I get this question from almost every client I get, there is so much bogus and wrong information on the internet about the water in Guanacaste and Playa Hermosa area. Let me try to explain it to you. The main reason why so many foreigners relocate to the Papagayo region of Costa Rica, is because we have absolutely the best weather of any of the beach areas in the entire country and are the closest beaches to an international airport. Technically 70% of Costa Rica is a rain forest. What does this mean? RAIN and lots of it!
The area of Playa Panama, Playa Hermosa, Playas del Coco and Ocotal has the least amount of rainfall of anywhere in the country If you read my daily blog I do a weather report every day. I have written about the DRY SEASON well we actually are one of the only areas in all of Costa Rica that has a true dry season. From the end of December all the way to April we don’t get a drop of rain at all, not one drop. You read on many web sites describing the dry season and rainy season. Well most if it is informative, it may not be correct. In the Papagayo region we experience a dry season, a green season and a rainy month, October. This is the one month of year with real heavy rain, than the rest of the year we have fantastic weather!
Most of Costa Rica experiences six months of heavy rains and six months of a green season, and no dry season of any kind. It never stops raining. January to April is considered our dry season it is like living in Arizona without the traffic and the smog, the average temperatures are between 85 to 90 degrees, no rain and really low humidity. Then from June thru September it is like living in Florida except we DO NOT GET HURRICANES, the daily temperatures are between 75 to 85 degrees, average humidity and a nice tropical warn shower almost every day in the afternoon that lasts for a couple hours. Usually by 5 pm, the rain stops, the clouds head off shore and you get to enjoy a gorgeous sunset on the beach. In October, anything can happen. We get almost half of our annual rainfall in that one month period. Do you like rain? Then head to Southern Pacific zone they can get upwards of 400 inches!!!! Per year, it is always raining there.
We average over 320 days of sunshine a year, more than any parts of Costa Rica. This is just perfect. Do you want to know why? Well there are a lot of issues associated with year round rain. The obvious, is the humidity. Living in the southern zone is like living in Miami in August all year long, screaming hot and humidity so thick you can cut it with a nikef, Not for me thank you. It also means lots of mold and mildew everywhere. You spend more money on bleach trying to kill it than on anything else. So with all that rain means lots of property work as the jungle will take over your place faster than you can shake a stick at it. You are coming to Costa Rica to Chill out not become a full time gardener. Just when you cut it, it grows right back twice as thick. The real problem is BUGS, and I mean lots of bugs, some as big as your hand and of course as nature is, there will be a bigger creature to eat them! Then you have the bigger bugs that eat the smaller bug and the spiders and snakes that eat the bugs etc. All the way up to 20 foot crocodiles walking across the road. It really is the jungle and for most people that is just too much to handle, myself included.
The advantage of the dry seasons, is that allows all rain and standing water to evaporate, leaving nowhere for the mosquitos to breed. Ask anyone who came here and they will tell you, they saw very few bugs of any kind, and there are almost no issues of mold. The dry season, though, also means that we are a technically a desert for 5 months a year. So like anywhere that experiences a dry climate, we have to be very conservative of our water.
Ok you are probably saying about now, what about the water issue? Well the Papagayo region of Costa Rica sits on the largest aquifer in Guanacaste it is called the Tempisque River Basin. This is where all the rain water from the high altitudes of the rain forest and volcanos just to our east, flows in a huge underground river towards the Gulf de Nicoya. Many hydrologists have studied and proven that there is enough water, sitting under the surrounding areas of the Liberia airport, to service a large metropolitan Dallas. All this water is just a couple of mile away from where all the development is going on. The real problem is not that there is not enough water, but it is the lack of ability to deliver the water from one point to another. Like everything in Costa Rica, INFRASTRUCTURE. It just is not all her yet, But coming soon!!
I first came to Playa Hermosa in 2003, it was just in the late stages of the beginning of the real estate boom before it really went BOOM in 2005. The roads were paved but had pot holes the size of craters and were poorly maintained. The electricity would go on and off many times during the day, and there was only dial up internet. There was spotty cell phone service, and to get a land line was almost impossible, there was no hospital or police. The airport just opened and we had one tiny grocery store on the second beach entrance
That was just over nine years ago. Fast forward to today, and there is a brand new $20 Million International airport just 12 miles away. There is a new state of the art CIMA hospital just minutes away. The roads are some of the best in the country, and everyone has high speed wireless internet. We have had 3G cell service for a couple of years now and 4G on the way real soon. Our electrical system had been upgraded and now we have 3 phase high voltage electric. Back then, the police dove beat up 20 year old pickup trucks that barely worked and now drive brand new Toyota trucks. There is an ambulance service minutes away and all the amenities of a first world country. In Playa el Coco just a 7 minute drive away, we now have dozens of restaurants, four grocery stores from local tico style all the way up to a grand shopping experience that you are used to in North America or Europe, lots of night life, hotels that run the gamut from luxury to hostels, great golf courses, full tennis clubs, countless spas, a world class first rate marina and a new boardwalk along the beach.
This area is a FANTASTIC place to live, in my opinion one of the best in the world, as I live here as well. The best part is when you feel like you want to be in the jungle and get away from civilization the rain forest is just an hour away.
The last real hurdle we face is the infrastructure battle. There are the new water lines being built to the area. In 2005 we were experiencing a huge real estate and economic boom not just here in costa Rica but it was worldwide. Many projects were being built in the area and money was flowing like water, sorry I could pass up the pun. Costa Rica was enjoying the cash injection and construction permits were being approved every day. Than in typical Costa Rica fashion, the government realized that with all the condos and hotels were being built once they would be complete there would be a serious electricity and water shortage as the existing systems would not capable of meeting the demand. There was plenty of water and power for the existing homes. So the government of Costa Rica decided to stop many of the projects while they upgraded the systems to service new demands. Costa Rica is not a financially rich country, as most Latin American countries are not as well. So government went to the developers of these projects and asked them to put up the money for the construction of two new water lines. One project is to provide service to Playas del Coco and Ocotal, the other to bring water to Playa Panama and Hermosa. In a matter of months the money was raised and millions of dollars was put up by developers in order to get their water hook ups and continuing to finish their projects.
Unfortunately, there is a group here in Costa Rica, like many parts of the world, who call themselves activists. They say they are here to defend the common person and protect the environment and they want to stop all development in Costa Rica. What they really are, are eco terrorist, buy suing every single project that tries to get permits, in the name of the people, is nothing short of a crime, because it is only the local people who they have hurt. The locals are the ones who don’t have the jobs anymore, that they need to feed their families, thanks to these “Activist”. The local Ticos do not stand behind these people; they want to see progress too. These activists sued the new water lines, which held them up for another 3 years while it went through the Supreme Court. Guess what? The government sided with the developers and the local people, Not the Activists. The Constitutional court said, this is the countries water, and we will do with it as we want! The government of Costa Rica wants development to happen. They want the economy to grow. They want opportunities for their people. Even the President, Laura Chinchilla, spent time in front of the US Stock Exchange this year and urged the USA to invest more in Costa Rica. The government also wants foreigners to be living here as they will spend more of their money in this country.
A lot of positive things are happening because of this entire water situation. I will explain the best I can, a lot of developments in Costa Rica were and still are, getting their water from legal private wells. The government grants the development a concession, allowing them to take a certain amount of water based on pressure. The problem with this system is that the government water agency doesn’t paid for any of water that is used. How can the water company AYA, make any money if no one is paying for water? Many of the laws of Costa Rica are based on Napoleonic laws, written hundreds of years ago and are outdated. The laws pertaining to water were written thinking that a farmer would be taking the water out of the ground to use for his crops. Not a residential development of homes or condos or even a hotel. So the water company AyA had to pass new laws requiring every single development to form an ASADA, or basically a water association that charges for water and is controlled.
They forced projects to do this by not issuing any new building permits until the ASADA’s were formed. Every single development in the entire country had to form an ASADA. By the end of next year, hopefully, things do take time when dealing with the government, every development in this area should have their ASADA formed and completed. This new law will allow the water company AyA to make money off of the water usage, and hence finally, make a profit after decades of being broke. This will allow them to continue to build new water lines around the entire country.
The construction of the new water lines are starting again and shortly the projects that are currently stopped will resume. In the future, you will see the government be more cautious with their permit granting, and take a stronger role in protecting the environment which is a good thing. In the end, the natural beauty is what attracts people to Costa Rica, and no one wants to do anything to destroy that and we do not want this part of Costa Rica to look like Cancun. We want development but we all want sustained development. If anything, the developers and realtors I have met are more conscious of the environment than any of the local Costa Ricans.
If other places in the world are built in a dessert and in the middle of nowhere, Guanacaste will be just fine too. It is up to us, the residents though, to conserve water, even after these lines are built. But remember, even once these lines are built. No matter where you live in the world water conservation is important. It the meantime it means we need to be very conservative of our water usage. A great example of this is during the dry season, do you really have to have a pristine green lawn? Run your sprinklers from December to April, for just the minimum amount of time needed to keep everything alive, and run it at night, when evaporation is at a minimum. Do like I do a landscape with tropical plants that are from the Guanacaste region, that do not require a lot of water and utilize decorative rocks as ground cover. Here are some other things you can do to help; Take quicker showers, and don’t be wasteful of water, don’t wash your car every day, and wait until the dishwasher is full before you turn it on, wait till you have a full load of clothes before you wash them and the list can go on. Like anything, take a moment to see what you can do to make a difference and everyone will benefit.
So trust me when I tell you, the only place to live in Costa Rica, is right here in the Papagayo of Playa Panama, Playa Hermosa, Playa del coco and Playa Ocotal. I know, this is where I live and where I invested my money and I am glad I did. If you don’t believe me, just go spend a week in the Southern zone. But bring your waders and your rain coat, and bring plenty of bug repellent. But please be careful; look out for the crocodiles and the snakes as some are as big as small car and just as fast!!