Jul 11 2014

Retire for Less Newsletter – July 11, 2014

Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!

Paul and Gloria

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue:


It’s Pure Joy (Again) as Costa Rica Welcomes Home Its Heroes

Costa Rica’s “la Sele” may not have won the World Cup, but they definitely won the hearts of their countrymen. The team returned home from Brazil to a hero’s welcome as people waited for hours along the highway near the airport to cheer, as well as all along the route to the celebrations in San Jose.You can read the Tico Times article and see more photos here.


The team being greeted by thousands of fans along the route.


Were Costa Ricans Always Pura Vida?  — Where History Meets the Movies

by Paul

10431230-pura-vida-costa-ricaLiterally, the expression “pura vida” means “pure life.” It describes a peaceful, tranquil and free-from-impurities existence. For the Costa Ricans, the phrase “pura vida” means much more:  It has become the popular but unofficial national motto. This motto is associated with all Costa Ricans world-wide.

Where did the phrase “pura vida” come from?

Costa Ricans started using the expression “pura vida” after the premier of a Mexican movie called “Pura Vida” in 1956. This expression gained popularity in the ‘70s because the words conveyed the states of happiness, peace, and tranquility which were, and still are, symbols of the liberty brought on by the country’s political stability. Remember, Costa Rica abolished its army and navy in 1948, and the thought of war is just not a part of their mentality. So, if you were to hear the utterance “pura vida” anywhere in the world, you can bet it would be coming from a Costa Rican. It’s a dead give-away.

The popular expression is used by Costa Rica and by Costa Ricans around the world to remember their beloved native country. The expression is used informally, with various meanings, depending on how it is used. It could be a greeting, a way of saying goodbye, or a show of appreciation for a person, object, or situation. Sometimes it’s like saying “Everything’s all right,” or “No need to worry” or “It’s a beautiful day and life is good.”

Does “pura vida” mean “perfect?”

The lives of Costa Ricans are far from perfect. But, “pura vida,” if said often enough, becomes an affirmation which focuses the speaker on the positive. It’s just positive self-talk, all day long. I know it works because I say it often too. It’s an easy and great way to stay positive.

Caja_Seguro_Social_Costa_RicaOne reason they are “pura vida” are the social reforms that were passed in the early 1940s. The Caja, Costa Rica’s national healthcare system, began in 1940 and was available for both urban and rural workers. It brought health care to the people and insured that everyone had the beginnings of access to basic medical care. In addition, a labor code was passed which established a minimum wage for all workers, an 8-hour workday, a six-day work week, and the right to organize which protected them against arbitrary dismissals. It also made collective bargaining mandatory in labor/management disputes.

But, as I mentioned, a Tico’s life is far from perfect. They have problems too (similar to the U.S.):

  • 40% out-of-wedlock birth ratedivorce
  • 50% divorce rate
  • High incidence of domestic violence
  • 48% high-school drop-out rate
  • 5% inflation
  • Low paying jobs and high unemployment
  • $750/month average salary
  • General feeling of helplessness regarding government and politicians which they regard as self-serving and corrupt

They have personal problems, like all of us, but you would never know it. They are just too “pura vida” to allow the negatives to overwhelm them. It’s a peace-loving nation with honest elections and comparatively high quality of life. It even scored the highest of 151 countries in the latest Happy Planet Index. “The country has embraced sustainability in its national policies: it produces 99 per cent of its energy from renewable sources, has reversed deforestation in the country, and, in 2008, committed itself to becoming carbon neutral by 2021. Costa Rica has the second highest life expectancy in the Americas, higher than the USA’s; experienced well-being higher than many richer nations; and a per capita Ecological Footprint one third the size of the USA’s.” (HPI Report, p. 13)TheTicos

Were Costa Ricans always “pura vida?”

So, why “pura vida”? Where does it come from? And why did they adopt this slogan now recognized world-wide? “Pura vida” is based on how the country developed over centuries. Costa Rica’s been “pura vida” for over 500 years…it just wasn’t called that.

In the book, The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica, the authors describe the early Spanish colony in Costa Rica and how it differed from other Spanish colonies in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Colombia:

“The colony was tranquil in part because it was poor. Mineral wealth – a bone of contention in other colonies – remained undiscovered. Although land was readily available by the eighteenth century most colonists had only family labor to work it. The tiny settlements were isolated from one another by heavy rains, broken terrain, and a lack of roads. Finally, Costa Rica was remote from other colonies, which were often the scene of raging disputes. mapa-america-1680In 1809 Governor Tomás de Acosta, like his predecessors since 1648, reported that everyone still lived near a subsistence level. Compared to most other Spanish colonies, Costa Rica was indeed poor. But historian Carlos Monge Alfaro saw in the humble colonial farmer, with his love of liberty and autonomy, the foundation of Costa Rica democracy. Each farm, he wrote in a text used in schools through many editions, was,

Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz, Richard Biesanz, and Karen Zubris Biesanz, The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica, (Boulder, Colorado) Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 1999, pp. 18-19.

This is the reason they are pura vida. They grew up isolated. It was a small population of people with little outside contact. They didn’t bother anybody and nobody bothered them. They developed independently. That’s why they are so different from Nicaragua and Panama today. Even the few rich coffee plantation owners, who lived in the San Jose area, had very little to do with the peasants who lived in the country. It was a tough life for the campesinos but, in many ways, an idyllic life.

PuraVidaBeachTicos and Pura Vida

Life in Costa Rica has never been perfect, but Ticos felt that the phrase, “pura vida” just fit them. They took it on to describe a life and a place where they are free to do their own thing, breathe fresh air, drink clean water, eat fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, and share their lives with family and close friends. It’s a place where they don’t have to worry about going to war or losing everything they own to pay for health care. It’s a place where they have a voice in the democratic system of government. It’s a life that can be summed up in just two words…”pura vida.”

Related Articles:


Our June 2014 Costa Rica Cost of Living Expenses

2014_JuneJune was a big travel month for us which meant lower than usual Costa Rica living expenses — just over $1,400. (We were traveling in Mexico from May 27th through June 17th and we’ll tell you about those expenses in a separate article.) But back at home in Costa Rica, some categories, as you would imagine, were much less than usual, such as “Groceries” and “Transportation.” We spent a lot on groceries when we first returned from Mexico on June 18th because we had to restock the fridge and pantry. And transportation would have been even lower had we not needed to replace our car battery in June.

Some categories were about the same, such as “Health Care” and “Rent/Phone/Utilities.” Even though we were away for more than half of the month, we had to pay our same monthly Caja payment and still needed the same medications. Included in the “Rent/Phone/Utilities” category is the cost of our housekeeper who comes four hours every week. We elected to continuing paying her while we were away and she cleaned each week for our house-sitters. We wanted her to be able to count on the work instead of leaving it as an optional arrangement with the house-sitters. One thing that was amazingly low was our June electric bill (which was actually for the May billing period) which came in at less than $21.

And some categories were more than usual, such as “Household” and “Clothing.” We ordered some things from Amazon that some kind folks offered to bring down (Thanks Rich & Colleen!) which fell into these two categories. One of the items we ordered were rechargeable AA batteries which are a lot less expensive ($12.99 for 8 batteries) than buying them here.

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

Click to read the article.

Click to read the article.

Click to read the article.

Click to read the article.

Related Articles:


Monthly Weather Report for San Ramón, Atenas, Nuevo Arenal, & Playa Matapalo – June 2014

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

You’ll notice that we are now showing rainfall and temperatures for four 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.

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:

  • Is El Niño affecting the rainfall? Maybe! In May, we only had 6.6” and in June, 8.4” — low totals, below average, for both months.
  • No rain in late June. Is it the Veranillo de San Juan (“little summer”)? It’s not so rainy this rainy season so far in our part of the countrycosta-rica-map_cropped4.
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 110.95 inches in our area of San Ramón.

Lance T’s Atenas Observations, Facts, & Tidbits:

  • As the crow flies, we live about 2 miles west of the town of Atenas in an area called Vista Atenas. In turn, Atenas is about 16 miles west of the Juan Santamaria International Airport. On any given day, the weather conditions in all three places can differ. At higher altitude, Vista Atenas tends to be cooler than Atenas. If you check out the weather for “Atenas” on the internet, you are apt to get information which superficially seems to apply to Atenas but which actually is weather being observed or forecast at the airport. For example, on June 26 when two different internet weather services (ForecaAccuWeather) were reporting “clear” or “partly cloudy” conditions in Atenas, it was actually overcast and raining. The reports might have been true for the airport, but certainly not Atenas. Not infrequently, the reverse is true. It appears that both weather services simply assume that the weather in Atenas is the same as at the airport. With Costa Rica and its microclimates, this is a bad assumption.
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 63.84 inches in our area of Atenas..

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

  • June 2014 was the second wettest month since I started keeping records, surpassed only by the 28.5 inches that fell in October 2011.
  • There were more birds than usual coming to our feeding stations, especially hummingbirds.
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 164.75 inches in our area of Nuevo Arenal.

Matapalo map

Lance M’s Playa Matapalo Observations, Facts, & Tidbits:

  • One important weather note for folks thinking of retiring in the southern zone to be aware of is the high humidity. The temperature may say it is 90 degrees, but you need to look at the humidity as it can feel like it is well over 100 degrees.This is called the “real feel” here, much like the heat index the weather man uses in the States.
  • In June, the “real feel” high temps ranged from 105.0° F to 128.0° F, with an average of 112.0° F.
  • The sea turtles are beginning to come ashore and lay their eggs. We  have a turtle hatchery just down the beach that is manned by foreign students from around the world that volunteer to watch 24/7 for the sea turtles to come ashore and lay their eggs. The students then collect the eggs and bury them in sand in the hatchery. Once the eggs hatch the baby turtles are released back into the ocean.
  • The southern Pacific weather region receives approximately 150 inches of rain per year.

Click to enlarge.




Our San Ramón Weatherman, 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 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 Playa Mantapalo Weatherman, Lance Miller

I was born in a very small town in northwest Iowa and raised on a farm. When I was 18, I joined LanceMiller_smthe 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 Pa. 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. 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.

Related Articles:


Our Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica

Our newest tour is the Ultimate Tour on Healthcare in 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 arranged 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.”

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. 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)
  • 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.


Featured Property: Rural house with Spectacular Views on 1.5 Acres in Sabalito $135,000

Listing ID# RS1202044

Located in Sabalito, Guanacaste Costa Rica, in the county of Tilaran

2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms

This rural property enjoys a beautiful mountain view and sits on a 5288.06 square meter lot (56,920 sqft)

House has a living space of 110.0 square meters (1,184 sqft)

Available furnished

Year Built: 1996

Telephone: Yes

Internet Types: DSL Internet

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


Though we recommend you rent, rent, rent when you move to Costa Rica, we realize that some folks will still choose to buy, either early on or after they’ve been here for a while. We recommend purchasing properties under $150,000 because they are both easier to buy and easier to sell. Though we are not realtors, we work with trusted realtors who have many other properties in this price range available. The homes we feature are just a sample of the properties the realtors we work with have, both above and below $150,000.

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


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