Jul 24 2015

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – July 24, 2015

Welcome to our Retire For Less In CostaRica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

 In This Issue:


Monthly Costa Rica Weather Report for San Ramón, Atenas, Nuevo Arenal, Quepos, Near San Isidro de General, & San Rafael de Heredia – June 2015

Costa Rica rain map

Click to enlarge.

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.

Do you track the weather data for your town in Costa Rica? If so, we’d like to talk to you about including it in our monthly report. We would especially like to add weather reports from Grecia and Puriscal. Anybody interested??

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 June:

  • June was a little short on rainfall for our area, but close to the average.
  • Costa Rica’s “little summer,” the veranillo, begins in late June, so generally, July has a little dip in rainfall. We’ll see in next month’s weather report if it’s true this year.
  • June nights were warmer than usual.
  • Gloria and I were gone for four weeks in June for our annual visit to Mexico. You can read about it here. However, our house-sitter, Bill, kept great records. Thanks Bill!
  • From what we observed, Mexico is about 20-30% cheaper than Costa Rica.
  • Our rent in Costa Rica is $500/month, admittedly a good deal, and furnished too. One might be able to replicate it in Mexico.
  • costa-rica-map_cropped4Total 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 June:

  • June was remarkable primarily because the total rainfall was less than half that of last year (5.3″ as opposed to 10.8″).
  • On several days, cloud cover would linger on for a many hours – but nary a drop of rain.
  • Otherwise, overnight lows averaged about 3° warmer and daytime highs averaged about 3° cooler than June last year. The differing averages are consistent with more cloud cover.
  • 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 June:

  • At the beginning of June, a pair of golden-hooded tanagers began building a nest within a cluster of orchid plants on a palm tree, only a few feet from our front porch. We watched the parents bringing building materials daily. Towards the end of the month, we were rewarded when we saw a baby bird accepting food from the beaks of its parents.
  • We’ve had a total of 106.71 inches of rain in the first six months of 2015.
  • 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 June:

  • It was a hotter than usual in June with a high of 101 before the heat index, and 116 after the heat index but was countered by a day of 87 for the high.
  • The article written in International Living by Jason Holland has brought Mary and I several contacts from folks in the States about living in Costa Rica and if they could visit to see if it might be right for them.
  • We have been busy with PAWS foster puppies and helping folks who are unable to pay for vet visits with there pets.
  • We have had a fair amount of rain but are still short of where we should be for this time of year.
  • Map_Quepos_SanIsidro2014 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 June:

  • June saw 6 days with no rain and 3 days with less than 0.1″/0.254 cm. Total rain fall was down from last month, “falling in” at 11.35″/28.8 cm compared to 13.6″/34.5 cm.
  • We have had only several evenings of rain, with the rest being in the afternoon only.
  • You might say we started the month out with a bang – the statue of Jesus which has stood on a high point 4 miles North of the city was struck by lightning June 2
    and destroyed. It was placed there 36 years ago when a war was raging between Nicaragua and El Salvador, as a beacon of peace and hope for the world.
  • June also saw us become official card carrying residents! No more border runs to stay legal – YEAH!
  • Life is good in San Isidro del General! We love the consistency of pleasant temperatures and mild breezes. Pura Vida!

Steve’s San Rafael de Heredia Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for June:

  • Rainy Season — Total rainfall to date is 52.8 inches. Last year at this time it was 27.4 inches. So, so far this year we’ve received almost double last year. Now in my sixth year of recording weather data I thought I’d pretty much figured things out. Not so. January was our wettest on record, April our driest on record (by a long shot), and now June is our wettest on record (more than twice the average). Until now every month with twenty or more inches has been in August, September, or October. It was so rainy in June we now have tiny crustaceans (they look like little shrimp) that live in the lawn. Heredia-Map
  • The Pond and Our Water Storage Tanks – With 24 inches of rain we’ve obviously filled up or water storage tanks several times over (they hold 4,900 gallons). I’ve been pumping the excess water into the pond. From there the water runs into an overflow basin where it is absorbed into the ground. For the first time since December the water in the pond has been clear, in part due to the water from the storage tanks and in part due to an improved water filtration system. I’ve redesigned the original system in order to make it easier to clean. The old system worked well, but needed cleaning twice a week and due to a poor design it was an inordinate amount of work. I’ve also added a second filtration system that I ordered from the States. It wasn’t cheap, but it does a good job and is easy to clean.
  • El Niño – NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) reported a few months ago that an El Niño had begun, a late one and a weak one, but still an El Niño. Now NOAA reports it is continuing to build, has reached the normal stage, and they’re predicting it has the potential to be as big or bigger than the record-breaking 97/98 El Niño. It could cause more than usual hurricanes off the west coast of Mexico and heavy rains in California next winter. But the report I saw said nothing about its effect on Central America. I visited Costa Rica in 1998 during the record-breaking El Niño. It was hot and dry. My weather data so far this year shows higher than normal rain. We shall see what happens.

Costa Rica Weather Report

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PaulHubPhotoOur 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

LanceM2I 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_photo_croppedOur Quebradas (15 minutes north of San Isidro de General) Weatherman, Gordon Stanley

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.

SteveJohnsonOur San Rafael de Heredia Weatherman, Steve Johnson

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.

Related Articles:


Gardening with Steve – Growing Tomatoes: Tips and Tricks

GardeningWithSteve_smAlthough tomatoes are a favorite among gardeners, they can be tricky to grow, especially if you’re averse to using pesticides. You can be pretty sure the ones you see in the supermarket have been doused in toxic substances multiple times during their short lifetime. But hey, one of the pleasures of home gardening is to have fresh, pesticide-free vegetables.

I’ve grown tomatoes in various places with different climates and soil conditions, including the hot steamy lowlands along the Costa Rican-Panamanian border, the cool highlands of Costa Rica, Connecticut, and South Carolina. In each place I’ve had to relearn how to grow them. Connecticut, by the way, was the best place, in my experience.

When growing tomatoes remember these basics:

  1. Tomato plants like lots of sunSummerSun1
  2. Tomato plants are heavy feeders, so you will need to fertilize them several times
  3. Most tomato plants are vining varieties, so you will need to provide some kind of structure for them to climb on
  4. In Costa Rica, most tomato varieties grow best at middle elevations, say between 2,000 and 4,000 feet.

Following are some tips and tricks for growing tomatoes. If you know some tomato secrets, feel free to share them with the rest of us.


For years I knew Epsom salts were good for soaking sore feet, but I had no idea they were useful in the garden. The scientific name for Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate. In Costa Rica it is called sal Inglaterra. Why sal Inglaterra? sal-Inglaterra-0Well, the city of Epsom is located in England, so the name in Spanish makes sense. Sal Inglaterra is sold in small packets at most pharmacies. Magnesium sulfate is highly soluble in water, so in climates with heavy rainfall (such as Costa Rica) it tends to leach out of the soil quickly. Plants need only teeny tiny amounts of magnesium, so in most climates it is not a problem, but if your soil lacks magnesium, then plants can become sick and unproductive. Tomato plants lacking magnesium develop blossom end rot. I mix Epsom salt in a watering can at the rate of about one tablespoon per plant and water my tomato plants with it about every three weeks. Here is a link to using Epsom salt in your garden: http://www.saltworks.us/gardening-with-epsom-salt.asp  Lack of calcium also contributes to blossom end rot. I recently discovered a product at our local agricultural co-op that contains high amounts of both magnesium and calcium. It is called Surco Mejorador. Unfortunately it is only sold in 50-pound sacks. I bought one and use it on everything in the garden. Here is a link to blossom end rot: http://bonnieplants.com/library/conquer-blossom-end-rot/


hay-mulchI use hay mulch around my tomato plants in the dry season. In Costa Rica, a bale of hay is called a paca. As you have driven around the countryside you may have noticed signs that say PACAS or SE VENDEN PACAS. Now you know what it means. Buy a couple of bales. Using mulch around your plants keeps down weeds and helps retain soil moisture, very important in the dry season. Uneven levels of soil moisture during the growing season is another contributor to blossom end rot. Also, mulch helps prevent fusarium wilt, a fungal disease very common in tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. The fungus is in the soil and is transmitted to the plant when leaves touch the ground or when soil is splashed up onto the plant during rainstorms. Pruning the lower leaves and branches also helps prevent fusarium wilt. Here is a link to tomato diseases and how to prevent them: http://www.tomatodirt.com/fusarium-wilt.html.


Roma tomatoes from my garden

Roma tomatoes from my garden

Those big fat juicy tomato varieties are wonderful, but more difficult to grow than smaller varieties. I don’t know why, but it seems to be true. So I generally grow roma varieties. Although romas are regarded as cooking tomatoes, when they’re fresh from the garden we’ve found them to be wonderful in salads and sliced on sandwiches.


Who woulda thunk it – aspirin for tomatoes? Some people say it aids the plant in fending off diseases. Mix one regular strength aspirin in one gallon of water, add a dash of liquid dish soap and spray it on you tomato plants every two to three weeks. Who knew? Has anyone tried this? Here’s a link: http://thegardenersrake.com/gardening-tip-give-your-tomato-plants-an-aspirin 


prune-tomato-plantLast but not least, here is some advice from reader Salli Skinner-Meacham: “I had a lot of leaves/branches on my plants and wondered if they really needed all of those. Internet research brought me to a website from a Polish son/grandson relating how to get more tomatoes from the plants. The upshot is: take all the bottom leaves off the plant and only leave the top three. If the leaf is bent down to the main stem it will snap and then with a little twist come right off.  I have cut some off that didn’t want to break, but as close to the stem as I can get. This allows the plant to get more air/oxygen/sun. Tomatoes will then grow from the stem.  It does work. I went out and sheared a lot of my tomato plants & then kept track of them to see what would happen.  New buds came out of the stem. Amazing. I will continue this practice with tomato growing. The plant looks a little naked but it just took me awhile to get used to it.”



In the Mailbag – A Gardening Question

A reader asks,

Hi there, I found your excellent blog on gardening here, and we have pretty much the exact same issues with soil in Atenas. I’ve been trying to find top soil by the yard or truckload, but no luck. Do you by chance know anyone who can supply good pesticide free topsoil?
Thanks in advance,
And here is Steve’s response:
Hi Dylan,
I would ask around at the viveros. That’s how I found mine. I think the charge was 50,000 colones for 6-8 cubic meters. It was well worth the investment. The viveros won’t have that much, but if they’re on the ball they will contact their topsoil supplier for you. I would start with a vivero where you have occasionally bought things and they know you. Vivero Prosesa in La Garita would be a good one to try. I’ve bought from several sources and the quality of the soil always varies. Good luck.

Related Articles:


Our Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica

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 HCTOUR_030arranged 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.” HCTOUR_008

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.

Sample Itinerary

You’ll visit:

  • At least two private hospitals in San Jose area
  • Hospital Mexico, the largest and best public hospital (they even do open heart surgeries there)HospitalMexico
  • 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!

EBAISStaffYou’ll learn:

  • 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.

Related Articles:


Featured Property: Small House in Great Location on Corner Lot in Grecia-$125K


Property ID Number: 6357

Price: $125,000 USD
Geographic Area: Grecia and Naranjo areas
Neighborhood: Grecia
Meters Squared or Hectares: 593.88
Year Built: 2007
Construction (sq. ft.): 645
Bedrooms: 1
Full Baths: 1
Located in a quiet area of Grecia only 10 minutes to downtown, this is a great home with lots of room for expansion.

The house was built to have a second floor, or to become a guest house, or garage if new owners want to build a main house on the land above.

This corner lot has been landscaped with lots of fruit trees and tropical plants. It has a nature area adjacent to the property to ensure lots of birds and privacy. The building area above features views of the Poas volcano, downtown Grecia, and Sarchi to the west. It has a septic tank and electric at the building area.

The house that is there was built by a US architect and is made of steel and cement blocks. It was built to be a vacation home or to be added onto. It could easily be converted into the garage if you choose to build another home.

The location is what makes this place so special. In a quiet area, walking distance to the farmers market of Grecia and downtown. Nearby you will find bike trails, the Poas volcano, rainforest and the international airport is only 25 minutes away.

This is an affordable property in one of the most desirable areas of Costa Rica.

Click here for more photos and information and to contact the realtor for this property.

Click here to check out our other properties under $150,000 and read about what to do before you buy.


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