Feb 25 2015

Retire for Less Newsletter – February 25, 2015

Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!

Paul and Gloria

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue:




From the Peace Corps to Retirement in Costa Rica

by Steve Johnson

Hi Guys. I’m the new weather reporter from San Rafael de Heredia, (actually, Concepcion de San Rafael), which, given the microclimates here, is practically on another planet. My story about retiring here is a bit unusual, and I thought some of you might be interested. Retiring to Costa Rica was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Me pumping drinking water from a well in front of the school where my wife Maria taught school 45 years ago.

Steve pumping drinking water from a well in front of the school where his wife Maria taught school 45 years ago.

I came here as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1968 and was sent to the village of La Cuesta near the Panamanian border. There I met Maria de los Angeles Ramirez Mora who was teaching first grade, we fell in love, and got married in the church in her hometown of San Rafael de Heredia. We moved to the States at the end of 1972 and when I retired in 2009 we moved back.

After my Peace Corps stint I wanted to stay here so bad, but I was fairly clueless as to how I might make a living. How clueless? — I remember when I went to Manuel Antonio Beach in 1969 I walked from Quepos (back then the road was just a muddy jeep track through the jungle) and as I walked along I racked my brain about how I might make a living. I spent the entire day there and was the only person on the beach. You can imagine my surprise when I returned 30 years later to find that that muddy jeep track had become the Riviera of Costa Rica. So you see, I had no vision, whatsoever. These days, of course, there are a few more people on the beach.

Costa Rica was very different back then. For one thing, not many expats. For transportation I rode a horse, walked, or took the bus (there were three buses a day). For a village of 500, there were two pickup trucks, a car, and two motorcycles. No running water, no electricity, no telephones. Families were very large — the population of La Cuesta consisted of 110 adults and 390 children. The closest hot shower was in San Jose – an 11-hour bus ride, or 50 minutes by plane — back then roads were so bad (or nonexistent) every little village had an airstrip with daily service to San Jose. Small planes landed at La Sabana, which was very convenient. The highway over the Cerro de La Muerte went up to about 11,000 feet elevation (and it still does), but the plane flew around it, so the bus actually went 6,000 feet higher than the plane. Today you still see a lot of the old Land Rovers on the roads, but back then they were the most common car — the government classified them as agricultural equipment and they could be imported, therefore, duty free.

Things, including real estate, were dirt-cheap. My monthly living allowance was $74. In order to keep myself from spending money, when I went out I made sure there was no money in any of my pockets. I ate at a boarding house for $20 a month — all I could eat, steak twice a day, and everything cooked on a wood stove. After we got married we rented a one-bedroom house for $21 a month. For $5,000 you could buy a good-sized farm with a house on it.

There is a neat video on YouTube about Costa Rica in 1947 which you can watch here:

I’d say Costa Rica in 1968 was more like it was in 1947 than like it is today.

So I’ve fulfilled my dream, but ironically, soon after arriving here we came to the realization that it was the worst mistake we’d ever made in our lives. How could we have been so blind, and stupid? But after five years we’re still here. More about that in another article, so stay tuned!


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

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

You’ll notice that we now show rainfall and temperatures for six towns in Costa Rica. We are happy to welcome Steve Johnson, our new weatherman, who lives in the town of Concepcion de San Rafael de Heredia. You can get to know Steve by reading his bio below.

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.

You can 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 for January:

  • The Christmas winds got started in earnest in January. Sometimes they start as early as October.
  • In January, though we measured zero rainfall, we had trace amounts of rain on 6 days.
  • In Costa Rica, which lies between 8° and 11° latitude, altitude and topography are the biggest variants to temperature and rainfall.
  • Costa Rica has never had a direct hurricane hit.costa-rica-map_cropped4
  • 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 January:

  • January was very dry. On a couple of days there were traces of rain which lasted for a few minutes, but nothing measurable.
  • Daytime highs (meaning air temperatures) were accompanied by low humidities. In fact, the humidities were so low that if you apply “The Heat Index Equation” used by the U.S. National Weather Service, there were only 5 days in January when the “heat index” or “feels like” temperature was more than the measured air temperature. For example, the hottest daytime high was a relatively comfortable 86.5 °F on January 12. But with an accompanying humidity of 30%, the “feels like” temperature was a more comfortable 84.2 °F. If the humidity had been 80%, then the “feels like” temperature would have been a stifling 101 °F.
  • On the other hand, nighttime lows regularly dipped into the low sixties – not so low as to require household heating, but sufficiently low to invite a sweater to feel comfortable in the early morning.
  • 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 January:

  • We had the wettest January since we started keeping records in 2011 and all the plants and flowers are lush.
  • In addition, the winds were very strong, with gusts exceeding 100 kph around Lake Arenal.
  • We were very pleased to have many birds visiting our feeders this month and we happily made extra trips to the grocery stores in town to keep them supplied with bananas, their favorite food.
  • 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 January:

  • Well another year has passed and a new one is underway. I can remember in school it seemed like the year would never end and now all you have to do is blink and the year is gone.
  • The animal rescue we volunteer at, which is called PAWS, hosted a battle of the bands on January 25th at a restaurant in Paquita, a small town just north of Quepos. It was a packed house and a great time had by all.
  • The big attraction in town has been the 4 mast ship that has been anchored just outside the Marina.
  • We meet with Jason Holland on the 13th at our home, along with three other folks here. Two of the gentlemen were very long time residents of Costa Rica. The one gentlemen was the builder of our Marina and is now adding on to the Marina. The other gentleman was a Sport fishing owner operator for many years and is now retired. He has been in Costa Rica over forty years  so you can imagine the insight he could provide from then to now on living in this gorgeous country. The interview lasted most of the morning and Jason left with a wealth of information on the southern zone for his upcoming article for International Living Magazine.


  • We had a one-day rain storm that produced 6.7 inches of rain at our home in about two hours.
  • 2014 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 January:

  • January rainfall was a total of 1 day at 1-1/8″, but then it is the dry season so I was surprised to even get that much.
  • Interesting to note that since October 15, 2014 when I started recording temperatures, the coldest morning low temperature was in January at 63°F. for 2 mornings in a row! (That would be 17C. for my Canadian friends, eh?)
  • We had a busy January – since Christmas we have had 22 days of company – and we love it!  We have found that when you live here in Costa Rica that some days are really great… and the rest are only better! If anyone has ever thought about moving to live in a warm, safe climate, you owe it to yourself to check out Cost Rica!

Steve’s San Rafael de Heredia Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for January:Heredia-Map

  • Our rainiest day was January 28th when we got 2.1 inches. In 5 years of recording data, this was the wettest January. The last three Januaries have been very dry, averaging only an inch.
  • The trade winds come through the Zurqui gap just east of us and when trade winds get riled up they have a tendency to make a right turn, which they do and come blasting across our north-south ridge.
  • We live 11 miles from the airport, and can’t see it, but a few seconds after the planes take off we can see them come up over the trees west of us. We are due north of the Banco Central and at night we can see the cars on the Calle Central in San Jose. Above us is mixed dairy and cloud forest.
  • When we bought our property in 2006, it was surrounded by coffee fields and vegetable farms. Coffee stops growing right at our elevation. The fields and farms are rapidly being cut down to build houses.




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:


Snapshots of Life in Costa Rica

We’re starting a new little feature with photos that show different aspects of life in Costa Rica. Most of them will be our own photos but if you have one you would like to share, please let us know.

Puró Trees in Bloom

It may look like autumn in the northeast U.S. but it’s really summer here, when the orange, puró trees blossom. In January and February, during the height of summer in Costa Rica, we look forward to the beauty of the trees but we aren’t the only ones.  If you look in the 2nd photo, you will see Capuchin monkeys feasting on the blossoms. We used to think they ate them but this year we noticed that they pull off a blossom and tip it to their mouths to drink the nectar inside. We can watch them right from the porch of our house.



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 June’s 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.

HCTOUR_004 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 needs and 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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