Posts Tagged With: Costa Rica

Dogs and Cats and Birds Oh my!

Freckles! Or as we like to call him "Fat Boy"

Freckles! Or as we like to call him “Fat Boy”

OH a dog, cat or bird OK. No wait someone asked to bring a pig? A pig is harder than a bird to get in if you even can. Traveling with you pets no matter if you are coming just for a visit or to live here can be a challenge. Is not only getting them here a bit  of trouble once here there are many things you will have to look out for. This blog is going to document our journey from the US to Costa Rica with our dogs. Here are some pictures of our current Fur Family.

This is what we see when we pull up into our car port and they are out in the back yard. Aren't they just so cute!

This is what we see when we pull up into our car port and they are out in the back yard. Aren’t they just so cute!

This was Shadow she recently passed from a heart condition that no one knew she had. she was my little fur baby girl.

This was Shadow she recently passed from a heart condition that no one knew she had. she was my little fur baby girl.

Ginger

Ginger

Bubbles

Bubbles

Freckles

Freckles

Gizmo

Gizmo

Leeloo

Leeloo

Pixy

Pixy

Dobby one of our Local Rescue dogs we adopted.

Dobby one of our Local Rescue dogs we adopted.

Bella

Bella

Nina another rescue dog we adopted.

Nina another rescue dog we adopted.

Pepper

Pepper

So Pepper, Ginger, Dobby, Pixy and Nina we got here in Costa Rica one way or another and the rest we brought down from the United States back in March of 2012. So a total of 6 dogs we brought with us. So that is our current fur family! I know crazy right? It has its moments of joy, sorrow and “OH MY GOD!” We love them all. I can’t speak to bringing down cats, but I am told pretty much the same process as I am about to talk about. Now Birds I have been told are worse and hard and unless you love that bird with all your heart and soul and think of it as a son or daughter you may want to rethink about bringing it down. Again I can’t speak directly to what is involved, but we have a friend who brought his African Grey down and the long stories of what he had to do and the issues he has here as no vet in Atenas knows how to take care of an African Grey.  So lets get to it shall we.

What is needed to bring down your dogs and or cats? 

Now, before I even begin I need to tell you the rules are always changing so what I type here is what we had to do. Depending on when you do it the rules could be different. So be sure to check before you bring them! Once you have get it all done quickly before they change it again. You are going to need proof of vaccinations and you are going to need certification statements and everything is all about the timing of things. Dogs need to be vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, Leptospirosis, parvovirus and rabies and Cats just need rabies. Now the vaccinations have to me more than 30 days old, but not more than a year. We had an issue with 2 of our dogs as we had given them 3 year rabies vaccinations and they were in their 2nd year. So it had been longer than a year, so they would not accept that, even though it was a 3 year and they still had over a year left on their certificate. It really is all about the timing people so pay close attention to those details. You are also going to need a health certificate from a properly licensed veterinary. Not all vets can do this health certificate. Ours could not so we had to take them somewhere else. It has to say at minimum that your pet was examined and found to be healthy and free of any clinical signs of infectious disease. I know any vet should be able to do this one. Not sure why ours couldn’t. It is what it is. The health certificate also needs to be endorsed by the US Department of Agriculture as well. If I were you I would make sure I had at minimum 3 copies of everything just to be on the safe side. You will also need an international health certificate form 7001 from  Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). This is a lot of stuff to do! Now I am going to tell you we looked into all of this and it scared the crap out of us. We were so afraid that we may screw up and not dot an i or cross a t and we would be stuck when we got here. So we went with a service to get this all done. We paid for door to door service. Since we had the vaccination issues of the whole 30 days thing our dogs could not travel with us. We left the states in Feb. and they followed 30 days later in March. So we were not there to bring them. The door to door service at Capital Pet Movers was a god send!  Yes it was a bit costly, but they took care of all of the above. Picked up our dogs at the the house in the States, put them on the plane, sent us tracking information all along the way so we knew where they were and had someone pick them up here and bring them right to us to our house in Atenas. It cost about $9K for 6 dogs. Now the crate is a bit of a challenge and things get a little more sticky if you have a larger animal. The crate has to be the size big enough for your pet to stand and turn around in. Larger dogs and larger crates create a problem on some airlines. I have heard some horror stories of pets dying while being transported and being left on hot tarmac’s and just all manner of stuff. Again which is why we went with a service to be sure they were taken care of properly. Another concern is how well your pet travels? If they have to be sedated to travel the airlines will not take them. They do not want the responsibility should something happen to your pet because of the medication. If you have one small pet and bring them on the plane with you in the cabin its a little easier from the shipping stand point. Larger or more dogs becomes more complex and more problematic. There are issues with time of year and heat and water and food and all kinds of stuff. So do your research with each airline as each one is different.

Bringing you pet back to the US

It is pretty much the same process. You will need a Certificate of Good Health from your veterinarian in Costa Rica and an authorization issued by the Costa Rican Ministry of Agriculture. There are some stamps you will need and there are fees that will need to be paid to the country. The vet you use should know all of this information and help guide you better than I can on this point. My suggestion is if you are not coming here to live with you pets don’t bring them. Now if you are going to be here for a month or two or 3 then maybe.

Things you should know that we did not know about having pets in Costa Rica This is a beautiful country and you pets are going to love it here as much as you do, but there are hazards here that we did not have in the states. We knew about some but not all of them. Not that if we knew would we have done anything different, but we may have planned our life here a little better for our animals.

Lets start with fleas and ticks. Oh my god the ticks were so bad here! Our poor dogs in a matter of a week were covered in them. We had them treated before they left the states, but it was horrible! We were grooming and picking anywhere from 5 to 15 a day off every dog. So we got a fumigator. Well no change we picked one who didn’t have  a clue what he was doing so our hunt for a new one began. We talked to people and looked online and searched and finally found one who was amazing! We also got our vet involved and we got shampoo and collars. I didn’t think collars did anything really, but they do! They were great! It did cause some issues which I will talk about later.

Cane Toad this one is a small one! They get much bigger!

Cane Toad this one is a small one! They get much bigger!

Toads! this is a big problem here in rainy season! Toads can kill your small pets and large. They are very dangerous! Dogs love to play with them and lick them and bit them. If they do they will die within 15 minutes if you do not get them treatment. Now I have heard that if you use milk or a honey, milk and egg combo or seltzer water or a number of other things you can save you pet. To many stories what our vet says is to wash out their mouths as quickly as you can with running water and do not let the dogs swallow the water. Use a tooth brush to clean their mouth out. Be sure to wash any area that may have gotten venom on it and get them treatment as quickly as possible. Which isn’t always easy as Atenas doesn’t have a 24/7 vet here. The closest is in Santa Ana about a 20 minute drive if you speed and the best is in Heredia about 30 minutes if you speed. So 15 minutes just won’t work out. So vigilance is the key! Night time I go out and check the yard and KILL yes I said KILL any toad I find and dispose of it before I let the dogs out. They are only out a short time to do what they need to and then brought back in. Walking 10 dogs on a leash is not an option. I will leave the details of how they meet their ends out of this post. Know I try to make it as painless as possible.

Bady fer-de-lance we found right on our deck outside our living room. Just glad the dogs were not running out the door at the time we opened the doors.

Bady fer-de-lance we found right on our deck outside our living room. Just glad the dogs were not running out the door at the time we opened the doors.

Snakes are pretty much in the same category as the Toads with the exception of there is an anti venom available to give to your pets. Depending on if it is an adult or baby determines how much time you may have to get them to the vet. Again see above about vets. You may want to check to see what you local area vet has to offer and where the closest 24/7 one is to you. You do not want to do that drive at night, in the rain, in a panic the 1st time.

Scorpions are less dangerous of the things here in Costa Rica that can harm you pet. I think it is the least out of all of them even the ticks are more dangerous and I will tell you why next. Ticks carry a disease call Ehrlichiosis. The following comes from the CDC website. Ehrlichiosis is the general name used to describe several bacterial diseases that affect animals and humans. Human ehrlichiosisis a disease caused by at least three different ehrlichial species in the United States: Ehrlichia chaffeensis,Ehrlichia ewingii, and a third Ehrlichiaspecies provisionally called Ehrlichia muris-like (EML). Ehrlichiae are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick. The lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) is the primary vector of both Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii in the United States. Typical symptoms include: fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. Usually, these symptoms occur within 1-2 weeks following a tick bite. Ehrlichios is diagnosed based on symptoms, clinical presentation, and later confirmed with specialized laboratory tests. The first line treatment for adults and children of all ages is doxycycline.  Ehrlichiosis and other tickborne diseases can be prevented. Now what they just said for humans can be applied for dogs. They get the same symptoms. They can not communicate to you that they have a majority of them, so what you look out for is fever, fatigue and limping. If you dog starts to manifest any of these and you have pulled a tick off of them get them to a vet asap. They can go down hill quickly. Since you don’t always see it in the dogs they could have had the symptoms for some time. We almost lost 3 dogs to this disease as we were uneducated on it and what to look for. We have a great vet Doctor Salono here in Atenas and we love, love, love him! We fumigate 2x a year our entire property inside and out. We do it just before rainy season starts and just before dry season starts. That has helped, but still doesn’t stop it all. Ticks and fleas are rampant here. Our wonderful fumigator is highly trained and knowledgeable. He showed us how to prune our plants and grass to help with keeping scorpions away and snakes. He has given us advise on all manner of things to do. Make sure you keep a dirt barrier of about 1 to 2 feet from any surface. The creepy crawlers like to hide in the grass and travel that way, and if they come to dirt they tend to turn around. All your shrubs should be trimmed a the bottom about a foot from the ground. Again removes the hiding places. All drains should be capped off with wire mesh so as to not allow entrance into your property. If you want to be very diligent you can build walls. Just make sure there are no trees that over hang the wall or snakes can get in that way. Now I have also been told to plant Garlic grass as it will keep the snakes and toads away they don’t like it. I have also been told to throw moth balls around the property where the dogs can not get them. So this rainy season I am going to try both and let you know what happens. Now we have used the collars and we have also used two controversial items to help keep the fleas and ticks off our dogs.  Our vet comes every 2 months and injects our dogs with Ivermectin and imizol. Look them up and educate yourself about them and use or not. I also use a little minced garlic in their water and that seems to help a good bit as well. We have been told to give them a bath once a week in dawn dish soap and we are going to start that as well. Our dogs health is one of the most important issues for us here in Costa Rica. Its a tricky thing here to keep these creatures out. So diligence is you best defense to keep you pets safe. So lets wrap this one up as well. Educate yourself, be diligent and take all precautions you can while traveling or living with you pets in Costa Rica. Know where you vets office is and where a 24/7 hospital is. Keep these things in mind and you could save your pets life! Lets end this with a nice video of out dogs playing in the yard shall we. Hope you enjoy it!

Pura Vida!

Categories: Pets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fun thing to do within 3 hours of Atenas

These are just a few things to do. If you know now more please comment in the comment section and let us know what you think is fun to do in and around Atenas! I can’t wait to see your comments.

Pura Vida!

 

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Buffering….Buffering…Buffering

netflix-bufferingThis is a screen that many of us in Costa Rica are use to seeing. this blog I am going to be talking about the internet, providers, and various services and tips to help you navigate the world wide web  in Costa Rica. There are a lot more then you would think. In my little town of Atenas we have I.C.E., Cabletica, Crwifi, Metrowireless, Kolbi, Sky, and Claro. Other areas have other services like Tigo, Japi, and many others. I can’t speak to all of these services in this blog, but I will try to touch on them all. I will however speak to a couple that I am using and testing here in Atenas and what others have said about them.

So where to start? Lets start with what services like Neflix you can get in Costa Rica. NONE! Nope None! Well that isn’t true. You can get a modified version of US Netflix in Costa Rica. You however can not get any of the major TV stations like ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. You can nto use amazon or hulu either. Now wait before you say, “Oh hell no I am not moving to visiting Costa Rica!” There is hope. There are a number of services you can use that will make it look like you are in the US or some other country. Is this legal well lets just say no one is coming after anyone yet so it seems to be a big business. I have tried two of these services. One I was happy with and than Hulu and Amazon figured it out and I could not use them any more. The other I have been with and happy for a long time now. That service is called unblock-us. Don’t let the name fool you as it unblocks everywhere. I watch BBC shows from Costa Rica using this service. It is seamless and I have not experience any slowdowns. Some of these VPN services slow your system down and you are already going to be slower then you are use to so you don’t want this. Now some of these services say they are free, but they are not. Don’t be fooled. Nothing in this world is free. unblock-us at the time of this cost $4.99 a month. It is well worth the price. If you are tech savvy you can change your router settings and every device in your network will be able to access any and all services anywhere in the world. You can also use it to change settings on your device as well. This is great! Lets say you go to the local Cafe and want to stream a movie while you are there. If you don’t have the settings on you device then it won’t work. This service allows you to do both ways! Its great! I am not being paid to say this. It is the service I use and I love it!

So now you know you can get these services with a little help from our friends. Now you need to decide what is the speed you need?  Back in the states I had over 175Mbps dowloand and 75Mbps upload. I was a faster is better type of person. Get that the hell out of your head now! You are not getting those speeds in Costa Rica. You are not even going to get close.

Now my history. I am a huge gamer. I play everything from Facebook games to MMORPG’s like WoW, Rift, ST:TOR, Guildwars, etc. Right now my main game is Rift. So yes with the right provider and speed you too can still game. Don’t expect a FPS of 27 or a ping rate below 100. I do everything from PvP to Dungeons and raids and have little to no issues. So what are  you going to do? I game, stream video, take video conference calls, skype, use vonage (us phone number), and I have even live streamed to Facebook my dogs playing in the back yard! 🙂 So yes there is hope! You may do some of these things or all of these things. You can do them. So here is a chart that explains what they say you need to use these services.

Note: Internet speeds listed represent Download speeds.

0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed

1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed

3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for DVD quality

5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality

7.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for Super HD quality

12 Megabits per second – Recommended for 3D quality

I currently have two services in my home. I have a company called Cabletica at 5Mbps and  Metrowireless at 2Mbps. I have streamed on the 2Mbps Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and a few other services at HD quality. I have not tested 3d and I have no clue and have not seen anything listed as Super HD quality. So I can’t speak to those. You can bet they will work on less if I can do HD with 2Mbps when it is 5Mbps recommended. Also keep in mind I stream a movie and play a video game online all at the same time with the 2Mbps and the 5Mbps and I have seen no difference in the quality. Now your results could vary from mine. There are so many factors. So let me explain how I got to where I am.

When I first moved to Costa Rica I had Cabletica at 10Mbps. We had all kinds of issues. Stops, starts, buffering, and outages. So needless to say I was getting frustrated. I couldn’t even stream youtube without an issue. You are then going to say, “But you still have cabletica?” That is correct I do. I will get to why in a minute depending on how fast you read. So, I decided to start looking for other services. I heard about a company called CrWifi. Great! So I call and talk to them. I explain I am a heavy user and wanted to be sure they are an unlimited services. They told me yes. I then spoke to a couple friends who have or had them and they tell me No. If you use to much bandwidth they will call you and complain and start to slow you down and even cut you off. So not really an unlimted data plan. So I called back to verify this for myself and this was true. So I had them put a router in my home to test our usage and see what they would charge me. Was I surprised? Oh hell yes. I was looking at a 12Mbps service at bursting. You don’t want a bursting service. They came back with a monthly total for my usage at $500 a month! Yes I said $500! They were crazy. So my search continued. So I found Metrowireless in my search. They seemed reasonable with their prices. I called and verified their prices and what they had was unlimited and it was. So I started out with them at 6Mbps. Now I decided and glad I did to keep the cabletica until I was sure metro was better. Well it wasn’t! So now I have 10Mbps and 6Mbps and can’t even get 8Mbps combines between the two. So I was paying for service that I wasn’t not getting. So I was not happy. So I began to use speed tests on each service at various times of the day. Yes your service does change depending on the time of day. You have to remember that your service is being shared and there is a finite amount of bandwidth. So my average on each servuce was 5Mbps with Tica and 2Mbps with metro. I down graded my services to those numbers and have been very happy. You experience could be different with the higher speeds. The only way you will know is get the higher service and if it doesn’t work out, test your speeds and then down grade like I did.

Now why 2 services? Well that is simple. When one goes down the other is up! I have yet to have both services go out at the same time. I pay $55 for Tica and $33 for metro. Now tica will only give you internet if you have TV as well. I pay about $30 for the Tv service. So my total monthly is about $125 a month with taxes and fees.

In the states most people pay more than this for TV, Phone and Internet. Now granted their internet speeds are faster, but to be honest I don’t notice the difference. I still do all the things I did in the states here. Now uploading video and pictures and such is a little harder. All of these services do not offer very fast uploads. I have .5Mbps on cabletica and 1Mbps on Metro. So uploading is a but of a challenge. Large video’s are an over night thing. So I try to keep my video’s to a min or less in length. Pictures are not too bad. If you do have large files I would suggest put them in a Que and let them run all night while you are sleeping. 🙂

So lets look at how much this really is. unblock-us $4.99, Hulu 7.99, Netflix 9.99, Amazon prime (free streaming) $7.00 and Cable Tv and internet with two providers is $125. So for me to stream and watch all my TV shows it costs roughly $155. I get all my TV and movies. When I look at what I was paying back in the states it is cheap. In the states I had all the channels and the fastest speeds available and it cost me over $250 a month so $100 a month cheaper and my life is no different when it comes to my TV and internet habits.

So if TV and internet is important to you then expect to pay for it and expect to have slower speeds then you are use to. Like I said my wife and I are heavy users and we found a system that works for us and I am sure you can find a system that will work for you as well.

So lets wrap this up. Slower speeds, Higher prices, and outages should be expected. Streaming TV and movies, playing online games, skype, video conference, telephone and other services do work. So yes you can have a good experience with your internet here in Costa Rica if you are willing to change you mind set!

Pura Vida!

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience, Internet, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where there is smoke! Dry season in Costa Rica

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYep you guessed it there is fire!!!!! So I have been living here in Costa Rica Atenas area for 13 months now. We are now deep into our 2nd dry season. Last season we didn’t personally experience too many fires. What we did experience were either far away or done by the time we knew about them. This year we had a scare. A fire came very close to our home in Atenas. So that got me to thinking, “Why are there so many fires? How do they start?” So I started to look around as we travel though our daily lives paying attention to the burnt areas and current fires and I have picked my top 3 reasons which I will go into later.

The reason for this blog is to explain to people who are thinking of moving here or visiting why we who live here now are not that thrilled with dry season and why we like Rainy season so much better. Lets look at it from the perspective of someone who is coming here for a vacation or to check it out. You are going to come during dry season. So what you are going to see is black hill sides WP_20140311_14_17_05_Pro, brown grass and just a very dry place. You won’t have rain no doubt, which is what you are trying to avoid, but Costa Rica is so pretty in the Rainy season. You must come and visit both times of the year if you are thinking of moving here.

Now because most people avoid coming here during Rainy season prices jump! Hotel prices, food prices, everything goes up in dry season. Yes it is all your fault you vacationers. 🙂  So those coming to live here see it as expensive. Those vacationing see it as a little expensive, but expect it as its a tourist area they are in and are only going to be here for a short time and they budgeted for the costs so no worries on their end. You who have come to visit to see if you want to live here really did pick the bad time of year to experience it.

Now those of us who live here we do love our Rainy season. The landscape is lush and pretty and colorful. _DSC4952OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese same areas are now black from a fire and brown from no rain. The rainy season varies from area to area. So right now I can only speak from my experience here in Atenas. Last rainy season we got a lot of rain, but it was in the afternoon for an hour or two. The morning was bright and sunny and so was the afternoon. It did rain every day like this. We only experienced one day where it was cloudy and rainy all day and even then the rain was light with the exception of an occasional heavy down pour. The afternoon shower isn’t just a shower. Its like the heavens opened up and is just dumping huge buckets of water on your head. Its amazing and it is beautiful to watch when you are up in the mountains like we are. I love watching the clouds move in and cover everything. The cloud actually comes into the house. Now it is as scary as it is beautiful. The lighting is crazy! Its beautiful and deadly. We do usually have power outages, but the longest it has ever been out is 4 hours. Our home back in the states we needed to put in a generator as if the power went out from a storm it could be days before it comes back on.

The other issue in rainy season is insects. They do come out more as they are looking for a dry place to be. So that is a bit of a challenge. If you are coming to live here and have pets you will need to be watchful of cane toads. They are deadly to pets like dogs who may bite them. They are always here, but you see them in large quantities during rainy season as there are more insects for them to eat. If a small dogs bits one they will die in a manner of 15 minutes if they do not receive treatment. Larger dogs you have a little longer. So while rainy season is beautiful and wonderful it does have its challenges. We currently have 10 dogs and I am not looking forward to the cane toads.

Rainy season may not have fires, but they do have landslides. So you do have to be very careful when walking or driving in rain storms. The landslide can come out of no where.

This dry season we had a fire that came very, very, very close to our house. It started on one of the main roads out of town and worked its way up the hill to our community and started down the hill toward our house. Here is a picture.

WP_20140310_08_59_23_ProThis picture is from our yard when we began to smell the smoke. There is a White house with a red stripe at the top of the hill. That is the house where it began to come down into the community. The house to my knowledge thanks to the bomberos (gringo speak fire department) only had smoke damage and lawn burned. The house I believe sustained no fire damage. It began to travel down the hill side of that house and toward our house. It go so close we could hear the crackle of the fire. In most cases this wouldn’t be an issue. We have insurance that covers fire and things are things. All our memories are on a hard drive I can grab and run, but we have 10 dogs! 3 large and 7 smaller. So fire makes this not a fun idea for us if we need to run. I know, I know have less dogs. That isn’t going to happen so we have to figure out how to get 10 dogs in a car quickly and get out of dodge. This fire has made me realize the need for speed! It came quick and fast and we hung in there, but we were just minutes away from saying lets get the fuck out of here! Here are just a few more pictures of the damage that happens in dry season.

WP_20140310_12_57_21_Pro WP_20140310_12_58_12_Pro

This is the hill it came down. So it went up to here and then down.

This is the hill it came down. So it went up to here and then down.

This is where it started and made its way to our house.

This is where it started and made its way to our house.

So why are there so many fires in dry season, well other than the obvious that everything is dry? Fires don’t just start something has to cause them right? Yes, I would say that is a good assumption. So then why so many and how do they start. I have a couple of theories and these are my top ones.

  1. During dry season they harvest Sugar Cane. When they do this they burn the fields for one reason or another. They have been doing this for many, many years. It is actually illegal to do it, but no one says anything and it continues to happen. So they do their “controlled” burn. Well winds pick up and carry embers to other areas that than hit the dry ground and start another fire.
  2. Litter is one of the biggest reasons, in my opinion for these fires. You will drive along the road and see the side of the road a fire had been there. You look around and can’t see why it would have started. There are a couple of factors when it comes to litter.

  • The 1st and most dangerous is a lit cigarettes being tossed out the window. I would hope the locals would know better, but people can be stupid. Now tourists have no clue so I think they are more at fault with the throwing of lit items out the car window.
  • The second is glass bottles discarded on the side of the road. They are as dangerous as a lit cigarette. The sun here is very hot and very strong. A glass bottle will act as a magnifying glass, so the sun will start a fire just as quick as if you put a match to the dried grass. I do believe this is how a lot of those road side fires start. Broken glass anything laying in the ground that could magnify the sun.

So lets wrap this one up shall we. Dry season is just that dry. Everything is brown and dirty and dusty and there are fires. Rainy season don’t avoid it, it really isn’t that bad. Everything is lush and green and much more beautiful than dry season. You do have increased insect activity and landslides. So nothing is perfect. If you are just a tourist come dry or rainy season you will enjoy it. If you are looking to live here, be sure to visit at the peek of both seasons so you know what you are getting yourself into.

Pura Vida!

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Toto we are not in Kansas any more!

I guess you are expecting a post about wind or weather or some other nature event that will sweep you away? Nope not what I am going to be talking about in this blog. Today I am going to tell you about my experience at Cima Hospital, but to do that I have to give you a little background. So One Tuesday I went out with friends for dinner and the next morning I woke up and felt like death warmed over. I didn’t want to move and I was exploding out of the area below my belly button, well to put it nicely. I think you will get what I am talking about. This went on all day. So go to bed and wake up Thursday morning and I feel right as rain. No more issues and felt good. So I thought something I ate or just a 24 hour bug or something. Thursday night I go to bed and I start to feel dizzy and light headed.  I am diabetic so my 1st thought was low blood sugar. So I check it. Nope blood sugar normal. So what is this feeling? Maybe vertigo? So had a pill to take for that. Few hours later still feeling bad. Got into bed and the room started to spin! OK now what? So maybe my blood pressure. So I pull out the blood pressure cuff and check that. We have a winner! Give that artery a prize! My blood pressure was a bit high and it isn’t usually that high, but the kicker was my pulse was very low for me. It was 54. I’m usually at low 80’s. So I watch it thought the night. I wake up Friday and again feeling right as rain! So I head off to my dietitian for our weekly meeting to go over our diet, how much we lost and such. Yes when I came to Costa Rica I was 298lbs. I am now 237lbs in a year, but that is for another blog. So I get started and all of a sudden I feel like shit. I cancel my appointment and go straight to dra. Candy here in Atenas. She runs some  tests and decides I need some meds and to be monitored. So over he weekend I take my pressure and pulse and watch it so that I can call her on Monday. I call give her the readings and she say, “You should make a cardiology appointment right away.” She then gives me the name and number of someone over at Cima. Now keep in mind that back in the states this would take forever to do. I would have had to go back to the doctor to go over my numbers. I couldn’t just call them up or email them or Facebook them like we do here. So I hang up and call the number she gave me. I have an appointment the next day at 11:20. No way! Really? Cool! Never would have happened in the states. Tuesday comes and I go in. Her office is a little crowded. We wait our turn and 11:20 comes and goes, but we get in at about 11:50. Not bad if you ask me. I have been to my doctor in the states and had to wait 1 to 2 hours past my appointment time. Now also keep in mind all I did was check in at this point and let the receptionist know I was there. No information other then my name was given. Go into the office and meet the doctor. We sit down and she then takes my information and my history and puts it right in the computer. Wait what? I don’t have to give it to like 2 or 3 different people and than have the doctor ask me all the same questions again? Really? Ok nice. So we are done and she has me get undressed and puts me on the table. She take and hooks me up to an EKG and a sonogram machine. She does all the tests. Says it looks good, but would like to run a couple more to be sure, since I am diabetic and I have lost a lot of weight. She says, “You have a new body now we should see how it is working.” I love that! So I say ok when can we get this scheduled. She gave me a couple different options that same week, but we had a wedding to go to so I asked if it was ok to do when we get back. She said yes and we made the appointment for Monday. No keep in mind I would have been able to have these tests done the same week. I also need to get some blood tests. This I can do in Atenas. So go the next morning to do the blood tests. I walk into the lab, give them my name, and the paperwork from the doctor. I go to sit down to wait and she calls me right in. So in and out in less than 10 minutes. Tells me to come back in two hours to pick up results. Wait really? I don’t have to wait for them to be sent to the doctor and then set up a new appointment? Nope pick them up. So I do and than I, now get this, email them over to the doctor myself and she lets me know via email they are all good! Again not another appointment? Ok cool. Fast forward to toady Monday less than one week from my appointment and we are at Cima to have the other tests run. So my appointmenst are Eco Stress test at 9am, abdominal sonogram at 10am and sonogram of my carotid arteries at 10:30am. I’m thinking ok this isn’t going to be good. Go in show the receptionist my paperwork from the doctor. She takes my passport and puts the info in the computer. Tells me how much and I make the payment. I then go to the next room, show my receipt and than 5 minutes later they call me in to give me my 1st test. Oh my god guess who is there to give me my test? Yep my doctor! The nurse take a little info for Cima’s records as it was my 1st time there and than hooks me up for my Eco stress test. Test was conducted by my doctor! Amazing! Not some lab tech, but my doctor. She gives me the results right then and tells me everything looked wonderful. So no stressing over waiting for the results. So now I go out to wait for the other two test. Now I’m early. So appoint was at 9 and I was in and out by 9:20. Now I have to wait for my 10am. So I wait. Now this one was a little longer. My last appointment was at 10:30. They didn’t call me in until 10:50. I go in they sit me down. They have all my info don’t ask me anything else. Tells me what I am here for and why and what I have. Doesn’t ask but tells me. He than does his thing and takes care of all the other tests and sends me on my way. Now I have a 2pm appointment to see my doctor to go over the tests. So we go have lunch. We go back to the hospital after a nice relaxing lunch with some really good food and pick up my last two test results to take to the doctor with us. Yes 2 hours later pick up results and take with us! Amazing! Go in and sit and by 2:10 we are called in. We talk and chit chat a bit. She tells me I am healthy with some minor issues. So she gave me a med for my blood pressure to see if it keeps it low, but she will take me off if it looks ok. She also gave me a pill as my liver and pancreases did have some fat issues, but very minor and not to worry about it.  So she gives me 10 days worth of pills and send me home and tells me to try them and email her if I have any issues and she will reevaluate me. Now here is the real kicker. I had 3 or 4 pages of blood work done, 1 Eco stress test, a complete sonogram of my liver, kidneys, pancreases, and heart. and 2 doctor office visits. The entire bill was under $1K. That is out of pocket with no insurance. Well I have insurance, but I will have to summit it on a claim form to get it back.   c7

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience, Healthcare, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Yikes! Costa Rica! What have I done?

OK,  so now that I got your attention. 🙂 Recently I have been discouraged by people talking smack about Costa Rica and decided to ask a question and see how it gets answered. I went on Facebook and posted the following message on a couple expat groups I belong to.

“So here is a question for those who have lived in Costa Rica for more than 12 months. Would you do it all over again? If you would what is the 1 thing you would do differently. If you wouldn’t why wouldn’t you do it again? I will use some of the responses in a blog I am writing. I will give your Facebook name as credit or let me know you don’t want me to use your name and I will just do anonymous.”

So before I give you their responses and there were a lot of them, I should give you my response.

Yes I would do it all over again. I guess the one thing I would have done differently is came here sooner. I could have moved here many years ago and I didn’t. If I had I could have tried to make some opportunities for some family and friends to have join me here if they wanted to. Do I miss my family and friends? Yes with all my heart. We Facebook and Skype to keep in touch and up to date. We do however go back 2x a year and see everyone and some have come to visit us here. So it does work out. Is it hard? Very much so, but for me it was a great decision as my health has improved 100%. I may blog about those changes later.

Now I did hand pick them only because so many of them actually said the same thing. Not that I was surprised by that, but no need to have 100 posts saying the same thing. So here are the responses in no particular order. Great advise if you are thinking of moving here.

  • Rick Vollman I would do it all over again. I am extremely humbled and never have to worry again about what I have and I don’t have. Washing dishes by hand, filling up ice trays. I don’t miss a thing from the states.
  • Sara Pompey Ford I would do it all again without the slightest hesitation. If I was going to do anything differently, it would be to have brought more friends and family with me.
  • Nel Cameron I would do it again in a heartbeat. Differently? I would have brought more stuff in my container. We had loads of room but just no time to think it through.
  • Steve Johnson Would do it again, but would not live near my totally useless in-laws!!!!!!!!!!
  • Cathy Glasner We moved 13 months ago and would do it again!! What would we do differently?? Would not have shipped a car, would have bought one in CR!
  •  Sarah Starkey I would have imported a good 4WD car, with a known maintenance / ownership history, from the US instead of renting from overpriced CR rental agencies for months, renting a REALLY crap car from a private party for several months and finally, buying a REALLY REALLY crap car from a “trusted friend” who, it turns out, would probably sell his own mother if there were money involved. In the end, I would have saved thousands of $$ and the headaches of paperwork, etc. would have been worth it.
  • Dianne Hill Fischer Would do it again. I Would work harder on learning Spanish before I came. Would make things a lot more enjoyable.
  • Lori Sanders Been here almost a year. I would have come sooner too! I wanted to make sure it was a go so I only recently went back and shipped some things I knew I could either not get here or would be outrageously expensive here. Hindsight is 20/20 but I wish I would have shipped my stuff sooner. . And I don’t even regret the one and only tattoo that I have. I got it here. A Golden Orb spider and the words Pura Vida!!
  • Steve Johnson Many people advised us to sell everything before we came. Our antiques, our memorabilia, our family heirlooms???????? We shipped EVERYTHING, and are very happy with that decision.
  • Sarah Carling I would have kept my life more minimal so we could pack up and move easily round the country rather than settling in San Jose. We realized after we had our baby here that we had recreated our old lives rather than seeking out new ones.
  • Jon Graham I would have rented longer to experience life in different parts of the country.
  • Chris Poindexter Yes, I’d do it all over again. Differently? I’d have brought our leather couches.
  • Wendy Tayler 23+ years… had my residency in the works before moving down. Yes. Would do again. Raised 5 children here. What I would have done differently? Not married the tico I married…. glad he is gone.. glad I stayed after.
  • Peggy Stewart Absolutely would do it again. The only things we would do differently are to sell our house in Canada BEFORE moving here & to take some sort of instruction in Spanish BEFORE moving.
  • Ann Duff-Ealy Lyons I’ve been here 20 years and made just about every mistake that is possible… still, I wouldn’t change anything because I learned a lot from every mistake and became much stronger for it… and besides that, I felt so much at home here from the very beginning and fell so much in love with this country, that I could never leave… it’s home, and I’m blessed to have 2 homes now… the one where I was born and the one where I chose to be.
  • Chitown Gal I’ve been here 14 months and I wish I would have enrolled my son in his current school right out of the gate. The primarily Tico private school he attended initially was a really bad experience for him as one of the only expats plus he is leaps and bounds ahead of where his Tico peers are academically. Now that we have found a good fit with his school, I could definitely see us here longer than initially planned.
  • Rachel Loughery Been here six years. What would I do differently? Brought a couple of extra bikinis!
  • Ross Lustman I’d have started studying Spanish sooner, and I’d have started shopping at the Feria sooner.
  • Nancy Van Patten Absolutely, I would do it again! One thing I would do differently, I would have brought more of our furniture; even tho’ the house was purchased with furniture, I still would prefer my “comfortable ” stuff now!
  • Pat Cheek Certainly do it again – have never looked back–but I wish I would have brought my tools! hammer, saw , screwdrivers. jut the usual stuff….can;t really think of a thing I miss other than my kids and Dad! oh yes and a few friends –all of which can visit whenever they wish and most have chosen not ..go figure???
  • John Wegner Just like we said in Texas: “I wasn’t born here but I got here as fast as I could.” I’ve been here 3 years and several years of vacations. Wife here for “a lotta years.” Took way too long to get here. Do something different? Nothing, really. Maybe have the guts to throw out a pile of “stuff” that we brought down in the sea container and will never use here.
  • Debbie Rudd I would definitely do it again. You couldn’t pay me any amount of money to leave. I brought two suitcases with me and basically still have only the essentials. I feel like I am actually getting to live a life here which is something I didn’t get to do in the US. I enjoy the people, the culture, the beauty of the country, and am very happy to have settled in Grecia.
  • Frank Gould Would I come to Costa Rica again? Yes. Definitely yes. But let me be the group’s curmudgeon for a moment. There are lots of Costa Rica’s in the world. Some with richer cultures and certainly better cuisines. A good example is Portugal. Slow paced country, friendly people, low crime (at least relative to the amount spent on police resources) and a tyrannical bureaucracy. However, in one way Portugal and a few other places are better–lower cost of of living.Costa Rica like some other countries have mismanaged their fiscal activities (introducing huge import fees and inflation) in an attempt to support a bloated bureaucracy and periodically to win elections by spending money on poorly thought out public works . A case in point is Guanacaste. Regarding the bureaucracy, on any given day, the people dining at sodas are over represented by gringoes and Costa Rican government workers and by not by the local population.

    What saves the governments of Costa Rica and Portugal from doing more harm to theirselves and their own people appears to be that those countries are simply not strategic in world affairs–forgotten places except as vacation destinations and (in the case of Costa Rica) as “mule” trails for drugs into the US.

    On balance, Costa Rica is a great place–certainly not for every expat. For those few, it is nice to be in a forgotten part of the world. Let me take a guess as to those people you know who find contentment here–adventurous souls who are not only tolerant of different cultures but embrace (with some occasional complaining) those differences.

So the following Facebook user made a good point:

Faye Witcher Yes, but Bunky, this audience is 100% of the people who stayed. Presumably there are a lot of people who tried it but left, and they wouldnt be on a forum like this.

The following was a follow up by another Facebook user:

Margaret Aliff The people I know who have left here mostly did so to be closer to their families…children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and some still spend part-time here. I do not think the cultural differences are for everyone and imagine many are not able to adjust. Too many who stay here still seem to expect ?

Faye and Margaret do have a point, but I did get this one in private and they don’t want their name released for fear of backlash from the expat community on the open forums and I don’t blame them. I’ve seen some of those expats online tear people up for talking bad about Costa Rica, but I have also seen them tear people down because they talk good about it. It viscous out there! Hater are going to hate and Lovers are gonna love. Just watch your back.

Anonymous  We live near Tamarindo, for context. 1)Too hot 2) Not much to do beyond beach and pool with three year olds (see number 1). 3) Not a good “value” (i.e. things are more expensive than they should be) 4) Shitty dealings with other expats (our landlord and his property manager are both unprofessional, cheap, know-it-all turds) 6) Dangerous drivers 7) Poor air quality. Smells like a campfire all dry season, but especially now, which is really, really bad for your lungs. 8) Expats that blindly lash other expats for complaining. Sometimes there is a better way. I will judge (silently). It is not ok to ride your bike on the side of the 55 mph road with your 18 month old on the handle bars. I will complain (to other expats). What if the Founding Fathers hadn’t complained? 9) Restaurants suck and are overpriced. Bad combo. Lots of people who leave would cite Tico time. I don’t have a business, only have a house keeper (though she shows up when she wants), am not trying to build or repair anything, so it doesn’t bug me that much. The concept bugs be a lot, especially because I think those that engage in it are doing themselves a disservice to their credibility, and by reputation now (it is called Tico time, not Jose time), the credibility of their fellow countrymen, but I haven’t had a lot of experience with it, especially compared to those who are actually trying to get things done. I was told recently by an expat who has a business that he believes there are a lot of Ticos that have a carefully crafted story designed to eventually get money out of you. It doesn’t start right away; the “long con,” if you will. Its sad that he has had enough of those types of experiences that he mentally rolls his eyes anytime any Tico starts a tale of woe.

Kimberly Beck Hovland 4 years in and we are on the fence. We have both started looking for work in the US again just to keep up with the cost of living down here. We are not pensioners. One thing that I have trouble dealing with on a daily basis is being worried about leaving the house alone. I have this fear that one day I am going to drive up the hill and see our dogs hurt and our house broken in to. I heard one guy say “we traded our stresses for worries when we moved down” and that is kind of how we feel. Let it be known that we don’t live the “normal” expat life either though. We farm most of our food and take care of a decent sized farm. We haven’t hired help in a long time because of the things that would go missing. Wondering if I misplaced something or if it was taken is not fun.

This was just a sample of the responses I received, but as you can see very positive, for the most part. The point of this blog is don’t let all the negative people out there scare you. The person who had the courage and trust to privately emailed me has very valid points you also should consider. There are areas of Costa Rica where those concerns are minimal. I just think they pick the wrong area to live in. Sometimes that happens. There is always the good in every bad and bad in every good. No place is perfect and no place is without its faults, but as you can see a majority have no regrets! Do your research and follow in these wonderful people’s steps and take their advise and their cautions.

Pura Vida!

 

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Moo…Moo…Slaughter…Grill….Eat!

food5So today’s blog is going to be about meat in Costa Rica. So if you are vegetarian or by the Gods a Vegan! Do no read this blog post. Really don’t read it. See now there you go reading this blog and I told you not to. Don’t yell at me, I did warn you!

When we came to Costa Rica in 2012 one of my major disappointments was the Steak here.  It was tough, it was dry, and they refused to cook it medium raw. There is nothing like a nice juicy piece of medium raw (yes raw not rare) piece of steak. The taste of the flavor and the blood. Sometimes, but not always I just want you to cut the meat from the bone, show it to the grill and slap it on my plate! If it can still moo when I stab my knife into it than that is a good steak. 🙂 Steak Tartare is one of the best ways to eat steak! You don’t even have to show it to the grill in this case. 🙂 Rare steak meat and I really love it when they place a raw egg on top of it. Yummy!

rawsteak2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So now you know how I like my steaks and lets go over my issue with the steaks here in Costa Rica. One of the major issues is that they do not age their beef. They cut it from the cow and slap it in the cooler and sell it. You have to age the meat in order for it to have that tender texture us hard core meat lovers want. A steak at minimum has to age for 14 days. Longer is better, but 24 days “wet aged” is the best, the juiciest and the most tender of meats!

Now you are saying what is “wet aged”? Wet aging is the process of placing the meat in a vacuum sealed bag so that it retains its moisture. The moisture accumulates and the amount depends on the length of aging, there seems to be little to no weight loss unlike dry aging which can have other issues like mold on the meat and more waste.

The next major issue is the butcher the meat. When I say butcher I am not talking about the art of cutting the meat from the carcass. They “BUTCHER” it. They just cut it any old way they happen to fell at the moment. When it is sitting in the display case it looks horrible. It is so thin. They really don’t have any thickness to it at all. Depending on what you are doing with the steak it need to have some depth to it. Not a lot. If you are going to grill or pan fry it then it needs to be a minimum of  1/2 inch thick. Now if you are going to sear it and finish it in the oven than you need min of 1 1/2 inches to have a nice steak.

How it is cut from the cow and the various parts are very important as each one has a different flavor and texture and needs to be treated differently. Now there are some parts of the cow I just won’t eat. Like the cheek, tongue and tail. I have tried it, and just don’t like it.

This brings us to our 3rd issue of how they cook it. They seem to think it must be cooked so that there isn’t a single drop of blood left in the meat or any juice for that matter. They cook it until it is black and chard. That is the best way to ruin a good piece of steak, but since most of them don’t use good pieces of steak, I guess it doesn’t matter.

So I of course at this point said to myself, “Well self I guess you won’t be eating red meat when you come to live in Costa Rica. On the bright side the chicken and fish here is amazing!”. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. Now that I live here I have found a number of restaurants that have good tender meat and will cook it the way you want it. You should never, ever, ever ask for a steak to be cooked more then medium and even that is pushing it. I have had a number of steaks here cooked the way I wanted it. Here are just a few examples:

steak steak2

 

Now with all that said it can be expensive to get this quality of steak eating out. A good steak meal as I have described and cost you from $15 to $100 a person depending on where you go. That is just for the entree. Than add to your bill drinks, and appetizers and doing this all the time or a couple times a week adds up in price. So how do you get good steak at home? I am so glad you asked me that question. 🙂

Uncle EarlsI found a place called Uncle Earls fine meats! This was a god send! I don’t have to go out every time I want a really tender and juicy steak any more. Sure I can if I want to, but I can have them right in my freezer ready for me to pop one in the oven or slap it on the grill. I can get one at a reasonable price!!! That is the most important part.

So a little about Uncle Earl’s. They are located at the Centro Comercial Trejos Montealegre (across from Walmart), next to Scotiabank in Escazú, Costa Rica. I know to those of you who don’t live here in Costa Rica that means nothing and you will never find it on your own. Those that do live here will know right where it is.

cutsofsteakAll their products are offering high quality meats, all grass fed, hormone free, no blood or saltwater injections. The only preservative they use is Himalayan pink salt, one of the purest of salts. They also wet age their meat a minimum of 14 days!! In 2010 Uncle Earl had a place in Coco that was also a restaurant. He than decided to focus on the meats and moved to a spot in the Mulitplaza in 2012. He needed a bigger shop and that is how he made his way to where he is now.

Now also keep in mind they do more then just steaks. 🙂 They do pork, bacon, sausage, bratwurst and all manner of other pork items. They also have lamb, and sometimes turkey and corn beef. You name it and if they don’t have I can bet you he may be able to get it for you. You never know until you ask. 🙂  This is won of the better finds in Costa Rica! I love, love, love this place. You need to go if you want some really good meat and really good prices. You may never eat meat out again! 🙂

So lets wrap this one up shall we. Costa Rica has some really bad meat and the way they handle meat, but you can find some places that will serve it the way you want and it is tender, but that is the exception to the rule. So for that I give Costa Rica 2 seashell1 out of 5 and I only gave them 2 because the chicken and fish is so wonderful here, just about everywhere we have gone. You can never go wrong ordering those two items.

Now Uncle Earl’s I give 5 seashell1out of 5. They get this for their quality and price. I love that place! Check out their facebook page for more information. https://www.facebook.com/UncleEarlsFineMeatsAndSpecialtieProducts

Pura Vida!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience, Food, Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Here a gringo, there a gringo oh my god unhappy gringos!

waterfallSo, this is going to be my 1st rant type of my blog. So just focus on the warm waters of the picture and everything will be OK. 🙂 I recently was asked to admin a Facebook group. Oh by the Gods can these gringo’s and others in other groups, talk some smack about Costa Rica. They seem to only want to focus on the bad, and not one of them has anything good to say. I have heard them say things from , “Its too hot”, “Its dangerous”, “The people are all thieves”, “The government is corrupt” and I think my favorite of all is, “Why can’t it be more like the united states!”.  A question comes to mind, “Why the hell are you here?” So this is going to be the topic of this blog.

Is Costa Rica to Hot?

weather

I guess that all depends on where you come from and what area  you will live and or visit in. My personal opinion is that some areas are too hot. I love the town we live in of Atenas. It isn’t called the Best Climate for nothing! Now I will not live in the beach areas. I have no problem going there for a day trip or a weekend, but it is way to hot, for this Gringo, but I come from Maryland and we get some harsh winter weather. I used to keep my thermostat in my house set at 68 all year long. Our house was never open and it was always cold. I loved it. As I got older and the weather in MD got worse I looked forward to sun and warm. So here I am and no in my opinion most of Costa Rica is not too hot! So please don’t come here and say, “Oh my God why is it so hot?” or “I didn’t realize it would be so hot!”. You are near the equator. It is Central America, its hot. Hello? Are you new? 

Pura Vida is a bunch of Crap!

Let me 1st briefly explain what Pura Vida is. Pura Vida is a saying that means a couple different things. Pure life, slow life, easy life, whatever. It equates to slow it down and enjoy the world around you is how I take it. Now this coming from someone who worked 70 hours a week and was the poster boy for a workaholic back in the states. If you can not embrace the Pura Vida life style of this country you will not make it here and you will run screaming back to your home country.

workersWhat does this mean to every day life. You should not expect that if you hire someone to do work for you that they will be here on time and every day. Always keep in mind the pay as you go plan here. You pay them for the work they do that day. Sometimes you get a few days before they ask for a payment. You usually have to give them money for materials 1st and a little for them. Now if you gave them enough that day and something comes up, they may not be back tomorrow. That is ok because the day after the will be back, well hopefully. I did do a job here at the house and they came the 1st day and than didn’t show up for 3 or maybe it was 4 days later. Not the people showed in the picture above. These guys are great. If you want their names let me know. They got the job done and it was a good job. They got paid and everyone was happy.

Why was I happy? I knew before I came to Costa Rica that this is how life is here. We are in no rush. So, you say to your self this job is going to take 3 days to do. Ok that is is good. Now say to yourself, but I know that it could take 3 weeks to get it done. You have to be ok with that happening. The same goes for the price. You budget for $100, but understand that it could cost you $300. So plan for it. Now I do have to say all the work I have had done has cost what they quoted me. Don’t expect everything to be done yesterday. This is how I lived my life back in the states. I wanted it yesterday! Hurry, hurry, hurry! What over budget! Are you mad!!!!!!!!

So I would have to say in my personal experience that the Pura Vida life style is one of the major reasons people leave this country. They can’t handle it. It is also one of the best things about this country as well. It does give you a Pure life. One that can lower your blood pressure and fix many of your problems, if you can truly embrace it!

I don’t feel safe!

Back CameraLet me 1st start off by saying yes! I feel very safe. Yes those are bars on the windows of that house. There is less crime in the town I am in here in Costa Rica than the City I lived in back in the states. Just like everywhere, you do have to use common sense. Don’t leave your camera on a table in a restaurant and come back 5 minutes later and expect it to be there still. In the states you will be lucky if it is still there. Don’t leave your GPS and Iphone sitting int he car unlocked and then complain that the crime rate is so high and it is horrible here. Don’t wear a ton of expensive jewelry and flash it around like no body’s business.

Bars on windows, high fences with razor wire along the time is common place here. Yes there is crime. Just like everywhere else. Here they take more precautions than we do back in the states. So you are going to see things you don’t see there as much. You do see bars on windows and door in the states. It is rare to see high walls and razor wire just everywhere, but it is there.

Now you will go to a store or a mall and there will be guards everywhere. They will be armed. I’m not talking just a pistol at their side either. Some of them have very big guns! That did take a little getting use to, but not long at all. I know they are there for my protection and to keep the peace. So it makes me feel safe.

I have been here over a year as I write this and back in the states there has been 1 maybe 2 school shootings, a mall shooting, and countless other gun related large events. That is just in the state of Maryland. Here I have never heard of any of that happening. So do I feel safe? Yes. Again use common sense. If you are a gringo living here or visiting here and don’t feel safe go back home. Really go. Where the violent crime rate in most states is much higher and your chances of getting killed at a mall or at school is much higher.

I hate the rainy season!

Really? Why? Are you daft? Are you on crack? Really? Ok yes that chart look bad! You have to understand a few things about rainy season. In most areas and not all so you have to do your research, it is once a day for about 2 hours. Here in Atenas last rainy season we got a storm that came though sometime after about 1pm and lasted for about 2hrs. When it rains it rains! Don’t go anywhere, don’t drive in it, stay where you are and enjoy the show. It is beautiful and deadly. The lightning is amazing and especially from our patio. We go out and sit and watch it as it comes in.

The rain comes and cools everything off, it lets the flower bloom and the plants grow lush and green. The country is so much more colorful during rainy season. Yes you may get the occasional non-stop all day rain, but that is usually very light so you can go out and do thing and not worry about it. I can only remember 1 day last season where it rained all day. We stayed in that day.

Now don’t get me wrong it does bring its challenges as well. If you have pets the cane toads are out more and that is dangerous for your dogs mainly. If you dog bites one or it spits its poison at your dog, you have 15 minutes to get them proper treatment or they will die. Most of the wildlife and insects comes out more during rainy season. They are looking for a dry place to stay and your casa is it! Lets remember people we live in a jungle. It may not look like it, but we do. So stop the bitching and moaning that it is raining during rainy season. Remember in the dry season everything is brown and nasty and you have water shortages.

The food here sucks!

Really? Again smoking crack? I can’t tell you how many times I hear this. I hate when they say, “All they eat is beans and rice. Breakfast beans and rice, lunch beans and rice, dinner beans and rice. I hate it.” So don’t eat beans and rice. Not like you don’t have a ton of options here. Eating out, depending on the area can be expensive. Eating at home is cheaper and healthier.

Let me allow the food to speak for itself.

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I had to put one beans and rice dish in there. 🙂 Let me tell you each and every one of those dishes in those pictures were amazing. Its fresh and its natural and its not covered in sugar or preservative. You have to ask and you have to experiment, but you can find some great food here. Not all are good. Beef can be very tough and very dry. They don’t like to cook it medium or medium rare or rare. You can find some really good meat if you look. The chicken and seafood is never disappointing. Pork is hit and miss depending on where you get it.  So please give me a break, “Beans and Rice”. Yea sure…No problem…I got your beans and rice right here. 🙂

Its so damn noisy!

Yep you damn unhappy gringos got me on that one. It is a noisy country. They love their music, dancing and karaoke to all hours of the night. There seems to be a bar in every block. They have the cars with the big speakers on the roof that is just junk mail advertising.

tipscostarica.com / Via tipscostarica.com

tipscostarica.com / Via tipscostarica.com

There are the dogs, the monkeys, the birds and all manner of jungle creatures that howl and bark, and make sounds all hours of the day and night. Yes this is a noisy country. Some areas more so than others, but you are going to have noise no matter what. Than again so are most countries. You eventually get used to it and if you don’t you find yourself a nice set of noise canceling headphone and you put on some tunes and you go to sleep.  OH and don’t forget you sleep mask, cause the sun is going to wake your ass up at 5am every day! 🙂

It so expensive to live here!

Well lets see are you trying to live like you did back in your home country? I’m thinking you are. I’m thinking you are looking for all the foods you are use to and looking for those brands you love so much back there. Well guess what? It is expensive if you live like that. Now I have to admit I do look for my name brand stuff. I do shop in places that are more expensive. The only difference is I don’t complain about it all that god damn time! I make that choice to shop at the pricesmart and the automercodo. I don’t have to. I can get everything I need right here in our little town of Atenas and for much cheaper mind you. Tico’s live on $700 or less a month. Now I wouldn’t want to do that, but most gringos who come here and embrace the life can do it for under $2K a month. Here is a budget from a friend who does a blog about living here cheaply.

Yes it is expensive if you try to live like you use to. It doesn’t have to be that way. I have made some changes on where I shop for some items, but I need to do more. If you eat out every night of the week, and complain about beans and rice, than again I say to you go back to the old country. You really are not happy here.

Ok, so I could go on and on and on, but why. I think I covered the top reasons gringos are unhappy here. What I think the top reason a gringo is unhappy here is they didn’t do their research and they can’t change their life style. That is what makes them unhappy. Sometimes they are just people who like to complain about everything!

So lets wrap this one up. Food sucks, its too expensive, its not safe, its noisy, its too hot, it too rainy, its dusty and dirty and the workers are horrible. So I would have to say I give unhappy gringos -100 seashell1out of 5 because they really have missed the point. Now I give living in Costa Rica especially Atenas 5 seashell1out of 5 for its beauty, wonderful food, friendly people, and just pure and simple way of life!

Pura Vida!

Update: After I posted this blog Roman Savin on a facebook group said and I quote: “There are two types of expats: parasites and fertilizers. Parasites come with “you owe” me attitude and look at locals not as humans, but a source of cheap food, labor, entertainment. Fertilizers are trying to integrate and enrich foreign culture with their own.

We live just once and Costa Rica is an amazing place to be. Let’s be fertilizers!”

I love love love this saying!

Pura Vida!

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience | Tags: , , , , | 25 Comments

Flowers and plants and trees OH MY!!!!!

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Vivero Central La Garita Address: Diagonal crossing the Manolos, the Garita de Alajuela. Phone: 2433-1756 Fax: 2433-7364

So I decided that today would be the day to go to the Vivero in La Garita. I was told that on Sundays they have people there who speak English. I do speak very little Spanish and my restaurant Spanish is so much better then my garden flower Spanish, I decided Sunday would be a good day. So we get there and the place is packed! Tons of cars everywhere. Glad they have a lot of parking. After some walking around and taking pictures, I started to look for someone who spoke English.  So go up to person number one, ¿Hablas Inglés? No. Person number two ¿Hablas Inglés? No. Person number three ¿Hablas Inglés? No So at this point starting to get worried that I was told incorrect information or the one person who speaks English is out today. I than go up to person number 4. ¿Hablas Inglés. No pero Frank hace and he pointed to a gentleman waiting on a nice young lady. So I waited until they were done their conversation and said, Are you Frank? He replied, “Yes”. Score! English! So I said, “When you are done can you please help me”. Again his response was, “Yes I can, I will be 10 minutes.” So if you go on a Sunday and ask for Frank wonderful young man and he speak English.

Let me tell you this place is huge!!!!!! I can not explain how large it is. Some stuff you have to get in your car and drive to go see and pickup. There is miles and miles and miles of plants and trees and all manner of things. I found all sorts of stuff I wanted. I was trying to be a little frugal and I was concerned about space in my car so I bought a few things. I was looking to spend about $200.

Now nothing had any prices on it that I could see out in the field. The stuff inside close to the check out line did. As we were walking around and I was asking him questions, I was figuring things in my head as to what they may cost in the US. So we walked for about an hour and picked up a good bit of stuff and when we went back my wife had picked out another items as well. So he writes up everything on a little slip of paper and hands it to me to go to the check out while he gets boxes to put everything in. I look over the list and my jaw drops on the floor! Oh my god! I could not believe my eyes. I had figured in my head with US prices it should have been about $250 to $275. So as soon as I get home I jump on the internet and double check my prices. Yep I was just about right. If I would have bought these items in the states it would have cost me $265. What did I pay for this you ask? $80. Yep that is right $80. Not 80,000 colones. $80 us dollars. I am so going back and picking up so much more!!!!!

So here is a gallery of pictures of the Vivero. I hope you enjoy them. This is only but a sample of what was right in front of the place. There was so, so, so much more! Next time I think I am going to buy orange trees! Come rainy season we are thinking the part of our property we don’t use to plant a bunch of fruit trees on and I know where I am going to get those trees!

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So lets wrap this one up. Good service, huge selection, close to Atenas, and cheap!!!!!!! I give them 5 seashell1 out of 5.

OH I almost forgot here are pictures of what I got. It doesn’t look like much but it is all clumped together in the boxes. There are a good number of plants there.

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Pura Vida!

Categories: Garden, Travel | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Heredia: Plus size shops and more!

So after our visit to our nutritionist today we had some time to kill before we took the care in for its 5K kilometer oil change. Daniela our nutritionist suggest we go to the mall to kill time. Our plan was to go to the nutritionist, get some lunch than go for the oil change. So we took her suggestion. The mall was very nice! Lots of shops, lots of places to get food, very clean. Here are some pictures of places in the mall. I don’t know if Daniela sent us here to help us or test us.

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There was a Pops, a Cup cake House, a Misses Fields and a number of other place that we can not eat at. 😉 These were not the places she sent us there fore. While we were here we figured we would walk around. They had a pretty nice size food court that had every fast foot restaurant you could ever want. If you go there and don’t find a place to eat you are one very, very picky person. Here are some  photo’s of the food court.

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As you can see very large. Our target goal was not the food court, although we could have eaten at some of the places there. There were a number of places that had very healthy options and some that had some amazing looking salads! I will eventually get to the restaurant we actual ate at I promise. 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe one thing we have found that is lacking in Costa Rica is plus size shops. Women who  are not a size 1 or 2 will find it hard to find clothing here. This mall actually had two plus size shops. So if you are a plus size woman this is the place to go! You should check out this website.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a shock to see. Laser Tag!!!! I have not played this in years and didn’t think there were any more of them around. The mall had a lot of stuff for kids. A couple of play areas. It is most definitely geared toward families without a doubt.

The mall have very good parking. There was free parking as well as paid parking. We used the free parking as there were many spaces, but you have to keep in mind we were there at 10:30 am on a friday. When we left at about 1:30 or so it did have a number of cars and less free parking spaces open. I didn’t not go through the paid garage area so not sure what that was like.

Now onto the restaurant which was our main reason for coming to the mall today. Here is the place that we ate at:

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I really loved this restaurant. OK,  so keep in mind we are on a special diet. We need to eat 8 oz of protein and 2 cups of vegetables for lunch today. This was the perfect place! Good food at reasonable prices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy wife and I both had a the same salad, which when we were done we both said, “Wow that was a meal!” After our salad we each had an entree. The vegetables were grilled over a nice bed of lettuce. Can I say the salt they had on the table was amazing. I love the taste of it and went very nicely with the vegetable salad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was my entree and let me tell you it was delicious. There was another small salad, a pepper filled with cheese that I could not eat on the diet so I did leave that behind. I did clear the rest of the plate and just wanted to lick it, but I was in public so I fought back the urge. There are 3 kinds of meat on the plate. On the right is a chicken breast that was tender and juicy. The middle was a piece of steak that was cooked to a perfect medium. The only issue I had was the waiter didn’t ask me how I wanted my steak, but it turned out very nice. I like mine a little more rare, but this was nice and it was also tender. Something you don’t always find here. The only reason I got this entree was I wanted to try the steak and this gave me options if it was as bad as most steaks in this country. I will only eat steak from a restaurant that a friend has tried and given a good review. I will on occasion give it a shot, but every time I have done that I was disappointed with the steak. It was usually over cooked and very tough. Now the item on the left is pulled pork. My wife tasted it and wasn’t thrilled by it, but I thought it was good. Not as good as the chicken or steak, but good. Needless to say after I was done with this and the salad I was stuffed!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was my wife’s entree. She got the corvina (fish) and again it came with a salad and a potato filled with cheese. She could not eat the potato because of the diet. I did take a very small taste of it on my fork and it was a little bland, but add the salt from the table and I’m sure it would be fine. The fish was cooked to perfection and had a very good taste to it. A winner when you go and if you like fish.

The only minus with the restaurant for us was that it only carried Pepsi products. We do not like Pepsi. We are hardcore Coke people. She did get the diet pepsi and I got the diet sprite. The drinks come out in a small pitcher. There is about 2 1/2 glasses in each pitcher and you are charged for each one. I was hoping since it was fountain soda it was free refills but it was not.  Our total meal came to 30,000 colones which is about $60 US. It may seem pricey for lunch, but keep in mind this is our dinner meal. It was a lot of food and very tasty it was well worth the price. We could have gotten away with just the salad and drinks and came out with a very cheap meal.

So lets wrap this up. The mall was very nice. It was clean, the bathrooms were well maintained. A lot of stores so I doubt you wouldn’t find what you are looking for. So the mall I give 4 seashell1 out of 5.

Now the restaurant wrap up. Service was great, food was great, restaurant was nice. so, I also give it  4 seashell1 out of 5.  I would have given it 5 out of 5 if they didn’t sell Pepsi and if they gave free refills.

Pura Vida!

Categories: Malls, Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Yikes my Visa is about to expire!

When you enter Costa Rica, if you are from another country they will stamp your passport and this gives you a tourist visa. Now in the past they would usually give you 90 days. This is not so true any more my friends. One time last year we were coming back from a trip the the United States and the gentleman behind the desk stamped us. He had noticed that we had been here a couple times and gone in and out. So I don’t know if he was just upset that day about something or just being a smart ass, but when we looked at our passports he only gave us 30 days. Oh and did I mention he smirked at me when he gave them back? Yes he did.

You may ask why does this really matter? There are a couple of reasons it does, but only if you are living here. Myself like many expats have decided to live here in Costa Rica. You hopefully get a 90 day visa and at the time your visa expires you must leave the country. So every 90 days you have to make a trip out of the country. It can be a hard and long day and sometimes very expensive to keep doing this. I personally do not understand why anyone would not submit their paperwork to become a temp residence. If you do this you no longer have to leave the country every 90 days.

Well that is if you don’t want to drive in Costa Rica. See here they right hand doesn’t always know what the left hand is doing. So they changed a law and now you can’t get a Costa Rica license until you have your cedula (Residence card). In the past before the law changed you could go and show your passport, a valid drivers license from some other country and a medical exam and there you have it a Costa Rica license. Now in addition to all that you need your cedual. Here is the kicker, if your visa expires than you can no longer drive on your out of country license. If you have insurance on your vehicle it is no longer valid either. Everything you do is tied to that visa. Just my luck the law changed just before we moved here. So as soon as we could we submitted our paperwork and now we wait and continue to leave every 90 days and hope we get 90 when we come back in.

They have also begun to impose very strict rules on going back and forth across the local borders to try and get people to stop being what has been coined as, “Perpetual Tourists” I totally get that, but if they really want to stop it then they have to approve people quicker. Their own law says they have to have it done within 90 days. That never happens, unless you have a big corporation you work for that is bringing in a lot of dollars and is hiring a lot of local people. You can then have it pushed though in a matter of weeks. We submitted our paperwork in June of 2013. We arrived here in Feb. of 2013 and the only reason it took that long is we have to go back to the states to get more paperwork that was needed, because again they changed the law just before we got here.

So why am I telling you all this? Just to give you some background so I can do a review of a border run. Now we have done a few of them since we moved here. We went to the Nico border and we have gone to the Panama border. Our very 1st border run was terrible! We went to the Nico border with a company that said they could get us though. The drive from Atenas was long and some of the roads lets just say were typical Costa Rica roads and you really need to make sure you go pee before you hit any of those roads. 🙂 It was a very long day as they all are when you drive from Atenas. You leave very early in the morning about 5am and you won’t get home until about 8pm maybe a little earlier if the traffic Gods have decided to smile upon you. Nicaragua and Panama are very hot compared to what we are use to in Atenas, so be prepared for that. There are also rules now that were not in place when we 1st got here. You have to have a plane ticket to your home country. You have to have proof that you have $500 per person in a bank account. You have to stay out of the Costa Rica for 3hrs min. and upto 3 days. Depends on what you do while you are out and what the boarder patrol says you have to do. It gets very complicated and if you do that long drive and have not check on the current rules and are missing something you are in trouble now. There is no, “but I didn’t know” in these countries. You just won’t get your visa. So you will have paid all that money to drive here and not get your stamp and have to do it again. Not a good deal at all. 

So now you have the Why of this review and its time to get to the review. We recently went on a trip for a border run and it was the best trip we have done to date. We still had to get up early but we were home by 1 pm. There were a few things I didn’t like, but they are my issues not the company that hosted the trip for us. I don’t like to fly, but do it because I know I have to in order to get to certain places. Part of this trip you have to fly. Now part of this trip you also have to take a boat. Yes I am one of those people who get seasick if I even look at the water! Its terrible. I did find a really good medication that helps. Its called Zofran. I love it! I can take a cruise and do just about anything on the water when I have this in my system. Check with your doctor to see if you can take it before trying it.

So the trip is done by a resort called The Rio Indio Lodge Just click on the name and you can see their website. It is a wonderful lodge with some really good food. They fly you into an area called Greytown. Then you take a boat to the lodge. They usually give you a little boat tour of the local area and tell you about the history of the town. It is very interesting and I will let them tell you all about it when you go visit. 🙂 So as they say a picture is worth a thousand words. So here are some pictures of the trip to the lodge.

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The plane

Now I am told this is bigger than the one they usually fly in. YIKES! I may not have been able to do a smaller plane this one was small enough for me. We just had to fly out on a day where the winds were really bad. I pretty much kept my eyes closed and kept thinking good thoughts the entire flight which was actually very short.

the boat

The boat that takes you to the lodge 

the airport in nico

The airport

The boat ride was not bad at all. Since I took my medication it wasn’t a problem. The little tour through the town was nice and giving us the history of the area. Not sure if they do that all the time, as we were running early and I think they needed time to get supplies back to the resort for lunch. If they don’t do the tour all the time make sure you request it before you get on the plane. Here are some random pictures from the water tour.

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Oh and did I happen to mention that no one owns a car here. That is because in this town there are no roads! Nope none. You must travel by boat to get to any place in this town.

So this was just a short trip for us so we didn’t stay at the lodge overnight. We did have a wonderful buffet lunch of fresh fish and lobster along with rice and veggies and an assortment of other items. It was all good and I am a bad foodie as I can’t find my picture I took of the buffet bar. 😦 So you will just have to trust me on this one the food was excellent.

So here are some photo’s I took of the Lodge. It is so beautiful. This place was put together by some people with really good and expansive taste. You will love these pictures.

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 I did not take any pictures of rooms. We had to rush and get back as the winds were picking up and they didn’t want to have a major issue and I am so glad they thought of us in that regard. You will need to go to their website to see pictures of the rooms.

The cost of this trip was about $250 a person. There were some border fees and such that is not included and you need to take cash in US for these fees.  They will go over all that with you when you book the trip.  Now both our trips to the Nico and Panama border with hiring a vehicle and then all the border fees and “TIPS” to get you there we would spend about $600 a trip. That did not include food so that was extra. So all in all this trip saved us money and it wasn’t a hard trip at all. Our 1st trip to the Nico boarder was painful. We had to stand in lines and it was hot and a lot of walking. It was not fun at all. This one was fun! Denise my wife and I plan on going back for a long weekend. It was a really great place.

Lets wrap this up. Great trip, friendly people, less expensive than our other boarder run, good food, great lodge, fast. I would say that if you have to do a boarder run this is the way to go without a doubt! So I give them 5 seashell out of 5!

Pura Vida!

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Remax Real estate in Atenas Costa Rica

ShellyHere is the link to their website and you must give it a look: Remax

They not only sell real estate, but also do rentals as well. So if you are looking to move to Costa Rica or just spend a little time here you should really check out their website. If you don’t see what you are looking shoot them off an email or give them a call. They may have something that isn’t listed or they can hunt around to find what you are looking for. They will try to make your experience here as pleasant as they possible can. They are great!

We used their services to buy our house here in Costa Rica. We came down in Nov. of 2012 not having a clue what it would be like and what we had in store for us. they made it simple and easy and painless. They found us a rental in our budget. They took us out on our schedule to show us houses, not only in Atenas, but worked it out for an area call Grecia as well. We did finally settle on a house here in Atenas.

They held our hand though every step of the process and even help us to find a good lawyer for the closing.

So to wrap it up great team, Trustworthy, honest, friendly, informative and just really good people all the way around. You should use them if you are looking to buy or rent in this area. I give them 5 seashellout of 5.

Pura Vida!

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

Riu Palace Guanacaste Costa Rica

Rui Lobby

The lobby of the Hotel

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Let me start off by saying this is one of the best Lobbies I have ever seen. I have seen many. This hotel is just that a Palace. It is huge and so beautiful. It is a must see. It is also an all inclusive resort and you can’t beat that. Staying here is like going on a cruise ship and not being on the water. You will want for nothing at all hours of the day and night. There is food and drink everywhere.

Here take a look at the mini bar:

Mini-Bar

Not that is what I am talking about. Full bottles with single shot spouts. When you are empty they just replace them and you start all over again. Its going to be hard not to find a hard drink when you have a mini bar like this in your room.

So now that I have your interest. 🙂 Room rates vary from $320 to upwards of $800 a nigh. Keep in mind once there all your food, drink, and entertainment is included in the price. Really those are not bad prices.

So here are some pictures of the room we stayed in. It was an amazing room.

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It was a most comfortable room. Now the water in the room is not drinkable. So don’t drink it. They always make sure you have bottled water in your room. There is also free Wifi something every hotel should have in the room! So you can upload those pictures to your friends at all hours of the day and night. The shower was amazing. It had good water pressure and it just made you feel so good when you were done.

Now onto the most important aspect of the trip, THE FOOD!!!!! It was amazing. Now we were only there for a short trip and most of the restaurants require you to make a reservation. So we didn’t eat in those. There were a number of them. You have to make the reservation by 2 pm the day before your dinner. Now we did eat at the one restaurant you didn’t need a reservation. Again the food was amazing.  It was a buffet style and each night they had a different theme to the foods. Remember what I said about a cruise ship? Yes it is just like that. Here are some samples of the food that was presented one night.

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Shame on you if you leave this place hungry! This was all in just one night and I think I may have missed a few stations. There was a waitress who brought us our drinks and they were very attentive to our needs.

So the beach and the pool were very nice no doubt. We did not get in the water only because the pool area was so amazing and we were only there for 2 nights. They have 6 pools and there are pool bars in and outside of the pool itself. They have chairs and other items for the beach as well if you decide to be a beach bum instead of a pool bum like me. So here are pictures of the pool and beach area.

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So, my review wrap up is a great place to stay with amazing food, comfortable room, great pool and beach, and friendly attentive staff. So I give this place 4 1/2 seashells out of 5.

Just in cast you want to stay there, here is a link to their website:

Riu Hotels for Families with speacial activities

Pura Vida!

Don’t forget to check out our Cafe Press shop! $3 of every item purchased goes to Charities here in Costa Rica. Also check out our House for Saleand Rent listings as well!  If you are traveling and you want a cheap $4.99 a month and good VPN so you can watch hulu, your countries Netflix, and amazon click here. Good for travel or if you live here in Costa Rica. Don’t forget about our Amazon shop as well!

 

 

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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