The Accessibility of Dominical and Costa Ballena Now

It seems like just yesterday it took well over 4 hours to get here and the last stretch of spine rattling bumpy dirt road from Quepos to Dominical took an hour and a half.  And the bridge in Uvita had holes you could see straight through to the flowing river below!  The first time I came to Dominical on vacation we were at a local breakfast spot up in Playa Hermosa near Jaco and were reading a free publication that had a story on Dominical.  It said the locals cut down a huge tree to fall across the dirt road that came from Quepos in order to stop tourists from visiting.  Well, I thought we got to go check out that place!  However, we almost turned around after passing through Quepos and were going along the dirt road until we came to a wooden bridge over a drainage canal in the palm fields.  Thought maybe we made a wrong turn, but there were no turns, so it had to be the right road.  Sat there for about 10 minutes contemplating if we should turn around or not, when a semi trailer came by and went over the same wood bridge!  Guess this was the main road so we kept on going………

Well that has all changed in the last few years and now it is easy to get to Dominical and Costa Ballena.  The Coastal Highway or “Costanera” from Quepos to Dominical is now paved and some of the best road in the country.  There is also the new “Autopista del Sol” toll highway from San Jose straight to the coast and that cut about 45 minutes off the trip from the capital city to Jaco.  And then from Jaco it is a straight shot down the coast to Dominical.

Directions from San Jose to Dominical:

-From the International Airport head towards downtown San Jose on the highway until it ends and make a right toward Sabana and Escazu.  This road turns into the new toll road “Autopista del Sol”.  There are other ways to get to the toll highway, but are more complicated and you could always hire a taxi to follow to the toll road and pay them for the fare.

-Take the toll road all the way to Orotina, which is a great place to stop at local fruit stands, most of the mangos comes from this region and they have tons of other fresh fruits too.  After passing the town of Orotina you get to the last toll booth before the Jaco exit; which is right after the toll booth and easy to miss if you are not looking for it.

-Follow signs South to Jaco and this is the Coastal Highway or “Costanera”.  When you get close to Jaco you will pass through Herradura which has a large commercial center with a light house and there is an AutoMercado huge supermarket; so this is good place to stop and stock up on imported products and large selection of groceries.

-Keep heading South past Jaco, past Hermosa, past Esterillos, past Parrita, and when you get to Quepos veer left and follow signs for Dominical, passing a MaxiPali on the left with green roof; which is a mini Wal-Mart and actually owned by Wal-Mart, another place if you need to stock up. Do not go straight into Quepos unless you want to check it out.

-Keep going South on this road past Savegre, past Matapalo, past Hatillo, and once you pass a gas station after Playa Guapil on that right you are getting close. You will come to an intersection with fruit stand and police check point just before the Dominical bridge.

-Go over the bridge and make right into town at the cell tower, then go down the main strip until you get to another cell tower and make a right to the beach or go straight to the beach.  You have officially arrived at Playa Dominical!!




Local Food and Sodas

The local soda has great taste and the best prices around.  Not a soda beverage, but rather the local small restaurant they call “Sodas” around here.  They are typically family owned and many times operating right out of their home kitchen.  Talk about good ole’ home cooking.  As with most Costa Rica restaurants they are open air and there will surely be a dog sleeping in the corner, but do not worry I have never got sick at any local restaurants despite some of their appearances.

Local Area Soda

The typical dish at the Soda is called a “casado” which translated means “married”; which I think is because they marry the main dish of meat or fish with the various sides, but this is my personal theory.  A typical “casado” comes with either chicken, fish, pork chop, or thin flank steak with sides of; rice and beans (usually black beans), some kind of “picadillo” (which can be potatoes, green papaya, squash, or other veggie chopped into tiny cubes and seasoned, then mixed with onions, chili, and cilantro), a salad (usually with no dressing just a wedge of lime), and a fried sweet platano.

Every Soda has their own version of the “casado” and this is the best way to eat out economically while getting a filling meal with the local experience included.  Some Sodas also offer a buffet style line of various ready portions that you can pick and choose your favorite.  So check out your neighborhood Soda next time you eat out in Costa Rica.

Planting Fruit Trees

Now you have a home and property or even a lot ready to build, and want to plant some flowers and fruit trees.  This is one of the best aspects of living in such a tropical environment, you can usually literally cut off a branch and stick it in the ground and it will grow.  You will notice driving down the road though out the country, some of the fence posts have started growing branches and become trees again!  It really is amazing how easy it is to have a green thumb here and fun to watch your plantings grow.  Everyone wants their own garden and most of all their own fruit trees.

It is a good idea to plant your fruit trees as soon as possible, as they can take years to fruit.  Planting a seed or cutting it can take over 2 years for a pineapple, 5 years for a mango tree, and 6 years or more for an avocado tree.  However, there are grafted trees of almost everything you can buy for $3 to $10 depending on type and size and they can fruit in 3 years and sometimes less.  I have even seen mini orange and lemon trees with fruit already on them!  Also have seen a mango tree with 3 different types of mangos grafted on the same tree!!  This is the way to go to guarantee the quality of fruit and shorter time period for your first harvest or “cosecha”.

Grafted Orange Tree with Fruit Already!!

The best time to plant in the Southern Zone is May through August.  May is when the rains start and you want plenty of water for the trees to grow string healthy roots.  August is not too late, but still best to plant earlier in the rainy season.  If you can easily water the trees, then you can even plant in the dry season.  Make sure you pick a spot with plenty of sunshine and space for them to grow.  It is recommended at least 5 meters or 15 feet apart so they can grow unobstructed and do not fight for the sun light.  Sometimes the grafted trees do not grow as tall or wide as trees from seed, but if you have enough land it is best to give each tree its proper space.

There is basically every kind of tropical fruit here available and even some exotic fruits not so common in the States, Canada, or Europe.  The common fruits of mangos, avocados, oranges, lemons, bananas, platanos, papaya, pineapple, watermelon, and cantaloupe are everywhere and readily available.

Mango Trees are Common Everywhere

Some more exotic fruits you can find at “viveros” or nurseries are:

Guanabana – Big green fruit with little soft spikes and white fleshy fruit inside that is really sweet and great for smoothies.

Guava – What they call guava here grows in a pod on a tree and has a hard husk, inside are black seeds covered in a white fruit that tastes like a cotton ball dipped in sugar water.

Guayaba – This is what we call guava in the States and is the fruit they make jellies and jams out of and here locals eat it like an apple straight off the tree.

Mangostien – This is th slowest growing tree of all and can take 15 years to fruit for the first time.  The fruit turns dark purple when ripe and is a white snotty looking fruit inside, but is actually sweet and tasty.

Mature Mangostein Tree

Momones – Red and yellow golf ball size fruits with soft spiked peel and inside is a white/clearish fruit with the consistency of a grape around a small pit.  These are some of my favorites and they sell them in bags along the road when in season from July to October.

Grafted Momone Tree 3 years old and Fruiting

Zapote – This one I have not tried, but it is an orange fruit inside and some people really like it.  Will have to try it next time it is in season.

Cashews – I had never seen a cashew on a tree until moving here and they grow on top of an apple looking fruit and you have to roast the seed and then crack it and get out the part out you eat.  The seed shell secretes oil that can chemically burn your skin.  It is very hard to get even a bag full and now I know why this nut is so expensive around the World!

If you do not have a place to plant, we can help you find the right home or property to plant your fruit orchard.  If you already have a home or land, we can even recommend where to purchase the best grafted fruit trees and help you get them planted as one of our property management services.  Get started planting your favorite trees and enjoy the satisfying feeling of eating your own freshly picked fruit!!

Local Farmer’s Markets

The local farmer’s market is a weekly event that most residents and locals alike look forward to.  Every Thursday and Friday in San Isidro and every Saturday in Uvita, one can stock up of fresh fruits and vegetables from an assortment of local area farmers.  There is everything imaginable and even an organic fruit section; which is very popular and best to go on Thursday morning for more selection.   At the San Isidro market or “Feria” there is even fresh meats, cheeses, yogurts, plus jellies and jams.  Farmers bring their fresh harvest or “cosecha” from all over the surrounding countryside and are very proud to offer some of the best tasting and freshest fruits and veggies you can find anywhere.   The prices are also very affordable with some common items listed below:

Pineapples – $2.00 for 3 or 4 (depending on size)
Mangos – $0.90 per pound
Papayas – $0.36 per pound
Apples – $0.20 each
Mandarin – $0.10 each
Lettuce – $0.50 each
Sweet Chiles – $0.30 each
Potatoes – $1.00 per pound
Onions – $1.20 per pound
Tomatoes – $0.75 per pound

Weekly Farmer’s Market in San Isidro

Fresh Local Fruit and Vegetables

The weekly Farmer’s Market is one of the many perks to living in Costa Rica and not matter where you are in Costa Rica you should be able to find a similar open air weekly market.  The price and quality of the produce is not the only draw because spending time experiencing the local community and atmosphere also adds to the pleasure of visiting the “Feria”.

The Two Seasons of Costa Rica

The weather in Costa Rica is warm and tropical all year round and depending on which part of the country to visit the climate can vary in temperature, annual rain fall, and humidity.  The Guanacaste in the North can be really dry at times and gets winds every March; where as the Central Valley can be cool in the high elevation mountain areas around San Jose.  No matter where you are though there are only two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season.  In this blog we will discuss the typical weather patterns of the Southern Zone and the Costa Ballena area.

The Dry Season
Our dry season typically begins in late November or early December and lasts until May, when the afternoon showers begin to return.  Although we can still get an occasional rain storm in the dry season it is usually sunny days and starlight nights.  I have even seen it go over a month with no rain before, which is rare.  The dry season is also known as the high season for tourism and many visitors come for the holidays of Christmas and New Year’s and during the week of Easter; which here is called Samana Santa.  March is the height of the dry season and a good time to experience the area at its hottest and driest time.  Even in March we are blessed that this tropical jungle never turns brown and keeps its lush green foliage year round.   Many tourists decide to visit in the dry season in order to enjoy the beaches and adventure tours without much chance of rain.  However, the rainy season can be a great time to visit as well and there is plenty of sunshine too.

One of many Secluded Costa Ballena Beaches

The Rainy Season
Also known as the green season (even though it is always green around here), the rainy season usually starts at the end of May and goes through most of November.  It is a common misconception that it just rains all the time in the Dominical area during the rainy season.  Typically the day starts out sunny until about mid day or even later and then begins to cloud up leading to an afternoon or evening shower.  Sometimes it can drizzle most of the night or there can a shorter sustained heavy down pour.  September and October are the rainiest months and during that time you can experience a few days straight of grey clouds and off and on drizzle to steady rain.  In July we usually receive a mini-summer of about 2 weeks of dry season type weather.  Although the daytime temperature does not vary much between seasons, it can be slightly cooler during the rainy season and the afternoon showers cool everything off for the evening and rest of the night.  Also the rainy season is the best time to plant and you can basically take cuttings of most any plant, stick it in the ground, and wait for it to grow.  As far as adventure tours for visitors, you can enjoy zip-lining, hiking, fishing, ATV riding most of the day and not to mention white-water rafting is much better in the rainy season due to higher river levels and more intense rapids.  Plus for surfers there tends to be bigger waves and more frequent swells in the rainy season.

Diamante – Largest Waterfall in Costa Rica

No matter when you plan a trip to Costa Rica you will have lots of fun and experiences of a lifetime.  If you are considering buying property and living here part or full time it is always a good idea to visit during the hottest and wettest times of the year before you make your decision.

Long Term Rental vs Buying a Home

When making the move to Costa Rica, should you rent long term or buy a home?  This is a common decision for retirees or families to make.  Before even deciding to move to Costa Rica full time it is recommendable to rent for an extended period of time and during both the dry and rainy season to make sure it is the right fit for you.  Also it is a good idea to try out some different parts of the country to settle on your ideal location.  Once Costa Rica is established as your desired destination to live permanently; then comes the decision of renting long term vs buying or building a home.

Renting a home for the long term can be a viable option for many people who do not want the responsibilities of home ownership.  Especially retirees living on a sufficient pension that can afford the rent plus all their food and entertainment expenses per month.  There is no upkeep of home and property usually when renting, and the landlord is typically responsible for such items.  This can be desirable for those living month to month and make living in paradise even less stressful.  Another reason residents of Costa Rica may want to rent, is if they are unsure if they will stay and may want to move back after a year or two.  Sometimes the cultural and pace of life changes are not for everyone and they end up returning to their home country; which is much easier without having to sell a house first.

Purchasing a home or buying a residential lot and building a custom home can be the best solution for some.  The benefit of having equity in the home can be a profitable investment if you decide to sell one day.  A buyer can make any changes or remodels to a house they desire or design a home that suites their specific needs.  You may also have enough land that you can build an additional home or villa to generate rental income from someone that prefers to rent long term.  If you finance a house then the monthly payments would be comparable to rental payments, but you will be working towards ownership of the house instead of just giving it to a landlord.

Buying versus renting is a decision each individual will have to make for themselves.  In my opinion it is always best to makes numerous trips and for extended periods of time (if possible) to make sure Costa Rica is right for you before making a long term commitment.  Whether renting or purchasing a home, it is a major life changing decision to move here full time and one that should be considered carefully.  We can help you with the entire moving process and finding the perfect home for sale or a house for rent.  Give me a call or email today to discuss your plans for Costa Rica and the Costa Ballena!!

Property Management

So you bought a property, home, or farm in Costa Rica and you are not a full time resident, now what?  The best option is to hire someone to protect your hard earned investment.  A professional property management company can give you peace of mind while living abroad; especially if you only get to visit a couple times per year.  If you own a home or vacation rental the manager can arrange any maintenance projects, help renters get settled and be on call for any of their needs, collect security deposits and inspect for any damages, arrange cleanings, gardens, and pool care.  A house left alone can become a more expensive proposition by leaving it alone until a major project or maintenance job is needed versus periodic minor cleaning and upkeep.  For lots, properties, and farms keeping them frequently chopped, borders clean and marked, and views open are the most important services provided.  The jungle grows really fast around here and property can become completely overgrown in just 3 months time.  Also a property manager can pay property taxes, monthly bills, worker’s salary and insurance, HOA fees (if applicable), and more.

No matter where you buy in Costa Rica it is worth hiring a professional property manager or caretaker to insure your property is well cared for and looked after.  If you are a home or property owner in the Dominical-Costa Ballena area, then we at United Country – Properties in Domincal can help with any management needs.  Below are some of the property management services we offer our customers.

Property Management Services

  • Routine inspections of property or home and identification of any preventative maintenance needs.
  • Set up utility services such as internet, satellite or cable TV, phone, etc.
  • Facilitate payments of workers, phone, internet, power, TV, association fees, home insurance, property taxes, and more.
  • Provide monthly balance statements and receipts.
  • Custom cleaning and gardener schedules specific to each property or home.
  • Pool and landscaping maintenance.
  • Facilitate quotes and oversee additional projects such as remodeling.  And provide photos and feedback of the process and finished work to owners.
  • Concierge Service for vacation rentals such as; arranging tours, stocking groceries, restaurant reservations, and in home massages.
  • Advertisement of the vacation rental on our website and other lead generating websites and answering inquiries from such websites and booking reservations.
  • Welcoming guests to the vacation rental and walking them through the home and its features.
  • Fumigation for insects and termites around the house.
  • Clear overgrown vegetation, frequent trimming, maintain open views, and clean boundary lines regularly for lots, land, and farms.
  • Assist with the permit process and oversee development of the property for development parcels.

Raising a Family in Costa Rica

The idea of raising your family in a different country and culture can be overwhelming to some parents.  However, with a bi-lingual private school in the Costa Ballena area it is becoming a real possibility for many young families.  Previously it was only an option to raise a family in a larger city like San Jose that had English speaking schools, amenities, and international communities.  The beach towns were considered rural and had only small public schools and only taught in Spanish.  People would think you were crazy to go live in the jungle to raise your children.  Now that is all changing and especially in the Southern Zone and Costa Ballena.

We have a young daughter in pre-school here and another one that will be joining soon enough and consider it an opportunity, not a challenge to raise our family here.  The community in the Dominical Area is multi-cultural and has people from all over the globe living here, so it is a microcosm of the World in one little corner of paradise.  Also the incredible flora and fauna are a part of our everyday life and give the children a true appreciation for the environment and ecosystems in which we live.  Not to mention all the outdoor activities there are to enjoy as a family.

Private Eco-Friendly School

Private Eco-Friendly School

The Escuela Verde is an eco-friendly private school located just South of Uvita and has recently been accredited by the Costa Rica government.  Currently the curriculum goes up through 4th grade and the school plans to expand in the coming years.  Their philosophy is to teach through experience in order to inspire the children to reach their maximum potential.  This is achieved by exploration their surroundings, participating in the community, conserving the environment, learning to make individual decisions, and help build self esteem.  After kindergarten half of the day is taught in Spanish and half in English.  We are hoping the school becomes an option for high school when the time comes, but if not there are bi-lingual high schools in San Isidro about 45 minutes from Dominical.

We look forward to the coming years and watching our kids grow in a small town environment, while learning more than just what is taught in the classroom.  So if you are considering raising your family in Costa Rica as an alternative to the norm, know it is a viable possibility.  If you have questions about our experiences please feel free to contact me at Dominical Property.

Top Mistakes Buyers Make in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is an amazing country with tons of biodiversity and natural attractions, friendly local people, safe for retirees and families, and real estate opportunities for any level investor.  Many come to Costa Rica with romantic dreams and grandiose plans of how they will live the rest of their life in tropical paradise stress free on the beach or a mountain retreat.  However, some common mistakes can lead to frustration and disillusionment of this idyllic dream and for some, result in returning to their country of origin.  This blog will discuss some of those mistakes and how to avoid them in order to truly enjoy the “Pura Vida” lifestyle.

Buyer Beware – There are many buyers that come to Costa Rica and think they can purchase a home or property on their own and do not need to use a realtor.  There are tons of “Se Vende” or “For Sale” signs everywhere and it is not hard to find many property options, however, it is not easy to find quality property options.  Basically anyone can try and sell their property by placing a sign on it or having their brother or uncle try and sell it for them, but many do not understand the legality and usability of their own property.  By using a qualified and experienced broker you can quickly filter through a lot of properties that are just plain undesirable and start to view properties that work for your specific goals.  Many factors can change the actual usability of a property for example: set backs from rivers, creeks, and springs can make building where you planned impossible and if there is no other place to build on that property, then it is not worth purchasing.  Also minimum property sizes on a private road can vary in different Cantons of the country, so having someone that knows these details is an invaluable asset.  Make sure you realtor or broker has experience in their local area, legal and other useful contacts, and at the very least has taken the course offered by the national real estate association; Camara Costarricense de Corredores de Bienes Raices (CCCBR).

Not in Kansas Anymore – This goes without saying, but many people assume everything here will be just like in the States, Canada, or Europe.  Well surprise it is not!  Although Costa Rica is developing and now has many amenities it did not have even a few years ago, it is still not a “get whatever you want when you want it” society.  People used to this type of immediate service and availability can be in for a rude awakening.  Everything takes longer here and especially real estate transactions where the “Rigistro” or National Registry is involved processing papers and building permits from the local Municipality take longer as well.  It is not just buying land or a home, it can be anything and a common example I like to use is just going to the hardware store.  In the U.S. you go to Home Depot or Lowes, everything is well marked and you can usually find what you want without any help, grab it, and go check out.  Here not so fast…. you need to get someone to help you and sometimes even take a number if it is crowded, then they gather your items and write up a “factura” or bill and sometimes can even pass you on to someone else for this.  Then you have to go to another employee at the register or “caja” and pay your bill.  Meanwhile another person is packing up your items and then you have to go show them your receipt and retrieve the items you paid for.  If there is a word in Spanish for efficiency it is not used in the Costa Rican vocabulary often.  Rather than dwell and complain about the differences it is better to learn patience and embrace them as part of life in a new culture.

Lost in Translation – Costa Rica is obviously a Spanish speaking country, but many locals speak some English and a person can get by on vacation with virtually no Spanish.  However, once you live here full time it is best to learn some Spanish for daily interactions.  Many full time residents do not even bother learning basic phrases and expect everyone to know some English; which in tourism areas may work, but in local towns and more rural areas knowing some Spanish will help tremendously.  Also local people respect the effort of trying to learn their language and will commonly try and help out with pronunciation or vocabulary.  Many times they will want to try out their English while you try out your Spanish.  Whether you take a course once moving here or practice at home with an online course, it will pay off in everyday interactions and help you integrate with the local community.

Jumping In – Another common mistake buyers make is moving too fast.  They fall in love with this country while on vacation, go home and sell everything, and make the plunge.  This can work out for a few, but most people should take their time and rent a home here first or make numerous extended visits to make sure Costa Rica is the right move for them.  At least research first and consider carefully the differences of life in a foreign country vs what you are used to.  This is a huge lifetime decision and a substantial financial investment, so making the right decision is vital.  Renting in a various areas to see which part of the country you like the best is a good idea, maybe different climates too like next to the beach or in the mountains.   Most of our clients we work with through the research stage and for a couple trips before they purchase.  We can also help in finding vacation and long term rental homes for any amount of time.  Whether it is your first or fifteenth trip we can help you through the process, and will work with you as long as it takes to make the right decision for you.

How Hard Can it Be – Many buyers think they will find the perfect piece of land and build their dream home easily and quickly and move right in.  Well, not so fast…. the building process here takes much longer and just getting the proper permits can take well over 3 months.  If you are not going to be here during construction than an English speaking builder/contractor is highly recommended in order to ensure everything goes to plan and can provide you with constant and accurate updates of the building process.  If you are planning on being here during construction it is still worth considering a professional contractor that knows the in and outs of building here, is well connected with local architects, engineers, and the local municipality for permitting, has knowledge of the best supply stores, and has a crew that has worked together many times before.  Another good idea is to build a small caretaker home or guest apartment first in order to have a place to live while you build a larger main house.  Building a home anywhere from scratch is stressful enough, why not make it as unproblematic as possible by hiring a professional.

Patience is a Virtue – Basically most mistakes and frustration come from lack of patience.  This is a hard learned skill and toke me some time after moving here to achieve any resemblance of patience.  I was a very impatient person over 7 years ago and wanted immediate results for anything and everything.  That had to change in order for me to truly appreciate this country, the people, culture, and customs.  Still would not say I have fully obtained it and still find myself sometimes screaming on the inside “HURRY UP!” while waiting at a bank or I.C.E. office and my number has a long way from getting called.  But it is a constant learning process and you just have to really stop and smell the roses, or thousands of different types of flowers in this case.

For more local tips and advice you can contact me by phone or email ( and check out more of the Costa Rica Lifestyle Blog or the United Country – Dominical website!!