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Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Coast of Riches: Living in Costa Rica

Written by Jonathan Hiltz
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As the skies over Canada inevitably turn a light shade of gray, and the windowpanes are slowly conquered by an opaque frost, the urge to join the flocks of birds and head south for a few months becomes apparent. Having experienced over thirty Canadian winters prompted me to question, why do we live in such frigid temperatures when there are perfectly decent, warmer countries that exist a few hours away?  This led to a year’s worth of research on international investment properties and the discovery of Costa Rica.


The country of Costa Rica (or ‘Rich Coast’) is located in Central America, just south of Nicaragua and North of Panama.  Much of the landscape is rainforest and covered by gorgeous shades of green.  It contains five percent of the entire world’s biodiversity;Coast of Riches: Living in Costa Rica, butterfly including eight-hundred species of ferns, one thousand different kinds of orchids, two-thousand types of trees and two-hundred different species of mammals.  This is all contained in an area about the same size as West Virginia, and the government and people are watchful when it comes to protecting the rainforests and natural areas.  This has led to over a quarter of the country being designated a protected nature reserve.


Coast of Riches: Living in Costa RicaNeedless to say, Costa Rica had everything we were looking for, including year round temperatures at about 25 – 28 degrees Celsius.  My wife Stephanie and I headed down in September and bought a property in a beachside town called Playa Tamarindo.  We have now spent a significant amount of time there over the last few months and have come to enjoy it more and more.


When spending any amount of time in a tropical “developing” country, one must be prepared for the inevitability of things moving at a much slower pace.  This can sometimes be challenging for North Americans, when they have to wait longer in lines at the post office, the bank and for food in restaurants.  Coast of Riches: Living in Costa RicaThe lovely people in Costa Rica are simply used to a slower lifestyle.  This has significant benefits to North Americans and Europeans that are looking for rest from the fast paced Metropolis’ that many of us have grown up in.


One of the appealing factors of moving to Costa Rica is that so many people from Canada, the United States and Europe are choosing to live there.  This makes for a very multicultural group of friends, with the Costa Ricans or Tico’s included among them.  The Tico’s and Tica’s of the country are generally very friendly and easy to talk to, if they speak English or you speak Spanish.



A point to note about Costa Rica is that it generally has two seasons.  The ‘dry’ season, from December to May, is when everything resembles a breathtaking Caribbean Island, sunny and hot with a nice breeze coming off the Pacific Ocean.  And the rainy or ‘green’ season from June to November, which is beautiful in its own way.  During the green season the country experiences significant rainfall; in some areas every day for at least three hours and this makes the surrounding foliage, forests and jungles a very lush green.Coast of Riches: Living in Costa Rica


The rain also tends to cool off temperatures a bit.  In the area we purchased, it can be one of the hottest parts of the country in the dry season, so the rain gives our neighborhood some much needed relief from the fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk temperatures it normally experiences.


Costa Rica has a rugged, untouched landscape in many areas and with this comes large animals and insects.  My wife is normally a favorite dish for all of our six-legged, five-eyed, winged little friends; but after spending over a week near the rainforests, there were some bites on her that even we couldn’t recognize.


A good example of one such beast in the area is known as the Langosta, which is basically a giant grasshopper that can get up to lengths the size of one’s forearm.  It’s specifically categorized as a locust and has thorns on its legs, which allow itself to cling to many surfaces.  The third time we stayed in Costa Rica, what I thought was initially a harmless grasshopper, flew into a supermarket and attached itself to my shorts.  As I flung my shopping bags (containing eggs) at it, in an almost paralyzing fear, I witnessed the fact that no matter where one goes on this planet it’s easy to quickly become the butt of a joke.  As four to six Tico’s laughed and I heard words like Mui loco (very crazy), I realized two things: the Costa Ricans do not fear this pest and both the groceries and jokes were at my expense.


That evening as my wife and I headed back to our condo, I told her of my misadventures with the “insect that ate New York”.  In an almost pathetic irony, two more of these monsters had attached themselves to our building as we slowly approached the front door.  These winged-giants fluttered down in Stephanie’s general direction and we both spinelessly ran down the open hallway.  When we reached the ground floor, it was obvious that the 80-year-old security guard had watched the whole ordeal and nearly had a stroke, he was laughing so hard.


Coast of Riches: Living in Costa RicaOther than these minor inconveniences, Costa Rica is a complete 180 degree turn from the life we know in the big city, and with that new direction comes a lot of wonderful adventures, experiences and perspective on enjoying the moment rather than working for the next one.  I for one look forward to spending as much time as possible in our new, tropical home.

Coast of Riches: Living in Costa Rica

©Jonathan Hiltz

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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