Cultural, Global Citizens


“By learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn.” – Latin Proverb


I remember when I first met Ben, and he told me the main reason he moved his family of five from Colorado to Costa Rica was because he wanted his kids to be bilingual and have an enriching life experience.  In fact, those are two of the main reasons most families move down here.  The third being… it’s a tropical paradise.  They lived in San Isidro, and they homeschooled their children who turned out happy, healthy, and yes… fluent in Spanish.

All that being said, we understand home schooling is not a viable option for some parents.  In Part 2 of this article, I will share arguably the best educational option in Costa Rica— private school.  It will also include continuing education for adults specifically, learning Spanish!  Until then, please feel free to share your questions and comments in the space below.  Saludos.

[2] United Nations Human Development Report 2007/2008 (Unfortunately, in some countries literacy is defined as being able write your name.)

Mar 272010

Talk Show – Episode 6

Talk Show – Episode 6

Welcome to our full video Talk Show format!  In addition to this new look, we share new information on Costa Rica real estate including, a recap of 2009, recent activity in the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica, and new issues for buyers and sellers.  This post comes in advance of the new www.GuysInTheZone.com website, where you can find all of the best resources for the area in one place.  The most notable addition to our new site is the forum.  It’s there to give us all a place where we can discuss the various topics that are going on around The Zone.  To all our readers, watchers, and listeners, thank you for your questions and comments, and please feel free to get involved over at our new forum.

Uploaded by GuysInTheZone. – Explore lifestyle, fashion, and DIY videos.

Mar 232010

If you ask the World Bank or one of the mega-water corporations (e.g., Coke, Nestle, Vivendi), fresh drinking water is a commodity. If you ask virtually everyone else in the world (including the United Nations), fresh drinking water is a basic human right. Whether it is the encroachment of privatization or Nicaragua’s plan to divert the San Juan River[1], water in Costa Rica is an increasingly lively topic.

Water is a necessity.

One of the most popular questions for potential property owners is, “What is the water situation for this property?” Most of these new investors come from North America and Europe, areas that have hundreds of years of infrastructure development.  However, this southern Pacific region of Costa Rica is still early in the cycle of development.  We continue to see rapid growth in communications (cell phones and high speed internet), power (high tension power lines), and roads (the newly paved Costanera between Quepos and Dominical).  That being said, cell phones are a luxury, but water… is a necessity.

Property In A Development

Most quality developments have a water system that has been installed by the developer.  The most common sources for these systems are high flowing springs, and in some cases surface water (e.g., creeks and rivers).  Some developments, like Osa Estates in Uvita, even have back-up systems and extensive water storage capabilities.  The interesting thing is very few developments actually have a concession (permission to extract water from the ground).  The good news is the majority of them are “in process”.  Either way, the developer usually provides the property owner a prevista (water right document) which guarantees use of water into the future (assuming the property owner is in compliance with established CC&Rs and other laws).  Proof of a water document, like a prevista, is also required by the local Municipality before they will approve any construction project on a property. 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.