Category Archives: Moving to Costa Rica

This is Just now


Over and over I get asked the same question. … Will you ever go back?  Granted, we are in the business of moving here – and at a B&B where many folks stay while deciding whether Costa Rica is right for them, its no wonder we get asked so often.  It seems that many are surprised when I give a simple answer  – “This is just NOW. Nothing has to be permanent.”

With 3 kids, 2 businesses and 4 dogs, are they looking for something more definite from me? People are searching for a finite and definite reason for possibly making a change in their own lives. Is what we do, do-able? Is it attractive enough for them? Or maybe they just are looking for me to say- we were crazy, hell no! and give them some affirmation for their own day to day experience of life wherever they come from.  Truth be told, I would have said the same thing at any point in my life, about anywhere I lived, and anything I was doing at the moment. This is just now.  My email address for years was a mis-spelled version of Gypsymama, and a degree in archaeology allowed me the luxury of being able to do just about anything, anywhere. That included bartending, which led to opening my own bar; paralegal, then legal assistant in real estate sales which led me to accept the offer to take over Paradise Management Realty with my husband here in Costa Rica.  Prior to that was the initial dream of living in David’s native Costa Rica, which led us to buy Vista Valverde B&B here in the beautiful town of San Ramon.  Every choice and “heads up” in life leads you to the next, and I guess I just don’t try and hold on too hard.  This is just now, before was then, and next is… well, up for grabs.

We are all set in this permanent mindset – what are we going to be when we grow up? We are asked over and over again as children – a form of almost the same question I am being asked now.  Its as if they are trying to figure out if I changed my mind mid-life, came to Costa Rica, and they want to know if I would go back to being what I was before.  Is this it? Is this what I want to be when I grow up?  Well, I don’t know.  And since you are asking, and you are here,  or you are thinking about moving here, chances are you don’t either.  And I am going to be no help with that except to say –  It’s OK to not know.

Let’s look at it this way.  People are looking for you to give one answer to the grow up question. Right?  When I was a kid, I’d say – pilot, mechanic, physicist, pianist and archaeologist.  “Oh, so you don’t know,” is what the “grownup” would respond.  Really, is that what you heard?  Because what I said was, I wanted to be many things.  Not that I did not know. But the questioner wants one answer, because its all they have been taught.  Your answer is meant to dictate the rest of your life, and tell them all about you, from where you are going to live to how many children you have. When you answer pilot, mechanic, physicist, pianist and archaeologist, they just can’t wrap their head around it.  It’s like moving to Costa Rica! But that does not mean it is not possible, and it certainly does not mean the child does not know what they want to be.

This brings me to the purple elephant in the room – that part of the question “when you grow up”.  Perhaps its this very part of the question that makes it impossible for so many of us who move to Costa Rica to answer these kinds of questions in the first place.  Will we ever go back?  Not if that means we have to grow up in some way!  If growing up means one choice, one destination, then maybe that is why we are here now.  And maybe that is why the generated question – will you ever go back, will I ever choose what I want to be when I grow up, live it, do it and that’s that, or return to some former choice, is not one I can even answer. We like it here.  You don’t have to grow up here, in a way.  You just have to grow old-  that’s nature’s choice, and I’m fine with that. I will keep jumping in waterfalls as long as I can.

Even if we return to NY, or the States in general, it would never be for that 9-5, materialistic, drinks at happy hour and deals on the golf course action.  So what do we do now that we are here?  Why would someone want to move here?  Can you support yourself? Will you be happy here like us?  I think that will require another post entirely, but lets touch on it for a second.

In order to understand why someone moves here, or anywhere that does not fit the generic mold of growing up in one of the first world countries like the US,  you need to get your mind off a linear existence model.  First of all, even I won’t work for $3/hour.  I just don’t know how to live off that.  So getting a regular job and living life like the scheduled 9-5er, or here in CR 7-6er, is not the life I want.  But many expat families have!  Some get transferred from their own country to areas in San Jose and Heredia, mostly, and some find work here. I chose Costa Rica because I see options to other things like having my own business, and being able to do so without all of the extra weight that a small business owner carries in the states.  Having a successful business here still has its risks, but the risk is not your house and your life.  You spend time with your children, enjoy life, even while having your own business, or even having a 9-5 job! We all know the shit that small businesses go through in the states no matter what the government says about Main Street.  And while I’m at it, what about all the businesses off main street?  It’s just too hard in the states- and I have done it, successfully.  I don’t want to anymore.  I am not willing to give up my personal life for my business life. Raising my kids requires my money and my time.  I understand that now, and I can get that here.

One of my clients wants to move down “Because its like the States was 100 years ago.   You have the freedom to do what you want.”  And that is part of the basic mindset a lot of folks have down here.  Costa Rica has a lot more freedom, and the ability to succeed if you think outside of the box.  If you have savings, you can think inside the box and live pretty cheaply for what you get in return.  Not that Costa Rica is the cheapest country for expats to choose from, but once you look at the healthcare and the peaceful stabilty, it is well worth the slightly higher pricetag.  Some people come for the climate, some come to stretch their retirement dollar, some come to raise their families, like us, in a slightly less competitive, more down to earth, environment.  And some just come to surf!  But if you think you are going to come here and get one or more of those things with all the rest being like life back home – no matter where you go in Costa Rica, from Escazu to the Panamanian border, you will be sadly disappointed. This is different, in every shape and form.  And no matter how ready you are, you won’t be ready – and that’s ok too.  Its part of the adventure, enjoy it!  If you don’t, you can always do something else.  This is just Now, nothing has to be permanent.

So to answer the question as I hear it, yes, I would go back to something completely new. I would possibly resettle in California, which we love, or maybe the Florida keys… probably not upstate NY, but definitely the NYC, where I grew up and still absolutely love.  The lakehouse upstate would go back to being a summer home, maybe even a new little B&B.

My husband and I work, we work hard, we work hard for ourselves and our family, our life and our freedom here.  What we have found is our work goes further than the tax man and the mortgage broker. What many retirees have found is their hard earned money goes further than their medical bills and their heating bills, and they can take mini vacations all year long to the places in Central and South America they always dreamed of. What many families have found is that their children can be home-schooled or put in private school with small classes for less than their school taxes back home, learn other languages, and have more freedoms and adventures of their own as well.  We are here to live, not to die – we are here for personal adventure as well as some thrill seeking – we all know what Costa Rica has to offer when it comes to volcanos, waterfall jumping, white water rafting, surfing, you name it. But its the adventurous spirit that sees those things as a lifestyle, not just as a vacation. And that is why we are here, and why going back to us, is not the right question really.  More of  “Is this your last stop?”  and to that question, I will answer: I doubt it….

Pura vida.


Things to do in San Ramon Costa Rica with Kids (of all ages)


San Ramon and its surrounding areas is chock full of things to do for families.  Even if you are older, you will probably want to do a few of these things too.  She here goes my list of Things to do in San Ramon Costa Rica with Kids (of all ages).  I know some things cost money – if you go, please let me know what they are!  Rates are usually different for residents and tourists, so my husband is the one who always goes up to pay or they try to charge me tourist prices!  I never really pay attention.  Tell me! lol, gracias.



2 I know of that are public and open –

(1) Big Gym – if standing in front of the Church in town, take the street on the left heading towards the blue church.  The gym will be on your left with free exercise equipment outside.  (Just on a side note- all this equipment is new, recently covered, though outside in the cool San Ramon air, and anyone can use it!  Same with the tennis court, and the Olympic sized pool) Keep walking towards the church, and lake a left after the tennis court. The playground just around the corner!  Bring sands toys, the whole thing is a giant sandbox!  Small, fenced in, and great for all ages.  There should be a bathroom inside the gym, but I could never find it and it’s just as fun to walk around the block to the pizza place, grab a slice and use theirs.  Also great for playdates because not too many people use the playground – and bring water!  Can get hot!

(2) The 2nd playground is behind the public library.  From Pops, it is 1 block west, make a left, and go about 275 meters south.  All wooden, ropes, the works.  Lots of kids play here, surrounded by nice family neighborhood.


Bajo de la Paz – not to be confused with a Paz waterfall gardens in Poas.  La Paz, San Ramon is a gorgeous lush area of horseback riding to waterfalls, and fish for your own trout or Tilapia fish restaurants.  Our favorite is Rancho Carrucha – they even have tiny cabinas is you want to spend the night.  Horseback riding here too, and playground for kids to play while you eat.  Even a soccer field! 2445-1940  Call ahead of time for horseback riding and speak Spanish!   At least how many, what day, and how long…. they are very nice.  About 25 minutes towards Piedades norte – stay left at deco church, stay elft at fork with no sign, stay left at fork with sign to La Carrucha, or there’s another great one if you stay to the right at this sign and just after the yellow bridge on your right.  Big soccer field at this one, and really cute restaurant, though no playground.



$5 bus ride from station in town to La Fortuna!  Take a taxi for a few bucks once you are there to the $8 hot springs complete with water slides!  On your right just before you get to Baldi.  Photos with the Baldi’s Hot Mama are free – it is outside the main entrance 🙂  2 hours weekday, 3 hours local weekends.  Or drive just under 2 hours.


Though small, this is a great 1 hour excursion with the kids.  Exhibits change.  Just off the park, can’t miss it.


For 500 colones for an IceCream from McDonalds postre stand on the corner, go to the park and just let the kids run around.  Playing hide and go seek, tag, climbing on the war canon (a monument to old times!) – there are always kids there just running around, and parents who let them!  Don’t freak if they disappear for a minute behind a tree.  You will feel how safe it is after a little while!


There are 2 here in San Ramon.  Ask about lessons or free time at the Olympic sized pool by the gym.  I have posted the “signs” here!

My kids took lessons with school at the other one and once I figure out where it is I will post an update.


Eco Musas or LAS MUSAS

Our tico style swimming pools just 10 minutes from the town – follow the road past UCR and make a right into San Pedro.  When the road splits before Colegio Bilingue, you will see the big sign for Las Musas, take a left.  Follow the road to the entrance.  Park!  There is a fee, I will need to check what it is.  Also a nice restaurant overlooking the falls.

Amazing waterfall!!!!  A sheer cliffside with water cascading down!  Feeds pools that they made for swimming and one giant waterslide!  Plus a kiddie pool.  Picnic tables, BBQs (rustic, bring wood or coals, maybe even the grill top…) swingsets and little play area, family friendly hiking trails, even covered ranchos if you get there early enough.  If not, plenty of benches to choose from and other sitting areas.  Showers, changing areas and bathrooms make this a complete day!  Eat in the restaurant and let the kids fall asleep on the way home.  Sounds like a good day to me 🙂


Villa Blanca?  Los Angeles Cloud Forest?  which one is it?  One and the same… Villa Blanca is the hotel and Los Angeles is the cloud forest it rests in.  A gorgeous boutique hotel made up of traditional styled tico casitas, each with a fireplace for those cold, Cloud Forest Nights.  It is owned by the environmentally conscious and tico friendly owner of Si Como No in Manuel Antonio (he is know to take excellent care of his employees, something I love to hear, being married to a tico myself!).  There is no cost to go and walk the trails, though there may be a small entrance fee to their observatory or for a guided tour.  You can call ahead to ask, everyone speaks English that we could tell!  And the hotel entrance is really cool – after your hike, tour, what have you, treat yourself to a really excellent meal.  (prices are high for San Ramon, but worth it if you miss some expensive tasting cooking….)  Again, a full day and kids asleep in the car on the way home.  🙂  Oh!  And you can see the cows being milked at 2pm at the entrance!  the Front desk will give you a map and all the details for all there is to do.

NECTANDRA CLOUD FOREST – secret!  shhh….

Check them out on Trip Advisor –  a more intense experience than Villa Blanca, and half the distance of Monteverde, you can meet with a private guide who knows everything about rain shed and hikes you through almost the whole forest – really find out about how the rainforest works, and how the world will stop working as we know it if we don’t take care of the rain and cloud forests.  Though Monteverde is a cute town, there really is no reason to drive all the way there just to go to the cloud forest.  This place is even better and just 45 minutes outside of San Ramon on the way to La Fortuna.  Its a great way to split the trip to La Fortuna, spend the day at the forest, then drive another 45 minutes to the hot springs, the volcano, then on to the lake. Another great day!

TREEHOUSEs HOTEL and the Lake Arenal Area

Though the Treehouses Hotel is not necessarily in the Arenal Lake Area, it makes for a great trip from San Ramon!  Have a fun night with the kids in these upscale homes in the trees, then go to the lake!  Windsurf, boat,  hike the trails.  For more on the area check the Lake Arenal websites.  There’s quite a few to choose from!  But try and stay at the treehouse hotels!


45 minutes towards the beach, but turn towards Quepos and then it is on the right a few houses down from The Double Tree Puntarenas.  Again there, is a small parking and entrance fee (11o0c?), but the beach is completely clean, in a small little alcove where everyone is swimming.  There are signs for RIP currents which scared me, but there weren’t any – I think they are there for security, and I am sure there are some from time to time, but everyone was in the water.  There was even a banana boat!  Nice restaurant right on the beach, little beach kiosks, bathrooms and showers.  Black beach so be prepared to wash up before you get back in your car!


back to the big gym in town – there are several difference classes that can be found for your children here, from rythmic gymnastics to Volleyball.  Its not overly organized, that I can tell, but there is an office inside that may be able to help a little!  There was no schedule when we went, basically separate people/groups can rent out the different rooms and make their own schedules, so the gym itself has no interest in making a master list of what is available and when.  But if there is something your kids are interested in , you can go ask for the info on the teacher, then contact the teacher for the details on their classes.


I fought tooth and nail to keep my daughter from becoming a cheerleader in the states.  I don’t really care what other people think about it, I can’t stand the concept of a bunch of girls jumping around and showing their underwear to cheer on a bunch of guys that are raised above all else because they can do something with a ball. She’s my daughter and I want her to be cheered on!  That being said, she is also a gymnast and there are no gymnastics here in San Ramon that we have found.  Cheer Army here is just a troup that practices cheerleading as a Sport, they do not go flipping over scores, the flip for themselves!  SO …. I agreed to let Jesse join.  Its about $20/month, and not only does she love flying through the air, but she also has made many friends and her Spanish has improved immensely!  They used to practice at the gym, but they rented a whole building in Palmares, 20 minutes from San Ramon.  Please contact me directly for the details on that.

SINEM,  something something National Education de Musica

From trumpet to piano, if your child (or inner child) wants to take on an instrument, this is the place to do it!  Intense as it is fun, the kids study at least 2 days a week, and put on concerts.  And my friend John donated his mini grand piano so it is one of the few places that does not rely on an electric keyboard.

There are several other things for children here in San Ramon, and as we find out about them, I will make posts and update this one.  Dance lessons, karate (next on my list for my oldest son), art classes – and don’t forget the University of Costa Rica for adult classes.

I also have a basic list of 100 things to do near here and low long they take to get there by car on our B&B website – you can check that here at



Rainy Season… Let me try and spell it out for you. R-A-I-N-Y Season.


The rains are unforgiving this time of year. I don’t know where you are from, but in my hometown of NY, this would be considered a monsoon. Every day. And if the rain skips a day, watch out. The rain gods don’t forget, they get even. The storms come through as a wall of water, soaking you to the bone just stepping out of the car at school pickup. I don’t even know if my umbrella could hold up that much rain, it would probably just buckle under the pressure. That much rain.

Driving can be fierce – still have not used the 4 wheel drive and David says thats “good” because I don’t want 4 wheels spinning -?!@#$ really? Was that supposed to make me feel Better?! He says 4 wheel drive is for the mud – well honey, take a look at our mud slide, I mean road. I may end up at the mall one day, either waiting for the storm to pass or just riding the wave that took me there! I could spend hours finding things to do just to avoid driving up our dirt roads in it. Though folks do it all the time, in regular cars even! Kids get picked up from school, people go to work, grocery shop – I am still skittish.

Half the drivers here don’t even turn their lights on. THAT drives me nuts. Its like the people who walk right in the street and expect you not to hit them. Hello-o! DO you think I can see anything?  It looks like I am driving along at the bottom of the Ocean!  One guy was driving past me before I even knew he was there. If this was NYC there would be bodies flyin’ and cars crashin’ all over the roads. It would be like something out of one of those end of the world movies. But not here, NO no no, not here in San Ramon (I have heard they use the sidewalks in San Jose). Here we just drive very slow because Carlos does not use his lights in the rain, and neither does his bother, and we know that.  We swerve around Maria who is walking down the middle of the road going to her sisters house, or we wait behind her as a truck is coming the other way because we can’t expect Maria to move to the side of the road for oncoming traffic.  But let me tell you, as much as it drives me nuts on a regular day – not in the rain.  In the rain, I say Maria can walk wherever she wants, and I will drive 2 miles an hour to make sure I don’t hit her.

Streets become rivers, drains become swirling vortex’s of mud and god knows what else, the windows shake from rolls of thunder that pass through the skies looking for an exit, but there is none. It keeps rolling, getting angrier until it throws down its lightning in a fit of frustration. Over and over and over.  Bets go down about the electricity staying on or going off.  Just the other day I stood outside my own home, watching the lightning over someone else’s town. How beautiful. The thought of fireworks drew me outside to this amazing sight going off somewhere far west, so far west that we did not even hear the thunder, just saw the lightning crackle across the sky between two storms. Back and forth, back and forth, yet above me, clear skies and stars with a few thin clouds that flew by from the pressures so far away. Gorgeous.

I welcome the rainy season – its a time I am used to – when you are inside, snuggling under a blanket, watching movies and doing puzzles because it is too cold to go outside. Its our winter. Its our downtime, even light a fire, read a book time. Its the reason some houses in San Ramon have a fireplace. And it is also the MOST Beautiful time of year in Costa Rica. Because after the storm… the sun comes out. Everything is clean, fresh. The flowers are in bloom, every one of them – the greenest green is even more so against the whitest white, the reddist red even more crimson against the bluest sky. I love this time of year – i can’t believe how many birds I hear when I close my eyes – it reminds me of a silly nature CD I used to have in college – meant to take you away to the forest or the jungle – well, its my home here now. And the rains bring the flowers and the fruits, and the birds.  Sure it brings the challenges as well, but mixed with so much of the rest of this amazing stuff – well, lets just say I am off to brave my new road.  See you soon 😉

How to Get a Large Breed Dog to Costa Rica


Just thought since I referenced this on my main page, I would quickly tell how we did it… IN MAY 2014 SO PELASE 2X CHECK with the airline on your own, at least 3 times on different days and times, so get the answers from 3 different people to make sure you are getting the right info.  We flew our dog united, but now they re linked with continental I believe.

American is supposed to be more lax- the head cannot touch the ceiling of the crate and they have to have enough room to turn around and lay comfortably.

United more strict, but has an actual pet policy that most people prefer and has highest rate of NON incidence.

A dog that is over 20 lbs with its carrying case flies cargo in a hard crate.  A dog in its carrying case that weighs 20 lbs or under can fly in passenger area on many airlines for a fee and does NOT need to go through customs in Costa Rica.

COST OF TICKET 20 lbs + – The weight of the dog WITH the crate determines that cost of the ticket.  It also means that you need to get the dog through customs in Costa Rica and will need a customs agent, unless you know someone here who can go get to San Jose and get the forms, fill out the right forms, and bring them to the airport when you arrive to process the dog through customs.

CUSTOMS Airport cargo area in SJO is NOT air-conditioned so dogs are not allowed to fly in if it is going to be over 85 degrees upon arrival.  That being said, when we got to the airport in newark NJ, they checked the temp for SJO on their iPhone at 4am, for the PRESENT temp, and let him go.

CRATE SIZE Most airplanes flying into Costa Rica internationally are a Boeing blah blah blah.  It is NOT the big Boeing and the reason you want to know this is that they have a cargo door that is only 34 inches tall.  SO if you have a 30 inch dog, that needs 3 inches head room, and the crates only come in size 30 and 35, you have the same problem we did.

crate too small for dog

crate too big for plane

Take the 30 inch crate.  Go to home depot.  But a 3×3 piece of wood, and build it between the top and bottom of your crate.

All the screws must be metal.

The dogs tail and head cannot come out any space (well lets be real, the metal frame door across the front can certainly allow a tail to escape, but this is the way they say it on the airline’s webpage so I am saying the same thing).

Best of luck!!!!!