We went to Costa Rica in search of a place to live. We had talked about moving to a way of living more in connection with nature, and ideally in a warmer climate to allow comfortable year-round outdoor living. Costa Rica seemed really promising for these reasons:
Fully 25% of the land in Costa Rica is protected in some way. The government really is committed to keeping their natural ecosystem and beauty intact.
100% of their electricity is produced using hydro and wind power. They are no longer dependent on oil.
Healthcare is excellent and low cost.
Cost of living is about 30% lower than the US.
They have no army. Instead, they invested in education for all of their citizens including the poorest. Can you imagine that?
A number of studies on happiness have ranked Costa Rica as the happiest country on earth. People care about each other, have close ties to family and community, and have expectations of a stable government, living wage, decent healthcare, and inexpensive food.
So we planned a three week trip to explore places to live. After a lot of research, reading several books, numerous blog posts, scouring maps, and generally obsessing over the whole process like the data junkie I am, we concluded that the Northwest coast and the Lake Arenal area offered the best fit for our criteria. Our criteria included:
Living close to untouched nature
A strong community of both Costa Rican natives and expatriates. Community is really important to us – we want to be a part of a vibrant, living, and joyful community.
Close proximity to an international airport, allowing our family and friends easy access
Access to outdoor recreation including hiking, birding, kayaking, rafting, horseback riding, and swimming.
Temperate climate conducive to living outside
4 days at Playa Hermosa, resting, swimming, sailing, snorkeling, bird watching, looking at property and meeting people.
2 days at Tamarindo, swimming, filing police reports, waiting for rental car repair, looking at property and meeting people.
3 days at Nosara, doing yoga, horseback riding, kayaking, hiking
3 days at Samara, surfing, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling
1 day at Puerto Humo, birdwatching trip on the Tempisque River, hiking in a nearby national park
3 nights at Living Forest and 4 nights at Chalet Nicholas near Nuevo Arenal, yoga, bird watching, hiking, hot springs, zip-lining, looking at property and meeting people.
2 nights at Monteverde cloud forest, night and day hikes with eco guides, bird and animal watching
3 nights back at Playa Hermosa for our final beach chill out before returning to Seattle
We flew into the Liberia airport in the Northwest area of the country - the Guanacaste region. Our first stop was four blissful days at Playa Hermosa.
After 4 days at Playa Hermosa - we were in LOVE. We thought “Hey, we could easily live here. But it’s our first stop?!” Time to head on down the coast. We passed through Ocotel, Playas Coco, Playa Panama, Playa Grande, and many other beaches.
We spent the next 2 nights in Tamarindo.
My camera was stolen from the back of our car - while we were sitting 20 feet away on the beach at Playa Conchal. I KNEW that I should NOT have taken it out of the back to photograph some parrots, but I thought no one was looking and I surreptitiously removed it, shot some photos, and replaced it in the back of our car under the security screen. When we returned to the car 30 minutes later, the rear window was smashed, and the camera was gone.
So the rest of the trip has fewer and more mediocre photos taken by my iPhone.
After Nosara, we headed down the coast to Samara, stopping at beaches along the way. We spent a few nights outside of Samara, which we really enjoyed. The town has a nice Costa Rican laid back beach town vibe, not too touristy, but still plenty to do.
From Samara we headed inland to take a hiking and bird watching boat trip in a national park. Then on to Lake Arenal, where we spent the next 10 days or so staying at Living Forest and Chalet Nicholas.
Now we’re off to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, which has an AMAZING story. In fact, it’s kind of the story of how Costa Rica became so environmentally responsible and a center of eco-tourism.
Some Pennsylvania Quaker pacifists were thrown in jail in 1948 for refusing to comply with the draft. After they got out of jail, they took their families and moved to Costa Rica where they started a dairy farming and cheese making community, which they named Monte Verde, or green mountain.
A visiting professor was impressed with the great diversity of bird and animal life, word got around, and birders from all over the world started flocking (hah) to Costa Rica for the bird life. Partnerships between the Quakers, educational and NGO institutions, and the Costa Rican government preserved lands, attracted more eco-tourists, and the industry grew to the point where it’s now about 5% of the GDP.
And that protection of the environment is why we are considering moving there.
In the cloud forest at Monta Verde. Old-growth looks different down here.
We returned to Playa Hermosa and the Velero Hotel for the last few days of the trip. I finally felt like I could completely relax – all of the real estate searching and trip planning was done, but here it was the last day!
Sharan and I really enjoyed Costa Rica, and can definitely see ourselves living here in the future. We are already planning our next trip for October, and look forward to moving further along in our exploration.