My wife and I are both “beach people” (we have a home by the ocean here in Vero Beach, Florida), and our goal was to find a piece of property somewhere on the coast in Costa Rica.
After three years of internet searches (WeLoveCostaRica.com being a very valuable resource) and several trips to Costa Rica, it became very apparent that purchasing anything nice on the West Coast of Costa Rica would be much more expensive, so we started researching the Caribbean coast.
We were fortunate to run into an excellent who has lived in Puerto Viejo area for many years, he was very honest, professional and has an intimate knowledge of the area properties and local community.
Our Realtor is well respected by both locals and expats alike, and is genuinely a nice person. I would highly recommend him as a real estate professional to anyone looking to purchase properties in this area.
My wife grew up in Jamaica (7th generation), until she was 17 years old, and this area immediately reminded her of the Jamaica of her youth. We wanted to be in a place where we felt it would be awhile before the onslaught of tourism/corporate influence would become apparent (as has happened in so many areas on the Pacific Coast).
Although the Puerto Viejo area certainly has its share of tourists, we found them to be comprised of an interesting and eclectic variety (the latest census indicates 44 different nationalities in the area). The predominant influence seems to be from the Jamaican population, who originally migrated in the early 1900s to work on the railroad system and then stayed.
I did not perceive any prejudice from any one group towards another, (which is very refreshing coming from the “Deep South” here in the USA). It appears that this homogeneous population gets along quite well with one another. My perception is that cooperation, not confrontation is the rule in this community and that arrogance, intolerance or belligerence is not condoned.
Infrastructure was also another of of our concerns, with this area having all of the amenities we need (many small hotels, groceries, sodas, excellent restaurants, guided tour operations, internet, etc.)
The legendary “Pothole Trail” South of Limon was very apparent, but rather than being a problem, we found that it slowed traffic sufficiently to allow the locals to safely use the roads to walk and ride bicycles.
Although we live in a very humid area in Florida, I found the environment to be much more comfortable (always a sea breeze, temp between 75-85 degrees, cool at night. It does rain, (after all, it is a rain forest).
While we were there it rained intermittently for short periods of time, and then sunshine, or rained at night, (great for all those people who love to sleep while it’s raining, very soothing). Apparently this is how it is year round, much more spread out, rather than the rainy/dry season extremes as is the case in the rest of Costa Rica.
The “crime wave” that we were warned about on most internet sites was non-existent in our experience (although like anywhere, one cannot be naive and leave valuables laying around).
We never felt any danger whatsoever, and in fact spent numerous nights enjoying the local entertainment and walking around Puerto Viejo without any trouble. I believe that although it is true that property crimes may happen (like anywhere in Costa Rica or the States for that matter), violent crimes are exceedingly rare.
Try leaving your wallet or camera laying on your towel while you go swimming on any beach in the States and see what happens!
We are still in the process of learning Spanish, and our communication was enhanced by the fact that English is widely spoken. English was the predominant language until recently, with Spanish only introduced as a the primary language in schools with in last 20 years or so. It is still taught as a secondary language.
I felt that the locals displayed an attitude of gratefulness for tourism, with many small operations catering to the tourist trade. The people were VERY friendly and courteous.
Art, music and creativity was apparent everywhere we went. The food was outstanding, with a wide variety due to all the various nationalities who have settled in the area.
The environment is truly beautiful, with the beaches in the area reminding us of the South Seas. One could easily imagine being in Tahiti. The variety of beaches offering anything from surfing, safe swimming, and snorkeling (within a short distance of each other) was amazing.
The combination of all of this, along with the more reasonable real estate prices made our choice an easy one. While there are a variety of real estate pricing options available, with research one could obtain much more reasonable property than is available on the Pacific side, (anywhere from $50K on up to $750K (depending on needs and preferences).
The more expensive properties are usually direct ocean front or Hotel/Bed and Breakfasts. (This represents up to a 50% discount in relation to comparable properties on the west coast).
Our initial impressions were validated with several trips down there, and we came to the conclusion that while there are certainly many beautiful areas in Costa Rica open to consideration for retirement, for us, “how could it get any better than this”?
We are very thankful for the advice that you have given both personally and through WeLoveCostaRica.com. We feel certain that we will spend our “golden years” enjoying all that the Caribbean side of Costa Rica has to offer.
It may not be for everyone (some people like the 5 star hotel/gated community scene), but we are much more comfortable in an area where the “local flavor” is predominant.
I would highly recommend that people take the time to explore this area, rather than to shrug it off due to negative rumors that have apparently been floating around for some time now. (This will be much easier now that twice daily flights are available from San Jose to Limon).
As stated by a well known local gringo: “These rumors have served the local Expat community well”, as this area remains one of the semi-hidden jewels of Costa Rica.
Retirement on the Southern Caribbean Coast – Why we bought a home there. (But I think they’re hoping nobody else does… Scott)
Article/Property ID Number 1108
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