Welcome to our Retire For Less In CostaRica Newsletter
In This Issue:
- Monthly Costa Rica Weather Report for 8 Towns in Costa Rica – November 2015
- Journey to the “Dark Side” of Costa Rica, by Bonnie Vining
- Featured Property: Lake Arenal: Move-In-Ready Furnished Home in Arenal Center-Only $80,000
- Our Ultimate CR Healthcare Tour
We send you a world of good wishes. One of the real joys this holiday season is the opportunity to say thank you and wish you the very best for the new year. May the magic and the wonder of the holiday season stay with you throughout the coming year.
Paul and Gloria
You’ll notice that we now show rainfall and temperatures for eight towns in Costa Rica:
- San Ramón de Alajuela
- Nuevo Arenal
- Near San Isidro de General
- San Rafael de Heredia
- San Marcos de Tarrazu
- El Cajón de Grecia
This isn’t weather forecasting. We report after the fact to give you a much better picture of the weather in each of these areas.
You can click on the map above to enlarge it and check out the average rainfall for the towns in which you are interested.
Paul’s San Ramón Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for November:
- We had four days with highs of 70 degrees. Remember, they are the highs, so most of the days were in the 60s as the temperature moved up to 70 degrees.
- The rainy season ended on November 22nd. After that, we had zero rainfall for the remainder of the month.
- The Christmas winds started on the 23rd, assuring us of mostly dry days on the Pacific side of the country for the rest of November and going forward.
- Our lowest high was only 68 degrees. Brrrrrrr. Our warmest day was a toasty 76 degrees.
- Our back porch (approximately 400 sq. ft.) is usually 8-10 degrees warmer than the actual temperature in the shade as our “oven” (tin roof and tile floor) warms our bones, even when it’s a chilly 70 degrees “outside.” We live outside much of the year and eat many dinners on our back porch, enjoying the view and the tranquility.
- On a clear day, we can easily see 30 miles off our back porch, to Puntarenas, across the Gulf of Nicoya, and beyond to the mountains of the Nicoya Peninsula.
- Total rainfall in 2014 total was 120 inches and 2013’s rainfall was 111 inches in our area of San Ramón.
Lance T’s Atenas Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for November:
- During the first part of November, there were frequent days with rain, including one day with over an inch and two days with over three inches. The total was over 5 times that during the same period last year. Then, everything changed. The last week in November brought clear sky mornings and warm breezy days – the start of the dry season. But, it was a false start. The rains returned in the second week of December with a 2.6 inch deluge on December 13. This compares with about 2.4 inches in all of November and December last year.
- Temperatures were normal in November this year – the average daytime high being virtually the same as last year.
- Total rainfall in 2014 was 73.59 inches and 2013’s rainfall was 63.84 inches in our area of Atenas.
John’s Nuevo Arenal Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for November:
- The birds have migrated from the north this month and our bird feeders (with fresh bananas twice a day) are teeming with colorful tropical birds again. We and the tourists love watching as they are incredibly beautiful creatures. We have over 100 varieties here at Chalet Nicholas and around Lake Arenal because it abounds with lush rainforest trees.
- The November rain and winds started as usual and the windsurfing on Lake Arenal started December 1st and goes through April, enough to satisfy them at the west end of the lake.
- We had a record-breaking 185 inches of rain for the year 2014. Total rainfall in 2013 was 164.75 inches in our area of Nuevo Arenal.
Lance M’s Central Pacific Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for November:
- November was a cooler month than usual, with 10 days in the upper 80’s as compared to only one day last November.
- The town is beginning to get very busy, with high season starting. Hotel prices have gone up and prices on goods have risen. This always causes people who live here all year to try and stock up on nonperishable products.
- Rainfall was 2 and 1/2 times more than last year’s.
- Muggings and robberies have continued in the area. Police have determined that most of the robbers are from northern part of the country and also from Panama.
- A group of Americans, Canadians and Costa Ricans got together for Thanksgiving dinner at a local restaurant. There was lots of turkey and all the trimmings, with a good time had by all.
- With Christmas less than a month away, the Christmas lights are being turned on all over the area. On the 16th of December, Mary and I are leaving for the States to spend Christmas and New Years with friends and family and will return home around the 6th of January.
- 2014 rainfall for the Quepos area of the Central Pacific was 73.54 inches (as of February 2014 when I started measuring it for this newsletter).
Gordon’s Villa Nueva (San Isidro de El General) Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for November:
- Total rainfall was 12.45 inches, with only 2 days of more than 1.6″. This is a big difference from Quebradus, which is 15 minutes NE of San Isidro de El General, while Villa Nueva is 10 minutes NW, near Santa Rosa. Less rain and the temperatures are several degrees warmer, but we are at a slightly lower altitude at 800 meters or 2600 feet. But the gentle breeze is still there, cooling the evenings nicely!
- We had a great holiday back in Canada for 2 months. We spent September in Alberta, most of the time in our old home town, visiting with many friends. We ran out of time!! Then in October, we were on the East coast, in Newfoundland, visiting with my wife’s family. Always great to see them. I had never been back there to see the fall colors. It was awesome!
- We got back home to Costa Rica for November, and have moved into a new-build-home that friends of ours have built to rent out. We left a totally furnished house to move to a house with stove, fridge, and washer only, so we have been “stimulating the economy,” you might say, as we get our new place set up. Life is great!
Steve’s San Rafael de Heredia Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for November:
- Rainy Season and El Niño – El Niño didn’t really affect us here in San Rafael de Heredia. Temperatures were about normal and by the end of November we had already recorded a five-year high in rainfall – 139 inches. The year 2011 had been our previous high, at 129.9 inches. This November was the rainiest we’ve recorded so far.
- Gardening – The dry season is normally my most active time in the garden – I like dry season because there are fewer weeds and plant diseases, more sun, and I use nutrient-rich water from the fish pond for irrigation. I begin my gardening in earnest when the rain drops off in November, but this year (with the heavy November rains) I got a late start.
Bonnie’s San Marcos de Tarrazu Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for November:
- We were travelling the first seven days of November, so temperature data is based on 23 days. Our neighbor tracked the rainfall for us, so those numbers reflect the entire month.
- Temperatures here continue to average in the low 60’s at night and in the low 80’s during the day.
- Mother Nature pretty much turned off the faucet for two weeks starting November 22, but not until we had racked up 13.7 inches for the month, our highest total since I started tracking it at the beginning of August.
- Year to date rainfall total is for August through November.
Irina’s El Cajón de Grecia Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for November:
- The first three weeks of November were very wet. We got more rain (518.5 mm, 20.4 inches) than November 2013 and 2014 combined.
- The rainy season came to an abrupt end on November 23, when the trade winds picked up and the humidity dropped. Average high humidity was 96.6%, average low humidity was 58.8%. Not much different from October.
- On our property we have two identical, calibrated hi/low thermometers and hygrometers, one at our main house and another at a slightly lower elevation (less than 10 meters difference) and slightly different exposure. We record data from each, but report the data from the one at the house because that one has the longest data series. The readings are similar, but the data from our house (which is slightly more exposed to the wind and air flow) tends to be a little more extreme.
- The weather up here on the slopes of Vulcan Poás is much cooler than in downtown Grecia, which is at an elevation of 1000 meters (3,280 feet). We always have to change into lighter clothing when we take the 15 minute, five km. drive to town.
- Coffee picking season has begun in earnest. Every morning, we see and hear the pickers — families, kids and all — across the canyon on the slopes of San Luis. They say it’s a good year for coffee…but coffee futures are down. Pickers get only 1 mil colones (2 bucks) for a canasta (25 pounds) of ripe, red coffee cherries. It’s a tough way to make a living.
Costa Rica Weather Report for November
Our San Ramón Weatherguy, Paul Yeatman
Meteorology has been Paul’s lifelong hobby. As a child, he devoured books about the weather and earth sciences vigorously. Later, he took a few college courses in meteorology, and still later, he served as a meteorologist for the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Now, Paul gets to practice his avocation in Costa Rica, albeit on a very small scale with just temperature and rainfall data, probably the two most important factors regarding the weather. He wanted to include weather info on our website to help people decide where to live, although weather is just one of many factors to consider in determining where to relocate. Current weather data is from our current home at about 3,000 ft. elevation and 10 minutes outside the town of San Ramón. Weather data prior to December 2012 is from our previous home at about 4,000 ft. elevation and 10 minutes outside the town of San Ramón.
Our Atenas Weatherguy, Lance Turlock
Lance and his wife, Diana, moved to Costa Rica about 2 years ago after living 30+ years in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia (Vancouver and environs). They live in the Central Valley near the town of Atenas and are at an elevation of about 2700 feet. They have no need for air conditioning or heating. Overnight low temperatures are comfortably cool (low 60’s). Daytime highs can be relatively hot (high 80’s, low 90’s), but rarely uncomfortably hot.Lance started to keep track of daily temperatures and rainfall in order to have factual ammunition to help disabuse friends, relatives and acquaintances of any misconception that the weather must be like that of a tropical jungle.
Our Nuevo Arenal Weatherguy, John Nicholas
After many visits to Costa Rica, John and Cathy Nicholas moved from New York to Costa Rica in 1991. They chose Arenal for its sacred, majestic beauty, its lush wildlife, its relaxing lifestyle, and its proximity to activities and sites such as the Volcano Arenal and the beaches. They own the B&B, Chalet Nicholas, which has been in operation since 1992. Temperatures and rainfall are measured at Chalet Nicholas which is located at approximately 2,200 ft. elevation and 1 mile west of the town of Nuevo Arenal.
Our Central Pacific (Quepos) Weatherguy, Lance Miller
I was born in a very small town in northwest Iowa and raised on a farm. When I was 18, I joined the service, in which I spent 22 years before retiring in 1990. For the next twenty three years my family and I lived in south central Pennsylvania. After having a stroke in 2012, I was unable to work and that is when my wife and I began talking about retiring. Thanks to your newsletter and a website we found about San Isidro, we began looking at Costa Rica. We came down in March 2013 and looked around for a week. Went home, packed up, and moved here in April. We settled in a small village called Playa Matapalo which is located between Quepos and Dominical. We later moved to Quepos. The word Playa means beach. It is so nice to lie in bed and listen to the ocean. Pura Vida.
Gordon and his wife Bea moved here from Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada, where he used to track the correlation of the winter hoer frost and the spring/summer rains. After 30+ years as a Purchasing Agent for a retail lumber yard/Homes Manufacturing company, he decided to say “Adios” to the snow and ice. They arrived in Costa Rica Oct 2, 2014, and originally lived in Quebradus, which is 15 minutes NE of San Isidro de El General, but as of November 2015 now live in Villa Nueva, which is 10 minutes NW of the city. They are at a altitude of about 800 meters, living in a rental house that friends built on their acreage. The fruit trees are abundant, and in the rainy season the water in the nearby streams can be heard from their deck. They overlook a beautiful valley, and enjoy watching the sun setting behind the hills every night!
I’m a weather geek and have been recording daily weather data for the last 4 years in Concepcion de San Rafael de Heredia. We live at 5,000 ft. (1,500 meters) elevation, above San Rafael centro on a low ridge that comes off of Cerro Chompipe (between Barva Volcano and los Cerros de Zurqui). We have a 60 mile wide view from Turrialba Volcano east to somewhere around Cerro Turrubares west. I first lived in CR as a Peace Corps volunteer (1968-71), married a tica school teacher, and moved back to Costa Rica in 2009. My wife grew up in downtown San Rafael just three miles away, and the weather is quite different there. I am also an avid gardener and birder.
Bonnie, her husband Joe, and their dog Marley moved from Tucson, Arizona, to San Marcos de Tarrazu, in mid-2015. Bonnie was a CPA, turned software engineer with IBM for 20 years and later opened and operated a specialty coffee shop, founded a non-profit dedicated to connecting musicians with appreciative audiences, and managed a school district theatre. A self-professed “data geek”, she looks forward to being our weathergirl while pursuing her other passions which include traveling, gardening, cooking, hiking, meeting people, and hanging out with Joe and Marley. They are enjoying retirement life in the town of San Marcos which lies at about 4,800 ft. in the heart of Costa Rica’s prime coffee-growing region.
Our El Cajón de Grecia Weathergirl, Irina Just
Born in Germany, Irina spent 40+ years in the USA (all on the Pacific coast) before she and her husband Jim moved to Costa Rica three years ago. For the 20 years prior, they owned and operated a vineyard in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, famous for award-winning pinot noir. During that time, it became critical to keep precise records of daily temperatures, rainfall and pertinent weather patterns to accurately forecast seasonal tasks, such as when to prune the grapes, when to harvest, when to protect them from an early or late frost. As little as one degree made the difference between a bountiful harvest – or a lost crop. After moving to el Cajón de Grecia, the Justs continued to take daily readings of temperatures and measurements of rainfall because they quickly discovered that the micro-climate in the foothills of Poás differs widely from the weather in nearby Grecia.
- For a “Just the Facts” Version of our 2015 Weather: Costa Rica Weather: 2015 Monthly Temps & Rainfall
- Our Weather in San Ramón & Atenas Costa Rica – 2014
- Our Weather in San Ramón & Atenas Costa Rica – 2013
- Our Weather in San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica – 2012
- Our Weather in San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica – 2011
- 15 Days
- El Nino – What is it?
by Bonnie Vining
Our exploratory trips to Costa Rica in 2012 and 2013 focused on places we considered living such as the Central Valley, the Southern Zone, Orosi Valley, Nicoya Peninsula, Los Santos, and Lake Arenal. Nobody in their right mind would retire on the Caribbean side, right? After all, poverty and crime are prevalent, it rains a lot, the roads are bad, and it’s hot and humid as so many people told us. We jokingly referred to it as the “dark side” of Costa Rica. But every now and then, someone would tell us that they actually prefer the Caribbean side, and curiosity finally got the best of us.
We obtained our residency in mid-September and decided to celebrate with a trip to the dark side a few weeks later so we could check it out for ourselves. It would truly be a vacation for us as we’ve never given one thought to living there. After many hours of searching online for a pet-friendly place to stay, we almost opted out of going to the Caribbean. We hung in there though and felt like we hit the jackpot when we found a listing for Casa de Delfines. With three bedrooms and two bathrooms, it was way more house than we needed for the two of us and our dog, Marley, but it was pet-friendly, and there were a few days available in late September.
The owner, Krystle Richardson, explained that she and her property manager would both be in the U.S. during our visit and assured us that her gardener friend, Oscar, would take good care of us. Oscar was wonderful, even stopping by on our last full day there with a machete to demonstrate how to cut open a large coconut we had found near the beach in Manzanillo. He then cut open a pipa (a young coconut that is full of juice) to show us how different the mature coconut and the pipa are inside.
Casa de Delfines is located on a quiet street about 200 meters from the beach. The home is securely gated, and the neighborhood felt safe. We took the normal precautions that we take wherever we go, and we did not feel any less safe on the Caribbean side than we do in any other place in Costa Rica or in the U.S. Limon is reportedly much more dangerous than Puerto Viejo, and we did not go any further into Limon than we had to en route to Puerto Viejo. Being a port city, the truck traffic became increasingly heavy the closer we got to Limon.
We traveled to Puerto Viejo with more curiosity than high expectations, and we were pleasantly surprised to find a clean, charming town with an international population and a youthful, laid-back vibe. Besides the usual assortment of Canadians and United Statesians, we met people from all over the world, but more from Italy than any other country. You won’t find high-rise resort hotels or chain restaurants in the Caribbean beach towns, but the local businesses are very service-oriented, and English is commonly spoken.
Before heading to the Caribbean, I connected with Jana Stotler through a Facebook forum. Jana and her husband Tom have lived in Puerto Viejo for about five years. They are dog lovers like us, so it was an easy and natural friendship. We met them for dinner on Monday night at a restaurant called The Point which is on the beach just west of Puerto Viejo. Marley was with us, so we sat outside enjoying the refreshing sea breeze and the sound of the waves rolling onto the shore. The two margaritas that I drank there have dulled the memory of whatever I ordered for dinner, but I have a vague recollection that it was really good.
Jana and Tom invited us to their home which is in the jungle, but not far from the beach, for a very special dinner on Wednesday night. Tom grilled chicken right in their open-air, but covered, sunken living room, and while enjoying dinner there, we were treated to the only rain shower of our stay in Puerto Viejo. It came down quite hard, but for fewer than 30 minutes, and it was very magical having the rain for a backdrop on two sides of their living room. While the rain on the Caribbean side is spread more evenly throughout the year, we learned that generally, when rain is heaviest on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, it is lightest on the Caribbean side. And most of it falls at night, so it’s perfect for keeping everything green while providing nice, long days to enjoy outdoor activities in the daylight. It was easy to see why Jana and Tom love living on the Caribbean side.
Dining was a pleasurable experience everywhere we ate in Puerto Viejo. There are so many restaurants in the area that it would take several weeks to try them all. The variety of ethnic choices provided a nice change of pace from the comida typica that prevails in San Marcos de Tarrazu. In addition to the two dinners with Jana and Tom, we enjoyed Taco Tuesday at Tasty Waves in Playa Cocles, dinner at Stashu’s con Fusion, and breakfasts at Bread & Chocolate and De Gustibus Bakery, an Italian-owned bakery which serves up some of the best pastries we’ve encountered anywhere in Costa Rica.
Living in San Marcos where I’m afraid to ride my bicycle unless we take it by truck to a smaller town with less traffic, we found the Southern Caribbean to be a bicyclist’s paradise. Beach cruisers are the primary mode of transportation in the area, and we estimated that they outnumber cars by about ten to one. It’s an easy ride down the coast from Puerto Viejo to the end of the highway in Manzanillo, and we really enjoyed riding along the flat coastal highway with very light traffic, pulling Marley behind in a cart.
Along the way, we stopped at secluded beaches where we enjoyed playing in the ocean and then stopping in town for meals on the way back to Casa de Delfines. Marley was welcome to sit outside with us at every restaurant, and he was quite a hit riding along in his cart. A man even stopped along the highway to take pictures of us which he later emailed to Joe. Mornings and evenings were cool and comfortable, so we ate every meal outside. Afternoons were warm and humid, best spent reading or taking siestas under the ceiling fans on the veranda.
Each coast of Costa Rica has its own unique and wonderful beauty, so I’ll avoid making any judgments as to which coast is more beautiful. I did love the cooler weather and the beautiful blue water on the Caribbean side as well as the gentle waves that allowed us to walk way out into the ocean without getting knocked down or pulled under. We were told that tides are higher during other times of the year.
Joe absolutely loved Puerto Viejo and was ready to pack our belongings and move there. I enjoyed our time there immensely, but as the accountant for our household, I felt it would be more difficult to make ends meet there than where we currently live in San Marcos de Tarrazu. Restaurant prices are roughly double what we pay in San Marcos, and with the variety of dining options available in Puerto Viejo, there would be a tremendous temptation to eat out more often. While we didn’t shop for food there, prices in the grocery stores in a tourist area are likely to be higher as well. So I offered Joe a deal. Once we obtain permanent residency, if he wants to eat at Bread and Chocolate in the morning and surf in the evening, he’ll need to get a part time job to offset the higher cost of living. Meanwhile, we’ll keep exploring other areas of Costa Rica, and the Caribbean coast will linger in our memories as a wonderful place to take a vacations. The cool, Caribbean vibe may not be for everyone, but we loved it and can’t wait to go back again!
Great Deal on House close to Nuevo Arenal Center.
House is located behind Banco Nacional near end of road in residential area.
Furnished & very secure. Owner came and went many years.
Great low price.
Priced Low for quick sale.
Easy to extend in big back yard if even necessary.
Click here to check out our other properties under $150,000 and read about what to do before you buy.
Our newest tour is the Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica. When asked what he liked best about our healthcare tour, one of our guests wrote, “the wide variety of places we saw, the experts that Paul arranged for us to meet and talk with, and an emphasis on all aspects of health, not just doctors and hospitals. Mental health is just as important as physical, if not more so.”
We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over six and a half years and have used the Caja, Costa Rica’s public healthcare system extensively, as well as the private system, when needed. We’ve learned the system and have been referred up the ladder to see specialists in the maze that is the Caja system. Gloria’s even had surgery here.
Our blend of personal insights and on-the-ground experience combines to answer your questions about whether or not Costa Rica’s healthcare system could meet your individual needs.
But, while it is focused on healthcare, you will learn a lot more about living and retiring in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. Most of the second day of the tour takes place in the town of San Ramón where we live and use the services. And you will come to our home for lunch that day to listen to two of our featured speakers. Our tour is designed to save you both time and money, packing a lot of information into a short period of time. Our goal is to show you the possibilities and to try to demystify Costa Rica’s healthcare system. Our tour lasts two days and 1 night and includes lodging, transportation, meals and non-alcoholic beverages.
- At least two private hospitals in San Jose area
- Hospital Mexico, the largest and best public hospital (they even do open heart surgeries there)
- An insurance broker for a presentation on the various supplemental health insurance options, including public, private, and international plans
- A senior living retirement community
- CPI language school for a presentation about how learning Spanish increases your options for healthcare and some basic medical Spanish.
- Our local hospital here in San Ramón
- A local EBAIS (community clinic)
- A local private medical and dental clinic
- A local Seguro Social office where you would sign up for the Caja (national healthcare coverage)
- A pharmacy
- A health food store (macrobiotica), and more!
- If the Costa Rican healthcare system could meet your needs and put your mind to rest, once and for all, about this sensitive subject.
- About the public system and how it works, about the private healthcare system, and how you can use a combination of both to your advantage.
- About the EBAIS – where healthcare starts in Costa Rica.
- Approximately how much you would pay for Caja.
- About medical tourism in Costa Rica.
- About home health care in Costa Rica.
Introductory prices: $550 for a couple, $450 for a single.
Please contact us if you are interested in booking this tour. Space is limited.
- Paul Gets a CAT Scan Through the Caja
- Integration 102 – Speaking Up at the Hospital
- Waiting to See the Doctor, by Jo Stuart
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Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Our November 2015 Costa Rica Cost of Living Expenses
- 8 Reasons Why Your Property in Costa Rica Has Not Sold in 7 Years
- Monthly Costa Rica Weather Report for 8 Towns in Costa Rica–October 2015
- Gardening in Costa Rica with Steve: Heliconias
- Buying Organic Produce in Costa Rica
- Snapshots of Life in Costa Rica
- Due Diligence – Our Take on It
- In the Mailbag: Residency in Costa Rica and Buying a Car
- When, How, and What They Spend in the U.S.A.