Oct 152017
Costa Rica History in knife metaphor

I’d say that about 1/10th of my time spent with people looking to buy property in Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific zone is spent in the actual buying/selling of property. The other 9/10ths is a mix of conversations regarding what’s involved with living here, as well as discussing the business of real estate in Costa Rica.Understanding Costa Rica real estate

At its core, the lack of an actual MLS (Multiple Listing Service) colors all aspects of the business here, and I’ll go into that later on in this series. To really understand the business of real estate here, I have found it helpful to go back in time and see the progression of events up to the present. This helps to not only understand the current market but also, to project what is to come.

Early days:
I got into real estate in Dominical in 2004. It felt like the day I got into real estate was the day that someone threw the on-off switch to “on” in the market. Since then I’ve heard some tales indicating that the market was already simmering and poised to boil.

I made a sale on my first day in the business. A $60,000 gorgeous ocean view property sized at around 2 acres.  The property featured Uvita’s Whales Tail front and center. That property has gone on to have a lovely home, guest house and pool built on it. It has been re-sold and enjoys a stellar vacation rental history (link to rental page on HomeAway)

Quick overview of The Zone:
The Zone is made up of a string of 3 towns with Dominical at its northern end. The northern boundary is not a hard line but is decidedly fuzzy, easily extending up to Hatillo and at times, up to Portalon. (link to Hills of Portalon Development).

From Dominical heading south on the coastal highway you get to Uvita and then further south, to Ojochal. The area between Dominical and Uvita has a nicely laid out mountain range that runs parallel to the ocean. Hence the handle “coastal mountain range”. This means that you can travel inland from the beach just a short way and get to elevation where it is breezy and cool and offers expansive views of the ocean and coastline, attributes which make this area extremely desirable to investors, relocators and migrators (part-of-the-year residents).

More History:
Before the incoming press of foreign interest in The Zone, the Ticos (Costa Ricans) owned all the land, and their land holdings were always in the multi-hectares (1 hectare = 2.48 acres. Think 2.5 to make it easy).

There was a time in the not too distant past when land in Costa Rica was nearly value-less. There were land-grant programs whereby a man simply had to be willing to take responsibility for a property and the government would “grant” him the land, with conditions.

At that time it was not known that “nature” had a lucrative aspect to it. Instead nature was largely viewed as “in the way” and needed to be tamed, subdued, or eliminated. So, one of the conditions to receiving a land grant was to cut the trees down and raise cattle.

I suspect that this era may have coincided with the “McDonalds” explosion. This is an arguable point, so let’s just say it coincided with an extreme demand in the U. S. (and world) for beef.

After some time of cutting down enormous canopy trees and attempting to raise cattle in former rain-forest environs, there was a shift in our world’s appetites; nature became (and is) an important commodity. Granted, beef has continued to be an active commodity, but it was also learned that former rain forest land doesn’t necessarily make for the best pasture land.

Raising cattle in Costa Rica was a daunting struggle. The farmers found themselves up against nature. Having to maintain former rain forest jungle land in “pasture” condition presented its trials, as well as the fact that the beef business (exporting meat, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and 3rd world infrastructure or lack thereof) made a guy scratch his head and wonder if having all this land was such a good idea.

The Tico culture was/is multi-generational. These large, granted tracts of land, would end up being populated by the man who acquired the land, his now grown sons & daughters and their families, and the grand kids (soon to also have families.)

So despite having lots of land, a condition that in first-world countries equates to being wealthy, these farmers were “subsistence”. They lived off of what their land produced. As a child would grow to adulthood, Abuelo (abuelo = grandfather) would simply build them a house and apportion off some land (or not) and they would continue on contributing to the sustenance of the family. The land itself was not thought of in lucrative terms. It was a simple fact of life.

Abuelo just happened to acquire a land grant on, let’s say, 60 hectares of land that reaches from the inland side of the maritime zone on the coast up to the highest point of the coastal mountain ridge. He’s not thinking “oh boy! I’ve got some ocean view land here.” No, he’s thinking: “man I hope this land is fertile.”

Enter foreigner:
One day Bob, a tourist, is exploring the area and decides that he’d like to buy Abuelo’s property. Bob offers Abuelo $60,000 for the land. Abuelo has never even considered the remote possibility of maybe someday having such a sum. In fact, he’s never even seen that much money. He talks it over with his family and they (very understandably) feel that this would be a wonderful thing for them to do. So, they sell their land.

Bob is a visionary. He sees what is likely coming and so he stakes his early claim. Now, keep in mind that there is no electricity to this property, the access is horseback and the water is from an onsite or nearby spring that is bubbling out of the ground. Abuelo has run a pipe from the spring to an elevated storage tank near the family homes. Bob qualifies for the handle “visionary” in that – what foreigner in their right mind would possibly want such a remote and forbidding piece of land?

To understand this is to understand the element that is credited with making the world go round. We all have different likes and dislikes. I wonder at the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Paul Allen’s and their focus on the personal home computing idea at the time that they had that focus. I’m not of this ilk and so my hat is off to such ones. I view the early investors here in The Zone as being made of the same stuff.

In looking back over the history of the first wave of investors here, I marvel at their foresight. My then wife and I looked at some Whales Tail view property in Uvita around 2002 and, despite its being gorgeous and nicely priced, I felt that it was simply too remote. This was in the same area where 2 years later I sold my first property.

Ok, so I said that to understand the real estate market here in Costa Rica, it helps one to know a bit of the history. Granted, we’ve gone back to what I appropriately call the first-wave of intrepid and visionary investors – The Visionaries. We’ll continue on in the next article with Bob’s next steps and incredible gains on his visionary act.

Nov 222015
Toucan in guarumo. Uvita Costa Rica

At this writing, we are in the later stages of the rainy season here in the zone. Its a bit of a paradox why the rainy season here is called the “low” season. For those of us that live here, it is one of the nicest times of the year. There are flowers out like crazy, the climate is only perfect AND, there aren’t that many people here.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the busy season when there are lots of people here. Its just different. After what can seem to be a lengthy rainy season, one is ready for the sun to come out and stay out. Also, after the rather quiet months of the rainy season its kind of nice to get back into that almost festive feel of seeing so many people coming here and enjoying the sites and adventures that this part of Costa Rica offers.

Toucan in guarumo. Uvita Costa Rica

As I was preparing this article to post, I had this visitor. Ahhh, such are mornings in Costa Rica (and evenings… and afternoons).

So, where we’re at right now is a rainy season coming to an end – lastima! (too bad!) I love the rains.

We’re heading into months of uninterrupted sun and LOTs of people. The rainy season is extremely nice here. So is the non-rainy season – I guess this is what we call “life” here in the zone.

Diana - coordinator of the Uvita farmers market.

Diana is the coordinator of the Uvita Farmers Market. Front and center, you can’t miss her. She also (among other things) makes the best carrot cake in the known universe (catering too).

My morning:
This morning I did my usual visit to the Uvita Farmers Market. This is the big cultural event of the week in Uvita Costa Rica. Recommended to anyone considering having a stake here in the Dominical, Uvita or Ojochal areas.

It’s nearly impossible to run in, grab what you need, and leave. My good friend Rod came in for a glass of fresh squoze orange juice.

I think it took him more than an hour to get back to the squeezer’s table and get himself a cup. Such is the Uvita Farmer’s market.

Uvita Costa Rica's farmers market orange juicer.

Fresh squeezed orange juice. Alway there, always sweet.

One of my current observations regarding The Zone is the ingenuity and creativeness of the expats to make a living here. I have mentioned how young families have firmly made up a new segment of the demographics of The Zone. The private, bi-lingual schools here are bursting at the seams.

Not just the young families, but also most who are looking to move here have the question “how do I make a buck in Costa Rica?” as a prominent pregunta (question) in their considering the move.

This morning when I entered, I saw my good friends Tom & Anke Nagel at the immediate left as I walked in. They have s sustainable farm between Uvita & Ojochal, up in the hills a bit. They have lots of cacao plants growing there. They groom the plants organically and harvest the cacao seeds. They are now making screaming delicious chocolate bars called simply “Tom’s”. They sold out as I stood there, despite it being “low” season.

Then I turn to my right and there is Tori at her table. Tori works part time as Rod’s personal assistant. I think that Rod would prefer that she be called “the one who makes my life work”, or something like that. But in any case, Tori and her fiancee have begun the first micro-brewery in the area and even organize what has established itself as a very successful beer fest here in the area. She sells kombucha at the market.

Moving back further into the market I spoke with Maria who provides all manner of organic delights: dried plantains, seasoned with chile, salt or lemon. Also she sells an amazing yogurt tahini as a dip. Spicy and variously flavored chile sauces, organic cacao beans, sesame seeds, all manner of nuts etc…

Gaby's table at the Uvita farmers market.

Gaby is a wealth of healthy living knowledge. I make it a point to stop by and say hi – and perhaps gain a further tidbit of valuable information. Great earth-friendly products as well.

Going yet further back I like to visit Gaby’s table. She is where I buy my Himalayan salt, as well as bio-friendly laundry detergent and so on. She has helped me get started with growing my own moringa (do a search on Google for “moringa”, it’ll blow your mind. The solution to the world’s malnutrition?) & chaya trees (again – the solution the world hunger?). I always learn something from Gaby that helps me to take steps towards my personal objective of not being quite so dependent on what’s on the shelves at the grocery store.

Ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for months. We sat at the restaurant there in the market and discussed exactly this topic of how to make money here as an expat. He’s looking at focusing on long term rentals which we both see as a strong and very needy niche that needs to be filled here.

Brian Nice - proprietor of the Uvita farmers market.

Brian is the local philanthropist who provides the space for the farmer’s market, as well as the instigator of the privately funded Playa Hermosa lifeguards.

I stopped at Brian Nice’s table to pay my monthly contribution for the Playa Hermosa life guards. This program is saving lives and is funded strictly by voluntary donations and (I think) Brian’s pocket. I know, you’re thinking: “isn’t that what the government should be doing?” How ’bout let’s not go there. This is how it gets done here.

Rod & I decided to go get a bite at the Bamboo Taco trailer thingy that Sean Gallagher came up with. He drags his trailer’d grill behind his 1970 something diesel Toyota Land Cruiser and parks outside of the Uvita Veterinary Clinic right alongside the coastal highway starting on Thursday through Saturday. The tacos there are to die for and they are now serving pizzas and ribs, the latter of which was the reason that Rod went there today. I had the fish tacos. Awesome!

So, if you’ve read this far and are wondering what the heck a “morning in the life of the zone” article is doing on a Costa Rica Real Estate blog, it for this reason – many people that buy real estate here in The Zone are looking for a change-of-life. This is not just a question of buying a piece of property. In fact, real estate is just a small part of a much bigger picture. What its like to live here factors very strongly in why many people buy property here. Also, seeing the creative ways expats & Ticos make money here addresses one of the principle topics I encounter in my consultations and real estate business in general – that of “how can I make money in Costa Rica”.

If you’d like to talk, let me know. You can use the form below to setup the first one. What the heck – its free.

[contact-form-7 id=”3197″ title=”Contact form Ben”]


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.
Aug 202014
Expats in Costa Rica

“Myopic” would probably best describe this post. The vantage that I have of the Costa Rica expat scene will be purely autobiographical, what I have seen and some of what I have heard in my 16+ years of living full time in Costa Rica both as a father of a family of 5, an Internet marketer and a realtor.

Expats in Costa Rica

Expats: The Mix in Costa Rica

When we made the move to Costa Rica in January of 1999, we felt like the only US expats in San Isidro de Perez Zeledon. This is a small town by most standards, but San Isidro is a large city in Costa Rica’s southern zone, located about what was then 45 minutes from the coastal town of Dominical. It is now located about 30 minutes from Dominical, not due to a change of location on the part of the town, but caused by the improved roads since them.

At that time, our dress, stature (we are generally taller than Ticos) and overall manner made us stand out. There were times when as a family we would walk the streets of San Isidro and felt that a hush would fall on the street due to the presence of the Gringos. Many with whom we would interact were having their first experience of talking with a foreigner.

My Spanish was the best of the family (at that time -this has changed) but this isn’t saying much. So it usually fell to me to do the talking. It was a truly delightful experience to sense the pleasure that they (the Ticos) would experience from this simple happening. They were nearly always quite gracious and would take whatever time we wanted to pass with them there on the street, in the shops and sodas (Costa Rican typical restaurants).

Since then things have changed. We are no longer unique. A day spent walking the streets of San Isidro is marked by various languages from around the world and there is certainly nothing unique about being Gringo in Costa Rica. They really don’t take much notice anymore.

After 6 years in San Isidro, I moved over to the coast. My kids had grown and my wife & I had separated. I lived in Dominical for a couple of years and then down to Uvita where I now reside. From the lofty perch that working in real estate has afforded me I have been able to observe the influx of expats to the area and to track the transformational changes on this small country that has resulted from what I would call, revolutionary changes to the culture and quality of life for the Ticos.

It is this relationship between expat and Tico that plays prominently on the move to Costa Rica. The Tico culture is, in many ways, complementary to other more developed country’s cultures. I kind of hate using these words because in many ways “more developed” should mean “higher quality of life”, What is this quality?  “Greater happiness”? Hmmm… I’m not so sure that these terms fit. There is the much publicized status of Costa Rica being the “happiest country“, but in the present vernacular of accepted expressions, we deem better roads, electrical services, Internet, apps, stores, restaurants and so on as “progress” and “better developed” and so I use it here to describe the changes that have happened, in these areas, to an extreme degree.

Initially the primary buyers of land were people preparing for retirement or the individualistic, slightly out-of-round ones that were looking for something different from “back home”. At that time life here in The Zone could be described as “adventurous” due to the scarcity of conveniences and challenge of transportation around The Zone. This plus the sheer power of Nature here in this part of Costa Rica.

Both types were of a hardy nature. It was like there was a giant curtain filter hanging over the country separating the southern zone from the northern. To simply get here required this quality of “hardiness” just to get here. Most relocators were looking to the northern province of Guanacaste and its beaches. You never saw people in wheelchairs here and there were very few over 65, but there were a few. The ones that I know of this latter type are still here and doing quite well.

Now we have a few more groups or types of people looking at property.

The Retirees (God love ’em) make up a large share still. It is interesting about this group that they seem to come down to purchase their property 3 – 7 years before they intend to do anything with it.

Investors make up a good segment but this is almost always in the mix for all the “types”. For some however, this is all that they are doing here. They want to take advantage of the recession pricing on properties here, and there are indicators that this strategy is well placed. The crystal ball of what is going to happen in the future indicates that there will be continued, and likely, increasing growth here in the coming years.

Wellness Groups, individuals and families are looking for tracts of land where they can design a self sufficient life in an area of the world where there is reduced dependency on utility companies. The weather here is comfortable 24/7, and you can produce endless varieties of fruits and vegetables. I like to say that you can throw a toothpick at the ground in Costa Rica and it will take root. Granted, a slight exageration, but only slight.

I think that one of the most notable newcomers to the types of people that are moving here are Young Families. Uvita has 2 private schools that are busting at the seams. There are medical services, grocery stores, hardware stores and so on. There are even a bowling alley and a golf course down the coast a ways. These are evidence of this groups presence and is a vibrant and growing community of these young families.

Finally, a group that I call the End of the Worlders. These intrepid folks have done their research and have determined that the “developed” world is on its last legs and that it simply has to end.  They deem the practices there as unsustainable and so must end. They feel that Costa Rica would be a good place to ride out the coming storm. Self sufficiency ranks prominently in the criteria of what they are looking for in a property: water, sun and room around them as a buffer.

I would say that simplification is a common trait amongst the various types, perhaps less so with the Investors, although some in this group have this in mind as well. So many are saying that they have had enough of the large house, large property and large life.

So the constant here in The Zone is change. The result of all this change is a developing hybrid culture that mixes people from all walks of life: countries, languages, and cultures blend here into what we now have and enjoy here.

(I’ve got a link up above to an article about Costa Rica being the Happiest Country on Earth. I wanted to re-mention this. The article goes beyond the topic of “happy” and has some pretty darn good points regarding Costa Rica you might enjoy reading. Here it is again: Click Here)

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.


Jul 192012

My uncle, who is now retired in Costa Rica, just sent me a link to this video. Quality video footage from the 1940s is difficult to find, and it got me thinking. This is not “real estate” per se, but it IS a look back at a younger version of the Happiest Place on the Planet.

Interestingly, the year after this film was released, Costa Rica experienced a very short yet bloody civil war. Although it only lasted 5 weeks, but 2,000 citizens lost their lives. The Communist-leaning government of Calderon Guardia was overthrown by a rebel contingent led by Don Pepe. In addition to eliminating the (more) corrupt Calderon government, many other progressive changes came out of this uprising– the standing Army was abolished, women were awarded the right to vote, and full citizenship was provided to the black population living and working in Costa Rica.

Unlike many of the countries to the north and south, Costa Rica has experienced relative peace and prosperity. Perhaps the best news is Latin America’s longest running democracy (Costa Rica) continues to set a progressive agenda in the areas of environment, education, and sustainability.

At times it can be beneficial to look back in order to appreciate the moment. Much of the playful sentiment that is captured in the film continues to unfold on a daily basis in Costa Rica. In fact, the shots of the banana plantations remind me of the drive out to Sierpe, a popular launching point for dolphin and whale excursions, as well as, hiking tours in the Corcovado National Park.

Enjoy the video, and feel free to recommend our blog to friends and family. Saludos.

Oct 142011
A Wall of Magazines

Visiting Family:

It is one of the truly enjoyable aspects of living in a foreign land.  You have to leave the United States to be able to visit the United States.

There is an obvious pleasure quotient to visiting family. However, I suspect that my case is a bit unusual. Here is what I get to do at the advanced age of 52. I am able to visit my brother, sister and mother – all in the very same house that we all grew up in. The biggest change over the years is simply that our father is no longer with us… well that and the fact that we are all quite a bit older than we used to be.

A Wall of Magazines

Food For Thought?

But that’s about it. In fact, the green shag carpet that we had there in the 70’s is still there. I’m in favor of a law regulating the life of carpet. This green carpet really should be illegal, but there it lies.

Aside from the joys of family, I get a real kick out of visiting my former homeland. I am very much transplanted now.  I have lived in Costa Rica since 1999, and so in the normal course of my days, I don’t pay that much attention to the goings on of the States.  The exceptions to this are when I visit there, or when there is some noteworthy happening that finds its way through all of the insulation that I’ve put up in my life, motivated largely by a desire to reduce, if not eliminate, the effects of media on my mind and by extension, on my life.

So, when I fly back into the States, it is normally via Dallas or Houston. I make it a practice to bee-line it to one of the airport book stores. In these stores there is generally a wall of magazines. This wall of magazines is an intensive crash course in what the media is currently pumping.  The topics seen there will likely factor into my visit, and I expect to see these topics being worked and reworked in various configurations throughout my stay. This pumping is largely in response to what “we”, or the population at large, demand from the accommodating media.

My life in Costa Rica is immersed in a very different lifestyle than anything that I ever experienced when I lived in the States.  The contrast of my “normal”, with the “normal” of the States, causes a sort of sensitivity. The aspect of this sensitivity that I focus on at this point in my travels is primarily the media. But there is a problem. I suspect this problem is due to the fact that I am from the States, so in fact the prevailing conditions in the States are never all that far from what I grew up with. So the acuity of vision, or sensitivity, only lasts for a short time. I quickly slip back into my deeply ingrained gringo-ness and all of the bru ha ha starts to make sense and grow in importance.  All of the blaring news announcements, “BRAD APOLOGIZES TO JENNIFER” – from the tone one might think that World War 3 has begun, or that someone really has discovered perpetual motion. I just really get a kick out of these things when I first arrive in the good ole US of A.

Over the years, my visits to The Wall have provided me with an opportunity to re-evaluate my own life and my own move to Costa Rica so many years ago. I wonder at what it would take to get a presence on The Wall.  It must cost a bundle to publish a magazine and distribute it to all the Walls every month, or week, or 2 weeks, whatever. Vale la pena, as they say in Costa Rica: it’s worth the cost. They incur the expense because they know that we – us humans – want this stuff, and we will pay for it.

I am a sponge, standing there. I smile at my own species while I observe the media, in all its glory, accommodating the gigantic demand for this brain-rot drivel.

I can’t say that I’m interested, heavens no! Ok, maybe a little, but not a lot. Well, you gotta admit, the personal carryings on of Jen & Angie does have a certain appeal, a certain “I think I’ll just take a minute and find out what is going on here” appeal.

In my visit to The Wall as I enter into the States, I really find that I’m not interested in the least. However, over the course of my stay, my attitude goes through a shift. As I leave, I feel that perhaps this information really does need to be told.  And by golly, I really would like to know just exactly what Brad said to Jen when he apologized to her.


The Wall is diverse in its subject matter. I generally find that there is a hot technology topic of some kind, health, politics, and of course, celebrity.  The Apple Corporation seems to be enjoying its 15 minutes. Health has gained some points over the years that I have been visiting The Wall.

The political scene ebbs and flows on The Wall.  In past years George W. was a common feature on The Wall. I found it interesting how quiet The Wall was about Mr. Obama, but it was quite noisy about a few members of the large group that are vying for the GOP position in the upcoming presidential election.

So, as I fly out and away from this consumer haven, I do The Wall in reverse. I note how I feel about observations on life. And I like to watch how these feelings morph as I settle back into my “normal” in the coming weeks.

I have written in the past about my theory that I like to call “Original Thought”. Original Thought can be seen in visitors to Costa Rica on or shortly after about day 4 of their trip. Staying in a villa, nestled into the jungle, overlooking the Pacific ocean, there is a noticeable shift that occurs in people.  The theory posits that getting away from the media, frees up the mind to think about topics that are genuinely of interest and originate from the person. The theory states that we all have a little something as a gift, like maybe a leaning towards poetry, or music. Or maybe we have a propensity for thinking up sustainable systems, or a better way to raise broccoli or whatever.  The topics of The Wall are nowhere to be seen when Original Thought rears its head.  People find themselves conversing about all manner of topics, topics that bear no influence at all from external media but instead originate from the pure, unadulterated human intellect that we all carry around with us.

So in my re-entry to Costa Rica, I watch as the numerous images that were repeated with regularity during my visit to the States, recede. The Wall will have to get along without me – until my next trip.


Oct 122010

The Costanera Highway, The Caldera-San Jose Highway, The Cortez Hospital, The International Airport and The Diquis Hydroelectric Dam… it is easy to see that Costa Rica is serious about improving its infrastructure and securing a bright future.

Over the past decade, the dramatic increase in tourism and investment has sparked a bit of a power-struggle between proponents of economic growth and socio-environmental protection groups. In this case, the “power” is the proposed billion dollar hydroelectric project called “El Diquis” near Palmar in the Osa Peninsula. This isn’t recent news, but I believe it is worth mentioning as it will affect life in various ways in the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica.

Hydroelectric power is BIG in Costa Rica.

The Zone Is HOT

This large-scale project, facilitated by I.C.E. (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad), is calling for the construction of a dam on the Térraba River in the greater Boruca Canyon. The dam will create a lake equaling approximately 25,000 surface hectares (over 6 million acres), the largest of its kind in Central America.  By comparison, Lake Arenal is roughly 8,500 hectares.

This station will generate up to 630 megawatt units capable of providing over one million families with electricity!  This project is about Power, both electric and economic.  According to a Continuum report commissioned by the Costa Rican government, Continue reading »

Sep 072010

Half of my family is from Canada, eh.  My mother grew up in Newfoundland until the age of 13 when my grandfather found work in California.  The extended family that stayed behind, some later moving to Ottawa, would frequently visit us in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially during the cold, winter months.

A few years ago, when I moved down to Costa Rica full time, I realized there are a lot of Canadians visiting (102,471 in 2009*) and living the area.  One of the main reason Canadians (virtually all nationalities for that matter) visit, buy land, and in some cases, relocate to Costa Rica is the weather.  As one client put it, “Shoveling snow sucks.”  I have only experienced it a couple of times in Lake Tahoe, California, and I’d have to agree.


Canadians in Costa Rica

Shorts, No Shoes
The Southern Pacific Zone (The Zone) is the tropics.  Those living near the beach are rarely (if ever) cold here, and most people walk around in shorts 365 days out of the year.  For those who “melt in the heat”, The Zone’s unique geography offers many cooler locations up in the mountains, most offering spectacular views, waterfalls, and close proximity to the beaches and/or San Isidro, one of the fastest growing cities in Central America.  It rains 6 months out of the year, but even in September most mornings begin with blue skies and sunshine.

Active Adult Communities
The landscape and its wildlife are spectacular.  In fact, I’ve seen it written that the Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula is “home to more plant & animal species than all of North America combined.”  Add in the many outdoor activities available in the area— world class sport fishing, whale watching, bird watching, hiking, golf, tennis, and surfing to name a few — and retirement in Costa Rica is actually when many expat residents really start living.  In fact, I just left two clients who were headed to a waterfall, then to the Whale’s Tail in Uvita for a low-tide beach walk and snorkeling session.

Another reason Canadians love Costa Rica is the cultural adventure.  It starts with the ticos.  On the whole, the polite locals are family and community-focused, and even the toughest-looking hombre will break into a smile if you smile.  Yes, there are a few cultural nuances to adapt to—“yes” doesn’t always mean “yes”, “tico time” means being late, strange driving habits— but ultimately these are all opportunities to take a deep breath and grow a little.  The Zone has a safe, laid back feel to it… add a hammock and a good book into the mix, and it is relaxation-defined.

A “Lot” For A Little
Foreign investors continue to visit and invest in The Zone.  Add in the fact that annual property tax in Costa Rica is .25% and there is no Capital Gains Tax, and the investment picture is even more appealing.  Canadian citizens who claim non-resident status and have residency in Costa Rica are not double taxed by the Canadian government on their Costa Rica income.  If you’ve always wanted to make Costa Rica your home, please consult your tax attorney for more details.  But, in summary, to be a non-resident Canadian you must—

  1. live in Canada for less than 183 days in the tax year
  2. not have any residential ties (e.g., cars, houses, a spouse or dependents) in Canada.

We see a lot of people visiting, buying and relocating to The Zone.  There is so much room for growth here, success only requires imagination, a little research, and some good connections.

Beautiful weather, abundant wildlife, friendly people, and good investment opportunities… no wonder so many Canadians are buying real estate in the Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica!


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.