Aug 21 2012

Why We Chose Nuevo Arenal

Why We Chose Nuevo Arenal

Janet & Scott Bradshaw

by Janet Bradshaw

My husband Scott and I visited Costa Rica for the first time in 2000 and instantly fell in love with the lush, tropical vegetation, breathtaking natural features (rivers, waterfalls, and volcanoes) and tremendous biodiversity.  After several more visits in subsequent years, we thought we might consider retiring here.  Before making a decision, however, we came in 2009 for 8 months to see if we would enjoy living here as much as we did vacationing.  During that time we took a fairly systematic approach to searching for the community that would best suit us.  We had learned during previous trips that the beaches were too hot for us for long-term living and we were most comfortable at an elevation of about 1000m (3,300 ft.).  After identifying the “good-sized” towns near that elevation we travelled around spending a week or two (and in some cases more) in the areas that interested us (e.g. – San Ramon, San Isidro del General, Orosi, Turrialba, Atenas and Grecia).  We were disappointed after about 5 months that, although many of those places had great attributes, none were exactly hitting the mark for us.

Our research prior to coming to Costa Rica had pushed us toward believing that we needed to live in or near the Central Valley so that we would be close to large hospitals, airports and shopping.  Ultimately, however, we realized that the Central Valley was not the Costa Rica that we had earlier fallen in love with. For us, the conveniences in the more urban region came at a significant price (traffic congestion, vehicle exhaust, and much less flora and fauna).

We were wondering where to try next when we decided to take a break from our search with a weekend trip to Nuevo Arenal – a place that we had originally thought would be too warm since the elevation is only 600m (less than 2,000 ft).  We discovered, however, that the climate was in fact ideal for us — mid 20soC (70soF) — during the day and high teens (60s) during the night.  Heating and air conditioning are virtually non-existent and with the lake breezes, unnecessary.  The town of Nuevo Arenal is set on the side of beautiful Lake Arenal, and the surrounding countryside is lush tropical forest and rolling pasture. Property owners in the area (non-Tico and Tico alike) maintain their properties with an abundance of tropical trees, shrubs and flowers.  The area is breathtaking.

There is a very welcoming (and growing) expat community who love being in the Arenal area. The town is small but has all of the basics – grocery stores, a post office, several lawyers, two banks, a pharmacy, a medical clinic and literally some of the best restaurants in the country!  We particularly love Moya’s Place and Gingerbread (read reviews here). Since it is a rural area, there is very little traffic, hence no smog or exhaust smell. For more serious shopping and a recently opened new international airport facility, Liberia is an easy 1.5 hour drive away and construction is currently underway to four-lane the busiest section of that route – the Pan American highway between Cañas and Liberia. Regarding healthcare, our little town has a medical clinic and ambulance service, and there is a hospital in Cañas (45 minutes away). In Liberia, there is a larger CAJA hospital as well as three private healthcare facilities; the San Rafael Arcángel Medical Center, Clinica Biblica’s established medical clinic and the brand new, recently opened, CIMA hospital facility.

The wet and dry seasons in the Arenal area are less distinct than in many parts of Costa Rica and since the rain is spread more evenly throughout the year, everything is always fresh, green and lush – with the same beautiful tropical forests that drew us to Costa Rica in the first place. Lake Arenal provides wonderful recreational opportunities.  In particular, we love hiking to the nearby waterfalls, and the lake kayaking is fantastic, with an abundance of birds, monkeys and other wildlife. For us, Nuevo Arenal offers the perfect balance of nearby practical facilities in a natural, tropical setting.  We love it! One important note, however, (as Paul and Gloria always say): as with any prospective place to live, you are wise to rent for at least a year before you consider buying.

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