Sep 30 2015

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – September 30, 2015

Welcome to our Retire For Less In CostaRica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue:


Monthly Costa Rica Weather Report for 8 Towns in Costa Rica – August 2015

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

You’ll notice that we now show rainfall and temperatures for eight towns in Costa Rica:

  • San Ramón de Alajuela
  • Atenas
  • Nuevo Arenal
  • Quepos
  • 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.

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. Anybody interested??

You can click on the map above 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 August:

  • Due to El Niño, it’s been a little warmer — 1-2 degrees — than previous years and, for Costa Rica, El Niño means less rain (5.24″) near San Ramón, while the Caribbean slope has been especially wet this year. Historically, their dry time is September/October which is the best time to visit Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, and Manzanillo.
  • Our warmest day was August 2nd, at 81 degrees f.
  • costa-rica-map_cropped4Last year, it was pretty dry up until the end of August, and then September and October gave us quite a wallop, with 48 and 40 inches respectively. During those months, we had 2 days with 7 inches and one day with 10.5 inches which fell in a matter of hours. It’s hard to imagine that much rain in one day, isn’t it?!
  • 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 August:

  • This August, there were 18 days without measurable rain. In August 2014, there were 16 days. Not much difference. But, the actual amount of rain this year was less than ½ of that last year.
  • With regard to temperatures, average overnight lows this year were about 2 ½ degrees warmer than last year. Average daytime highs were about 2 degrees cooler than last year. I think all of this is a reflection of cloudier days and cloudier nights but with clouds which do not necessarily produce any rain.
  • HeatIndexAtenasThe upshot is that El Niño may now be having its effect in the part of the country where we live. With all of this, I cannot help mentioning that the maximum “feels like” temperature in August this year never exceeded 93.9° F, though I must admit that there were a couple of days earlier this year when it went just over 100° F.
  • 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 August:

  • In spite of the rainfall, which came in bursts mostly at night, we enjoyed our walks through the forest and even spotted a few red & blue Poison Dart Frogs, also known as “bluejean” frogs.  They are only an inch long, but their brilliant red color makes them easy to spot.


    Poison Dart Frog

  • The weather has been unusually hot this August with not as much rain as usual during the day.  Nobody is complaining, as most of the days are beautiful here with the lush year-round greenery and organic veggies growing along with the orchids!  We love our 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 August:

  • August was a busy month at the Millers. Since the article in International Living with Mary and I, we have been answering e-mails and talking to people on Skype, answering all of their questions on what it is like living in Costa Rica. That is really a hard question to answer because of the diversity in this country from weather to living style and many others. We advise people who have not been to Costa Rica to take a trip down here and explore the different areas that they think would like to live in. We also caution people about buying a house or land. Our advice is to rent for a year and travel around Costa Rica to make sure where you are living is where you want to be.
  • We are picking a lady up on the 24th and bringing her to our area since she wants to be close to the beach but the temperatures here worry her some. So after a couple of days, we are taking her inland to stay in San Isidro to try the climate there.
  • 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 August:

  • Our report this month is for a short month (the first 25 days only), as we are going on vacation.
  • We had a total of 12.6″ (32cm) of rain, with only one day of over 2″ (5.08cm) actually measuring 4.4″ (11.2cm). There were several rainy evenings, which was good for us as we like to have fires in the backyard fire-pit.
  • Temperatures were consistent, with no really windy days.
  • As mentioned above, we are gone on vacation. We will be gone for 2 months in Canada;  1 month in Alberta, where we moved from, and 1 month in Newfoundland, which is home for my wife.  When we return, we will be living in a new area — Abarrio — which is located about 3 km. NW of San Isidro de El General, at an altitude of about 800 meters, which is 200 meters lower than where we now are.  Friends of ours are building a new house on their property and will be renting it to us. Life is good. Pura Vida!

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

  • Heredia-MapRainy Season — Total rainfall-to-date is 75 inches. Last year at this time it was 59 inches. So despite all the news about less rainfall this year, at our house at least, we aren’t doing badly at all. This year’s monthly rainfall pattern continues to be a puzzle. January was the wettest I’ve ever recorded; April was the driest recorded; June and July the wettest recorded; and August the driest recorded. So five of the first eight months set records in one direction or the other. My gardener tells me, “septiembre y octubre nunca fallan” (September and October never let us down [for rain]).
  • Water Storage & Irrigation – Managing rainwater storage is based on a good understanding of monthly rainfall averages. But this year, nothing is average. Fortunately the new pond filtration systems are working well, reducing the pond’s demands for water. In the last week of August I turned on the drip irrigation system for the garden. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I’d be irrigating in August. Two miles up the mountain it’s been raining steadily, and that’s where our public water system gets its water. This is reassuring.
  • Other News – My Peace Corp reunion went well and it was good to see all those smiling faces after 47 years. The reunion was held in Portland, Oregon, so I took the opportunity to visit relatives in Seattle and Friday Harbor, Washington. On the last day before returning to Costa Rica I drove up to see Mt. St. Helens. When I was growing up I spent a couple of summers at Spirit Lake (near the base of the volcano), one summer at the YMCA camp and another at the Episcopal Church camp. Both were obliterated when the volcano erupted. I’d known Harry Truman, the old codger who lived by the lake and refused to be evacuated. He was among the 57 fatalities that fateful day in 1980. I still owe him $20 for a boat rental. At the time I’d been warned he’d have the county sheriff after me if I didn’t pay up. You win some and you lose some. However, I now live on the side of a volcano, and the thought has crossed my mind that Harry could possibly get his revenge.

Bonnie’s  San Marcos de Tarrazu Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for August:

  • SanMarcosDeTarrazuMapWe spent six nights in San Marcos de Tarrazu in September of 2013, and while we loved the area, we almost crossed it off of our list because the nights were cold. Having now lived here for six weeks, I’m finding the weather to be quite pleasant.  It only dipped down into the high 50’s on seven nights in all of August.
  • The other big surprise to me was that going into the last day of August, we had not yet reached 2 inches of rain for the month. Then the skies opened up on August 31st and delivered 1.1 inches…more than 1/3 of the rainfall for the entire month all on one day, which brought us up to a respectable, but unexpectedly low, 3 inches.
  • Alas, we achieved bragging rights over my old neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona which received 2.66 inches of rain in August. That figure is compliments of my friend, Bob Vining, who has been recording daily rainfall information at his home in Tucson for almost 25 years, and has all of that data contained in a single Excel workbook (with one worksheet per year)!

Irina’s El Cajón de Grecia Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for August:

  • ElCajonDeGreciaMapIt looks like we’re beginning to see the impacts of El Niño in El Cajón. August this year was warmer and drier than the last two years. Daytime highs averaged almost two degrees centigrade (1.7 C, or 3º F) higher than 2014.
  • Rainfall totals, both for August and year-to-date, are about 88% of 2014 levels, and 2014 was itself below-average for precipitation. September and October are the big months for rain here. We’ll soon see what El Niño has in store.
  • In August, we recorded the warmest day ever (not just for the month, but for the entire 2 1/2 years since living in el Cajón): 33.1°C (91.6°F) on August 20th.

Costa Rica Weather Report

Costa Rica weather

Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Our San Ramón Weatherguy, Paul YeatmanPaulHubPhoto

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

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.

Gordon_photo_croppedOur Quebradas (15 minutes north of San Isidro de General) Weatherguy, 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 Weatherguy, 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.

BonnieViningOur San Marcos de Tarrazu Weathergirl, Bonnie Vining

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 JustIrina-with-mariposa-at-la-P

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.

Related Articles:


Gardening in Costa Rica with Steve – What to Grow in Peak Rainy Season

Gardening in Costa Rica with Steve

People used to ask me why I was moving to Costa Rica. My answer was always: “to garden.” “Well,” someone once said, “you can garden here, and you can garden in a lot of places, why Costa Rica?” I thought about it and answered, “Because in Costa Rica I can garden twelve months out of the year.”

So I came and I gardened. Then the first September arrived. It happened to be a “La Niña” year (2010). It rained and it rained and it rained some more. My umbrella became a permanent extension of my right hand. Most of the news on TV was about houses flooding and bridges washing out. Then October arrived. It got worse. When all was said and done the combined September-October rain total was 36 inches. Maybe it was a fluke, I thought. The following September-October we got 48 inches. Oops!

The rain had swallowed my garden, and I, my pride. Now my official line is: “I moved to Costa Rica so I could garden ten months out of the year.” The safest and easiest approach to gardening in September and October is to just close up shop. Read a book, watch TV, but don’t even think about gardening. It’s kind of like January in the States – that’s when you read seed catalogs and dream about gardening. It’s not just the rain, it’s also the humidity and the lack of sun. Plants can’t take it. If they don’t die, they at least go into a coma.

Maria with our chayote harvest in South Carolina. The collie next to Maria is named (appropriately) Pumpkin. We brought Pumpkin with us to Costa Rica and he watches me garden here.

Maria with our chayote harvest in South Carolina. The collie next to Maria is named (appropriately) Pumpkin. We brought Pumpkin with us to Costa Rica and he watches me garden here.

Staying out of the garden is the advice I give to others, but if truth be known, I simply couldn’t tear myself away from the garden. I was out there with umbrella and galoshes grieving over my sick and dying plants. But more than that, I was experimenting, and (VOILA!) I came up with some solutions.

  1. Raised beds are essential
  2. A greenhouse is even better (or simply, flower pots under a roof)
  3. Fight fire with fire – begin an aquatic garden (i.e., a pond)
  4. Ayotes and chayotes and carrots (oh my). Oh, and celery too.


Ayotes (squash) and chayotes can take the rain. They can also grow in just about every climate zone in Costa Rica, from sea level to 5,000 feet elevation, or more. They are native to the Americas. When Christopher Columbus set foot on Costa Rican soil on September 18, 1502, the native Americans had already been growing them here for hundreds if not thousands of years. They are both in the cucurbit or gourd family and grow on vines. You can find both ayotes and chayotes in your local market or feria.

Ayote growing on the vine.

Ayote growing on the vine.


In the case of ayotes, buy a very ripe one and dig out the seeds before cooking the squash. Wash the seeds and allow them to sit in the sun for several days before storing in a dry place. Before planting, prepare the soil by digging a hole about three feet wide by a foot deep. Add rich top soil, wood ashes and a wheelbarrow load of well-rotted horse, cow, or chicken manure. In this mound, plant several seeds about an inch deep. After sprouting, thin them to about two or three plants. After a month or two add another half wheelbarrow of well-rotted manure.

Ayote vines travel along the ground. You might want to plant them away from the rest of the garden because one plant can take over an entire garden. Ayotes have few diseases or pests. Back in the States when I tried growing zucchinis and crook-necked yellow squash I usually had problems with stem borers. The ayote usually doesn’t have this problem because as the vine grows along the ground it sends out new roots every foot or so, so even if the borers cut off the supply of nutrients from the original roots the squash don’t suffer. You can harvest the young tender squash and prepare them like summer squash or you can harvest the mature squash and prepare them the same way you’d prepare butternut squash. Our favorite way to eat mature ayotes is in squash soup or pumpkin bread (yum). Here’s an article about growing ayotes that appeared in the Tico Times:

Chayote on the vine

Chayote on the vine


There are three kinds of chayotes, but they all (to me, anyway) taste pretty much the same – white (blanco), pale green (verde), and dark green (negro).

When looking in the market or feria for a chayote to plant try to find one that has already sprouted. Plant it half in and half out of the ground, at about a 45 degree angle, with the fat end down. Both the roots and vines come out of the fat end. Prepare the soil about the same way you’d do for ayotes.

Chayote vines like to climb so you should plant them next to a trellis or some other structure. Ticos frequently plant them along fences or hedges. We grew chayotes at our home in South Carolina and I planted them next to the woodshed, which the vines and leaves covered, completely.

Our woodshed in South Carolina covered with chayote vines.

Our woodshed in South Carolina covered with chayote vines.

Chayote, like ayote, has few pests. Squirrels like to eat the fruit and a bird species called saltators like to eat the young, tender shoots and fruits.

Ticos usually eat chayotes in soup, diced with other vegetables (picadillo), or steamed or boiled. After several years you can also dig up the taproot and boil it (raiz de chayote). It is considered a delicacy, and this is the way I like it. I’m not a big fan of chayote, but they are considered so part of the Costa Rican culture that people say, “Soy mas tico que un chayote.” That’s kind of like saying, “I’m as American as apple pie.” Here are a couple of interesting articles about chayotes:

Carrots from my garden

Carrots from my garden


Carrots and celery, both introduced to Costa Rica by Europeans, grow fairly well during peak rainy season. They like full sun and in Costa Rica will only grow well at moderate and high elevations.

Okay, so now you have four different kinds of vegetables you can grow in peak rainy season. What more could one possibly want out of life?



Buying Organic Produce in Costa Rica

We have gotten a lot of questions about the availability of organic fruits and vegetables in Costa Rica. Our short answer has been, “It’s getting better.”

organicBut now, thanks to Upward Spirals, we can give you a much more detailed answer. Their recently completed Costa Rica Organic Directory is a free collection of 60 and growing locations around Costa Rica to buy organic produce.

This directory is a collaborative work by Upward Spirals and the community of Costa Rica. It is part of Upward Spirals’ objective to strengthen and amplify the efforts of those working to build a regenerative, local, organic food system. They believe that helping people to buy healthful food strengthens communities, reduces environmental impacts, improves animal welfare, and brings integrity to our purchases and food consumption.

The Organic Directory is available for download in both English and Spanish at the following links:

For more information, please contact Upward Spirals’ co-founder, HappE Roberts, at  Thanks so much HappE for such great info!


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!


You’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.

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