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Tropical Paradise Revisited

I am always so happy when I return to our town of Tamarindo.  Amidst all the tourist traffic – sunburnt North Americans parading up and down the main street (just like any destination tourist town right?) – there’s an underlying vibe and joy among the residents here.  Even after being “gone” for weeks, months, years; I find myself greeting friends on the street with embrace and kisses.   Introductions to new friends take place the same way.  Just so appropriate to build new relationships.

I find the growth in our town continues on a positive note, though there’s so much redundancy I wonder how every business owner survives.  AutoMercado, our quality supermarket – and by the way, a flag in the sand that our town has a strong future, much like Whole Foods coming to your neighbourhood – has opened a sparkling new ‘convenience’ concept in the center of town.  Super2001 stepped up with a new sign, appropriately concerned after allowing its storefront to languish for over a decade!  I wonder what all the 6 or so other markets (within walking distance) are thinking?  Lindsey at one of the surf shops suggested there are now 37 surf shops in town.  At least there are only a few t-shirt shops!  I did enjoy interacting with a few of the town legends today, including Denis the Pipas guy.   While roads remain a bit rough, many of the buildings are getting facelifts or wholesale replacements, and there’s clearly more activity in the works.  New residential construction also reflecting quality and optimism for times ahead.

The ocean is till stunning, warm, appreciated!  I tingled with joy yesterday upon seeing it for the first time on this visit.   Might even have to get on a surf board tomorrow, with a lesson.  New adventures in the wonderful outdoors.

Costa Rica budget savings tips


Heck, these ideas apply to travel and residency.  We’ve found hitchhiking around our area pretty easy.  Just use common sense.

1.- Use the Colón, the local currency

You can pay anywhere in Costa Rica with American dollars, and there are many who live daily with this currency. However, I recommend using the Colón, (the local currency) because with it you are much less likely to be taken or treated as a tourist anymore. In addition, the dollar has more value so the rounding is always upward. However, with the Colón you can make much more controlled and accurate payments. With this trick, you will not save much money, but everything helps in a country with such high prices.

2.- Pay cash better than with a card

If, something caught my attention about Costa Rica is that almost anywhere can one can pay by card. However, if you carry a visa from another country it is very likely that with each payment you make you will incur a commission and in the end, you end up leaving a bit of money in commissions. That is why I recommend running with cash. Important, whenever you are going to withdraw money, look for a cashier where a commission is not charged and use a credit card for the trip that does not charge you fees for using it abroad. For example, the Evo Bank card.

3.- Buy a local SIM card for your phone

If something is cheap in Costa Rica it’s cell phone service and having a SIM (chip) with local number can get you out of many troubles. When I arrived in Costa Rica, I bought a prepaid mobile card (from the Kolbi company) and I put in 3 Euros, of which I did not spend even half after a month of travel. In addition, I thought I sent many messages and made more than one call. As footnote…make sure you bring and unlocked cell phone.

4.- Soda, the cheapest option to eat

Fundamental. Eating in sodas is a lot cheaper than doing it in restaurants. For us to understand, the soda is a type of restaurant in a basic plan, without too many luxuries but home cooked and freshly made. It is a good place to eat dishes of the day (the equivalent of the Spanish menu) or the Casado, which is a dish, composed of rice, beans, banana and other ingredients to choose from. It’s ideal to fill the stomach with a lot for little money. I never spent more than 5 Euros eating on a soda and I always came out perfectly satisfied. Eating in sodas is a great way support the local community.

5.- Shopping in supermarkets

This rule is useful for Costa Rica or for any other country in the world. The cheapest option to eat is always to buy your food in a supermarket and prepare it yourself. Generally, hostels have kitchens at the disposal of the tenant. Now, I can also tell you that the savings of eating via supermarkets in Costa Rica are minimal (the shopping cart is expensive) so many times it makes up or works out to eat in a soda and save you the effort of cooking. Buying in supermarket is a very good option if you travel in large groups since you can cook for more people for less price.

6.- Sleep in hostels and cabins

If you want to travel cheaply through Costa Rica, the best lodging option is to use hostels or cabins instead of hotels. For those of you who have never been in this country, I would say that cabins are a type of accommodation often found in Costa Rica that can be a simple room, with its own bathroom and a few more luxuries. I mean do not expect room service, hot tub and that sort of thing. However, despite its simplicity, it is easy to find cabins with a lot of charm. The difference between the hostel – youth hostel and the cabin is the one that usually includes common spaces, rooms of several beds and other elements that favor the interaction between the members. The cabins usually have more privacy. The average prices in both types of hotels are usually similar but the hostel you can usually find rooms with many beds which are always the cheapest option.

7.- Stay in Tico houses

Of course, there is nothing cheaper than free, so of course I invite you to look for accommodation in local houses. For me it is still the best way to travel and there are websites that facilitate this search as Couch surfing. If it is true that in Costa Rica, despite traveling alone, I found it particularly difficult to find a bed in this way. Moreover, it is distant or beyond San José and other cities, the community of Couch surfing is small, inactive and dispersed. However, this is not the only way to open the doors and that sometimes honesty, sympathy and a good attitude is the best key.

8.- Buses for locals, the cheapest transportation in Costa Rica

As tourists, we usually seek the most comfortable way to the sites and we find it much easier than a private minibus, a taxi or a car that takes us from one destination to another. However, in Costa Rica the difference in prices between private and public transport is enormous, so if you are encouraged as much as possible to abandon the comfort and bet for savings. The public bus in Costa Rica is very cheap. In this sense, I encourage you to read my blog post on bus transportation in Costa Rica, with all the keys to travel by bus in this country and save a lot of money on transportation.

9.- Hitchhiking in Costa Rica

In fact, hitchhiking is not a common practice in Costa Rica, let alone in the main cities. However, the lifestyle of some coastal towns such as Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Montezuma and Santa Teresa share much with this practice so you will not spend more than 5 minutes with your finger raised before someone picks you up. To optimize your results “pulling your finger”, I recommend you read our guide to hitchhiking.

10.- Be nice and mix

This advice applies to Costa Rica, to any country in the world … and to life. If you remove the tourist layer, you get your best face and try to mix with the local people for the maximum, prepare for many good things to happen. I did my entire trip and I never missed anything. Ticos are wonderful people.

If you apply all these tips, it is easy to travel cheap in Costa Rica. Now, as I have explained, Costa Rica is a very expensive country for the tourist so, avoid travel with a loose budget. Of course, do not forget that, no matter what, Costa Rica is a wonderful country and every euro, dollar or Colón that you invest will be worth it.

Costa Rica Administrative Court bans dry law during holidaysThe Tico Times

Good news if you on vacation or visiting during one of the big holidays.  No more having to “stock up”.


Costa Rica municipalities can no longer ban the sale of alcohol during religious and other holidays except for Holy Thursday and Good Friday, a court ruled.

Source: Costa Rica Administrative Court bans dry law during holidaysThe Tico Times

Economists: “exchange rate will remain near 565 colones per day by the end of 2016″

This is good news for our USA visitors, as the US$ will remain strong!  You are best to change your money at a CR bank when you arrive (not the airport).  Certainly, most all restaurants and activities will still accept your dollars; though if you can pay in colones you’ll enjoy a huge benefit.


Economists from Acobo Financial Group, anticipate that the exchange rate will remain near 565 colones per day by the end of 2016. Among the main factors are a lower dollar surplus and the increase in the demand for foreign exchange to meet the requirements of the non-bank public sector and the private sector (credits and imports). The…

Source: Economists: “exchange rate will remain near 565 colones per day by the end of 2016″

British Airways adds nonstop flights between San José and London

CR-SJO-FLIGHTS-GETTY-512366337-760x350European tourists will have a new option to travel to Costa Rica with the launch next week of a new nonstop British Airways flight between London and San José.

The route will offer two flights a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays, during the European summer, and three flights a week, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, in its winter season.

The inaugural flight of the new route between London’s Gatwick Airport and Juan Santamaría International Airport outside of San José arrived Wednesday.

President Luis Guillermo Solís and various government officials welcomed the first travelers with traditional Tico music and dances.

The president said the new route is a milestone for Costa Rica’s tourism industry, as it is the second direct connection to a European destination.

Previously the only nonstop flight connecting to Europe was Iberia’s route between Madrid and San José.

“This new route demonstrates our country’s good positioning as a great option for European tourists. British Airways chose us as its first destination in Central America and this will result in great benefits for both our tourist and foreign trade sectors,” Solís said.

The commercial director of British Airways at Gatwick, Colm Lacy, said Costa Rica offers European tourists “a great variety of amazing places to visit and hotel options that can be enjoyed by either families looking for a relaxing stay or by travelers looking for adventure.”

Tourism Minister Mauricio Ventura noted that European tourists have an average stay in Costa Rica of 17 nights and spend an average of $1,660, “the highest among all of our priority tourism markets.”

A total of 400,000 Europeans entered the country by air in 2015, representing a 6.8 percent increase over the previous year, the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) reported.

Of those, a total of 37,492 were British tourists, accounting for a 21.8 percent increase from 2014.

ICT officials expect the new direct route to facilitate connections with other European destinations, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome and Dublin.

Costa Rica’s flights to and from European destinations currently includes direct flights between Costa Rica and Spain from Iberia, indirect flights between Frankfurt and San José from Condor and, starting in November, a new Munich-San José route from Condor. Starting Nov. 2, Air France will offer two weekly flights between San José and Paris.

ICT estimates that the entry into operation of all these routes for Costa Rica will mean a total of 5,177 weekly available seats for flights from European cities.

For more info:

Source: British Airways adds nonstop flights between San José and London