Busted Flat in California – Let’s Move to Costa Rica!

He politely declined to discuss the matter any further. We spent a week driving around Guanacaste using my folks’ house as home base. We drove to Marbella, San Juanillo, Playa Negro, and Tamarindo looking for a place we might like to live. Nothing was affordable on our meager budget. Nothing.

Retirement in Costa RicaThe day before our flight back to California, I impulsively blurted: “Hey, let’s leave today and go to this Atenas you keep talking about. You’ve got my curiosity up!”

“No, that’s okay. I’ve already resigned myself to living at the beach, close to your parents. It’s going to cost more – way more, but we’ll just have to work it out.”

“Wait a minute! I want to see it. I don’t see myself as a Central Valley girl, but I still want to see for myself. I want to prove to you that you are mistaken about the cost of living there. Things just aren’t cheap in Costa Rica. When we first came in the early 90s, they were, but not anymore. I don’t know how some of the Ticos (Costa Ricans) can afford to live in their own country. Well, maybe if they just eat rice and beans, I suppose it’s possible. Based on their wages, I just don’t get it.”

So, off we went! It took about four hours to drive from Nosara to Atenas. As we started up the mountain road from Alajuela, a bustling town, a peaceful shroud seemed to descend from the sky. I felt a shift in the universe and a peaceful tranquility engulf me as we left the commercial district of Alajuela. We wound around and around until we came to a sign: “Welcome to Atenas, El Mejor Clima del Mundo (the best climate in the world)”.

As luck would have it, there was a real estate office right at the entrance to the town of Atenas. We decided to go in and inquire about available rentals, not expecting to actually see anything on such short notice. Surprisingly, the rental agent offered to show us three properties.

The very first one knocked my socks off! The casita was in a gated community, walking distance to town, furnished beautifully right down to the linens. It was fairly new with modern amenities, views of the town, and a swimming pool to boot. The price? $750 a month including gardener, utilities, internet and gate guard fees. I was astounded!

Retirement in Costa RicaWe didn’t commit to leasing the casita at that time. We went home to California where I was struggling as a real estate agent in a plummeting market; my husband was battling to stay afloat in an uncertain construction market. We were killing ourselves just to meet the basic food, clothing, shelter expenses. I hadn’t bought a new pair of shoes in months and was suffering from severe withdrawal. We were paying ONE THOUSAND dollars a month to rent a room in somebody else’s house!

Our plan was to work until we had a suitable stash with which to move to Costa Rica. It was taking every penny to keep the status quo, let alone gather seed money! There was something wrong with this picture.

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  1. GREAT !!!!!!

  2. I very much enjoyed reading your post Carole, it made me, “kinda wonder,” if I could live there? I have a friend from high school who moved there several years ago. She loves it. Anyway, I’m happy for you and your honey. See you next post.

  3. Carole Connolly-Shaw

    February 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Maggie. I KNOW you. YOU can do anything!! Come on down. The weather’s fine!

  4. Another brilliant piece of writing. You really do make it all come so alive! I want to visit Atenas one of these days. Keep writing!

  5. Thanks for a more realistic view of retirement/living in Costa Rica. It’s not for everyone and since the “days” when your parents went there,built, etc. the cost of land, building and living has escalated. The Ticos are not so gullible now.
    Artenas sounds like a reasonable retirement community for folks fleeing the high cost of living in Calif. and elsewhere .

  6. Robert Leaman Sanders

    February 28, 2014 at 3:58 am

    I like this piece very, very much. It is fun to read and I am now considering a visit to Costa Rica!

  7. Carole ~ Read this while having my morning coffee in FL. This wonderful Blog piece is vibrant, especially for us “visual” folks, & made me really, really homesick for Costa Rica in general, & for our beautiful Atenas in particular! There is one theme that runs throughout this piece–OPTIMISM!! When we change our lifestyle, move–especially to a different country, where we need to be able to merge with a new culture–do anything that many would consider to be “off the charts,” the one main ingredient in the onset of our NEW ADVENTURE must truly be OPTIMISM! You & DonnyK exude it! Thanks for this terrific Blog! C U next week!

  8. Hi Carol I finally put the date of my retirement in……end of March…..who knows I may see you before the Reunion in Oct…ha-ha…..love your blogs …..can you add a photo of the casita one of these days……

  9. Hi Carol.
    Enjoy reading your blog!! DId you end up living in the casita with the pool in Atenas that you saw? If not, did you find a home in a gated community? We are moving to CR soon. I did some research on the climate. National Geographic did not make the claim that Atenas has the best climate in the world. A real estate agency coined the phrase to attract buyers. I have heard that it gets real hot in Atenas. Is that true? We want to live in an area where you don’t need A/C or heat. We’re thinking of Grecia? Do you need A/C in Atenas? Am I right or wrong that A/C is needed? Thanks for your interesting blog!

  10. Renee
    Check Lake Arenal, you love it here, the weather is so good all year around ,, no need of A/C. Long lasting Tropical Spring!!!

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