It is hard to believe that we have come to the end of the first leg of our adventure. We have a much better tan, have lost a few pounds, shed a lot of emotional baggage and have accumulated innumerable fond memories from our time in Costa Rica. We are only beginning to come to terms with what it means to adopt a nomadic lifestyle but so far it has exceeded our expectations.
We chose Costa Rica as our first stop as we wanted an opportunity to relax as well as ease into our new life. It is a country we love to visit and generally knew what to expect. What we didn’t know was how we would respond to being on the road for an extended period.
It was easy to settle into our condo at Playas del Coco and we were very happy with it throughout our stay. There was plenty of space for us, a nice pool on site, WiFi coverage was decent and it was a short walk to the beach and a small supermarket. Probably the aspect that took the most time to adapt to was the lack of privacy that living in a small enclosed complex like this affords. In the future we are going to be spending more time in apartments and other close quarters so we will get used to it.
We were there in the shoulder season so rent was affordable. Water, internet and cell costs were also very reasonable. Electricity is expensive so that was our largest utility cost. Food prices tend to be expensive so you have to be careful what you buy and where. There are some good options like trucks selling fruit, vegetables and eggs, sale days at the local grocery stores and farmer’s markets (ferias) where they are available. Anything imported is very expensive so this is another good reason to eat local and fresh. To have a look at our monthly expense summary you can check out our Money Matters page.
One of the aspects of staying in one place that we particularly enjoyed was being able to settle into a routine. Watching school children head to school every day, seeing the changes in the vegetation as the seasons change, saying hello and practicing Spanish with the staff at the local supermarket and experiencing a different scene on the beach every day were just some of the simple pleasures we were able to experience as a result of having time.
We observed as every day a pair of white-winged doves constructed a nest on our roof, putting it together one blade of grass at a time.
After a week of rain around the first of June there were literally dozens of baby iguanas and lizards all around the yard and pool. We were able to watch them grow and laughed as they ate the fresh flowers around our patio each morning.
During our stay we did use the opportunity for some great road trips, exploration and a chance to visit more of this diverse and beautiful country. We rented a car for two extended trips and in both cases we were very pleased with the quality of service and price we received. For our trip to Monteverde we used a reasonably priced local shuttle service. There are many ways to get around and we would recommend taking the opportunity to visit as many places as you can.
We have noted most of the major areas for birding that we visited on this trip on our Birding Along the Way page. Undoubtedly the Monteverde cloud forests were a highlight for us and we were fortunate to see several life sightings including our first resplendent quetzals. The coastal areas also provided many interesting sightings.
Throughout our stay, as in previous visits we were treated with respect, kindness, openness and friendship from nearly everyone we met. At the risk of offending others, we found the people of Monteverde to be especially gracious and welcoming with a sense of pride and entrepreneurship that was a delight to experience.
So will we return to Costa Rica? A definite yes, but it may be a while. There are so many positive aspects to this relatively small country. Its biodiversity and beauty are undeniable while the friendliness of its people, the relatively good infrastructure and accessibility all make it an attractive destination for a short term visit but also a potential long term option.
However, Costa Rica is not as cheap as it used to be. Prices for accommodation, essentials and services have risen quite dramatically in the past few years. While this places a strain on visitor’s wallets, it has a serious impact on Ticos who for the most part have to pay the same increased prices we do, and generally on a much lower wage. As tourism continues to expand, infrastructure must be put in place to accommodate the millions of visitors and funding must come from somewhere.
As with anywhere that tourism is a major industry there can be significant divides between the local communities and their visitors. In many instances Costa Rica has done an excellent job in setting aside large areas of land and marine spaces for conservation, encouraging local ownership and entrepreneurship and fostering a pride in its beauty, culture and diversity.
For our tastes we enjoy the smaller mountain and coastal towns and tend to avoid the larger areas such as San Jose and its surrounding areas, Tamarindo and Jaco. But that is just our preference and many others have found what they have been looking for in these larger towns an cities which do provide more services.
In summary we reconfirmed that we love warm weather, a relaxed and friendly lifestyle and rich biodiversity. We also reconfirmed that we are entirely comfortable in spending our time together. By the end of our three months we felt fulfilled with what we had experienced and learned, but we also recognized that we there are still many aspects of a nomadic life that we need to get better at. Packing lighter (no surprise), better use of technology and adapting to less privacy are at the top of our list for improvements.
Perhaps more than anything we realized that we love this lifestyle and are so thankful and excited to be able to have this opportunity. Thank you all for travelling along with us, and we hope you join us on our next adventure – we are off to Europe!