Feb 15 2014

Retire for Less Newsletter – February 15, 2014

Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!

Gloria, Paul, & “Machito” – Yes, that’s a MONKEY on my head!


In This Issue:


Our January 2014 Costa Rica Cost of Living

We started the new year right on track as far as our expenses go, spending a total of $1,826.71 in January. And we track everything — tips to the parking guys, the coca cola at the little market up the street, and every toll we pay along the highways. It was difficult tracking everything at first, but now we’re used to it. It’s just part of what we do on a regular basis.

We fell well within our goal of $2,000 per month. One of the only categories that was higher than anticipated was groceries. We had some weekend guests — a family of five — and that contributed to the higher cost of groceries in January.

Our other high category was Office/Postal for two reasons. One, we bought printer cartridges for our new Epson printer. As they told us when we bought it, the cartridges are less expensive than we were used to paying for our previous HP printer. But what they didn’t tell us is that the cartridges don’t last nearly as long, and you need four different ones if you want to print in color. The other reason we spend more in this category is that it was time to renew our P.O. Box for the coming year. The cost: 14,000 colones (about $28-$30, depending on the exchange rate). In the past, the renewal fee was only 10,000 colones so this year there was a big rate jump.

We went shopping for new clothes at our local Ropa Americana (one of our “Money Saving Tips”) and each of us came away with three new pieces for 2,000 colones per piece (about $4 each, for a total of $24).

As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months:

Monthly Weather Report for San Ramón, Atenas, & Nuevo Arenal  – January 2014

You’ll notice that we are now showing rainfall and temperatures for three towns in Costa Rica and in a format that makes it easier to compare the data and, perhaps, decide where you would like to live. 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’re in the heart of the dry season, on the Pacific slope, while on the Caribbean slope, it’s still raining. Nuevo Arenal is almost on the Continental Divide, just barely on the Caribbean slope, so it receives some rain throughout the year. That’s why it stays so lush and green all year long. No wonder, it’s one of the “hot spots” for tourism and relocation in Costa Rica.

You can still click on the map to the right to enlarge it and check out the average rainfall for the towns you are interested in. Remember that the areas shaded in darker blue tend to be higher and also the places most expats choose to live.

Paul’s San Ramón Observations, Facts, & Tidbits:

  • It’s the high season (tourist season) in Costa Rica.
  • It’s Costa Rica’s summer — from November through May.
  • School is out from mid-December through 10 February.
  • Retire for Less is busy like crazy giving relocation and get-acquainted tours in the Central Valley and boat tours to Isla Tortuga where the Gulf of Nicoya meets the Pacific.
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 110.95 inches.

Lance’s Atenas Observations, Facts, & Tidbits:

  • It was an unremarkable month concerning both temperatures and rainfall, consistent with the dry season.
  • On January 21st, there was a trace of rain in downtown Atenas, but none where we live (approximately 2 miles away as the crow flies).
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 63.84 inches.

John’s Nuevo Arenal Observations, Facts, & Tidbits:

  • Even though we had 23 days with rain…
  • Most of those days had 1/4 of a inch or less.
  • It can rain any time of the day or night…
  • Which means, we still get a lot of sun.
  • It’s beautiful up here.
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 164.75 inches.

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.

We will continue the weather info next month.

Related Articles:

Keeping Busy – Some Ideas for Expats

People ask us lots of things about our lives in Costa Rica, but the following three questions are the ones we get most often:

  1. What do you do for healthcare?
  2. What’s the cost of living?
  3. What do you do all day?

It’s the third question that seems to cause the most angst, especially for people who consider themselves “A-Types.” They are afraid of the time on their hands. Giving back and volunteering can be an easy fix for this conundrum of “what to do all day.” Your interests, talents, and experience can be of immense value to others, especially young people, in Costa Rica. It is the one thing you can do where you actually get more out of it than you give. It can be very rewarding. There are even studies that document that volunteering is good for your health. What you do with your time is a choice.

The Community Action Alliance in San Ramon can help you in this endeavor. San Ramon has one of the best organized expat communities (though certainly not the largest), due in large part to the Community Action Alliance. We (Paul and Gloria) are honored to have served on the Steering Committee of the Action Alliance for its first four years. The CAA, and other organizations like it in other communities, can jump-start your involvement. One example is the Education Committee which sponsors English conversation groups for Costa Ricas trying to master the language. More than 50 expat volunteers participate in that program alone. It’s not unusual for people to want purpose in their lives, especially after “retirement.” You can be busy and make a difference in your expat life. It all depends on you, and it’s all about your choices.

Take a look at the most recent newsletter from the Community Action Alliance, below. You’ll get a taste of the kinds of opportunities available. Do you see something that’s of interest to you? If yes, great! Get involved! If not, perhaps you have an idea that the CAA would support. For example, the Animal Welfare Committee didn’t exist one year ago. It evolved from the passion of a couple of CAA members for street animals in Costa Rica. That’s how it all started — with people, their ideas, and the desire to give back.

If you would like to receive future issues of the CAA newsletter, just click on this link and hit the “Subscribe” button.

(Newsletter reprinted with permission)

Costa Rica’s Museums: A Great Way to Spend the Day in San Jose

We love Costa Rica’s museums. We plan to visit them all, but so far we’ve only been to four of them:

  • The Gold Museum
  • The Numismatic Museum
  • The Children’s Museum
  • The Jade Museum

    A Diorama of a Burial Scene at the Jade Museum

One of the great things about them is that they are small – you can get through them in less than 2 hours. They feature areas among the exhibits where you can sit and watch a video or study a diorama, and get insight into the people and how they lived. Through visiting the museums, we learned a lot about the history and culture of Costa Rica – things we didn’t expect to learn. It made our new home-country’s history more alive for us. This was especially true at the Gold and Numismatic Museums, which are located right on one of the pedestrian boulevards, just below the Plaza de Cultura – a great place for people-watching. And it’s a great way to spend a day in San Jose.

The Jade Museum was interesting too. We learned a lot. We went there on our wedding anniversary. You might think it’s funny to go to a museum on our anniversary, but we had a whole day planned, culminating with dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. We left the museum after about a hour and a half and discovered a festival going on across the street in Parque España and Parque Morizan, which are next to each other. There was an extremely good puppet theater, dance classes, board games, face painting for kids, crafts, people hula-hooping, kids skate-boarding, painters, and more. I even participated in the Latin dance class as you can see in the video below.

Museo de los Niños

We just went with the flow and had a great anniversary celebration. You never know what you’re going to find when you plan a day in San Jose!

We found the Children’s Museum to be a great place for kids of all ages! It’s very interactive, with lots of fun, hands-on exhibits. Don’t be fooled by the name – you would love it too! Plan to spend several hours at this one. There’s nothing boring about it!

Be sure to read the article below to learn a little more about each of Costa Rica’s museums.

Article and photos below originally appeared in A.M. Costa Rica on January 28, 2014. Both article and photos used with permission.

Nation’s wealth includes being rich in the number of museums

By Michael Krumholtz and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The famous gold man of the Museo Nacional models some of the ornaments that have been found in Costa Rica and presumably were worn by the important pre-Columbian personages.

Though they often get overlooked in favor of beach-side comfort and rainforest exploration, San José’s museums offer engaging and comprehensive insights into the country’s deep well of culture and history. The Museo de Jade’s new home is under construction in what will become a row of four major musuems. All four will be in walking distance of each other. The Museo Nacional, the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, and the Museos de Banco Central can all be viewed on the same, culture-drenched afternoon. Another worth visiting – especially because of its free entry – is the Museo de Arte Costarricense in front of the expansive La Sabana park.

Museo Nacional

Behind the first door of the Museo Nacional visitors are led into a large garden where hundreds of butterflies soar overhead. As they travel up a new two-story ramp and into the courtyard – which boasts some of Costa Rica’s iconic stone  spheres – they are given a choice of exhibits, ranging from pre-Columbian history to old barracks and holding cells. In addition, the museum offers a revolving temporary exhibit, which is currently occupied by the “Let’s live democracy” theme until June 1. The museum is in the old military barracks, and the turrets are pockmarked by bullets from the 1948 revolution. When José María Figueres Ferrer abolished the military, he turned the citadel into cultural uses.

Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo

Only a block away, the museum of art and contemporary design attracts visitors to its home in the old national liquor factory. Featuring numerous short films and audiovisual sights, this modern museum shows off the talents of rising artists from Latin America and the Caribbean. There are five different rooms, as well as the outdoor Molasses Hall, that show off a different style of art through beautiful sculptures and unique presentations.

Museos de Banco Central

The Museos de Banco Central in the city’s center offers people a lesson on the history of Costa Rican currency, including gold from pre-Colombian ages. Presenting the evolution of money from the 1500s to today, it provides an interesting yet simplistic context to today’s global market. Also featured are rows of ceramic African tripods and a look into the lives of the country’s primitive ancestors with the “Costa Rica: Past and Present” exhibit. The name of the facility is plural because it really is four separate museums in a multi-level structure under the city’s Plaza de la Cultura.

Museo de Arte Costarricense

From wooden sculptures of the female body made in the 1930s to socially challenging depictions during the economic crisis in the 1980s, the museum of Costa Rican art provides a key to the country’s vast artistic history. Upstairs, past the winding staircase and open-aired hallway, is the Golden Room which contains on its walls an intricate mural made from bronze stucco that depicts the development of Costa Rica in clockwise chronology. The building that used to be the former La Sabana international airport terminal is a must-see, as visitors can also go nearby to tour La Sabana park and the new Estadio Nacional.

Museo Calderón Guardia

The Museo Calderón Guardia is currently closed until February due to remodeling. It is the former home of Dr. Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia, the influential Costa Rican president who began important initiatives to help the poor in the World War II era.

The stone balls are everywhere, although archaeologists hope to repatriate most to the southern zone and Finca 6. These are on the lawn of the Corte Suprema de Justicia. Experts say they think that these stones were made locally from rock brought down by the Río Térraba and that the craftsmen or women who made the spheres are the ancestors of the men and women living in the area today.

Museo Finca 6

The stone spheres are everywhere in the Central Valley. They are on the lawns of upscale homes and even on the lawn of the Corte Suprema de Justicia. The Museo Nacional has a respectable exhibit of them, and there is one encased in a protective struture at the entry. But the real mother lode of spheres is at a new museum spun off by the Museo Nacional.  This is the famous Finca 6 near Palmar Sur where Costa Rica still awaits the expected designation of the spheres as part of the world’s cultural heritage by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Development officials hope that the new museum will give a boost to the economy of the south Pacific coast. The museum is worth the trip. The outdoor part of the museum features the only two alignments of spheres in their original location. There are two rows of three partly buried. Who actually did that is not known for sure. And archeologist are not really sure what the spheres symbolized. Of course they also have been the subject of some bizarre guesswork by popular authors.

Ecomuseo de la Cerámica Chorotega

For those who seek more sense of pre-Columbian culture, there are the pottery operations in Guanacaste that date back before the Mayan empires. These are the communities of Guaitil de Santa Cruz, San Vicente and las Pozas de Nicoya where about 800 families depend directly or indirectly on the production of pre-Columbian-style pottery. The Museo Nacional says that the residents of the San Vicente area have been making ceramics for the last 4,000 years. That may be conservative. The history of the region can be found in the Ecomuseo de la Cerámica Chorotega de San Vicente de Nicoya. This is one of the more than 20 regional and specialized museums in Costa Rica.

Curators already are designing the interior of the new Museo de Jade.

Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaría

Also outside San José is the Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaría which is north of the Parque Central de Alajuela. As the name implies, the museum is heavy with the exploits of the national hero and the Campaña Nacional of 1856 and 1857 when Costa Rica defeated the U.S.filibusters and William Walker who sought to be king of Central America. A display that is on exhibit until Feb. 27 are some 18 works from a collection that depicts historic heroes, democracy and nature.

Museo de Jade

Most of the public museums in Costa Rica are dependencies of the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud. Not so the Museo de Jade that ended up under the wing of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the state insurance agency. The holdings have been moved around from a floor within the institute skyscraper to a niche on the first floor. The new museum that faces the Museo Nacional is an effort to put all the holdings on display, and there are many. It will be finished this year. In the meantime, the older facility is closed.

Museo de los Niños

For the children there is a special place in north San José, which is called informally the castle of dreams. The entire museum is geared to children with a lot of hands on experiences. The locale is the old prison, so there are turrets and plenty of stone walls to be a real castle.

Related Articles:


Retire for Less Tour of the Month – Tortuga Island

Probably our favorite tour is the Isla Tortuga tour in the Pacific, just off the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Past tour guests Lorca & Robert also joined us on a Tortuga Island tour and had this to say: “The day trip to Tortuga Island was such a great bargain. Good boat, happy crew, and all so affordable.” We just did a Tortuga Island tour on Valentine’s Day, and the next one is scheduled for Sunday, March 9, 2014, so let us know if you are interested or  would like to book a tour when your family or friends visit.

Check out the 2-part video here.

The beach on Tortuga Island

The tour features:

  • Full-day tour leaving Puntarenas at 8:00 a.m. and returning by 4:30 p.m.
  • Great price at only $65 per person.
  • 80 minute ocean voyage each way provides great opportunity to see dolphins, marine turtles, crocodiles, fish, and maybe even a whale. You will see majestic scenery: islands, mountains, and clouds.
  • 45 minutes of snorkeling in aqua clear waters, with all snorkeling equipment provided free.
  • Fresh fruit appetizer upon arrival, followed by barbecue lunch on the beach, including non-alcoholic beverages — you can bring your own beer or wine, if desired.
  • 3-5 hours (depending on the weather) on white-sand beach to swim, explore the island, or just relax.
  • Bi-lingual tour operators.


Featured Property: Private Furnished Home on 2.5 Acres in Grecia-$135,000

Property ID Number: 6097

Price (US$): $135,000

Geographic Area: Grecia and Naranjo areas

Property City: Grecia

Meters Squared or Hectares: 10000

Lot Size (sq. Ft.) – Farm

Acreage: 2.5 acres

Year Built: 2009

Construction (sq. ft.): 1,200

Bedrooms: 2

Full Baths: 1

This furnished home is located just 15 minutes from Grecia in a very private location. With views of the town of Grecia and Poas volcano, not to mention lots of land for fruit trees, animals, gardens, or just to maintain your privacy.

The house features a huge master bedroom, large bathroom and guest room. The open design living room and kitchen area is spacious and bright. The drainage has been recently updated and the entire house has been painted and has new doors and screens on the windows.

With a large storage shed a two car paved carport and gorgeous gardens you will have a peaceful easy retirement in this house. The front porch is the perfect place to see parrots flying over and to enjoy the birds that visit this property daily.

The furnishings are included in the sale and are full sized appliances and mostly Sarchi furniture.

The house is in immaculate condition and is move in ready.

This is an exceptional deal.

Click here for more photos 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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