The First Few Weeks in Pura Vida

Last updated on November 27, 2023

iWell, it’s been a few fast weeks. Some things have been experienced and learned. 🙂 Here they are.

Puerto Viejo

Navide (Natalia and Davide) arrived mid-September in Puerto Viejo, which they both love for its community. PV is on the Atlantic or Caribbean coast. Some great learnings occurred:

  1. Puerto Viejo was hotter than they had experienced – unbearably hot without air conditioning, in fact. It’s a seasonal thing that is going to get worse all over the world. The tropics are actually forecast to heat up less than northern latitudes in the near term. (See: BC heat dome. That said, look at Brazil recently.
  2. They found Sanji, the adorable salchicha.
  3. Land prices have gone up a lot since their last visit a few years ago. Lots of ex-pats fleeing their home countries.

Navide also checked out Turrialba, a small place in the mountains that was much cooler than PV. It’s ideal for those who want to live off-grid and fairly isolated. They returned to PV for a short time and then went to the airport in San Jose because…


Adriana arrived end-October and went with Navide to Uvita. The original plan was for all of us to meet in PV to check it out, but Gordanza’s (Brian and Adriana) house needed more work before listing for sale, so she was late getting there. Here’s what was learned in Uvita, which is on the less developed South Pacific Coast:

  1. It’s really hot.
  2. The beach is beautiful.
  3. Quality of construction varies wildly across Costa Rica, and there don’t appear to be building inspectors…. The place was very nice: 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a really nice patio with a small pool – all private. The house was one year old and had serious leaks in the roof, which should never happen. A minor inconvenience for us, a major expense for the owner. (Oh yes, also no such thing as a warranty on the house and pretty hard otherwise to recover costs from crooked/incompetent contractors.)

Brian arrived mid-November in Uvita. Because of flight times, I overnighted in San Jose and then took the bus the next day to Uvita where Navide + Adriana picked me up at the bus station.

We all spend a couple of days in Uvita and concluded we would not want to live there, though the whole area is becoming very popular with ex-pats retiring throughout. Too hot, not much to do other than the beach, and not much sense of community of the kind we’re seeking.

We then moved on to Platanillo, chosen because it’s at a higher elevation and should be cooler. It is ~30 minutes above the South Pacific Coast town of Dominical, which is just down the road from Uvita. Sanji met a friend on the beach.

Here’s what we found:

  1. It is cooler, no question. It’s also still very hot and humid.
  2. The town is so tiny as to be non-existent. We met some American ex-pats who have been here 2 years and got the sense they were finding it boring. After the initial house fix-up and garden work…there wasn’t much to do. They said they used to go for a variety of walks in their old neighbourhood in the USA, but here they just walked down their street a few hundred metres, then turned around and walked back. This is not a Costa Rica thing – it’s a fact of life when moving to a semi-rural area.
  3. The nearby town of San Isidro de El General has a population of about 35,000. The shops and restaurants are pretty standard stuff. Land and houses can be quite inexpensive here.
  4. It is close (30 minutes) to the town and beach of Dominical, which is great for surfing, not swimming.

We are in Platanillo another week and then head to Colombia in early December, not to return until mid-January.

We have not found anywhere on the Pacific coast that would work for us, given our 6 Cs:

The 6 Cs

  1. Climate: pleasant year-round and likely to remain so. 
  2. Crime: Reasonably safe and likely to remain so.
  3. Cost: We can afford property and housing, and to create a business.
  4. Community: There is an existing, like-minded community that we can join and help.
  5. Contribution: We can create a business that supports everyone and contributes to making the world better in the way we want.
  6. Close as possible to family. (We were considering Italy or Portugal, but that’s too far to feasibly visit kids and parents and grandkids.)

The Pacific Coast is missing out on 1 and 4 for us. Keep in mind we want a progressive community, so there is acceptance and respect for anyone and everyone – as long as they tolerate others, too. Meaning, no tolerance for intolerance.

Costa Rica So Far

Beautiful country and beautiful people. Every Tico we’ve met has been a decent human being, Obviously not all are – there are bad people here as everywhere, but we have yet to encounter one. Many people do not know that Costa Rica is one of the few full democracies in the world, scoring 91/100 for political rights and civil liberties. Canada scores 98, the USA 83, and the UK 93, so pretty darn good.

Some observations generally – keep in mind we’ve been staying in semi-rural areas:

  • Many people have dogs. Many of these dogs live outside and they bark. And bark. And bark. There appear to be no laws about noise at night.
  • Marijuana is illegal but magic mushrooms appear to be legal. There’s a store/restaurant near our place that has a big selection of mushrooms either raw or baked into something.
  • Chickens are common, and many people also have roosters, presumably so they can grow their own eggs and chickens. Roosters begin crowing around 3:00 am…. This guy was crossing our gate on his way to the top of the tree next door.

So we’re back to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast…and one other possibility: we’re going to check out Manizales in Colombia, too. It is a city of ~400,000 and has been described as European in feel, like a small Swiss city. The climate is much milder, typically 27C in the day and 17C at night, although it has 8 microclimates! More updates once we are there.

We will also revisit Puerto Viejo, as Gordanza spent only a few days there early in 2023. We loved the place at the time, but we need more time there to know.

Selfie of Adriana with palms behind

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