Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Costa Rica - the allure of an ex-pat paradise

I am recovering from a whirl-wind family adventure - hiking, zip lining, eating, swimming, beach time, pool time, shopping time, nap time interspersed with tour and travel time - to the Central American paradise of Costa Rica, as ex-pats enthusiastically call their Costa Rican home. A place far from the 24/7 hammering of almost-all negative news, news overwhelmingly US-centric (yes, there is a world out there beyond America’s borders), a welcome omission.


After our family journey hub and I spent five days at a secluded retreat - the home of friends who traded their suburban Philadelphia residence for a mountain in the middle of the jungle, their place outfitted with a modern three bedroom house, pool and two kitchens - one indoor and one outdoor - overlooking the Pacific Ocean. My only issue was the 1-1/4 mile winding dirt road up the mountain. Four wheel drive necessary. No kidding. Driving down the mountain one afternoon we encountered a couple and their car stranded on the side of the road. The car refused to chug up the mountain, the route characterized by steep inclines, rocks and hairpin turns. Our host contacted help…meanwhile we continued into town to watch the sun disappear into the blue Pacific waters (and take a few pictures), devour dinner at a beach bar, and be entertained with folk and country music performed by a band of three - all ex-pats.

Rocky mountain road. Most main roads are paved, most side roads are not. Photo by Jim Fava

Photo by Jim Fava

I met many Americans (and some Canadians) who now call Costa Rica home. What attracted them to Costa Rica? The country revealed: 


* Stable political system and no military. 

* Respect for human rights. 

* High literacy rate. 

* Regard for the environment and a concerted push for eco-tourism. 

* Availability of modern health care. If you might be thinking about cosmetic surgery, check out Costa Rica…

* Diverse economy - tourism (#1), agriculture, manufacturing.


* Tropical climate featuring hot weather, intense sun, equal hours of daylight and darkness, and sometimes stifling humidity (no place is perfect!). Two seasons - the wet season and the dry season, six months of each. 

* Spanish speaking ability a plus, but not necessary. 


* Varied terrain - mountains, high Central Valley, coastal beaches, flat on the east coast but not so much on the Pacific side. 


* Jungles abundant with trees and flowers, animals, fruits and vegetables rare in colder climates - unless shipped in. 


* Easy-on-the-budget prices. Although beginning to be overrun by foreign visitors and prices in some areas reflect increasing demand, reasonably priced accommodations, food and amenities abound. But upscale tourists needn‘t despair - five star digs exist and more are planned. 


The Costa Rican way of life - pura vida - is laid-back and easygoing compared to the American go-go lifestyle. Type A personalities may find it too unhurried and get frustrated that things are not done NOW.


I asked ex-pats why Costa Rica? Answers varied. They visited as tourists and returned…came for business…researched retirement alternatives and discovered their paradise…saw opportunity and started businesses, are self-employed (many artists) or telecommute…some live in Costa Rica full time, others split the year between their home country and Costa Rica - an intriguing alternative to American meccas (especially for retirees) like Florida, Arizona and Nevada. And no, hub and I are not considering an ex-pat lifestyle…


Fishing boat on the Pacific.


Sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

Ice cream not available everywhere, but enjoyed as much as possible!




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