Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!
In This Issue:
- So, What’s Up with the Yeatmans? Our monthly update to answer the #1 question people ask us, “What do you DO all day?”
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica
- Live and Learn at CPI Immersion Spanish School’s Student Residences
- Paul’s Monthly Weather Report
- Investing and Residency
- All-Inclusive, or Not?
- Ocean-View Home for Rent near San Ramon
In October, we had many opportunities to connect with our readers in one form or another and met many new friends in the process. We connected with Al, one of our readers from Connecticut, with whom we had been in email contact for several months. As always, it was nice to have a face to put with the written communication. And we are grateful that he brought a donation of school supplies in his luggage which will be given to low income students in the coming months (not to mention the dark chocolate that he brought us!)
Mid-month, we were visited by Vicki Skinner (also known as the “Sarong Goddess”) and had a chance to show her what we love about living in San Ramon. Vicki writes the popular Living Life in Costa Rica Blog which has LOTS of helpful information for expats living in Costa Rica.
We were also hired to do tours of the western Central Valley by some other nice folks. Early in the month, we showed Jere, MaryLou, and Jeff “our San Ramon” during their half-day tour. And later in the month, we spent three and a half days with Sandra and Art, showing them Grecia, Sarchi, Naranjo, Palmares, Atenas, and San Ramon and introducing them to some other expats who have relocated here.
We went to our local Caja clinic, the hospital in San Ramon, and to a private medical clinic in town. We went into grocery stores, pharmacies, health food stores, and other shopping outlets. We talked about the rental market, security, crime, and shipping options. We did a walking tour of the center of San Ramon — the Parque Central, Church, Museum, Jose Figueres Cultural Center, Central Market, and more. We explored each of the other towns we visited. And we tried to”tell it like it is.” Though we love it here, it’s definitely not for everyone.
Top all that off with a couple of airport runs to both Juan Santamaria Airport International Airport in Alajuela and Tobias Bolaños airport north of Pavas, we had a busy, busy month! More than one person asked if we ever take time to rest and the answer is a definite YES!
Of course, we made time for two more beach days at Playa Doña Ana. The first, on October 9th, was just spectacular with blue skies and warm breezes all day. The second beach day, however, was just after two days of heavy rains courtesy of Tropical Storm Sandy. But we went anyway and, while the water was not inviting, we still had fun just being at the beach and chatting with friends. Early raindrops cancelled our cook-out so we packed everything up about noon and had a delicious lunch at a nearby Soda. We’ve found that we enjoy the rainy season much more when we are willing to go with the flow and adjust our plans to the weather. Now that I think of it, in general, we enjoy everything much more because we are willing to go with the flow!
I don’t know what it is about beach day. I just find it so relaxing. I feel just like “buttah” (which you may know as “butter.”) Just think about it for a moment — we can go as often as we want, and we never have to go to work the next day. I’m 66 years old and Gloria is 55, we’re living this incredible life, and having the time of our lives!
We usually go to the beach during the week, at least twice a month. We check the tide tables to be sure the tide is coming in for better swimming. Even though we enjoy beach day at Playa Doña Ana, we really don’t want to live near the beach – it’s too hot and humid for us. We choose to live at 4000 ft. elevation where it’s much cooler, but we’re fairly close to the beach and can drive there in just 45 minutes. Usually, we’re home by 4pm, put stuff away, get showered, and maybe eat a light dinner, but after hours in the hot sun, we’re done. And as I said previously, no work tomorrow!
Other than longer beach trips where we might go away for two or three days, we most often just go to beach days at Playa Doña Ana. It’s a small, dark-sand beach, barely 200 yards long, defined by two large rock out-croppings. But what makes Playa Doña Ana so special is that it has everything:
- Entrance fee: $3 for adults & $1.50 for seniors
- Secure parking for only $2
- Covered picnic tables
- Barbeque grills next to the tables
- Shade trees and palms
- White-faced Capuchin monkeys and howlers in the trees
- Very clean beach
- Clean restrooms, showers, and changing rooms
- It’s certified as a Blue Flag Beach
It’s a Tico beach, and very few Expats go there. Weekends can be crowded, so we go during the week. Sometimes, it’s just our group on the beach, but most of the time, there are Tico families also. We’ve noticed that Tico kids are extremely well-behaved, rarely cry, and are held and loved by everyone in the family.
Playa Doña Ana is an attractive beach, but there are others more beautiful. Yet it’s the closest to us, which allows us to go frequently. The water is warm, around 80 degrees F. And Playa Doña Ana is on the Gulf of Nicoya, but the Pacific is only a few miles away. It’s a leisurely place, where all troubles and cares float away. We light up the grill at 11:30am, with the goal of eating at noon. We use a combination of charcoal and wood to cook our hot-dogs, burgers, Italian sausage, and/or veggies. We always bring a nice tablecloth and spread out all the condiments – onions, tomatoes, avocados, ketchup, mustard, and chips. Because it’s a meet-up (average 14 people) everyone brings something different. Being the social animal that I am, I can usually try a bit of everything as I “graze” from table to table. It’s just a great day and, remember, no work tomorrow.”
We had some special times lately just relaxing with friends, having dinner on our porch by candlelight, and sharing a bottle of good Chilean wine. One especially memorable time was when we visited our friends Michele and Paul Gawenka who run Spider Monkey R & R (Rehabilitation and Release) out of their home here in San Ramon. I was excited to have another chance to give Lolita, the little female, her bottle, but on this visit, she was more interested in Paul. Lolita climbed up onto Paul’s lap, put her arms around him, played with his hat, hugged his neck, and generally climbed all over him. It was a new experience for Paul and, while he wouldn’t have sought it out, he seemed to enjoy it!
Paul had fun watching the American League play-offs with our Baltimore Orioles, and then later the World Series with his second-favorite team, the San Francisco Giants. We are both enjoying watching Dancing with the Stars and even though we are a season behind the U.S., it’s new to us! And I’ve been making the most of out of my Kindle Fire, downloading and reading lots of free e-books. But mostly, we just enjoy day-to-day living in Costa Rica.
Our Little Lives
We live what I call a “little life.” We’re not trying to impress anyone – we just want to do our own thing. The days pass leisurely, one after the other. One day goes into the next, weeks and months just seem to meld together. We often get the days and dates confused, as we have no “work week” to sort of define it. We go through our daily routines, run errands, visit friends, study Spanish, write something for the website, cook dinner, and wash dishes. All we’re doing is living each day as it comes, in an effort to simplify and be satisfied that we have each other, a few good friends, and enough money to live – and a lot to do, if we so choose. To keep it simple, to just live a “little life.”
We try not to let others define our existence. We try to be easily satisfied, to have low expectations, and therefore to be made easily happy. All the things people normally do in life, but we do it in another country, much of it in Spanish. Despite the fact that we are so open on this website, we live day to day in all of the small ways that most people do. We don’t know it all, but we’ll be honest with you about what we think and believe. We like inspiring others to live their dreams in all of the beautiful, simple ways that combine to make a happy life. It’s all about choices. You can live quietly, or you can live a big life – or any of the options in between. We like living our “little lives.”
Now that we’ve made the commitment to four hours of Spanish classes every week at CPI language school, improving our Spanish has become a priority again. I am enjoying the challenge of learning another language, and am beginning to see my vocabulary grow and my ability to communicate in “real time” expand (as opposed to 15 minutes later thinking of what I could have said). Learning a new language can be daunting, but it helps if I actively focus on the little successes instead of on the enormity of the task ahead.
In her blog, Pick The Brain, Ali Luke writes that “If you take the time to consciously learn new things, you’ll find that you live life more deeply…Each week, I’m learning new things – and this keeps me interested, motivated and happy.” I agree whole-heartedly! And when you live in another culture, there is so much to learn every day about the language, the people, the customs, and about yourself as well. I can honestly say that I’m never bored.
For many years, like much of the rest of the Americas, Costa Ricans celebrated Columbus Day every October 12th. But now, instead of celebrating the day as Christopher Columbus’ landing in the “new world,” Costa Rica celebrates La Día de las Culturas (Cultures Day). In 1994, Costa Rica passed a law which established October 12th as the day of cultures, to celebrate the multi-cultural and multi ethnic-traditions and diversity of the country and its people. The yearly celebration acknowledges the indigenous peoples and the influences of immigrants, not only from Spain, but from Asia, Africa, and the rest of Europe who have contributed to make today’s Costa Rican culture.
We spent part of this year’s Día de las Culturas at San Ramon’s Jose Figueres Ferrer Cultural Center for a Festival de Comidas Tradicionales (traditional food festival). Local women brought their specialties – everything from cajeta to tamales –
and gave samples to those who attended. They also posted copies of their recipes. One of our favorite dishes was the Crema de Ayote Sazón made by one of the women. Ayote is an orange squash, similar to a pumpkin or a butternut squash and the result was a delicious, creamy soup.
The food festival was followed by a Feria Artesanal (craft fair) with local Costa Rican handicrafts.
Later in the month, we both took part in the University of Costa Rica’s “Feria del Adulto Mayor” (“Older Adults Fair”) held here at their campus in San Ramon. In Costa Rica, older adults are not seen as inconvenient; they are a vital part of the society, and the feria celebrated the fact that “Costa Rica is a society for all ages.”
The feria also included demonstrations of folkloric dancing, an exercise class to Latin rhythms, sale of local foods and crafts, and lots of activities and fun for the whole family.
It is important for both of us to give back in some way to our community, and Paul and I do it through the Community Action Alliance. We like being part of a team of people working together to make San Ramon, our little part of Costa Rica, a better, safer place for both Ticos and Expats. There’s been a lot going on, in both big and small ways. You can read all about it in the Action Alliance’s October newsletter.
Our special event in October was a mixer held at San Ramon’s local Caja hospital. It included a presentation on the history of San Ramon’s Hospital Luis Valverde Vega and a description of services available, information about USAC’s foreign exchange student program and the volunteer activities of their students at the hospital, and a tour of the hospital facilities, including the Urgencia (Emergency Room), Pain Clinic, Pharmacy, Butterfly Garden, specialized equipment, X-Rays, Physical therapy, Outpatient Surgery, and more.
When we took the 30 minute tour, we were very impressed. After all, I had ambulatory surgery here two years ago and we’ve both come several times for lab work, X-Rays, ultrasounds as well as one visit each to the emergency room. But we’d never actually seen every part of the hospital. The hospital has 106 beds and was opened in 1955 as a “hospital without walls.” Before the Caja was even formed, Hospital Luis Valverde Vega brought medical care to the surrounding communities. In 1984, it was incorporated into the Caja system.
There are no private rooms; most of the rooms are small wards of 4-6 beds. It was clean, but did not look like what we are used to in a North American hospital. The actual operating areas seemed up to snuff in terms of both modern equipment and cleanliness. Again, we were impressed. Interestingly, another American on the tour said that she was not impressed. She and her spouse use the Caja system sparingly, don’t really understand how it works, and don’t speak Spanish. Naturally, when you walk into a private hospital like Cima or Clinica Biblica, it’s going to look better immediately, but that doesn’t mean it is. Matter of fact, many of the doctors who practice at the private hospitals also work in the public hospitals. One of the reasons we chose to live in San Ramon was local access to a hospital and this tour just reinforced the wisdom of our decision!
Considering the Future
When we got a call from a Tico friend that his house was coming available for rent, we started thinking about moving from our beloved cabina. Why, you may ask? Well, our house in Baltimore is currently rented to a family who intend to buy it in a year or so. We know that we will need more room at that point since we plan on shipping some personal items and one or two pieces of furniture that have sentimental value to us. So when our friend called, we went to look at the house and thought through the idea of renting an unfurnished house at this point in our journey. To be honest, we considered the house because we love the property so much. It’s just beautiful and is located in one of our favorite parts of San Ramon where the elevation is lower, the weather a bit warmer, and the views to the Gulf of Nicoya are breath-taking. It would be private, quiet, and we would have some great neighbors nearby.
Though we decided NOT to rent this particular house, we wanted to share with you the process we went through and the costs that would have been involved, in the hope that it might help you in your investigations. First of all, this is a “typical Tico house” which means several things:
- The house does not have hot water in the kitchen or bathroom sinks, and the shower in the bathroom is equipped with a commonly-used “suicide shower” – so named because the on-demand shower head heats the water via electricity.
- There are no closets or cabinets of any kind built into the house.
- The ceiling is low and the house is dark, with minimal lighting.
This being said, we still considered the house, thinking of ways we could improve it to meet our needs. We looked into installing hot water, bringing in an electrician, and buying shelving. We even looked into doing some further renovations like raising the ceiling and painting all of the walls. We could make it cute, I was positive, so we carefully considered the pros and cons. Though our friend was willing to give us a long-term lease, when all was said and done, we decided that it would be too expensive, and too risky to invest this much money in a rental house.
It would have cost approximately $1,000 to have hot water installed in the kitchen and bathroom. And who knows what it would cost to do more extensive renovations. But, following are our estimates of what it would have cost to equip the house as-is (with mostly used furniture and appliances) and to pay the monthly bills:
Start-up expenses/Need to buy: $4050
- Refrigerator – $500
- Microwave – $150
- Coffee pot – $75
- TV – $300
- Couch, chairs, tables – $600
- Kitchen table/chairs – $300
- Bed & dresser – (mattress: $400; bed platform: $200; dresser: $150)
- Curtains – $50
- Towels: $25
- Washer & dryer – $800
- Install Internet – $300
- Pantry shelving: $200
Projected Monthly Expenses: $735
- Rent: $400
- Sky TV: $35
- Land line: $10
- Internet: $60
- Electric: $100
- Propane: $10
- Water: $10
- Gardener (4 hours/week): $60
- Housekeeper (4 hours/week): $60
So, at the end of the day, we are still living in the Cabinas and are as convinced as ever that it’s a great deal, with everything included, great staff, and some nice neighbors thrown in to boot!
So what’s next for the Yeatmans? Stay tuned for more in next month’s newsletter!
Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica – Take Advantage of Free and Inexpensive Classes and Events
People always ask us, “What do you do all day” — hence, our monthly “What’s Up with the Yeatmans?” There is so much available to do – there are yoga and exercise classes, dancing, entertainment, art classes and exhibits, music classes, everything at low prices, like $10 for a whole 10-week session. In San Ramon, we have the University of Costa Rica’s Forever Young Program, the Jose Figueres Cultural Center, and the San Ramon Regional Museum, all of which are loaded with activities, some for seniors, some for kids, and some for everyone – it’s your pick.
We took a dance class a couple of years ago at the Jose Figueres Cultural Center, every Friday night from 5pm-7pm for three months. The first half of each class was a cultural hour where we learned something about San Ramon or Tico culture in general — there was poetry, marimbas, dancing, and history. The second hour was devoted to dancing, with everyone teaching each other new steps. When we first walked in, there were 28 in the class, and we were the only “gringos.” Luckily for us, the instructor had lived in West Virginia and spoke some English. By the end of the 10 week session, there were 16 of us left. At the end of the class, just before Christmas, we had a party at our cabina for the whole group and we were all presented with our certificates of achievement. Events like this are held constantly, whether it’s art, photography, painting, no matter what it is, there’s something for everyone, at a very minimal cost. Our 10 week dance class cost us a total of 2,000 colones each – that’s about $4 per person.
I am also taking a “seniors” aerobics class at the University gym which meets twice a week for 8 weeks, at a cost of 8,000 colones (about $16). Seniors in Costa Rica are treated with care and love, and in general, so much better than in the States. There are about 50 people in the class, mostly Ticos, but a handful of expats as well. This class is followed by a dance aerobics class for another hour which costs 3,000 colones (about $6) for the multi-week sessions, also held in the gym.
There’s a lot to do here for free or next to nothing, but participating is up to you. We always say that you can be as busy as you want to be here. Granted, to take advantage of a lot of these opportunities, you need some Spanish. But it’s a great chance to learn and practice your Spanish and to make some Tico friends. They will embrace you when you are in a class with them. We are still friends with many of the people in our dance class over 2 years ago. This is why we strongly recommend going to a language school like CPI or using a product like Visual Link Spanish while you are preparing for your move here. Speaking some Spanish will enhance your experience here so much by opening you up to new opportunities to learn, laugh, and grow.
We are continuing our Spanish lessons at CPI, which for us is a one-hour drive each week to San Joaquin de Heredia, for four hours of Spanish immersion. We love our class and have enjoyed our teacher, Kenji, but we will be getting a different instructor as of Monday, November 5th. Part of CPI’s immersion method is to give students exposure to different teachers, different voices.
As we mentioned in a previous article, Retire for Less highly recommends taking Spanish classes while touring the country from all three CPI locations in Heredia, Flamingo Beach, and Monteverde. Studying Spanish at CPI is a great way to see Costa Rica, especially for us Seniors who are thinking of overseas retirement. Remember, you’ve got to live somewhere, so why not stay at CPI’s residential facilities. They have six 2-bedroom furnished units that include everything, even weekly maid service, for about $350/week or $1,000/month. Additionally, they have a 5 room B&B which includes breakfast. You can read more about CPI’s student residence options here.
Don’t forget to ask for your 10% Retire for Less discount on everything, including housing. But to take advantage of the discount, you must fill out this form.
Let’s see what happened on our mountain at 3950 feet elevation, four miles west of San Ramon, and 9 degrees north of the equator. Here’s the trend over the last 10 months:
- January 2012: 0 inches
- February 2012: 0 inches
- March 2012: 0 inches
- April 2012: 11.9 inches (normally 2 inches)
- May 2012: 16 inches
- June 2012: 9.75 inches
- July 2012: 6.6 inches
- August 2012: 18 inches
- September 2012: 12.55 inches
- October 2012: 12.96 inches
Total rainfall so far this rainy season: 87.76 inches
We took the temperature at 6am, mid-day, and 6pm daily, as well as rainfall totals for the previous 24 hours, measured at 6am. All temperature readings are taken in the shade (just like official meteorologists do). If taken in the sunshine, the temps are usually 8-10 degrees higher. You also have to take into account the altitude — the higher the elevation, the cooler the temps. It gets warmer by about 4-5 degrees per 1000 feet as you descend in elevation.
As of the end of October, the rainfall is down 20-25% country-wide and an early exit of the rainy season does not bode well for any catch-up. Our 87.6 total inches here at the cabinas at 3,950 ft. elevation was less overall than last year, and this October’s rainfall of 12.96 inches is significantly less than last year’s 36.4 inches. We haven’t had any significant rain for the last five days. But the rains may not be over. The beginning of November can be wet, but usually by the end of the month, it’s dry in our part of the country. Last November (2011) we had 5 inches, while last December we had 2 inches. We’ll see what this year will bring.
The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional is predicting an early end to the rainy season and the winds, precursors of the change in seasons, already started in late October. So, when will the dry season start? Here are their predictions by region:
- Northern Pacific: Nov. 7 to 11
- Central Valley: Nov. 17 to 21
- Valley de El General: Dec. 12 to 16
- Central Pacific: Dec. 12 to 16
- South Pacific Dec. 22 to 26
Hurricane Sandy: Costa Rica has never had a direct hit from a hurricane and Sandy was no exception. However, Tropical Storm Sandy still managed to affect our weather. We didn’t get the high winds, but we did get .8 inches of rain on 10/24, 1.7 inches on 10/25, and 1.5 inches on 10/26 as Sandy approached Jamaica, many hundreds of miles to the north.
And you can see in the graph above, overall, there are more tropical storms in September and October than at any other time of the year. Tropical storms are represented by the orange band.
Following is our rain and temperature date for the month of October 2012:
- 12.96 inches of total rainfall ( heaviest rainfall: 2.8 inches on 1 day)
- 4 days measured trace amounts of rain
- 9 days with zero rainfall
- 6am average: 62.25°f (lowest reading was 60°f on 2 days)
- Mid-day average: 71.925°f (high of 78°f on 1 day & the lowest high of 67°f on 1 day)
- 6pm average: 64.7°f (lowest reading was 62°f on 1 day and highest was 67°f on 2 days)
That’s it for this report. We’ll continue the weather info next month.
It is my suggestion that, if you intent to move to Costa Rica, you should become a legal resident. It’s the right thing to do. And doing so has its advantages. As of October 1, 2012, to open a bank account or invest in Certificates of Deposits at any Costa Rican bank, one must be a legal resident.
Coopenae, our bank, has great customer service and English-speaking staff. But if I had to pick one reason why we chose to bank at Coopenae, it would have to be their extremely low default rate (LINK), the lowest of any of the 56 financial institutions regulated by SUGEF. So, in order to take advantage of these great CD rates (currently 12.5% for a 12 month colones CD), one must become a legal resident of Costa Rica. I think being able to invest should be a great incentive to obtaining your residency.
When patronizing an “all-inclusive” resort, generally you could be anywhere and you would hardly know the difference. Why come to Costa Rica at all if you’re going to stay at an all-inclusive resort? While there are certainly exceptions, many all-inclusives are rip-offs. Not only are they expensive, but you get a sanitized version of the country and the culture. Quite often, these usually large, all-inclusive, hotels keep you a prisoner, in a sense, by warning you of the dangers outside their walls. “Don’t leave the grounds; it may be dangerous” or “Something could happen to you.” Believe me, they’re not looking out for you as much as for your wallet, making sure you take their tours, in their buses, and only see what they want you to see. Personally, it doesn’t sound like fun to me.
At Retire for Less, we offer anything but a sanitized version of Costa Rica. We’ll show you the real Costa Rica and we’ll customize the tour for you too. We can still hit the beaches and zip-lines, but once you’ve left, you’ll feel like you’ve really been to a foreign country where most people speak Spanish and lead different lives from what you are accustomed. So take a look at our Retire for Less tours for the real deal and save money at the same time.
Our friends, Mike and Mary Peace, are offering their new home for rent in the mountains of Costa Rica. Their beautiful house has an unobstructed 180 degree view of the Gulf of Nicoya and the Pacific Ocean from about 10 miles away at the closest point and it sits on a 1/2 acre lot overlooking pasture & jungle.
It is conveniently located 7 miles west of San Ramon de Alajuela near the village of Rio Jesus, a quick 1.5 miles from the Interamerica highway. This is about one hour from the San Jose and approximately 45 minutes from the Pacific port Puntarenas or a nice beach on the gulf of Nicoya. The elevation is 3,200 feet so the temperature is very comfortable ranging from 65 to 78 degrees, so no heat or air conditioning is required.
This very comfortable, two bedroom, one bathroom home was completed in July 2010 and is about 2,000 sq ft. It was built to North American standards and comes with washer/dryer, fridge with ice-maker, microwave, dishwasher, electric water heater, blender, safe, TV with DVD player and walk in closet.
It is furnished with a complete kitchen, comfortable chairs, queen size pillow top bed, and nice chairs to watch the magnificent sunsets over the Gulf of Nicoya.
This would be perfect for someone to use as a base of operations to explore Costa Rica or perhaps take Costa Rica for a ‘test drive’ and live here for a few months before you make that big decision to retire here.
This home rents for US $750 per month plus electricity and water which combined would be way less than $100 per month. One month security deposit plus one month rental is required in advance. One month minimum rental period please. High speed internet is installed and would cost you an additional $60 per month. SKY TV is available in the area and would be additional should you wish to have it installed.
For more photos, please visit http://www.picturetrail.com/sfx/album/slideshow/23779802.
If interested, please contact Mike Peace in the USA on (918) 439-9119 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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What’s New on the Website
Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Explore Costa Rica and Learn Spanish at the Same Time
- Things Happen – Our September Budget Update
- Another Reason We Chose Costa Rica – the People
- Book Excerpt 1 from Butterfly in the City
- Costa Rica Snow-Birds with a Twist – Aboard the “Dragon’s Wing”
- Crime Stats in Costa Rica-Part 2
- CPI Immersion Spanish School – Choose the Best!
- Paul’s Monthly Tips to Live for Less in Costa Rica
- Shake, Rattle, and Roll? Then Drop, Cover, and Hold
- Thank Heaven for Beans, Wonderful Beans!
- Getting Ready for the Big Move to Costa Rica
- Five Things You Need To Know Before You Move Abroad
- Costa Rica seems to have made great strides in 10 years
- Why We Chose Costa Rica
- Documents You Need to Open a Bank Account in Costa Rica
- Money vs. Time
- Our 2012 Annual Cost of Living Update
- From 11.75% to 12.5% Interest on a 12-Month Certificate of Deposit!
That’s all for this month, but we’ll be back in touch soon! If you enjoy our newsletter, please share it with your friends. We hope to see you online!
Gloria & Paul Yeatman
San Ramon de Alajuela, Costa Rica