Thank you for visiting ‘Tank Tops Flip Flops’

Hola! Welcome to Paradise. My name is Michael Simons - the Owner/Broker of 3 major real estate franchises in the Papagayo Region - RE/MAX Tres Amigos in Playa Hermosa , RE/MAX Prestige Ocean Properties in Playa Panama and RE/MAX Ocean Village in Playas del Coco.

The majority of people interested in buying real estate in Costa Rica tend to have many of the same questions so I took the time to answer them in detail here in a fun and informative way. This site contains a tremendous amount of information for you and allows me to express my views and pass along wisdom gained while living and doing business in the tropics. Hope you can join us. Pura Vida!

I will respond to your questions immediately with an email or personal phone call.

See you here in Paradise!

How will I make friends in Costa Rica?

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Costa Rica Living, EX PATS in Costa Rica, Papagayo Region, Residency

How will I make friends in Costa Rica?

Making a move to another city or state is big deal. Moving to an entirely different country, with new languages and cultures can seem like a daunting task, especially if you have never traveled much, and are not accustomed to adapting. The biggest question mark for most of my clients, is wondering how they will make new friends. The largest fear, for many of them, is that their relatives, friends, children, grandchildren and family won’t come to visit them. This is a big concern for many people.

Friends in Costa Rica

There are dozens of social activities, groups and websites where you can meet hundreds of others in a very short period of time. The Papagayo area is where the majority of Ex-Pats work, live, vacation and retire. This is the place to be. Everyone was the new guy at one time or another, so the Gringos here go out of their way, when they meet someone, to make them feel welcomed and introduce them to others. They invite you to parties, BBQs and social gatherings, where you can be introduced to so many other people who have decided to move to paradise. They will see your “deer in the headlights” look, and instantly take you under their wing, and bring you into their circles.

All the developments have pot luck dinners and events. Every restaurant and bar in town is packed to the gills, every happy hour, with Americans and Canadians; Europeans as well; all more than happy to let you join their table and make new friends. It is completely different than we were accustomed to back home. There are live bands regularly, pool parties and beach volleyball and many other activities; from zoomba classes and yoga to karaoke and bingo. There are dozens of clubs to join, from bridge to cross fit; language classes to painting lesson; and churches and bible studies to charity events by the wave that bring everyone together. There are Facebook pages that you can join, and mailing lists to sign up to, that will keep you informed of all these events; time, date and place. There are golf courses and tennis clubs; sailing and diving groups; stand up paddle board lessons and sunset sailing tours, that will put you in touch with more people than you can imagine.

When I lived in the USA, I barely knew any of my neighbors. I went to work each day, and when I came home at night, I receded to my living room. My garage door went up, my car went in, and that was the end of it. I might wave hello to a neighbor on the street, while picking up my mail, but that was all. The culture in North America is nothing like it is here in Costa Rica.

This country is very welcoming. The Latin culture and especially the Costa Ricans are some of the friendliest, warmest people you will ever meet, and it rubs off on the rest of us. Besides, it takes a certain kind of person, to have the guts and adventurous spirit, to move here in the first place, so you will be amazed at how many friends you will make in a short period of time.

One of the first things that all my clients tell me is that they made more friends in the first 6 months here, than they did in 20 years back home. While their original concern was that they would be lonely, it turns out to be the exact opposite. Amazing friendships are forged here in paradise.

I was with a new client the other day, showing them around. The wife made a couple of comments about how she was worried that her kids and grandkids would never make the trek to Latin America to visit. As we went into a restaurant for lunch, I bumped into a group of women having a “Ladies Day.” I asked them if they were happy that they made the move, and if they ever missed their families. They all smiled. We would NEVER go back, one said, as the others all agreed. The problem is that my family never wants to LEAVE, and they all laughed out loud. They keep coming and coming, my house is constantly full. Don’t get me wrong, she said, I love my kids and family, but it seems that I just can’t get rid of them. That will be the least of your worries, they told my client.

“What will be my biggest?” she asked the group.

Your problem will be that you won’t have enough hours in your day for all of your social activities. We NEVER get bored in Costa Rica.

Remember; the Liberia airport is only 20 minutes away. You can leave in the morning and be in any US or Canada city by lunch or dinner, as there are almost 100 weekly flights. Prices have dropped substantially in the last few years, with all the airlines competing. So now for only a few hundred dollars, you can get back to see your family anytime you want. So if you are missing something or someone that badly, just jump a flight. It is very convenient. But I can assure you this: you will be missing Costa Rica the moment you get there, and your trip will be very short. This will very quickly become your new home and you won’t ever want to leave either. 

Like the rest of us.

Come on down, and see for yourself.

Pura Vida.

What is the deal with all the resorts in Guanacaste

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Buying and Selling Property in Costa Rica, Guanacaste Tourism, Investing in Costa Rica, Papagayo Region, Vacation in Costa Rica

What is the deal with all the resorts in Guancaste; is it crowded?

One of the characteristics of the Papagayo region is that some of the biggest resorts in the country are located here, with Billions of dollars being invested. THIS IS GOOD for the area and the country. When people hear the word RESORTS, they assume that the town will be overrun with tourists, wearing red and yellow arm bands from the various hotels. Yet, you hardly ever see any of these people in town. Sure, occasionally, on a Friday night in the bars, you will see tourists who have left the resorts to come to Coco to party. Once in a while, you will spot these people in restaurants or souvenir shops, spending their money in the community. But for the most part, they stay in the resorts and very rarely ever wander out.

Resorts Guanacaste

Most of these developments are 20 minutes to an hour from Playas del Coco and Playa Hermosa, so it is not like they are just across the street. The idea of these hotels is to keep the people IN the resort. They want them spending money in THEIR spa, souvenir shops, restaurants and tour office, and make it very difficult to leave. They spent millions of dollars marketing their kingdoms and want to make as much profit as possible.

So why then, is this good for the area?

First off, these mega projects create thousands of jobs. The local community benefits the most, as everyone is working, bringing lots of spendable income into the homes and families. There is almost NO unemployment here and therefore that is why we have the least amount of crime in the country. Most thieves are not professionals. They are only stealing to feed their families, in times of desperation. So if they can work, they will. These jobs pay more than the average wage, and are considered great career opportunities for many people. Hotel Management is a fantastic way to make a living, with huge upsides. Working in an Air Conditioned hotel as a front desk person, is surely better than what their parents had to do decades before, slaving in the agricultural industry. Even if you are just a maid, it is a consistent, dependable, honorable job with benefits. I know many Ticos who work in the resorts, and they LOVE their jobs, meeting people every day; working for a worldwide recognized brand.  

Over 1 Million people flew into Liberia Airport last year, and over 3 Million total visitors, and many of them stayed in these chain hotels and all inclusive. This creates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and taxes for this little haven. Every one of these people paid a $29 Exit Tax in their airline ticket price, and a 13% sales tax on their hotel room. Add it up. For the most part, 95% of all the products served in these places are local Costa Rican goods. Sure, the RIU might have Miller Light or Jack Daniels, but everything else is home grown: Rum, local beer and coffee, along with chicken, fish, beef, pork, sugar, rice, fruits and vegetables; all raised and sold in Costa Rica. Truckloads of products are unloaded every day.  

These resorts spend hundreds of millions of dollars advertising our country, saving us from having to do it. Almost every visitor is going to take at least one or two tours, visiting such iconic places as the volcanoes, mud baths, hot springs, zip lining, animal sanctuaries, rafting, sailboats and more. Many people go every single day of their vacation to a different location and take their entire families along. This puts millions of dollars into the eco tour industry, which employs tens of thousands more Costa Rican. Many of these operators live locally, so again, the money comes back into the communities and our town, as the locals shop in the markets, stores and salons.

Most people are not world travelers; many people never leave the country they were born in. So coming somewhere like Latin America, can be scary for someone, who does not have the confidence to travel abroad. “Are their guerillas in Costa Rica? Is it run by the army? Is it safe? Will we catch an exotic disease? Oh look honey; there is a Four Seasons / Marriott / Occidental / Hyatt / Hilton / Secrets / Westin there.  Let’s use our Rewards Miles and go to Costa Rica.” These resorts offer a “Safe” way to visit paradise. It allows people to taste Pura Vida, in a familiar setting, that they have stayed in before, in dozens of other locations. Then after they get here, they see how wonderful this country is, and fall in love. They notice how clean it is, how there is no violence, how friendly the people are, and they plan another trip back. These resorts exposed them to paradise, and then they return a second, third, fourth trip, with much more confidence to explore.  These people then rent a car, and stay in a condo from VRBO / AirBNB, or a smaller, boutique hotel, and many of them, end up at my RE/MAX office. Welcome to paradise, we tell them.

So this brings us to the big question. How is this good for my real estate investment and my lifestyle?

The number one most important reason why the resorts are so vital is because they are the driving force behind the infrastructure. Costa Rica is not a big country and does not have a lot of money. So the government is not going to waste what little it has, paving roads to remote surfing beaches or the rain forest. A small butterfly farm in the middle of the jungle does not employ anyone or pay many taxes, so they don’t care much about those areas. But when a 5 star hotel decides to be built, it probably went something like this.

“Hello Mr. President of Costa Rica. This is the Four Seasons calling; please get a pen and paper. Here is a list of what we will require if we are going to build a $500 Million project in your country.”

Because of these developments, we have the absolute best infrastructure in the entire country. We have a state of the art airport, 20 minutes away. ALL the roads are nicely paved, with painted lines and reflectors. We have the best internet and cable TV service, and the cell phone coverage is 4G. The electricity never goes out and brand new water lines are being built. There are police and fire trucks and real ambulances. Most important: We have 3 world class hospitals and many local clinics as well, if God Forbid you needed them  Most of Costa Rica does not have these services, it is very remote, rural and a jungle. If you had a heart attack in 90% of this country, you might not make it. But here, in the Papagayo, we have all the First World Services my clients demand.

Because we have the best infrastructure, investors started putting their money here, back in 2004, and the community started to grow. It became a Catch 22 effect. BECAUSE the infrastructure was here, the investors stayed. Because people started moving here, the amenities followed. We have 75 restaurants, coffee shops and bars, 5 grocery stores and 3 hardware stores. There are spas, and hair salons; movie theaters and gyms. We have banks, Cell phone and computer shops, and pharmacies; every single amenity you need to live. And the city of Liberia is just 30 minutes away for services that might not be at the beach. Malls, tire shops, car dealerships and much more, are just a short drive away. The further you get away from the airport and the resorts, the worst the infrastructure and the fewer amounts of amenities. No one is going to take a risk and open a business, if they don’t think they can make money. So even if you like living in a remote place, you are never going to get the services you need. You could be Wolfgang Puck, the greatest chef in the world, but if you opened a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, you will go out of business. No one will come. Because we have a huge community of Ex Pats and Ticos alike, these great amenities will continue to open and thrive.

So this is what it boils down to. Most people, after doing their due diligence, and spending time in the country, end up buying a place here; in the Papagayo area. Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, Playa Panama and Ocotal, make up our little bay.  Then from here, they take mini trips, and VISIT the rain forest, jungle and remote beaches. They play Tarzan and Jane for a couple days, and the come BACK to their home; here, where we have the best infrastructure and amenities, and the largest community of Ex Pats in the country.

Hope to have you as a neighbor soon. PURA VIDA.


May 2017
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