Costa Rica Independence Day, Pass the Torch

The Costa Rica Independence Day is celebrated on September 15th every year with parades, flags everywhere, and activities in all the schools around the country.  On September 15th, 1821 the Central American countries were given independence from Spain and this day is celebrated throughout the region.  The most popular celebration that everyone looks forward to is the “faroles” or homemade torches representing the light of freedom.

Each child brings a homemade torch and at 6pm on the eve before Independence Day they light their individual torches and take to the streets singing the national anthem and songs of independence.  It is a fun sight to see and we have gone the last few years to our niece and nephew’s parade, but this year our daughter is in pre-school and we are looking forward to seeing her school’s activities.  I have always thought this was not the best idea to give a bunch of kids a torch made of plastic, wood, and paper with a candle in the middle and let them parade around, but fortunately I have not heard of any accidents and all the years I have lived here.  It is fun activity for all and a sight to see these torches parading through the local streets.  The torches of Independence Day represent the spreading news of freedom throughout Central America (which took a month to reach Costa Rica in 1821), and there is even an annual torch that is carried town to town from Guatemala to Costa Rica.

On Independence Day the school kids gather to sing the national anthem and parade in the streets in their uniforms waving the blue, white, and red flags.  Then much like the U.S. Independence Day, families gather for some home cooked meals or BBQs and enjoy their time together.  I personally am looking forward to our daughter’s first Independence Day activities and performances.  We got her “farole” ready, but I may walk along side with a fire extinguisher just in case.

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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.

Cost of Living in Costa Rica

The cost of living in Costa Rica is a popular topic among those considering it as a retirement location or for those moving down with their family.  Everyone wants to know how far their Dollar or Euro can stretch; which depends a lot on your life style.  If you have an affluent lifestyle where you are from, you will also have that type of lifestyle here, just for a bit less.  If you can live modestly using mostly local products, then you can save a lot.  More importantly no matter what your spending habits are, the quality of life here is so much more than anything I experienced in the U.S. with beautiful natural scenery, pristine beaches, clean rivers and waterfalls, fresh fruits and vegetables, locally caught fish, and the “Pura Vida” laid back lifestyle.  In this Blog I will attempt to portray some common expenses that the average retiree or person living in Costa Rica can expect.

Food and Entertainment

Food products and restaurants can be much less than the States or Europe and by how much really depends on how you live.  If you eat out a lot and buy American or European imported food items it can be expensive by Costa Rica standards.  However, if you buy local fruits and veggies at farmer’s markets and local food products at the supermarket it can be much cheaper.  Also there are local restaurants called “Sodas” that have a daily “Casado” for $5 to $7; which is a typical dish of rice and beans, a salad, usually another side, and a choice of fish, thin steak, chicken, or pork.  Even at high end elegant restaurants the prices are less than the same quality restaurant in a big city back home.

Entertainment is also more affordable whether going out to the movies, a bar and night club, or even attending a play (mostly in San Jose).  Although beers and drinks can be expensive, they are still less than what you are used to at a night club or bar.  Many beachside bars around here offer a drink special for happy hour and to watch the sunset.  Also there is tons of free daytime entertainment from hiking in the jungle to surfing or strolling local beaches.   Plus once you are a local you can receive discounts on the tour activities such as: zip-lining, rafting, sport fishing, and more.

Health Care

Health care, even private health care is much cheaper here.  When my wife gave birth to our last daughter it was around $3,500 for the C-section with doctor’s fees, medicine, and 1 night stay at the private clinic all included.  Dental care is much more affordable, as well as, minor and even major surgeries.  Medical Tourism is a becoming a very popular trend in Costa Rica with World-Class medical facilities like CIMA, Clinica Biblia, or Hospital Catolica in San Jose.  More and more foreigners are coming to have plastic surgery, dental implants, and all types of joint and even back surgery at a fraction of the cost.  Then the patient can recover in a lush tropical resort close by and be attended to their every need.   

Services

Services like house cleaning, gardeners, and cooks are also very affordable at $2 to $4 per hour.  You can afford to have a full time employee in order to spend less time on household chores and more time enjoying life in paradise.

Imported Items
Cars and electronics like TV’s and cell phones are all much more here because of import taxes associated with them.  Diesel and gas at $5.50 to $7 per gallon respectively, along with car maintenance will be one of (if not) your biggest expenses here.  The mechanics are reasonable and parts are comparable in price, but there is more wear and tear on vehicles here depending where you live and what kind of road access it has.   A good 4×4 SUV or truck is the way to go and most people prefer diesel engines for better fuel efficiency and price at the pump.

Taxes
Property taxes are 0.25% of the registered property value, so for example a $100,000 house or property pays $250 per year in property tax.  There is a fairly new luxury home tax for homes over $200k and that is about $2,500 to $3,000 per year.  Additionally a new annual corporation tax implemented in 2012 is equal to approximately $180 for inactive corporations and $360 for active corporations.  There is currently no capital gains tax in Costa Rica; which is beneficial when selling personal property investments.

Costa Rica and specifically the Dominical area is a great option to retire or raise a family.  The lower cost of living and much higher quality of life make this a place to truly consider for your next full time or part time residence!!