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My Readers Write

February 8th, 2007

I receive a zillion emails, and try to reply personally to all of them (except the ones that are clearly answered in The Real Costa Rica or are written by folks too lazy to just read the relevant page… but I digress! Over the holidays, the sheer numbers of emails increase AND I am run ragged by my wifey and businesses and have less time to reply. These emails were sent from The Real Costa Rica, The RCR Guest Book and Hisfault.

Some of the questions are pretty good and my reply may be of interest to others… so here they are! As always, I generally do not edit emails though I DO protect the identity of the writer as, sadly, some folks appear to be borderline literate. I may also shorten them a bit showing only the relevant question.

I am gogin to be in Playa Grande area soon and would liek to know where teh nearest Catholic Church is. KNow of anyone I coudl email for wheres and whens?

This is a seriously Catholic country. As such you will never be farther than a few hundred yards from a Catholic church in nearly any town in Costa Rica.

What would be avg rent of a house 2 bdrm of a annual salary of 35000? near beach anywhere in costa rica


One thing, do you have the names of some reputable dentists/doctors in CR that you could forward on to me? I will be travelling over frequently and badly need some attention to my smile!

I get a LOT of these emails. I generally do not make these recommendations except to those folks who have actually moved and are living in Costa Rica. Just like in the US, many (especially cosmetic dentists) are overpriced and cater to “rich” foreigners, and I will not assist in their promotion. I have a new dentist, and I will recommend her AFTER at least one or two years as it takes that long to determine if a dentist is doing a good job. Most can do fine for cavities… it is the more evolved stuff that takes time to evaluate.

… We plan on looking for a nice area that is safe, and friendly on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Any local knowledge you can give, or suggestions from your own experience would be great! Thanks. I am an avid surfer, so I will be bringing my board too!

First, the Caribean side is almost like a different country. It is generally hotter and more humid at any time of the year. It also (despite what many say), wetter. It is also worth a look if you are thinking about a move to Costa Rica. It is raw beautiful and not overbuilt.

However, I do not ever make recommendations as to where to live in this country. There are just too many options and I compare making suggestions as to where to live as me choosing what toothbrush is best for you. You have to try it. Time and again, I tell people NOT to buy anything when they first arrive. Spend at least six months to a year exploring the country. There are so many excellent choices, but where depends on you. Do you like the heat and humidty of the beaches? Many do. I do not. Other factors may include proximity to important infrastructure like theaters, shopping (not much on that coast BTW), and medical care. The latter is very important for those of you not on the sunny side of age 60! Medical care, and by this I mean serious emergency care, is generally not available at the beaches, east or west. Can you afford to be a 3-5 hour drive to San Jose if you suffer from any serious health issue? A stroke? Heart attack? While there are certainly facilities in these beach areas, they do not compare to the services offered in the Central Valley by the Cima or Clinica Bilblica hospitals or even the local CAJA hospitals.

In any case… LIVE here before buying. Learn the culture and the country, and remember that about 40% of those who move here return “home” in a year or less. In fact, I would urge anyone coming here to not enter into any arrangment that cannot be “undone” with a few phone calls. Living here is NOT the same as visiting, or as I am fond of saying, the tourist Costa Rica is not The Real Costa Rica.

Finally, the surfing on the Caribbean side is beyond dangerous. Unless you are rated by your peers as a near-pro, be so very careful. The reefs and coral are killers and the seas on that side are very different than on the west coasts.

Thank you for the abundance of information. Very good stuff. Some of it funny, some a little scary. Not quite sure if I should be excited about moving to CR or scared to death!!

The answer to the question you did not ask is, “Be both!”.

where are the multitude of good golf courses in cr?

Great question! Every time I think I covered everything in The Real Costa Rica, along comes a question like yours and I realize I blew it. Sadly, doing some research on this, I found there are no really good web sites that list all of them. Odd!

In any case, here are six that I know of:

  • Cariari is located just off the Pan American Highway between the San Jose airport and San Jose. Considered by most to be the premier course in the country, it is open to members only, but I believe it is also available to guests staying at the Hotel Cariari. Fairways are diffilcult and appear to be about 9 feet wide. Not true of course, but use your irons anyway.
  • Parque Valle Del Sol is located near Santa Ana. Nice 18 hole course, fun but not too challenging. If you see my son out there, tell him to bring back my clubs.
  • Los Sueños Marriott is cleverly located at the Los Sueños Marriott close to Jaco. As with a beach areas, it is hotter’n hell so bring your deodorant.
  • Playa Conchal Northwest. THE Garra de León Golf Course Garra de León Golf Course is an oceanside course is located in Guanacaste at the Paradisus Playa Conchal Hotel. Very popular course in beautiful surroundings.
  • Hacienda Pinilla is just a short drive from the Playa Conchal course. I have no more reliable info on this course.
  • The Four Seasons. If you have more money than God, by all means consider this course. It is part of the Four Seasons hotel chain also known as “If you have to ask our room rates, you should not be staying here” hotel. As I do not have such funds… I have no personal experience. In fact, I cannot even afford to visit their lobby which I understand requires a payment of $50 (if you don’t stay over). This may be an urban legend, but I don’t think so!

I also believe there is a course in Tambor, but could not find any info.

The courses above are all 18 hole courses. There are several 9 holers, but for true golf nuts, playing nine holes is like kissing your sister.

This is not a real question. It is a composite of about 50 emails: “We are moving to Costa Rica. How much should we pay for a house, condo, townhome, apartment located on the beach, in the mountains, by a volcano, in the country, in San Jose, blah blah blah.

I am not a realtor and I will never answer these types of questions. I will provide the following suggestions which about 80% will ignore. This is GOOD as it keeps the realtors very happy! You, however, will not be so happy.


Do not buy anything until you have lived here for at least six months and have traveled the country. If you do, you will almost assuredly overpay AND you will be in a location that very likely will not be where you want to live. You MUST learn this country to avoid getting taken. There are no Multiple Listing Services here, and you WILL pay more than you should


Come to Costa Rica and stay a few weeks at a decent aparthotel. This is a combo apartment/hotel with full kitchen, etc. Then explore the SPANISH newspapers such as La Nacion for rentals. This means you must learn a bit of Spanish. When you find something, have a Tico call and verify prices. Then YOU call to see if the price is the same. If so… go take a look. That is how you will save a ton of money and get a nice place to live until you do decide to buy. NOTE: Figure you will overpay by 30-70% if you shop for rentals in a English language newspaper. Ticos are not stupid. They know you will be at a disadvantage if you do not speak the language.

My wife and I want to do a late honeymoon. I have been attracted to Costa Rica because of the tropical setting that some more destinations cannot match. We are looking to go in the Summer (possibly July). Is it worth comming then. I have read that this is peak rainy season. Will there be too much rain? Would the heat be unbearable? I know that I should probably just break down and see a travel agent. But I think this site is fantastic and was hoping you might have a suggestion.

Is a “late honeymoon” also known as a vacation? Got kids?

Like the real estate questions, I generally do not give travel advice as I just don’t know you. I will, however, provide a but of guidance about some of your concerns. First, read this. If you come in the rainy season you will save money. You just need to plan ooutdoor activities for the morning as the afternoons will be very wet. This obviously limits your activities and only you can make that decision.

July… and the North American summer is not the hot season here in Costa Rica. The hottest month is March… in the high season.

As for what to do and where to go, break down and speak with a Costa Rica travel agent. By this I mean a travel agent located in Costa Rica. While there are some fine TA’s in the states, many have never set foot in Costa Rica and really have done nothing more than read the literature sent to them by hotels, B&B’s, canope tour operators, white water rafting companies and so on. Many CR travel agents have toll free service to Costa Rica and you can actually speak to someone who lives here and has visited these places and done these things. They can make suggestions based on what your input is to them i.e. your general health, preference for activities, love of heat and beaches, social life, budget, etc. There are so many “hidden” treasure spots here and so often, they either choose not to advertise heavily or are just crummy at marketing themselves. As a matter of fact, next week, I am taking my wifey to just such a spot less than 30 miutes from San Jose that is just delicious! Only a handful of people here know about it. I would guess that 90% of US agents have no idea it exists! Good luck!

Who the hell says, “my brand spanking new wife”. MORON

Dear Moron,

Or was that you calling ME a moron.  Who knows!

Well, I guess I do. Sounds like something I could have said. Thanks for commenting! Gosh! Guess I need”cool” lessons huh?!


The (other) Moron

17 Responses to “My Readers Write”

  1. Mark Stewart on February 10, 2007 8:36 am

    Hi Tim, Thanks for the site and blogs. I check in periodically and I’m never disappointed. I just wanted to say that I really enjoy travelling to CR during the rainy season (gringo summer) due to the fact that I live in a borderline desert. The afternoon thunderstorms are a treat!

  2. Tim on February 11, 2007 9:49 am

    I agree. Although I am never sorry to see the rainy season end, I am always excited when the afternoon rains begin and come on hard. No wind… just HUGE drops making so much racket you can’t speak on the phone.

    Tourists though, usually have limited time and don’t want to waste a minute doing indoors stuff, so I understand why they choose December – May for their visits.

  3. Mike on February 24, 2007 5:54 pm

    I’ve been visiting your website for over a year now and enjoy it immensely and have found it very helpful and enlighting thank you. I’m making plans to visit CR sometime soon (this will be my first visit) I’m planning to stay for 3 months. I’m considering renting an apartment during this stay. I speak very little spanish and am hoping to do a total immersion class while I visit CR. I’ve read some positive things about the city of San Isidro de General. Mainly that its populated w/Tico’s which I know will be helpful for my spanish and has relatively few crimes against people. I have not seen any advertisements for classes in this area, would you know of any or could you point me in the right direction? Any help here would be appreciated and any other info you think would be helpful. Muchas Gracias, Miguel

  4. Tim on February 25, 2007 9:55 am

    I do not know of any… probably because of exactly the reason you state. It has a high percentage of Ticos.

    If you truly do want to learn Spanish, take those three months and set up FULL immersion living with a Costa Rican family.

    1. It will be WAAAY cheaper than renting and
    2. In three months of immersion you WILL speak Spanish.

  5. Mike on February 28, 2007 7:46 pm

    Thank you again Tim what you’ve said makes way more cents and saves me mucho dinero!!!
    Muchas Gracias Otro vez, Miguel

  6. Mark Stewart on March 8, 2007 11:29 am

    Hi Mike,
    I visit San Isidro De El General every time I go to CR. It is a pretty good sized city that is close to many natural attractions. I have seen advertisements for Espanol classes there, but have no personal experience with them. There are a growing number of Gringos in the area and an incresing number of English speakers should you get overwhelmed. I am always amazed at how patient the locals are when I’m butchering their language in an attempt to communicate. I hope you have a lot of fun. As I tell all my friends, “If you like Critters and Plants, Costa Rica is a great place to visit!”

  7. Aimee Valle on March 10, 2007 7:17 pm

    Hi Tim. I haven’t talked to you for a long time, but I have a question. Do you know if I can get a Costa Rican ID even though I am not a resident?

    We are visiting from April 2nd through the 15th.

    As well as many other places, we plan to visit the bank that holds my husbands trust from his father. He tells me I must sign something there to prove to them that I am his wife in case anything should ever happen to him. I think that since my ID and social security card mean nothing outside of the US, if I were to get a CR ID I might be better off.

  8. Tim on March 13, 2007 9:18 am

    I am not sure what you mean by a Costa Rica ID. The only real ID is the cedula which is given after successfully completing a residency application.

    Another ID would be a drivers license, of course, which you could apply for while here, but unless you are planning to live here, that seems to be a waste of vacation time. While it is an ID, its use is pretty limited unless you are stopped for a traffic violation.

    I SEEM to recall, though I could be wrong, that you are a Tica? If so, and you were born here, you would need to contact the registro for the procedure to get your cedula. Sorry… I remember talking to you, but cannot recall whether it was you or a family member who is Tico.

    Whatever happened to your blog???

  9. Aimee Valle on March 13, 2007 11:42 am

    Well Tim, my blog was wiped out when I attempted to convert to the new improved format. I am not going to start over until I determine a theme.

    I am not a Tica, my husband is a Tico. I think the ID I am referring to is the credula. We had to go to the embassy in Washington DC to get my husband’s renewed two years ago. He is on a probationary green card so I guess he needed to maintain his Costa Rican citizenship in the meantime.

    When the time comes, I want him to apply for dual citizenship, but I am not sure how to do that yet.

    From what you’re saying though, I cannot get a credula since I am not a resident. He seemed to think I could get one.

    Take care.


  10. Tim on March 14, 2007 6:39 pm

    You can… but not quickly. Now that I know the facts I can better advise.

    If you are married to a Tico and he HAS his cedula de residencia, you can get your Permanent Residency. It’s automatic, but LOTS of crapping around. Actually, I’d suggest you get married again while you are here! Have the attorney file the certificate with the registro, then have him do all the paperwork while you are here to sign it.

    After he gets back the registration info, he can then file for your residency. Takes about 9 months to a year and you MUST be here in person to go to immigration to pickup your cedula.

    You will also need to be fingerprinted AND you will need a police good conduct letter from where you live. Also, all documents must be certified by the secretary of state (for your state) and then by the closest Costa Rica embassy in the US. You’ll need passports AND a current certified birth certificate for you.

    As you will not be in country to handle all this, get a GOOD attorney to get this done.

    Have fun! The paperwork has just begun!

  11. Aimee Valle on March 22, 2007 6:09 pm

    Thank you so much for all the helpful information you can always be counted on to provide. I will begin the proceedings now that I know what to do.

    I hadn’t thought about getting married again, but what the heck?! Maybe that’s a good idea. Thanks again,


  12. Tim on April 12, 2007 9:53 am


    One of my loyal readers has sprung to my defense regarding my use of the phrase “brand spanking new wife”!

    He sends me this link, http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-bra3.htm that I think explains the usage of that term.

    I am exonerated! Thanks Paully!

  13. Ann on July 4, 2007 8:03 pm

    Someone wrote here:”There are so many “hidden” treasure spots here and so often, they either choose not to advertise heavily or are just crummy at marketing themselves. As a matter of fact, next week, I am taking my wifey to just such a spot less than 30 miutes from San Jose that is just delicious! Only a handful of people here know about it. I would guess that 90% of US agents have no idea it exists! Good luck!” I would appreciate if you could send the info about that place. Thanks

  14. Tim on July 5, 2007 9:06 am
  15. Ana yslas on March 26, 2014 2:22 pm

    Hello there,

    I am an American citizen. I was born in Venezuela. My parents will be coming here to get their green card anytime soon (process take about 6 months) My brothers and sister (one Ingeneer that works for oil company, an electrician, and one doctor) can’t come to the U.S legally for about ten years (time it takes for sibilings to get green card). We want them to live the country because of economic/political situation. Costa Rica sound like a good place where they can live for the following decade. My question is: what would your recommendation be as the best place in Costa Rica (safe/city like?) where they could find a job and good education for their children?

  16. Ana yslas on March 26, 2014 2:26 pm

    Based on recommendations we will probably need your assistant (tour) how much is it? By the way, it is hard to find honest people that speak their mind and are not afraid. Thank you for that! 🙂

  17. Tim on March 26, 2014 2:35 pm

    There is a large Venezuelan population in the Central Valley.