The people have voted. Recently, a reader of mine asked me, “Michael, what are the Top 10 Costa Rica Likes and Dislikes?”
Intriguing question, I thought, and I was very curious to find out. I called David Letterman, famous for his Top Ten Lists, but he was too busy planning his retirement to take it on. Jimmy Kimmel is at the Super Bowl, partying with Playboy Models; I know this because he rented one of my friends’ houses for $25k for the week. I never much liked Conan or that Scottish guy with the dead skeleton for a cohost (What’s his name? Who cares?) So I was forced to take it on myself.
I asked about 50 of my clients, friends and neighbors, to give me their ideas. I didn’t ask anyone who has lived here for 20 years, because I figured after that much time, you either gave up finding something wrong with the place, or couldn’t find anything good any more either LOL. I also didn’t ask realtors or developers, since they probably have a conflict of interest. I was amazed how much effort was put into some of the answers, and I want to thank everyone for taking the time to send me their ideas and thoughts. I couldn’t come up with a Top 10 Costa Rica list because there were too many awesome answers, and I will try to share as many with you as I can. Every comment below is paraphrased from a direct quote from their responses; I have tried to put it into some semblance of order, with proper grammar, so that it flows better. These are THEIR words.
“Strange Mike, that you asked me because I was just thinking about this exact topic today on my way back from Liberia” one of my friends wrote back.
In no particular order, here we go.
The climate: everyone listed the weather. Overall people seem to love the fact that they can spend almost all their time outdoors, never needing a coat or shoes; from their morning exercise to the evening BBQs. The change from the dry season to the green season, and the colors that come with it, was mentioned by almost every person; the fauna and the flora; the flowers and the trees. I am from Alberta, wrote one woman. Nothing makes me happier, than reminding myself that everyone back home is plugging in their cars to start them, scrapping the ice off the windshield and shoveling the snow from the driveway; not me.
More than one wrote though, that the burning of the sugar cane, and the smoke and ashes that come with it, was definitely a nuisance. Every February, the farmers torch their fields, and it can be a bit hazy, depending on where you live. Fortunately, this only lasts a couple of weeks. The heat in April was also one of the more common complaints. It can be a tad like baking in an oven, but I will personally take that any day over Frosty the Snowman. Cold Beers Cure All; Thank God for ceiling fans and shade.
Like: Uninterrupted Nature and Wild life, and the biodiversity that goes with it. It is peaceful and serene. It is the only country in the world, where in less than one hour, the landscape changes so drastically, you can go from the beaches to the rain forest, from a volcano to farm land, city to jungle and see enough animal and plant species to make a National Geographic movie. Monkeys, sloths, birds, wild cats, toucans, iguanas, crocodiles, butterflies and hummingbirds, were named by many. “You can drive for 3 days back home in Canada and the scenery never changes.”
Dislike: Some of that same wildlife; snakes, spiders and bugs seemed to top that list. Having lived in the boonies now for the last 7 years, I can tell you that with proper fumigation and maintenance, it isn’t that big of a deal at all. But I promise you, the first time you see a scorpion raise his little stinger, point it over his head and do the B52s Love shack dance, it’s a tad freaky. Squish with Flip Flop goes the little bastard.
Another of the more common answers was how sad people feel when they see all the homeless street dogs. But just as many people, told me how proud they were that they were part of the Coco CARE organization, which rescues, neuters and spades hundreds of animals a year. Many others mentioned all the charitable organization as one of their biggest Feel Good about living in paradise.
“I love that my dogs can run on the beach without a leash” one Connecticut woman wrote. “They have never been free before.” Amen sister, Amen.
I expected the bachelors to tell me how much they love the Ticas; they are the most beautiful women in the world; and all the single women raved about how sexy the Latinos are. But I found it quite humorous when 3 married women responded; THE MEN !!!! Hmmmmm.
The way Ex Pats stick together and help each other. Almost every email made a comment of how big of a community there was here, much more than they anticipated when they arrived. The camaraderie; the way everyone instantly welcomes you into the community.
“I have made more friends in 5 years, living in Playa Hermosa, than my entire life back home.”
“I love meeting people from all walks of life, from all over the world. I love to learn and I love to laugh, and I can’t imagine a better place to do so.”
“I am completely surprised at the caliber of people that live here.”
Another Top 10 Costa Rica like is Adventure! Every day something unique happens that you would never experience in North America. “Just today, I had to stop my car on the way to the grocery store, to let 10 Brama bulls cross the road.” “The Randomness: Costa Rica can’t be beat” “True feeling of vacation.” You can always find new places to go and things to do and see; it is the perfect balance of adventure and Chill out, as one gentleman said.
But part of that adventure, is what people said they didn’t like as well. They said they missed their family and friends, kids and grandkids, but I guess that is something everyone has to go through if they move away from their home, no matter where they end up. The terrible drivers and lax driving laws also topped the list (Do they even have to take a test?) No addresses, and shortage of parking; bad roads and minimal signs; street lights, sidewalks and shoulders, or lack thereof. You definitely have to pay attention here when you are behind the wheel, because it is like a video game sometimes: pedestrians walking; bicycles and scooters; horses, cows and dogs; while dodging the potholes, are definitely an acquired skill. One man said, “Rinky Dinky infrastructure, though it is improving every year, but maybe we are just spoiled gringos.” LOL Pura Vida. Yes you are. Another stated how much more improved the roads have become, since he first moved here 10 year ago; same issue, different views. The Cable TV provider’s minimal offerings also made the list. Can you say Satellite TV?
Speaking of Television, at least a dozen people made a remark about how they surely don’t miss all the negative news that filled their lives back home. Maybe satellite TV isn’t such a great idea after all. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Crime was probably the number one dislike; although everyone was very adamant to point out that they only mean PETTY crime or theft of personal items like laptops. There is almost no violent crime of any kind here, as they also all seemed quick to tell, but that you should be aware of your property and your valuables, because there is always that one person who will gladly relieve you of them if you are not paying attention.
“I feel so safe here!”
“I love that I can go anywhere in this country, and I never look over my shoulder, it is so safe.”
There are tons of activities to do here and cool places to see, that so many of those surveyed raved on and on. Sailing, fishing, biking, hiking, surfing, diving, snorkeling, boat trips, Catamarans, horseback riding, golf, tennis, bird watching and even stand up paddle boards were mentioned; many of them underlined and highlighted. Massages on the beach, along with half price pedicures and manicures also tended to be admired. One retired man wrote “At this time, I belong to two book clubs, church, Spanish Class, Bible Study, painting class, yoga, Zumba and water aerobics. I need more hours in my day to do all the things I want to do. I never get bored.”
Guanacaste!!! One person responded; the Cowboys, the Wild West, the rodeos and horse parades and that they consider these honorable professions. The Pacific over the Caribbean!
“I love all the Festivals and holidays.” They are always celebrating something here, it seems like there is a holiday every week.
“I hate the 48 hour work week” another replied, obviously not retired.
Every single person raved about the lifestyle and how laid back it is. Living in Costa Rica is very easy going, the PURA VIDA is real. There is no hustle and bustle like in city life; people love being away from the “Rat Race.” The quality of life is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I feel better. I am healthier. I have no stress. I am more relaxed with less aches and pains. The pace forces you to slow down and enjoy life. Tico Time, as it is called, is real and vibrant, but it makes you reevaluate the priorities in your life. You control your day, not the traffic or weather, or any of that other B.S. that exists in North America. It is not over populated. There is no noise, and almost no air pollution, but the fact that garbage pickup is only once a week, seemed to chaff a few people.
As you can imagine, the manana attitude also drives many people crazy. In many places, the service is bad, especially compared to back home, and this can cause challenges for Type A personalities. Dealing with government offices, waiting in lines at banks, bureaucracy at the DMV (tell me a country where they are competent.) all made the list, but for the most part this is not something you have to mess with more than a few times a year. Waiting on repairs; the lazy mentality; incompetency, no accountability and little common sense, also seemed to be mentioned quite often. But much of that is more to do with cultural simplicity. There is also a lot of grey in Costa Rica, on what is the correct procedure to do or get something done. If you ask 5 people, you will get 5 different answers, and many times they are all correct. You just have to sort through it.
Once you get the “gotta go 100 mph and get stuff done” attitude out of your head and relax, this is paradise. You have to reprogram yourself to relax mode, said one business owner. That will change a Top 10 Costa Rica dislike into a like.
Many people though, told me how impressed they were with the work ethics of the Ticos, how hard they tried to please, and the fact that there is no unemployment or welfare. Everyone works, and they are happy to be working. No one gets a hand out here. The fact you can have a maid or worker, for a fraction of back home was also something that everyone seemed to agree was a positive.
“I love how my gardener sings when he is working.”
“The woman who cleans my house is always in a great mood.”
One of my neighbors commented, how low the poverty is compared to other Latin American countries they had visited. No one is begging, or harassing you on the streets for a handout. There are no homeless people, and even though their house might be simple by our standards, they are very proud of their modest, well maintained homes and work very hard to keep them up.
Others said that seeing poverty makes them sad.
“The International people that come here and contribute; the mix of Spanish and English languages and people from around the world; German, Italian, French, Swiss, Swedish, Russian, Polish, Portuguese and England.”
Likes; Low medical costs and dental care; excellent quality.
The younger generation is completely bi lingual.
Sunrises and Sunsets, were on just about everyone’s list; the night’s sky is filled with the moon, stars and comets and you can actually see them. One of my good buddies said; sitting on a porch drinking 1820 coffee and watching the sunrise. “A peaceful easy feeling.” Everyone mentioned the coffee by the way. “I love waking up to the sound of monkeys and the parrots in the trees.”
Lightning shows; and the fact that the day is the same length all year long, caught me by surprise, but after thinking about it, I completely agree. Really cool.
Dislikes: Not enough tennis; not enough golf; I hate when I have to go to San Jose. “And my car is always dirty.” That I found hilarious.” I hate that my feet get dirty wearing sandals. Wait, scratch that. It sure beats wearing socks and shoes.” Tank Tops and Flip Flops baby!!!!
One of the main factors, for choosing our area, instead of anywhere else, is the most obvious; The Beaches. Guanacaste has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and people made sure to tell me how much they adore being able to visit them every single day. “Secret” beaches, as they are known, are what keep people searching. There are hundreds of them, some only accessible by boat, or 4×4. Having a cerveza with friends on the beach, Priceless! I love the beer! Chili Guaros!!! Drinking Pilsens and eating ceviche with my buddy Mike (Thank you). One person said “I prefer white sand.”
I love the music here, Latin music, live music: but I wish there was more. Low property taxes; No oil or heating bills: the convenience of having the Liberia airport 20 minutes away and how easy it is to get back home for visits. Michael Simons Annual Party!!!!
“Gringo Pricing” and the high cost of certain products, like gasoline, electronics, furniture and cars, were mentioned a few times, and the Non-availability of some products commonly available in the USA, all seemed to irk us. But most individuals then responded with “maybe we are just spoiled gringos.” One woman made a comment how there just isn’t enough North American stores, like Home Depot, right around the corner. Literally, as I am writing this, a ticker tape is going across my TV. Two shot dead in Manhattan at a Home Depot. You can keep your big stores, and all the anxiety that goes with it.
“I feel safe with the Costa Rican government, something I don’t anymore in the USA.” There is no army, and I have never felt threatened or unwanted. I love that the local buses and taxis are so inexpensive, yet another woman commented that she wished there were more routes to rural and remote areas, to make it easier to visit there.
Down to the top two.
The food is incredible. People really dig shopping in local farmers markets for fruits and vegetables, the freshest most delicious you have ever tasted; love my smoothie’s every day. “I go home to visit my mom, and she brings out her $8 pineapples and bananas. They are green and taste like cardboard.” There is a tremendous supply of fresh seafood, chicken (with no steroids), eggs and pork, and some of the leanest meat you can imagine. Lizano sauce; Gallo Pinto; and you can drink the water right out of the tap. But the downside is that the Ticos do not add a lot of spice or flavor, it can be a little bland for some people, so stock up on hot sauce and seasonings. You might have a hard time finding some American products, but you will realize very soon that there are alternatives that are just as good, if not better. Personally, I could take or leave the milk. Now, I am not an expert on Homogenization, I wasn’t paying attention in class that day in farming school, so I don’t know the exact reason; but it does come across a little creamy for my personal tastes.
And the winner of the the top 10 Costa Rica list is????
THE PEOPLE. Every single person put TICOS, number one on their list. This is the reason I moved here and continue to call this home after almost 12 years. Costa Rica is famous for its friendliness, and they have been voted the happiest country in the world, year in and year out. They are caring, and laid back, and have a strong sense of family unity and community. You will notice almost immediately how the Costa Ricans always greet everyone with passion and friendliness. Myself, I have never been a big fan of the kissing on the cheek thing, but depending on how hot she is….. SIGN ME UP. “We have many Tico friends and they are part of our family” one couple wrote. Everyone is so kind here, so helpful and always smiling. PURA VIDA they always say, and they mean it. The friend driving back from Liberia at the start of this Newsletter, told me a little story, and I will pass it on to you. She was driving down the road about 930 PM on a curvy two land road, when her car just broke down; Dead. She called the man who sold her the car a year earlier, and he answered, even that late at night. Within 10 minutes, a father/son team came to her rescue. They towed the car to their shop, in the middle of the night and then drove her back to her home to make sure she made it safely. They replaced the fuel line, and it was ready to go the next day, and the entire ordeal only cost her $70. “Ticos love to save the day” she exclaimed!
Overall, the majority of those surveyed LOVED Costa Rica. There were way more Likes than Dislikes, and some of them summed it up quite nicely.
Can’t name any more dislike, we LOVE IT HERE.
Me? I have no dislikes! What’s not to love?
Who wouldn’t want to live here?
Only an idiot would go back.
All in all; a great country to share with family and friends.
One of my clients told me, the thing I love most about Costa Rica is YOU. I love my real estate agent.
Glad to hear 1 in 100 can appreciate the finer things in life LOL.
But then one person wrote, “Too many darn realtors” Hmmmmm. No comment.
The one consistent answer though, at the end of every email, said basically the same thing.
The good completely outweigh the bad, I would never go back. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Pura vida, hurry down.
PS. No bathtub in my condo!!!! Just for the record, we are getting together next week to look at properties with big Jacuzzi tubs!!! Calgon take me away baby.
Tank Tops Flip Flops Newsletter edition no. 65