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?”
- Where to Stay at Lake Arenal: Chalet Nicholas
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Visiting the Dentist
- Paul’s Monthly Weather Report
- Featured town: Puriscal
- Featured Property: Villas Galavista at Grifo Alto
- Real Estate Update
- Featured Speak Spanish Video: Spanish for Volunteers
- Featured Article: On Community Service and Integration
So, what’s up with the Yeatmans?
All of our months are busy, but this past one was a whopper!
A Long-Awaited Visit
The main event for the month was our greatly anticipated visit by my brother, Joe, and his wife, Carol. We hadn’t see each other in four years, so we couldn’t wait until they arrived. They were with us for 9 days and we barely stopped moving the entire time. They wanted to see as much of the country as possible and were also interested in learning about real estate and building practices here in Costa Rica. Both Joe and Carol have been involved in real estate in one form or another for many years. We had a relaxing dinner outside on our patio the day they arrived, but the next morning we were on our way!
We started our whirlwind tour in Puriscal, with a visit to our friends George & Aija Lundquist. Since George has been developing properties for about 8 years now, he was our go-to person for info about the home design and building process in Costa Rica. We also toured some of his lots in the Puriscal area to get a “lay of the land.” (You can read more about Puriscal in the article below.) At the end of the day, after learning a lot and enjoying a great Chinese lunch with George & Aija, Joe wondered how we were going to be able to top this day.
We spent the next day at Playa Dona Ana, where Carol got to feed bananas to the monkeys and meet some of our friends. They wanted to experience how we live, and since we go to the beach 2-3 time a month, this was a must-do. It’s a meet-up, so we never know how many people will come. Fortunately, 24 people came from San Ramon, Atenas, Playa Hermosa, Naranjo, and Puntarenas, as well as some other guests from the States, so Joe and Carol got to meet lots of other Expats.
It was a great day at the beach, with both the “red tide” and baby manta rays having moved on. We feasted on homemade Italian sausage patties cooked on the grill, topped with sweet peppers and onions.
After lunch, we headed back to San Ramon to do some errands, and then have dinner at the home of our friends Mike and Earl. They own a local real estate company and were able to give Joe and Carol great insight into how real estate works here in Costa Rica without the luxury of an MLS. We were also able to see Earl’s original artwork displayed throughout the house as he was preparing to exhibit at a local restaurant the end of the month.
On the Road Again
‘The next morning we took off for two days on the road and stopped for lunch along the way so Joe and Carol could enjoy their first casado at a roadside soda. A casado – which means “marriage” – is a typical Costa Rican lunch consisting of a little bit of everything: rice, beans, salad, fried plantain, and choice of meat. And a soda is the local name for a small restaurant, often family run, which serves typical Costa Rica food. Cost for each casado: 1,800 colones (about $3.60) and as you can see, it’s a lot of food — and a great way to ruin dinner!
Finca Luna Nueva
Our next stop was Finca Luna Nueva to give Joe and Carol a real rainforest experience. We stayed in one of their Family Bungalows which had two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a living room/office area.
But I must confess, we spent a lot of time outdoors on the covered patio, listening to the sounds of birds, insects, and later in the day, the falling rain, thunder and lightning. After all, it rains in the rainforest, right?! Carol and I took a dip in their ozonated pool before dinner, which featured fresh organic produce from the farm’s gardens.
In the morning, we all took the Farm Tour. We learned about biodynamic gardening, tasted fresh cacao in their cacao orchard, and toured the gardens, sampling herbs and plants, all grown organically.
One of our favorite things was seeing the baby pigs and learning about how they contribute to the sustainability of the farm. Our tour guide, Ishmael, was great and very knowledgeable. We learned a lot about sustainability, a topic in which we at Retire for Less in Costa Rica believe. Stay tuned for more to come in future newsletters about Finca Luna Nueva.
On to Lovely Lake Arenal
After the tour, we continued our journey, traveling to Lake Arenal. We were looking forward to staying at Chalet Nicolas near Nueva Arenal which overlooks the lake in one direction and the Arenal Volcano in another. (See “Where to Stay” below.) We also were looking forward to seeing our hosts, John and Cathy and their five Great Danes!
That evening, we introduced Joe and Carol to the Gingerbread Restaurant (which we think is one of the best restaurants in Costa Rica). The next morning, after a breakfast of fresh fruit and great macadamia nut pancakes, we went with Cathy to look at some real estate around the Lake. Cathy is also a local realtor and, despite the rain that followed us, showed us a wide range of properties including a typical Tico home, a condo in a gated community, and a recently built home with a loft and beautiful hardwoods.
We made sure we were back in San Ramon on Thursday so we could take Joe and Carol to the feria (local farmers’ market) on Friday. Carol loves
coconut water so we got her some at the feria. The vendor whacked the top off of a green coconut with a machete and inserted a straw – you can’t get any fresher than that! Unfortunately, the rain continued to follow us but didn’t dampen our spirits. [As you’ll read below in “Paul’s Monthly Weather Report,” we had 9.6″ of rain during their 9-day visit, in a month that was otherwise mostly dry!] We showed them around “our town” of San Ramon (after first stopping to buy umbrellas), visiting the Central Market, the Regional Museum, the Cruz Roja (Red Cross), and finishing up at a local grocery store to buy Costa Rican coffee for Joe and Carol to give as gifts to family and friends.
And we’re off again for one last trip!
The next morning, it was time for one more trip before Joe and Carol returned to Florida on Sunday. We had asked Joe if there was anyplace else he wanted to see or anything he wanted to do on our one free day. He’d said he wanted to see San Jose. Though we like San Jose, it’s not normally a place we recommend for tourists to see, but he still wanted to visit the capital city of Costa Rica. So off we went to spend the night at the Hotel Santa Tomas. After checking in, our first stop was Parque Morazon to listen to the Junior Symphony Orchestra perform.
Then we headed to Parque de la Cultura to watch the clowns perform and children play, and to feed the pigeons before continuing on to the museums located underneath the Parque.
We first stopped in the Numismatic Museum to learn about the history of currency in Costa Rica, dating back to the indigenous peoples. Then we visited the special exhibit dedicated to the felines of Costa Rica.
Here’s a picture of Paul wearing a Puma mask in front of the Puma informational display. And last, we toured the main attraction, the Pre-Columbian Gold Exhibits. It was a great way to learn about the history of Costa Rica. After the museums, we headed outdoors to wander the pedestrian boulevards, visiting the large Central Market, and ending up at an open-air restaurant to have dinner. The restaurant overlooked the Pedestrian Boulevard so it was a great place to people-watch, though the crowd got lighter as the rain started and umbrellas went up.
The next morning, we took Joe and Carol to the airport with, hopefully, lots of good memories and a new appreciation of this beautiful country. And as much as we loved their visit, we were happy to return home to our little cabina in the woods for a long nap!
The 2nd Gran Venta de Libros
As our lives began to return to normal, we also prepared for a big fundraiser the following Saturday, the Community Action Alliance’s second annual used book sale. (See the Featured Article below for more.) This year, over 5,000 used and new books were donated, in addition to CDs, DVDs, magazines and other educational materials, in both English and Spanish. There were also a collection of jewelry and other handicrafts available for purchase. Over $4,000 was raised, with one hundred percent of the proceeds to be distributed to the two beneficiaries: the UCR Museo Regional de San Ramón, and Hogar Para Ancianos de San Ramón, the local senior citizen’s residence.
We had lots of volunteers, many of who were local Costa Rican students in the INA English language program. The Museum director provided the entertainment, including a DJ, a guitarist, and a Marimba band from San Jose. Everyone had a great time. But perhaps the best part was the great turnout from local Tico community. Though reading to children isn’t part of the culture in Costa Rica the way it is in the United States, there were many families who came with their kids to buy books, some by the box-full. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
An Evening of Art and Good Food
We ended the month by joining our friends, Mike and Earl, along with cabina neighbors Barbara & Jim, at an exhibition of Earl’s art at the Lira Restaurant in nearby Zaragoza. Earl, who signs his paintings E Ball, was born and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia and, with his partner Mike, retired and moved to Costa Rica in 2007. Though he had never painted before, he decided to give it a try and the results have been amazing. Earl mostly paints with acrylics and he is always trying different subjects, themes, and approaches. Painting everything from scenery to animals, modern to playful pieces, and including multi-piece paintings and murals, Earl is a favorite local artist and one of our favorite people.
We also thoroughly enjoyed the Lira Restaurant. It was our first time there and we were pleasantly surprised at both the menu and the presentation of food. Though there were some typical Costa Rican dishes, the menu was creative and everything we ordered was flavorful. We look forward to going back soon.
As we mentioned in our mid-April newsletter, our cat, Tori, was bitten by a snake and was one very sick kitty. I’m happy to report that Tori’s back to her rambunctious self after recovering from the snake bite. She’s chasing geckos, climbing the curtains, jumping on our heads to wake us up at breakfast time, and basically rompin’ and stompin’ like normal. We missed her high spirits while she was sick. Here’s a short video of her lounging around in one of our storage trays:
Cooking and Baking
After our first visit to Finca Luna Nueva, and reading their Slow Food magazine, “Perezoso” (which means sloth in Spanish), I tried baking a batch of the “Sacred Seed Bread” which is featured on page 17 of their first issue. I have to say, my first effort turned out pretty well. I served it topped with roasted garlic and alongside pasta with homemade Italian sausage. Yum!
And while we’re on the subject of tasty things Italian, the following week I baked some rosemary focaccia bread. (By the way, I also use this recipe for my pizza crusts.) Here’s a photo before putting it in the oven. We were so busy enjoying the finished product, that I forgot to take an “after” picture!
After many visits to Costa Rica, John and Cathy Nicholas moved from New York to Costa Rica in 1991. They chose Arenal for it’s sacred, majestic beauty, its lush wildlife, its relaxing lifestyle, and its proximity to activities and sites such as the volcano arenal and the beaches! Chalet Nicholas has been in operation since 1992.
Suddenly, you are in a clearing, and Chalet Nicholas appears on the hilltop. You will be enchanted by the views you’ll see of Lake Arenal and Volcano Arenal.
Chalet Nicholas Costa Rica bed and breakfast borders a protected, old growth rainforest. From the backyard, guests have access to many acres of natural hiking trails, exceptional bird watching, wildlife and monkeys. Over seventy varieties of birds can be seen in the early morning or late afternoon. You can also enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Arenal and the rainforest. In the evening, you can watch the dramatic lavender sunsets and star studded skies, from a rocking chair on the front porch, read books from John and Cathy’s library, or watch a DVD about Costa Rica.
Read what others have said about this beautiful B&B:
John and Cathy Nicholas (and their resident Great Danes) have converted their hillside home into a charming bed-and-breakfast with stunning views of the lake and volcano…Birds abound: 100 species have been catalogued on the grounds.” – Fodor’s
“Cathy’s macadamia nut pancakes & fresh fruit were the most delicious breakfast of our vacation…The rooms were clean, comfortable and decorated with fresh flowers. The front porch has comfortable rocking chairs with a commanding view of Lake Arenal…Sorry to leave, it felt like we had made new friends.” – Boca Raton, FL
“John and Cathy were friendly and knowledgeable about local attractions and helped us make reservations for several activities. If you want to be off the beaten path in a relaxed and inviting setting, this is the place for you!” – Kamille, CA
It is very beautiful here. You will “come as a stranger and leave as a friend.” – Catherine and John Nicholas
Contact John and Cathy to receive more information including rates and availability, by completing and submitting the form at this link.
Generally, dentistry is a good deal in Costa Rica. In 2010, Costa Rica had 36,000 medical tourists and 51% of those were for dentistry. Most people hate to go to the dentist, but go anyway, as one of those necessary evils we endure to keep our smiles bright and healthy.
My dentist has over 14 years experience. I like her because she’s the most focused dentist I’ve ever known, and because of her level of concentration, she does good work. When she’s working on me, it’s just her eyes, her skilled hands, and my mouth. She allows for no interruptions. She has an assistant to answer the phone and hand her instruments.
Her prices are very good too. A cleaning and visual checkup are only $36. Incidentally, the dentist does the cleaning herself, while using a high powered lighted lens to see all of your dental defects. During my cleaning, she found two cavities, and next visit, filled them with resin for $40 each. Her office is humble, with few outer frills as a dental office might have in the States. Nothing fancy here.
She’s busy too. She’s got lots of clients and that made me feel good. We received recommendations from two different Ticos before we went to see her for the first time. We discussed X-Rays for next time, and she quoted $24 for bite-wings and $30 for panoramic X-Rays. She also does Zoom whitening, which I may do in the future.
On my last visit, I spent 30 minutes in the dental chair. She did a little work on some small cracks, inspected my teeth, determined I didn’t need to come back for six months, and charged me $0. I figured her time and expertise were worth something. I even asked her “What do I owe you?” and she said, “Nothing.” It didn’t seem fair, but I’m not complaining.
Paul’s Monthly Weather “Report” – April 2012 Data
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. Normally, April is a relatively dry month, with about 2 inches of rain. But this year was an exception, with April exceeding the normal rainfall for May, June, or July of 8 inches per month.
Here’s the trend over the last six months:
- October 2011: 35 inches (normal 13-15 inches)
- November 2011: 5 inches
- December 2011: 2 inches
- January 2012: 0 inches
- February 2012: 0 inches
- March 2012: 0 inches
- April 2012: 11.9 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.
Rain Data from April 1st to April 30th (30 days)
- 11.9 inches of total rainfall
- 4 days measured trace amounts of rain
- 16 days with zero rainfall
- 6am average: 62.5°f (lowest reading was 58°f on 1 day, highest reading was 65°f on 1 day)
- Mid-day average: 76.1°f (high of 81°f on 2 days & low of 70°f on 1 day)
- 6pm average: 65.7°f (lowest reading was 62°f on 1 day and highest was 68°f on 1 day)
That’s it for this report. We’ll continue the weather info next month.
Puriscal is a canton (county) within San Jose province. Its heart and capital is Santiago de Puriscal, a mountain town about an hour west (41 km.) of San Jose. The population of the canton of Puriscal is 41,000 and it is composed of nine districts:
Puriscal is known for its “perfect climate.” The average altitude is 3,600 feet, and the average temperature is 70°f, plus or minus 10°f . It tends to have a longer green season and less wind than many other locations.
The canton is also known for its coffee and tobacco farms. In fact, Santiago de Puriscal gained fame for its cigar manufacturing and coffee production. The mountains in this area are beautiful but, though you might not notice, it is one of the areas most affected by deforestation.
Puriscal has its own public hospital and many excellent doctors and dentists. It is also only 45 minutes via good paved roads to La Cima private Hospital and Escazu. There is also comfortable, frequent express bus service to San Jose for $1.75 each way.
Puriscal has several excellent restaurants, including a good Chinese restaurant (the only one in CR with toasted rice plates). And it’s only 1 1/4 hours on good paved road to Pacific beaches with monkeys. Most daily food and household products are available in local pulperias or larger stores in Santiago.
Puriscal offers a lot of options for Expats looking to relocate, with rentals ($300-$900 per month), homes for sale, and new home construction, some with big Central Valley and/or Gulf of Nicoya views. High speed Internet is available everywhere. There are about 200 Expats from many backgrounds and interests already living in Puriscal. This is a low crime area and the police are generally very helpful and friendly.
I chose Puriscal for my permanent home two years ago. I first lived in Grecia for a year to see how I liked living in Costa Rica. I looked in the Grecia area and San Ramon and in between before deciding on Puriscal. Every place in Costa Rica has microclimates and wonderful views, so you can find your perfect spot almost anywhere. I am in the little community of Bajo Campos, at 3,500 ft, near Barbacoas, outside of Puriscal, and the climate for me is just right, cool nights, days in the 70’s, seldom in the low 80’s, and not in a cloud forest.
The expat community here is very friendly, and we have yoga, bridge and poker groups, as well as friends that meet for lunch, dinner or drinks in several restaurants. We have parties for any occasion at people’s homes, and groups of ladies that meet for lunch in town, or shopping down the mountain. Puriscal is a smaller town than some, and I can park in one spot and do most of my errands by walking, and I feel very safe in town as well as my neighborhood. Most places I shop know me by name, and will go out of their way trying to help. I love the small town feel here, and the politeness of everyone, I have had strangers put their umbrella over me and walk me to my car. I think that’s what makes this place…..the people!”
Read our other featured town articles:
Spectacular views of the Central Valley, Potenciana Mountains, and/or the Gulf of Nicoya.
Building lots available starting at $45,000.
Two bedroom, two bath house with laundry room, large great room, hot water from state-of-the-art solar water heater and PEX water tubing and distribution system comes in at $150,000.
Water and electric hookup and price of lot included.
Solid construction with “Baldosa” factory cement panel system with lots of tempered, reflective, smoked glass.
High speed Internet available.
Located only a 300 meter walk into the little town of Grifo Alto for most basic supplies.
First spec house sold quickly in November 2011. Second spec house will be started shortly.
We have added more properties to our Real Estate $150K & Under section.
Though we recommend you rent, rent, rent when you move to Costa Rica, we realize that some folks will still choose to buy, either early on or after they’ve been here for a while. Though we are not realtors, we recommend purchasing properties under $150,000 because they are both easier to buy and easier to sell.
At RetireForLessInCostaRica.com, we often run across real estate opportunities that fall within our “Retire for Less Philosophy” — in other words, properties that offer more value for less. So, we will bring you homes for sale that are $150,000 or less, and lots that would allow a modest house to be built on it for about the same price. Of course, upgrades will always cost more and are at the buyer’s discretion.
The properties we show you will be at elevations where neither heat nor air-conditioning are needed — part of our “retire for less philosophy” — so most likely no beach properties. We’ve started with a few properties but there will be more to come!
We will feature properties regardless of the realtor or builder involved. Our disclaimer is that we cannot personally vouch for the individual properties; we are merely passing on what we see as good values under $150,000. If you are interested in more information about any of the properties, you can contact the realtor, owner, or developer directly by filling out the contact form below each property listing.
Featured Speak Spanish Video: Spanish for Volunteers
Featured Article: On Community Service and Integration – Community Events as a Vehicle for Integration
by Mike Styles
As a community group composed primarily of ex-pats and dedicated to volunteerism and service we have learned much about community and integration. One of avenues we have found to be most successful in helping the ex-pat population truly integrate into our community of San Ramón has been the production of fundraising events that are of interest and value to the community at large.
Perhaps the best way to demonstrate this process of integration is by looking at our recent Gran Venta de Libros (book sale); our second in the past six months. Yes, it is a book sale: how hard can that be? Well it does involve a LOT of work however the fact that it is something we know how to do is by definition one of the reasons for its success. Another is the fact that “reading” is an act that is universally accepted as good for the community: it is not controversial and Gringos do not own the right or the patent on reading. Yet another reason for success, and this is the key, is the number of groups and institutions we are involved with to ensure the success of the event.
On this latter point we generally start with a venue. In the past there has been quite a bit of internal “discussion” about where to host an event however we have learned that well known, centrally located venues are best. In the case of the book sale we produced the event at the Museo Regional, a gorgeous historic building located adjacent to the Central Park in the heart of San Ramón. We have worked with the museum on multiple occasions and they have executed perfectly and we both support one another’s organizations.
The next major decision is who to designate as the beneficiaries for the fundraiser: we selected two for our past book sale; the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) and Dogland Animal Rescue Center. This is one of the opportunities for true integration to take place. Since we have a relationship with the Museum and are discussing joint initiatives such as English-language Conversation Groups we designated them as one of the beneficiaries: collaboration and integration for the recent book sale.
With the second beneficiary we wanted to spread our wings and create a new relationship. We had consistently been hearing about the great work and the needs of the Hogar Para Ancianos (Senior Center) and designated them as our second charity. A group of us toured the facility with the executive director and have a better understanding of their needs. We also met with their board of directors and together will select how best to use the funds. Ideally, this will involve volunteers from the Community Action Alliance so our members can get personally involved with the Hogar: this is crucial.
The next step is the solicitation of used books and other educational materials. This involves going door to door and speaking with business owners and organizational leaders requesting that they allow us to use their location as a drop-off point; which we in turn will market. For the book sale we used over ten well established and targeted drop-off points. This grass roots type of effort really embeds the event in the community.
Then comes the marketing. We start with a poster and flyer. We have a graphic designer who does an excellent job with the creative and then plaster the town with both the poster and flyer: more grass roots marketing. We distribute the flyer on foot and electronically; the latter working through organizations that we ask to distribute to their members. One of the other purposes of the event artwork is to use it as a tool to market the event to other organizations of which we are requesting support. An attractive, effective poster is a great tool to establish credibility and generate interest.
Then the real marketing begins. One of the things we are proud to say we have learned is how to market to the local community. In San Ramón, in addition to the grass roots marketing, radio and social networking are crucial. You need a voice and radio is the way to literally put a voice behind the event. Our local station, Radio Sideral, provides us with PSAs and will conduct multiple interviews. The latter are wonderful as this is not just about raising funds but also raising awareness. The interviews allow us to bring in our beneficiaries and have them talk about their respective operations. We conduct separate interviews for each beneficiary starting two weeks in front of the event and then a final one the day before the event with the venue director as a last minute reminder.
Social networking, largely through Facebook, is the best way to create a “buzz” about the event. San Ramón has many sites with a lot of Friends and Likes and posting on these sites is both easy and effective. We have established a list of sites that we post on and designated individuals who have credibility on those sites to do the actual postings. This strategy alone can reach tens of thousands of people.
The publicity cars which creep through the downtown area bellowing what most Gringos consider to be “noise pollution” are actually very effective, particularly as a last minute reminder. Something new we are trying for this event is using people from the local Hogar Crea drug rehabilitation facility to distribute flyers. We expect this to really get people’s attention since this is a non-traditional showing of support: most times the Hogar Crea folks are selling pens (or similar items) or simply requesting donations. We’re paying them to distribute flyers for a worthwhile community event.
In addition to these channels we use local newspapers, English-language media, and institutional support. The latter requires the establishment of credible, mutually-beneficial relationships. These take time. Over that time you learn who is capable of doing what; some organizations are more nimble and more effective at “partnering” on projects. We know those organizations and rely on them, as they rely on us. We do however also contact the appropriate authorities out of respect and for the sake of good communication; the latter of which all of us can do better.
Reflecting on this process you can see that we literally are in touch with hundreds of organizations; some more than others depending on the event. This requires the full participation of our own organization and thankfully our experience has shown that there is usually a high level of interest and participation in fundraising events: people get excited and involved.
Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube
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