Apr 15 2015

Retire for Less Newsletter – April 15, 2015

Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue:





Great News for Potential Investors in Costa Rican Certificates of Deposit!

CoopenaeInsideMany of you have asked us for information about our investments in Certificates of Deposit (CD). Until now, the bad news has been that you must be a legal resident of Costa Rica in order to open a bank account of any kind in Costa Rica; in fact, you needed to have your actual cédula (residency card).  But we are happy to report that things are changing, at least at “our” credit union, Coopenae, when it come to opening a CD.

We just got word that it is now possible to become a Member and invest in a CD at Coopenae with your valid passport and some additional documentation. Here is the info supplied to us by Asdrúbal Zamora, Coopenae’s National Executive of Expats:

Requirements to open a “certificate of deposit” in Coopenae if you have a valid passport but not a residency card (cédula):

  • Full copy of your current valid passport.passport
  • A copy of one utility bill (water, electricity, tv or internet) from your current address in Costa Rica (it does not necessarily have to be in your name).
  • Documentation of your source of funds (social security, contract of sale of a home or property, business, or the like).
  • Two bank statements from last 6 months from your major banks (you can download them by internet).
  • One bank reference (just that you have an account and that you are doing well with it).
  • Your profile (just 1 page), including:
    • a brief history of your profession and what you did in your home country
    • where you lived and worked
    • when you moved to Costa Rica
    • identification of your bank(s) in your home country
    • whether you are married or single
    • what you are currently doing
  • A notarized certification from your Attorney or CPA about all your income, translated into Spanish. (Note from RFL: We have gotten documents notarized at the U.S. Embassy.)
  • Copy of identification (passport or residency card) of beneficiaries.


  • It is required to show, somehow, that the investor has roots in Costa Rica (a property, a house, a car, a business, lives here, etc.)
  • Certificates of deposit (CDs) must be done for at least 1 year and cannot be canceled or cashed out in advance.
  • You must have been living in Costa Rica for at least 3 months, not necessarily consecutively.
  • By Costa Rica law, the Member cannot do local internet transactions; to do internet transactions, a residency card is required.
  • With your passport, you are only allowed to open certificates of deposit.
  • The interest from CDs are not taxable in Costa Rica.
  • If your legal residency is pending, also submit a copy of your application for C.R. residency from the immigration office, though this is not a requirement.

Asdrúbal Zamora points out that CD interest rates are higher in Coopenae than regular Banks in Costa Rica and, of course, higher than most U.S. and European options today. Also, the majority of Coopenae´s loan portfolio is placed with government employees, from which they get monthly payments directly from paychecks; this is very important to you because makes the business very safe and stable. Mr. Zamora comments that “Coopenae has an awsome credit default rate (less than 1% during last decade) and liquidity.”

Your first point of contact:Adstrubel

Asdrúbal Zamora, National Executive of Expats
Cell Phone (+506) 8811-1602
Corporate Email: azamora@asesorcoopenae.fi.cr



Related Articles:


Gardening with Steve – Soil Solutions

by Steve Johnson

GardeningWithSteve_smAs mentioned in the last article, when I arrived here in Costa Rica in 2009 I was confronted by an array of problems. I had to come up with a solution for each and every one because each was serious enough to negate my entire effort (with the exception of #1 below). In other words, it was going to be “game over.“

Here is a list of the problems and their solutions:

  1. Constant heavy rain in September and October – Solution: don’t garden during those months
  2. African star grass – Solution: smother it with black plastic
  3. High winds – Solution: construct wind breaks and plant trees

    Our first raised beds. We used leftover wooden concrete forms from the house construction.

    Our first raised beds. We used leftover wooden concrete forms from the house construction.

  4. High annual rainfall – Solution: plant the vegetable garden in raised beds
  5. Dogs – Solution: build a fence
  6. Terrible soil (a combination of clay mixed with construction rubble) – Solution: dig up the “soil,” THROW IT AWAY, and start over using (A) good topsoil and (B) begin improving the soil using compost and other material


One thing I’ve learned over the years is the absolute necessity of good soil. I can’t emphasize this enough. If all other conditions are perfect, but you have lousy soil, you might as well pack your bags and go home. And, I’ve discovered, many people really don’t know what good soil is, and couldn’t tell the difference between good and bad soil. To them, dirt is dirt.

High clay content is usually the problem. Plants need loose soil, full of organic material, so they can extend their roots out as far as possible in order to soak up as much water and as many nutrients as possible. Also, plants breathe through their roots. Clay prevents plants from doing both these things. It’s really quite simple; poor nutrition

After squeezing -- clay on the left; normal topsoil on the right.

After squeezing — clay on the left; normal topsoil on the right.

means a non-productive plant; roots that can’t breathe means a dead plant.

Here are a few tests to check the clay content:

  1. If the soil has a reddish – orangish color, it probably has a lot of clay in it.
  2. In the dry season, try pushing a spade into the soil, if it won’t go in, you might have high clay content.
  3. In the wet season, push a spade into the soil, scoop some up and try to dump it out. If a lot of it sticks to the spade, it probably has lots of clay in it.
  4. Wet your soil, scoop up some with your hand and squeeze it. When you release it, if it sticks together in a solid mass it’s probably clay. Another way is to roll some of the soil into a ball. If it has high clay content, you can make a pretty good ball. Good, loose soil with high organic content cannot be rolled into a ball.

If you should have high clay content, you don’t have to come up with a solution as radical as mine (i.e., dump it and begin from scratch). You can work with it, incorporating beneficial material and improve it gradually over the years. I did actually keep some of my clay. Clay tends to be fertile, but it’s the structure of it that doesn’t allow plant roots to grow and breathe.

Here is a list of things I incorporated into my soil:

Removing the top four or five inches of clay before adding soil amendments.

Removing the top four or five inches of clay before adding soil amendments.

  • Topsoil (tierra negra or tierra de cafetal)
  • Construction sand (arena fina)
  • Rice hulls (granza)
  • Compost (compos)
  • Horse, cow and chicken manure (estíercol de caballo, vaca, and cuita de gallina)
  • Charcoal (carbón)
  • Wood ash (ceniza)
  • Earth worm castings (compos de lombriz or lombri-suelo)

You can purchase topsoil, rice hulls, and charcoal at good nurseries. EPA and good plant nurseries carry worm castings (you can also make it yourself). I wanted quantities by the truckload, so I had to ask around.  Sand, of course, you can get at building supply stores.

I could expand ad infinitum on these recommendations for improving your soil, but let’s just regard this as a crash course on soil improvement.

As for Costa Rica’s wonderful volcanic soil, that is somewhat of a myth. Most of Costa Rica does not have volcanic soil. True, the area around Cartago and Turrialba is famous for its rich volcanic soil. Where we live, on the side of Cerro Chompipe in the Cordillera Central, there hasn’t been a major volcanic eruption for at least 250,000 years. With an average annual rainfall of over 100 inches, you can imagine the effect that has had on the volcanic soil.

In the next article we’ll begin to discuss growing individual types of fruits and vegetables.

Related Articles:


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

Click to enlarge.

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 March:

  • March and April are the warmest months on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.
  • The town of San Ramon, just 10 minutes away by car, sits at 3450 ft. elevation. It is usually warmer in town than at our 3,000 ft. elevation mountainside home.
  • The winds have abated somewhat, but are still fierce at times, with gusts over 50 mph.
  • We like the climate in San Ramon and made it one of the major reasons we still choose San Ramon.
  • Our closest beach, Playa Doña Ana, is less than an hour away from where we live, and temps there commonly hit 95-100 in March and April.
  • Gloria & I still use the Caja as much as possible.
  • 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 March:

  • As in past years, March has been characterized by comfortably cool morning temperatures (which may require a sweater or jacket) and comfortably warm daytime high temperatures. But, be aware that daytime high temperatures can seem exceedingly hot (and not at all “comfortably warm”) if you choose to expose yourself to the direct rays of the sun. This is because you are exposing yourself to radiant heat directly from the sun as well as convection heat absorbed by the air. Radiant heat can result in painfull sunburns or worse. All that you might hear about temperatures from the weather guy or gal on radio or TV, or current conditions or forecasts that you might read on the Internet, is largely based upon convection heat temperatures without any regard to radiant heat.
  • In Vista Atenas, there was absolutely no rain, not even a dribble, during the month of March. As is historically usual in March, daytime humidities were quite low. In fact, the humidities were so low this March that the “feels like” high temperature was higher than the actual air temperature on only one day. Of course, these were convection heat temperatures.
  • 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 March:

  • We had two weeks of pure sunshine and no rain this month. Summer is finally here!
  • With all the weather changes, we just live day by day and appreciate the beautiful tropical environment any time of year.
  • Lake Arenal is special, with the Volcano, Lake, Continental Divide and Forests – plus friendly community….a very happy environment for both Ex-Pats and Ticos.
  • 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 March:

  • The weather in March was a little steamy. Days in the nineties and nights in the high sixties/low seventies. The hottest day was on the 28th when the daytime temperature reached a high of 99 degrees with a heat index of 113 degrees. It has everyone here wishing for the start of the rainy season to break the high temperatures we have been having.
  • Most of the people head indoors after about 10 in the morning and come back out in late afternoon when it begins to cool off. You have to tip your hat to those workers who have to brave the heat and continue to work outside.
  • All I can say it is really great to be retired and living in always warm Costa Rica.
  • 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 March:

  • The rainy season is on it’s way! March saw 10 days of rain, with 3 days of no measurable amount. Total rainfall was 7.25″, (18.41 cm) with one day of over 2″ (5.1 cm) . The rain was good to see as it got rid of the dusty roads, but I know I’ll be singing a different tune this October/November!
  • We have started to see a return of some rainy season birds, so that’s just more confirmation of what there is to come. The other day we had a Toucan smack into our living room window …… almost made the whole house shake! He lay there for a few minutes to catch is breath, (and probably wait for his head to stop spinning), then took off again. I imagine he had a sore beak for a while after that! Sometimes
    it isn’t easy being a bird!
  • Our landlord was here last month, (he spends his Canadian winters in Panama) and we got the go ahead to repaint the inside of the house with mold resistant paint, (which he is paying for) so you can guess what we’ve been up to for the last week and a half! As I am allergic to penicillin, I am careful when it comes to mold! And the good news is that over half the house is now done, walls and baseboards. Too bad is isn’t a one-coat-covers paint, but hey, if that is the only down side to living in this great country, life is still pretty fantastic. Pura Vida!

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

  • Total rainfall to date is 17.4 inches. Last year at this time it was 3.8 inches. This is a huge difference. As mentioned in last month’s report, in March of 2014 the river that provides our water went dry. It was no joking matter. The water company sent several trucks up the mountain each day to fill the water tank for our neighborhood. No water reached our house during the day and at night there was just a trickle. Fortunately we have a storage tank and pump and the trickle was enough to keep our tank full. Our neighbors across the road, however, had no such tank, so we welcomed them into our home to use the bathroom facilities. This lasted for about three weeks.


  • During March (actually, since mid-November) we were under the influence of the trade winds, a high pressure system. Our veranda looks toward San Jose and the mountains south of it. Around mid-March we began to notice a line of white, puffy clouds south of the mountains. These were the leading edge of the ITCZ (Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, formerly known as the doldrums, a low pressure system). At this time of year the weather bands that circle the earth are slowly migrating northward, so we should soon be under the influence of the ITCZ, which means less winds and the arrival of the rainy season. There are usually a few weeks in March when the winds die down and the rains have not yet arrived. The Ticos call this brief period las calmas de marzo (the March calms). Las calmas arrived about ten days ago. The trade winds are back now, but just like spring up in the US, the weather goes back and forth a bit before the new weather system arrives and takes over.
  • April and November are our two favorite months in Costa Rica. When folks come from the States to visit, we recommend these times. From December through March we have strong winds mixed with rain. In April, the wind dies down (ahem, usually) and we begin to get a few heavy rainstorms coming from the west. Everything is green, the weather is pleasant, and it is also low season for tourism (at least it is right after Easter), meaning lower airfares, lower hotel rates, and less congestion and hassle. In November the rain slacks off quite bit and we begin to recover emotionally from our previous two months of monsoon weather.

Click to Enlarge.



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

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:


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:

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