If you had told me I was going to live in Costa Rica, I don’t think I would have believed you.
Some things in life are just serendipitous. We were living in Cabo San Lucas and decided to take a vacation to the place everyone around us seemed to be talking about. This was going to be almost a backpack three-week adventure from coast to coast with rainforests and volcanoes in between of a country no bigger than Kentucky. Well, let’s just put it this way our intentions were good.
The thing you discover immediately upon entering Costa Rica is the friendliness of her people. The second thing is the roads are simply dreadful, which makes seeing this tiny country a challenge as we were soon to find out. A 4x4 if venturing outside of the capital, San Jose is a must particularly when it rains, you might find you have to cross a swollen river or two.
We stayed in a little B&B in San Jose for the first two nights. This is a bustling modern cosmopolitan metropolis surrounded by mountainous terrain. Eager to find a place called Nosara on the northwest Pacific coast, we rented a Toyota Rav 4 and headed out on our five-hour drive. Once out of the city, the roads are basically a two-lane blacktop and not in great shape either. Once you get close to the coast there are dirt feeder roads to the little oceanfront villages, a good 30-45 minutes of bumpy, dusty or muddy trails through lush vegetation and rolling farmland. Our destination was to be a three-mile crescent white sand surfing beach-side expat community filled with, Swiss, Italian, a few French & British with a smattering of Americans. The local Tico natives, who provided most of the labor, lived on the outskirts. The Harbor Reef hotel, a four-minute walk to the beach (small mini bungalows dotted throughout the jungle) was to be our base camp.
Our first encounter with nature was to be scared out of our wits by a gorilla-like roar from the dense lush jungle behind us. We soon were told that it was a Howler monkey, a relatively small, black, long-armed, big balled little creature, who signals his territory by this haunting howl that sounds like King Kong is about to come rushing out at you. There where yellow Tucans, parrots, blue, and red toed frogs, huge golden toads, florescent green snakes, and Jaguars, although we only saw the latter that was recuperating in a wildlife refuge the owners of the Harbor Reef had set up.
Early that first evening we walked down to the beach and watch surfers catching the last ride of the day. Mysteriously we noticed people emerging from the jungle as if called by the setting sun – it was magical as people gathered, some with a cold beer in hand others holding children. And then as the sky turned from orange to purple to an indigo blue, people disappeared, back to their huts, homes in the hills or little hotels tucked away in a blanket of dark green. The nightlife in Nosara is quite for the most part except for the dozens of little restaurants that serve drinks and local favorites from fish, rice and beans to some of the best pizza this side of Italy. Even in this little remote seaside village the Italians & Swiss reign supreme with Cappuccino’s and mouth watering pastries and oh yes pizzas galore – too funny.
Journeying to other little villages up and down the coast filled our days. Shrimp, fresh red snapper, ice cold beer, sun sparkling off the Pacific like a thousand diamonds, each adventure rich in its return living a life in slow motion. Little did we know, Nosara and our first hilltop palapa would be our home six months later. What would it be like to live here kept rambling through our minds and eventually lead us to a Swiss Realtor/Developer Terry, was someone who was not over-eager to sell the property, he was however apparently more concerned with making sure we were right for living Pura Vida, The Pure Life in Costa Rica. In the end, we found our jungle lot with a stream running through it, our own piece of the jungle a stone's throw from that magnificent beach. Interestingly enough as a piece of CR trivia, 86% of all Costa Rican’s own their own home on their own land – not bad for a third world country. This tiny little banana and coffee growing spot is known as the Switzerland of Central America which boasts operating a full democracy a fabulous national healthcare system and no army.
There was so much to see all over this country, but that could wait as we're heading back to Cabo to pack up and begin our new adventure. We hurried back to Mexico, drove the Baja back to Taos, where we would re-group over several months in preparing to move to Costa Rica. You see we had to reduce our worldly possessions down to two suite cases each, oh and plus our two dogs Buddy & Ching. We joined the George Carlin ‘No More Stuff Club’ and it felt good.
With dreams of developing our Tommy Bahama Jungle huts for those wanting to enjoy a more up-market yet simple Costa Rican beach-jungle experience, we boarded the plane with our two hairy children. With no extreme trauma, we arrived with the dogs' none the worse for wear. We knew from past experience we needed a tough 4x4 and ended up buying what we thought was a sturdy older Mitsubishi and off we went, even the boys seemed excited to see their new home. Taking a wrong turn we were faced with our first river crossing oh boy thoughts of Indiana Jones flashed before us. Wading out into waist-deep waters to check for depth and the best place to maneuver, phew we made it.
From Taos, we found our new home via the internet and a local agent in Nosara so we had some idea of what to expect, but we couldn’t believe our eyes on the sign to our home “Slow M’Ocean” and then the view beyond the palapa and infinity pool, absolutely perfect. Everyone piled out to take a look and sniff around, it was hard to believe this was where we were going to live, what a view, it seemed to go on for miles up and down the coast and the sun would set right before our eyes.
Settling in was easy, we formed many friendships and loved discovering the little businesses from grocery stores, restaurateurs to surf shops like Coconut Harry’s and the sweetest pastry and palapa bar, Café de Paris and that was just in Nosara where the mode of transportation was mostly by foot or jacked up, big tired golf carts. Beaches or the quintessential Playas abound on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of lazy laid back CR and for those fascinated by Volcanoes, Cerro Chato & Arenal sometimes show their firey sides. Over the next two years, we would live in three different parts on the West Coast. Las Ventanas was high up in the hills overlooking Carrillo and then there was Casa Blanca in picturesque Octal near Hermosa across from the Papagayo peninsula where now sits a world-renowned Four Seasons Resort. You can now fly to Costa Rica’s northernmost international airport at Libera making the trek to the coast a mere 40 minutes.
We never did develop our jungle hut idea, but soaked up the sun and culture practicing retirement, although reality told us we couldn’t live like this forever. If you have the chance to live a life in Slow M’ocean, Costa Rica holds many charms and advantages over some other vacation and retirement destinations.