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Costa Rica's Beaches are Beautiful but Not for a Long-Term Stay

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What are the three most important factors to consider in a long term vacation rental? The answer, in our opinion: Location, location, location!

Although we had never been to Costa Rica before, thanks to our friends, Lynn and Cecil, who had done all the trial and error and research work, it was easy for us to decide where we'd "settle" for our two-month stay here.

We think this tiny town, San Luis, on the west shore of Arenal Lake in Guanacaste Province is the perfect location for us. Why?

It's not on the coast!

One complaint we've heard often (both before and after arriving in Costa Rica) is that temperatures on Costa Rica's beaches are too hot. Lynn told me she once sat beside a Canadian woman on a flight who was coming to Costa Rica for only four days. When Lynn asked why she would come so far for such a short stay, the woman replied. "It's just too hot to stay any longer." A couple from New Mexico we met last night shared their story of building their dream retirement home on the beach in Tamarindo. But they soon found they spent more time escaping the heat, here at Lake Arenal, than they did at their house. They've now moved here and the beach house is up for sale.

Lake Arenal is inland, at 1800 feet elevation. Our rental house in San Luis sits at just over 2000 feet. Year-round consistent temperatures are reported to be between 78 and 80 degrees - ideal! It's early morning as I write this, but already 86 degrees on the coast. Costa Rica has many micro climates. The more temperate weather is in the mountainous, inland locations.

There's almost always a breeze here on the "windy" side of the lake. The east shore is known as "the rainy side" and we often see that shore engulfed in cloud while the sun is shining on us. It's not surprising that giant windmills grace the hillsides and the lake is world-renowned for wind surfing. Most homes on the lake don't have air conditioning; it's just not needed. By the way, in 2015, Costa Rica achieved an amazing 99% of its total energy from renewable, green resources.

Both the Caribbean coast and the famous, gorgeous beaches of the Pacific are within a 2-hour drive so we can visit them for a few days or simply on a day trip.

Our Costa lake view

Our lake view. Always a breeze.

Great setting with a scenic view!

We have a great view of the lake from our house but, even if we didn't, the whole area is so pretty: rolling hillsides, pastoral, and forested. We watch our neighbor's daily routine of chopping feed and milking his small herd in the field across the road. In the mornings, we wake to an amazing mix of sounds: roosters, tropical birds, and howler monkeys. A great part of the charm of this location is that it does not feel like a tourist area.

We're walking distance of restaurants and supplies!

A two-month car rental would be expensive but we plan to get by without one for the most part. There are two highly-recommended restaurants, a great little pizza shop that delivers, and two small stores in San Luis. A longer 2-mile walk brings us to the next town, Tronadora, and other stores and services, including a full grocery. We can also take the bus there. For 400 colones each (75-cents), we can ride the bus the opposite direction to Tilaran, where there are four supermarkets, several produce markets, butcher shops, and a bakery. We're looking forward to this Sunday when San Luis hosts an outdoor market (the first and third Sunday every month). It's only a ten-minute walk from our doorstep.

Local buses run on an hourly schedule in the morning and late afternoon, a little less often mid-day. Many locals rely on them exclusively; they have no car. The bus stop is only a few hundred feet from our door. Taxis are another inexpensive option; the fare from Tilaran to Tronadora (7 miles) is under $4.00 (2000 colones).

Tronadora shopping

Backpacks full of groceries. Ready for the return walk from Tronadora.

Bus to Tilaran

The local bus has a reliable schedule.

Great trails!

Literally minutes from our door, we access a trail through a tropical forest toward the lake. Or, if we choose, we can continue from there on a 5-mile loop. There are other walking routes nearby that we'll explore but this one is amazing, and so close to home. I'm sure we'll walk it often. We saw toucans and howler monkeys.

Tropical trail

On the trail, minutes from our door

Howler Monkey tree

Howler monkeys and toucans in the trees.

Proximity to National Parks

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Arenal Volcano, and Tenorio National Parks are all within a day's drive. When we do rent a car, we'll have a choice of rainforests, waterfalls, and hot springs to explore.

A beach!

A seven-minute walk takes us to Puerto San Luis Resort where there's a small beach. Locals are welcome to swim; wander the grounds; or rent a paddle board or mountain bike.

A welcoming community!

Thanks to our friends inviting us into their circle, we've already met a lot of people. The expat community is vibrant and very welcoming, with a variety of activities and social events. We've attended a few already (more about that later). There is no excuse for boredom here! We've also met several people on our own when we're out and about since everyone seems to take time to stop and chat. I believe that, even without friends in common, one would have no difficulty meeting and making new friends here.

our friends

Thank you, Lynn and Cecil, for introducing us to this area.

Are there negatives?

Of course nothing is perfect....

  • We had a long drive (3 hours) from San Jose airport. Liberia airport is half that distance but flights are fewer and more expensive. For a long-term stay, this doesn't matter much, but it's an inconvenience for friends and family who want to visit for a week.
  • An occasional car rental is not easy to arrange. The closest option is in La Fortuna (on the far side of the lake) and is more expensive than in the cities. On the bright side, we'll save money and get more excercise.
  • Being rural, means we need a better grasp of Spanish than we have. It's rare to encounter an english speaking shop keeper, even in the larger town of Tilaran. On the bright side, it should help us learn the language.
  • There is no flat terrain here. We're definitely getting our excercise

Expenses to date: (for the two of us and converted to US dollars):

  • Airfare: $1020.
  • Ground transportation: $153.00
  • Medical Travel Insurance : $165.25 ($2.66 per day)
  • 2-month vacation rental: $1200. ($19.35 per day)
  • Cell/data plan: $22.00 (one month)
  • Entertainment/Restaurants: $16.51
  • Food (groceries): $98.50
  • Other household items: 5.50

Total: 2680.76

Posted on day 9 of our 62-day trip. (Jan 27 to Mar 28, 2016)

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Climate of costa rica 
Isn't the weather woeful there ? It's hot & humid, thanks I pass !

Cousin.. 
We are eagerly watching and learning through you eyes. A few of my kids have interest in surfing, I think in the ocean, and I like the idea of quieter, …

Aahh, the budget 
I'm delighted to hear you and Randy are having a great time. I looked at your expenses to date and figured you will spend on average $56/per day. …

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