Nov 172016
Suitcase for a move to Costa Rica

This article is a copy and paste from an e-mail with a couple that have purchased a property here in Uvita. They are moving from Canada and are going to build a primary home for their own full-time residence. Plus, they are going to build at least 3 rental cabinas that they will run as a business to support themselves.

They asked a series of questions about what to bring. They have sold what they have at home, and are moving, lock stock and barrel, to Costa Rica.

Suitcase for a move to Costa Rica

What to pack in a move to Costa Rica

Questions fer ya:
We are trying to figure out how much cash to bring… We want to buy an ATV within the first week of being there… What’s the best way to pay for it? We’re looking at ones around 5-6k Max… Do we use our CR Bank card? Write a check? What’s the best way to pay for large ticket items?
This is likely preaching to the choir but, you can only bring $9,999 on your person without having to declare it. This is something that I have done sin problema (without a problem). I’m not even really sure what the problem is with having to declare anything at or over $10,000. It may be a non-event, but I suspect that it will result in a bit of bureaucracy (man that is a crazy word to spell correctly).


And as we are packing the kitchen items we are wondering about a few items and if we can get there and/or if they are way pricey there!
  1. Sm shop vac – to keep the spiders away!!!

Y’all will likely want to sign up for membership at PriceSmart (Price-Ehsmart in Spanish). They’ve got shop-vacs there. I’m not sure about the

Buy a ShopVac in Costa Rica.

You can buy this one at PriceSmart in San Jose for about $200.00 USD

pricing, but at some point it becomes no longer worth it to always try and beat the system with getting lower prices elsewhere and then the hassle of getting the item(s) here. Peter and Mindi just told me the other day that they had bought their Shop-Vac at Price Ehsmart.


  1. Leaf blower (to bring later – its a hand held plug in type)
This would likely be a useful item here. They are not common so I don’t know about their availability nor pricing. Ditto the above comment for this. Maybe it’s available here. There is the “Get it There Jerry” service that lots of folks here use for bringing such things down.


  1. Should we bring our juicer? Are veggies for juicing readily available or are they expensive? Beets, carrots are our favourite and then any hard fruit that can be juiced i.e.: apples, pears

Yes (conditionally), bring your juicer. I have had a Champion juicer, as well as another high-dollar brand here in the past. These were a major hassle to clean. We used them as a family but eventually we all tired of the

Vita Mix

This author feels the VitaMix to be essential to life in Costa Rica, or anywhere for that matter.

hassle. I suspect there have been some design improvements over the years though. I now accept the oxidation hit that comes from using just a

Vitamix for all my juicing needs. This is a must-have item here (as we have discussed). I think that my regularity of using the thing and the high quality of kale, spinach, turmeric, carrots, bananas, papaya, flax etc… mostly organic, makes up whatever qualitative concerns there are between a blender that oxidationalizes over a juicer that just extracts the pure juice from the pulp. So, it’s a personal call.

  1. Thick duvet cover for our dogs to use on the back of the jeep (small dogs need some security lol) – can we buy an ugly polyester one for cheap somewhere?
I would think so. Nat is the queen of the Ropa Americana shops in San Isidro. She can help to find whatever. These shops usually have good prices. They’re akin to Salvation Army. We have found that the heavy packing blankets that one inherits from using a container to ship stuff to Costa Rica come in handy for such purposes.


  1. Chai seeds
Available here. Nuts and seeds are generally cost prohibitive to my way of thinking. I haven’t checked for a while, but I generally avoid buying these items here.


  1. Hemp seeds
Ain’t never seen these here. Getting in with the Tinamaste crowd would likely result in a broader selection of such things. I would bring what you can though. I’ve got a few items for which I just know what a 6 month supply is. I regularly bring these down with me every 6 mo. visit to the States: good tasting yeast, coconut oil, Dr. Bronners and so on. This list is changing however. There are more products here all the time and prices are changing both here and elsewhere. Ex: I’ll not be bringing Coconut oil back anymore due to the rising price of it in the States.
Ditto this on the Dr. Bronners, but not for pricing so much. I have a friend here in Playa Hermosa that sells Amway products. I buy my laundry detergent, toothpaste, bar-soap, bathroom cleaner etc… from him. This company seems to me to pay the requisite attention to biodegradability of both its products and its packaging (for the most part). Their toothpaste is more organiquer than “Tom’s”.


  1. Balsamic / white wine / etc vinegars

All vinegars are available here at the Poop (BM) Market. I make my chilero

Malt Vinegar is a bit frivolous due to the wonderful lemons that serve to brighten up the flavor of the abundant fresh fish here. But I still use it on occasion.

Roland Malt Vinegar is available at the grocery store in Uvita, along with other such liquids.

with Heinz apple cider vinegar. Synthetic (still not sure what that means with respect to vinegar) white vinegar for cleaning spray. Balsamic and malt vinegars are available here. The company “Roland” seems to fill the void with various products. They are more expensive but hey, what can you do.

  1. Any spices that you think we should bring? I have tumeric, cumin and spices like that packed
I buy all those here. Fresh turmeric is cheap (500 colones for a bag of roots at the farmers market). Cumin I pay about 700 colones for 1 oz of the dried powder, again at the Poop.


  1. Organic oatmeal (spelt is ideal)

There is oatmeal available here, but if you get into the specialty types,

BioLand Avena Oatmeal

Avena is Spanish for oatmeal. Bio Land sells some good organic foods in Costa Rica.

you’ll pay. Steel cut is occasionally here and expensive. I buy any brand of regular oatmeal that claims to be organic, and it’s not expensive. Bio-Land is a good bet here. However, anything other than just run-of-the-mill avena will be pricey.

  1. Good cereal – I have a cereal addiction and we like the ones made from quinoa and black beans – so in that zone of health
Quinoa is expensive here. I don’t buy it for this reason. Bring a supply. Black, white, red, lentils and garbanzo beans are plentiful and good here, and affordable.


  1. Chocolate almond milk (to go on the cereal)
Almond milk is available here, but due to pricing is not on my shopping list. Your call.
Liquids are tough to bring. When I’ve brought Dr. Bronners soap or coconut oil, I cut a rectangle of cardboard and wrap the bottle in a layer or 2 of the carboard and then tape it so that it’s secure. You don’t want to open your suitcase to find everything covered in oil.


  1. 70% or higher dark chocolate – there’s a theme here
Yes, this is available but I’m not qualified to speak to the pricing of it. There is a gal at the farmers market that sells it. There are lots of cacao plants around the country so I suspect you’d be able to find a cottage source for your habit.


  1. Rice noodles

I think this is here. I have found Roland’s Organic Buckwheat Soba

Roland Buckwheat Soba Noodles.

These buckwheat Soba Noodles make a mean spaghetti.

noodles are to die for.

  1. Medications? We have a Costco size of Aleve already lol
This will likely be a good difference here price-wise. You might have to find equivalents in other brands, but medications are readily available. I’m not well versed in this actually, but Big Pharma is great at getting its junk everywhere.


  1. Any other food recommendations that you think we might like that we can’t get there please add – we like our healthy options!!!
Sheesh! Not sure what could be added to this list. But I’ll give it some thought and letchoo know if I come up with something.
Just thought I’d share.
Dec 032015
Costa Rica rainy season experience.

Before moving to Costa Rica in 1999, my family and I had lived in Colorado for the previous 20 years. We lived in the gorgeous Aspen valley. There was one busy season there at that time: winter. Aspen was known as a ski town and that was why people went there.

Us locals didn’t really understand why summers there were the “low” season. Summer there is magic. Well, during the years that we lived there, we saw a transformation from a 1 season tourism town to a 2 season. I’d be interested to see the data on which one is bigger tourism-wise. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that summer out-does winter, but that’s just me.

Costa Rica rainy season experience.

Antonio taking advantage of a downspout & wheel barrow to shower off after a mango-skin fight.

Here in The Zone, I feel like I’m seeing a repeat. For many of the locals that live here, the rainy season is the preferred time of year. It is cooler, and absolutely magic as well. Its still warm when it rains.

The beginning of the rainy season coincides nicely with the mangos becoming ripe on the trees. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever eaten a mango, but they are MESSY. You get the juice running down your chin onto your shirt & shorts. It is for this reason I don’t eat a lot of mangos as a practice, despite the fact that I LOVE their taste.

So here’s what we do; when heavy afternoon rain set in, we suit up in swim attire, go climb a mango tree and get a bunch of mangos to eat. Then we sit in the downpour eating mangos. Invariably we end up having a mango-skin fight and getting covered with mango juice which then promptly gets washed off by the rain.

Or, one might find the deserted beaches to be the thing that they like to do during a tropical rain storm. They are “deserted” due to the fact that it is raining. Again, not sure why this is. The beaches in the warm tropical rains are a pensive and wonderful experience. To have a couple miles of breathtakingly beautiful beach all to oneself or with a loved one is, well… magic.

Swimming in a Costa Rica quebrada.

A refreshing dip in a very private, tucked in the jungle pool. Many are fed by waterfalls.

Again, its not cold out when it rains and the ocean here is just about warm. In fact it wouldn’t bother me a bit if it was a bit cooler. On a hot summer’s day, you jump in the water and now you’re wet. Its not what I would call “refreshing”. If one wants a refreshingly cool dip, they have to go inland to one of the many rivers and find a pool with a waterfall. Now this is invigorating. Nothing like the breath-stealing cold of the melting snow rivers of Colorado however. The rivers here in Costa Rica are set at the perfect temperature.

Costa Rica rainy season sunset

Sunset over the Pacific during a rain storm.

Anyway, as the change from rainy season to dry season is becoming evident, I’ve now heard a  number of locals say (yours truly included) that they are sorry to see the rains go. Weird eh? Many that live here almost prefer the rainy season over the dry season, despite the fact that it is the low season for tourism. Shades of Aspen Colorado in 1979.

In Aspen, the summers were/are just absolutely gorgeous. The rivers to die for (albeit really cold). The backpacking, bike riding, fishing and any number of other outdoor activities were magi…, er… wonderful. It is no surprise that the tourism crowd figured this out. Will the same thing happen in Costa Rica? Me thinks “yeah”.

In fact, I think that its already happening. I’ve heard a number of the local merchants, i.e.. restaurateurs, hoteliers, vacation rental-ers and tour operators say that business was good this past “off” season. Granted, for travelers from the U.S. & Canada there is a bit more involved with travel to Costa Rica than to say, Colorado. So there are some aspects of the comparison that differ. But I suspect that we are seeing a gradual up-tic in the numbers of people here in rainy season.

There is also an increase in the numbers moving to The Zone. Our real estate business is brisk. One of the guys in our office says that he likes the start of rainy season because it is always busy for him. My experience has been similar.  Real estate seems to have its own time frame. Some that are considering a move to Costa Rica come down during this time to see if they like the rains. Another benefit is that since it is a bit slower, you can get the undivided attention of your real estate guy (or gal).

During the busy season, we will sometimes plan a morning of showings with one buyer and then have to finish up by early afternoon to free up for afternoon showings with a different buyer, limiting the total focus that is available to any one buyer during the rainy season.

So, if you are among those considering a move, or even a visit to Costa Rica, you might want to consider coming during the months of May through November. September & October have typically been the wettest months of the year here but this may be shifting a bit. November was one of the heavier rain months this year.

Of course, one of the favorite activities during the rainy season is the afternoon hammock siesta with the sound of the rains pattering on the rainforest. You might start off with a little book reading, but it will likely go into slumber.

To some extent, I am just putting to writing here a conversation that seems to repeat itself in my real estate business on a regular basis. People want to know what its like in the rainy season. So, I thought I’d share.

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)

Aug 052014

This is a typical response that I send to inquirers who have hit our main website,, and who seem to know that Costa Rica is where they want to live. They have gone through the site which is admittedly not organized by the “where” of the listings. It is simply a site of available properties in Costa Rica, much as the name suggests. The inquirer has hit on a number of properties that turn out to be in various parts of the country, but a number of which are here in The Zone. Take a ride on the virtual flyover to get an idea of the various flavors that are available as you travel Costa Rica’s Pacific side.

I appreciate your informative e-mail and the profile of what you and your wife are doing. The southern zone compares very well with the other possible areas of the country. Your time in Jaco gave you a taste of a vibrant nightlife and probably lots of people. This differs considerably from what you’ll find in our area.
We are located about 1 1/2 – 2 hours south of Jaco. We are in a time of recent discovery here and were passed over by a lot of the development efforts to hit Costa Rica over the past 15 or so years.
One of the biggest changes to the area has been the completion of the coastal highway that stretches between Quepos/Manuel Antonio and Dominical. Just getting to our area was a bit daunting for many who were looking to move to Costa Rica before the highway was paved. Now, with that final 25 mile stretch completed, and approval of an international airport in Palmar Sur, the area is becoming better known and we are seeing an increase of visitors, re-locators and investors to the area.
This area of Costa Rica is typified by “nature”. The mountains come down to the sea and they are largely shrouded by tropical jungle. So for many, they feel that they have finally found Costa Rica, or the idea that they had in mind of what Costa Rica is.
Virtual Flyover Map of Costa Rica's Pacific side.

Virtual Flyover Map of Costa Rica’s Pacific side.

Here is a virtual fly-over of the Pacific coast. I suggest using Google Earth and acquainting yourself with some of these areas.

The Pacific north-west is a province called Guanacaste. This is the area that has received the brunt of development interest over the years. It is an entirely different flavor of Costa Rica than what we have here. I won’t go into detail about it as it is well out of our realm.
Coming down the coast from there you pass through Jaco, which used to be a quaint coastal town with a wonderful distinctly rustic feel. It is now a hopping place with the aforementioned night-life and is not to the liking of many who are looking for a more “natural” Costa Rica experience, although I will say that the trees along the highway around Jaco are outstandingly gorgeous.
Coming further down the coast you get to Manuel Antonio, which is one of the most visited national parks in Costa Rica. It is gorgeous there. It is about 40 minutes north of Uvita where I am. It is more densely populated than our neck of the woods and the land values there are higher.
Continue south and you get to Dominical which used to be the one town that people knew in Costa Rica’s southern zone. Dominical’s fame was, and is, primarily about its world-class surf beach. The town itself is still very much as it has always been. The main road is unpaved and it is still funky (in a good way) and caters to the surf lifestyle and has a “wellness” element to it in that there is a yoga studio and a mindset of “organic”.
Dominical’s topography does not allow for unlimited growth and its area is somewhat limited. There are still some commercial parcels available along the beach there, but the available properties are well defined and there is not a lot available there.
Coming further south you next arrive at Uvita. Uvita is clearly establishing itself as the commercial and social center for the zone. There are 2 grocery stores,  several doctors, pharmacies, hardware stores and so on there. There is also quite a bit of land both in the flats around the town center, as well as the surrounding mountains that offer a mountain view.
Between Dominical and Uvita is an area called Escaleras that is immensely popular with foreigners, largely for its gorgeous ocean views. There are some rather impressive luxury homes there and lots of vacation rentals.
South of Uvita and at the southern edge of our “zone” is Ojochal. Ojochal has been settled by Europeans mostly as well as Canadians and US-ians. It has a distinct character that many find to their liking. Ojochal is small and quaint and so it is a bit surprising when you find out that there are at least 14 restaurants there, some of which are quite good. There are effective efforts being made to make Ojochal the culinary center of Costa Rica.
The zone is densely jungled and the tourism here is all about nature. There are horseback tours for the beach, waterfalls and trails. The area has several names. The local hospitality board is promoting the name “Costa Ballena” or “Whale Coast” due to the presence of whales off the coast.
So there are whale watching tours, as well as, fishing, boating and of course, surfing activities here. I personally enjoy my sea kayak for exploring areas of the coast that are off the beaten path. I see dolphins, whales, and turtles on occasion. Also as mentioned, there is a “wellness” component here that results in retreats, massage, yoga, meditation and so on.
There are various options for available properties in the Uvita and Ojochal area. Also in the area just north of Dominical. Travel just a little bit inland from any of these towns and you are driving up into the mountains that provide an ocean view, as well as exposure to cooling ocean breezes.
South of The Zone, you’re not far from the Panama border. It is about 2 hours south of Uvita. However, between these two points you have the Osa Peninsula which juts out into the Pacific and is appropriately described as one of (if not “the”) most bio-diverse regions on planet Earth. That area is growing in popularity with many who are looking to remove themselves from the consumerist world of the developed countries. The Osa merits study for anyone who fits this description.

So there you have my virtual fly-over of the pacific side of Costa Rica. Inland, or the non-coastal areas offer other attractions,  like Arenal with its lake & volcano and some of the higher areas with cooler temperatures.

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 »

Dec 312012
One of the screaming ocean views in the southern pacific zone of Costa Rica.

The place is packed. More and more people who bought land in the past are building or have built (and are happy about it.) Travel & Leisure put The Zone as the #1 place to visit for 2013. What the heck is going on?

I was invited to a house christening last night by Richard & Debby up at Costa Verde Estates. It was a small gathering, made up primarily of migrators, most of whom have just recently built a house or are in the process of doing so. I observed and heard some rather interesting indicators of a tipping point there.

One of the screaming ocean views in the southern pacific zone of Costa Rica.

Richard & Debby: Living the good life in Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone. The view is partial, and is from their home in Costa Verde Estates.

  • numerous statements of an obvious love of Costa Rica and The Zone in particular
  • they were happy with their builder and the process was relatively smooth
  • comments about the resources now available to a home builder in Costa Rica
  • comments about how many people are talking about The Zone back home
  • comments on how many people there are vacationing in The Zone
  • how packed the hotels and vacation rentals are
  • guesses as to what the next 10 years are going to be like here
  • the reality (or not) of the international airport going into Palmar Sur (majority – NOT)
  • the effect of the highway being paved between Quepos and Dominical

There was a palpable feeling of “we are at the tipping point” here.

The facts that alcohol consumption Continue reading »

Dec 222012

I met a fellow the other day who has just moved to Ojochal. He’s been here all of 5 weeks, but he totally sold out and has moved here to “simplify, and lead a self sufficient life”.

This gentleman is not alone and in fact, this is a growing scenario amongst those that move to Costa Rica in general, and The Zone in particular.

World conditions are such that this group of re-locators is making its presence known. These conditions are varied and not all negative.

Political and economic reasons are behind why some move to Costa Rica.

A couple of “Pushes”

As I mentioned in my last article in this series, there are pushes and there are pulls that cause people to consider a move to Costa Rica.

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.