Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits August '17


Spending a Day Fishing Off the Costa of Costa Rica

Periodically, about every other month or so I like to spend the day out on a boat fishing and enjoying the beautiful scenery of the mountains close to shore and secluded beaches along the coast always keeping my eyes open for  the occasional whale, yes I said whale.
Just this past week a good friend and client of mine David, that is spending a month in his condo here in Costa Rica, decided we would go for a half day fishing. Now for the last 3 years when David and I have gone fishing it was a complete blank, the only thing we caught was a buzz from the beer we drank but still had a great time.  This time as we were getting ready to get on the boat, David says to me “I sure hope I break this fishing curse that’s on me” I looked at him and asked what the heck he was talking about. David proceeds to tell me how ever since her was a small kid and went fishing for the first time and caught something, a friend of his gave him a hard time about it and he has never caught a fish since. That was almost 37 years ago and I go out fishing with this guy, no wonder we catch nothing.
As we were heading south down the coast to the Catalina islands that sit off the coast from Playa Potrero and Playa Flamingo, we were extremely lucky to see a cow humpback whale and her calf swimming along. So the captain slowed down and kept his distance so we could enjoy watching them for. It was obvious a mother was teaching the calf how to breach as we were treated with a spectacular show. The mother came up out of the water showing her head and just to tips of her fins. Watching the baby follow suit was incredible. Not quite getting its body that far up and out but still trying. After every attempt the baby would extend its’ tail out of the water and slap the surface.   After about 20 minutes they took a dive deep and resurfaced where we could barely see them. 
So off we went for the intended reason for being out on the ocean, fishing. I am happy to say that after 37 years David’s curse was broken. On the first cast from the boat David landed a 4 foot long needle fish, before I could tell the mate that was helping out to save it, it was released free and unharmed. A lot of people say, “oh you do not want to eat that fish, it is bonny”  well as a retired chef, let me tell you the meat from this fish is great in stir-fries and stews, you just need to know how to properly filet it. Make great ceviche as well, firm and white fleshed. On David’s second cast he landed a Jack, great fighting fish and fun to catch but not so good to eat so of course that one was let go as well. I was really enjoying the look on David’s face and the excitement he was having catching fish. On his third cast, BAM!  A yellow fin tuna, needless to say that one stayed in the boat and a few minutes later were eating the freshest sashimi I ever had.  Best part of all, Captain Geraldo had wasabi and soy sauce on the boat, and let me tell you he sliced it like a pro, man was it good what a treat.
All and all David and I had a great day, his curse was finally over and I even had some luck landing and getting it in the boat a yellow fin tuna, a jack, a rainbow runner and some kind of really pretty blue fish, looked like something out of an aquarium and of course we set that guy free as well. 

 

Costa Rica Growth Continues in our Local Market


Over the last couple of month some new news and actually some real openings have taken place in the area that make this part of Costa Rica, the Papagayo area, even a better option to retire to or own a vacation property.
There had been a long time rumor that Walmart was going to open a store Liberia.  Well it was made official about 6 months ago and the store opened this past month.  I will say this if you are from the US, and shop at Walmart, you will still be surprised by the prices, better than local brand name stores but not like the US version of pricing. 
These next two I am not so thrilled about but some people will be. Kentucky Fried Chicken opened a restaurant in Liberia just before the entrance to the Inter American Highway. I passed by it a few time in the last month and the place is always packed. So for some I guess it good, but I like the local fried chicken better.  The second is Taco Bell Restaurant; they announced they purchased a piece of land in down town Liberia to open a restaurant as well. That’s all I have to say about that. Yuck
 Just across from the Liberia International Airport, in the solarium development, a new gas station is being built; this will make returning a rental car with a full tank a lot easier for sure. For years I always thought there should be one there. Also behind the Solarium development Coca Cola is going to be building the largest Coca Cola industrial plant in all of Central America. 
I read an article in El Financiero about a new Chinese Hypermarket that is supposed to open in Liberia as well, they claimed it is going to be bigger the newly built Walmart which is about 55,000 square feet under roof. Now this I can be excited about if I can only get some spices to make real Chinese style food. But with my luck it will be full of cheap plastic crap that breaks after one use.
The best one I read about and have heard for years is that Price Smart, purchased land in Liberia to open one of its warehouse stores. In case you don’t know Price Smart is like a Sam’s Club or Costco. Based out of San Diego CA, Price Smart is the largest warehouse type store in all of Latin America and the Caribbean and already has 7 stores in Costa Rica. I no longer have to drive four hours to get to the closest one, only 35 minutes and in Liberia.
What does really have to do with anything, well it is growth and it means more jobs for the local economy, not solely depending on eco-tourism.  

 

Playa Hermosa School Backpack Program


Every year the team at RE/MAX Tres Amigos helps the Playa Hermosa Association and the local Playa Hermosa School with their Backpack program.  I was the lead person on this drive a few years back.
Every year kids grow bigger right? Do you know a kid that basically stays the same size till they become an adult? No I did not think so. So in order for the kids to go to school here, they need a new uniform every year and well of course shoes  as well as basic school supplies to attend. The Public School system in Costa Rica is free but the parents need to supply these items. Unfortunately some cannot afford to buy new uniforms, shoes and basic school supplies, hence the backpack program. 
We all know education is the way to success in this world, so help me help the kids of Playa Hermosa.
For a lousy $75.00 USD you can help sponsor a child to go to school for a year. Look at this way, it’s one less dinner out, that’s it. If you are interested in helping out please email me Josepemanuelli@remax.net  and I will help you get the funds to the Playa Hermosa School committee. Really it’s not much to make a difference in childes life.  Thanks in advance for helping out.

 

CAJA The Costa Rica Social Security System


Finally Costa Rica is coming to the 21st century. It is now easier for citizens and legal residents get medical services from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. 
Starting the first of September this year the Carné de Asegurado or basically your insurance card; is no longer needed at all. The Carné is a paper bi-fold card showing a person’s active status of insurance for social security system. 
In the past you had to get the card at the closest CAJA office, for me it is a 20 minute drive to the county seat of Filidelphia (yes I spelled it correct this time it not spelled like Philadelphia PA.) When a person wants to make medical appointments or get medical services and also when getting drugs from the CAJA they had to show the valid card in order to be taken care of.
This all came about because of a law that was passed a few years ago to help cut down on the excessive paperwork and pre-requisites that were put upon citizens and legal residents to get the health care that they or their employer paid for. As legal resident of Costa Rica, part of the requirement is that I had to join the CAJA system of health care. I pay into the system every month but never used the service as dealing with getting the card, and maintaining the records for it, was just a plain hassle. So O purchased private health care insurance. But that’s another topic.
So for those people considering retiring to Costa Rica or had enough of the cold and want to live in a more temperate climate, things are getting easier here. 


Costa Rica Corporation Tax is DUE by September 30th


I have written about this corporate tax many times, So if you own property in Costa Rica and it is held in a Costa Rica Corporation, be warned the tax is due by September 30th, 2017 
 As a refresher for those that may not know or just delete my stuff, that’s OK I do it as well to others HAHAHA. The “Corporations Tax” is an annual tax for all corporate entities in Costa Rica whether it holds an asset or actually produces income. 
The new tax law (remember the old one was found unconstitutional)  states payments for the year of 2017 are due by the end of September this year and we are only being taxed for 1/2 the year and then the full rate for 2018 and this must be paid by the end of January  2018.
The tax can be paid at any Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) branch in Costa Rica.
So want to know how much you have to pay if this applies to you? The tax is based on a percentage of a base salary of a public servant. For this year of 2017 that base salary is 426,200 colons or about $754.00 US dollars depending on the exchange rate.  An active corporation needs to pay 25% of that or $188.00, and an inactive corporation pay 15% of the base salary so about $110.00. So it really is not that much and the tax, most of it goes to the police force. Something I think s worthwhile.
So you have been notified, take notice if you are a property owner in Costa Rica with a Costa Rica Corporation



Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits June '17


Essential Costa Rica. My Choice, Naturally.

This is the new logo from the Costa Rica Tourism board (ICT). Check out the new video they produce about a healthy life style highlighting some of the reason many people are coming to Costa Rica.

https://youtu.be/9g7-4gf76s4 . Whether it is a vacation or to own a piece of paradise in the tropics, people from all over the world are discovering Costa Rica. Contact me for any information about my beloved home and I will be happy to assist in any way I can. Just send me an email to Josephemanulli@remax.net or call my toll free number from the US and Canada 877-661-6074. Looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Use a Self-Directed IRA to Own in Costa Rica

I am going to be straight up front with this article. If you are not a US resident or citizen, and do not have an IRA ( Individual Retirement Account) this will not work for you but still interesting to know, well maybe?

Ever since the US presidential election the US stock market has been on screaming tear upwards.  It was not doing too bad before but really took off. This is great if you have an IRA and you’re watching you investment climbing up and up, hopefully. If this is the case, let’s not forget what happened back in 2008? When the housing bubble in the US collapsed and the stock market sank like the Titanic.  Well now we are starting to hear some economist talking about another possible crashhttps://banyanhill.com/exclusives/80-stock-market-crash-to-strike-in-2016-2/

Now I am not preaching glum and doom, and I am not trying to push a sense of urgency, what I am saying is if you ever had the desire to own property in Costa Rica now would be a good time to take the profits your IRA is making and roll them over from your present IRA company to a truly self-directed IRA fiduciary to purchase an investment property in Costa Rica.  It is easy to do as I have done it myself. I also have the knowledge and skills to help assist with this process as I have achieved the SDIRA certification (Self-Directed Individual Retirement Account).

Here are three companies that different clients of mine have already used and are happy they did. All of them used their IRA’s to own foreign investments. There are stipulations and rules of course that are set in place by the US government. For more information visit any of these sites and the information is there.  Equity Trust Company   www.trustetc.com    NUVIEW  Www.nuviewira.com    Broad Financial https://www.broadfinancial.com/self-directed/

If you decide you would want more information about using your IRA to purchase real estate in Costa Rica without having to read thru pages and pages of information, let’s set a time up to talk and I will be happy to discuss any options with you.

 

IRONMAN 70.3 Costa Rica 2017 a Plus for the Area

This was an incredible event for the local market. The Friday and Saturday before the main event Sunday, Playas Del Coco was buzzing like bees that had their hive invaded by a bear looking for honey. I was proud to see how the local community, municipality, business owners and the tourism borough came out in full force to put its best foot forward.

Now I am far from the athletic type, heck my idea of working out is raising my fork to my mouth, but boy do I have a strong right shoulder. It was great to see athletes from all over the world competing in this world class event right here in Plays Del coco Costa Rica. The Iron man 70.3 is a triathlon event of endurance that is 70.3 miles in length, consisting of a 1.2 mile swim; at this point I would be drowning and the race would be over for me. Then there is a 56 mile bike ride, I could do this part easily that but would take me a few days.  Then to top it all off a 13.1 mile run; do you think they would let me use my Toyota for this part, NOT.

I am happy to write that the RE/MAX team here got involved in the event by sponsoring a local team out of Liberia, so they could all have matching uniforms, headed by one of our trusted legal advisors Rolando Gonzales and in addition one of our own agents, and probably the youngest one on our group Carlos Abbaca, competed as well they both completed the course and now “IRONMEN” I give them tons of credit.

Some people, had been complaining about the inconvenience they had to go thru for a couple of days. These are the usual nag hag expats that look at every opportunity to make some noise about the way things are happening. You know the type, the ones that complain about everything. Thank goodness they are usually pretty old and will be gone soon; Not that I am wishing harm to anyone but we all have to go right? I have a special tomb stone for them when the time comes “Here Lies So and So, he/she was never happy unless he/she was bitching”

Some of the improvements to the area were new sidewalks down the main road toward the park, Paseo del Amor de Temporada, along the beach. Areas where some roads were in bad disrepair got the attention they needed. The central boulevard was cleaned up with trees and bushes trimmed repainted lines and much more.

They miss the big picture!  According to some estimates I read about and estimates by the organizers and the Mayor of Carrillo, this event could generate close to US$8 million. Granted not all that goes to the muni to make improvement but some does, in the form of tax dollars collected. With over 2000 triathletes competing and all the support help for the athletes, this was a big financial boom for the area, not Just Playas Del Coco but other neighboring areas and the county and country as well. Let’s not forget about all the spectators to, in total it was estimated there were over 8,000 people visiting the area for the event and many came early and stayed a few days afterward.

I hope more events like this are held in the area. It puts a good light on our area as well as helping the local economy. It is a win win for all.

Here is a short video produced by our office of the event https://youtu.be/77adjEozVfE

 

 

Costa Rica’s Annual Corporate Tax Back in Full Force

Well if you happen to own Costa Rica Corporation like I do, well actually I own 3. Starting September 1, 2017, the annual tax on corporations, including inactive or holding companies and active companies will need to be paid.

 I wrote about this tax many times, when it was first introduced, then when it was found unconstitutional. This was the tax on all corporations that was found to be unconstitutional 2 years ago, and low and behold the government figured out how to get it passed again so it meets constitutionality.

The tax is applied to all corporation seven those that just hold assets in it like a home, car, boat or land. If not paid there are fines and of course interest that starts day one and some legal matters for the corporation cannot be done unless paid in full.

The good news is that for 2017 we only have to pay from September thru December

Then in 2018 the annual fee , Like how I called it a fee, sounds better then tax HA it all means the same; will be due on full before the end of January.

So wonder how much that really means well here we go

An Inactive company will pay 15% of the base salary of 426,200 colones at exchange rate of 565( the day of writing this) that equals  $113.15 US dollars.

If a company is active (meaning it is generating income,) Like from rentals but less than $91,675 will pay 25% of the base salary which equals $188.58 US dollars and it goes up from there to a maximum of 50% of the base salary.

Inactive companies are required to file Form D-140 – Declaration of Modification of Data – indicating the tax address, email and other data on the form. Failure to submit this statement within the established period will result in a fine of half a basic salary (¢213,100) for each month the form is not on file, or a fraction thereof corresponding to any partial-month delay.

The money raised by the tax will for the most part be given to the Ministry of Public Security, with 90 percent of the collection being allocated for the construction of police stations, the purchase and maintenance of police equipment, and in police patrols. The remaining 5 percent of the tax revenue will go to the Ministry of Justice, and the other 5 percent to the Judicial Investigative Police Agency.

 

Costa Rica Replacing Single-Use Plastic by 2021

Costa Rica has a long history of working to be “green” and extremely environmentally friendly. Well the process is going further and seeks to be free of single-use plastic.

You know items like plastic water and soda bottles, plastic bags from grocery stores, plastic containers food are sold in and so forth.  Even Costa Rica President Luis Guillermo Solís disclosed the details of a strategy to achieve this lofty goal in an announcement on World Environment Day.

Now I am not the most environmentally minded person on this planet but it does kind of piss me off when I see plastic water bottles on the side of the roads as people just toss them out of a car, or from a bike or when I go to the beach and the ocean is washing up all sorts of plastic items.

Now a lot of people will be thinking how is that going to happen, almost everything consumable these days are in plastic. Well it is not going to happen overnight that’s for sure, nothing happened fast in Costa Rica, however the Costa Rica government will be leading by example and hoping  that 80% of the country’s public agencies, municipalities and businesses replace their disposable plastic packaging with materials that are renewable, compostable and made from biodegradable materials. The plan also asks on Costa Ricans to replace single-use plastics with renewable, biodegradable and compostable materials. If people get involved as well on a daily basis it is start, let’s hope it continues.

For more information visit  www.zonalibredeplastico.org , which has a database of companies in Costa Rica already offering renewable and compostable products.


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits May '17


A Costa Rica Sponsorship Well Worth The $10.00

Let me ask you a question? Can you live without going out to dinner once a month? Or maybe not going to Star Bucks for that $5 cappuccino twice a month? Really think about for a minute!

I would like to introduce you to a great organization here in Costa Rica that is really helping, and by helping I mean with the children. Yes Costa Rica is a beautiful country and the people are unbelievable friendly, warm and welcoming but there are children that just can’t get a break for whatever reason and the folks at Club A in Liberia are doing a great job. Here is the main web site. http://clubacr.com/

A couple of weeks ago my broker owner Michael Simons somehow heard about them and made contact. After a few discussions about possibly doing a beach party for the kids or a boat ride out in the ocean, this has yet to be decided; however Mike decided that the offices that he owns would help out financially. So under the direction and generosity of Mike the three offices of RE/MAX Tres Amigos, RE/MAX Prestige Properties and RE/MAX Ocean Village sponsored 10 kids for a year. 

I looked at the web site and just about lost it when I looked into those sweet faces of these kids and said to myself, “I have to help out as well”. So I stepped up to the plate and went ahead and sponsored 6 kids for a year as well. It was really easy to do and you can get a legal receipt if you want to write it off, it is not that hard. YOU CAN TO! Just Keep reading!!!

I have been fortunate in my life, I am not a wealthy person but my parents worked very hard to give me and my brothers the opportunity to make something out of ourselves. They gave us the guidance to think on own and be resourceful and we all did. Unfortunately some kids never get that opportunity, whether they come from a broken home or they live in conditions that; well makes me cringe, or whatever the reason is.

Costa Rica is my new home and has been for 10 years now and I doubt I will ever be living in the US again. So I felt this is a just a small way for me to give back to the people that have welcomed me to their country with open arms and allowed me to have the opportunity to start my own business here and do ok.

Really for only $10.00 US a month you can sponsor a child that is in need. Best of all the money goes to helping the kids, unlike the ones you see on TV asking to sponsor a kid, where most of the money goes to salaries and advertising, here all of it goes to making these kids’ lives better and opening their minds to a world they might never see.

Please I ask you to stop and think about it for minute, one child for a year is only $120.00. So that may be one less dinner out in a month with a few cocktails, or it is maybe not buying that shiny new cell phone case or whatever. The point being is, it is not that much. So if you are willing to sponsor a child here is the link http://clubacr.com/sponsor/

If you just want to make a onetime donation to help out click this link http://clubacr.com/donate/  and you can even use your credit card.

Thanks for allowing me to present this to you, it was important to me I hope you find it in your heart to and wallet to make it important to you to.

Thanks in advance from me all the volunteers and of course the kids. Here is a short explanation of Club A and the wonderful work they are doing. I applaud them!

Club A is a non-profit organization that seeks to work with kids on a weekly basis to help them succeed in school. By helping kids improve their academic level and teaching them about being responsible citizens, we hope they will have bright futures and improve their economic situation. Club A started in June 2014 by five women who saw a need in a nearby impoverished community to help kids do well in school. The neighborhood does not have running water and is one of the poorest in Costa Rica. Believing strongly in the power of education to reduce poverty, Club A’s founders felt that it wasn’t enough to give the kids school supplies, uniforms, and shoes because they wondered, “Who will help the kids do their homework and study now that they have the required items to attend school?” Afterall, many of the kids’ parents cannot read and struggle to feed their large families. They decided to establish a weekly after-school club to specifically help kids with their basic math and language skills (reading and writing Spanish). They also wanted to teach the kids English, the language that all the best-paying jobs require in Costa Rica. Additionally, they have monthly life-skill themes, such as being honest, responsible, helpful, law-abiding citizens.  Today, Club A has 80 kids, ages 5 to 13, enrolled in the program, all of whom must show proof of enrollment in school in order to sign up for Club A. In order to stay in the Club, the kids must have excellent behavior and attendance. Club A is completely run by volunteers and has no paid staff.

 

Municipality Demolished Pools in Playas Del Coco

Yes it is true and unbelievable, but it really did happen this past month. The Municipality of Carrillio, where Playa del Coco and Playa Hermosa and few other beach towns are part of, set to task of demolition 5 pools in the area.

The Municipality of Carrillio is cracking down on what it claims to be illegal constructions in the area. They claim they have been notifying owners for years and nothing has been done.  When in fact they were notifying the people on record for the original permits which happened to be the developers and who are long gone.

It is sad that the 2 developments that had their pools destroyed, most likely did not have a clue it was coming. Or at least some of the secondary and third owners of the unit were un aware.

The Municipality hopes that this action they took will encourage residents to pay a visit to the municipality and get their paperwork in order.

 “The municipality has started the first phase of demolitions by targeting constructions that will cause the least social impact possible,” Cascante said. “That's why we have not started demolishing illegal residencies yet.” Although the director recognizes that many of the constructions lacking permits do not constitute an urban or cosmetic problem, they do constitute a legal fault.  In other words it all comes down to $$$$$$.

Just like every government in every country, they need more money, the more “services” they supply the more money is needed to cover them. Unfortunately many times the government is fat with employees that do basically nothing.

Of all the properties that I have sold in the last 6 years, part of the due diligence is to check on permits to make sure the home or condo was constructed properly. Unfortunately the Municipality employees that sent the building permit as fact never thought about community construction items as in some of the condos developments that had their pools destroyed.  A smart alternative is for all property owners no matter where you live, should investigate this before a backhoe shows at your home and wants to tear down you’re your pool.

Here is a link to a Municipalities Facebook page with a video of one of the episodes

 https://www.facebook.com/MunicipalidadCarrillo/videos/1298607086913971/

 

US Dollar Reached Highest  in Ten years

Wow! When I moved to this paradise of Costa Rica ten years ago the exchange rate was around 505 to one US dollar. I have seen it go as low as 460 to one but never saw it this high.

The exchange rate of the Costa Rican colon against the dollar reached a seven year high this moth of 600 colon to $1 US dollar. That lasted about a day, but was on a steading incline for a few months.

As of writing this the exchange dropped back to 575 colon to $1US dollar. Some say this is good! I say no it is not. Let me explain.

Sure it is good if you are vacationer and you are only here for a week or two this means your US dollar goes farther in buying things. However if you live here in Costa Rica or have a business here, it can be a drag. :Let me explain, many items that are sold in Costa Rica, that were needed to be imported from elsewhere  are paid with US dollars, this means the price of them in colons will have to go up as the vendors still want to make the same profit margins.

The same goes for things like gas for the car. The fuel purchased by the government is bought in US $$ dollars, this means they have to spend more colons to buy just one dollar, and hence the price of gas goes up.

It was predicted by some in the financial market that the dollar was going to get much stronger against the colon, some of it due to world economic conditions, some due to the new administration in the US and the US Federal Reserve’s change in its base rate.

Some local politicians here asked the Solis administration to step in and do something about it, but the president decided that the Costa Rica Central bank has the proper policies in place to handle it, so he won’t be steeping in the middle of it.

Low and behold the Central bank did step in and confirmed in a news release that it has approved a plan to intervene in the foreign exchange market with up to $1 billion to help curb the slide of the colon. The Next day the value dropped to 585.

Living here has been a blast over the years and even with the fluctuation of currency it still over all costs me less to live here than it did when I lived in the US.

 

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano , Guanacaste Coming to Life?

Wow, that’s kind of close?? Ricon de le Vieja volcano recorded a strong explosion of hot water, vapor, gases and mud. Thank goodness no lava, yet.

Well I knew when I moved here there was a range of mountains that runs from the north of Costa Rica to South and that there were many volcanos along the mountain range. Heck I visited at least 5 of them. They are all really cool national parks with some of the greatest biodiversity in the entire world.  This did that hold me back from moving here? Heck no. Rincon is one of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes, along with Turrialba, Poás, Irazú, Miravalles and Arenal the most famous one of all.

Well according to the Volcano logical and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI), Rincon (for short) began erupting this month. The items that were thrown by the explosion were visible on the north slope of the volcano, approximately 30 miles on a direct line from Playa Hermosa and the surrounding areas. Most of the debris as stated was on the north side of the mountain which, thanks to geography Hermosa is on the south west side of it.

The National Seismological Network reported that a seismic monitoring station south of the volcano recorded a tremor associated with the explosion; they said it lasted for about a minute and a half.

Luckily for all there was no report of damage or injury to anyone or anything. The last time there was activity at Rincon was last year with a similar vapor and gas explosions and again on the north side of the mountain.

Good thing is I can see the volcano from my condo so if I hear something strange I think the first thing I will do is look north east towards the mountains and see if it is going to explode. 


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits April '17


Can your Vacation Home in Costa Rica Be a Profitable Rental?

 Wouldn’t necessarily call this news but I think it is great information. So how do I turn my vacation home into a cash producing entity that pays for itself? I get asked this question all the time buy almost every buyer in come in contact with.  Most people who buy a vacation home in Costa Rica usually have the thought of spending as much time as possible there, which is not always the case in reality. Most buyers consider it an investment, which it really is, others look at it as their future home for retirement and both want the opportunity to make money or at a bare minimum cover their costs. 

We’ve all heard the two sides of the story, the owner whose vacation property is making great returns and profit, and then of course the horror story of owner whose property has turned into a nightmare.

When considering purchasing any vacation property in Costa Rica it is very important that you take into consideration all the aspects about your vacation spot.  I am going to list what I consider the top 5 of the more important ones or I could be writing a book and you can tell I am not a great writer so that won’t be happening  

  1. Buy in a popular vacation area of Costa Rica. This should be obvious, right? Well you can’t believe how many people say “I want to be in a kind of off the grid location very private but I want everything close by as well” That’s like saying “I want ocean view property but it has to be in Akron Ohio” Trust me this type of property, although it may be stunning and the scenery and tranquility is just to die for, IT WON’T RENT WELL. Your best bet for rentals are in the popular vacation areas close to an International Airport, like the Liberia International Airport, which has a constant flow of people coming to Costa Rica and growing.
  2.  Look for the correct type of property, price is not always the determining factor, compare the type of property you are considering to similar rental properties close by and even hotels in the area. Be as open minded as possible, put yourself in the shoes of the target market renter, not necessarily what you want, as everyone tastes are different. Remember the mains things are comfort, location, view, convenience and price. Remember this as well keeping your property fresh and in great conditions is a must. Would you rent a dingy and tired looking property for vacation?
  3. Think about who you want to rent to? The college kids on spring break or the retired crowd that usually have more disposable income, or the family segment. If you want your vacation property to be profitable you need to know your target market. Renting a luxury house overlooking the beautiful beaches of Playa Hermosa and the ocean can cost thousands of dollars per week depending on the property and the services offered with the home.  The property can be a small condo, in a nice development with no ocean views but still close to everything and can still be a profit center. If you think of your vacation property as an investment, as well as a place of enjoyment for yourself, choose the best property you can afford. The return on investment will most likely be the same percentage: but there is more to it than just numbers. If you need assistance with this, you can always send me a note for a free no obligation consultation.
  4. Oh cool you bought a place, congratulations! Now you are really excited and can’t wait to spend time in your new investment property because you really love Costa Rica and the weather and can’t wait to get out of cold winters.  Well guess what, that’s exactly what all the renters are thinking!!! I cannot tell you how many people I hear complain that “my place does not rent well, or I am not making any money renting it. HELLO that’s because you are taking up the best rental time of the year, of course you’re not making anything! One of the beauties of Costa Rica is that even during the “low-season” the weather is great, especially in Guanacaste, so perhaps you can plan your time in your vacation home during the low season from June to August, or mid-November to mid-December, leaving the high season open to make the most if it.
  5.  Advertising, advertising and more advertising, do I need to say more? There are lots of ways, if you think just leaving with the property manager/rental agent will do it, you are greatly mistaken. Yes there are many great rental companies out there, but you as the owner need to get involved.  Market the property on as many of the vacation rental web site as possible, like Home Away, Air B&B, Vacation Rental By Owner, even Craig’s List or Kijiji .com.  I know lots of people that set up a Facebook pages and some that did simple web sites. It is very important that you take great photos of your house, the surrounding areas, and amenities at the house or close by. Make the prospect want to rent your place.  Also a great description of the house is very important as well. However be honest, do not describe things like “Great ocean View” and in reality is peak between 2 buildings. Don’t say fully equipped kitchen then have a mishmash cutlery and glasses and plates.

As a final word on this subject also remember to price your property correctly based on market comparable, it is easy to do just go to one of the rental sites listed above, search for the area your property is and look for similar properties. Talk to your property manager, do some research and consider all the selling points your home offers.  With just taking these 6 items to heart, you should be able to easily turn your vacation property in Costa Rica into a cash cow while at the same time enjoying it yourself with family and friends.

 

Discovery to Develop Huge Adventure Park in Costa Rica

Discovery Communications Inc. has announced that it is licensing its name for a $1 billion eco-tourism park in Guanacaste, Costa Rica as the main location and three other sites in Costa Rica to be named later however all to be located in Guanacaste as well.

When I first saw this and you may have seen it also on Facebook feeds from friends in Costa Rica or one of the many Costa Rica on line new services; I was pretty skeptical about it. After living here in Costa Rica for close to 10 years now full time and have been an investor in Costa Rica since 2004 on the hype of a large scale marina project being approved, I have seen and heard a lot of stories and official announcements about big projects and development.  Heck I even wrote about a lot of them. What ended up happening to most of them? A big fat NOTHING!!! Or the project got tied up in governmental red tape or my favorite and I call them “the environmental terrorists”. You know the ones that want to save the world from progress and in turn end up actually hurting the local people that it will benefit the most from it from jobs to better infrastructure to better services and much more. This tends to happen here in Costa Rica. Sorry I digressed, back to the good news.

 The president of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís confirmed the news on his official Facebook page and said that this is likely one of the largest investments in Costa Rica in the last 10 years. The 880-hectare (about 2200 acres) adventure park will be located in the province of Guanacaste.  Discovery Costa Rica is scheduled to open in late 2020, just a few kilometers past the Liberia International Airport going toward Liberia Central.

The park will include outdoor activities such as rock climbing, hiking, scuba diving, water park also included will be hotels, restaurants , school and wellness complex, bike and hiking paths, sports training facilities, an inland ocean, and cabins, as well as outdoor spaces of dry forests, ravines, and canyon cliffs overlooking the Liberia River. Even a possible hospital and all combined across four locations including beaches, parks and volcanoes. All of the park’s activities will focus on biodiversity and conservation.

The president disclosed the details of the project at a press conference a couple days later day along with Vice President Ana Helena Chacón and various Cabinet ministers, U.S. Ambassador S. Fitzgerald Haney, Guanacaste officials and officials from the tourism sector. “It will boost tourism and competitiveness, will generate employment and is part of our tradition of sustainability, renewable energies and environmental respect,” he said. The Costa Rican officials responded at the press conference to environmental concerns about the project, which will include manmade water attractions in a region of the country heavily affected by droughts and water rationing. (See what I was talking about above, let’s hope they do not get in the way AGAIN).  Discovery Costa Rica CEO John Scheman stated the construction will begin sometime next year with an initial investment of $400 million.

 President Solís welcomed the project and said “Discovery’s decision to invest here shows that Costa Rica can commit to big investment and development plans that are completely in line with our vision of sustainable development.” Discovery representatives also confirmed that they will employ roughly 2,000 workers during the construction stage and, once operational, will generate over 4,000 direct and indirect jobs.

So a lot of great news for Guanacaste , so before I put this together and looked like a fool again for some mega project that won’t get off the ground, I call the President of the Guanacaste Chamber of Tourism, who also happens to be a personal friend of mine.  I asked her straight out with beating around the bush “So Priscilla, knowing how this country can be at times do you really think this is going to happen?”  “You know what I mean, with all the government approvals that are needed from water, to environment, to zoning issues, to archeological and one ministry not know what the other is doings, then those crazy environmentalist”. She said to me “Joe, it is truly going to happen, they have been working on this for last 6 years very very quietly and already have passed all the governmental issues and have all their approvals in place. The reason nothing was said earlier because they wanted to get everything in place and ready to go”. I pushed her again about the water since this is always seems to be a huge issue, which it is, she replied “ They already did all the environmental studies on the aquafer and the wells and all the wells are have full concession with ample water supply and are legal.   I hope she is right! But she has never let me down in the past. It is good to know people. I just hope this does not turn into mud on my face


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits March '17


Costa Rica Corporation Tax Is Back

Well let’s start this month off with some crappy news!  As expected, Costa Rica’s lawmakers approved for the second and final time a new tax on corporations. The tax is expected to about $81 million from corporations registered with the government.

This tax was originally passed into law back in 2011. Some people complain but some smart lawyers figured it out that there was something wrong and took it all the way to the Costa Rica Supreme Court. The court had found it had not been properly advertised, as all new laws in Costa Rica have to be in the newspaper La Gaceta, the law goes into effect three months after the first day of the month following its publication. The original tax was declared unconstitutional in January 2015 due to technical issues and done away with until now.

However, tell me how many governments do you know that will let a good thing go away, like collecting millions in taxes???

 Many expats if not all and including me, hold ownership in their homes and motor vehicles through establishing a Costa Rica corporation. It makes it easier if you do not live here full time. The Funds from this tax are to be used only for the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública and with the money they will be able to hire 1,000 new officers and that’s a good thing

The law exempts taxation of small businesses registered as such with the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio. Other corporations are assessed based on their level of gross income.

Like many fines and government payments here in Costa Rica, the tax is determined by the base salary of a judicial employee. This year the amount is 426,200 colons or about $767. This is the monthly salary listed for a specific job in the Poder Judicial, so the amount will increase each year as the salary increases.

Inactive corporations, those that do not make an income or are registered as inactive would pay 15 percent of the base salary for the annual tax. That’s about 68,192 colons or $115.09 due Jan. 1, 2018, for a full year. Costa Rican corporate entities with gross income of less than $192,000.00 would pay 30 percent, roughly $230. Companies with gross income that’s more would pay 60 percent of a base salary. As in any economy the tax will most likely be passed on to their customers.  Here is the real kicker, the tax will have to be paid this year as well, granted only from August to the end of the year which is just 5 months this year.  So for this year 2017 the fee will be 26,000 colones for an inactive corporation and 44,000 colones for an active corporation.  As of writing this the exchange rate is 556 colones to $1.00 USD.

Personally I am ok with this tax, if it means more police and better security, not that Playa Hermosa needs it, but overall, then I am in favor of it.

 

Playa Hermosa Receives Blue Flag Certification AGAIN

Holy Week, a huge holiday in Costa Rica is approaching, and for those planning to enjoy some time off at the beach, there are some new recommendations: the Costa Rica Tourism Board announced the list of those beaches certified as the cleanest and most sustainable in the country. Congratulations to Playa Hermosa and Playa Ocotal for achieving this status.

Starting last week, a total of 105 beaches will be displaying a blue flag that certifies that they met the minimum requirements of the “Blue Flag Ecological Program”. Playa Hermosa’s flag is just out in Front of the Agua Sport Restaurant and Playa Ocotals’ is out in front of Father Roosters Restaurant.

In Playa Hermosa, thanks to the Playa Hermosa Association and all the resident that contribute time and or money, Playa Hermosa has people that walk the beach and clean up non-biodegradable items and empty the trash cans and clean up along the streets in town.

The quality certification program awards blue flags each year, displaying one to five stars. The number of stars depends on the points obtained in three separate evaluations conducted annually by a group of inspectors from various ministries and public agencies.

Getting a blue flag with at least one star requires a minimum compliance of 90 percent during each evaluation. The Evaluations include inspection of the beach waters for any kind of contamination, having garbage cans, recycling programs and much more.

Tourism Minister Mauricio Ventura said that any recognition of the efforts to improve sustainability of the country’s tourist destinations are always of great importance, “especially when the United Nations World Tourism Organization designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.” “These efforts strengthen our country’s image as a destination that generates authentic travel experiences,” he said. 

This is really cool for a lot of reasons, most importantly is that we have a safe clean beach to play on and swim at. Secondly if you own a property and you rent it out to tourist, this help and you should promote the Blue flag in any advertising you do

The certification program also takes into account the existence of safety aspects such as the existence of appropriate information about strong waves or riptides and the availability of lifesaving and emergency staff throughout the year.

The Blue Flag Program began 20 years ago. In addition to beaches, it awards flags for environmental awareness to communities, schools, protected natural areas and hydrological watersheds. It also offers awards for climate change mitigation, community health promotion and sustainable homes.

So come on down to Playa Hermosa and enjoy the beach, any time of year. See you soon

 

Costa Rica in the Top 50 Healthiest Countries

Here we go again, Costa Rica ranks high for healthy living experience and way of life “Pura Vida”. The study initially included 200 countries and regions, but only 163 had enough data to be included in the index, the World Health Organization, World Bank, and the United Nations Population Division were the main sources for information.

The Bloomberg Global Health Index had evaluated over 200 countries based on things like life expectancy, health risks and other factors like a high population with cholesterol or high blood pressure, overweight, children malnutrition. The other factors included environmental effects such as polluted environment, availability of clean water, and mortality by communicable and non-communicable diseases and injuries. Wow that stuff sound pretty scary but it is true.

When it came to Latin America only five countries made the top 50, these are: Chile in position 29 with a health grade of 77.18 of 100; Cuba ranked 31 with a health grade of 74.23; Costa Rica in position 33 with a health grade of 73.14; Uruguay scored 65.40 and Panama took position 49 with a score of 62.39

The life expectancy in Costa Rica reaches 79.7 years and the healthcare system in the country makes a big difference, although the percentage of overweight population continues to get bigger. This is due to now there are more readily available fast food operation, premade food products and the easy of getting them.

This is just one more reason why I say come and visit Costa Rica, at least for a vacation and see for yourself, don’t just believe me. The health care is top notch, the availability of fresh fruits and vegetable are endless, and let’s not forget the great weather and of Course our great beaches. Who knows, you might even make the move like I did.

 

Coming To Costa Rica Easter Week? It May Be Dry!

I can’t believe in this day and age there are still dry laws in place, the good thing I have not heard of it in Carrillo, the municipality where I live and I hope it’s not dry.

At least four municipalities in Costa Rica will apply the “Ley Seca” (dry law) for “Samana Santa” or Easter Week as most English speaking people call it. The dry law will be in place on Thursday, April 13 and Friday, April 14. And this I really don’t get, Easter is on Sunday so why the Thursday and Friday before?

In years past, the Ley Seca was applied at a national level.  The Costa Rica legislation, several years back gave municipalities the right to decide if liquor, wine and beer will flow within their jurisdictions on holidays and special events. in the municipalities where the Ley Seca is applied all sales of alcohol in supermarkets, pulperias (corner stores), liquor stores, bars and restaurants  and any other business that is licensed to sell liquor, cannot sell booze  two days.

I remember my first time in Costa Rica during Easter week, back in 2000. I was heading to the south pacific part of Costa Rica and it took all day to get there from San Jose and the a/c died in the rental, then had a flat but finally made it to the hotel. As soon as I checked in to the hotel I when strait to the restaurant to get a nice cold beer.  Nope denied, it was Good Thursday they explained and there was yellow tape across all the refrigerators and all the bottles on the shelf had taps over them then the yellow tape.  I could not believe it; the cold Pepsi just did not do the trick. All weekend and not a beer to be had. I swore to God I was never coming back here during this week for a vacation.

Years ago, when the Ley Seca was enforced nationally, the Fuerza Publica ( or national police force) would, on the day before the holiday, begin the process of ‘sealing’ up establishments. A special tape, with an official seal, (That was the yellow tap I saw) would either be placed across the doors of a business, like a bar that only sold liquor or on coolers and storage areas in places like restaurants and grocery stores.

After moving here I got wise to this, before the law changed, would go and fill up on the Wednesday before, just like almost every other Tico. The grocery stores were packed with people it was like a party.

But If you are coming to the Papagayo region have no fears you can get a cold been Easter week.


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits February '17


Thanks for stopping buy my web page and reading about the happenings of Costa Rica. This month has been extremely busy with prospects looking to own their own piece of paradise, hence only 2 articles this month. Feel free to scroll down to previous months if you have not been here before, or check back next month for more information about the good and bad of Costa Rica.

Thanks

 

 

Costa Rica, Welcoming Expats With Open Arms

From BBC.com, Costa Rica is in the top five spots expats will be greeted with a warm welcome, a helping hand and a friendly smile. Of course I will only mention my beloved home of Costa Rica!

A BBC.com report stated that for many expats, finding new friends can ease the often overwhelming task of adjusting to a new life abroad. It is called assimilating!! Every person that decides to move and live in a foreign country needs to do.

Inter Nations,  a global community network recently completed their annual Expat Insider 2016 survey – the ‘World Through Expat Eyes’ –  questioning  more than 14,000 expats from 191 countries, expat residents rated a number of aspects about living in a new country.  Some of the questions included how easy it was to settle in and their country of choice friendliness and ease of making friends.

Costa Rica ranked high on all aspects dealing with how easily expats fit in. Close to nine out of ten expats are happy with the general friendliness of the population, and eight out of ten feel right at home. I myself can certainly attest to this, In my tenth year of living in Costa Rica, I highly doubt I will ever be heading back to the USA.

 In Costa Rica whether you are an expat or a Tico, almost everyone is connected by ‘pura vida’. You know the saying is you have been here, it is the belief of living a ‘pure life’, and for those who are fed up the hustle and bustle of their own country decide this is the way to go. No sweat, no worries, no problems, just ‘pura vida’, Pure Life

I have to admit that English is widely spoken, however learning Spanish, even if it is a bad broken Spanish as I call it “Spanglish” which I am pretty good at, will help you get miles with the locals and fit right in. It all comes down to making the effort to embrace understand the culture of Costa Rica. If you do, as I have, you will be welcomed with open arms and considered a friend.

It is true that most expat retirees desire to be close to the beach, like the beautiful beaches of Guanacaste, and of course Playa Hermosa (Beautiful Beach), many professional expats live in the Central Valley near San Jose. These are the one that still thrive on the hustle and bustle and believe me, that is the Central Valley.

So if you are looking for that perfect location to finally unwind, and be part of the culture and community that is warm, welcoming and actually says “Buenos Dias” to a complete stranger with a smile and genuine warm wishes, than Costa Rica is where you need to be.

 

Go To Jail for Fishing In Costa Rica? Court Calls it Irrational!

If it were up to some politicians, we would be living like cave man again, how did these guys ever get elected?

There has been a debate and a well needed one on animal welfare and safety here in Costa Rica.  However the Constitutional Court has expressed concern over the excessive protection on such a wide range of animals; however it stressed the importance of legislation for animal welfare and protection against abuse

For the second time, the Constitutional Court has found problems with the constitutionality of the Animal Welfare bill, a piece of legislation that seeks to get tough on animal abuse. Which of course is a good thing, no one wants to see dogs, cats, horses, domesticated or tropical animals mistreated or harmed for whatever reason.

The magistrates stated that the legislators that put forth the bill are ‘irrational’ in their decision to impose fines and jail sentences on those who kill or harm “non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and octopods.” I know it sounds wired the terms they used, but think about this.

If the law was passed the way it was written, the next time you’re on vacation here in Costa Rica and you go deep see fishing, you could go to jail or be fined for keeping the mahi mahi that took 25 minutes to reel in and now you want to cook. How about that nice juicy steak you want to grill while hanging out on the deck watching the sun set over the ocean, which came from a “Non-Human Mammal”. OMG it would be contraband!

The magistrates considered that such a broad definition violated the principles of minimum intervention, reasonableness and proportionality. Thank God someone has some common sense. What is it with politicians, not just from Costa Rica but all over the world, I think they all leave their brains outside of the assembly building when they walk in to start the day’s work.

The original draft of the bill only mentioned the term “animals”.  Late last year the Constitutional Court told legislators that the definition was too broad. Some scientists now believe plants feel pain as well. Can you imagine where this could end up? We will stave, even the vegans, then what?

The ‘observation’ of the Constitutional Court is not binding on legislators, which means the bill could be approved as it is. However, if the bill is approved without changes, at some point someone could challenge it before the Supreme Court and could bring that part of the legislation down. I know exactly who will as well, the cattle industry, the hog/pig industry, the chicken industry; the commercial fishing industry and the list can on and on.

What’s next? Following the Sala IV review, the bill returns to legislative committee for discussion before it can be presented to the full Legislative Assembly for another and final debate.

Let’s hope a reasonable logical animal welfare bill is passed, because I surely don’t want to eat grass grains and fruit all time and I certainly do not want to go to jail because I was caught with a dead fish after a day on the ocean.

 


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits January '17


What's That Coming Out Of The Water!!

Last week I was at the beach in Playa Hermosa, enjoying a sun set, cold cocktail and some live music at Aqua Sport, a cool local beach bar and restaurant, when I decide to take a walk down the beach and just enjoy the sounds, sights and smells of the Pacific Ocean.

As I stopped to gaze out over the soft waves I started to see a lot of air bubbles and then more and more. It was like the ocean floor was erupting, I know there are no volcanic vents in the bay of Hermosa but I could be wrong. So waiting in amazement and wondering what the heck this was, I stated seeing something moving close to the surface in the middle of the bubbling water. First thought and a pretty silly one was, OH crap it is the Monster from the green lagoon, remember that one, a really old bad B movie from the 60’s. Yes I am that old.

Anyway it turn out it was divers, eight of them to be exact and they were carrying some strange white and brown things. So I walked up and in my poor Spanish I said hello and tried to see what they were doing. To make is short and sweet, these guys worked for ICE the national electric company. They were building artificial reefs with left over and recycled porcelain insulators, the accordion shaped objects used to isolate electrical currents on utility poles and at power stations.

So after trying to muddle my way thru Spanish with then I found out the divers began sinking and anchoring 52 structures in the bay of Playa Hermosa. The first one is already set in place about 30 feet deep.

Back in 2010, some resident living in Playa Hermosa at the time and were avid divers, started a similar project called CONDO FISH. These guys went around to construction sites and picked up unwanted cinderblocks and built 9 artificial reefs in the bay. A friend of mine that loves to dive told me recently that those original 9 have really taken hold and now there is actually live corral growing on the igloo shaped structures they built.

So long as these “electrical Insulators” don’t cause any harm I think it is a great idea. Supposedly or the best I could understand from the divers is that they were tested by government agencies and that they are safe to use.

Hermosa is a pretty safe place to swim and snorkel and all sorts of water activities as the waves are not big and with the addition of these man mad reefs this should bring the see life in abundance to the bay. There is no natural reef in the bay so by creating a false reef, it is way to bring the wonder of the sea into this sleepy bay.

I just hope next time I am walking on the beach I don’t see anything else that looks like the monster from the green lagoon coming out of the ocean.

 

Really Closing The Only Real Highway To Get Downtown

Boy I am glad I live in Guanacaste.  Have you ever driven in the Central Valley of Costa Rica around San Jose?? If so you know what a nightmare it can be and it just got worse.

Well it is going to get a lot worst. The never-ending works on “La Platina” bridge (Rt. 1 past the “San Jose” airport on the way to the capital city of San Jose) will continue to frustrate Costa Rican motorists and tourist alike.

Officials from the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) announced that the heavily trafficked bridge will be closed for a 24 hour period to install steel beams. This is not the first time these rocket scientists have done this.

Ever since I have been living here in Costa Rica, over 9 years, this bridge has been under construction. There is a long history of promises to widen the bridge and create more lanes. As it is now it is a complete joke, a three lane highway each way, and the busiest in all of Costa Rica, narrows down to 2 lanes each way. On a good day it will take you 45 minutes to get to the bridge and then across the bridge on a bad day, try 2 hours.

 President Luis Guillermo Solís is the third Costa Rican president to promise that the bridge would be widened under his or her tenure. Since 2009, the bridge has been a headache for drivers and politicians alike. There have been numerous accidents and fatalities on the road, and let’s not forget the people fired over this mess and the lawsuits within and against government. Like I said it is a bad joke that just won’t go away.

The current project that is estimated to cost nearly $14 million seeks to add one lane each way, augmenting the total to six lanes going over the bridge. I am not sure but wouldn’t it be better after all these years, millions of dollars and supposed fixes, to just build a new more modern bridge over the river and be done with it once and for all. But then again what the heck do I know.

So just stay in Guanacaste, where it is peaceful, and a traffic jam is when the cows move from one pasture to the other and if in the northern Papagayo region the road as paved as well.

 

Hard Rock Hotel Guanacaste Replaces Allegro Papagayo

Hard Rock International has announced they will build their first resort in Costa Rica in the province of Guanacaste, on the site of the Allegro Papagayo Hotel

This is, in my opinion a really good thing.  A few reasons for my thoughts on this, first have you ever been the Allegro Hotel? It was a dump, one of the first hotels in the Bahia Culebra and was not very well maintained. Actually 5 years ago it was shut down by the Costa Rica government for discharging raw sewage into the bay and they had to install self-contained waste treatment plants. My second reason, as a retired chef, was that the food sucked, plain and simple no other way to say it sorry. I would rather eat MacDonald’s then the stuff they called food. The resort is planned to offer a vast array of dining options, ranging from an all-day buffet restaurant to four a la carte restaurants, including a U.S.-style steak house, an Asian restaurant, an Italian trattoria and an “internationally inspired eatery.

The Hard Rock Hotel Papagayo will be an all-inclusive resort and is scheduled to open by early 2019. It is reported that the hotel /resort will feature 294 rooms offering the full-service rock spa and the music amenity program, free in-room Fender guitar checkouts. The resort will be geared toward multigenerational leisure travelers and will have family-friendly offerings, such as the brand’s signature hangouts exclusively for younger guests.

The resort will provide travelers with easy access to the Gulf of Papagayo, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica’s northern Pacific area. When it was the Allegro Hotel and a client wanted to come over to the Hermosa / Coco area to enjoy, they needed to hire and cab and it was a rip off, charging guests $80.00 one way

 For those that don’t know there are two Hard Rock Cafes in Costa Rica. The first one opened in 2013 in the province of Heredia and the second opened in Playas del Coco, Guanacaste, in 2015 right in the heart of town. Nice to see a new resort added to the area and not one that the average person can’t afford to come and stay in Costa Rica.

 

 

Is it Going to Finally Blow

The National Emergency Commission had declared a Green Alert for the Central Valley as Turrialba Volcano continued to pump ash in to the skies in the latest of the constant eruptions that have lasted throughout the past month.

A statement from Casa Presidencial indicated that a combination of continued eruptions, a dry air system over Central America that has reduced the chance of rain, and strong winds have all contributed to the increase of ash fall in the area. 

I don’t know about you, but if I lived anywhere near this volcano I would be seriously thinking about moving to a different location. Now granted one of the really cool things about Costa Rica are the Volcanos. Here in Guanacaste the closest to the beach area is Ricon de la Vieja, thirty one miles away when using google earth to measure the distance on a direct line. The last time this volcano erupted was over 18 years ago and affected the east side of the mountain range; we are on the west side. Now there are geothermal plants extracting the natural energy to generate electricity so hopefully that process is releasing any pressure that may build up. I hope!

The National Emergency Commission asked municipal emergency commissions to be vigilant, keep their communities informed and monitor ash levels. If people have to leave their houses in areas where significant ash is present, the government recommends that they cover their mouths and noses with towels or dust masks.

These eruptions with large ash plumes have tangled air traffic at the Juan Santamaria International Airport. Inbound and outgoing flights seem to be back to normal after numerous delays and cancellations at the airport. This caused many travelers to be stranded and delayed.

According to a report, the areas with the most ash fall have been: Barva, Moravia, Santa Bárbara, San Francisco de Heredia, Guadalupe, Coronado, Santo Domingo, Tibás, Escazú, Central Heredia, Pavas, Carrizal, Sabanilla and Alajuela.

Unfortunately with all the science and observations from many different organizations you never really can predict Mother Nature and what she has planned and when she plans to do it. So just be smart be safe and don’t be to Pura Vida if visiting one of many volcanos of Costa Rica.

 

 

Walmart Coming to Liberia

Well it was bound to happen sooner or later. Walmart has confirmed the construction of new Walmart store, to be locates in the city of Liberia in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, about 30 miles from the beaches.

With the addition of this this new location, the first one constructed outside the central valley metropolitan area, Walmart will have 10 store with the actual Walmart name in the country.

This announcement by the company there has had good and bad reviews. For a lot of North Americans that own and live here, it is a relief that now there will be a big box retailer close by and no more need to drive to the central valley for North American style shopping or fill suite cases with tones of items when traveling back to Costa Rica. I know when I go back to the states every couple of months to visit family; I usually pack one empty suit case into a lager one so I have lots of room to bring things back.

Then there are the perpetual HAGS as I call them, screaming about all the negativity about Walmart, forcing the small business owner out of business, paying low wages, undercutting prices, Blah Blah Blah!

Well the truth of it is, in my opinion, if the small business owner charged a fair price, then maybe people would still shop at their store. I am going to give you a great example that someone shared with me the other day. This actually happened here in Playas Del Coco. There is a family grocery store, I shop at it now, but years ago it was the only option in town and they stuck to the consumer. I was shocked at some of the prices for items, and I knew darn well that they were over charging by at least double because you could get the same item in Liberia for a substantially lower price at a local grocery store there. Then a big box national Costa Rican retail grocery store opened in Coco, all fancy with air conditioning, bright lights, and elaborate displays, just like you see in any major metropolitan areas. This forced the mom and pop to lower their prices and offer better quality service and items. They got the message loud and clear. Here we are 7 years later and guess what the mom and pop store is still here, they opened up a few other locations and lowered their prices below the big box guy and guess they are thriving.

So when I hear the negativity about a Walmart coming to the area, or any real growth, I tell these HAGS to pack their bags and go back to where they came from or move to the rain forest with in the middle of nowhere.

The store is estimated to be 5,000 square meters, approximately 54,000 square feet making it the biggest supermarket in Guanacaste. The store is expected to employ 90 people, a lot more than a mom and pop that usually runs the store with the family.

 Due to the growth of the Daniel Oduber International Airport, the new road that just went in, and in general, the growth of the tourism sector it was only a matter of time before Walmart opened up. But don’t worry you won’t see anything like this in the Hermosa /Coco area, there is just not enough people to support a Walmart.


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits December '16


Happy Holidays From Playa Hermosa , Guanacaste, Costa Rica

I just want to personally wish you and all your family and friends the joyous holiday season filled with love peace and happiness.  As the year is coming to an end, I would also like to thank all my clients for putting their trust in me in and allowing me to help them find their piece of paradise in Costa Rica.

May the new year bring everyone, peace, love and prosperity!

Pura Vida and God Bless!

 

Liberia International Airport, Guanacaste Costa Rica, To Expand Again!

The Government of Costa Rica announced in early December that the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR), as more commonly referred to as Liberia International Airport, will get another $10.3 million expansion.

The work should being in January of 2017 and is expected to be completed by November the same year. The airport administrator Corporación Interamericana de Inversiones (CORIPORT) will be the ones investing the funds in order to expand the terminal and increase its current capacity by about 20 percent.

Ever since the first renovation a few years back, the amount of people coming in to the Guanacaste area has increases dramatically and not to forget to mention the amount of new airlines providing service to Liberia Costa Rica. CORIPORT expects to end 2016 with a 35 percent increase in the number of travelers compared to last year.

Now it will be even easier to get to the region. The expansion will allow new flights from at least five more airlines in the short term and the new Liberia-Denver and Liberia-Mexico City flights are already scheduled to begin operating next year. More airlines and flights from new locations will surely be announced in the coming months.

The project consists of building new boarding gates, VIP lounges, shops and offices. It also involves the renovating the current waiting and baggage claim areas. There will also be a new X-ray system, new video and audio systems for passenger information, and an improved wireless network for Internet access.

It is getting easier and easier to come to paradise and with the airport being only 12 miles from Playa Hermosa, after getting your bags you could be on the beach enjoying the day in less than 25 minutes.

 

PGA Golf Comes to Costa Rica

 A lot of people ask me about golfing in Costa Rica and how close are the courses. Well big time pro golf is coming to Costa Rica and you can play the course as well.

In May of 2017 the Latin American PGA Tour will be having a event in Playa Conchal, Guanacaste. I personally have played this course many times. If you are a golfer it is fun course with some good challenges to it, if you are a scratch player you will have a great time. If you are like me, a hacker, you will still have a great time playing this course.

The name of the event is called the Essential Costa Rica Classic. It will be the first-ever PGA tournament in Costa Rica and is being sponsored by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT). The event will host 144 professional players from more than 25 countries. The tournament will lasts from May 1st thru the 7th which is part of the PGA Latin American season that includes 18 tournaments in 12 different countries.

The event is being held at the Reserva Conchal Golf Club a Robert Trent Jones II designed course.

Along with the Reserva Conchal Golf Club, roughly 45 minutes from Playa Hermosa. The Vista Ridge Golf and Country Club, located in Libertad, is just 15 minutes ways from Playa Hermosa. Now if you are looking for that world class golf experience, the two courses I would recommend are first the Arnold Palmer designed course ranked among the top 100 courses outside the United States by Golf Digest and located on the Peninsula Papagayo, just 40 minutes from Playa Hermosa. The second is The Costa Rican Hacienda Pinilla Golf designed by Mike Young and close to one hours south of Playa Hermosa.

If golf is your thing, don’t miss these courses when you’re here they are a lot of fun to play.

 

Costa Rica’s Electric Rates Going Down!

When the price of everything in the world always seems to be going up, some good news from Costa Rica as the cost of electricity is heading down.  As a lot of people know Costa Rica has been in the spot light the last few years for their use of renewable resources to generate electricity.

I hear a lot of people, mostly expats that live in Costa Rica complain about the electric rates and yes they have gone up in the 9 years I have lived here.  However I speak with a lot of people that are interested in owning a property here and one question that always comes up is what the electric cost is. This is valid question for sure with any home purchase, you need to know.  However when they end up telling me what they pay for power I am shocked. Just to give you an idea, my last electric bills was $86.59 and trust me I do not sit the dark and sweat my but off to keep the bill down. I have central A/C and the minute I walk in the door I turn it on and it stays on until I leave the next morning.  Three ceiling fans on 24/7, I do 3-4 loads of laundry a week and yes I use the electric dryer. I am a retired executive chef and I cook every dinner almost every night and guess what on an electric range. So when I hear people complain, it must mean one or two things, they are either really cheap of really wasteful.  Ok enough of my rant back to the article.

Due to the use of a lot less of fossil fuels to generate electricity in past few months the Public Services Regulatory Authority issued the new electric rates for the next coming quarter, starting on January 1, 2017.

Costa Rica generates most of its electricity using hydroelectric plants. It only make sense, when some parts of the country receive upwards of 250 inches of rain a year, and the rivers are full, why not use mother nature’s power. When back up supply is needed then the power companies’ turn to the geothermal plants to generate the juice, solar and wind are also used but are a very small percentage of the total.

During 2016, over 98% of Costa Rica’s energy was generated from renewable sources. Fossil fuels represent just less than 2% for all of 2016.

Costa Rica has eight different electric companies, ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) being the biggest along with Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz (CNFL) together form the Groupo ICE, and are the supplier to all the others. In most of the beach areas of Guanacaste, the supplier is CoopeGuanacaste. Playa Panama and a very small section of Playa Hermosa receive their power from ICE.

So how much will the rates go down? For those of us that get our electricity from CoopeGuanacaste, the approved rate for the first quarter will drop by 4.01%. Those in the area that receiver their power from ICE will see an even bigger drop, 9.76%, more than double of CooopeGuanacaste. The real winners are the folks and business around the central valley will see a drop of over 14%. Now that’s good news!

 

Costa Rican Blackberries, More Than Just Tasty Treat

 Some of you may think that Costa Rica is just a laid back easy going place which it is for vacationers and retirees, while this truth, there are other reason to enjoy Costa Rica more than monkeys, beaches, mountains and having fun.

Researchers of the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC) are now trying to identify the exact elements of blackberries MORA as they are known locally; specifically the blackberries found in tropical highland that could potentially help prevent various types of cancer due to extensive studies that have already confirmed their high antioxidant concentrations.

A six-member team of researchers from TEC’s Biotechnology Research Center (CIB) are investigating whether blackberries could kill cancer cells within human cells, and if they also have properties to prevent cancer.  The group already found that blackberries are highly efficient in preventing cell damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation, the main cause of skin cancer.

TEC researchers are now using some of the results from previous studies to evaluate blackberries’ potential to prevent skin damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Researches stated the study obtained positive results in tests on human cells and skin cultures. Tests results showed that blackberry juice improves the amount of antioxidants in the human body. Meaning means it could favor the prevention of cancer as it helps repair skin lesions that could become carcinogenic.

Skin cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in Costa Rica. According to records, every year approximately 100 cases are diagnosed and the disease claims on average 40 lives. Being close to the equator in addition to people spending lots of time outdoors it is no wonder. So remember make sure to use sunblock when enjoying all you outdoor activities no matter where you are.

This doesn’t mean, however, that a person can drink blackberry juice and be exposed to the sun unprotected, or that those unfortunately on cancer medication can replace them with juice.

I can tell you this, the local blackberries and really tasty and available in almost every market around the country and very versatile in many ways, from juice to deserts to just eating them straight form the container. Want to make the juice yourself, it is a breeze. In a blender add 2 one pint containers of fresh or frozen highland blackberries. Fill with cold water and add a touch of honey, about 1 tablespoon. Blend on high for a few minutes, then strain. Yum! Enjoy!


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits November '16


An Unwelcomed Thanksgiving Day Guest

This month I am only writing about one news event that happened in Costa Rica just three days ago.  You may not have heard what happened however it did receive international news wires. This is not a happy story but a real life experience worth reading.

Costa Rica was hit this past week by a late season Atlantic hurricane named Otto.  The tropical depression stared forming in the Caribbean Sea and was slowly moving northwest then turned south west. The storm made landfall close Bluefields, Nicaragua as a category 2 hurricane on Thursday during the US holiday of Thanksgiving in the morning it was forecasted to possibly hit the east coast of Costa Rica.

Otto Hits Costa Rica

On Thursday, I was constantly checking the local news reports of the location and intensity of the storm since it has been over 190 years since there was direct hit to Costa Rica. The local television station channel 7 had been running 24 hour non-stop reports about the storm and certain areas of the country that were already being affected by heavy rain prior to making land fall. Many areas of Costa Rica were put under RED ALERT by the CR Government because of the heavy rains, potential landslides and flash floods.

I have to be honest with you the Costa Rica Government in my opinion really stepped up to the situation at hand and started evacuations of low lying coastal areas where the storm was indenting to hit. They closed all public schools and non-emergency services for Thursday and Friday. Only the police forces, hospitals, fireman, ICE the electric company and other critical governmental service provides were open and operational and in emergency mode.  

The east Costa of Costa Rica was scrambling, and rightly so as all the weather reports were indication that the storm could hit somewhere close to Puerto Limon.

While I live on the west cost of Costa Rica, in Playa Hermosa, I was feeling pretty safe figuring we would just get some outer band rains as the mountains and volcanoes to the east of here would certainly knock down any strong winds as the storm was predicted to pass north along the Costa Rica / Nicaragua boarder. As the day moved on reports were coming in that that the storm made landfall and causing all sorts of damage with severe flooding in the low lying areas. The area known as Upala, in Costa Rica on the northeast side of the country was devastated. Houses filled with water, roofs torn off homes trees knocked down and carried away by flash flooding. The flash floods took out entire villages, decimating homes, cars and unfortunately people and animals.  As of writing this (Saturday afternoon the 26th), there have been already 10 confirmed deaths and numerous people missing. I am sure this will increase over the next few days, but hope and pray not.

While I was trying to enjoy a thanksgiving meal, I really lost my appetite, not worried about myself or anything like that as I have been thru a few hurricanes in my life, a 7.8 earthquake and a tornado as well so to me this was just another bad weather experience .  I was really thinking about what a lot the lovely and beautiful people of Costa Rica are going thru at this exact moment. It made stop and I started thinking of all the things I should grateful for in my life.

I took a few photos from my patio earlier in the evening just before dark and could see the leading edge of the storm starting to make its way towards the pacific coast. It was over the northeastern part of country and I knew it was not good. It was only a matter of time before it was here.

Hurricane otto over playa Hermosa

As the night passed on more and more reports were coming over the television about damage and the excessive rain fall in the areas in the path of Otto. I jumped on line and went to the US National Hurricane Center website to check out some maps and projections. This was a real opener for me. The hurricane had changed course a bit and was now moving southwest at 12 miles per hour and the projected path was right over Liberia and the Pagapayo region. Looking at the map, I then opened up google earth and zoomed in from the satellite imagery so I could get a better understanding of how close the eye of Otto was going to come to Playa Hermosa.  As you may or may not know about hurricanes the winds and rain tend to be strongest within a 5 mile radius of the eye, so how does 18 miles sound to you, far enough way? That’s too close for me and based on the where it was and the speed it was moving it should be in the area in 3 hours’ time or around 11:30PM. 

 

I stayed up most of the night as the winds picked up and rain really started to come down. I have lived here now for nine years and have seen some pretty strong tropical rain falls but this was the strongest.  The power flickered on off but never lost it completely. The cable was out or not possible to watch as the signal was all a mess. The storm was closer and I knew it was not going to be good.

Finally around 12:30 am I had enough of screaming wind and slamming rain again the windows and decide it was time to just get some sleep as I felt the worst had passed. But all of sudden it was slowing down and I thought well maybe it is finally out to sea. So I checked on line again, believe I or not, I still had internet how amazing, and it turned out the calm was actually the eye of the hurricane. So I knew there would certainly be more on the way as the backside of storm still needed to pass.

Finally in the morning around 5 am I got up and took a look from my patio, I could see a good part of the town and the main road thru town and I did not see any trees down. About an hour later I got in the car and drove around Playa Hermosa and found lots of trees down, but all the roads passible, some fallen trees had already been cut and mover out of the way. I did not see any evidence of major damage to homes, thank God.  Just a lot of limbs, leaves and debris scattered all over the place, proof that the winds were really strong.

Overall the Playa Hermosa and surrounding areas did not suffer too badly, unlike other areas of the country. Yes there were a lot of trees down, and some areas lost power all night during the storm but there have been no reports that I am aware of, of any deaths in the local area. We are very lucky that the hurricane actually was downgraded to a tropical storm when it came over us.

However there are still many people that are flooded out and in dire need of help. I purchase 2 shopping carriages of supplies like, toilet paper, dippers, soap, tooth brushes, tooth paste, can tuna, and other food supplies to give to one of the local churches that had already started setting up donation a center to help those in need.

I am really proud of my new home of Costa Rica and the people by the way everyone helps out those that are need in a time of emergency. I am also very impressed by the way the central government stepped up and put emergency plans into effect before the storm made landfall. If you had a cell phone from the ICE, you got alert warnings every 45 minutes as the status of the storm and warnings to stay inside, away from windows and be prepared. I believe this saved many as the death toll could be much greater

If you could find it in your heart to help here is a link to make a fully tax deductible donation. Please help it will be greatly appreciated even if it is just $5.00.

https://amigosofcostarica.org/product/help-victims-hurricane-otto-costa-rica/

I just hope and pray that next Thanksgiving there is no uninvited guest like Otto!


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits October '16


Buying or Selling In Costa Rica, Some Facts of Financing

There are benefits to this from both sides of any deal for the buyer and the seller! First I am going to start off with information for buyers.

So are you seriously thinking of purchasing the dream home in Costa Rica for future retirement, or want an escape plan for vacation, or maybe you want to invest in a rental property and use once in a while.

For the past nine years I have been averaging about 25 sales a year representing buyers that came for all over the world to purchase here in Costa Rica. There were some very tough years between 2008 and 2011, as we all the world economy was in the dumps.  95% of those buyers were all cash buyers and the topic of this article, Financing in Costa Rica, really did not come into play.

Over the last two years that has changes quite a bit. I field about 30 inquiries per month from people looking to potentially purchase in Costa Rica and out of those I would have to say that over 60% are asking about financing. So let’s get down to some of the option of financing here in Costa Rica.

If you live in North America you may be in for a shock when I disclose some of the financing rates. Ok Here we go.

  1. First and foremost it is not very easy for non-Costa Rica citizens to get a mortgage from a bank here. After the melt down of the 2008 the local public banks stop offering any kind of loans to foreigners. However there are some options
  2. There are a few private financiers here in Costa Rica that still offer mortgages to foreigners, the closing cost and points up front could reach as high as 8 points. Or basically eight percent and this does not include the interest rate.
  3. Most of the private banks that offer loans to foreigners require a minimum of 30% down. The annual interest are anywhere from 9-14 percent.
  4. The length of the loans are usually 20 years, but here is the kicker, almost all of them start off as a fixed loan, but after the first 3-5 years depending on the institution, the loan turns automatically to an ARM ( adjustable rate mortgage). Some think that could be ok but the reality is it is not as the  bottom or floor will always be the same percentage as the beginning fixed rate, and can only go up from there.
  5. There is one international bank; I won’t mention it by name, that has a big presence in Costa Rica which does offer mortgage to foreigners. They do offer attractive rates compared to others here. They tend to be between 6 and 9 percent annually. This bank will only loan up to a maximum of $200,000. USD for mortgages but still requires a 30% down payment and the point up front are 4. No here is the kicker. Once an application has been filled out and presented for review, you are required to pay one percent of the borrowed amount as mortgage origination fees, pretty normal right? Well if the loan is not approved, you do not get you one percent back! I know personally 3 people that this has happened to.  In my opinion it is a scam.

 

Now if you are thinking of purchasing property in Costa Rica and need some help with financing there is a better option out there. It is called owner financing. Let explain how this works and it is all completely legal.

  1. When presenting an offer on a property, it will be one of the many terms and conditions of the offer along with the offer price and the entire regular due diligence items of any good offer.
  2. Basically owner financing is like a bridge loan or gap loan with a term of 3 to 5 years.  Usually an amortization of 15 years is used. Again this is all put in the initial offer to purchase based on what the buyer feels comfortable with and will be accepted by the seller.
  3. Interest rates for this type of loan usually end up settling somewhere between 4 and 6 percent for the balance owed. Again this all in the negotiation part of the offer. It can be negotiated as a monthly interest and principle payment, it can be monthly or annually. I have seen some that are interest only for the term  and I have seen some that are paid bi-annually and others as well.
  4.  Then at the end of the final negotiated term and balance payoff or balloon payment is made and the property is free and clear.
  5. The mortgage will be legally registered here in the Costa Rica national property registry showing the lien/ mortgage and the lien amount. It will also show the payoff date. Once paid in full it will be released showing a free and clear title.
  6. There are some costs involved with this just like any loan and are always the responsibilities of the buyer/ mortgagee. So I will list these as well.
  1. For a private mortgage to be registered in the public registry, there fee for this is 1.2% of the amount being barrowed. As an example if  the loan amount is $1,000.00 the fee is $12.00
  2. The Sellers attorney will register the lien to ensure his client is properly and legally protected in case of default on the loan. The fee for this ranges from $200 to $450, depending on the law firm.
  3. Then once the final balloon payment is made to the seller the fee to release the lien on the title is another .8% of the borrowed amount and this again is paid to the national property registry.  This will be done by your attorney here in Costa Rica, to ensure you now have a free and clear title to your property. The fee for this range from $200 to $450, depending on the law firm.

The costs for a privately registered loan are not negotiable as they are set by Costa Rica law, however the interest rate to pay, the amount of the down payment and the length of time are. I have helped many clients with this aspect over the past 9 years and it is a good option when considering financing in Costa Rica.

Now for the Sellers that may be reading this. Do you want to sell? Of course you do that’s why you listed your property with a reputable agency correct? Well, being that it is this is a great option for you to consider helping you sell your property faster. Let me explain some of the benefits of doing this and a few potential draw backs, but they are few and far. Just continue reading

  1. As a seller you of course what the best price for your property it only makes sense right? We all do. Me including, no one wants to take a hit. But let’s face facts, investing in real estate can be a very good thing and profitable all depending on how you purchased, what were the market conditions when you purchased and what are the market condition when you want to sell. It is just like the stock market, buy low and sell high but there is never any guarantee.
  2. As a seller offering owner financing opens the door to a lot more potential buyers especially in a foreign market where the banks do not offer home loans to non-citizens. As I wrote above more than 60% of all the inquiries I receive from prospects looking to buy are asking about financing.
  3. Ok here are the benefits. Just like a bank you will get at minimum 30% of the agreed upon sale price. Yes I know you want it all but you may have to wait a few years for the balance.
  4. In the meantime you have a positive cash flow coming in monthly, quarterly or whoever the deal is structured or that fits you best
  5. Then there is the interest you make, let’s take a look at that. As an example, say you agree to do owner financing at 5% interest and you are carrying say $100,000 as the mortgage holder amortized over 15 years with the final payout or balloon payment in 4 years, the interest you would make is over $18,000.
  6. Now granted it is not the greatest return on investment I will grant you that as you could be doing better in the stock market, but again you never know at least this is guaranteed if you do not have to foreclose on the buyer.
  7. Ok here is the bad but it really is not that bad, and can be a big upside. Ok say the buyer your holding the mortgage goes into default and can’t or won’t pay you any longer. Then the formal foreclosure proceeding take place. This could take as long as 8 month here in Costa Rica and there will be some costs involved as in legal fees, property taxes if the buyer did not pay them, HOA fees if the buyer did not pay them and of course legal fees.
  8. Ok this sounds really scary and a hassle, well it really is not. Let’s look on the positive side. Every penny that the buyer gave you, you keep. So going back to Item 3) you keep that 30% they gave you. You also keep every payment and the interest they already paid. Plus you get the property back again to sell once more. Stop and think about it, this is why banks give loans.

This article can go on a lot longer than it needs to so if you would like more information please feel free to email me and I will be more than happy to set up a time to discuss with you the options of financing in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Tax Brackets for Fiscal 2017

The new brackets for calculating income tax for the 2017 fiscal year were implemented on Oct. 1, 2016. If you own a Costa Rica Corporation or are part owner of a Costa Rica Corporation this might be interesting to you.

Yes here in Costa Rica we pay taxes as well, and since Costa Rica tax year is based on a fiscal year verses a calendar year the new income tax rates were announced as of Oct. 1, 2016 for the beginning of the 2017 fiscal year.  The personal income tax brackets are 0%, 10% and 15%. For Costa Rica corporations the tax brackets are 10%, 20% and 30%.

 An employee that earns a gross monthly income is less than 792,000 colones or approximately $1,453.00 USD will be exempt from paying income tax. Employees earning a monthly income between ₡792,000 and ₡1,188,000 (up to $2,179 USD) will be taxed at 10 percent. And those employees making more than ₡1,188,000 monthly will pay 15 percent on the net income after deductions. Income is classified as monthly base wages, bonuses and any extra salary perks, as well as all pensions. Employers are responsible for withholding income tax for employees and paying the Finance Ministry no later than the 15th of each month.

 For Costa Rica Corporation that are active and doing business and making income, the rates for 2017 are as follows. From ¢0 up to ¢52,634,000.00 colones (approx. US $96,580,) will pay 10% tax. Companies making income from¢52,634,000.00 up to ¢105,872,000,00colones (approx. US $194,260) will pay 20% tax and those corporations making over ¢105,872,000.00 colones will be taxed at 30% on the net income after deductions

Now if you own a Costa Rica corporation  or are a shareholder in one that only owns an asset as in a car or a house or land and this corporation is not generating income there is no tax to paid or even the  need to file tax returns. However the Costa Rica assembly is working on a bill to make all corporations file income tax returns weather active or inactive. The good part in my opinion is I think it will not make it out of the assembly for presidential signature filed. But stranger things have happened when you talk about taxes and government.

 

Costa Rica Improves Healthy Life Expectancy

A study by researchers from the University of Washington found that over the past decade, the average Costa Rican added a full year of healthy living to his or her life expectancy.

The study showed an increase in the country’s results in an indicator known as the Healthy Life Expectancy (HALE). The HALE measures health indicators across countries and time, and represents the years a person enjoys good health without physical problems.

Results are part of the Global Burden of Disease Study that the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) disclosed this month. Research includes results for 195 countries.

In 2005, Costa Rica had a Healthy Life Expectancy of 69.2 years, after the new report the figure rose to 70.2 years. Ticos’ total life expectancy, according to the Social Security System, or Caja, is 79 years. The difference between the two figures suggests that the average Costa Rican spends nine years of life coping with disease, depression or the consequences of accidents or chronic illnesses.

The IHME’s research also found that Costa Rican women enjoy more years of good health. The Healthy Life Expectancy for women is of 71.85 years, while for men is of 69.23 years. However, men showed more improvement over the ten-year period: the Healthy Life Expectancy for men increased by 1.23 years, and by 0.85 years for women.

Both figures are better than the world average of 64 years: 61 years for men and 67 for women.

In the case of Costa Rica, the study found that diseases that most affect quality of life are heart disease, back pain, depressive disorders, hearing loss and diabetes.

Caja Executive President María del Rocío Sáenz stated that the results of the study confirm that the country is properly addressing the main risk factors affecting the population’s quality of life.

She noted that study results show the country is getting closer to the National Development Plan’s goal of reaching a national life expectancy of 70.49 years by 2018. According to Sáenz, the results validate the Caja’s current strategies and programs aimed at seeking a comprehensive approach to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, as well as programs to address mental and behavioral disorders across the country. She also highlighted media campaigns to combat smoking and to improve eating habits, mental health and physical activity levels. However, Sáenz added that the country still needs to expand its efforts to promote healthy living, particularly with younger people.

Granted this is for Costa Ricans that have lived here there whole life but why not take advantage of the better health habits that many expats are enjoying while living here. One of the great beauties of living in Costa Rica is spending more time outdoors doing more healthy activities. Just as an example, I look forward to my walks to the and on the beach as a form of relaxation but I get the benefit of exercise at the same time.

A Few Days to Go and it Will Be Over. Thank Heavens!!

I am will be so glad when the US presidential election is finally over. This is not a political commentary or bump for any of the candidates running for the office of the President of the United States as I know there are a lot of people reading this that could care less.

So what does this topic have to do with Costa Rica and real estate, you are probably thinking, well I will get to that in a moment. With the all the social media out there and the major US network television news, I can see how the US is so divided on beliefs and potentially confused on who or what to believe any longer.  News networks are so biased in one direction or the other, if you can’t see that then you drank too much of the cool aid either one is serving up. Facebook has brought a whole new meaning to this as far as I am concerned. Every day I take a look at it and it amazes me what is there. I have to admit I even reposted some stories and commented on some and was unbelievably lambasted buy people that I thought were really “friends”. But what I cannot understand is how so many people and mean at least half of friends I have that are not US citizens are pulling for one side or the other, all because they read something on Facebook.

Then you have the celebrities of the world touting their fame and using it to hopefully sway a person decision. I just love the ones that say “If that person gets elected I leaving the US and going to Costa Rica or I am heading north to Canada. Well let me tell you something, do those countries a favor and stay where you are because most likely they don’t want you either.

So why does this really matter to Costa Rica, well no matter who wins the election some people will leave for sure, some may move some cash out of the US and invest in a solid asset as real estate  and for whatever reason  in their minds, someplace else has got to be better. 

That is where I can step in and help, if you happen to be overly concerned about who wins the election and you want to make the move to a place that is less stressful, beautiful beaches, stunning rainforests, warm people that, by the way, don’t talk down to you because you have a different belief system and are not slamming you because you are part of a different political party then they are. Then send me an email, tell me you desire, your requirements and let me help you make that move. I can assist from legal teams for the purchase of property, to immigration attorneys in case you want to leave for good, to moving companies to doctors just to name some of the items you would need to know when moving to a foreign country.

I know I made the move 9 years ago and let me tell you something I could not be happier, especially since I do not have to see all those crazy political ads on TV every commercial break or have to be overly politically correct because someone’s feeling may be hurt. A few days to go and it is over.

Thanks for Stopping by, if you would like to comment or have any questions please feel free to email me a Josephemanuelli@remax.net or Jaaechef@gmail.com.

Or call my Toll free number from North America 1-877-661-6074 

Thanks and Looking forward to hearing from you

 


Update-Costa Rica News Bits September '16


Finally Costa Rica Banking Changes That Actually Make Sense

If you do not own a property in Costa Rica or are not a legal resident and have tried to open a bank account you know what a real hassle it can be to get it accomplished. Well that is all changing.

This month Banco Nacional de Costa Rica (BNCR) joins Banco de Costa Rica (BCR), Grupo Mutual and Bancredito in allowing anyone to open a bank account, including foreigners and tourists in Costa Rica,  without the old requirement of having to have a Costa Rican cedula or identification card.

This new Costa Rican banking product is known as Cuenta de Expediente Simplificado (Simplified Account) was approved earlier this year, with the BCR being the first in January to offer the service.

The simplified account process reduces the paperwork to open an account and requires only one piece of identification, ie. an passport for foreigners.  Have you ever tried to open an account at a national bank? It could take up to about 3 hours, if you have all the required paperwork, and it never failed, the clerk always asked for something more that you did not bring.

The new account comes with a bank card that can be used at ATMs around the country and internationally, and access to online banking. Here is the catch though as there is always one. The new accounts have a monthly deposit limit of US$1,000 or its equivalent in colones and the limit is two accounts per person. But that’s ok if you own a vacation home and are only here a few month out of the year, it will make life easier for sure.

Now if you want a real bank account that works like others offered in most places of the world you will still need a Costa Rican cedula (national) or DIDI o DIMEX card (foreign residency cards)

Here are the three new types of accounts from Banco Nacional: The first bank account available has a US$1,000 limit on the total amount that can be deposited into the account each month. Foreigners can open this account by presenting a valid passport and filling out a simple form; there is no residency (cédula) requirement.

The second type of “simplified account,” has a US$2,000 maximum monthly deposit limit, and is open to the elderly, Costa Rican citizens, and foreigners with a valid residency card (cédula de residencia).

The third type has an upper deposit limit of US$10,000 and requires holders to file a form on the origin of the funds deposited. It is only available to citizens and legal residents of Costa Rica.

However if you own property and do not want to apply for residency, there is another way around it. All legal as well, but much more involved. If your property is held by a Costa Rica Corporation, you can open any type off bank account under the name of the corporation. You will need article of incorporation along with all the other items needed.

For more information contact each bank separately as conditions apply

For the Banco Nacional, more information is available at www.bncr.fi.cr  or by telephone at 2212-2000 or any branch across the country; the BCR at www.bancobcr.com , by telephone at 2211-1111 or any branch.

 

Finally!! Costa Rica Court Bans Dry Law During Holidays

Well it is about time Costa Rica came to the 21st century on one pretty basic thing; Almost.

 The federal court system declared that the municipalities within Costa Rica can no longer ban the sale of alcohol during religious and other holidays except for Holy Thursday and Good Friday. A lot of these laws were based on religious pressure. An Administrative Court ruled last month against a law that had granted municipalities the right to decide whether or not to ban alcohol sales during holidays.

The decision came due to a complaint filed jointly by the National Tourism Chamber and the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels. The groups argued that the “dry law” enforced by municipalities caused huge economic losses during holidays when many tourist, local and foreign are on vacation.

I remember the first time I was in Costa Rica as a tourist, staying at a beach hotel during the Easter holiday back in 2001. I arrived on a Thursday late afternoon, just checked in to the hotel and it was pretty hot. After I changed into a bathing suit and started heading down to the beach I passed thru the restaurant of the hotel, I stopped at the bar and asked for a beer. The very kind gentleman looked at me with a sad look on his face and said, “el señor lo siento, no es possible” Now at this time of my life I did not understand a lot of Spanish but, this was easy to get, so I asked him why? What shocked me was when he went into a hole dissertation in English explaining why he could not sell me a beer. I was shocked, the hotel was packed with locals and foreigners and no one could buy a drink. Luckily for me I meet some great people from San Jose that were spending the long holiday weekend at the beach that knew all about the laws and were well prepared. They went to the market on the Wednesday before Holy Thursday and bought, what looked like to me, ten cases of beer and had them all in coolers with ice ready to go. So they invited me to sit with them and have a few cold beers. This was one of the many reasons I decided I wanted to be in Costa Rica. Now after living here for almost nine years, I always laughed every year on the Wednesday before Easter, how the store were grocery stores were packed and everyone cart was loaded with booze. The come Thursday, the next day, the entire liquor isle was covered with large black tarps and yellow tape, and with all the refrigerators that held cold bees and alcoholic beverages were locked shut with chains and pad locks.

One drawback was that the Court denied the chambers’ petition to eliminate the dry law during the Holy Week days because that prevision is part of a separate law requiring businesses to close during Holy Thursday and Good Friday. To me it is archaic people should have the choice to decide. Now for a national election day, I can see the reasoning behind that but for a religious holiday it not fair to thos that are not of that religion.

Karen Porras, executive director of the National Union of Local Governments, lamented the court’s decision, saying the ruling responded to special interests. Porras also said the court’s decision represents a setback for the autonomy of the country’s 81 municipalities. My opinion is this director is out to lunch but then again most politicians are.

 

Costa Rica’s New Geothermal Energy Project

Did you know that Costa Rica is one of the country’s leading the world in renewable energy? I wrote about this back in November of 2013, almost three years ago and we are getting closer!

Here is a link to back it up https://cleantechnica.com/2016/02/04/how-11-countries-are-leading-the-shift-to-renewable-energy/  

ICE (Costa Rican Electricity Institute) reported that in 2015, Costa Rica generated 99 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, using hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, biomass and solar power (in order of production). Just a few months back, ICE reported that 96.4 percent of the electricity generated for the first half of this year came from renewable sources. They projects to finish the year with 97 percent of the electricity produced will come from clean sources.

 Who is Costa Rica going to pay for this? Well Costa Rica and Japan have come to agreement in terms for a $224 million loan to finance part of the construction of a few geothermal projects around the Liberia, Guanacaste area. Representatives of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) and the Finance Ministry signed the agreement earlier this month.

The final loan agreement will be signed some time in February after the officials from Japan do a final inspection in December. So the loan is not 100% guaranteed but looks pretty good it will fly.

If the loan is granted, the terms are incredibly great for Costa Rica. The terms outlaid will be a 40-year term of the loan with a 10-year grace period at only 0.6 percent interest. That’s almost Free MONEY

The geothermal project will go along side and close to one that already exists in an area near Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park. The project consists of building three more geothermal power plants – Pailas II and Borinquen I and II –The plants are initially expected to generate 55 megawatts each. Estimated costs are approximately $234 million for Borinquen I, $167 million for Las Pailas II and $157 million for Borinquen II.

Costa Rica Electric Institute (ICE) is already working on the Las Pailas II project, which is about 40 percent complete, the plant is scheduled to launch operations in 2019. The Borinquen I plant is expected to be operational in 2023, and Borinquen II some time in 2025.

The agency earlier this year reported that Costa Rica in 2015 generated 99 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, using hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, biomass and solar power. In July ICE reported that 96.4 percent of its energy generation for the first half of this year came from renewable sources. The agency projects to finish the year with 97 percent of the electricity produced will come from clean sources.

Last year Costa Rica made headlines worldwide with two clean energy streaks. In March, the country ended 75 days of running the grid on 100 percent renewable sources, and in August it broke that record by running 94 days on renewable energy.

Now here is the hypocrisy of it all. I read another article where some local environmentalists are upset about this. This is a great idea right, not burning fossil fuels, Save the planet, this should make the environmental contingency happy right, I mean this is a big thing for them. So what the heck are the environmentalists in Costa Rica up in arms about this??

 

Costa Rica Really DOES NOT Have The Most Expensive Gasoline

 I hear it all the time from North Americans that come here on vacation that gasoline in Costa Rica is expensive. I have written about this many times But is it really so? Comparing prices with the rest of the world, Costa Rica is 74th out of 160 in the world, far from being the most expensive.

In Costa Rica, the current price for a liter of regular is ¢563 colones. A drop to ¢541 will be in place before the beginning of October. So basically we are talking less than one US dollar per liter and if it is diesel fuel it is even cheaper. 

Even in Latin America, Costa Rica is not the most expensive, cheaper than countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile. You have to remember Costa Rica does not produce any oil; it is all purchased on the commodity markets.

So here is a list of countries in Latin America and the cost of a liter of gas there, based on converting their currency to the Costa Rica Colon.

Belize ¢675 / Argentina ¢647 / Brazil ¢630 / Chile ¢619 / Paraguay ¢608 / Costa Rica ¢541 / Honduras ¢519 / Nicaragua ¢496 / Peru ¢485 / El Salvador ¢433 / Guatemala ¢407 / Colombia ¢390/ Panama ¢374 Venezuela ¢335 / Bolivia ¢301 / Ecuador ¢217, strange how Brazil and Argentina which actually produce oil are higher priced than Costa Rica.

Now in comparison to the rest of North America the price for a liter of gas in the United States would be ¢351 colones, less than $0.38 cents US per liter of gas. Hell I know people that spend six bucks for a fancy coffee at Starbuck and they complain about the cost of gas. And Just for reference the cost in Mexico ¢457 colones and Canada ¢507colones.

Rounding out the top ten most expensive are Hong Kong, Norway, Iceland, Holland, Italy, Denmark, Greece, San Marino and Sweden. At the bottom, with the least expensive gasoline, is Kuwait where a liter of regular gas costs ¢120 colones, but what do you expect, they produce millions of barrels of oil a year.


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits August '16


Worldwide, Expats Rate Costa Rica The Best Weather

Ever wonder why I send these every month talking about Costa Rica? Some good some bad but always positive, at least I try to be. Sure some may think “ oh it is a sales ploy” or the one I like best that I heard was “ it is just a realtor don’t believe a word they say”  well An international survey was conducted of expats around the world and they put Costa Rica on the top of the list as having the best weather.

This is not a shocker, at least to me; I live here and experience it all, every day all year long. The organization InterNations (https://www.internations.org/ ) proposed the question about weather in a survey conducted exclusively of expats in 195 different countries worldwide and 14,000 responses.

This tends to be very true, and most people that have been here at least once, know we have two seasons, a dry season and a rainy season. However, the Pacifico Northwest of Costa Rica, specifically Playa Hermosa, Playa Panama Playa Del Coco and Playa Ocotal actually is the driest of the entire country. Our yearly average of rain is 40-60 inches a year, all coming between June and early November but the majority of the rain falls in September and October.

As of writing this Playa Hermosa has received 21.9 inches of rain so far this year. Now try to find that number on any weather site and you won’t. So I do I know? Well I have rain gauges and check them every day and record how much rain fell. I know it sounds strange, but heck it’s just a hobby.

 “If you move to Costa Rica, Cyprus or Greece, you can be sure to enjoy the outdoors almost every day of the year,” said InterNations.

Costa Rica grabbed the 12th spot out of 64 countries in the overall ranking of the survey. One prominent factor for its high rank is the weather and climate, with 71 percent of the respondents living here rating it as very good. The other thirty percent must live in the southern zone that can receive upwards of 160 inches of rain a year. Of course let’s not forget the untold reason expats come to Costa Rica! It is the friendly locals, the free life style and for people like me, a great work-life balance. Come on how many of you get to go to the beach and have a cold drink in the middle of your work day? Unlike many other destinations that are mostly career-focused, the top reasons people moving to Costa Rica, is for a better quality of life and a thirst for adventure.

 

New Cedula in Costa Rica Starting In September

In case you do not know what a “Cedula is, it is the national identification card in Costa Rica issued by the government. The cedula is given to every Costa Rican, born in the country or naturalized, or in my case, granted permanent residency to a foreigner.

The new cedula will start to be distributed in September this year. I will find out for sure if they are ready by October when I have to renew my cedula. Permanent resident have to renew every 5 years while citizens get 10 years in between renewals. The new cedula will include new security features to prevent duplication and fraud.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE), the government body that issues the cedulas also happens to runs the elections in the Costa Rica said the current cedulas will remain valid until their expiry date. The TSE says that while the printing of each card is $1.96 USD, the overall production cost is $5.50 USD but they did not say what we will be charged for the new card. My guess about $10.00 USD, but we will see when I get my new cedula. Oh and guess what you need a official photo ID to vote in Costa Rica.

 

Costa Rica Stop! Do Not Go Down This Path

This is just my personal opinion. I was a bit concerned when I read an article this past month about the U.S. doughnut chain Krispy Kreme coming to Costa Rica. The company plans to open 10 shops in Costa Rica over the next five years.

Now don’t get me wrong, a hot, sweet, fresh fried, glazed donut is a special treat once every blue moon and hard to pass up if you like them. But I remember when I was living in the states and one opened near where I lived. Sure the first time is was like WOW these are great warm, soft, a bit chewy and of course really sweet. But if you have been in a cave for the past 10 years or a coma, which I doubt and hope not, you know that these things are not good for you. Hell I am no health food nut, by any means, but these little things are deadly and can be habit forming because there cheap and trigger your brain to want more. it does not help that they use a flashing neon sign at the drive scream HOT NOW!! It has been proven sugar is addictive, same effects as cocaine on brain.

Krispy Kreme’s senior vice president Dan Beem said Costa Rica’s rapid market growth and consumer demand for sweet treats “makes this the perfect time for Krispy Kreme to expand in the country.” Read between the lines of what he said. Consumer demand for sweet treats =’s big profits.

One of the lead Costa Rican investors said Ticos will find Krispy Kreme shops to be their new favorite spot for something sweet and a premium cup of coffee. He added the premium coffee part as a way to defer from the first part he said “favorite spot for something sweet” The company’s announcement did not give any details about launch dates or locations for the first doughnut shops. Here is the link to the press release if you don’t believe me http://hotnews.krispykreme.com/press-release/corporate/krispy-kreme-doughnut-shops-open-costa-rica

I hope and pray there are none planned for the Playa Hermosa area. Like I said I love them as well, there really good, but unfortunately some people just do not know or even care what the long term effects are of eating junk like this. 20 years ago when I was still working as an executive chef, this was one of my down falls, every morning I take a walk over to the pastry department in the hotel to get a nice sweet doughnut or Danish to have for breakfast. Within a matter of a few months I was carrying around an extra 55 pounds. After a health scare I changed a bit and just by not eating those tasty little treats any longer, I was lucky to lose close to 75 pounds.

So please Costa Rica, the people I love so dearly, STOP! Think! Don’t go down this road; get back to what is natural and good. I think I am going to the famers market to get some fresh papaya or bananas or even my all-time favorite mamon chinos!

 

New Light System in Liberia, Costa Rica

When I first moved here almost 9 years ago, there was only one traffic light on the way to and in Liberia that I could find. It was at the intersection of the rt. 21 and the Inter Americana Norte Highway.

Boy was it easy then giving directions then. Go to the only light towards Liberia, turn left, turn right or go forward. Over the past 3 years or so the Inter Americana Norte Highway has been rebuilt from Canas to Liberia with new over passes and 2 lanes each way. During the construction the only light was removed and it was a cluster to try to get thru that intersection. But that has all changed now.

Highway officials have installed 24 traffic lights and 22 pedestrian signals at the entrance to Liberia in Guanacaste from all directions. The project was based on a study of traffic and pedestrians, as described by the Ministry of Transportation. Officials said they expect to reduce the number of accidents that happen in the intersection. They said the average is three a day.

I was driving thru this are last week and was thinking, did anyone do a study to see the traffic patterns because or think about how to effectively stage the green and red lights as not to bring traffic to a complete standstill with gridlock? Hopefully they are working on this. But it is better than it was before. Pura Vida!


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits July '16


Costa Rica Makes Dengue Vaccine Available Next Year

The Ministry of Health of Costa Rica has approved the use of Dengvaxia.  The first vaccine the World Health Organization has recommended. But there is a catch first.

The approval is the first step in making the dengue vaccine available to the general public, something that could happen next year.

I am not a big proponent of vaccines per say, but this could be a life saver for many. I am fortunate enough to say that after living in the tropics for over eight years now, I have never had dengue or anything like it. I use common sense when outdoors, making sure that I either ware long clothing or use natural bug repellents, and when I know I am going into an area, like the jungle where there are lots of mosquitoes,  I load up on  DEET .

 The Drug still needs to be analyzed for its effectiveness and safety by the microbiology laboratory of the University of Costa Rica. If all the tests work out correctly and to the satisfaction of Ministry of Health then they will order the importation and sale of the drug to private pharmacies. Now that works great for those that can afford to purchase it, however it will take much longer for the drug to be offered at public clinics and hospitals that are part of the Caja, the national Social Security System.

Just like any government run operation, worldwide, the vaccine has to be included in the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)’s Revolving Fund, which allows member countries to purchase vaccines in bulk, hence by lowering the price and ensuring equal access. That process can take months.

Then once it is approved by the PAHO, the National Commission on Vaccination and Epidemiology, (another government run group) will evaluate the vaccine for potential distribution and use at public hospitals.

Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of the vaccine, stated that Costa Rica is the fifth country to approve the dengue vaccine, following Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador and the Philippines.

The company also said that tests so far show an average efficiency of 65 percent, and that the vaccine protects against the four existing serotypes of dengue.

So in reality if you are really worried about Dengue, I recommend you just buy the vaccine when it becomes available at the private pharmacies. Or just be smart about being outside in the tropics.

 

Chocolate!! Who Loves chocolate??  Costa Rican Chocolate to Boot

First a little history of Costa Rica and chocolate, Over fifty years ago, more than 45 thousand acres of Costa Rica was planted with Cocoa Trees . Unfortunately almost 80% of the trees were replace by more profitable pineapple and palm oil due to a devastating fungus that nearly whipped out all the cocoa trees.

Good news for chocolate lovers is that a reemergence of cocoa production is starting again in Costa Rica.

This past month the city of San Jose featured its first Feria de Chocolate (Chocolate Fair). Other parts of the country have chocolate fairs but this is the first for the capital with lots of talks from cacao farmers, 60- 70 different chocolate makers and of course government officials, but the best part was the ability to taste and purchase different chocolates.

 So next time you come to Costa Rica, try some of our local chocolate you wont be disappointed. There is even a specialty shop right in the heart of down town Playa del Coco featuring local cocoa and some really great chocolate. All freshly made

 

Time to Start the Trek to Cartago, Costa Rica

The annual pilgrimage to Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles  ( Our Lady of the Angels) will be happening soon. This is annual event in Costa Rica and is part of the heritage and culture of this great country. If you personally happen to be offended by religions then just move on to the next article.

I am always amazed by the number of the faithful that make this trek, more than one fifth of the population of Costa Rica over a few week period.  The majority start in the capital of San Jose to start the journey to Cartage which is about 14 miles away.

 A few start the pilgrimage early to Cartago. Then the few will become thousands, culminating in the Aug. 2 celebration there.  This is the pilgrimage to Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles, the patroness of the country.

This is the 381st year since a girl found a small, black statue representing the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus Christ sitting on a rock. The statue returned miraculously to that location, suggesting to local priests that a church should be built there, to honor the Lady of the Angels.

The statue today is above the basilica altar draped in one of the many elaborate pieces of clothing the faithful have made. The tradition is to enter and traverse the central aisle of the basilica on knees.

The priests at the Santuario Nacional Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles announced the schedule for the 12-day fiesta. This year, a crew has opened up access to the rock on which the statue was found, and pilgrims may touch it.

The Catholic Church has noted that 20 Latin countries have adopted Mary, the mother of Christ, as their patroness. Of them, at least eight are associated with some miracle associated with the discovery of a statue or similar.

In keeping with the matriarchal Mother Earth religions of the natives, The Catholic Church early on promoted the Virgin Mary as an object of veneration.

So if you plan on going from San Jose to Cartago this week, I recommend leaving the car behind and join the faithful.

 

192 Years of Being Part of Costa Rica, Guanacaste Celebrates

Monday July 25th marked the 192nd anniversary of the day the Partido de Nicoya, (Party of Nicoya) what we know as Guanacaste today, decided to become part of Costa Rica.

Here is a link to read the history behind this holiday Partido de Nicoya

Every year on July 25, the province of Guanacaste, and most especially the town of Nicoya, enjoys showing off its pride. From adults to little children many dress up in the traditional clothing of Guanacaste and celebrate the event.  Traditional folklore dancers perform with huge smiles and bursts of colorful dresses, vendors sell Guanacaste treats like the savory cookies rosquillas, which I still cannot handle myself, they are a bit dry and a bit salty, but the locals love them and one of my favorites is the fermented corn drink chicheme. Don’t drink too much the after affects can be dizzying.

Then there are the local fairs with rodeo and horses everywhere. The Biggest one is held in Liberia. Kind of like a county fair with some of the largest bulls on display, farm equipment, lots of vendors selling everything from leather belts to hats to traditional clothing. And not to leave out the food and beer vendors, it is just one wild party.

When you want to see and feel the pride of Guanacaste you need to come to Costa Rica the last week of July every year, you won't be sorry.


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits June '16


Ironman Competition Coming to Playa Del Coco Costa Rica

Wow, the testosterone will be flying high in Playa Del Coco, and it is not from the drunks hanging out in bars or the arm chair warriors.

For the first time ever, the Ironman completion being held in Costa Rica, is right in my back yard in the beach town of Playa Del Coco. The event will take place June 18, 2017. Participants will have the chance to earn one of 35 qualifying spots for the world championship that will be held in the United States.

For those that do not know what the IRONMAN completion is here is a very short description; The Ironman 70.3 Costa Rica race will be a 1.9-kilometer swim through the Papagayo Gulf, then followed by a 90-kilometer bike ride across the green landscapes of Guanacaste, and will conclude with a 21-kilometer run that ends on the sands of Playa del Coco. Holy moly I am tired just thinking about all that exercise, I think I will just watch from the sidelines with a cold beer. More my speed.

Costa Rican Tourism Minister Mauricio Ventura stated the importance of  hosting a qualifying event for the world’s most recognizable triathlon that it could be for the country’s travel and sports scene.  “We’re sure that this event will turn into a classic when the participants cross the finish line in such a magnificent location that will help assure them their effort was worth the pain,” said Wilber Anderson, the CEO of Miami Tri Events and Colombia Tri Events, which own the event’s licensing operations.

The Costa Rican version of the race will offer $15,000 in prizes, as well as the chance to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, which will be held in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

What does this really mean for the area? Well depending on the amount of athletes attending, there are usually 2-4 other people that travel with the athletes, so this means more hotel rentals, more condo rental and more cash for the local economy not to forget about world recognition in the athletic world. I know there will be some cranks that will complain, so if your one of them, here is your early warning make your plans to leave now.

 

El Niño is officially Dead by U.S. Weather Experts

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had declared El Nino dead. Finally this dreaded El Nino is going away. Thank the heavens for the rains we are getting!

As you may know the effects from an El Nino can be devastating in certain area and actually helpful in others. For us in the North West part of Costa Rica in Guanacaste, it has caused a drought for the past three years. The good news is that year to date we are back on track with our rain fall in the   Playa Hermosa Area.  This area of Costa Rica, the driest of the entire country, averages between 40 and 60 inches of rain a year. The past three years we were well below the average.

 The El Nino was so big and so bad that the U.S. space agency, NASA, called it Godzilla. El Nino is a weather pattern defined by the Pacific Ocean water being warmer than average. This past one was one of the three strongest El Ninos on record, along with 1997-1998 and 1982-83.

The system in the far Pacific began in March 2015. The big question now is what comes next. Typically after a period of neutral conditions La Nina will happen and that is the opposite, cooling of the Pacifico Ocean water

The El Nino cycles occur every two or three years on average. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts a 50 percent chance of La Niña by the end of the hemisphere's summer, and a 75 percent chance by the end of the fall.

 

Costa Rica’s Annual Vehicle Inspection Rates Going UP!

If you own a car in Costa Rica or are thinking of getting one, don’t worry the increase is not that much. I have written about the annual car inspection before and that every car has to have completed every year in Costa Rica. Now the cost is not that much, is it a hassle sure, but you have the same hassle in most places in regards to owning a car. The price of this mandatory, yearly technical vehicle inspection will increase next month after 11 years without change.

The Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) agreed with Riteve SyC, the Spanish-owned company responsible for carrying out the mandatory inspections, that new rates will take effect starting July 1 and increase incrementally over the next two years.

Right now the cost is about $18.00 US dollars for a standard car and the first increase this July will be $1.80 and then the two following price hikes, one in January of 2017 and the second in January 2018, will each be about $2.28.

According to MOPT, there are just over 1.3 million vehicles in Costa Rica. The average age of vehicles is 16 years. I know right! 16 years old for the average car. Well part of that is because of the cost of cars here, they are not cheap, due to the high import tax on them. On a good note, cars hold their value here a lot better than in the North America.  Here is a first-hand example,  I purchased a 4 year old car with 39,000 miles on it back in 2010for $14,000 USD, drove it for 5 years and put another 90,000 miles on it, when I sold it last November, I got almost what I paid for it, not bad. The technical inspection is actually a very good thing with having cars that average 16 years in age you want them being inspected especially if your sharing the road with them.

Costa Rica, Ethical Restrictions on Legislature

Nepotism and politics go hand and hand like bread and butter. I had to laugh when I ready this article in a local paper.

Know we all know that this is not ethically correct and it happens all the time in very country. But most half way intelligent voters would not like the idea of a lawmaker hiring his cousin or brother to serve on his personal staff. Incredibly here in Costa Rica there really is no legislative rule against this now.

Marcela Guerrero Campos of the Partido Acción Ciudadana has presented revisions to the regulations of the Asamblea Legislativa that would prohibit hiring persons within four degrees of kinship. And that is just the beginning.  The measure also would create an ethics committee for oversight.  AKA more opportunity for corruption!

The measure also would require keeping a list of all staff members and well as reporting on legislative trips inside and outside the country. Lawmakers would face personal restrictions for which fines would be assessed for violations. They also would not be allowed to use their political position and title for personal benefit.

What makes me crazy is that the idea behind this is great, as too many politicians around the world get in to it not to help their fellow countryman but to fatten their own pockets or egos of power. There are a few exceptions but those are far and few between.

A lot of the items listed seemed obvious, but there are frequent news articles about violations, including the lawmaker who used her office to get a speedy renewal of her passport and sidestep a crowded immigration office. That became known because persons in line waiting for the same service recognized her and protested. The new rules stem from a 2010 constitutional court ruling and a U.N. agreement against corruption.

Let's see how it pans out? 


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits May '16


Buy an Electric Car in Costa Rica, You May Get Breaks

A plan to encourage ownership of electric vehicles eliminates taxes, import fees and even the annual road tax. The measure, No. 19,744, won approval in the  Comisión de Gobierno y Administración and now is headed to the full legislature. This does not mean it will pass and become law, it just means it will move further along the political road towards a law

 The measure also provides incentives for setting up a network of recharging stations for electric vehicles and hybrids. Just imagine you spend $40,000 on an electric car and you can’t recharge, except maybe at your home.  The Measure should not have incentives but actually part of the bill t have re-charging stations .The proposal is designed to decrease the use of fossil fuels. Although some countries use petroleum or coal to generate electricity, Costa Rica mainly uses hydro power. A legislative summary said that the metro area is just 4 percent of the nation’s territory but it has 75 percent of the vehicles.

If passed, the bill would eliminate 100 percent of sales tax, 100 percent of consumption tax and the 1 percent tax that usually is collected by the customs agency when an item is imported into the country. In addition, the bill would eliminate the road tax or marchamo for five years although an electric vehicle owner would have to pay the obligatory insurance that is included in the annual road tax. Drivers also would not have to respect the law that restricts vehicles from entering the capital one day a week. Electric vehicle owners also would not have to pay tax on certain repair parts.

The government would be obligated to replace 10 percent of its vehicles with electric ones and banks would be urged to set up special financing plans. Electric utilities would be mandated to establish recharging stations in each province and there are requirements for such stations on national and local highways.

In my Opinion this is a great thing if One) no fossil fuel is used to generate the electricity. Two) if there really will be charging stations and the big number Three) do you really think a tax decrease will make it through any government setting up a new law. I doubt it but the idea is great lets see what happens

 

U.S. Expats Can Get Embassy Benefit Letter by Email

There is good news for expats who might have to prove their income to acquire residency or even a mortgage. The Federal Benefit Unit at the U.S. Embassy said it has simplified the process for verifying Social Security and other government benefits for Costa Rican immigration purposes.

The government will accept email requests and make a follow-up telephone call to confirm the requestor’s identity. The embassy said that the document commonly is called a proof of income letter,  a budget letter, a benefits letter or a proof of award letter.

The letter is an official report on money an expat might be getting from the U.S. Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, the Railroad Retirement Board or the Office of Personnel Management/Civil Service Retirement. Until now, a personal embassy visit was required.

Best part of this is that the email document is being accepted by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjeria, the department of migration that grants foreigners residency.

Here are the steps that you have to go thru to get this done

1. Request an benefit verification letter–free of charge–by filling out a form using this link:  http://costarica.usembassy.gov/fbu-inquiry-form.html

2. Within five working days, a representative from the Federal Benefit Unit will contact you to verify your identity and get your permission to email the letter verifying the benefit amount.

3. Requestors should print the letter and provide it to the Costa Rican immigration office. This letter does not require an apostille and that’s a big time saving in time (or notarization).

 

View of Blue Tends to be Less Stressful

Ever wonder why I keep sending these flyers and information, Sure I am realtor in sales no lie here, but I started really thinking about it recently and it dawned on me, I love living here in Costa Rica so much that a big part of what I do is to spread the news o many people that just might love it as much as I do I do not keep doing it just to make a buck, sure that’s nice and all I still need to eat and have fun, but there just might be a better options out there for you. I found it Here in Costa Rica. Sure there are down sides? Of course there are just like everything has a dark cloud that could possibly move over it. I found this article on line and it really kind of hit home for me so I wanted to share it with you.

Thanks for reading my flyer and blog and one day maybe I can help you enjoy the lifestyle of Costa Rica.

Credit for this article goes to the “Michigan State University news staff”

There’s another reason to start saving for that beach house: New research suggests that residents with a view of the water are less stressed. The study, co-authored by Michigan State University’s Amber L. Pearson, is the first to find a link between health and the visibility of water, which the researchers call blue space.

“Increased views of blue space is significantly associated with lower levels of psychological distress,” said Ms. Pearson, assistant professor of health. “However, we did not find that with green space.”Using various topography data, the researchers studied the visibility of blue and green spaces from residential locations in Wellington, New Zealand, an urban capital city surrounded by the Tasman Sea on the north and the Pacific Ocean on the south. Green space includes forests and grassy parks.

To gauge psychological distress, the researchers analyzed data from the New Zealand Health Survey. The national survey used a distress scale which has proven to be an accurate predictor of anxiety and mood disorders. Mental health disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Even after taking into account residents’ wealth, age, sex and other neighborhood factors, the study found that having a view of the ocean was associated with improved mental health.

Pearson said that visibility of green space did not show the same calming effect. That could be because the study did not distinguish between types of green space. “It could be because the blue space was all natural, while the green space included human-made areas, such as sports fields and playgrounds, as well as natural areas such as native forests,” Ms. Pearson said. “Perhaps if we only looked at native forests we might find something different.”

The study appears in the May issue of the academic journal Healt


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits April '16


Rainy Season, Almost Here in Costa Rica, Are You Ready?

 It is about that time of the year when the seasonal rains should start in Costa Rica. Thank God the Papagayo region and specifically Playa Hermosa and surrounding towns do not get anything like the flooding that happened in Houston, Texas recently or other parts of Costa Rica.

Mother Nature played a trick on us here. Early in the morning on April first, April’s Fools Day, I heard what I thought was running water. Only having one cup of the great locally grown coffee in me I was still a bit groggy. It never really dawned on me that it could be raining as it was just the first of April, since the rainy season usually does not start until the end of the month or mid-May sometime. So I stated running around my place checking under all the sinks to see if a pipe burst or a hose sprung a leak, but nothing. I keep hearing what sounded like water running and I know I was not hung over or anything. So I changed out of my pj’s and opened the front door and steeped out onto my terrace and in total amazement I see it raining, not a drizzle but a real rain.

The birds were singing, the monkeys howling like there was a war and aroma of freshness was in the air. I was thinking WOW the raining season sure is early this year, APRIL FOOLS, nope it has not rained one drop since. When the rain stopped about an hour later and the sky cleared up, out of curiosity I went down to the parking area where I had already set up my rain gauges in anticipation of rainy season,  I was just thinking ahead here, and for sure it was a officially measured amount.  At least officially in my gauges HA! That morning the town of Playa Hermosa, at least where I live, received 2/10’s of an inch of rain.

Now this is just a friendly reminder to all that already own a Costa Rica property or are thinking of acquiring one soon. When you own a home in the tropics, a second home or condo as a vacation spot or an investment rental property, there is always maintenance, just like the property you live in full time.

So do not forget to have your gutters and down spouts cleaned out before the rains start. Maybe have someone check the seals of any windows that usually get the rain hitting against them or it may be a back door that needs a new door sweep or something or clear storm drains of debris. Better to think ahead than have to deal with a problem later.

Though we are still weeks away from the start of the rainy season, parts of the country like the central valley have already started receiving strong passing thunderstorms dropping buckets of rain. The same has happened for the mountainous northern regions and the Caribbean slopes.

Just a friendly reminder, and by the way the rainy season is actually a wonderful time to come and visit Costa Rica.  It does not rain every day, the rain is not cold at all, and just remember when you were a kid on summer vacation and playing in the rain, it was fun right?? If you did not do this as a kid, relive your childhood and try it in Costa Rica.

 

Costa Rica Lawmakers Working to Bring Back the Corporate Tax

Well did you really think any government would let a tax that raised millions of dollars just go away, even though the first time it was found to be unconstitutional .The Legislative Committee on Financial Affairs this month approved the latest version of a bill to reinstate the country’s corporate tax laws.

The current bill would tax all corporations, except for small businesses registered as such, and to be based on their gross income. The new formula will have a lower tax for all except the highest-earning firms.  The highest-earning companies, those making ₡119 million or more (roughly $375,000 USD and higher) in gross income during the previous fiscal year, would be taxed ₡212,000, or just under $400. Corporations with income from ₡51 million to ₡119 million or roughly $96,000 to $375,000, would pay ₡127,000 or about $240.00USD and companies with income below ₡51 million would pay ₡106,000 or around $200.00 USD.

Corporations that are registered as inactive, one not generating any income, these are usually corporation that hold assets only like cars, boats, and homes will be paying approximately ₡64,000 or $120.00USD all depends on the exchange rate when paying.

The tax was suspended this year of 2106, but if passed into law again, companies would be expected to pay a tax for 2016 proportional to the amount of time left in the year from when the law is enacted. You can bet they are trying and pushing pretty hard to get this law passed as soon as possible.

Now are you wondering, like I did, where is this tax money going?  My first thought was sure it is going to line the pockets of those in power, just like every other government or into the black hole of a government budget?

Well the good news is that 90% of the funds are to be used only by the Public Security Ministry while the Judicial Investigation Police and the prison system would each get 5 percent. Under the current bill, funds from the corporate tax could not be used to pay salaries, overtime or travel expenses, so hopefully it will not be wasted.

The bill has to be approved by the full Assembly in two separate rounds of voting before it can be published in the official newspaper for notices ,La Gazeta. Keep your fingers crossed they don’t get it done this year!!

 

The British are Coming the British are Coming

Do you remember that call? Probably not unless your American and over 50, I doubt it is even taught in the US schools any longer because it may not be “Politically Correct”  Hell nothing is politically correct any longer, anything can be misconstrued, depends on who is looking at it.

Any way the British are coming to Costa Rica!  For all those in the UK that want a warm, sunny tropical getaway after April to Costa Rica, it is going to get much easier now.

British Airways has announced from the 27th of April 2016, they will be flying a direct route from the London Gatwick Airport (LGW)  to San Jose (SJO). The direct flights are scheduled to take place twice a week during the summer and then increasing to three flights a week for those craving a tropical getaway and very different from what they are used to.

The flight time is about 11 hours, which is a pretty long time to be in a plane, but the alternative is longer with lay over in the US or Spain ( that going the wrong way)  and having to deal with 2 immigration scenarios not to forget about a possible missed or delayed connections.

So if you friends or family living in the UK now they can meet you in Costa Rica for a reunion, wouldn’t that be pretty cool?

 

 

Costa Rica Tourist Police,  Added Responsibility.

Did you know that there are basically four different police forces in Costa Rica? Just a bit of information about the police forces here in Costa Rica. There are a few more but hopefully you will never need one or be detained by one so be good!

 There is the “OIJ” or officially called Organismo De Investigacion Judicial, They do the investigating of crimes and make arrests. Then there is the La Fuerza Publica or the public force, these are the cops that can arrest you for doing something wrong and also take reports of crimes but do not much else. Then there is my favorite the Policia de Transito or transit police, these are the guys that usually are on the side of the road stopping cars for speeding and making sure that the drives have the proper documents and requirements to operate the vehicle. They have been known to take bribes in return for not writing a traffic ticket.  First hand knowledge on this aspect “SHHHHH” you did not hear me say this!

Then there is the tourist police and the basis of this article. For a long time the tourist police basically were in areas of well Tourist spots, they would drive up on their motorcycles look around and really do nothing. 

 However now there is a change being implemented that is good thing for locals and tourists alike. In few select coastal communities an “experimental” pilot program that will begin next month. People that have had things stolen or want to file a official complaint will soon be able to submit formal criminal complaints to Costa Rica’s Tourist Police, instead of having to go the closest office of the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ)

Under the pilot program, officers of the Tourist Police will be trained and able to accept any type of criminal complaint, ranging from property crimes to assault with a deadly weapon, as disclosed by Gustavo Mata, the minister of public security.

Currently, if you wanted to file a criminal complaint, you had to travel to the nearest office of the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), The closest one to the papagayao region is in the city of Liberia, about a 40 minute drive away.

The pilot program will initially be implemented in Playas del Coco, Tamarindo, Jaco, and Manuel Antonio on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast; as well as Puerto Viejo in the country’s Caribbean province of Limon. If the pilot program is successful, it could be expanded, officials said

 

Costa Rica Solar Power Finally  Makes Sense

For a few years now, yes I said years, there has been a push to allow homeowners and business to utilize the power of the sun, along with other green options, for their own use. The cost was crazy as you needed lots of batteries to store the electricity or you own electric grid system if a business.

Finally the pricing scales for net metering, which will enable Costa Rican homes and businesses that generate their own electricity to store surplus in the grid, goes into effect this month.

Environment and Energy Minister (MINAE) Edgar Gutiérrez announced the launch of the program, which will allow consumers who have solar panels or other renewable energy systems, but who are also connected to the grid, to save even more on monthly bills.

Homes and businesses that produce renewable energy for self-consumption will pay interconnection fees approved by the Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP). The same guys that set gas pricing, electrical rates and so on.

All power companies have set their tariffs and are ready to start offering interconnections to the national electricity grid.  With this new program, customers are allowed to send up to 49 percent of the energy they produce to the grid. They can use that stored energy later.  There is already an initial list of some 50 customers of the National Power and Light Company. Most of them are industrial and commercial consumers.

Now the important part, what is it going to cost? Beside the cost of the Solar panels and the batteries and the other stuff you need to set up, well that’s another topic.

The Interconnection fees for each kilowatt-hour (kwh) range from ₡11 to ₡29 ($0.02 to $0.05), depending on the power company. Regular users of the electricity grid, you and me pay, on average ₡90 ($0.17) per kWh, according to ARESEP supplied data.  Now here is where it starts to add up! But it is not that bad as anticipated. In order to join the distributed generation program, customers must pay for a technical feasibility study and inspection fees from power companies.

Total costs for the feasibility study and inspections range from ₡60,000 to ₡170,000 ($110 to $313). In addition, each consumer must acquire a two-way meter, which measures energy taken from and sent to the grid, and pay for setup fees. Costs for additional inspections might apply if power companies request them.

Besides solar, hydro, biomass and wind energy also qualify for the program.

So not sure if it is worth it at this stage but it is looking better and better, finally! At least for those that are young enough to beninefit from it. At my age I may be dead before I could recoup the cost, so I will just keep it the same.

 

 

Direct Flights from Los Angles to Liberia

Southwest Airlines maybe California’s largest carrier has started direct flights to Liberia’s International airport (LIR) from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). This helps open up getting to Costa Rica from the west coast of the US and Canada

 The inaugural flight to Costa Rica was the airline’s first international route out of L.A. The carrier’s initial flight schedule of one flight daily in each direction also brings connectivity between Liberia/Guanacaste and cities on the Southwest network, including Oakland, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.

Southwest Airlines began flying to California in 1982 and now serves nine airports in the Golden State, with service beginning at its tenth California airport, Long Beach (LGB), on June 5. Offering more daily departures in California than any other airline, 324 of those flights will take off and land within the state this summer, connecting 20 unique city-pair combinations within California.

So if your excuse for not coming to Costa Rica was because of the connections, well that has just come to an end. Come and see why more and more people are coming to Costa Rica.


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits March '16


Close to Home Market to Open, Sardinal Costa Rica

Quite a few months ago I wrote about a new farmers market in Sardinal which is just a stone’s throw from the beaches of Playa Hermosa. The terminal is planned primarily for large agricultural farms however there is also talk about a true farmers market as well for the public to utilize.

 An announcement was recently made that the corner stone placing ceremony will take place on July 25 which also marks the celebration of the Anexión del Partido de Nicoya. This is when in 1824 the decision was made by the politicians of Nicoya to become part of Costa Rica and not Nicaragua

The Construction is expected to take a year and a half, but knowing how things move here it could be longer. Once opened the facility will provide employment for up to 400 people and will be a good addition to the region.

The project is to be located in La Cascada de Sardinal a short 27 16 kilometers from the Liberia international airport. This is really a plus as the Airport is going to get another $10 million dollar expansion with a cargo terminal (See story below). Estimates are that producers in 11 nearby cantons will benefit from the market. Lawmakers already have approved the financing for the market so it should get built

 

Becoming a Naturalized Citizen of Costa Rica

According to statistics reported by the Civil Registry of Costa Rica, less than 69,000 naturalized citizens were properly registered in 2014. When considering the number of foreigners living in Costa Rica under various legal statuses such permanent residents, as I am, Not very many chose the path of naturalization. I will when I am legally allowed to in one more year.

Just like in other countries, the naturalization process in Costa Rica is not for everyone. There are numerous benefits to citizenship; the entity that ultimately grants citizenship by means of naturalization is the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which may consult with the Directorate of Immigration on certain aspects such as permanence, entry and exit records, background checks from foreign countries, etc. In fact, it is important to gather these required documents prior to submitting a petition to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal; by doing so, the naturalization process could as little as a year to issue an approval

The Ninth National Census indicates that more than half of naturalized Costa Rican citizens are originally from Nicaragua, and many of them have lived in our country for quite a few years. According to the legal professionals at Immigration Experts, a law firm specialized in immigration law with more than 20 years of experience in helping foreigners with their legal affairs in our country, and the firm I used to help me get my full permanent residency, the Constitution provides four paths to naturalization:

Marriage: Foreigners who marry a Costa Rican citizen can petition for naturalization after a couple of years of marriage and permanence in the country. Those who choose this naturalization route are exempt from the citizenship exams, and they don’t even need a residency card. I don’t think I am going down this road!

Residency: Foreigners who are lawful, permanent residents can petition for naturalization after five years if they have Latin American or Iberian nationalities; all other foreigners must be residents for seven years. This is me, one more year to go and I can apply. Boy the old saying of time really fly’s when having fun, is so true, I have been here eight year and seems like just last week I moved here.

Living in Costa Rica for a long time: Foreigners who have a lawful permanence of 20 years in Costa Rica may also petition for naturalization. Depending on the ties to the country, periods of quasi-legal permanence may be alleviated with a waiver under this option.

Minors: Foreign-born children of citizens qualify for naturalization as long as they are under the age of 18, in which case their parents will handle the petition.

Benefits of Naturalization in Costa Rica

In general, naturalized citizens enjoy all the rights and benefits of those who were born in Costa Rica; however, they cannot run for the Presidential Office.  Who would want that job anyway, really president, not for me. Some of the benefits include passports, the right to vote, scholarships, and others. There’s no military service to worry about, and dual citizenship is available for some countries such as Canada and the United States.

It is interesting to note that the blue passport of Costa Rica was listed as being the 33rd most advantageous in the world, according to a report by research firm Henley & Partners together with the International Air Travel Association (IATA). The Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index 2016 explains that traveling with a Costa Rican passport grants entry to 133 countries that do not require a previous visa application; and many of them are popular destinations in Europe and Latin America. Except the US, You still need a vise to enter, but if you cross the border illegally than you can get all sorts of free stuff. Incredible!!

Naturalization can come in handy for U.S. citizens thinking about renouncing their citizenship due to FATCA.  Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is a provision of a law passed by United States Congress in the midst of the Great Recession.  It really is a way for the US government to try to steal peoples’ money, Don’t believe all the crap you hear from the main stream media, This law was intended to make sure the flow of money does not leave the US. Read the law sometime as I did. It is scary.

In the last few years, U.S. citizens who are not in agreement with FATCA have been renouncing their citizenships at embassies abroad. U.S. expats interested in doing this from Costa Rica should first become naturalized; even though it is possible to renounce U.S. citizenship and be left stateless, this is not recommended.

 

$10 Million Expansion for Costa Rica’s Liberia International Airport

CORIPORT, an acronym for the company that manages the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport or more commonly known as the Liberia International airport in Costa Rica’s northwestern Guanacaste province, announced it will expand the terminal in coming months prompted by a significant increase in passenger traffic.

Work at the terminal will include the expansion of current waiting and baggage claim areas as well as new spaces for shops and offices that will extend the terminal’s area by 20 percent, the company reported. The expansion represents an investment of $10.3 million and is scheduled to begin during the second quarter of this year and is expected to be completed by middle of 2017.

Liberia and the region has grown as a tourist and second home destination with many more people coming which is reflected in the increase of routes and filled seats along with the arrival of new flights and airlines making Liber a destination.

The most important part was confirmed that during the second half of this year the company will launch operations for a cargo terminal aimed at facilitating businesses for exporters and importers, mostly from the northwestern region of Costa Rica. This is what we have been waiting for, for a long time. Have the airlines haul cargo, not just people and the cost of tickets will go down and more products will be delivered to this area then San Jose. Makes the importation and shipping cost go down as a result which make products less expensive to buy. It is win win for all!!

The Liberia airport last year received a total of 888,227 passengers – 98,352 more than in 2014. That figure represents an increase of 12.4 percent. The airport saw its busiest months in January, March and December. During each of those months the airport handled of more than 100,000 passengers.

Three airlines, as I had written previously started operations in Liberia last year. South West Airlines started a route from Houston,  Alaska Airlines is now arriving from Los Angeles, direct, and British carrier Thomson Airways has a direct flight from London. It is only going to get better.

 

Costa Rica’s Rincón de la Vieja Volcano Explodes Vapor and Ash

Experts from the National University’s Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI) reported that Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, located in Guanacaste province, has seen increased vapor activity and explosions. Not to worry!! It is on the east side of the volcano and the grater is over 30 miles away from the Playa Hermosa.

Strong explosions were recorded earlier in the month and a tall column of vapor and ash was visible on top of the volcano’s crater. Local residents told OVSICORI that ash had fallen on the roofs of their homes in an area six kilometers around the volcano, mainly in communities north of the crater in Upala and Buenos Aires.

Volcanologist Javier Pacheco said activity at the volcano has had very low activity in the past 15 years, but monitoring equipment recorded an increase in deposits of volcanic material in the crater. Ash, mud and vapor explosions intensified last year, but inspections in recent months found that material mostly fell in the area surrounding the crater. Some of this material also fell on rivers located north of the volcano, mostly carried by rain during the past rainy season, Pacheco said.

OVSICORI experts recommend that visitors avoid getting too close to the volcano’s crater.  Well I can say one thing for sure you will never see me that high up a mountain hiking as the crater sits almost 6000 feet above sea level. The region is a popular destination for tourists attracted by the volcano as well as several lodging options including hot springs resorts.

So don’t cancel your vacation, don’t sell your house on the hill, stay calm!! HAHA, This is one of the beauties of Costa Rica and well worth taking a hike in the lower level of the national park. You will be thrilled!!

Here is a link to more information about the age and size of Ricon de la vieja

http://www.volcanodiscovery.com/rincon-de-la-vieja.html


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits February '16


10 Travel Mistakes to Avoid in Costa Rica

I have to be honest I found this article on some travel site and felt it had some good items to share, with a few of my twists of real reality since I have been living here for eight years and traveled here for   eight years before I made the move

1. Believing Google Maps

When it comes to driving times and distances, never believe Google Maps or WAZE or any other GPA system you have. The distances are accurate, but not the times. We always tell people to add at least 30 minutes to 1 hour to the estimated Google Maps driving time because driving in Costa Rica is not that straightforward or easy! My Comments - True and some bull, life is an adventure if want to sit in front of a TV and watch a water fall, then sure it is easy, every try driving around New York City? No treat either or how about the highways around LA, 4 hours to go 20 miles, really?? Enough said!

2. Not asking about tides

Some beaches can only be reached during low tides because the path gets covered by high tide. We made this mistake ourselves when we tried to visit Playa Arco by Playa Dominical and just missed low tide. If you want to go to a hidden beach, make sure you ask a local or someone who has been there if tide is a factor. My comments – True again but if you don’t speak Spanish or understand it how are you going to ask. Yes many locals speak some English but if you’re in an off the beaten track are most likely not. There are many websites you can search in English that will give you the tide chars, or ask a surfer they should know for sure

3. Not booking hotels during peak season or not booking car rentals during high season

This one is a very common mistake. Some travelers come thinking they can find a place when they get here, which actually does generally work but not during peak season. During Christmas, New Years and Semana Santa (Easter Week), hotels book up fast and fairly far ahead in advance since locals are also on vacation. Hotels also hike up the prices during these times so it’s not smart to think you can just find one when you get here for cheap. Again very true, I myself made this mistake many years ago coming here and ended up sleeping in my rental car. Not what I would call camping.

This also goes for car rentals as well. If you want to rent a car, do it before your trip. Although there are a handful of car rental companies, it is never guaranteed that you will get a car if you don’t reserve one, especially in high season.  Well at least I was smart enough to do this ahead of time. And just a note if you are planning to come during the high season especially you better book that rental car well in advance, they go fast.

 4. Trying to go to too many places

Costa Rica is a small country so when you look at it on a map, you think, “Wow I can go everywhere!” Unfortunately, things aren’t what they always appear to be.

Though small in size, Costa Rica packs a punch when it comes to adventure activities and diversity of landscapes. You may find out that you really love one destination and want to spend more time there. Or you make mistake 1 and assume that driving will be easy peasy and time efficient

There are a ton of great destinations in Costa Rica and you can visit several in one trip, but give yourself ample time to really explore an area. It’s not fun cramming in 10 different destinations in a 2 week trip!

I had a similar situation with a client that wanted to see real estate, first he was going to Jaco on the Southern Pacific coast, He said, “Oh, it is such a short looking drive I will come up and see you later this afternoon”. Not it is about a 3.5 hour drive needless to say he never made it

5. Not telling your credit card company you’re traveling overseas

Definitely do not make this mistake! I went on a tour to Nicaragua with my parents and we were delayed for an hour because one couple forgot to tell their credit card company they were traveling overseas and couldn’t withdraw cash from the ATM. They ended up not being able to go to the tour.

If you get blocked out of credit card, that’ll be a big hassle until you can contact your company or unless you brought a ton of cash. Costa Rica accepts USD so you don’t need to exchange your money into colones beforehand, but make the necessary arrangements to use your credit or debit card if you want to. I have to do this every time I go back to the US or my Costa Rica cards won’t work either. Yes the US dollar is taken everywhere in Costa Rica however your change will be in colones.

6. Leaving your valuables in your car

This is one of the first things we (and I) tell visitors when it comes to safety in Costa Rica. It is pretty easy to tell who is a tourist, so thieves can easily pinpoint their next target especially if they see them leaving all their valuables in the car. Unfortunately Costa Rica isn’t a country where you can leave your backpack or purse in plain sight so you should never ever leave valuables in your car. Well the same thing goes for a lot of places in the world, I learned this first hand in Cincinnati Ohio. Right across the street from the police station no less. So it happens everywhere

7. Taking out all your money of your wallet

Nothing attracts thieves more than when tourists are paying for something and they take out all the cash in their wallet to count their money. Take out only what you need.

By flashing 100 dollar bills or a wad of 20,000 colones, you’re letting everyone around you know that you got a lot of cash on you. And unfortunately, it could make you the next target. Well I call Bull Crap!! Yes this can happen but it can happen anywhere, this is just basic common sense and if you don’t have any well maybe you should just stay home and watch the waterfall from your TV as in #1 above

8. Not putting on sunscreen

Nothing is worse than getting a horrible sun burn your first day in Costa Rica and being uncomfortable and in pain for the rest of your trip. The sun is very strong here so make sure you put on ample sunscreen to protect yourself. I know most people want to get a tan, but trust me you will even with sunscreen on. It’s about protecting your skin and not getting 2nd degree burns on vacation! Here is the real reason; Costa Rica lies between latitudes 8° and 12°N from the equator, the closest spot on the planet to the sun, so closer to the sun stronger the rays stronger the bun so lather up. Besides do you want to look like a piece of leather when you get older??

9. Not bringing appropriate gear for rainy season

We’re sadly guilty of this one. We put our brand new camera in a not-so-waterproof backpack, went hiking to Cerro Chato in a thunderstorm and our camera didn’t survive (surprise surprise) If we had used an actual waterproof backpack like this one that we ended up getting later, we would have saved our camera and an extra $500. Thank goodness it wasn’t a very expensive camera, can you imagine if it was your high end DSLR? Not good at all! True as well, I guess the writer of this article did not do their homework before they came here. So read up the rainy season in some parts of Costa Rica can be unbelievable. It is the tropics remember. 

10. Make sure you passport is up to date 

You need a passport to enter, and if you passport is in bad shape, looks torn, or got wet get a new one before you come so you have no issues getting  in the country. The real most important thing is to make sure your passport us not less than 6 months from expiring. The airlines may let you board the plane but the immigration officers will not let you in and most times they will put you on the next flight back to where you came from on your dime. So please check. If need be you can always pay for a expedited service to get a new one in a matter of a few days.

So when you come to Costa Rica do some homework ahead of time. I have been saying that for a long time now.

Dreaded ZIKA Virus; Really??

The United States Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica, informs U.S. citizens that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel notice for Costa Rica regarding the Zika virus. The also issued this travel warning for most of the south America and Central America and just recently added Costa Rica to that list. Now the thing that bothers me the most about this that of writning this log there has only been 4 reported confirmed case of the Zika virus in Costa Rica, meanwhile there have been over 13 confirmed cases in Florida. Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health sent a formal request to the World Health Organization (WHO) in February asking to be removed from the list of nations with active, indigenous transmission of the Zika virus.

Do you hear or read about the CDC or the US government saying “ travel warning don’t go to Florida”  Holly crap Jeb Bush would have a heart attack is tourist stayed away and did not go to Disney World, and all those type of attractions.

Heck Florida has one of the largest swamps in the US if not the largest; they nicely call it the EVERGLADES. Sound nice doesn’t. It is a swamp, mosquitos galore, really!! Now I am not a conspiracy theory type of guy, personally I think most that are have a big screw loose, but do you really trust the US government? Why do you think I live in Costa Rica. Now I am not saying the Costa Rica Government is any better, God knows, but you don’t here you don’t hear a government agency from Costa Rica saying “don’t go to the US”.

Just be smart no matter what tropical location you go to. Use bug repellent, avoid standing waters areas (swamps) and you should be ok.  As you may know I have been here in Costa Rica for over eight years and not once, knock on wood, have I come down with the Zika virus or dengue or any other diseases carried by mosquitos.

Is it a terrible thing? Yes it is hands down I don’t wish it on anyone, however between the media and over paid government agencies telling us what and what not to do, it is relief for me to just take a walk and head to the beach and leave all that behind.

 

Get a flat just after Picking up your rental Car? Be careful

You know I write about the good and the bad, unfortunately this is a bad thing I am writing about, but it is good information if you happen to be flying into the San Jose Costa Rica versus Liberia Costa Rica. So keep your wits about you and do not be taken advantage of.

 The Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (The Equivalent of the FBI in the US or RMCP in Canada) is warning of the latest scam on our roads, targeting mainly men over 55 and driving older cars. Well I fit one of those, over the 55 mark

According to the OIJ this is how it goes. One of the thugs comes up to you at an intersection or pulls alongside in a car and points out that you have a flat on the rental car, just shortly after leaving the car agency or they say there is some other issue with your car and suggest you pull over. Once you get out of the car low and behold another thug shows up saying it’s your lucky day I am a mechanic and can help. Are you starting to get the picture yet? After a while the “mechanic” says that it is a real serious problem and not just a flat and can fix it right on the spot for you but he needs to call his partner for parts. 20 minutes latter a third thug shows up with all sorts of stuff making believe they are the proper parts. Then the hell starts.

They basically tell you that you need to pay them $1,000 up front to make the repairs. Now most people will say to heck with that and if a mark starts to refuse, which I would, but the thugs get rough at this point.  They will insist on taking you to the closest ATM to get the funds. One such person did this and they cleared out his bank account at gun point.

If something like this should happen to you, the first thing is not to get out of the car. Just turn around and head back to the closest gas station or police station if you saw one or worst case scenario is drive back to the car rental agency. It is not worth the risk of what it would cost to pay for the wheel rim if it really is a flat.

Most likely the thugs puncture the wheel before you headed out so a slow leek happens. I know what you’re thinking how could that happen at the car rental place. Well think of it for a minute, most places outside of the US and Canada, the car rental agencies are not in the best areas. So you arrive at the car rental agency, they bring the car out from the back, you inspect it and go back in to finish up all the paper work, That’s when the thugs spike the tires.

Just a few words of advice if renting a car in San Jose, or any large city really as this scam stated in Miami years ago. I want you to have a great time and really enjoy the beauty and of course the lovely people of Costa Rica. It is just sad that I have to write about this. Better safe than sorry I always say

 

Very Good Tourism Season in Costa Rica = Lots of Renters

Well the 2016 high season for tourist and rental properties has been very good. Many of my clients that have purchased rental properties are exceeding what they thought the rentals would be. The hotels and tour operators are reporting occupancy rates of over 85% in various areas of Costa Rica. However Guanacaste operators are reporting the highest occupancy, at 90% and this trend is the same for owners of rental homes and condos. Some rooms are booked a year in advance for the period that goes from the third week of December through April.

The economic situation in Costa Rica as well as the stability in the US and Europe are factors that may have contributed to the jump in tourists. Another possibility is the effect of campaigning efforts done over the last few years to promote Costa Rica as a tourist destination. Another major reason for the high number in Guanacaste is the many new arrivals at the Liberia International airport. It is so much easier to get here.

In past years most of the visitors came from the US a whopping 40% and 15% from Europe. Let’s not also forget about the local tourists as well. Costa Rica citizens love the beaches and flock to the Pacific coast beaches every opportunity they get for a few days of vacation, fun and sun.

I have been working with some clients for almost 5 years now and they have not pulled the trigger, maybe they are scared, maybe Costa Rica is not for them. But those that have I have to say they made the right choice.


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits January '16


 

Wow, December was an incedible busy month in the Costa Rica realetsate industry, Sorry I missed last month postings.

2.6 million visitors to Costa Rica during 2015

Costa Rica tourism achieved a new record in 2015. A record-breaking 2.66 million tourists from around the world came to this small Central America paradise. That is over half the population of all of Costa Rica from the last census that was taken, counting 4.8 million people.

The U.S. is Costa Rica’s largest tourism market, with new airlines making Costa Rica a destination as one of the top reasons for the growth. The increasing number of tourists also helped the tourism sector swell by 9 percent in 2015, which help providing more jobs and growth in the country’s economy.

According to figures from the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT), the tourism sector was responsible for more than $2.8 billion in revenue during 2015 and employs roughly 600,000 people in Costa Rica

The United States is by far the largest single market for tourists to Costa Rica, totaling roughly 40 percent of all visitors in 2015. The average U.S. visitor to Costa Rica stays for just over 11 days and spends an average of $1,340, according to ICT figures.

Nearly 400,000 tourists from Europe visited last year, including an important increase in British tourists. Thanks to new direct flights from British Airways, there was a 20 percent increase in tourists from the United Kingdom, the second largest percentage increase per country after China. China still has a relatively small number of visitors but saw 29 percent growth in 2015 over 2014.

It is getting easier and easier to come to Costa Rica with flight from many US and Canadian destinations and airline offering service as in Delta, American, JetBlue, United, Spirit, Air Alaska, Southwest, Air Canada, Rouge and not to forget the many different charters that arrive weekly as well.

So start looking for the flights that work for you, you won’t be sorry

 

 

10% foreign beer tax challenged

If you do not like the local beers of Costa Rica, the most popular are Pilsen and Imperial, and want to drink say Budweiser or Corona or Fosters or Heineken, you have to pay an additional ten percent more to buy the drink than if they were Costa Rican products.

This is one of those little known taxes that have been in force for years. In the case of the beer tax, the law went into effect in 1936. But now it is being challenged. A constitutional appeal has been lodged with the Supreme Court and they agreed to hear the case.

The names of those making the appeal were not available, but you can bet it is one of the big international beer companies. The basis of the claim is international commercial treaties that say foreign products should not face price discrimination.

Not this is will really make a difference, only if the Supreme Court agrees with the plaintiff. Otherwise the tax will still remain in effect. So forget your fancy beers from other places, you coming or came to Costa Rica to enjoy what we have to offer, not the same old thing you are used to back home and start to really feel the vibes of Costa Rica by drinking the local beers and while you are at it, leave your taste for McDonald behind as well.

 

Bullfights and horse shows, the Costa Rica way

The holidays may be over in some places, but in Costa Rica, January is the season for festivals. This time of year, nearly every town holds an annual fiesta cívica with horse parades called topes, carnival rides, greasy food, lots of cold beer and corridas.

Corridas is the Tico-style of bullfights, it is not what you expect at all. Have you ever climbed into a bull ring with a 2500 pound animal with 2 spears on its head?   Well that’s basically what it is, where an everyday Pablo, Juan or Ricardo can go up against bulls in the ring and the only weapon he has is his feet.

First let me tell you about the Tope, or the horse parade. If you love horses this is an event not to miss. Hundreds and depending on the towns festivals could be thousands, of horses in the parade. Many show of their pride and joy steed while all dressed up in their best. Usually riding side by side or in groups of friends, they head down through the main part of a town until they all end up at one final destination. Drinking beer, and Cacique or any other sorts of libation, all the while laughing and have a great time the rider pass streets are packed with spectators taking in the beautiful horses.

Unfortunately there are the few that get out of hand and do not take proper care of their animals, it is a shame but that’s life, there will always be idiots in the world no matter what country you are in. But overall this Costa Rica tradition is well worth seeing. I love them.

Now for the Costa Rica Style bull fights. It really is not what you are thinking, not like they do in Spain where they purposely try to kill the bull. Here in Costa Rica it really is more of a rodeo.

Now this is where it gets a bit crazy, or in my opinion pretty stupid but who am I to criticize. After a rider comes out of the shoot on top of the bull and is thrown from the bull, professional rodeo clowns, however they don’t dress like the clowns in a rodeo in North America, will run out to distract the bull so the rider can get away safely.  Now comes the crazy part.  So far the events resemble a traditional rodeo, right?  Well any member of the audience can enter the ring to face down the bull. These unarmed amateurs rodeo clowns (I used a nice word there but I wanted to say nut cases), known in Spanish as improvisados, taunt the bulls while trying to avoid being gored. In the bull ring there are no rules, except for one: no one kills the bull.

The crowd starts cheering for the bull now, while drunks jump into the ring (really you have to a bit intoxicated to consider getting in a ring with a bull);  I have watched this happen many times and it never ceases to amaze me people actually do this. It never turns out good, well it does for the bull at least. Many people get speared or trampled or thrown high into the air by the bull, it can be a bloody mess for sure. Once a guy gets hurt by a bull he is picked up and passed thru a window in the arena with a red cross on it the window closes.  

It is a sight to see for yourself, you just can’t describe this. It is a tradition and a crazy one but that’s a Bull Fight in Costa Rica. If this freaks you out just enjoy the Tope and greasy food and the cold beer just like a carnival any were in the world

 

 

Some tropical foods you thought you knew

Processed ready to eat food are what a lot of people are used to they shop for dinner. Does not matter if it is slice cold cuts, premade potato salad or even frozen ready to microwave pasta, sometimes the foods we eat the most are those we know the least about.

Even going to farmers markets in Costa Rica doesn’t tell the whole story. Many of the foods and spices bought in markets are still mostly finished products, sometimes far removed from how they look hanging from a tree or coming out of the ground.  Here are a few foods and spices grown in Costa Rica that you definitely know but may have never seen them in a natural state.

Tapioca it just not pudding

Remember the tiny soft beads in your grandmother’s tapioca pudding or for the gourmand, the larger gum drop size garnish in a classical French carrot soup. Well tapioca comes from cassava root a starch extracted from the root. Here in Costa Rica it is prepared many different ways like a fried snack on a bar menus or mashed up to make puree or used as a common dessert ingredient.

But be careful if you try to do it yourself first time, make sure you are buying the sweet variety, which is what is sold in most market, because if the cassava root isn’t cooked properly before eating, it can deliver a deadly dose of cyanide.

Cashews not just a nut

Ever wonder why they are so expensive? Here is a mind blower, cashews are not nuts, they are seeds! Cashew trees produce a yellow or red apple-like fruit and the seed grows at the bottom of the fruit

After the seed is harvested, it’s toasted to open the outer shell to reveal the “nut.” The cashew nuts can be eaten raw or lightly toasted with slat as most are used to having them.

The cashew “apple” isn’t as well known but it is edible. The fruit upon first bit is sweet and very  bit there is a strong astringent taste afterwards that will make you pucker like no sour candy you ever had. One Local fried taught me a way to make it that is quiet enjoyably, Puree the fruit in a blender add a bit of honey fresh mint and milk, then pass through a sieve to remove the skins and drink down. It is refreshing on a hot day. Be careful though drink too much and you end up with a really dry mouth like after drinking lemon aid.

Cacao – It’s what makes Chocolate

Be it a chocolate candy bar or a tin of cocoa, few things travel farther from from their natural state than a cacao pod. The yellow or rusty-colored pods hanging off low trees in clumps look more like alien eggs sacks than the raw ingredient for many people’s favorite sugar fix.

Farmers crack open the pods to get at the white, flesh-covered seeds inside. After a fermentation process, the beans are dried and lightly roasted. The roasted beans are broken up and the hulls separated from the nibs. At this point the nibs can be eaten as is, as a complex, slightly bitter snack. But before it becomes a chocolate bar, the nibs are crushed into a paste called chocolate liquor and mixed with sugar to produce a mix of cocoa butter and cocoa solids that chocolatiers eventually place into molds.

Coconuts the unripen variety

If you have even been here to Costa Rica and have not seen this you must be blind, haha. If you have been to any beach in Costa Rica there is always someone selling Pipa Fria.

Ppipas as they are called here are immature coconuts that still have their outer husk attached. Besides the sweet water inside a pipa, the water/juice is packed with natural electrolytes which help replenish a thirsty body. Sever cold and ready to drink right out of the shell it has to be one of the most refusing natural beverages you can find. Nothing artificial here just a great gift from Mother Nature

So the next time you’re at the beach or anywhere in costa Rica have one you won’t be sorry and for the hard core person, add a little rum for a great cocktail

Vanilla, it not ice cream

Vanilla is far from white.  The next time you dig into a dish of vanilla ice cream and I mean real vanilla ice cream, which happens to be one the most expensive spices out there. Look to see if there are blackish brown specs in it, if not it is made with extract of a fake.

Vanilla is actually the seed pod of the species of orchid that grows in tropical zones, including Costa Rica. The flower is originally from Mexico but grows all across Latin America’s tropical zones.

If you have never seen a real vanilla pod they are pretty ugly, but the flavor is so intense it is a truly special spice. The reason for the high cost of real vanilla is the cultivation and preparation to get it ready to sell retail.

Vanilla orchids are self-pollinating but they’re very fickle. If the flower is not pollinated within a day of opening it falls off, ruining the chance for the bean to form. That means vanilla on any commercial scale must be pollinated by hand as soon as the flowers open. Another reason for the high cost

So when eating vanilla, savor the flavor, close your eyes and dream of the tropics, it just may be one of best things you do.


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits November '15


Ever wonder why people leave the U.S. for Costa Rica

I am proud to be an American, but so totally disenfranchised with the way the US tax system just keeps trying to get in my pocket, even here in Costa Rica.

The expatriate group “American Citizens Abroad” has urged the U.S. Congress to delay a measure that would strip citizens of their passports if they were delinquent with tax payments. How about going after the politicians that are delinquent with their taxes?? Wouldn’t that be nice for a change! Ha, I must have got too much sun at the beach before writing this.

The organization said that the tax provision has been added to a transportation bill, which is just another way to slide hidden taxes and pork belly projects into a new law, it happens all the time.  The measure authorizes the revocation or denial of passports if the holder owes, what the U.S. Internal Revenue Service claims, key word here is “claims” is more than $50,000 in taxes. A tax debt of $50,000 initially appears large, and a person might think will I am under that amount I only own a few thousand, but  the IRS piles on penalties and interest on even the smallest claim and compounded it can hit that $50K mark pretty fast.

American Citizens Abroad called the measure draconian and discriminatory. I call it just plain stupid, as many people will be affected by this, and you know how the IRS is just an upstanding honest US government agency that is?

Let me give you an example of how an unsuspecting expats worldwide, not just Costa Rica, which has been paying taxes anyway, can get caught in this quagmire.  If you purchased a property in Costa Rica or anywhere outside of the US, there is an IRS form that needs to be filled out every year you own the property, it is IRS Form 5471. Even though the purchase is not a taxable event, the lovely IRS will penalize you $10,000 for not submitting this form with your annual filings for every year that it goes un-filed. See how quick you can get to $50,000.

The United Sates is just one of a few countries that tax its citizens on earnings overseas, something expat advocacy organizations oppose.

Recommendation: if you own foreign properties, whether you live in the US or not, I highly recommend you contact your tax advisor to discuss this situation.

 

Long time coming and glad it is here

I am so stoked that the new SAND BAR restaurant has opened up in Playa Hermosa. Kent the owner is making sure that food and service is what North Americans expect. Finally a real sports bar in Playa Hermosa with 6 flat screen TV and sports on every one of them. The SAN BAR is Located on the main road in Playa Hermosa at the entrance of Hermosa heights development. Stop on by and you won’t be disappointed.  Take it from a retired chef and restaurant owner this is the place to go when here in Playa Hermosa for fun casual dining and drinks.

 

Try the many great and unique items on the menu.  I loved the crostini with marinated vegetable and local cheese and fresh basil. If you are into some of the traditional bar foods the jalapeno poopers are to die for, fresh not frozen and made in house. The Burgers and there are a few different types to choose from are big, tasty and juicy. The Bacon Man Candy is a great item and who does not like bacon?? Well maybe a vegetarian but there are options for them as well. They just don’t know what they are missing.

       

Now there is an option in Hermosa to watch NFL games on Sunday and here’s the kicker that I Love, try the Bloody Mary bar, lots of neat options and one heck of a way to start a Sunday football tail gate party and best of all you don’t even have to leave the place.

Makes sure you stop on by on December 5th for the official grand opening, it will be a blast with food and drink specials music and all the college football you can handle and few other sports as well.

 

 

Help build a Costa Rica animal hospital, with a virtual brick

Great news for pets and those lovely little four legged fur children in Costa Rica, and for those looking for ways to help them: A new animal hospital is in the works.

Dog food company “Super Perro” ( Super Dog) plans to build the hospital, which will operate on an ability-to-pay basis. Pet owners who can afford the care for their pets will help subsidize care for those who can’t and for street dogs and other ownerless or abandoned animals.

The animal hospital in Costa Rica will be administered in conjunction with the Animal Rescue Association (Rescate Animal). Rescate Animal estimates that there are approximately two million homeless dogs in the country.  The hospital will offer surgery, basic care, grooming and emergency services. It will also include a pharmacy. The goal is to also have two ambulances for emergencies and to visit animals in remote areas. The hospital’s backers hope to make it financially sustainable through its solidarity model, to avoid relying on the government or donations.

Super Perro already has the funds to build the hospital, but it wants 50,000 people to join a virtual building campaign in order to get started on the actual construction. Collaborators can create a “virtual brick” with their name or their pet’s name on it. Those virtual bricks will then become an actual “wall of collaborators” in the hospital. Less than 6,000 bricks are needed to get started so they are pretty close. I did one for each of my sweet dogs that passed on and for the three dogs I presently have. All of them adopted from animal shelters or from the streets of Costa Rica. Find more information about the initiative and create your virtual brick on the Super Perro Ayuda website

In the Playa Del Coco area, there is a great group of loving caring people that run an association called CARE Coco Animal Responsibility and Education. This great organization has done wonders over the years in the area.  With monthly spaying clinics to help with the spread of unwanted litters, this organization has spayed almost 3000 animals in the area   here is a link to their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Care-Coco-280887885318429/?fref=ts . Like and help them out with a small donation if you love animals.  The annual fundraiser bash is coming up check it out.

 

Do you love Sushi and fresh Seafood?

If you happen to be lover of good food you have to stop in and see my friends Tammy and Ian at the El Quijote Bar and Restaurant in Playa Hermosa. Located on the second beach entrance a block and half from the beach, this charming little restaurant is a must stop in.

 

This happens to be one of my favorite restaurants in the area. The Sushi is always fresh and beautifully presented. One of my favorites is the spicy tuna hand rolls, packed with fresh tuna, avocado, crispy cucumber and lots of other tasty treats.  Looking for true fresh water eel or as it is properly called UNAGI? You won’t be sorry you ordered it here. How about a whole fresh snapper or a mixed seafood and pasta dish? All prepared fresh and won’t leave hungry. There are choices for everyone try some of the great appetizes as well my too favorites are Thai Chicken and the Australian Tuna Taco.  Don’t like seafood, try the Mongolian ribs, the meat falls off the bone and the glaze has just the right touch of sweetness to complement the other exotic flavors.

 

Makes sure you stop in on Friday nights as there is live music and a upbeat atmosphere. With a refreshed look the restaurant has a nice comfortable feel and is the only restaurant in Playa Hermosa that is air-conditioned all the time, perfect for after a day on the water and you need some A/C to cool your sun soaked skin.

 

Working to ban nonbiodegradable plastic bags in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly’s Environmental Commission approved the addition of a new article to Law 8,839 on waste management. Hopefully this will pass the full Assembly and if enacted into the law it would prohibit businesses from packaging products in disposable plastic bags.

We all know what plastic is made of right, if you don’t let me tell you, most are made from natural gas, oil and coal. It is a unfortunate thing when I see plastic bags just thrown on the ground as I looks like crap but also can cause all sorts of problems.

The new provision in the law would give businesses five years to stop using nonbiodegradable plastic bags, and require supermarkets and other stores to offer customers the option of bags made from reusable materials or biodegradable plastic.

Remember years ago you would go to the grocery store and the bags were paper? Then all the uproar was the forest are being depleted and it was not environmentally sustainable. So in came plastic, well it causes even more damage than the removal of trees. At least trees can be replanted and regenerated and paper is fully biodegradable, but NOOOO the environmental terrorists would not have it.

The proposal would exclude nonbiodegradable plastic only “for the preservation or protection of food or any other product in which the use of alternative packaging methods is not feasible.”

It also would require all businesses offering reusable or biodegradable bags to clearly inform consumers of the bags’ prices and to include those costs in receipts.  If approved, experts from the Health Ministry and the Environment Ministry would have a six-month period to outline the steps to implement the new regulations and to define criteria under which plastic shopping bags could be considered biodegradable.

Let’s see what happens, I personally hope that reusable cloth bags are the final say, but I am sure some nut job will find something wrong with that as well.


Up-Date Costa Rica News Bits October '15


Costa Rica Craft Beer! Really?

When I first came to Costa Rica in 1999 there were only three brands of beer you could get, over the years the major manufacturer has added a few more brands to the mix. However for real beer drinkers it was not cutting it. Even many Ticos craved and wanted something different than the regular commercialized beer that is available. 

The good news is that the Microbrewery/Craft beef craze has finally made a foothold in Costa Rica and is doing very well. This year alone 37 new products have been given permission to be on the market. In fact over 78 different brands have ben registered with the Ministry of Health in the last five years. Just in my small area of Playa Del Coco we now have 3 great restaurants that are also creating some pretty unique offerings in the craft been segment; Monkey Head Brewing, Angry Goat Brewing and Garden248 Gastro Pub. All offer something for everyone.

Personally I am not a big beer drinker or connoisseur of beers, I preference is rum and that’s a complete different subject that I won’t get into here. But just a quick note, there are some unbelievable great rums being produced in Central America.

With approximately 15 microbreweries and even more craftsmen making and selling their own drinks in brewpubs, which do not need the same permissions as the commercial companies that sell in supermarkets., the offerings are never ending everything from traditional stouts to sweet or bitter, dark or light, even fruit and spicy chili flavored brews. I am a lover of spicy food so when I had the opportunity to try a beer flavored with spicy chili I jumped on it. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how good it was, not to hot but just the right hint of spice that did not leave your lips on fire or running for a glass of ice water.  The choices are going to be limitless.

Costa Rica’s gourmet beer market is growing fast but still in the early stages. I am looking forward to what the future has to offer even though beer is not my first choice.

 

Costa Rica Tops Worst Countries to Drive

I am sure you heard of the app Waze? Well they (WAZE) recently compiled the driving experience from users in 32 countries and 167 metro areas around the world to come up with what they called the world’s first “Driver Satisfaction Index”

The index was based on a sliding scale from a 10 for ‘satisfying’ to a 1 for ‘miserable’. Some of the factures that were used included traffic level and severity of traffic jams, road quality and infrastructure and weather. Then they added thing like access to gas stations, gas prices and ease of parking. Well Costa Rica ranked amongst the 10 worst countries in which to be a motorist. BULL CRAP!!!

However, I want to make personal observation here, I am a Waze user here in Costa Rica and I never was contacted about this or even saw a notification about the questionnaire. I know they most likely used the central valley around San Jose for ranking of Costa Rica. And you know what they are right. Have you ever tried to get from the airport to down town San Jose for a 8 AM meting?? If yes you know what I am talking about. It could take over an hour and half to go a measly 12 miles if that. But up here in the Guanacaste area near the coast of Playa Hermosa and Playa Del Coco, a traffic jam is when I am waiting for the cows to pass from one pasture to another! Yes we do have some bad traffic up here, I am not going to lie, but that happens around Christmas week when thousands of people come from, you guessed it, the central valley of San Jose, to come to the beaches for the holidays.

Rounding out the 10 worst countries were the Philippines, Panama, Indonesia, Romania, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala and El Salvador, which bottomed the list.

The Netherlands took top bidding as the best country for drivers, ( that’s because there are more bikes than cars there) while the United States ranked third.

When it came to ranking metro areas, metro Manila, in the Philippines was rated he worst traffic on earth. So Costa Rica is not that bad after all!!

 

 

Oops, I Just Passed a Cop Speeding!

Costa Rica’s Law enforcement officers may soon be able to write traffic tickets and enforce the traffic laws. A new agreement between the Ministry of Public Security (MSP) and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT) is expected to be signed soon, according to La Nacion newspaper.

What does this really mean? Well before this agreement the only police that could give you a ticket for a traffic violation, say speeding, was a Transit Police (Policia de Transito) office. I can’t tell you how many times I passed a Fuerza Publica (public police force) car on the highway and did not even bat an eye at it knowing they had no authority for traffic violations, that won’t happen any longer.

To me this only make sense and finally the two police departments are doing something about it. The reason relates to the low number of transit officers in the country, according to officials. There are only 763 transit officers to patrol the entire country’s approximate 29,000 miles of roadways, and there are probably 18 times that many police in the Fuerza Publica running around.

Officials said that the first goal is to train 1,000 law enforcement officers in traffic enforcement, with the ultimate goal of training all 14,000 of the country’s law enforcement officers.

 

Shipping a Car to Costa Rica? 14 or older forget about it

I know many people and few businesses that try to avoid paying the high import taxes on cars by shipping in an older vehicle to Costa Rica. I know I did it myself a few years back. This is about to change, I do not know exactly when but it is coming. I am sure of it.

Many find an inexpensive vehicle in the USA or Canada or own one that they just don’t want to part with and ship it to Costa Rica and the main reason is looking at the total cost, they pay about the same amount for buying a car here. As well all may know cars are very expensive here.

Importation of used vehicles has always been laden with rules, restrictions and fees and soon there will be even more.  As of now the average age of vehicles in Costa Rica is 16 years old, but not for long.

The Vice Minister of Transport announced that an agreement was made by the Ministry of Public Transport Automotive Chamber and Ministry of Finance to ban the import of vehicles over 14 years old.

Starting in January vehicles older than 2002 models will officially not be allowed, but it is unclear how long it will take to actually start enforcing the rule. Additionally, the vehicles imported will have to meet both European and US standards regarding their environmental impact.

The idea behind this is to lower the air pollution in Costa Rica, where 80 percent of the air pollution comes from cars. However I think the real issues here is the tax dollars the government is not collecting.

If you are planning on shipping a car anytime soon before the change, you might need to start the shipping process right away. Better safe than sorry


Update-Costa Rica News Bits September '15


Costa Rica is 2nd Favorite Home Buying Destination in the Americas

In the past few years, more and more North Americans have been interested to buy vacation homes or looking to retire abroad. There are many reasons why, it could be to spend quality time in a tropical location or to get away from a freezing cold of winter.

For many people it is a way to diversify their financial holdings and for many it is a way to stretch their saving further after they retire. For some it is a lower cost of living, and for me it was to get away from the rat race of a Type A society. Love Living in Costa Rica it is a simpler lifestyle and hey who hates going to the beach almost every day?

To determine which countries are popular among Americans, a report presented by Point2Homes “Top 20 Home Buying Destinations in the Americas” used search patterns and keywords about real estate and properties. Countries were ranked based to their popularity. According to the final report Costa Rica comes in second with 29,910 average monthly searches. Most of the countries on the list are tropical countries, warmer, more lay back, and allow a more affordable lifestyle, not all that far away from the Type A societies like the US. 

With Costa Rica being ranked #2, it is no surprise to me, hence why I love living here and it just gives back up what I have always thought and preached to many happy buyers.

The reasons can go on and on and on, I try to make these a shorter more informational form of reading. If you would like more information please feel free to email me any time at Jaacehef@gmail.com

 

Rules of the road, new regulations starting in January

Have you ever been in a fender bender in Costa Rica? If yes you know what an ordeal it can be!        You are not supposed to move the cars until the police arrive which can be hours. A new decree signed by President Solis which will take effect in January 2016 states that anybody involved in minor accident that have no inquiries to involved, do not have to await for the police to arrive..

Those involved in the accident will have to fill out forms electronically that will be on the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes web site. Drivers are encouraged to take photos or videos of the situation for verification and any disputes that may arise.

This will hopefully help with traffic situations as well. I was stuck on the Intra American Highway last week for 3 hours because of a fender bender, and the participants waiting for the Police to arrive.

 

Lower electrical rates that were promised In Costa Rica, approved!

ARESP, the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos, says it has approved a 6.31 percent rate cut for the generating electricity within Costa Rica. This means lower rates charged to the various different distribution companies and hence will be passed on to businesses and homeowners.

The decrease in electric rates for customers will average about 2.82 percent, the agency said. Commercial will get a higher percentage of a rate cut. The new rates will be applied in October through December for all eight of the distribution companies. The rate cuts are in response to needing less fossil fuel to generate electricity.

 

The Cost of Living in Costa Rica too high, I say it’s worth it

There are hundreds of the great things that bring people from all walks of life to visit or live permanently in Costa Rica. One of the main reasons Costa Rica looks so enticing and attractive to foreigners is the affordable cost of living in this beautiful country.

As you may or may not know Costa Rica has something for everyone; whether you are an investor, a retiree, a part time vacationer or a tourist. With Costa Rica being a peaceful nation with lush forest and verdant surroundings, 2 oceans teeming with life, grand volcanoes, picturesque scenery, never-ending adventures, friendly natives and so much more this is the location you have been looking for.

Yes it is true that the cost of living in Costa Rica is highest Central America but not in Latin American. Compare this to many North American cities Costa Rica is still considerably cheaper. With the growing of number of tourist arriving every year and with more people retiring and relocating to Costa Rica the rise in the cost of living has not put a dent on these numbers.

Now I am sure you must be curious as to what is the cost of living in Costa Rica.

Considering the cost of living in Costa Rica can be different from one area to another, as it is any country, it all depends on the way you live your life. Say you have a limited income or fixed income of about $1,500.00 USD per month you will live very comfortably in an off the beaten track area where there are fewer amenities and the infrastructure will be a bit lacking. On the other hand if you have a monthly income of $2,500 and up you can be living in an area close to the beach with lots of shopping, restaurants, medical services, airport and lot of other amenities and live really nicely.

However I have to say that not everything in Costa Rica is expensive. Let’s look at property taxes; they are only ¼ of one percent of the registered municipal value of the property. Too many people over look this as it is built in a traditional mortgage payment in North America. To break it down a bit further, a property valued at $200,000 USD, the monthly property tax is $41.66 per month or 500 a year, think about that for a moment, that’s cheap. A few more examples follow: can you hire a full time maid $ 5.50 an hour with all benefits included? How about getting a haircut, I pay $5.00 with tip. Even better is repair work on your car; I was just in the states and took my mons car in for 4 new shocks, oil change, tire rotation and balance and a basic inspection and it cost $1,056.00, here in Costa Rica I would have spent half that amount.   One last thing and I will stop as I can keep going for hours. Health care, I am talking about great health service is also very inexpensive Costa Rica. I know firsthand, I had a cardiac event that required immediate medical air transport, immediate surgery and a week in the hospital and the whole bill was just over $50,000. If I was in the US when this happened, I would be homeless now and not writing this as it would have cost easily 4 to 5 times more

Remember Costa Rica is a very small country that imports most products for daily living. Some items that are expensive include appliances, electronics, imported wines and food products from the US or other countries, and of course cars.

I hear all the time, “God the food in Costa Rica is so expensive”, well yes and no. If you know how to shop you can save almost 25% to 35% by purchasing vegetables and meat at local farmers markets and butcher shops, or local farmers directly instead of buying at a big supermarket chains. Also buy products that are made local like soaps and detergents.

Dining at a high-end restaurant in a tourist area or stopping into a franchised fast food operation is expensive. I ate at a well know international chain the other day, with a friend we had two entree salads and two soft drinks and without tip it was $42.00 but if we ate at a small and locally owned soda, just down the street, with a hefty serving of delicious food it would have cost $7.00 per person including a drink.

You might be saying, “Well I will check out other Central American Countries if they are cheaper”, but with secure and politically stable Costa Rica, better infrastructure than other countries, an educated middle class population and some of the most beautiful places on earth, why would you?

 

Costa Rica’s tax man comes knocking

The Costa Rica Tax Man is calling, but this time for the right reasons. Finance ministry officials put in place a new plan to help eliminate tax evasion that can be rampant here. The plan is to go after self-employed professionals, like most doctors, lawyers, CPA’s, real estate agents and so on.

The ministry started emailing certain people asking them to review their past tax returns, and if needed, make all required corrections. Like that’s really going to happen! I am happy to say as of writing this I have not received one yet nor do I believe I ever will as I make darn sure I never get any notifications from any tax authority.

The email are being sent to owners that have high-value properties and people or corporation that recently purchased a luxury vehicle but turned in tax returns showing low income. If you have a low income in Costa Rica you are exempt from paying income tax.  Also getting the notice are those that filed returns with a lot of people who have a file a lot of write offs or expenses and report a low income

Tax Administration reported they had found certain ways people use to avoid paying taxes, such as writing off domestic house workers’ wages, employee Christmas parties, invoices from grocery shopping and the list of none allowed write offs goes on.

The tax administration plans to use the full force of the laws that are already in place to prosecute offenders. There are also plan to hire a company to help provide officials with a databases for the cross-referencing of potential tax evaders.

So if you have been cheating time to go clean up, you have been notified.



Update-Costa Rica News Bits August 2015


Playa Hermosa’s Blue Flag Recognition Ceremony

Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste is one of the most beautiful beaches on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.  I tend to be a bit biased as I have lived in this paradise for 8 years now.

The town has for many years works hard to keep the beach clean and beautiful and it pays off.  If not for the great people of the Playa Hermosa association who dedicate their time, effort and hard work it would never be this way. Playa Hermosa was recognized, by the Costa Rica Blue Flag Ecological Program (Bandera Azul Ecológica) for a 14th straight year and achieving 2 stars this year. Below is a press release from the organization and below that a great blog explaining the Blue Flag program

Playa Hermosa Associate Click Here

About The Blue Flag Program Click Here

Enjoy the reading, enjoy the beach and let’s share a cold drink when you come to my part of paradise. Looking forward to seeing you here!

 

It’s Been a Long Time Coming!

Ok I was not supposed to say anything, well not divulge specific names or places so I am going to be treading lightly here. Please bear with me.

There is a beautiful piece of land that sits in the Papagayo area very close to Playa Hermosa that for years there had been talk of a high end luxury development. No I am not talking the Peninsula Papagayo and the Four Seasons, that’s already here and actually kind of out of the way. If you have been to this area before you may very well know what I am talking about.

 This update has been confirmed by many reliable sources and a few that are questionable but they knew as well. Now the official announcement may be weeks away, but there has been activity on this property that has not been seen before. Many people, me included have been waiting a long time for this to happen and as you may or may know, things take forever and a day to get accomplished in Costa Rica, hence “Pura Vida” It will be a big plus for the area, not like a Hard Rock Café and Restaurant, which did open last month in Playa del Coco, but much bigger.

If you have been on the fence about owning a piece of property in this area, and you are looking for a place to invest some money for the future, this might be the right time to act.  I am not trying to sell you anything, but as soon as it is announced, watch out! I will do periodic updates on this to keep you in the know, I only wish I could say more in writing.

 

Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Tons of Fun!

From surfing to canopy zip line tours, howler monkeys to luxurious spas, spectacular water falls to sunset cruises. Now that the low season is here there are many good deals to be had. Here is my list of what not to miss when you visit Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

Playa Del Coco – The closest happening beach town to the Liberia International Airport, in the Guanacaste Region. Coco as it is called for short by many locals and expats offer many restaurants, nightlife, casino and beach scenes that draw travelers and locals looking for fun in the sun.

Sport Fishing - In Costa Rica it is legendary, and many fishing charters operate from Playa del Coco and many of the other beach towns along the coast in Guanacaste.

Sunset Ocean Cruise A great way to enjoy the ocean breezes, coastline scenery and sunsets over the Pacific, is on a sailing excursion with a stop or two for snorkeling. Some sailing trips visit deserted beaches or linger at sea watching whales and schools of dolphins as the pass by.

Santa Rosa National Park – For travelers who want to get away from it all, the beaches of Santa Rosa National Park are the place to go. In fact, the only time it gets crowded here is in the fall, when thousands of sea turtles storm the beach to lay eggs. This park teems with flora and fauna in immense forests that give way to virgin white-sand beaches.  Be warned it is not an easy trek but worth it if your adventurous.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park – Only 1 hour and 20 minutes from Playa Hermosa, this bountiful parkland is famous for its volcanic craters, diverse wild life, thermal mud pots, lush vegetation and hidden waterfalls. Keep your eyes open and you will see some amazing animals

Adventure Tours- Take a zip line tour through the canopy or go horseback riding to towering waterfalls, take a tubing run down a river and hang out and relax in nature’s natural hot tub, the thermal springs from the volcano. My recommendation is to visit Hacienda Guachipelin at the base of the Par c Nacional Rincon de la Vieja  

Palo Verde National Park – This is a must-see for all bird-watchers.  Palo Verde National Park is one of Costa Rica’s best-kept secrets. The Tempisque River lowlands are the place where of thousands of waterfowl and forest bird species abound. Best way to view this wonderful location is by boat, there are many operators that you can choice from. Be ready with your camera as you will see howler monkeys, scarlet macaws and crocodiles.

Barra Honda National Park – This is not for the week at heart. Close to Palo Verde, this underground national park features limestone caves that were part of a coral reef millions of years ago. Strap on a headlamp and climbing gear and descend into an underworld filled with dazzling stalactite and stalagmite formations.

River Tours – Take a rafting tour of the exciting rapids of the Tenorio River, again there are many tour operators that can line this up for you. For those that want it a bit calmer, the Corobici River is excellent for families looking to float down a gorgeous jungle river, surrounded by nature and wildlife.

Surfing- If you are interested in and always wanted to surf, there is no better place than going to Tamarindo.  The Surf break is perfect for the beginner and the experience, with many options of for instructions and rentals. Tamarindo is also a hoping mecca of great restaurant, clubs and shopping. Head a Bit further south and there are many great surfing beaches without the crowds. Playa del Coco has no surf; however it is a prime jumping-off point for boat trips for surfers that want to head to the popular surf breaks of Witches Rock and Ollie’s Point.

World Class Spas – Many of Guanacaste’s world-class spas are located along the beachfront. After all these exciting outdoor adventures, soothe tired muscles with a massage, while watching a glorious sunset over the Pacific.

For the Do It Yourself person you can find all these location on line. For those that would rather have a tour guide, feel free to contact me and I will give you recommendations of my favorite tour operator that will treat you like gold.

 

A Note from One of My Readers

I am not the conceited type, or at least I hope I am not, if I am, Oh God please tell me!!  However I felt pretty good about this email below, I received just after sending out the flyer last month.

I asked permission from the sender to use his exact words and the email he sent me. I did delete, for privacy reasons, his contact information but name is still there.

Meet Howard and his wife a few years ago here in the Playa Hermosa area, if my memory serves me right we spent a day looking at a few properties while they were on vacation. Costa Rica may not have been the right place for them or not the right time as Costa Ria is not for everyone and that’s ok. But for the ones that it works for, I can tell you there are more happy people than unhappy one.

So If Costa Rica is not for you, I would be very grateful if you would pass this on to someone you know that is thinking or talking about Costa Rica. A referral is the greatest compliment that I could receive. Thanks.

Howard I am sure you will be reading this and I wanted to just say THANK YOU for your continued support.

-----Original Message-----

From: Tutwiler, Howard

Sent: Saturday, August 01, 2015 12:56 PM

To: jaaechef@gmail.com

Subject: your news letter

Joseph,

I enjoy receiving your news flooded newsletters and pass them onto friends and relatives I think might be candidates for Costa Rican life. My wife and I visited just a couple of years after you arrived and were most impressed with how you made the adjustment. Speaking Spanish I'm sure helped a lot and neither of us do. Although the possibility of our relocation out of the US is rather small I hope the contact was not wasted and the networking pays off. Congratulations on your success and keep up the good work.

Howard Tutwiler, A.S.I.D.

Pell City, Al

 

 94 days of 100% Clean Power Generation, Set a Record

100% of the electricity generated in Costa Rica for 94 straight days was by clean energy resources, breaking the old record of 75 days set between January and March of this year.

ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) stated that fossil fuels were not used to generate any electricity between May 8 and Aug. 9 of this year.  Costa Rica’s “world leadership” in the clean energy area is certainly something to be proud of.

With a wide range of diversity for generating electricity such as mainly water, geothermal, wind and solar allows ICE the ability not to burn fossil fuels. Over 77% of the electricity generated during that period was produced from hydroelectric power plants, over 12% from geothermal sources, just over 10% came from wind power and bringing up the bottom was sola with less than 1%.

ICE also stated that clean sources will account for nearly 93 percent of the electricity generated this year. Although there is a severe drought along the northern pacific cost and a good part of Guanacaste, the lake Arenal reservoir, is swollen from rain fall and is nearly 30 feet deeper than ICE forecasted for this time of year. This undoubtedly and greatly contributed to ICE’s clean-energy run this year.

Here is the Killer!!

ICE said this week this past month that is implementing a plan to take advantage of the swelling reservoir to generate additional electricity for export onto the grid serving neighboring countries like Panama and Nicaragua. Despite the excess capacity, good will towards mother earth and the cost savings from not needing to burn fossil fuels, ICE requested a rate hike of 13.7%, all I have to say is “are they kidding!”


Update-Costa Rica News Bits July 2015


Playa Hermosa Road Work and Picnic Benches

If you are an owner in the Playa Hermosa area and are a member of the Playa Hermosa Associate you may be already aware of this and I want to thank you for your support if not please keep on reading.

The president of the association sent a note to the Board of Directors recently with some very good news:

The municipality of Carrillo, has started work on the first beach entrance; they will repair holes, work on the curb and re-pave the first beach entrance from main road thru Hermosa to the beach and including the parking area. They have starting with the parking area so please pass the word not to drive to the beach.

The municipality will also pave the public road that is located between Villa del Sueño  Hotel and the El Oasis project. Unfortunately only as far as the bridge over the dry creek ( it really is only a culvert). The rest of the road will be graded and top with Lastre  ( a byproduct stone used for road base ) from the bridge to than end of the road and stopping at the Gaviota development. The estimated time for completion of the work is 3 weeks. Side note by me “I doubt it but at least they have started”.   The resident goes on to say that work on the second entrance will start once the first entrance is finished.

On another note from the Playa Hermosa Association, thanks goes out to the signage committee chairperson for spearheading the replacement and repair of the picnic tables and benches on the beach. One more thanks also goes to one of the property management companies for procurement and installation of the tables and benches.

Support your community! Join now!  www.playahermosabeach.org

Experts Call for More Lifeguards In Costa Rica

With 66 people drowning on Costa Rica’s beaches so far this year, including two U.S. tourists, experts calling for more lifeguards.

There are no laws that require lifeguards on Costa Rica picturesque sandy shores, forcing local communities to scrape together the funds to train and employ their own. Without more resources for beach safety from the central and local governments, experts say that preventable drowning deaths will unfortunately continue. The local municipalities may erect signs warning of rip tides; however a couple signs are not going to save lives. I have written before about the dangers of rip tides and how easily one can get caught in them and drown. People forget that are not swimming in a lake or a pool, this is the Pacific Ocean

A few beaches communities along the coast do have lifeguards, like Jacó, but the guards are stretched too far apart to effectively survey the water for trouble. Other beach communities have taken water safety seriously. Some of the better known beaches on the Nicoya Penisular like Tamarindo in Guanacaste, Playa Guiones in Nosara, Santa Teresa and Mal País, are all good examples of beaches for water safety with the addition of life guards.

More than 45 people have been trained as lifeguards and emergency responders in Tamarindo alone by the Lifeguard Association. A big thank you goes out to local businesses that donated money for the lifeguard salaries and towers.

So as a reminder when you come to Costa Rica, please be careful when enjoying the pristine beaches as there might not be life guards where you are.

 

Flood Emergency In Costa Rica’s Northern Zone

The northeastern section of Costa Rica has been hit by wave and wave of tropical storms with heavy rains, and the national emergency commission had issued its highest alert for the province of Limón, and the cantons of Sarapiquí and Turrialba. The weather patterns are not letting up said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

Thousands of people are now in public shelters as the flooding has caused rivers to overflow their banks, road problems and bridge collapses in 90 communities in 15 cantons. The emergency commission said at that the areas have been hit with more than 15 days of rain at least 94 communities have access problems, and the rivers continue to rise.

Route 32, the main road from San Jose to the province of Limon has been closed many times due to torrential rain and the expectation of landslides.

The Pacific side of Costa Rica is facing just the complete opposite with severe drought in many locations. All of this is due to the El Nino effect in the Pacifico ocean

 

Local Realtors Giving Back

The Costa Rica Global Association of Realtors held the 14th Annual Charity Golf Open at the exclusive Reserva Conchal Golf Course and Beach Club in Guanacaste. The association every year chooses a school or association to donate the funds to that are raised. This year, the event benefited the Amigos de la Educacion Foundation. I played, if you want to call it playing golf, in this event every year except one since I have been living here in Costa Rica

The event was kicked off with a welcome cocktail party courtesy of Latitude Blue, the night before the golf event. The golf part was a two-player scramble format, and we still did not do well. After the tournament, there was a luncheon, presentation of the awards, raffle prizes and a live auction, all to raise more funds

Amigos de la Educación, is a non-profit educational and scholarship foundation that provides quality educational services to students and teachers from kindergarten through university living in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.  Amigos de la Educación awards scholarships to students with genuine financial needs to further their education based on their academic, attendance and social skills. Currently they sponsor 12 scholarships in local Guanacaste grade schools, high schools and universities.

Hopefully next year my partner and I will play better golf, but who really cares, it is for a great cause and we have a lot of fun.

 

Costa Rica Gas Prices to Drop in August

Fuel prices at Costa Rica gas stations will be ₡4.74 cheaper per liter starting August (about .03 cents per gallon). This is due to orders signed by the Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) . ARESEP officially informed the state-owned Costa Rican Oil Refinery (RECOPE) that it has to lower fuel prices in order to return to the public ₡1,109 million ($2 million) spent improperly.

Results from an audit conducted in late 2014 at the request of lawmakers from the Legislative Commission on Public Spending and Income Control found irregularities in expenses reported by RECOPE during the expansion and modernization of its refinery in the Caribbean port of Limón.

According to the audit RECOPE improperly included project costs such as salaries, airline tickets, travel expenses and professional services in one of its requests to ARESEP to raise fuel prices. Those expenses should have never been charged to Costa Ricans at gas pumps, the investigation found.

 

A Note to all Sellers, No Matter Where you live

Do you want your property to sell? Of course you do! You contacted a realtor and want to list it for sale. However did you take their advice? This client to the left did just that and the home is under contract in less than a month in a slow market. Did you price yours correctly to sell? Unfortunately depending on the market you are selling in, you may have to take a haircut.

When you contact a realtor you are hopefully working with a professional. They should be well aware of the local market and have insight as to what other properties around yours have sold for. Some counties, as in Costa Rica, do not have the luxury of a MLS system. Knowledge is king in the success of selling your property along with a lot of other important factors. Ask lots of questions and pay attention to what is answered. Someone that skirts the question, you may want to find another realtor. Always work with a reputable agent, someone that has been in the local market and knows it. If the agent has too many listing, how can they give you the attention you need? If they have none there may be a reason. If the agent offers to discount their commission structure right of the bat, this is a sign you should walk away and fast. If a professional dose not even value themselves, how do you expect them to value you and your property?

Unfortunately you may have to take a loss on the sale. This is not the realtors fault so don’t blame them. They are there to help you sell. Most clients in my market, which is a second home/vacation home market, over price their properties for the current market conditions. Then they wonder why it sits for months on end. I have seen some on the market for over three years, and every six months they lower the price. BIG MISTAKE!! Listen to the pros, they see buyers all the time and know what buyers are looking for, especially in tough times.

Here are a few quotes from sellers I have refused to work for some are pretty funny

“I only paid $100,000 for this condo, but I have made many improvements and it should easily sell for 3 times of what I paid for it! Can you sell it at that price in a month?”

“I know the house needs work but I want to make a big profit on it like my neighbor next to me”

“I think you commission should be 1% since realtors really don’t work hard all you do is walk people in the house”

This next one was my favorite of all time, can you believe this seller?

“Just because the guy next to me has chickens, pigs and an old Mercedes on blocks in his yard, how does this affect my price?”

So remember take the advice of the professional and selling of you property will be an easy thing.


Update-Costa Rica News Bits June 2015


Fun in the Costa Rica Sun

One of the great things about living in the Playa Hermosa , Guanacaste area, including Playa del Coco, is there is a great selection of sunset cruses to choose from.  When people come to visit me in paradise, we like to plan the last full day of their visit as a sunset cruise.  So you ask, "What makes these cruises so special?"  Let me break down some of the differences.

Most of the trips include all-you-can-eat and drink while on board.  They will take you out past Monkey Head to a beach and allow you to swim, snorkel, and kayak or just walk the beach.  Upon your return, you will be treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets in all of Central America.  The crews will attend to all your needs and do their best to pamper you while on board.

While each boat may vary in price along with the types of food and equipment they have on board, each will provide one of the best experiences of your trip to paradise. 

Prices range from $45 - $85 dollars for a half day cruise.

 

Costa Rica’s Water Authority to fix leaking water systems

AyA, the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers is in the final stages of securing $130 million dollar loan to repair leaks in its water distribution network.  Over 350 miles of pipes are to be completely replaced, and another 3,100 miles of infrastructure will be inspected and repaired.

Presently AyA loses close to 50% of all the water it distributes, mostly due to old infrastructure. A good part of the water distribution system is decades old. So when you read about Guanacaste not having water, it is not for a lack of water but the proper and updated distribution of it.

The Funds will be coming from The Central American Bank for Economic Integration and Germany’s KFW Development Bank. The work is supposed to begin next year and be completed by 2022.

This is another step forward for Costa Rica to make it truly a first world country and a great place to be. There are just some growing pains.

 

Dengue cases down for 2015 In Costa Rica

A whopping 50.4 percent drop compared from last year, the Health Ministry reported. From the beginning of 2015 to the mid part of May there was a total of 1,254 cases reported country wide.

Most of the reports came from the coastal areas of the country. This is due to the fact of more moisture and the cause of standing water. One of the main reasons the numbers are down is because of the drought a good part of the country has been experiencing for almost 2 years now. Some areas of the country are down almost 80% from their normal annual rain fall. Now that sounds like a big number, and it is however some parts of the country receive up to 200 inches of water a year.

Here in the Playa Hermosa area we fall into that category of 80% down on rain fall and it is noticeable. We average about 50 inches a year.

Dengue cases usually go up during Costa Rica’s rainy season, which begins in May and lasts until November. Health officials are continuing to remind residents to any objects that collect and hold stagnant water. Officials currently are lobbying for support at the Legislative Assembly to pass legislation to fine people who fail to destroy objects that can collect stagnant water. This hopefully will help, however I wonder how they would enforce it is it passes?

 

Costa Rica and South Korea working towards FTA

Costa Rica and South Korea will started negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) that would provide duty-free trade on a wide range of products between the two countries, according to reports in local newspapers.

Costa Rica presently exports about $66 million USD to South Korea, while over $300 million is imported from South Korea.

One of the most imported goods from South Korea is vehicles manufactured by Hyundai Motor Group, and cellular telephones from Samsung.  Costa Rica exports to South Korea include scrap metal, coffee, and electronic components.

If this FTA actually happens I would expect the import tax on the Hyundai cars to come down and that would be a great thing. I drive one here and it is a really good vehicle! I am getting ready to purchase a new one, however with this news, I think I will hold off for a bit as it sould bring the price down drastically as the import tax on cars can be as high as 35%

 

 


Update-Costa Rica News Bits May 2015


Southwest Airlines Coming to Liberia Costa Rica

Southwest Airlines announced it will expand its operations in Costa Rica with new flights to Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR) in Liberia, Guanacaste. One flight will arrive from Houston everyday starting November 2 this year and another will arrive from Baltimore on Saturdays starting November 7. Now there are even more options to come to Costa Rica. Best of all, this should help lower the cost since we all know that Southwest is a low-fare airlines, and the others airlines will have to compete or lose passengers.

Now it will be even easier for people from the west coast to get here. I know it will make it easier for me to get to Phoenix to visit family since that is a HUB for Southwest

The new flights will bring to 22 the number of weekly Southwest flights to the country’s international airports in San José and Liberia.

Costa Rica’s Tourism Minister, Mauricio Ventura Aragón said the U.S. carrier’s confirmation is great news for Costa Rica. Ventura also noted the airline’s commitment in flying to the northwestern province of Guanacaste. According to the minister, Southwest’s new flights will further increase the number of international arrivals to Daniel Oduber International Airport, which last year recorded 378,485 visitors, a 14.6 percent increase from 2013.

Southwest recently started daily flights to the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) from Baltimore (BWI), and earlier this year it confirmed the start of a daily flight from Houston to SJO starting in October.

 

Getting the Medication you need in Costa Rica

A very important aspect to consider when thinking about living in Costa Rica for any period of time, you need to ask “Can I get the medications I need to take?”  For most retirees this is a concern and a very valid one.  Well some good news is the blood thinner Xarelto, that treats and prevents blood clots, is now available in Costa Rica. It was approved by the Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud).

A lot of people are concerned about health issues, and rightly so as we do not get younger by the day. Hence why many are moving here because of the excellent private health care and the much lower costs.  Presently I personally take medication for a coronary condition and the drugs are easily available and are less expensive then back in the US.  We have great pharmacies here that will stock the medicationss you need if they do not regularly carry them.  My cardiologist is just amazing and the follow up is unheard of.  Let me ask you this? If you unfortunately have to see a cardiologist, how much does it cost you per visit, without having insurance?  My visits cost me 50,000 colons, about $100.00 US dollars and she performs an EKG every visit. Not bad!!

So next time you come to Costa Rica for a visit, bring a list of you meds with you and stop into a local pharmacy and ask them if they carry what you need, it is just one more important aspect of relocating  or having an extended vacation to Costa Rica.

 

How to get warranty repair work accomplished in Costa Rica

This is a real life first hand experience I tried to keep it short but read on anyway as it is good info.

Last year I was in the process of building a new home here and of course I wanted new appliances, who wouldn’t? So I purchase my entire appliance package from one of the major retailers, named Gollo. I got a pretty good deal on the entire lot, washer, dryer, refrigerator/freezer, gas range, microwave and dishwasher. So here I am six month later and the ice maker in the freezer is on the blink. One day it would fill the ice bin half way and by the time we used ice, which living in the tropics is a need for a gringo, the darn thing would be empty and not make ice for another day. It almost seemed like it had a mind of its one. Make ice today but no, I am off tomorrow; maybe I will make some ice the day after.

So in order to get a service tech out to repair it I contacted the local store where I bought it, this was the procedure the sales rep at Gollo told me to do if I needed warranty help.  So I called them and told them I had a problem with the ice maker. Now here is the important part, I had to make sure I had the original sales receipt, or Factura as it is called here and a good thing I did or the warranty work would not be covered Then I had to take pictures of the serial and model number sticker in the refrigerator and supply them, no big deal with a smart phone. The sales rep then informed me that they would process the warranty claim in house and it could be at least 15 days before I hear directly from the service repair company.  My first thought was ok make a note and in 7 days call back to see the progress.

To my complete and utter surprise, in only three days I get a call directly from the service company, now the tricky part came in, they spoke only Spanish, and I figured out that they wanted to know; when the last time I changed the filter in the refrigerator was. I tried to explain that I have a whole house filtration system and the water dispenser was working fine. Before they would schedule the tech they insisted I change the filter. I asked them if the tech could bring a new filter with him but that did not work. So I had to drive into Liberia to their retail shop and purchase a new filter. Then and only then they would send the tech to fix the ice maker.

 $90.00 dollars and one day later after I changed the filter and called them back to tell them it was installed and working well, we set a day and a time for the tech to come to the house. Now if you have ever read some of my past stuff or other blogs about “TICO TIME” you know if an appointment in Costa Rica is set it does not mean that’s when they will be there, it just an approximation.

The day the tech was supposed to come, between 10:00 am and 12:00 noon, and in my mind it means late afternoon if he even shows up, I get a call from the tech and he is actually 45 minutes early and needs directions to the house.

Jorge, was very professional clean and neat and inspected the icemaker. Again I had to muddle my way thru Spanish, it is getting much better, and explain that it is only making ice when it feels like it. So he took it apart made some adjustments and said it should be good to go. He stayed for 2 hours while it went thru the process and ice dropped in the bin. I shook his hand and off he went. Me happy as can be that this was pretty painless and I now have ice without having to go buy it or deal with the old fashion trays.

The next morning I wake up and out of curiosity I decide to see how the icemaker was working. GRRRRRR not 1 ice cube in the bin. So I called the service company again and told them it was still not working. What shocked me the most was that person on the other line said; Ok we will order a new icemaker and install it when we get it and I asked how long that will be? She said about 2 weeks. Well at least that’s what I understood. 

Again to my surprise and disbelief I got a call three days later from them saying the part was in and Jorge would be over the same day to install. Jorge showed up on time took out the old icemaker installed the new one and waited till it made ice.

I am very happy to say that it is still working great and the service was actually better than I had anticipated or expected.

When you buy any appliance or audio visual equipment in Costa Rica, make sure you ask what is the warranty time, what is the procedure for a warranty claim and save the receipt. In the case of a small appliance, save the box, and you will be pleasantly surprised it will be repaired for free or replaced.

 

Alaska Airlines to open routes between Los Angeles and Costa Rica

Alaska Airlines will begin flying between Los Angeles, California and Costa Rica’s two major international airports starting in October 2015. Are you starting to see a trend here? In last 2 years there have been five major airlines making the choice to come to Liberia’s International airport, I wonder why? Could it be the great weather? The great beaches? The natural beauty? I can keep going on and on.

Alaska Airlines plans to offer four flights a week from Los Angeles to Liberia (Daniel Oduber International Airport, LIR is the code), starting November 1.

So now it is even easier to get here from the west coast of North America and Canada with more options of not having to go thru Houston.

Hermes Navarro del Valle, who’s in charge of recruiting new airlines on behalf of the ICT, ( the Institute of Tourism for Costa Rica) stated negotiations took more than three years and that they were able to finalize the agreement during a visit to the U.S. to promote the country as an ideal destination from Los Angeles.

Also announcing new service to Costa Rica is Spirit Airlines; they will have a new route from Houston to San Jose four time a week starting  in the end of May, this year. However if you plan to be in Guanacaste, and fly into San Jose, remember it is a 4 hour drive to get here. Better to fly into Liberia’s International airport LIR is the code.


Update-Costa Rica News Bits April 2015


Are You Ready To Be An Expat in Costa Rica?

I have given this some thought over the last few months. I have been an expat for over seven years now, I’d like to share some of the items I feel you need to do or think about before making this kind of move. It really takes a special person, or one that I say sometimes, has a screw loose upstairs or is not quite wired like the rest of society. Who knows this may not be such a bad thing?

Not everyone is cut out to be an expat in Costa Rica or anywhere for that matter.  It can be a unique and life-changing experience for sure, hands down, it could also be rewarding and a pain in the neck as well sometimes, and it all depends on you and your attitude.

In order to see if this is right for you, I put together some thoughts of what a person should consider before just packaging their bags and heading off to Costa Rica. The most important thing to do is your homework and research beforehand.  I did my homework before hand - learn as much as you can about where you are going. You should know about the weather, what the residency laws are, what are you going to do for healthcare, what type of insurance is available, and much more. You’ll want an idea of what your moving costs will be.  As well as the upfront costs for a house purchase or long-term rental. Getting a loan in Costa Rica (for a foreigner) is very tough.  For example, the laws have changed and to get a Costa Rican driver’s license, you now must be a resident. Don’t forget about banking, credit cards, and bill payments, especially with the lack of a reliable postal service.  Putting together a smart plan will help make your move to Costa Rica as an expat a great experience.

Do you like adventure? You better! This pretty much goes without saying as it can be an everyday adventure until you finally get into the swing of things. If you like to explore new places and see things you’ve never seen before, then you have come to the right place.

You need to be patient!  Remember, this is not Kansas Dorothy.  There are many cultural differences and as an expat, understanding and assimilating to them will be your key to success.  Are you an “ON TIME” type of person? Well, on time in Costa Rica means 15 to 20 minutes later than told and sometime even later.  This is loosely referred to as “Tico time”.  Get used to it if you decide to relocate here.  In Costa Rica “mañana” really does not mean “tomorrow”, it means when we get to it. That’s why you hear “Pura Vida” all the time; it is the laid-back idea that you fell in love with on vacation, but now you have to live it day in and day out.  

You should be self-confident but not a know it all. If you are intimidated by not knowing Spanish and you don’t try, you will be frustrated pretty quick. Besides, the people of Costa Rica are always willing to help you to communicate in Spanish. Most of the time a Tico will bend over backwards to help you understand, but don’t be pushy or raise your voice or they will shut down like a bank at 5PM sharp. If you believe in yourself and your ability to politely deal with people then you’re good to go.

You should be resourceful. Don’t expect to find every convenience you were used to back home, especially when you go grocery shopping. Yes you will find brands that you used in your home country but when you see the price, you may go into sticker shock. Learn to utilize the products that were manufactured in the region or in Costa Rica. You will be surprisingly pleased that they are pretty good products. Some of the brand names you know are even made here; just learn to read the labels. Be adventurous try that funny looking fruit. You have heard of the internet right? Well look it up, there has to tons of information about what to do with it.

I mentioned Pura Vida above, this a kind of go-with-the-flow mentality. It is the way most Costa Ricans are. You know the song lyrics “Don’t worry, be happy” well, that’s the same thing. 

If you’re the type of person who can embrace the challenges and find fun in the adventure then you’ll be just fine as an expat in Costa Rica.  I can promise you this as an expat, you will never be bored, believe me. It’s a wonderful life and I have no doubt if you do your homework you won’t be heading back anytime soon

 

Fiscal Value of Costa Rica Properties – Under New Scrutiny

Lawmakers in Costa Rica are moving to crack down on a deceptive practice that has cost the country untold millions in property transfer taxes.  Many lawyers will process real estate transfers transactions by improperly declaring a fake or much lower value of the transaction to help reduce taxes and fees for their clients. What I don’t get is that lawyers are supposed to be the keepers of the LAWS, here it seems some but certainly not all as there are really good and ethical lawyers here, take it as a way to break the law.

The ones that really suffer are the municipalities and the people or residents that count on the property tax to support the public services. You can’t complain about things like potholes in the roads, trash pickup, water service, road conditions, police protection, when you are not paying your fair share. The property tax is so low to begin with it is only ¼ of 1%. As an example for a $300,000 registered value, property the tax is only $750.00 PER YEAR. If you are spending that kind of money on a property and you can’t afford the tax then maybe you should not buy it.

 I am glad to say that the legal teams I utilize and recommend for any of my friend, family and clients are upstanding firms and will not break the laws just to make a client happy. In reality what these unethical attorneys are doing is really putting clients in harm’s way and making it more challenging for municipalities to improve services.

 

Another International Airport In Costa Rica? I doubt it!

There is a news flash almost every month about a new International airport going in Costa Rica. One in Orintina, one on the Osa Peninsula, another one in Limon. Will any of these become a reality? Highly unlikely in my lifetime, which I hope will be at least 20 more years, God willing!!

Costa Rica’s Tourism Minister Wilhelm von Breymann expressed that the government understands the importance of tourism since it contributes close to $2.6 billion a year to the country, however, he has ruled out the idea of a new airport in the country.  He based this on the fact that Juan Santamaria already has sufficient capacity and is being expanded.

He also stated that opening a new airport requires a lot of time, money, environmental impact studies, wind studies, and that he sees Liberia’s Daniel Oduber Airport as a greater opportunity for growth.  As the next news bit story below shows .If and when there are priority emergencies in San Jose, the Liberia airport is already able to handle some of it. Just like this past month, as ash from Turrialba volcano disrupted flights and some had to be diverted to Liberia while the San Jose airport was shut down.  Unfortunately many fights were canceled and passengers stranded for a short period of time

With the cost of an airport in the billions of dollars, it would wiser to spend a fraction of that money expanding Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport to attract even more carriers and flights.

 

Liberia’s International Airport Doubled in Passengers Since 2010

The Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) in Liberia, Guanacaste has more than doubled the number of passengers it handles over the last five years, according to Costa Rica’s civil aviation authorities.

The airport received 755,000 travelers in 2014, representing 17% of the country’s total international air passengers, estimated at 4.4 million. That figure is more than double that of five years ago: in 2010, the airport handled 295,000 passengers, or 7.2% of the country’s total international air passengers.

What does this mean? More people and airlines are seeing the benefits of coming to the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. With Guanacaste’s beautiful beaches and diverse towns up and down the Pacific coast as well as the proximity to the mountains and National Parks, it’s no wonder.

This is also good for the local real estate market, as more people see the ease of getting in and out form the Liberia airport and the natural beauty of the region; more people will want to have their own piece of paradise.

Meanwhile, passenger traffic at the capital city’s airport, Juan Santamaria International (SJO), remained flat during the same period, handling 3.7 million international passengers annually.


Update-Costa Rica News Bits March 2015


Cargill to invest $100 million in Costa Rica

Cargill, inc., a multi-national US corporation of meats and processed food products and owner of the Costa Rican chicken and deli brands Pipasa and Cinta Azul, announced at a press conference in Heredia, that it will invest $100 million over the next five years in its Costa Rica operations.

This could be a good thing and a bad thing! The bad thing is we all know most processed deli meats are loaded will all sorts of crap, but still taste pretty good. The good thing is I would almost give my pinky for a good roasted turkey deli sandwich so I guess I have to take the good with the bad. Subways sliced turkey just does not do it. The Other good thing is the investment in Costa Rica and the expansion and more new jobs for the economy

The company’s regional president, Xavier Vargas, said the investment in Costa Rica is part of $500 million the company has earmarked for the region, including Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. Half of the funds for Costa Rica will be spent mostly on improving logistics and distribution, where the company plans its biggest expansion in coming years. The other half will go toward operating expenses including the purchase of more vehicles and the construction of a new production plant for value-added chicken products to be exported to other countries in the region.

The company will build a grain warehouse near Caldera Port, in the Pacific province of Puntarenas, and a shared-services center for Cargill operations across the Americas, Vargas added.

The services center will open in approximately four weeks and will employ 200 people. The Minnesota-based company launched operations in Costa Rica by acquiring Cinta Azul in 1999 and then Pipasa in 2011.

 

Costa Rica Electricity rates going down!

Lower rates will benefit some 1.5 million industrial, commercial and residential customers covered by eight utility companies within Costa Rica. It is about time!!  

The Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) approved reductions in electricity rates ranging from 7 to 15 percent starting April 1. The new rates will stay in place at least until June.  Then we shall see what happens.

In approving the rates, ARESEP took into consideration a substantial reduction in thermal generation costs, plus recent price drops in the international fuel market. The use of fossil fuels to generate electricity significantly dropped during November-January allowing companies to lower production costs and passes those savings on to consumers. In addition more electricity has been generated by hydro power as there has been a good amount of rain in the higher elevations hence making the rivers run.

For customers that receive their electricity form Coopeguanacaste, the local provider in this region of Guanacaste, the rate will be cut by 12.87% for the average consumer this could be a monthly savings of at least $24.00.

This means more cold Imperial beer for sure!!

 

 

Do you really want invest in Tamarindo?

A Canadian tourist, on the first day of his surf trip in Tamarindo was out in the ocean waiting to catch a wave when suddenly he was ripped off his board. The tourist felt something grab his left foot. He remembers kicking what had grabbed him and started swimming to shore. It was only later; on his way to the hospital that he learned it was a crocodile that bit his foot.

He had no clue as to what it was but a crocodile is strong enough to pull him off a surf board. He thought it might have been a shark, but people on the beach saw a crocodile swim back into the river mouth estuary between Tamarindo and Playa Grande.

Luckily for this guy there was not serious damage to his foot or tendons, just needed some stiches and it was a good thing he was a strong swimmer.

Most crocodiles don’t usually attack humans, the key word here is “USUALLY” And most croc attacks that do occur aren’t fatal. But not everyone gets off as easy as this guy did. Normally, crocodiles bite down on their prey and drag it underwater to kill it and then eat it.

Since 2013, there have been five other reported attacks in Costa Rica, including one on a another surfer in October 2013 and guess where?  You got it, Tamarindo in the same spot that this attack happened Thank God that surfer’s injuries were not major as well. There’s no way to confirm if the two attacks were by the same crocodile, but locals say that over the past few years they’ve spotted one particular croc leaving the nearby Playa Grande estuary to hunt.

Personally I don’t get it. There have been reports of this in the past and other attacks and people still go in the water there especially near the estuary.

Better yet come to the Playa Hermosa Area in Guanacaste, No crocodiles in the ocean to even worry about and of course no surfers, not that they are bad people, heck my wife surfs, but why entice a beast!

 

Adventurous Eaters Coming to Costa Rica, really?

Vice President Ana Helena Chacón thinks that Costa Rica should be as well known for its cuisine as it is for its beaches and sloths. But will foodies add Costa Rica to a Latin American itinerary alongside culinary destinations like Mexico and Peru?

Let me answer this question! As a retired executive chef I can tell you out right this is not going to work. Is the food good here in Costa Rica? You bet, some of the freshest seafood in the world and an abundance of fresh vegetables and fabulous tropical fruits. The chicken taste like chicken not some processed water pumped bland so called meat called chicken. The issue is that most Ticos don’t know what to do with these great gifts Mother Nature has bestowed upon them.  As far as the VP and the goal to position Costa Rica as a destination of agricultural and food tourism, there are just too many other great things to draw people to Costa Rica.

Here is a list of 10 very popular Costa Rica dishes; you tell me if you would travel here just to enjoy them.  When you are here, try them all because they are excellent, although not exactly worthy of a travel destination.

1. Gallo Pinto  - “Painted Rooster”

It is a shame if someone does not start their day in Costa Rica without this iconic dish. Rice and black beans fried with onion, sweet pepper and a dash of Lizano sauce and some spoonful’s of the bean’s cooking liquid, severed with eggs, tortilla and natilla (sour cream). This is a meal that will stick with you the whole day or at least until you order a casado.

2. Casado - “The Marriage”

 This is not really a culinary preparation as much as it is a national dish.  It is the cornerstone of the local diet and a combination of Costa Rican staples. The casado is any combination of rice, beans, a simple salad or vegetable, fried plantains, or sometimes pasta or potatoes, severed with a protein such as fish, chicken or beef, all on the same plate. This is a dish that will give any visitor enough energy to hike a volcano or fight a sailfish while fishing at sea.

3. Chifrijo -  OOPS no translation here that I could find

This is one of the most loved bar foods in all of Costa Rica, this combination of rice, beans, chicharrones (fried pork), pico de gallo and tortilla chips is the best way to start a round of drinks with friends. Are you starting to see a trend here??? RICE and BEANS. That is why I say Costa Rica will not become a gourmet destination in my time. However this dish is really tasty and will fill you up for sure.

4. Olla de carne  - “Pot of Beef”

A simple but satisfying beef soup served with chunks of chayote squash, potato and other vegetables – it will warm anyone’s bones on a cold night in the mountains. Of course if you are at the beaches a bowl of hot soup may not exactly be what you’re looking for but still worth trying.

5. Rice-and-Beans - See the trend again…

A Caribbean twist on the classic rice and beans combo, “rice-and-beans” takes its name from the English jargon spoken in Limón on the Atlantic coast. The basic recipe has rice, beans, coconut milk, thyme and spicy chili panameno served with chicken in hot tomato or coconut sauce. Even though this still contains yes rice and beans, at least there is a kick from the chili and some other great flavors

6. Patí  - Basically a turnover

The iconic beef turnovers of the Caribbean trace their roots to Jamaica.  It is not even a traditional Costa Rica dish, they usually are stuffed with ground beef, onion, spices, chili panameno, and fried in a flaky pastry shell, and these little guys could be so much more with just a little imagination and creativity.

7. Patacones - I can’t find a translation for this one either!

Basically this is a fired and smashed then fried again plantain of the green variety, not a ripe plantain as the dish would end up being much sweeter. These are the perfect dipping mechanism for anything from pureed black beans to guacamole. Severed warm with a touch of salt they are pretty good.

8. Tamales - If you don’t know what a tamale is, well then forget it

Traditionally Ticos make them during the Christmas holidays. Costa Rica style tamales are different from the Mexican variety, utilizing banana-leaf wrappers instead of corn husks. Served with coffee, these seasonal snacks are a social experience, from making them with a crew of family and friends in the traditional tamaleada, to the rounds of invitations throughout the holidays to come over and sample the finished project.

9. Arroz con palmito - Rice (no beans this time) and hearts of palm

This is what I call the Costa Rican equivalent of macaroni and cheese.  Except there is no macaroni instead this creamy, cheesy baked rice with hearts of palm is a comfort food pleasure, perfect with patacones listed above.

10. Salsa Lizano – It’s a condiment not a dish but used everywhere

Sure, it’s a condiment but it could almost be its own food group.  This little bottle of “salsa inglesa”, a.k.a.:  Lizano salsa, is the most famous brand in Costa Rica and very similar to A-1 Steak Sauce.  It is a staple in Tico kitchens and used in many of the dishes listed here. Gringos might draw strange glances from locals when they put it on eggs in the morning.  The first time I tried over 14 years ago I fell in love with it, you should try it too!

 

The Turrialba Volcano is Very Active! But not to worry

 

The initial eruption that brought Turrialba out of sleep mode was October 30, 2014 triggering a Yellow Alert across five cantons and again December 9, 2014, with eruptions expelling vast amounts of ash in the air. 

On March 12, 2015, the volcano, located about 70 kilometers northeast of San José, has been exploding nearly nonstop, covering vast areas of Costa Rica’s Central Valley in volcanic ash. Scientists have been working to determine the exact nature of the eruptions, and whether or not lava is present.  Volcanologists reported two types of eruptions taking place: phreatic – which entails gases, mud and ash – and strombolian – which contains magma and ash.  Magna has not flowed from Turrialba since 1866.

Volcanic ash falling from the Turrialba Volcano closed Costa Rica’s main international airport (SJO) for approximately 18 hours March 12, 13, affecting travel for an estimated 7,000 passengers on 111 flights traveling to and from Costa Rica, according to airport spokeswoman Silvia Chávez. 

RSN volcanologist Gino González Ilama said, “The Turrialba Volcano is very active, the hole formed after the first explosion has grown and is about 150 meters long and 100 meters wide. It’s getting bigger, and the volcano’s walls continue collapsing because explosions of gas, ash and rock are constant. We also found small amounts of lava and there are craters in the earth measuring up to one meter in diameter – the result of rocks shooting out from the volcano”, Gonzalez reported.


Update-Costa Rica News Bits February 2015


Owning Real Estate in Costa Rica; Why & How?

I found this article in the Costa Rican Times and thought I would share it. This article hits it spot-on for the most part.  You will see some of my comments in Italics, and is worth the read if you are interested in Costa Rica real estate.

When the first baby boomer reached the retirement age of 60 in 2006, every 90 seconds after that, another baby boomer reaches the age of 60. After the first wave, an ensuing virtual tidal wave of graying, deep-pocketed soon to be retirees started desperately looking for some inexpensive piece of land with lots of sunshine, away from cold weather and their desolate, excessively regulated but floundering high-priced economy. We are not just talking about Americans in here but an international market of people including Germans, Canadians, Swedes, Britons and Asians all seeking for a piece of heaven in Costa Rica and everyone highly interested in trade, tourism and investment. 

Why own a property in Costa Rica you may ask? First and foremost, Costa Rica is considered to have one of the most attractive investment environment not just in Latin America but the whole world because its tax system is much simpler when compared to Canada, United States and Europe. It offers hefty tax incentives to foreign investors, (that’s if you’re really investing big money that will produce jobs) entailing tax-free transactions, which greatly contributed to the country’s real estate market boom. It is also easy to live and work in Costa Rica because English is widely spoken, (the work part is another story, there are certain limitations until you have full residency but it is possible and not that crazy to pull off) health care is top-notch and the government is intensely committed to protecting and enhancing its astounding natural environment. Furthermore, telecom improvements and fast internet service allows people to work on laptops, cell phones, use Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) from practically anywhere. 

Can you get all these in other countries? Sure you can, however, Europe is too expensive and Asia is too far away so you can forget these two continents. In Latin America there is Panama but it is too hot in that country and the air conditioning bill can run into a hundred dollars per month, worse the crime is growing and it is being covered up to avoid scaring away the tourists. There is also Mexico which used to be the number one region for retirees but the country is under fire and being torn apart by war between opposing powerful factions, the government and drug cartels. Moreover, even though foreign nationals can buy and own fee simple properties in the interior of Mexico, the law prohibits them from holding title to properties that are inside the “Prohibited Zone” or areas along the coast and borders including the entire Baja, California, the only place in Mexico which can hold a candle to places in Costa Rica. 

1) Property Ownership and Other Common Forms of Possession

In Costa Rica, you can get different types of properties just like in the US, Europe and Canada; you just have to understand and familiarize yourself to the types of properties you can purchase. It is not like Mexico where it is concession land, (there is concession land in Costa Rica as well, again another topic, see below for a short description) you actually own title to the property in Costa Rica.

2) Fee Simple

This type of property ownership is the most full and concise type of ownership in Costa Rica and the same rules apply to foreigners and locals. Fee simple ownership grants the property owner autonomous authority and right to materially own the property. This means that the owner can use, improve, lease, sell the property without interference from anyone or use the property as the owner sees fit. Furthermore, if the property owner is hindered from exercising his or her rights to the property, then he or she has the right to restore the property to its previous original state.

3) Concession Property and Maritime Zone Law

Ninety five per cent of beachfront properties in Costa Rica are governed by the Maritime Zone Law, (meaning there is 5% that is fully titled) regulations by municipalities and Costa Rican Institute of Tourism making them concession properties. This includes the first 200 meters measured horizontally from the high tide line; the first 50 meters is considered a public area and cannot be owned by any individual while the next 150 meters are the ones available for concessions and can be leased to local and foreigners alike for a specific period of time (Usually 20 years, it is a very detailed process and can be complicated but doable, as many foreigners have concession land). However, unlike Fee Simple ownership, foreigners need to enter a partnership with a Costa Rican national before they can own part of a concession property. Moreover, foreigners can only own 49 per cent of a concession property unless he or she has resided in Costa Rica for five years or more. 

4) Condominiums, Not just a tall building

This type of ownership is governed by Condominium Law, which provides particular benefits to developers of different kinds of properties like single family resident projects, condos, completed lot projects and more. This means that the developer is allowed to make restrictions and add regulations on certain phases of the development. Properties in Condominiums are like Fee Simple ownership, only it comes with a few limitations so it is imperative that you get a copy of the by-laws for guidelines, restrictions and limitations set forth by the developer. (There are usually Home Owner fees involved with Condominiums, and I personally think this is a good way to go as it preserves your investment due to the rules and regulations. As an example, the lot next to your half million dollar home is not allowed to build a tin shack on it or a hi-rise multi-use dwelling)

5) Untitled Property

Not all properties in Costa Rica are recorded at the Public Registry of Properties. An untitled property is to be avoided at all cost as there is no way that the ownership can be proven. (So when the taxi driver or the bar tender says “ I can sell you a nice piece of property in Costa Rica, that my cousin is selling and at a better price than anyone” RUN IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!)

5) Time Share

Time-share ownership is very similar to properties in condominiums in that the owner can make certain stipulations, only with time-share, the owner can only put the restrictions in place for a certain period of time during the year. (Meaning you only get to use the location for a week or two a year) However, this type is very uncommon in Costa Rica.  (And I say stay away from it Read the next story below!!)

 http://www.costaricantimes.com/owning-real-estate-in-costa-rica-why-how/35141

 

One of Many Reasons NOT To Consider A Time Share

I found this link on-line and I am embarrassed that this is taking place in my own community. It gives real estate a bad name.

But then again when something sounds too darn good, well you know the saying – it probably is. Just a reminder If you are thinking of owning real estate in Costa Rica, use a real realtor working under a trusted brand name, and not some guy on the street or beach trying to get you to take a FREE tour or a FREE dinner to listen to some presentation.

I personally know of four different time share operations that are active in the Playa Hermosa, Playa Del Coco area of Guanacaste. If you are ever here and some guy on the street tries to stop your car waving a map, STEP ON THE GAS and keep going.

I do have to clarify that the article below mentions a development, Coco Bay Estates, that features condos and single family home sites. The single family home sites are perfectly safe and are actually a great deal to purchase and build on or invest in. These lots feature underground utilities, legal water, waste treatment plant and great ocean views. The condo part of this development is what the article is talking about and unjustly bundles the entire development together.

http://www.vozdeguanacaste.com/en/articles/2015/01/18/timeshare-fraud-coco-beach

 

Costa Rica Supreme Court Axes Corporation tax!! But Not This Year

The Sala IV, constitutional Supreme Court of Costa Rica, struck down as unconstitutional key parts of the 2011 tax on corporations.  I know your thinking, didn’t this guy just write last month to tell us to remember to pay the Tax? Well, welcome to Costa Rica “Pura Vida”. However the magistrates or judges did rule that operators of corporations will still have to pay the tax for 2015.The legal appeal against the tax included the entire law, No. 9024, the magistrates found only three sections of the law to be unconstitutional. These included sections on what entities would be taxed, the amount of the tax and the penalties for not paying.

The majority of the Sala IV magistrates agreed the existing law was not constitutional because a substitute bill in the law had been adopted in the legislature, and this new version had not been advertised to the public.  The changes between the original publicized bill and the one adopted were completely different. These additions included the sanctions and important aspects of the tax. All new laws have to be advertised (published) in a few of the local newspapers before they can be implemented. Proposed legislation always is published in the La Gaceta official newspaper when introduced in the Asamblea Legislativa, (the legislative assembly).  But when a committee makes substantive changes, publication again is required before the law can be implemented.

Three magistrates went even further and said that the tax violated the principle of a just tax system, like there really is such a thing!! The law imposed the same tax on all mercantile companies, such as sociedades anónimas and limited liabilities companies as well as other legal entities, without taking into account their differences of symmetries. In other words, big and small corporations paid the same tax.

The constitutional court said that to avoid what it called “grave financial dislocations”; the decision of unconstitutionality will not go into effect until the 2016 fiscal year. So operators of corporations will have to pay the tax this year to void interest. The tax is supposed to be paid by the end of January each year.

However, Governments don’t like losing tax revenue so I will bet you any amount of cash the government will push hard on the congress re-publish again and approve it as a law so they comply with the principle of publicity. So expecting not to pay any more tax on corporations next year might be just a dream.  We will see…….

 

What A Rip-off At Airport Restaurants

From the president of the Guanacaste Chamber of Tourism in Costa Rica, Priscila Solano, there are establishments that “abuse and scare away tourists” due to their high prices and poor customer service.

Case in point is the Players restaurant, in the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, where the Chamber has received many complaints from tourists due to the high prices of menu items. “We have received complaints from tourists because at this restaurant a hamburger costs $25, a banana $5 and an apple $4,” Solano said. I as a person that utilizes the airport often I can personally attest to it firsthand. A banana and a small drinkable yogurt cost me over $10.00 USD. I was thinking this banana must be gold lined and this yogurt better be full fat without thickeners. The good is, this is getting noticed by those that may be able to help, let’s hope!

Marco Zani, the executive chef for Players, said that a basic hamburger costs $15. “From there, prices vary if you want a double patty or additional ingredients or other sides.” Yes, like the bun it should sit on. Zani indicated that the prices of bananas and apples sold there aren’t what Solano mentioned, but on the other hand he did not specify what they currently are. In addition, the executive chef acknowledged that they have received complaints from some customers about the prices. However, he believes that this is due to several factors, mainly the cost of operating the restaurant inside the terminal. Heck I am a retired executive chef and I am not opposed to any business making a profit, but holy crap I can buy a banana here in Costa Rica for basically $0.10 this guy is out to lunch and covering for his bosses.

“It’s well known that the prices of services and operations at any airport are more expensive,” he noted. And although he did not provide the amount to be paid to the terminal’s administration for the location’s concession, he affirmed, “it is very expensive.” Again his points are true it is not cheap to run a business at an airport, but $5.00 for a banana that cost $.10, really??!!!

However, for most tourists who use TripAdvisor’s international restaurant locator, of the 74 comments posted about this restaurant, 64 evaluated the restaurant as “terrible.”

I have never in all my life and all my travels around the world paid $75 for two lousy burgers and fries in an airport. It is sad to say most of the other reviewers are right, you probably won’t read this until it’s too late. What a crappy last impression for people to have as a memory of this beautiful country of Costa Rica. So pack or buy a snack before you leave for the airport.  But remember, as in the US, you can’t take liquids through security, so drink up before you enter.

 

Costa Rica Is A “FULL” Democracy In Latin America

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s measure of democracy, Costa Rica ranked # 24 out of 165 countries in the world that can be considered “full democracies.”

An investigation by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) concluded that in Latin America, only Uruguay and Costa Rica ranked in the region’s “full democracies” category, described as when countries respect civil liberties and representative governance. The Democracy Index 2014 states that Latin America currently “is unable to progress in democratization,” with the exception of Costa Rica and Uruguay.

The report evaluated 165 countries using a 0 to 10 scale in five categories: electoral processes and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties. The final results were used to classify countries into one of four categories: full democracies, imperfect democracies, hybrid models and authoritarian regimes.

Costa Rica placed 24th with an index of 8.03, behind Uruguay, which ranked 17th at 8.17. At the bottom of the list are Cuba and Haiti, with low rates of 3.52 and 3.82, respectively. The EIU considers them authoritarian regimes.

Chile, Brazil, Panama, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, El Salvador and Paraguay ranked in the second category as “flawed democracies.” Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela entered the rank of “hybrid regimes.”

Globally, Norway topped the list as a full democracy with an index of 9.93, followed by Sweden and Iceland at 9.73 and 9.58, respectively. Canada ranked 7th with 9.08, and the United States was 19th with 8.11.


Update-Costa Rica News Bits January 2015


When the time comes, be prepared ahead of time

When living in Costa Rica you may not get what you want, even in death. Many people want to be cremated, it is the most practical solution in my opinion because the body is reduced to about six  pounds of granular material that can be shipped home or scattered where you want,, like I did for my dad when he passed last year.

Even though most Costa Ricans do not embrace cremation, many other countries do. Cremation has expanded rapidly worldwide.  The number of cremations in North America has more than tripled in the past thirty years.

But there is an option here in Costa Rica. Jardines de Recuerdo pioneered cremation in Costa Rica with a regulation it sponsored, Reglamento de Cremación de Cadáveres y Restos Humanos, in 1986. The funeral firm was the first to do cremation in the country. Over the years, most of the cremations done by Jardines de Recuerdo have been performed for foreigners. However, the trend is catching on among Costa Ricans but very slowly.

Nowadays, most of the major funeral firms offer cremation as part of their service. Most companies offer transportation of the body, an autopsy, a health department permit, a casket, an urn and the cremation process as part of a complete package.  When shopping around, and you should, it is a great idea to lock in a price today by paying in advance or on a payment plan. One saves money and spares family from added grief. This is exactly what my father did.

Costa Rica law states an autopsy is required when cremating a body and health officials have to issue a permit. Both procedures are now easily accomplished and done at the crematorium in most cases.

If you do not really care what happens to your remains there is another option to consider. Donate your remains and body to science. The Reglamento para la inhumación y donación de cadáveres or the "regulation for burial and body donation" covers Costa Rica’s policy on organ donations.  The Universidad de las Ciencias Médicas (UCIMED) has an active program. Information is available by calling 2549-0000.

If you live in Costa Rica a majority of the time, it is a good idea to have a Costa Rica Will & Testament.  Have your trusted attorney prepare a legal brief and have it written in a notary book regarding wishes of cremation and all other requests when you die, including your beneficiares for your assets.

Here is a list of cremation service providers in Costa Rica:

MONTESACRO

Phone: +(506) 2233-1129

Email: info@montesacrocr.com

Web site: www.montesacrocr.com

POLINI

Phone: +(506) 2231-3121

Email: info@funerariapolini.com

Web site: www.funerariapolini.com

La Piedad

Phone: +(506) 2259-5296

Email: info@lapiedad.co.cr

Web site: http://www.lapiedad.co.cr/

Funerales Vida

Phone: +(506) 2521-6999

Email: jimenez@funeralesvida.com

Web  site: www.funeralesvida.com

JARDINES DEL RECUERDO

Phone: +(506) 2222-9022

Email: callcenter@jardinesdelrecuerdo.co.cr

Web site: www.jardinesdelrecuerdo.co.cr

La Auxiliadora

Phone: +(506) 2222-0100

Email: aux.sanjose@hotmail.com

Web site: http://funerarialaauxiliadora.net/costarica/

 

Remember to watch out for Rip Tides

Visitors won't find the information in any tourist publications, but Costa Rica's Pacific beaches can be very dangerous depending on the beach. Every year Costa Ricans and tourists end up falling victim to the beautiful Pacific. Lifeguards are found only in a few communities, and there are few signs telling visitors that there can be a dangerous situation such as a rip-tide.

 Rip currents or rip tides are formed by the combination of wind and waves pushing water towards the shore. Oncoming waves can push the previous backwash sideways. This sideways water streams along the shoreline until it finds a path back out to sea. The resulting rip current is usually located in a trench between sandbars or jetties.

Any bather standing thigh high surf can be immobilized and eventually swept out to sea. The Pacific has been known to take three or more victims at a time when the current is just right.

The national emergency commission issued a warning for residents and visitors to learn about the conditions of beaches before going in for a swim. The most important thing to know and remember is if you get caught in a rip current, DO NOT PANIC, you should try to swim parallel to the coast and seek surf or white water to bring you to shore. The biggest danger with rip tides is that swimmers try to fight against the current become tired and slip under the water and drown.

 

Time to pay that Costa Rica corporate tax

The annual tax or fee to own a Costa Rica corporation is due by the end of January, 2015. The judicial salary, (the monthly salary of a designated judicial worker) is what this tax is based on, increased just 4,000 colons for 2015 about $7.50.

The new rate for an active corporation, one that is generating income is c201,700 colons which equates to about $379.00 dollars depending on the exchange rate. For an inactive corporation, one that is just holding assets like a home or a car, the tax is c100,850 colons or about $189.00, again depending on the exchange rate. The small increase will filter down to many other fines and assessments because laws usually include this amount as a base to determine fees, fines and taxes.

 

Changes I have seen in Costa Rica over the last few years

 

Over the last seven years of living here in Costa Rica I have seen some small and major changes. Here is a list of some of the things that I noticed. They are not in order of importance. Kind of like Letterman’s top 10 list but not as funny.

1. Online National Registry System

It is the truth - to get anything done in Costa Rica you need a piece of paper with a stamp on it. Sometimes you think, really? For a cell phone, really?  Before the online service Registro Digital started up in 2010 you would have to go to the National Registry and stand in a long line that seemed to never end or you could ask your local attorney and they would charge an arm and a leg for the document. Now you can download a certificate from the comfort of your own desk at a 10th of the price

2. Highway #27

The “Highway of the Sun” is the road project that everyone loves to hate. True, it did not win any civil engineering prizes and the private financing raised a lot of eyebrows. But we forget that a trip to the San Jose before 2010 was like a military special op. mission. The highway is basically from Puntarenas to Escazu about 1/3rd of the trip to San Jose from Playa Hermosa and the 4.5 - 6 hour trip to San Jose has been shorted to about 3 - 4 hours. That is,  if some nut case does not do something stupid and cause a traffic jam or accident.

3. 3G Cell Service

Before 2009, you could call cell service almost nonexistent it was like being with the dinosaurs.  The network was called TDMA and getting your hands on a cell line was like an act of God. Multimedia referred to “txt msg tat u hd 2 rite” like this. A smartphone was one with FM radio. Step into the 21-century and with the opening of the telecommunications sector in Costa Rica with 3G towers popping up like weeds after a rainstorm and the reality is very different.  No 4G technology is starting in the Central Valley and will make it way out to Guanacaste. How long????? Hopefully not an eternity

4. Online Bank Transfers called SINPE

SINPE is the acronym given to the method, developed by the Central Bank of Costa Rica, allowing you to make a local bank transfer online. It launched a real-time transfer service in 2011. SINPE now processes more than 25,000 transactions a day. This phenomenon significantly reduced our exposure to psychological damage from visiting Costa Rican bank branches and again standing in long lines that never end.

5. The Inter-Americana Highway

Have you ever done the drive from Guanacaste to San Jose? Nail biting and white knuckle right? Well for the last 3 years the government has been widening the highway to 4 lanes from Canas to Liberia. It is one year over its completion date, but when it is done, it will certainly shorten the trip to San Jose. This goes along with item number #2, and when this part of the highway is completed, minus any accidents, it will shorten the time even more. However then there is the section from Canas to Puteranes that is next, so it could be another 4+ years before the entire highway is completed.

6. A different choice of Beer

It started with Segua in 2010 and quickly took off into different tones, flavors and labels. Now there is even now an annual beer festival, although it is held in San Jose. Before the hand-crafted beers came to exist in Costa Rica, when the bartender asked you which beer you wanted, it was a rhetorical question ironically suggesting that you actually had a choice, which if you have been here before you know it was Imperial or Pilsen. Some choice huh?

7. Chain Restaurants and better restaurants

Years ago when I first came to Costa Rica the only chain restaurant was Micky D’s, heck they are like bugs everywhere around the world. Well over the years I have seen many of the big brands arriving and thriving in Costa Rica. It is kind of sad for me because most of them are crap in my opinion, but with the opening of PF Changs, I could definitely go for that!

8. Fewer Potholes

Yes I know this seems like a minimal thing, and for years Costa Rica had a bad reputation of having some of the worst roads in all of Central America. Well I have to give credit where it is due. The local Government and the national road division have been making great strides in this and the true pothole roads that looked like a bombed air strip are becoming less and less. Of course this depends on what part of the country you are in. Guanacaste still has some of the best roads as far as I’m concerned.

9. More and better grocery options

When I first moved to Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste there was basically only one grocery store to choose from and the selection of products were new to me. Granted I did love the idea of simpler lifestyle but there are certain things you just never want to give up, for me it is Snyder’s pretzel rods. I know it is strange but what’s your favorite junk food? Over the past few years an Auto Mercado opened in Playa del Coco along with a Super Compro and a Mega Super have opened up. Now the options of grocery shopping and products available have increased 300%. Here is a little secret for those that do come here. If you like beef, the best place to get it is at San Martin meat market across the highway from the Liberia International airport (LIR). And it is cheap compared to North America, whole tenderloins of beef all trimmed, for only $4.80 per pound

10. Cable TV and Internet

The Internet in the past was like snail mail and forever dropping connectivity. Today if I want, I can get up to 10 megs of service just through broadband and even higher through fiber optics, the same with TV service. Basic cable is still around with about 10 English channels and fuzziness like ghosts, but move up to the HD package with a flat screen TV and it opens up a whole new world of options and quality. Best of all, it’s still pretty cheap and the prices of flat screens are coming down too.

So that’s my list, I could go on and on but won’t.

Thanks for reading and looking forward to meeting you one day in beautiful Playa Hermosa.


Update-Costa Rica News Bits December 2014


Playa Hermosa Area, December Market Update

The last three months we have seen a good upswing in buyers coming to the market of Playa Hermosa, Playas Del Coco and surrounding towns. This is not the usual norm as in most years, during the “rainy” season, there are not as many potential buyers looking to purchase. The majority of properties that are selling are finished, single family homes and condominiums. Prices are ranging from $95,000 up to $875,000 however typically it’s more in the $250,000 to $500,000 range. We have sold a few ocean view lots to clients that are looking to build either spec. homes to sell or for their future retirement options.

While prices have not really gone up yet and are still flat, the market is starting to experience a low inventory of affordable single-family homes. There are still many $800K and higher homes in the market for sale.

Now that the US stock market is at the highest it has even been, and with some analysts predicting a drop, the smart investors are pulling profits from the stock market and are purchasing lots at discounted rates. These same investors are building affordable, small to medium size homes ranging from 1500 to 2100 square feet, three bedroom, two baths with nice finishes, home appliances and a small pool all being built as spec homes to sell.  Presently there are four such homes being built in the area and no doubt will be sold quickly. This past year four similar properties were sold.  You could be that next investor too!

We also have buyers that are not quite ready to make the move full-time to Costa Rica. However these same clients are purchasing reasonable priced lots now to sit on and in addition, are purchasing a condo that they can utilize for themselves until they are ready. These same purchasers are renting out their condos when not utilizing them to cover their carrying costs and produce some income. I have checked with many area property/rental managers about the current rental season; most are booked solid through the middle of March, expecting another very strong high season in 2015. In fact, their rentals have been on an upward swing for the last two years, with more and more international flights arriving at the Liberia International airport more travelers are coming to the area, it’s an excellent idea to consider buying a condo as an investment

If you are considering purchasing in the Guanacaste, Papagayo area, send me an email: jaaechef@gmail.com  or call me toll free 1-877-661-6074 and we can discuss many different options on how you can take advantage of the flat market and get in before prices rise. It all comes down to old basic supply and demand. As more properties sell and inventories drop, prices will increase.

 

Guanacaste, Costa Rica Dry Season Is Here

Well, the rains are about done and the annual transition to the dry/high season is just about here. Periodically parts of Guanacaste are still getting a pop-up thunderstorm with very light precipitation. Very typical for this time of year, the landscape is still lush and green, but this will change in a months’ time or so.

The National Meteorological Institute reported that the province of Guanacaste recorded up to 60% less than expected rainfall in relation to the normal average. The reason for the lack of rain this year was due to the presence of El Niño, which causes a warming of the ocean and creates a very marked decrease in precipitation.

Looks like summer is upon us and it’s time to break out the hats, sunscreen and plenty of water to face the dry season that will last until around April and “winter” will arrive sometime in June.

This year, unofficially, Playa Hermosa Guanacaste received 39.2 inches of rain, almost at the normal low average of 40”.

 

Using Your IRA to Invest In Costa Rica Real Estate

A lot of people ask me all the time, “Can I get a mortgage to purchase that Playa Hermosa home I love so much?” Unfortunately I have to say, “sorry not here in Costa Rica, it’s close to impossible to get a loan”. Well, there is a way to purchase that home, condo or investment property in the Playa Hermosa area without a mortgage. Most people do not know that you can legally utilize your IRA and 401K without cashing them in and paying tax and penalties.  Of course there are rules and regulations that have to be adhere to.

Watch this short information video from Equity Trust.  I am not promoting them but offering another option for you. I too, am an Equity trust client and have successfully purchased real estate with my IRA, I can answer many of your IRA questions based on my experience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXn14M_u8Lk&feature=youtu.be

 

Costa Rica's Airport Exit Tax Added To Ticket Prices

It is about time - Costa Rican officials are finally moving to eliminate a time-wasted step for travelers that leave Costa Rica by air! If you have been here before you know what I am talking about. Starting Dec. 3, the $29 airport exit tax will be added into the price of airline tickets, like it is in many countries. Heck most people don’t even know this

The tax has been in place many years, and is paid at the airport at special banks. In order to check-in you have to pay the exit tax beforehand. But a recent agreement to include the tax in ticket prices was reached between the banks, the airlines, the Immigration Administration, airport administrators, the Finance Ministry and the National Tourism Board. Wow! Talk about bureaucratic, are there enough agencies involved?

Revenue from the exit tax is used by the Civil Aviation authority supposedly for the expansion and modernization of the country’s airports. However if you look closely at the form you will see that only $1.00 goes towards the airport expansions and the rest goes right it to the pocket of the government and other government agencies.

At least now you don’t have to stash the cash to make sure you have it when you’re ready to leave.

 

Costa Rica’s Vehicle Inspection Gets Harder to Pass

Thank God, that’s what I have to say! I found this article in one of the local online English newspapers, The Costa Rican Times, and decided it was important to share especially since some of you reading this, own cars in Costa Rica and need to be informed.

For those that are going to be taking their vehicles through Riteve in 2015, here are the 14 new changes to the Riteve inspection along with the consequences, although some are for busses and motorcycles. Riteve is the company that does the yearly vehicle inspections.

(Falta Grave = Serious Offence and Requires Fixing & Re-Inspection)

(Falta Leve = Non-Serious Offence & Does Not Require Re-Inspection)

You must have the new plates in accordance with the Public Registry. Lack Of, Falta Grave.

The bumper will be checked for stability. If in danger of falling off, Falta Grave.

The fender must cover the entire width of the tread. If it does not, Falta Grave.

If vehicle has a crack in the windshield of more than 50 centimeters (19 inches), Falta Grave.

Buses should have seat belts in the back seats. Lack Of, Falta Leve.

Vehicles entering the country starting in 2015 must have a speedometer in KM per hour. Lack Of, Falta Grave.

The odometer must be in good condition and the mileage recorded. Other offences in this category include not being able to read the odometer or having a recorded mileage that does not reflect the records in customs. In 2015 this is a Falta Leve in 2016 Falta Grave.

Color differences in symmetrical pairs of low beams are a Falta Leve.

The low oil pressure light must not come on when starting a spark ignition engine. If it does, Falta Grave.

Trailers and semi-trailers exceeding 750 kilos (Over 1,600 lbs.) have to have a service brake. Not having one, Falta Grave.

Cars with steering wheels on the right side must be converted and a certificate of the mechanical change presented. If not changed, Falta Grave.

Only heavy load vehicles can use remarked tires, and only if the tires were designed for that purpose. If not, Falta Grave. Really? Truck tires are the ones that always seem to explode!

Airbags are to be considered for 4 Falta Grave offences and 2 Falta Leve offences. Your guess is as good as mine; I spent 20 minutes trying to figure this one out? Oh Well Pura Vida!

Taxi meters must be audible for people with disabilities and they must issue a printed receipt. If not, Falta Grave.

My advice to is to have a trusted mechanic (I know those two words contradict each other, but there are a few) check your vehicle and let them know these new Riteve items if they don’t already.


Update-Costa Rica News Bits November 2014


Costa Rica Pejibayes, What the heck is that?

When you come and visit Costa Rica during the green season you may come across what Ticos call pejibaye,  (Pronounced pe-he-be-gy or close to this)  you will find them in grocery stores as well as farmers markets.  This strange looking fruit comes from a tropical palm, often called peach palm in English, and has a starchy, orange middle that is edible when cooked. The Fruit almost looks like a large acorn without the top and can be reddish or orangey or even a bit greenish in color. The fruit is boiled in salted water and then peeled,  then the hard seed in the middle is removed before eating.  The flavor and mouth feel remind me a bit of pumpkin or butternut squash but not as sweet. Typically, in Guanacaste at least, the pejibaye halves are often filled with mayonnaise, ketchup or sour cream; most pejibaye vendors offer them cooked, which you’ll see in steaming trays in carts or market stalls, so give them a try you won’t get sick.

I have seen them served many different ways but as a retired chef, here is a simple recipe that an local friend of mine gave me from his grandmother, I gave it a try and it was pretty good. I did make some changes to her recipe to jazz it up a bit.

Creamed pejibaye soup:

Peel a dozen or so cooked pejibayes and set aside. In a soup pot sauté the remaining ingredients in a 1/2 stick of butter: 1 small onion diced- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped- 2 ribs celery diced. Once the veggies are slightly cooked add 2 tablespoons of good curry powder or paste and sauté for another couple minutes. Then add the peeled pejibaye and 8 cups of stock. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes and add 1 cup of whole milk or cream. Cook on low heat for another 10 minutes then transfer to blender and let her rip.  Pour into bowls, top with a fresh chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream and some fresh sliced chilies.  It’s a wonderful warm meal on a chilly, rainy tropical afternoon. Well Chilly for us is temps in the 60’s

 

Costa Rica’s National Theater Celebrates 117th Birthday

Last month Costa Rica’s National Theater celebrated its 117th birthday. There was a birthday cake big enough to feed all of Playa Hermosa and Playa Del Coco.  The cake was a pretty good replica of the theater.  There was also a parade with live performances in the Plaza de la Cultura, poetry readings for children, and tons of tours. Now I know why such a celebration for 117 years?  Inés Revuelta Sánchez the theater’s new managing director wants to reintroduce the National Theater to Costa Rica, and what better way is there than a massive party?

The theater has not been a major attraction for the most part of the populace due to the grand opulence that scares locals away. But as far as celebrations go, the 117th birthday was as spontaneous as they come. In the past the theater’s birthdays have been exclusive affairs with expensive dinners, black ties that took place inside the building.

So if you travel to Costa Rica and visit the capitol of San Jose you should check it out as it is worth the visit if you are in to culture and architecture. Then head north for the beaches of Guanacaste and Playa Hermosa where I recommend getting a taste of the real Costa Rica culture.

 

Another New Airline Lands in Liberia, Costa Rica

British airline Thomson, has announced its first scheduled route to Liberia, Costa Rica. The new service will be one time per week with non-stop flights starting Nov. 15, 2014 between London's Gatwick and Liberia International airport in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

This is great news for Guanacaste and especially the beach areas of Playa Hermosa, Playas del Coco, Ocotal and Panama.  Attracting tourists, visitors and guests from foreign destinations such as Europe continues to be a challenging task without the help of new airline service, making it easier for travelers to get to much sought after places like Costa Rica.

If you happen not to be from Europe or England but know someone who is feel free to forward them this article. It could help them tremendously

The UK is the 4th largest source of tourists from Europe to Costa Rica. Last year alone the ICT recorded 35,198 tourists from the United Kingdom and Ireland. That’s a 10.2 percent increase in arrivals from 2012.  European tourists are a very important source of positive tourist revenue and growth potential for Costa Rica and especially Guanacaste.

Other carriers such as: Delta, United, Copa, Cuban, JetBlue, Southwest, Condor and America have also recently announced new or additional flights to their existing service.  This new airline service will help pave the way for new carriers to explore servicing Central America.

Southwest the low cost no frills airline will be starting direct flight to Liberia Costa Rica some time in 2016, they are still working out the plans.

The high season in Costa Rica (December - April) is a critical time for areas like Guanacaste to impress the world's tourists with its natural beauty, high level of service, perfect weather, wonder people, excellent attractions and amazing biodiversity Costa Rica has to offer!

 

Italian group to invest $150 Million in Sardinal, Guanacaste

A group of Italian investors are seeking to build a meat processing facility in the area of Sardinal, Guanacaste. Sardinal is a traditional Costa Rica town miles from the beaches of Playa Hermosa.  

The investment aims to build an Agro center for meat exports to the international markets, meeting the quality standards required by the European Union. This ambitious project also includes the construction of a slaughterhouse for a production of 7000 tons of meat per year, which is about 28,000 head of cattle.

The investment will involve a few stages; the first is already running which is a research developed by an Italian university on the Brahman breed of cattle in Costa Rica. You know the ones that look really skinny during the dry season and have the huge hump on their back and are primarily white in color. The other stages include setting up a free trade zone and building the actual slaughter house

The project was presented by Guanacaste representatives Arauz Marta Marín and Juan Quirós, and the investor, Maximum Cataldi and his representative, Walter Coto Molina.

Juan Marín Quirós, noted that this is a important project that he will be paying special attention to that can help the area economically with the creation of more jobs and also helping push the need to air cargo out of Liberia International airport and revive agricultural production in the area

There are still many obstacles in the way but at least this is a step in the right direction to improve the economy for the local area.


October Update- Costa Rica News


Three months straight, fuel prices are down in Costa Rica!

Have you been here to Costa Rica Before? Were you a bit shocked by the price of fuel for your rental car? I know most people are like “Holly Bejesus $5.75 a gallon, that’s crazy”

 Well, motorists will be saving a few more colons again this coming month as fuel prices are going down again. This is the third month in a row. The new fuel prices will be in effect sometime the first week of October.

ARESEP (The Public Services Regulatory Authority) has approved a decrease in per-liter prices for gasoline and diesel. A ₡13 colon drop for “Plus Gasoline” will basically cost $5.25 USD per gallon based on current exchange rate. Diesel will drop ₡11colons per liter to ₡658 per liter or $4.65 per gallon and “Super Gasoline” will only drop ₡2 colons making it still pretty high at $5.48 per gallon

The reason for the third consecutive drop has to do with international oil prices and the exchange rate to the US dollar. Now, I can agree this is still pretty high, since I was a spoiled user of gas and petroleum products when I lived in the US. But the reality is Costa Rica does not produce any crude oil products and has to purchase it on the open market. Hence the higher prices and since we are a small country there are only 2 oil refineries in the country - enough said? Before you say anything negative, just take a look at countries in Europe; heck as a Canadian what they pay for fuel and they have the Tar Sand and all sorts of oil.

 

What? Eggs are not refrigerated in Costa Rica?

When I take new clients around to see the sites and the many great offerings in the Playa Hermosa area of Costa Rica, I always get this question all time when I take them to the grocery stores.

Most expats from Canada and the United States are brain washed in to finding their favorite breakfast item in the refrigerated section of the grocery store along with cheese, milk, yogurt and a whole bunch more. However, most of the world, including Costa Rica, doesn’t refrigerate or even wash their eggs. Now don’t get sick on me, let me continue. Both washed and unwashed eggs are safe to eat, as well as unrefrigerated eggs as long as they have been handled properly. That’s the KEY handled properly!!

The main concern with proper handling of eggs has to do with avoiding salmonella and we all know what nasty things can happen when you get a dose of it and I won’t go into it.

The United States is one of the few countries that washes and refrigerates its eggs to deal with salmonella. One of the other main reasons is so that manufactures or farmers can get a few extra days of shelf life out of the product they are selling. When a chicken lays its eggs they have their own natural protective coating, but the process of washing them removes this first line of defense, making the shells more porous. It comes down to trying to make the eggs look more appealing or clean, this process actually increases the risk for salmonella passing into the eggs, hence why they have to stay refrigerated until they are used. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), washed eggs should be kept at temperatures no higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the supply chain.

 In Latin America and many other countries worldwide, there is no wet washing process, the eggs are cleaned while dry, and transported at room temperature. If the eggs stay dry, they keep their natural protection against pathogens.

In Costa Rica eggs are required to be stored in clean, dry areas, and transported at room temperature out of extreme heat. Any eggs that are wet, broken, or, in the case of any producers who do wash their eggs, if unrefrigerated for any period of time after washing, are prohibited from sale. Fresh eggs as a whole only have a 20 day shelf life. I bet you may have eggs in your frig longer than that?

Personally I purchase my eggs from a farmer up in the mountains. He makes weekly runs down to the beach area and to be honest with you, his eggs are better than any I have ever had in the US or for that matter even here in Costa Rica that I bought in a store. His eggs are from true free range hens and are the best I have ever had. Eggs like any protein are very perishable so as soon as I get them from Jorge I put them in the refrigerator anyway. I have never had a bad egg yet nor have I even gotten sick from eating his eggs.

Hens that already have salmonella can pass the bacteria into the yolks of their eggs, even if the shell is in good condition and the eggs are properly handled.  So do not ever eat raw eggs! After doing some research for this article I found out that the FDA and the Costa Rican Nutrition and Health Research Institute (INCIENSA), recommended cooking eggs thoroughly and keeping all egg-based dishes refrigerated. They also recommend that during food preparation, whether home or professionally, avoid cracking eggs on the lip of the container you are using to avoid any pathogens transferring from the outside of the shell into the food being prepared. So when you baking that surprise birthday cake for your loved one, don’t use the egg shell to separate the whites from the yolk.

Just remember, so long as the eggs are fresh and handled the right way, you should have no worries buying unrefrigerated eggs in Costa Rica! I will take mine over-easy please!

 

More ways to get to Costa Rica

Sometimes when looking to book a flight to Costa Rica, you may say “man I wish there were more options”.  Me too, but if there were too many options, then too many nut cases will come and I rather they stay where they are, don’t you?

Delta Air Lines announced it will increase the number of flights between Costa Rica and the United States starting the first week of November.  Three of the four new flights will be between Los Angeles and Liberia, Guanacaste, and  the fourth flight is a seasonal one going to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica from Minneapolis-St. Paul. Check Delta’s web site to see if there is flight close to you coming to Costa Rica soon.

Southwest Airlines has announced a flight from Baltimore to San José that begins operating in March 2015 (pending approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation). The airline would offer daily roundtrip service between the two airports. If this does get approved, I am willing to bet that another flight will be offered to Liberia international airport as well.

JetBlue has confirmed its plans to add more flights with a direct flight from Boston to Liberia in addition to previous flights from JFK in New York to Liberia as well as Orlando to San José, and Fort Lauderdale to San José

Here is a link to the Liberia International Airport http://www.liberiacostaricaairport.net/

There is a lot of good information on this site and is easy to navigate, on the bottom of the landing page is a complete list of all the airlines that arrive at this airport along with links to that airline’s web site. Happy searching with more ways to come to Costa Rica and I am looking forward to seeing you here in the Playa Hermosa area soon!

 

Tax Time in Costa Rica. Not as bad as you may think or heard!

Well it is that dreaded time of year again when the Costa Rica tax man comes a calling! The really good thing about this, if there is anything good, is that the taxes are much lower than what I was paying in the US. The bad thing is most of the taxes are all due in December and January.

The fiscal year in Costa Rica starts October 1 and ends September 31, unlike the US and Canada which are on a calendar year. So it is time to start getting all the receipts and tax forms ready to present. Thank goodness I have a great CPA here in Costa Rica. Manuel does an excellent job for me and takes care of my all my tax requirements and filings during the year so when it is time to file and pay it is not a struggle to get it done. As a business owner here in Costa Rica I am liable for corporate income tax as well as personal income tax.

Thanks to Manuel for the help, as he supplied me with the proper percentages and figures, below are the tax rates for the fiscal year of 2014 which as I mentioned ended September 31st.  Every year the dollar amount changes for the percentage you have to pay. For the purpose of this article I am using the current exchange rate of ₡ 535 Colons to the $US Dollar.

Individuals that made less than ₡ 3.339.000 million colons or $6,241.00 dollars in 2014 pay no tax at all, but these people still have to file a tax report or in Spanish a “declaracion de renta”.  If you do not file a tax return in Costa Rica and you get caught the penalty is ¢199.000 colons or $371.00.

The personal tax rate goes up from there, see the chart below.

 

Colons

 

Dollars

Tax Percentage

applied to total net income

 

Gross revenue up

 

 ¢49.969.000

 

$93,400.00

 

10%

 

Gross revenue up

 

¢100.513.000

 

$187,201.00

 

20%

Gross income of more than

 

¢100.513.000

$187,201.00

30%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you notice the tax rates are much lower than what you pay in the US and Canada

Rates of corporate income tax are listed in the chart below. The tax is calculated on net income after allowable deductions like utilities (water, electricity, telephone, cable tv, etc) and rent (as long as there is a rental contract to back it up) are deductible from gross income.  I recommend that you use the help of a licensed CPA to make sure you get them right and not miss any possible deductions. The deadline for filing an income tax return in Costa Rica is December 15 and the tax has to be paid by that date as well.

 

Colons

Dollars

Tax Percentage

Up To

           ¢3.339.000

          $6,241.00

 Exempt

 

From and Up To

           ¢3.339.001

¢4.986.000 

$6,241.00 

          $9,319.00

 

10%

 

From and Up To

           ¢4.986.001

           ¢8.317.000

          $9,319.00

          $15,545.00

 

15%

 

From and Up To

¢8.317.001 

 ¢16.667.000 

          $15,545.00

          $31,153.00

 

20%

 

Up To and Over

 

¢16.667.001

 

           $31,153.00

 

25%

                                                              

So as you can see from the charts above the tax rates are pretty low here in Costa Rica, so I really do not mind when the tax-man comes calling. Besides if you’re not paying something no matter where you live, in my opinion you have no right then to complain about any services you think you should be getting.


Costa Rica News September '14


My Favorite Things To Do During Costa Rica's Rainy Season

Well this year the rainy season really has not been rainy at all, actually there is a drought happening due to the El Nino effect in the Pacific Ocean, but that is a completely different thing to talk about. 

Every year from May through November, Costa Rica weather changes from a dry, sunny tropical paradise to having thunderstorms and some heavy rain every almost every day; the key here is “ALMOST”, but it is not as bad as you are thinking. However, in typical years when the rains do start there are still plenty of really cool things to do in Costa Rica --  here is a list of some of my friends favorite’s:

Enjoy Indian summer

Yes we have summer and winter, the rainy season is called winter (even though it really is summer in North America). For approximately two weeks every rainy season, usually in July, Costa Rica experiences a break from the afternoon thunderstorms. This event is known as the “veranillo” or little summer.  Although it is always a great time to be outside, during this time you do not have to worry about that pop-up thunderstorm while hiking or paddle boarding or as happened to me recently, out fishing and got caught in one of the thunderstorms, it was freaky to say the least but I hired a great captain and all was good.

There are deals to be had…..

During the “rainy” season there are fewer visitors to Costa Rica and even the locals do not vacation much this time of year. This results in lower prices for lodging anywhere from 10-30 percent cheaper, and many hotels offer deeper discounts for residents to encourage local travel during the low months. Though tour prices generally remain the same, the lower volume of travelers makes it easier to negotiate deals with smaller companies.

It’s Turtle Time!

I am sure if you know anything about Costa Rica you know about the turtles. Sea turtles come to nest in Costa Rica throughout the year, but the rainy season is when larger groups of mother turtles arrive at the country’s shoreline all during a specific timeframe. There are two main beaches in Guanacaste to see turtles, each with a different species of turtle and a slightly different season. On the Nicoya peninsula, especially Playa Ostional, about 1.5 hours south of Playa Hermosa, thousands of Olive Ridley turtles come to shore to dig nests and lay their eggs, all within a few days’ time.

Not as far down the coast from Playa Hermosa is the Las Baulas National Park, this is the largest nesting spot on the Pacific Coast of the Americas where the endangered leatherback sea turtles, the largest of all sea turtles (they can weigh up to 2,000 pounds) come on shore to lay their eggs.  This amazing sight takes place in October and continues through December. Unlike Playa Ostional, at Las Baulas they do not come all at once, but seeing just one leatherback will make you say WOW!! Look at that! It is truly an awesome sight.

Get Scuba Certified

This is one of my friend’s favorite things to do. Though heavy storms could affect visibility underwater, Costa Rica has some of the best diving in the Pacific Ocean. Playas del Coco, just one town south of Playa Hermosa, has several dive operators and within an hour’s boat ride are some of the best sites for rainy season diving.  Sites like the Bat Islands, Catalina Islands and famous Monkey head rock are just a few that you can experience diving with whales, bull sharks and giant rays, dolphins and more.

 Zip-lining, in the Rain?

I would have to bet that there are more zip-line canopy tours in Costa Rica than there are the elusive jaguars. This seems to be on everyone’s list of things to do while in Costa Rica, and you should do it but beware of the weather. A canopy tour in the rain is rarely any fun. Take it from me, it is not that fun getting hit in the face by rain traveling at 20 miles per hour hanging from a line over the jungle, so go early in the morning and beat the afternoon thunderstorms and you will have a blast.

Try Learning How to Surf

The nice thing about Costa Rica is that it has consistent waves at different beaches all year-round. Though the rainy season generally offers some strong conditions, it also has the biggest and best waves. The country’s northern Pacific gets large swells during the entire rainy season, but the central and southern Pacific have better conditions through the beginning of the rainy season.  Located within a one hour drive from Playa Hermosa, is Tamarindo, there are dozens of surf shops all ready with instructors to take you out and teach you how to catch a wave. Besides, if it rain who cares you are already in the water and wet, right!

White Water Rafting

Personally I have never done this in Costa Rica, but my wife has and she said it was one of the best adventures she ever experienced. Costa Rica has many rivers that are great to raft year-round, but low water levels during the dry season can make river rafting bumpy, slow and uncomfortable.  The rivers are always warm in Costa Rica, making rafting extra enjoyable not having to wear extra wet-suit gear. River rafting trips are the fastest, smoothest and most intense during the rainy season when most of the country’s rivers swell with class III and IV rapids. Some rivers have class V rapids. The most well-traversed white water river is the Pacuare River, which has trips leaving primarily from Turrialba in the Central Valley. In Guanacaste you can raft the Colorado River that starts in Rincon de la Vieja national park but the operators are located before the park entrance.

So some people say “oh why go to Costa Rica that time of the year if rains all the time”, I say come during the rainy season and you won’t be disappointed, besides if you do get wet from rain, heck it is always warm here so you won’t get cold!!  Plus, the green season flora and fauna are especially gorgeous this time of year!

 

Make Your Doctor’s Appointment On-line

Every day, all over Costa Rica, hundreds of patients wait in line outside of public hospitals and community clinics just to schedule appointments. Some even spend the night on the sidewalks to be first in line.

The good news for users of Costa Rica’s public health care system is that Social Security System, or Caja (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social: CCSS) is working on developing a new link on their website for patients to schedule appointments online.  This is great for any expat that has their residency and does not want to go through the old-fashioned way of seeing a doctor. During the first stage of the new system, the online service will allow patients to make appointments at 40 of the Caja’s 103 hospitals and community clinics, or EBAIS, throughout the country. More of the hospitals and clinics will be added later.

As always in Costa Rica, new advances are announced before all the bugs are worked out, kind of like a new Windows operating system launch. The new Caja online system was scheduled to begin operating in mid-June, but it was delayed “for technical reasons”.

The main advantages the new system is that you can schedule an appointment from home or work, at any time of the day, and to check the availability of times and schedules of each day without having to actually go to the clinic or hospital and stand in line and hope to get a appointment.

In an ongoing effort by the Social Security System a automated phone service system has been operating since last October. Patients can call a toll-free number: 905-MISALUD or 905-6472583 and there is even assistance available in English.

 

El Niño Causes Record Drought in Costa Rica and Region

Just this past month the (ISH) Central American agriculture ministers, held a video-conference seeking coordinated efforts to help cope with a major drought that has hit the region.

This El Niño has affected not just Guanacaste but Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala too. El Niño is a weather phenomenon that occurs when the Pacific Ocean water temperatures warm versus the opposite know as La Nina, resulting in significantly less rain.

The drought has killed thousands of cattle, has dried up crops and forced certain cities to ration electricity and water depending on the location. Thank God it has not affected the Playa Hermosa area yet.  To date we have received only 8.5 inches of rain where normally at this time of year the area would have received close to 30 inches of rain. Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala have declared emergencies in the worst-affected areas to speed up aid delivery. El Salvador and Nicaragua have opened special funds to help struggling farmers.

According to the Costa Rica National Meteorological Institute (IMN), this has been the worst drought in Costa Rica in 75 years which has really hit the northern province of Guanacaste.

The drought has swept across a region known as “the dry corridor,” which covers nearly a third of Central America along the pacific coast.

Nicaragua’s government says the country is enduring its worst drought since 1976.  The first harvest, which takes place between May and August, has yielded almost nothing, according to Nicaragua’s national farmers and ranchers union. Some 2,500 cattle have died and 700,000 more are in critical health as they roam dry pastures.  Honduras’ rainy season is usually from May to November, but not this year. The drought has destroyed a large percentage of the corn and bean crops.

The region in whole is expected to lose over $90 million in crops and livestock.

All we can hope for next year is that we get the opposite effect and a La Nina comes to the Pacifico so we will have more rain.

 

That Scary Looking Fuzzy Thing, What Is It?

Mamon chino that’s what they are. If you ever have been to Costa Rica  from July through October I am sure you have seen stands on the sides of almost every  road, piled high with these red  spiny/fuzzy looking things. I know you still asking, what are they???

If you’ve ever tasted these scary looking things you know what I am referring to and are probably addicted to them like I am. If you have never tried them you should.

Mamon chino, as they are called in Costa Rica, or as they are really know as are Rambutan or even Lychees, but technically they are not lychees, but they are closely related and most people really don’t know the difference. The rough translation of mamon chino is “Chinese Sucker.” Since that doesn’t sound too nice in English, they’re often called hairy lychees.

In Costa Rica they are called mamones for short and there are a few different varieties that grow here as well. This strange looking fruit grows primarily in the Caribbean and the Osa peninsular regions of Costa Rica, where it is really wet.  When mamones are in season in Costa Rica, watch out because every local goes on an eating frenzy for them.

Ok now - to learn how to eat them; the process is very easy and NOT scary. One way, the way I do it when I pick up a kilo or so is to just bite down with my teeth, they are soft so don’t worry, and suck the tender juicy morsel out of the shell and enjoy . Or if you just can’t stomach the idea of putting that thing in your mouth just slice it open the around the center with a small knife, but just deep enough to remove the shell and pop off the top. Once you’ve chucked the red spiked shell, pop the smooth white fruit into your mouth. Don’t bite too hard just chew or suck on it until the meat pulls off the pit and you’re ready to enjoy.  Trust me when I say it is impossible to eat just one, just like a Lays potato chips, remember that old commercial?

So if you pick up a bag of them and plan on sharing, be sure to get 1 kilo for each person or you will be stopping at the next road side stand to buy another kilo.

In Guanacaste, the average cost of a kilo (2.2 pounds) can range from c2000 colons (about $4.00)  up to c3000 colons (about $6.00). The closer you get to the central valley, the cheaper they get per kilo or head to the Caribbean side or the Osa Peninsula, closer to where they are grown, you can usually pick them up for half the price.

 Here is a trick if you don’t want to deal with the pit in the middle. Score the shell with a paring knife, remove the fruit from the shell and place in a bowl.  Place the bowl of cleaned mamons covered in the refrigerator.  Wait 2 days, that’s if you can, and the seed will pop right out of the fruit. So the next time you are in Costa Rica during the July to October time frame don’t forget to try some of the spiny fuzzy scary looking things, you won’t be disappointed.


August News and Insights


Gringo! Who you calling Gringo, Me?

Gringo. Some people take offense to being called GRINGO and cringe while others embrace it like a badge of honor.

Is it a stand-in for the ugly American? A warmhearted nickname? Or a slanderous derogatory slam? There are a few things expats come across in Costa Rica that can set off a debate and discussion over the word’s weight.  Many times I am asked by newbies to Costa Rica what does it really mean? Well, it has a lot of different meanings to different people.

I personally have asked a lot of people what they think it means, from first-timers to Costa Rica, long time expats and local Costa Rican friends. Most people said the term for them is similar to comparing it to the Costa Rican expression or moniker - Tico.

Some people find it offensive, while others find it as a way to describe a person from another country and not a local Costa Rican. I have even heard people from Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua as well as basically most central and South American countries I have visited; use the term in reference to a foreigner. Personally I don’t see it as offensive unless used in a bad way, it is kind of like saying “American” or ‘Canadian”.

Some locals I asked said it refers to a white person who speaks Spanglish. You know this funny language, part Spanish part English all mixed together with the wrong tense and use of verbs. Well that’s me, but I do it pretty well!    

The word’s perceived history seemed darker than its current use to many.  A few Locals I asked said, “It’s like a slam word, like trying to degrade someone; it’s a mean, nasty word like cursing at someone”

I asked one person I know who is Mexican by heritage and lives here in Costa Rica.  He said it had to do with the Mexican-American War. As he explained it to me, it referred to the green color of U.S. Army uniforms. Supposedly, Mexicans along the front would call out to the soldiers, “green go,” demanding the Army to leave.  Hence, the term became “Gringo.”

But Gringo might have its roots in Spain nearly 100 years before the Mexican-American War. According to Beatríz Varela, writing in Spanish Loanwords in the English Language, “Gringo” first appeared in a Spanish dictionary in 1786.  “In Málaga, Gringo is what they call foreigners who have a certain kind of accent which prevents their speaking Spanish with ease and spontaneity,” reads the definition, adding that the term especially applies to the Irish.

Regardless of the word’s history, most people agreed that the way the word is used is more important than the word itself and depending on whom you’re speaking with and if they’re angry or not. I think every country and culture has a word for another nationality but it should not to be taken too seriously. Besides, if someone is calling you GRINGO with malaise in their voice, I don’t think you want to be around them anyway.

So Call me a Gringo, I don’t care, I am just happy as can be living here in Costa Rica and Loving life!

 

Costa Rica Solar Energy Project to be financed

Costa Rica’s government and its people are searching for more efficient energy sources for Costa Rica.  Solar energy is one of the top choices since it provides a clean energy and has a high potential for success due to the abundant amount of sunshine Costa Rica receives.

The most recent plan announced, is to be built on the Spanish Country Club property in San Antonio de Belen, in the central valley, San Jose. The large space that this country club has available will allow the duplex technology to produce an abundant amount of kilowatts at its peak. This duplex technology combines thermic solar energy and photovoltaic power.

BAC San Jose, one of Costa Rica’s most influential state run banks, has agreed to give $135,000 to finance the project through a partial guarantee with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE). The partial guarantee means that in case the Spanish Country Club does not outlay the full cost of the credit, the BCIE will provide a percentage of the money needed to pay the debt.

This project was initiated by the National Electricity Company (CNFL) and promoted by the Accelerated Renewable Energy Investment Project in Central America and Panama along with the United Nations Development Programs and made possible by the BAC San Jose bank.

Parts of this article was originally published and reported in CostaRicanTimes.com

 

 Can I make Friends with Costa Ricans?

The answer is yes and no and it all really depends on you! One of the great things that come with relocating to Costa Rica is the friendly people who generally like North Americans. Costa Ricans in general are fun loving and as you may or may not know are rated in the top ten on the World Happiness Index (despite any personal problems they may have).

A really cool local saying here is: “Al mal tiempo, buena cara” (having a bad time, have a good face).  I have a few really good Tico friends, many of whom have demonstrated repeatedly that they really know the meaning of friendship and helping me during a very difficult time, like when I had my heart attack.  Believe it or not, one is an attorney!  We all have bad attorney stories to tell but not this guy.

To define friendship in Costa Rica you need to leave behind your Gringo attitude and viewpoint and think about being a true friend by embracing, enjoying and assimilating into the culture of Costa Rica. Then and only then will you truly make friends and have friendship that will last a life time. Heck this is the way it should be no matter who you are or where you live.

The majority of the Ticos you come in contact with, your maid, the landscaper, the tour operator, the bartender and so on, are really working hard to make ends meet. These hard working people sometimes don’t have the time or financial means to socialize and go out partying as the work day is long and most jobs six days a week. Most foreigners tend to only meet working class people and those with lower income levels which can make forming lasting friendships difficult, not that it can’t happen, it all depends on YOU.  On the other hand, many countries have easier work laws allowing them more time off. What this basically boils down to is that most of the people here are too busy trying to make a living and don’t really have much of a social life like we know it in North America. Now that’s not to say they don’t have fun. Families get together for holidays and vacations when they get them, and have a blast, in fact, Ticos celebrate life in a very simple yet robust way whenever they get together.

Most professional Costa Ricans who belong to the upper middle or upper classes tend to have their own clicks made up of friends they grew up with and business associates, thus making it tough for foreigners to break into their social circle. Again, this all depends on you and how you handle yourself with kindness and respect towards others -  pretty basic stuff here. Latinos tend to be traditionalists, nationalistic and somewhat class conscious (clasistas) which isolates those at the top from the masses and foreigners.

The inner workings of Costa Rican families can tend to making good get in the way of making friends. In Costa Rica as in most Latin countries the family is the center of social life. Basically everything revolves around family activities. You always hear the term “En familia” which refers to the family doing everything together especially during their free time. The family always comes first and children even come before the family. Costa Rican women live for their children. So, with the family ties and children being the first priority friendships are put on the back burner.

Another factor is that expats tend to gravitate towards other expats when living abroad which kind of isolates them from the locals. Most Gringos I know hang out and socialize primarily with other Gringos. The main reason is the language barrier and the cultural difference. If you don’t speak the language, how the heck can you have a deep friendship? I do know many foreigners who speak the Spanish language well enough to have the same level of communication with Costa Ricans as they do with English speakers. Me on the other hand, I speak Spanglish but I work like heck to make sure I am overly friendly, non-judgmental and always willing to learn and try to be part of the culture. I am lucky that most of my Tico friends speak better English than I speak Spanish and that really helps to develop friendships with the people.

Really what it comes down to is that cultivating a friendship or any relationship depends on what you put into it and if the other party reciprocates, despite cultural differences and language barriers that can make this process more difficult when living abroad. So my recommendation to make lasting friendships in Costa Rica is very simple TRY!!!

Parts of this article was originally published in Costaricantimes.com

 

Enjoying Restaurants while in Costa Rica.

This article is not what I would call new but all the same it is informative and can help you understand some cultural difference.

I traveled back to the States a few months ago to visit my mother. I took mom out to dinner one night and at a nice restaurant,  you know the type one of those upper-crust brands which I won’t mention here, and I was reminded of the differences between dining in the US and Costa Rica.

That night our waiter was efficient and polite. I can’t complain about that. He refilled water glasses when only half empty, asked if everything was all right, and fluttered over us like hummingbird over a flower. Once we finished our main course, he whisked our plates off the table while I was still chewing that last bite of my dinner. While still holding our dirty dishes in his hands, he asked if we wanted dessert. Mom and I both said no thanks and the waiter was quick to ask “How about Coffee”?  “No, thank you” was our reply and before I could ask for an after dinner drink he placed the bill on the table and said “I will be right back for that” and took off like the hummingbird that was looking for another flower and left in a flash. We were in and out in about an hour. It was all done with courtesy and polish, but I felt rushed, like I was just a number and I know what that number is-- MORE CUSTOMERS EQUALS MORE TIPS.

When my wife and I dine at our favorite restaurants in the Playa Hermosa and Playa Del Coco area it is nothing like we used to experience when living in the States or the time I had with my mom. When we walk in to a place the waiter offers us our choice of tables. If we decide to sit at a table set for four, it is no problem. Unlike when we lived in the States, you walk in and most times the host or hostess will bring you to a table in a pre-determined area unless you ask otherwise. In Costa Rica once we sit down the waiter will simply remove the silverware of the extra place settings and bring us a menu right away. While the waiter is still there we always order a drink of some kind. After the waiter brings the drinks they do not disturb us until we either raise a hand or make a gesture to get their attention that we are ready to order our meals. This allows us time to enjoy our time together.

When our meal does arrive, the waiter serves us, asks if we need anything, and leaves. To get service again I simply raise a hand or catch the waiter’s eye indicating I want or need something. Once we finish our meal, (I tend to eat a lot faster than my wife); the plates are often left on the table until the last person at the table has finished eating. The only time they are picked up more rapidly is if we are eating outside and bugs start to become an issue. Remember it is Costa Rica.

When the waiter does clear our plates, he never asks if we want anything more. He simply takes the plates away. If we want dessert or coffee, we ask for it. If we decide to just hang out and enjoy the time together and not even order anything more it is not an issue. We can sit there all night and not be pressured to order something or made to feel like we are intruding on something. There is no pressure to leave, kind of like we rented the table for the night.

When it is time to finally leave all I do is make that hand gesture again or eye contact and say “La cuenta, por favor” the check please. This includes the cost of our meals, and drink then the 13 % sales tax, and a 10% tip for the waiter. Having been in the hospitality industry for almost 30 years, I always add additional tip to the bill. But you don’t have to.

Many people from the States and Canada get frustrated by this laid back atmosphere and feel that they aren’t getting service that they are used to. That’s where the Ugly American comes in and shows its nasty face. I have seen it many times living here.

Here’s how I see it:  Slightly twisted maybe but everyone is entitled to their own opinions. In North America most waiters and restaurateurs churn and burn tables so the saying goes in the industry, for more tips and more sales. Waiters and most tipped employees are not paid a living wage or minimum wage because they make tips, so it makes sense for them to speed up your dinner, get you out the door, and replace you with another possible tip prospect. You know what I am talking about, as soon as you sit down the waiter will ask what do you want to drink, as soon as he gets back with the drinks the next questions is “what do you want to order”. What makes me crazy is while I am still eating, the waiter will ask “are you saving room for dessert”. If the answer is “no thanks, no dessert for me” they will like what happened with my mom, immediately drop the check on the table and turn off to go somewhere else. But in Costa Rica, from the casual plata del dia (plate of the day restaurant) all the way up to the white table-clothed gastronomic feast, most waiters are courteous, pleasant and attentive. Also most are willing to help as well, but only if you ask. Again this is where some people get crazy when dining out in the area. The reason for this laid back approach by the wait staff is because they are paid a living wage with health care, retirement and social benefits. I heard some people say “Ticos are lazy” or “service here stinks, because they already charge you a 10% tip on the bill”. Well they are just wrong.

This is probably a cultural difference between the North Americans and Central American. North Americans have lost the joy of spending time with the family and or friends sharing a plate of food. In Costa Rica meals and eating itself is held in high esteem; time with family or friends is honored. It is considered rude to approach a table and carry on a conversation with Costa Ricans while they are dining. If they visit your table, it will be before your food arrives, and when it does come then they will excuse themselves offering you a polite salutation, “buen provecho” meaning good appetite, or enjoy your meal.

In the last few years the North American fast food storm has descended on Costa Rica with a vengeance. There are now KFCs, Subways, Pizza Huts, Micky Ds, and Burger Kings springing up in neighborhoods like weeds in a field. Thank God there is only a Subway in Coco and tons of other real options to dine and enjoy a good meal while in this part of Costa Rica.


June Update- Costa Rica News


Excitement in the Streets of Costa Rica,

Ticos Celebrating the National Team's Victory.

The Tico soccer team sends the Greeks home with yogurt on their face.

Miles of red-clad bodies took over the main streets throughout all of Costa Rica. Just like last time the underdogs won, it looked like the entire population of this tiny country had taken to the streets this past Sunday to celebrate the national team's latest World Cup victory. It was crazy!!! But a lot of fun!!!

These boisterous street-side celebrations have not only become a trend over the past couple of weeks, they've now become part of history. For the first time ever, Costa Rica is advancing to the Cup's quarterfinals.  La Sele was well-represented with thousands of vocal fans watching their 5-3 shootout win over Greece, despite being undermanned on the field. Down to 10 men after defender Oscar Duarte was expelled with a second yellow card (an automatic red) in the 66th minute, Costa Rica let a 1-0 lead slip away at the last minute of regulation before holding off the Greek side in both extra time periods.

The Ticos' hero was goal keeper Keylor Navas, who made plenty of key saves during regulation. Though Navas let the first three penalty kicks through, he stuffed Greece's Theofanis Gekas with a perfectly timed dive to his right on the fourth kick. That stop by the man voted as the best goalie in Spain's La Liga, decided the match as all five Costa Rican shooters scored.

“Obviously being a man down made a difference, but we never gave up,” said Navas in a press conference after the game in Recife. “As for my save at the end, I can’t remember what was going through my mind. All I did was react and keep it out.”

On the same section of the Cup bracket, the Netherlands came back to beat Mexico with two late goals Sunday. Trailing 1-0, the Dutch scored the equalizer at the 88th minute and then capitalized on a penalty kick four minutes into stoppage time to put the dagger to Mexico's heart. Now instead of playing their traditional rival, Costa Rica meets up with the Dutch.

As the dream run continues for another week, depth still remains a worry going forward. The Ticos entered World Cup play with probable starters Bryan Oviedo and Álvaro Saborío sidelined due to injuries. Now after playing more than 120 minutes Sunday, heavy-legged players will take advantage of every day of rest they can get until Saturday's showdown with the Dutch.

And even after they've made history as the soccer-obsessed nation's most successful World Cup team, Pinto said his squad isn't going to lie around being satisfied to finish in the top eight.

“I’ll say it again – we’re delighted and we’d like to dedicate this win to all the people of Costa Rica,” Pinto said. “We respect the Netherlands, just as we respect all our rivals, but the story goes on, and we’re hungry for more.”

By AmCostaRica.com

Here is a great Video to check out about determination.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpadUJy7mOs&feature=share#

 

 

University Latina Costa Rica, Hosts Bill Clinton

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited the Universidad Latina in San Pedro recently as part of the school's 25th anniversary. Clinton was on hand to tour the facilities at the medical school's new research building, promoted to be one of the most modern and innovative in all of Central America.

The former U.S. president lauded Costa Rica’s record on environmentalism and said the small country of less than 5 million people was well positioned to meet the challenges of the 21st century through its investment in education, health and the environment. Clinton called Costa Rica one of the countries he most admires.

President Clinton is the honorary chancellor for Laureate International Universities, a network that connects 75 academic institutions in 30 countries, including Universidad Latina. Clinton discussed issues facing the world and Costa Rica with the university's chancellor. 

By AmCostaRica.com 

 

Another Option for Satellite TV Service in Costa Rica

Millicom, international telecommunications and media company, announced that it will launch satellite pay-TV services in two more countries, Costa Rica and Honduras.  These follow the first two services in Bolivia and El Salvador, which began operations earlier this year.

The services are part of the “Tigo Star” branded range of services which launched in Latin America in March 2014 to promote the takeover of broadband, and cable and satellite pay-TV.

Via satellite consumers in Costa Rica and Honduras now have a choice of over 70 channels, including premium sport and films, of which four are in high definition. Commenting on the latest launches, Millicom’s CEO and President, Hans-Holger Albrecht, said “I am delighted that the majority of our operations in Latin America are now able to offer customers a full and competitive range of diversified digital services including mobile, broadband, cable and now satellite pay-TV. Millicom continues to transform into a complete digital lifestyle provider with satellite being able to reach all parts of the countries where we offer this service.”

Check it out  at    http://www.millicom.com/who-we-are/our-brands/tigo-star  

By http://advanced-television.com

FATCA Started July 1, Are You Abiding by the Law??

The dreaded Internal Revenue Service ( IRS as better known)  is about to get an unprecedented look at bank accounts and investments that U.S. citizens hold abroad, through a law that is making it harder to hide assets from the tax collector. Effective on July 1st, 2014 the U.S. government will start imposing 30 percent taxes on many overseas payments to financial institutions that don’t share information with the IRS

In 2013, 2,999 Americans renounced citizenship, the highest number on record. The four highest totals have all occurred since the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act FACTA, became law though the exact reasons for renunciations aren’t reported.

This new burden has frustrated overseas banks and U.S. expatriates. It’s also created a new standard of global bank-to-government information sharing designed to throw light on often difficult-to-trace accounts. The problem here is that it adversely affects law abiding US citizens living abroad.

This law allows the U.S. to gather data from more than 77,000 financial institutions and 80 governments about US citizens’ overseas financial activities.

“I don’t think anything on this scale has ever been tried before,” said John Harrington, a former international tax counsel at the Treasury Department who is now a partner at Dentons in Washington. “The idea that it would go off without a hitch is sort of hard to imagine.” Also will it really help recovering money???

What led to the 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, was the inability of federal tax authorities to obtain clear information about financial accounts that U.S. citizens have outside the US. Most Americans do not know that the US government taxes its citizens on their worldwide income regardless of where they actually live and earn their income.

In establishing the law, Congress and President Barack Obama in effect threatened to cut off banks and other companies from easy access to the U.S. market if they didn’t pass along such information. The U.S. was able to leverage its status as a financial center to demand action from governments and banks in other countries. In other words, they blackmailed banking institutions worldwide just to try to catch some cheaters.  The proposal was barely debated when Congress in 2010 passed it as a budgetary offset to a tax credit for hiring. It was projected to raise $8.7 billion in revenue over a decade.

Under FATCA, U.S. banks and other companies making certain cross-border payments — such as interest and dividends — to foreign financial institutions must withhold a 30 percent tax if the recipient isn’t providing information about its U.S. account holders.

Later phases of the law will apply to a broader set of cross-border payments, such as gross proceeds from stock sales. Many non-financial companies will be affected, too.

The law has been accompanied by a new set of regulations and definitions, creating a cottage industry of advisers and interpreters. It was supposed to start Jan. 1, 2013, which was put off until 2014 give taxpayers more time to comply.

FATCA prompted more than 77,000 financial institutions to register for the program to avoid the withholding tax. As a result of that compliance, the government doesn’t expect to collect much direct revenue from the 30 percent levy, said a senior Treasury official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss planning for FATCA.

In most cases, the law isn’t being implemented as written, because foreign banks said direct disclosure to the IRS would violate local laws. The prospect of withholding spurred negotiations between the U.S. and foreign governments, and other countries saw the potential benefits of reciprocal information exchange. Costa Rica folded like a house of cards as soon as the pressure was put on the banking system here and all banks must comply if they have US account holders.

 “FATCA has been a pretty difficult blow for our U.S. expatriates,” said Martin Karges, senior director in international tax at BDO USA LLP in New York. “They may be shifting money to noncompliant jurisdictions.”

The real problem is that many local banks in Costa Rica that decided not to comply canceled the account of US citizens and made them move their money to other banks

As the account information comes into the U.S. starting in 2015, the focus shifts to the IRS, which will use the data to guide its investigations into offshore tax evasion.

Even without FATCA in place, the U.S. has used prosecutions against Credit Suisse AG (CSGN) and UBS AG (UBSN) to get information on Americans hiding overseas accounts.

Prosecutors in the US have charged over 70 U.S. taxpayers and a few dozen bankers, lawyers and advisers in the crackdown on offshore tax evasion. Those charged include H. Ty Warner, the billionaire creator of Beanie Babies plush toys; Igor Olenicoff, a billionaire real estate developer; and Brad Birkenfeld, a former UBS AG banker who blew the whistle on the bank.

The IRS has sponsored offshore voluntary disclosure programs since 2009 that have brought in about $6.5 billion in interest, taxes and penalties and prompted more than 45,000 Americans to reveal offshore holdings. The tax agency has said it’ll have a relatively light enforcement touch for the first two years of FATCA for financial institutions that are trying to comply. The resource-constrained IRS is making FATCA a priority without spending too much time on “small-scale” compliance matters

You can question whether the cost is worth the benefits, but there’s no question there’s a cost, and I bet a big one and it’s going to be ongoing for sure.

By Richard Rubin, bloomberg.com


May Update- Costa Rica News


Costa Rica High Court Probes Narco Corrupted Judge

Supreme Court magistrates created a committee to investigate the penetration of organized crime and drug traffickers into the judiciary. The decision came in a special session called by  Zarela Villanueva Monge, president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia ( The Costa Rica Supreme Cout).  The special session came just five days after investigators took into custody a judge in Limón on an allegation of rigging court cases in favor of drug traffickers.

Well Go Figure! A judge on the take from drug dealers! At least here they get caught!! But that’s not to say they go to jail though??

A summary of the supreme court session, suggested an effort toward a conspiracy, even though investigators said the main charge against the judge was one of influence peddling. The summary said that the accused judge is suspected of exercising undue influence with other members of the judicial tribunal to resolve cases.

Among other actions, the Supreme Court ratified beefing up the resources and the number of judges in the province of Limón. The committee will have 30 days to submit a report containing a complete vision of the areas of the country that are vulnerable to narco-traffickers and organized crime, the Supreme Court decided.

Magistrate Villanueva said Friday that she was satisfied with the way the judiciary is combating drug trafficking but she suggested creating courts centralized in San José to handle drug and organized crime cases. Ms. Villanueva said then that this case of the judge is being treated as an isolated incident and it should not cast doubt on other judges in Limón or throughout the country. Well that sounded like a real political statement, don’t you think?

The judge who was arrested is Rosa Elena Gamboa, 62, who worked in the Primer Circuito Judicial of the Zona Atlántica. She has been freed but with restrictions.  The Supreme Court in its summary said that institutional controls functioned adequately to detect irregularities in the current case, and it also noted that other judges in the same office were the ones who made the first complaint and also asked the court president to help handle the caseload in Limón.

 

President Solis, to Promote Multi-Cultural Designation

The Costa Rica government says it will uphold a constitutional amendment that will make Costa Rica a multicultural and multi-ethnic country.

Newly elected President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera recently proclaimed that he and the other candidates, that did not win the presidential election, signed a pledge, back in November while meeting with citizens in the province Limón and stumping for votes, declared that Costa Rica is a multicultural society. This is actually a really good thing, now if it can be officially passed into law that would be great

In addition, the government will set up a commission to promote and oversee the public policies that promote racial inclusion, encourage respect for cultural diversity and fight against racial discrimination.

This would be an expansion of a decree issued by former president Laura Chinchilla that only applied to the public administration. Thanks Goodness she is gone, not that the last president was a woman,  but talk about corrupt? She and her administration covered up more crime then they said they solved.

The proposal is already in the legislature, and Solís said that he would try to expedite the measure even if he had to put it on a special agenda for consideration when the executive branch controls the issues that are discussed in the Asamblea Legislative.

The Constitution's Articúlo 33 already says all persons are equal before the law and discrimination cannot be practiced against them contrary to human dignity.

 

Costa Rica’s New Administration Artificially Raises Consumer Confidence

Costa Rica’s consumer confidence index reached 49.8 percent in May, That is highest percentage going all the back to February 2011 when it was 50.3. This was reported by a new study administered by the University of Costa Rica. In reality the reason for the increase is because of the recent past presidential elections. It basically comes down to people hoping there will be change for the better.

The data, according to coordinator Johnny Madrigal, from the UCR’s School of Statistics, the confidence level is breaking a bearish trend the country has experienced in recent years,

Six months ago, the consumer confidence index was 37.9 percent, one of the lowest figures in the past four years. However, Madrigal noted that this behavior is typical of post-election periods.

President Luis Guillermo Solís took office on May 8, after winning a runoff election by a landslide on April 6. That’s because The other main candidate withdrew from the race.

“These results are influenced by the electoral period,” Madrigal said. “Whenever there has been a change in government, consumer confidence has increased. But that does not mean it should be perceived as widespread optimism.”  Madrigal said the consumer confidence index has improved during the last three changes of administration.

According to the study, the number of people who say they are optimistic about personal finances and the national economy increased in the last six months, from 13.8 to 25.8 percent in May.  Of those surveyed, 31.5 percent believe the country’s economy will improve in the next five years, while six months ago only 16.9 percent held that opinion.

Madrigal said the actual impact of the change in government will be measured by the next consumer confidence index survey, scheduled for August 2014. The survey also included a question regarding the economic and social legacy of former President Laura Chinchilla, which prompted mostly negative responses. Only 9.3 percent of those surveyed said the past administration had done a good job, while 62.5 percent said her administration did a poor job.

 

Volcán Poás, Still Erupting and Worth Seeing

Costa Rica’s Volcán Poás is doing its part to promote the country's tourism. And it is a good thing because the most famous, Volcano Arenal, is very quiet these days and has gone to sleep about a year now. The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at Universidad Nacional has tracked eruptions at the volcano crater and is declaring that this activity can continue for up to four years. The last time I was there was back in 2002 and it was spectacular to observe this natural wonder.

The volcano has been erupting off and on for over eight years, but from February to May this year, some of the eruptions were reordered has high as  200 to 400 meters in the air, that is almost as high as 1,400 feet. Poás has one of the world's largest calderas. A caldera is a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. They are sometimes confused with volcanic craters. The word comes from Spanish caldera, and this from Latin caldaria, meaning "cooking pot". In some texts the English term cauldron is also used.

The Observatorio is getting a better account of eruptions now because there are Web cameras installed to keep an eye on the caldera. At night the experts have to rely on reports of changes in gas levels at the crater.

Most of what is ejected from the crater lagoon are sediment, rock fragments, water, vapor and sulfur. The eruptions appear to be from the rapid expansion of water vapor and not the ejection of volcanic magma. The information about the recent eruptions comes from a routine report from the Observatorio, which keeps close track with all sorts of measurement devices noting local earthquakes, temperature changes, and the gases. Because of its easy access, Poás is one of the country's most visited volcanos. The caldera is on many tourism tour agendas.


February Updates - Costa Rica News


Poás Volcano Erupts

On Tuesday February 25th one of Costa Rica's most famous volcanoes erupted, the Poás Volcano projected a dark cloud of smoke and debris over 1000 feet into the air. This is not the first time Poás has erupted and official are very careful about letting tourist on the mountain if there is any potential for an eruption. Thanks to these strict safety policies there were no reported injuries or deaths due to the eruption.

The Poás Volcano is one of Costa Rica's most visited tourist destinations and offers visitors amazing views of Costa Rica and is well known for it's scenic lake at the summit.

Water Shortages in the Central Valley

Costa Rica is seeing another season with hot and dry weather and it is having an effect on the water supply in province of Herdia. Because of this the Water and Sewer Institute (AyA) has announced that they will be instituting water rationing through out the San José cantons of Alajuelita, Santa Ana and Moravia. In these areas residents currently have water for only eight to 10 hours out of the day. The rationing is effecting an estimated 25,000 people.

The good news, so far Guanacaste the water is running 24/7.

4g Network Going Live in Costa Rica in March

As I posted late last year, Costa Rica is moving forward with it's implementation of a new 4G network. While we new it was coming in the first have of 2014, ICE has officially announced that the network will be launched in March under the trademark of Kolbi with only one caveat, iPhone customers will have to wait for a deal to be reached with Apple.

According to the Tico times: "Monthly contracts allow connections with speeds of 6 and 10 Megabytes per second (Mbps) at a cost of ₡10,000 ($18) and ₡27,000 ($50), respectively. The daily plan allows 6 Mbps connections at a per-day price of ₡3,000 ($5.50)."

The one thing that is interesting is that the new 4G network is faster than more expensive DSL (wired) plans offered through out the country. One can only hope the increased speed and decreasing cost of wireless mobile internet will soon be reflected in the home also.

Costa Rica Takes Steps Towards New Highway from San Jose to Limon

Costa Rica has taken a controversial first step in building a highway from San Jose to the Caribbean beach town of Limon. While everybody agrees that the highway is needed, questions have arisen do to the proposed loan of $465 million secured from the Chines company contracted to construct the highway.

In what many would consider to be a conflict of interest, the proposed loan has passed its initial vote by the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee. The bill has been passed without preliminary blueprints of the project, without any estimate of the total materials needed, without one price/cost study and without any knowledge of the exact number of private lands that will be expropriated for the highway’s expansion.

If this were not enough several local business groups have pointed out that the proposed $465 million is an estimated $165 million over what the cost should be.

As the bill moves forward I will keep you updated.

What is happening in the Guanacaste Real Estate market?

To give a short and brief run down, the market has picked up considerably from the lows of 2009 to 20011. We stated see more buyers coming from the US now that the stock market had been on a 3 year rise.

The market for single family homes is slightly better, average buyers are looking to spend roughly $300,000 to $400,000 USD and down. Unfortunately a lot of the nicer homes in that price range have already been grabbed. That’s not to say that there might not be a few more coming on the market. There is still a good amount of Inventory in the $600,000 and up price range.

Condominiums are selling quiet well if properly priced. Many folks are looking to the future and buying a nice condo in the $175,000 to $275,000 range as a vacation spot till they are ready to make the move here full time. The Condo market of $45,000K to $120,000K is flooded with Lots of Inventory. These units tend not to have an ocean view and are usually much smaller averaging about 878 sq. ft. for a two bed two bath unit.

For the complete article, Click Here


Januaray Updates - Costa Rica News


The Costa Rican Presidential Election:

As in most countries, in Costa Rica the election is the major news story of the new year. Since it would take way to long to delve into all of the different candidates I thought it would be a bit more fun to go over some facts about the Costa Rican election.

Here are some facts about the Costa Rica election:

- The election season only last 4 months as compared to a full year like in the United States.

- This is the first year Costa Rican citizens can vote from pout side of the country.

- Public money pays for each parties campaign, this year that amounted to $72,590,680 being taken from the countries GDP and split between the parties

- In Costa Rica a candidate must receive 40% of the vote to be elected president. Because this does not happen in all election (and most likely will not this election) to decide an election where no candidate receives 40% there is a run off between the top two candidates from the firstround of voting.

Starbucks Opens it's 4rth store in Costa Rica:

Costa Rica continues expanding it's presence in the central valley of Costa Rica, now opening their 4th store in the Plaza Freses in Curridabatand. This will be the first Starbucks located outside of the upscale central valley community of Escazú. The new location will 180 square-meters and will have a planned 25 employees.

Costa Rica opened it's first store in Costa Rica and 2012 with great results and has lead a steady increas in US franchises moving taking advantage of an eager Costa Rican marketplace.

No alcohol on Super Bowl Sunday:

In what can only be described as unfortunate timing, this years Costa Rica presidential election happened to fall on Super Bowl Sunday. While this wouldn't be an issue in most countries, Costa Rica has a tradition of banning liquor sales on election days. According to the law each municipality has the choice of whether to enforce the law or not. So far in Costa Rica 12 municipalities have decided to enforce the law.

As you can imagine this comes as a major blow to the tourism sector, a group that has not let their disapproval of the decision go with out venting their frustration. Besides the individual establishment The National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) has even spoken out against the law:

“The government is showing no consideration for the effects of this measure, which will harm tourism and restaurants that must refrain from providing services to people not involved (in the elections),” the chamber argued in a statement.

How this timing issue will effect the overall impact of alcohol consumption laws in the future is yet to be unseen, but one thing is for sure the conversation has been started.