By Robert Archibald
We were told our Golden Years were before us and something to look forward to. But we could see very little gold in our future if we were to stay home in the U.S. The cost of living, taxes, and medical expenses would just be too high.
We began our search for an overseas retirement home starting in Ecuador and fell in love with Cuenca. We plan to go back and check out a coastal area in the future. We then took our search to Belize and it left us somewhat unimpressed. Ambergris Caye was not the paradise we expected.
Next stop: Costa Rica. Our destination was Playas del Coco, located in the Gulf of Papagayo on the North Pacific coast. This small fishing town has become a favorite of expats from the U.S. and Canada.
We visited during the rainy season which generally runs May to November. It was July and we were told we arrived in a mini dry spell; it only rained three of our seven days. Mornings are usually clear to partly cloudy with the clouds and rain beginning mid-afternoon. And when it rains, it rains hard! But the rain is warm and the thunder sounds friendly and non-threatening. When it stops raining the sun comes out and everything smells clean. The temperature stays in the upper 80’s to low 90’s and it is humid.
Playas del Coco is on the beach; however, the mountains and rainforest are less than an hour away for the occasional change of scenery. There are many scenic waterfalls, suspension bridges, and hiking and horseback riding trails. We made a stop at the volcanic hot mud baths and coated our bodies with the nutrient rich warm mud. After showering it off, it was time to relax in the hot tubs fed by natural hot spring water. It was interesting to see frogs living in the natural hot steam room.
Costa Rica has been described as the “happiest country on Earth.” This is said to be due to the healthy lifestyle, healthy eating, and the abundance of natural minerals in the environment attributed to the black sand and volcanic ash.
We can vouch for the happy people. Coco is a small community with friendly people who all seem to know each other, always waving and honking as they pass on the roads. They seem to instantly know if you are new in town and make an effort to make you feel welcome and remember who you are. “Pura Vida,” the locals’ common greeting used for either hello or goodbye, sums it all up. It means “Pure Life.” Violent crime is almost unheard of and the country has no military. These are peaceful people.
We happened to run into an older retired couple one morning at a local creperie for breakfast. They have lived in Playas del Coco for five years.
We asked, “What is the best thing to see or do?” They replied, “Sit and watch the ocean.” On the relaxed lifestyle they commented, “At the schools, if the teacher is unavailable on any day, for whatever reason, there is just no class that day. No substitute teachers.”
There is no shortage of shopping. Of course there are souvenir shops, as well as a clothing store, hardware store, pharmacy, bakery, and ice cream parlor. The Auto Mercado is an American-style supermarket with a wide range of products. The Luperon is a small mini-mart type of grocery.
Dining options vary from Pollo Frito, a fast-food fried chicken vendor, to Hard Rock Cafe. Our favorites were Papagayo Seafood, Villa Italia, Zi Lounge, Lizard Lounge, Murphy’s Mexican Grill, and Coconutz, which also houses a microbrewery, Angry Goats Brewery. Most all serve seafood, burgers, steaks, and Italian- or Mexican-style dishes priced similar to U.S. prices for the same meals.
There are many friendly dogs roaming the beaches and streets as well as a lot of green and black iguanas. One bright green iguana was proudly sunning on a table near the sidewalk at Zi Lounge!
So, is Costa Rica going to be our choice for the future? The jury is still out on that final decision but it is higher on the list than Belize. We still want to go back to Ecuador and visit the Pacific coast before we make a decision.
I agree with those expats at the creperie. The best thing to do in Playas del Coco is watch the ocean. The ever-changing sand art as each wave rearranges the black sand mingled with the brown and gray is mesmerizing.
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