Welcome to our Retire For Less In CostaRica Newsletter
In This Issue:
- Retire for Less Visits Mexico City
- Seeing Costa Rica Through the Eyes of Bird Watchers, by Tom and Carol Sykes
- Monthly Costa Rica Weather Report for San Ramón, Atenas, Nuevo Arenal, Quepos, Near San Isidro de General, & San Rafael de Heredia – May 2015
- Our Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica
- Featured Property: New, Affordable, and Comfortable Home with Beautiful Views $99K Reduced
We’re still in Mexico for the rest of month of June and are currently in Oaxaca after spending three days in Mexico City.
One of the highlights of Mexico City was the Dolores Olmedo Museum which houses the largest collection of artworks by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. It is also home to a multitude of peacocks, peahens, and their chicks who roam the expansive grounds.
And another highlight was our visit to Xochimilco, Mexico’s floating gardens.
Stay tuned for photos from the Oaxaca part of our trip!
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Vacation the Retire for Less Way!
- Retire for Less Went to Mexico!
During a recent trip to Costa Rica, and near the end of our stay at the Cabinas, we were finally able to meet and visit with Paul and Gloria Yeatman at their home in San Ramón. We had been following the Yeatman’s “Retire for Less in Costa Rica” newsletter for a few years. Realizing that the Yeatmans had lived at the Cabinas for four years, who better to seek advice prior to our impending six week stay? Gloria in particular had been very helpful answering many of our questions. It was nice to be able to put faces to familiar names!
Scanning the surrounding landscape with our binoculars from the deck of their home while calling out bird names, we were surprised when Paul informed us, “You are the first birdwatchers I’ve ever met”! Really? Paul and Gloria are not exactly the sedentary stay-at-home types, meeting and corresponding with folks from all walks of life. So it was more than a little surprising to hear Paul’s admission. Of course, we took the opportunity to fill them in on what bird watching means to the Costa Rican economy.
Costa Rica annually attracts thousands of bird watchers from all over the world. For them it’s all about the birds. Well, mostly about the birds. Let’s face it – the coffee is incredible, as well as the food. And the climate and scenery aren’t anything to sneeze at either! Along the way we have become pretty well educated as to where the best margaritas are to be had (hey, remember – it’s not ALL about the birding!)
We explained that Costa Rica boasts over 900 species of birds including 6 endemics (birds only found in Costa Rica). Beginning in 2004, we have to date, brought seven birding groups to the land of Pura Vida. We’ve traversed through the Caribbean and Pacific lowland forests and beaches, the dry forests of Guanacaste, been chilled at the top of Cerro de la Muertes, and sweltered in the Osa Pennisula. We’ve stayed in dozens of lodges, and trekked through most of the country’s national parks and nature reserves. Over a fifteen-year period, our groups have probably seen more of Costa Rica than most Ticos.
With no shortage of avian wildlife, Costa Rica has no shortage of qualified and competent bird guides. We’ve been privileged to meet many. However, for all of our birding trips we’ve relied solely upon Richard Garrigues, the author of the popular field guide, “The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide,” now in its 2nd edition. Think of Richard as “the Paul Yeatman of the Costa Rica birding world.” Not only knowledgeable about Costa Rica’s flora and fauna, Richard also knows almost every nook and cranny where to find it, and, he’s happy to share his knowledge.
Our birding tours usually last between twelve and fourteen days. To maximize our time we spend just a day or two in multiple locations, which means we move around a lot. Mainly in a coaster bus, but at times by boat and the occasional in-country plane ride. Some days can be long, beginning in the early morning hours and extending to the early evening. This is typically what most birders experience when they are on a bird tour.
Part of the charm of being at the Cabinas offered us a departure from the norm. Over a six week period, we would meet and observe our Cabinas neighborhood birds at our leisure, something we otherwise wouldn’t be able to when rushing from one eco-lodge to another.
Our human Cabina neighbors probably thought we were a bit crazy at first (some may still think so!) They rarely saw us without our binoculars as we made near daily hikes around the property. We started placing fresh papaya, pina, and bananas on two tree stumps in our yard to attract our tropical feathered friends. In no time at all, we started to field questions from our fellow Cabinas inhabitants about identifying birds. “What has brown and white feathers and sounds something like this (insert imitation of a bird call).”
Our near daily hikes around the Cabinas property tallied a wide variety of species in all manner of shapes, sizes and colors. Just to name a few: long-tailed manakin, blue-crowned motmot, Montezuma Oropendula, buff-throated saltator, four species of wrens, white-eared ground sparrow, gray-necked wood-rail, black-mandibled toucan. All in all, at the end of our six week stay, we had logged seventy-six bird species. Several of the species were photographed and or video recorded. Cesar Carrillo, the Cabinas property manager, knew there were were interesting birds on the property but even he was amazed as to the number and variety.
A few days before we left, we were invited to present a short program of our video clips and photos. It was gratifying to see how much our interest in birds had rubbed off, and how much our neighbors had been drawn into paying attention to the surrounding flora and fauna. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t been looking…but for the first time, they were now seeing. The day before we left, one of our neighbors excitedly shared his experience of placing papaya on a tree stump. Within minutes, a blue-crowned motmot landed to feed. “I’ve seen them before at a distance, but now, seeing one so close…Oh! The colors!”
We’re reminded of a quote by Aldo Leopold, American author, scientist, ecologist, forester, conservationist, and environmentalist:
“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet not captured by language.”
There are many reasons to love Costa Rica. The climate, the food, and the beaches. Just perhaps, though, some of those reasons you hadn’t been directly aware of could very well be lingering in the foliage around your home. All you have to do is take the time to observe that which is in your own backyard or park.
If we have piqued your curiosity into observing your feathered neighbors more closely, may we suggest a field guide: Richard Garrigues’s field guide will make an excellent companion. Small enough to sit on the table next to your chair. You know. The same table you use for that early morning cup of coffee or tea, or late afternoon cocktail. And perhaps you might consider acquiring a decent pair of binoculars? Both the binoculars and field guide can easily be transported as you move about your neighborhood, your town and beyond.
If you have any questions beyond this elementary article, please feel free to ask.
Tom and Carol Sykes
Monthly Costa Rica Weather Report for San Ramón, Atenas, Nuevo Arenal, Quepos, Near San Isidro de General, & San Rafael de Heredia – May 2015
You’ll notice that we now show rainfall and temperatures for six towns in Costa Rica. 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 to the right to enlarge it and check out the average rainfall for the towns in which you are interested. Remember that the areas shaded in darker blue tend to be higher in elevation and also the places most expats choose to live.
Paul’s San Ramón Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for May:
- We spent the month preparing for our trip to Mexico. We left on June 2nd.
- We ended up with 8.26 inches of rain, near the average for May, but it seemed much dryer since 47% of the rain fell on two days. There were only 10 days with precipitation, so 21 days with none.
- I like May in Costa Rica. After the dry season, the rains of May make everything pop, that is, get real green and stand tall.
- The next five months of the rainy season are an endurance contest!
- 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 May:
- The weather in May was not much different from the same month last year. On average, daytime highs were about the same.
- Overnight lows were about ½ degree warmer.
- There was a bit more rain, but still bordering on drought conditions.
- 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 May:
- This has been the rainiest May since we started keeping records in 2011: year to date rainfall has been double that of previous years.
- There has been no water shortage in the Lake Arenal area.
- 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 May:
- Another month has came and gone and the rainy season has slowly began. Everything in this area is starting later than usual according to the local people who have lived in this area there entire life. Rain fall was low and fruit producing trees and plants are late blooming. The papaya fruit in our trees just out side our front door are just now beginning to ripen.
- On a happier note, on the 21st we received our residency and got our drivers license so no more mandatory trips out of the country. On the 25th, there was a wounded warrior fundraiser at a local outdoor restaurant and bar. There were bands playing and plenty of food to eat.
- We had a couple of very hot days in May; the hottest was on the second when it reached a 102 with a heat index of 118. We hope that June will be cooler if we have rain.
- 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 Quebradas (San Isidro de General) Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for May:
- May saw only 6 days with no rain, 2 days with less than 0.1″, (.254cm), and 1 day with 2″. The total for the month was 13.6″, (34.54 cm), up a whopping 80.25% from last month! It’s nice to see trees that we thought had died all of a sudden burst out with new leaves!
- News in the Stanley household – we got a new vehicle – a 2004 Suzuki XL7. Much nicer ride than the good ol’ Geo Tracker! And, even better news, we received notice of acceptance of residency, so we are off to San Jose on June 18 to get our “official card.” Pura Vida!
Steve’s San Rafael de Heredia Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for May:
- Rainy Season — Total rainfall to date is 28.8 inches. Last year at this time it was 14.7 inches. Despite April being a record-breaking dry month at our house, May came through like a trooper, although a little below average. So despite El Niño, we are doing extremely well. As you know, most of the electricity produced in Costa Rica is hydroelectric, which is natural for a country blessed with high rainfall and lots of mountains. The rivers in Costa Rica tend to be short and steep, so when it stops raining they dry up quickly. May is a critical month – after several months of no, or very little rain, if the rains don’t begin in May then reservoirs go dry and there is no water for household, agricultural, or industrial uses, and also, no water to drive the turbines that produce electricity. I remember once in the late 1970s the rains came very late. I’m not sure when they began, but it might have been as late as July. We were living in the States at the time, and our relatives in Costa Rica told us how terrible it was. There was a national electric blackout that lasted for a month or more. ICE shut off electricity during the day, but provided it for part of the night. People had to sleep during the day and work at night. If this happened again, it would be a national disaster, however now Costa Rica has wind, geothermal, and solar electricity, which would lesson the effect somewhat.
- Farming and Gardening — Now that the rains have arrived the local farmers are planting their crops. We have one neighbor who irrigates his lettuce fields, so for him it means he can just keep on growing lettuce, but without the irrigation. I also irrigate my vegetables and some of my ornamentals in the dry season. For the vegetable garden, I’ve been using water from the fishpond. This means I have to keep the pond topped up, but I get double use of the water. I have lots of big fish in the pond, so an added benefit is that the water is loaded with nutrients for the plants. In March and April I went hog wild and planted 20 trees. I’ve been watering the trees twice a week and am very happy that I can discontinue this now.
Our San Ramón Weatherman, 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 Weatherman, 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 Weatherman, 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) Weatherman, 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. We will continue the weather info next month.
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. 3, 2014, and live in Quebradas, which is a 15 minute drive North of San Isidro de General, at an elevation of about 3600 feet. There is a stream that runs behind the hill in their back yard, so are “forced” to listen to the sound of running water 24/7. Ahh the tough life! They are totally enjoying their new found retirement freedom in this wonderful land that they discovered thanks to this newsletter.
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.
- 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
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 five 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 needsand 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
Sell:$99,000 USD (Reduced from $144K)
5 year old home with laminate flooring, tiled kitchen counter-tops, upgraded kitchen cabinets and bathroom, concrete driveway, front porch, reserve water tank. Sitting on top of a hill overlooking the mountains with incredible views. The land is planted with many different types of fruit trees. A smaller home which requires very little maintenance, perfect for a couple or a single person. Five minutes away from downtown San Ramon but in a quiet area away from noise and pollution.
Click here to check out our other properties under $150,000 and read about what to do before you buy.
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Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Gardening in Costa Rica with Steve: Meet Steve and See What He’s Growing (Video)
- Gardening in Costa Rica with Steve: Learn How to Grow Lettuce (Lechuga)
- Monthly Costa Rica Weather Report – April 2015
- Dental Tourism in Costa Rica: My Experience – Part 1, by Vikki Riggle
- Q&A: Join the Caja in Costa Rica-How, When, and How Much?
- Our 2014 Annual Cost of Living Summary