Top 10 List of What I Like Best About Living in Costa Rica

One day, after we'd lived here a few years, my son asked me what I missed the most from our former life in Oregon.
Aricara aka Cusinga
I guess that's a question every expat harbors in the back of their mind, the comparison to what was to what is now, although I could not at that moment think of anything in particular I yearned for. But it got me thinking.

Life here is different in so many ways and I still enjoy most of the differences I find here so I don't often feel I'm missing much. It also feels as if it's a waste of time to fret over comparisons to the "old life" that much anyway. 

Be here now, right? 

His personal longing at that moment was for Dr Pepper, by the way, which we've since found.

Anyway, as a result of our musings of missed things, I thought I'd instead focus on a quick list of those things I enjoy about living in Costa Rica. Despite the numbering, the ordering is pretty arbitrary as it's tough to say which features are qualitatively more important than others. It's really the synergy of these and other points taken together that makes me smile, relax, and want to share the positive goodness we've all found living here.

Squeezing Colossal Returns from Your Retirement Kitty in Costa Rica

Update: We've had our CDs here for 2.5 years now. Even with the 5% devaluation of the Colon to the U.S. dollar, we are still getting an overall 9% return approximately. We've added to the mix now with a shorter-term USD CD paying 4.05% to maturity.

I just updated the chart with the most recent rates as of May 2018 in the text of the original posting.

We still have a lot of confidence in our choice of credit unions for our CDs here as they are the biggest one, have been in business 50 years and still enjoy the highest growth rate and liquidity compared to both credit unions and banks here.

===== Original article =====
I've been aware of the enormous interest rates on savings in Costa Rica since we moved here, but until recently was unable to take full advantage of them because spare cash was tied up in other things and, I must admit, the big returns made me gun shy. I mean, there has to be a catch right? Yes, there is a catch, but looking back over our 7 years residing here, with the absolute clarity that 20-20 hindsight provides, I wish we'd taken the plunge sooner.

CoopeNae CD Rates for Colones and USD
Latest Rates from CoopeNae (May 2018)
As you can see from the chart at the right, phenomenal rates can be had on Certificates of Deposit denominated in Colones. Rates for U$D deposits are dramatically less, but much higher than in the U.S., up to 4.3%.

For deposit amounts in five figures or higher, you can actually negotiate slightly higher rates as well. We were able to get 12% with a quarterly payout of interest on one CD.

The highest rates are not universal. These quoted at the right are from our favorite credit union. Regional Bank CDs yield 2 or 3 points lower and National Banks even lower. The latter provide something like the FDIC insurance coverage enjoyed in the States however.

Which brings us to why you might not want to invest in such CDs:

8 Ways to Get Your Holiday Goodies into Costa Rica Easily or Safely

My post about how to receive packages in Costa Rica while avoiding having them snagged by Customs, which requires a trip to San José and a couple hours of bureacratic SNAFU to retrieve said package, continues to be one of my more popular articles.

Still, I often get asked the question: "Just how do you get stuff shipped into Costa Rica?"

Drone chasing Cary Grant in North by Northwest still
Attack of the Drones - CC-SA-3.0

Unfortunately, Amazon drone delivery does not seem to be on the horizon anytime soon. Even though Amazon recently announced they are opening up direct shipping to CR for many more items, they never seem to ship what I need.

So, to supplement the original article, here is a list (perhaps incomplete) on the various methods that I've either used or have learned second-hand from others who have found them to be successful.

It includes the shipping of documents, small stuff and bigger packages.

Want to Buy a Lovely Costa Rica Finca? or Selling, but Not Selling Out

panoramic sunset from our costa rica balcony
View from the balcony of our house. Cerro de La Muerte just beyond the clouds
[Update: The property now includes an artistic guest cabin with outdoor kitchen and bath, but the price remains the same! Check it out via our AirBnB listing: 

Also, be sure to see the drone video of this property taken last summer on YouTube: ]

The price of the entire property is $279,000. We are open to financing with 20% down with level payments over 10 or so years.

Here's a rough summary (more details can be found at the "Our Finca Sale" page, which you can access just under the blog header photo above):

  • Located at 4,000 ft. elevation just north of San Isidro de El General. The air is always fresh and cool and the views are outstanding
  • Walking distance to Matasanos village and the larger towns of San Ramón Sur and San Ramón Norte.
  • Fresh, cold, clean water comes from a spring flowing right out of the Las Piedras granite batholith, part of which crosses the property.

Peaceful Tranquility for Adventuresome Travelers of Costa Rica's Serene Southern Mountains in Our Artistic Cabina

About three years ago we got the bright idea (it seemed at the time anyway to be bright) of adding a small cabin to our property here in Costa Rica's La Zona Sur for would-be guests, family and friends in particular. Click here for the AirBnB listing.

We worked on it only during our summer months the first couple of years from about January to April. This year, we felt we were close enough to completion that we could make firm invites to people to visit and enjoy the seclusion of our hideaway cabin during their stay. Some friends did accept and were to arrive mid-February.

The Big Push

Thus, mid-November we made the "big push" to get it all in order figuring an early start would get us done about the middle or end of January. Who knew that we'd be putting on the finishing touches right up until dark the day before our guests arrived! These last few months were a slog at times with long hours about six days a week. Other projects were put on the back burner during this time that we're only catching up on now.

4 mosaics adorn the outside walls of the costa rica cabin
Four tropical-themed mosaics grace the outside walls

We brought in electricity (which we didn't have except from a small generator during previous seasons), wired the place, brought in water from our second spring, added windows, gutters, an outdoor kitchen, outdoor toilet and shower, tower and tank for the shower and so on. As we crossed off another task on our to-finish list, we added two more right up until the final weeks.

Rev Up For a Costa Rica Motorcycle Tour

Welcome Guest Writer Evelyn Robinson and her post about options for touring Costa Rica by motorcycle!

Blue color of Rio Celeste, Costa Rica
The blue color of Río Celeste in Tenorio National Park

Tourism has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the Costa Rican economy. Currently around 2.2 million people visit the nation annually with its national parks and protected areas being the main attractions. This includes the magnificent Cocos Islands, which are a World Heritage Site and its numerous volcanoes. It is also, like Madagascar, one of the most biodiverse nations on this planet. Now many people take tours to see these sites or to hike or to go bird watching, but with Costa Rica being one of the safest countries in the region, it is the prime Central American country for motorcycle touring.

Now, a motorcycle tour will not take you to the Cocos Island because it is around 500 miles off the coast of the country and is about halfway to the Galapagos Islands, but there are a huge number of parks for such a small country. These include top parks like Manuel Antonio, Tortugero, Paos, Arenal and Cahuita. There are volcanoes like Irazu, Arenal, Turialba and Tenorio, plus world famous beaches such as the one in Manuel Antonio National Park, also Tramarindo beach in Guanacaste and Jaco Beach in Puntarenas. Six of the Seven Natural Wonders of Costa Rica are accessible by motorbike and these are Arenal Volcano, Chirripo Mountain, the Celeste River, the Tortuguero Canals, Poas Volcano and the Monteverde Reserve.

Will Citizenship Add Coolness to My Already Astonishing Life in Costa Rica?

[Update early 2018: I did file everything and the document package was provisionally approved, but final approval probably won't come until the end of 2018. Meanwhile, I am studying to take the rather rigorous citizenship exams that are offered each three months. I can re-take these as many times as I need to, though obviously I hope to pass the first sitting.]

I've been arguing with myself for over a year about pursuing citizenship here in Costa Rica. I've put in the time, which is 7 years, why not get something for it?


The Benefits of Citizenship

There are a lot of benefits, such as being free from the residency requirement that you participate in Caja (CR's universal health care system), a free 10-year cedula (national ID card), easier banking/financial transactions, the ability to leave the country without having to worry about fulfilling the in-country residency requirements plus the return of my $200 residency security deposit (which I think is $300 for newer residents).

I've also been told by those who have gone this path before that many everyday transactions that involve use of ID become noticeably easier because you are no longer a foreigner in the eyes of Ticos, especially those that control various process gateways. Doors open that swung with difficulty before and the wheels of bureaucracy in general suddenly present less friction if you are perceived as "normal." Those benefits are rather intangible to me at the moment but they are apparently real.

And, of course, one mustn't overly discount the clearly facetious "coolness" factor of having dual citizenship and their passport, which may be less disagreeable to some countries than a U.S. passport due to my home country's unwelcome meddling in others' affairs.

The Name Change

 One drawback that I was hung up on for a while, however, was the name change thing.

Dealing with Contractors in Costa Rica

Enjoy this interesting guest post from Jason Mueller offering viewpoints on the pros and cons of residential construction in Costa Rica:

Chances are if you are reading this, you are new to Costa Rica or possibly thinking about making the big move to paradise to build your dream home and live a stress free life. After all you have heard that Costa Rica is supposed to be the happiest place on earth. What could go wrong? I’m sure everything in your mind will be just “pura vida”.

The truth is that if you are planning on building a new house, business, “cabina” or even a “rancho”  in Costa Rica things can go seriously wrong when dealing with contractors. So you thought that dealing with contractors in the USA, Canada and Europe was a pain in the butt? Well, “bienvenido a Costa Rica” welcome to Costa Rica. Hiring a contractor in the land of “pura vida” has its pros and cons, mostly cons but hopefully you get lucky and find one of the few reliable contractors in this small country.

Costa Rica sloth hanging in tree
Living the Pura Vida


So, it’s Day 1 and your backhoe is supposed to show up at 7 am to flatten your proposed area and the machine is nowhere to be found. It seems you did get lucky on this day because your construction crew did show up, at least most of them and they are really happy because they can’t do any work. The foreman calls the backhoe company all morning but there is no answer. Don’t worry the backhoe will show up in a few days with no heads up when you least expect it and your crew is drinking Imperials at the beach.  You’re only a week behind schedule at this point. Time to go to the beach, take a deep breath and remember why you moved to paradise

“Ticos” are notorious for always being late or just not showing up at all. You would expect a courteously phone call but in this case they will just turn their phone off so they don’t have to deal with you. After all you are the annoying “gringo” that expects things to be on time, “pura vida mae”.

When the Expat Life Gets Boring ... Write a Book!

Well, writing a new book worked for me anyway: Make Money Now Copywriting in Your Spare Time: Earn While You Learn Copywriting on Textbroker

I like to keep busy and usually the finca is calling out to me with its many tasks such as whacking the weeds, managing the compost, making progress on the cabina, patching a few potholes in the road, etc. During the rainy season, however, there is more downtime during the afternoon rains and you can only browse the news, check on friends in FB and so on before you decide to either hibernate or find some new challenge.

Cover of my new ebook on copywriting
My First eBook
Writing work on both Textbroker and for my other clients had ebbed recently, but it made sense to keep writing and write I did. I've always wanted to self-publish a book and my experience with copywriting has been so rewarding that it made sense to write about that.

The book writing, first draft anyway, went pretty smoothly. It seemed there were more things I wanted to say to my readers than my fingers could keep up with. Pretty soon I was looking at a dozen chapters and 50 pages of info. It finally grew to over 80 pages and 18 chapters.

Where it bogs down, which you know if you have ever written something lengthy, is in the second and third passes, trying to get the formatting and images right and fighting off that nagging feeling that your book will fail.

Despite a nagging doubt or two, however, I had a superb time plugging away on it during my spare time plus figuring out how to get it published on Kindle properly. My next task was to create a paperback version, which I've almost completed on Createspace, an on-demand hard copy publisher that is actually owned by Amazon. It surprised me how much work that actually was and I'm convinced that for the next book I will reverse the process. Paperback first, then the eBook. So, keep a sharp eye out for the hardcopy version (and second editions) in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Of course, writing the book is one thing but selling it is quite another as it requires a lengthy period of self-promotion, which is my Achilles heel, but therein lies another engaging challenge to while away the remaining weeks of the "emerald season" here in La Zona Sur when the fog rolls in and the rain drops fall.

I'm very grateful for a lifestyle that allows for me to pursue such endeavors as book and copy writing. I couldn't do it without you Costa Rica!

Pura vida!!