Nauyaca Waterfalls: One of the Coolest Things to do in Dominical, Costa Rica

When our clients come to Dominical to look at properties for sale in Southern Costa Rica, they are also usually looking for things to do in the area. Nauyaca Waterfall is one of the best, and well worth the trip. Not only are there two falls stacked one on the other, but beneath the lower falls there is a huge natural swimming pool filled with water that is cool enough to be refreshing, without being cold.

The entrance to the road leading to the falls is just 10 minutes from Dominical by car, right on the highway leading from Dominical to San Isidro. You can easily drive in your rented car, take a taxi, catch the bus at just the right time, or join a tour group.

If you drive yourself, just head up highway 243 to San Isidro and in about 10 minutes watch for the office on the right. If you’re paying attention, you cannot miss it – there is a big, bright sign over the office.

If you want to join a tour, there are any number of offices in Dominical that will be happy to help you. One is the Dominical Info Center. To get to it, once you enter Dominical, turn left at the T and look for it on the right.

Catching a bus is tricky because they don’t adhere to a strict schedule and a return bus might not be timed right for you. Check bus schedules at the info center or ask someone when the bus goes from Dominical to San Isidro.

However you get to the office you’ll have to pay an entrance fee of about $10.00 and get a wristband. Then there are several ways to get to the falls, which are a little under 3 miles away: Hike, ride in the back of a stake bed truck or ride a horse.

The truck and the horse rides require a reservation and have fixed departure times. Hiking offers the most flexibility if you are in shape for it. If you’re in your own car, your best bet is to park it in the secure parking area down the hill from the office. That also gives a bit of a head start on the trail if you’re going to be hiking.

If you are with a tour group and they are hiking, the tour company may be able to get you even closer before you start hiking.

The hike is beautiful, with the river below you on one side and forested hills all around. Just keep in mind that there are some steep climbs as you go upriver to the falls. Young children will almost certainly be clamoring to be carried, and you’ll be sweating. Take plenty of water, allow plenty of time, and enjoy it as part of the experience. An adult starting at the parking lot, walking a steady pace and not needing to stop for rest breaks can do it in something like 45 – 60 minutes.

When you arrive at the falls, you can choose the upper ones or the lower ones, and if you have enough time you can do both. The big difference is that the lower set offers a gigantic natural pool where you can swim right up to the cascading water, as well as climb up on the rocks and jump off into the pool. It’s beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

They recommend you not climb on the rocks without there being an employee there to help you.
Company guides will set up a rope you can use for stability while climbing, and a guide can help you with foot placement in places where you can’t see because the water is cascading all around you. If you take the plunge, make sure you have a photographer because it makes for gorgeous pictures.

Depending on when you go, there could be a lot of other people there. Don’t worry: it would be hard to diminish the setting and beauty of Nauyaca. Plan to enjoy it however you get there, with whomever you meet there.

For more information about costs and reservations, here is the place to start:
http://nauyacawaterfallscostarica.com/ If you want a tour company to arrange it for you, they will do so for the same published prices, and they get paid from a commission for setting it all up.

How to Buy Real Estate in Costa Rica

Buying real estate in Costa Rica is pretty parallel to how you would do it in your home country, with a
few differences.

 

1.) Find a property you love. To do so, look on local websites rather than just doing a scattershot online search. There is no MLS in Costa Rica, so listings get shared around and some agencies are better at keeping their websites up to date. Instead of “Real Estate in Costa Rica” try something like “Real Estate Agency in (name of town or region). Hint: You will always do better by selecting one agent in the area of interest and sending any interesting listings you find to that agent. Otherwise, you’ll waste time on expired listings, overlapping listings, and listings that haven’t been updated.

2.) Make an offer that works for you. It is very hard to find “comparables” in our markets, so pricing is plus or minus. Assume there will be some negotiating with the Seller in order to arrive at a price acceptable to both of you.

3.) If you reach an agreement, your offer will be formally turned into a Sales and Purchase Agreement. If you are from North America, you might think of this as the “Earnest Money Contract” that your agent would do for you as part of their service, but here an attorney does it and you pay for it.

4.) While these things are happening, you will need to open an Escrow account. This is probably the hardest part of the process for new Buyers to understand. In order to comply with money laundering laws, the escrow company is obligated to gather a “ridiculous” amount of information about your finances. The whole point is to be very sure that you are legit and the source of your funds is legit. It’s just something that you have to do, so meditate for 30 minutes, take a deep breath, and walk through it step by step.

5.) You may also want to have your attorney create a Costa Rican corporation to “own” the property for you. This has advantages in terms of liability, so it’s something you should at least discuss. It only takes a week to ten days to do this, so it is easily finished by the time you go to closing if you start early.

6.) Once your SPA has been signed by both parties, you will typically send a 10% deposit to your Escrow Company. That triggers the Due Diligence period.

7.) Due Diligence will be coordinated by your attorney and done by several people that may include surveyor, home inspector, agent, municipality and others. It needs to be done well, and if you decide not to do parts of it, you should do so with your eyes wide open. At the end of the Due Diligence, you will be given a report that allows you the opportunity to accept the results or reject any part of them. If there is a “fatal flaw,” you can simply withdraw from the deal and get your deposit back.

8.) If you accept the Due Diligence, your deposit will go hard (nonrefundable) and you will send the balance of your payment to your escrow company. Then you will close within a few days and your property will be recorded in your name in the National Registry.

9.) Once you own the property, it would be wise to make sure you understand what your obligations are and how to fulfill them. Write down how to pay your utilities and taxes, and make sure you understand how much, when, and how to pay your corporation taxes. You may need to set up a bank account to make this simpler, especially if you will not be living at your property full time.

 

That’s it! Follow the steps and you will end up with peace of mind about a beautiful property.

Buying Beach Property in Costa Rica

With one exception, foreigners can buy property in Costa Rica with the same rights and obligations as Costa Rican citizens. The exception is in the Maritime Zone.

Along the coasts and any portion of a river that is affected by tides, the first 200 meters of land is owned by the government and cannot be owned by anyone else. (There are a few small exceptions that were grandfathered in as titled land.)

The first 50 meters may not be developed. They are for public use. The next 150 meters are usually available for development if you get a long term use permit, or “concession.”

You get a new concession by hunting for a property that doesn’t already have one. Of course, such properties are hard to find now, but if you get lucky, you can apply for a concession at the appropriate municipality. This is best done by an attorney who specializes in such things because it can be tedious and complicated. In the process, you have to specify what you are going to do with it. Private residence? Hotel? Restaurant? Resort?

One very important difference between the Maritime Zone and titled land is that no foreigner can hold the controlling interest in any property in the Maritime Zone until that foreigner has had legal residency in Costa Rica for at least 5 years. Until then, at least 51% must be held by a Costa Rican citizen.

Obstacles to getting a concession would mainly be environmental. Any areas that are wetlands or have mangroves growing on them are automatically off-limits. Other areas might have forests or wildlife that can’t be cleared or disturbed. Some users might be rejected if they don’t fit with the municipalities’ zoning plans.

In response to your application, the municipality will either deny the concession or approve it. If they approve it, it will be valid for 20 years and they will attach a value to the proposed development of the property so they can levy an annual use tax, known as the “canon.” That would be in lieu of a property tax but can be quite a lot higher because it is a specialized property.

Once you have a concession, you have 2 years to do the development or lose the concession. If you do the development, pay your canon as required, and do not violate any of the laws or restrictions on the property, renewal should be straightforward as long as you do it on time.

Those are the basics for getting a new concession. Realistically, however, you would most likely be buying a concession that is already established, rather than starting from scratch. So how does that work?

Until you have been a legal resident for 5 years, assume you will be buying shares in a corporation in which you are not a majority shareholder. When you buy the concession, the appropriate number of shares will be transferred to you. That is something you need to check thoroughly so you are comfortable with the arrangement. A good lawyer can help you sort it out.

If you are buying undeveloped land, you need to know what use and value the concession permitted because a) you will need to build that and b) your canon will reflect that. If you don’t build on time, you can lose your concession.

If you are buying an existing business or home, you need to make sure all of the laws and restrictions have been followed. There have been cases of homes being bulldozed or businesses being shuttered because laws were broken or the concession’s requirements weren’t followed. For example, if a wall or pool infringes on the 50-meter restricted zone, you could be required at some point to remove it!

In summary, there are extra concerns to research when you buy concession property here. Do your homework. There are some great concession properties available for purchase, and there are some that will pretty much be a series of migraine headaches. Don’t ever let an agent fast-talk you into thinking “It will all work out.”

Do the Due Diligence and hire someone who specializes in concessions to protect you. If you do that, you could end up with one of the most desirable properties in the country. If you don’t do that, you could end up with nothing but regrets.

Wildlife in Costa Rica

When you are looking for real estate in Southern Costa Rica, you will, of course, be scanning through a ton of listings for properties in Quepos, Dominical, Uvita, Ojochal, and beyond.

As you read through the listings for condos, homes, hotels, undeveloped land or whatever else, you are going to read some version of the following sentence over and over: “There is abundant wildlife including monkeys, toucans, parrots….”

While that statement is true, it isn’t all that useful in choosing a property. Why? Because pretty much every property in Southern Costa Rica has abundant wildlife. You’d have to stay cloistered away like a monk to not see wildlife all around you.

To own a property in Southern Costa Rica is to become a wildlife photographer. Almost everyone down here who has a Facebook or Instagram account is sooner or later posting pictures of sloths, interesting bugs, gorgeous plants, iridescent birds, and more.

This isn’t by accident, nor is it the “norm.” There was a time when deforestation was happening just like it has in so many other countries in Central and South America. Loss of habitat threatened whole species and the amazingly biodiverse world of the tropical forests was thinning out. In addition, hunters both local and foreign reduced some animal populations dangerously either to put food on the table or a stuffed trophy on the wall.

With the encouragement of some environmentally conscious visitors, Costa Ricans realized years ago that one of their most valuable resources is dynamic forests filled with wildlife. They passed laws to protect those forests and that wildlife. They made it illegal to hunt anything ever. The made it illegal to cut down big trees without a permit and made it difficult to get that permit. They encouraged people to set aside conservation areas and paid them to do it. They allow foreigners to get residency by putting a certain amount of money into reforestation projects. They recently passed a law allowing insurance payments to farmers who have lost livestock to large cats, so the farmers won’t hunt and kill the cats.

Old timers remark over and over about the difference that has made. My wife and I have only been here 6.5 years and we ourselves see changes. On our property we’ve seen wild pigs, sloths, agoutis, coatimundis, deer, hawks, parrots, toucans, dart frogs, toads, a few snakes (they tend to “run” and hide) and much, much more. We even caught a puma on camera stealthily creeping past our home at 3:00 in the morning. At the micro level, I take macro pictures of crazy cool insects.

So the natural balance of life is slowly returning. It’s a long process that requires both time and protection. There are ways that you can give it a boost:

First, look more closely. There are the obvious birds and animals, but our morning walks have now become chances to see things we never did before. We look for tent bats. We can identify some dart frogs by sound. We’re watch out for the golden orb spiders so we don’t wreck their huge golden webs.

Second, learn some names and stories. Nothing makes the natural world come alive like knowing what you’re looking at and some of its natural history. Scientists are trying to invent a way to duplicate the strength of those golden orb spider webs. Leafcutter ants are ancient farmers and have an unbelievably complicated social structure. Little mimosa ferns can “learn” and “remember.” Every sloth is a microbiome. And so on.

Third, learn the connections. In a healthy forest environment, your first impression is how cool everything works together in lasting harmony. However, as you get to know it better, you begin to see that everything in the forest is battling everything else for light, food, and reproductive rights. Alliances are created for mutual protection or sustenance. Trees work together. Army ants have dozens of insects and birds following them around. The more you learn, the more amazing it all is.

Finally, do your part. Plant native trees that attract birds and monkeys. Leave sections of your property for “natural landscaping.” Avoid toxic chemicals. Get serious about reducing your use of throwaway plastic bags. Volunteer for organizations like Community Carbon Trees (http://www.communitycarbontrees.org/) or donate to their projects.

The bottom line is, one of the most appealing things about Costa Rica is its wildlife. That’s intentional, so if you are too, this will continue to be a country that leads the world in environmental awareness and reforestation.

Where to Eat in Dominical, Costa Rica

Whether you are looking for things to do in Costa Ballena or looking to purchase real estate in Southern Costa Rica, within a few hours you’re going to be looking for a place to eat.
In the Southern zone, once you leave the Quepos area heading south, the first sizable community you come to is Dominical, about 45 minutes south on the coastal highway. That’s not to minimize the smaller communities along the way, but to say that when you hit Dominical your options for activities to try, places to stay, and things to eat increase dramatically.
Even before you get to town, look left in Matapalo for Langosta Feliz right beside the highway. It has some of the best seafood in the area. In Dominical itself, there are about 16 restaurants varying from a back-of-the-grocery-story delicatessen to a Mexican fusion kind of place on the
beach.
Dominical is pretty easy to navigate, with only one main street, so you’ll see options just by cruising through town. In case you wants some ideas of what to look for, watch for these:
For specialty foods, consider Sol Frozen Yoghurt (desserts), Phat Noodle (Asian noodle fusion), Mono Congo (Drinks, Bakery, Cool Stuff), Sushi, Pescado Loco (fish tacos) and Del Mar Taco (Tacos, burritos), La Casita Pizza, Mama Toucans (deli sandwichs and salads), Fuego’s (Microbrewery and restaurant) and Tortilla Flats (Mexican fusion plus).
For places that offer a bit of everything, from steaks to seafood to typical Costa Rican dishes, check out Villas Rio Mar, Su Raza, Diuwak, Coco’s and Maracatú. To get a more authentic Costa Rican experience, don’t overlook the little “Sodas” along the
way. Sodas are hole-in-the-wall places to eat. Tucked into nooks and crannies, they offer Costa Rican food that often rivals anything you’d get at the fancier places.
Don’t know what to order?
Try a “casado”. You’ll have a choice of meats and the dish will come with rice, black beans, salad, and maybe fried plantains. It often includes a fruit drink too, making it one of the most filling, economical dishes around.
South of Dominical there are a couple other worthy mentions. Por Que No has a different kind of menu that’s popular as well as a killer view of ocean waves breaking on rock formations (make a reservation in high season). La Parcela sits on a finger of land so you can see ocean breakers on both sides. Villas Alturas has such a fantastic view that you won’t care what you’re eating. And Cuna del Angel’s menu is classy and gluten free.
Much more could be written, and has been, about dining out in Costa Rica. So just a few
reminders:
You can drink the water. Costa Rica has done a very good job of ensuring water quality around the country. We rarely hear complaints about stomach problems, and when we do, we doubt that it was the water. Portions are often generous. We keep our own “take home” containers in our car to save on single use plastic or Styrofoam when we want to keep some for another meal. You might consider that too. We even have our own stainless steel straws. Every little bit helps.
Fruit smoothies are the elixir of the gods here. If you don’t like them too sweet, don’t forget to mention “no sugar.” Usually the fresh fruits used in the smoothies are sweet enough by themselves.
Tipping is confusing. Check your bill at fancier restaurants and you’ll see that a 10% (minimum) service charge has already been added. So do you add more of a tip yourself? It’s up to you. Most Costa Ricans do not tip any more than what’s on the bill. Many foreigners do so out of
habit. You do what you are comfortable with.
Finally, enjoy the culinary adventure and interact with the people who cook for you and serve you. Food is embedded in culture, so your appreciation for “their” food automatically translates into your appreciation for “them”.

Can I Get a Mortgage on a Home in Costa Rica?

By: Ron Snell.

Clients often ask us about options for financing their purchase when they are thinking about buying a home in Costa Rica. For a long time, those options have been pretty limited, but there are new possibilities opening up.

The standard answer is that if you can’t purchase with cash, you could request short term Seller financing. If a Seller does not need all of the money immediately, they might consider something along the lines of 50% down, 3-5 year term, and 6% interest. That would allow enough time for you to reach retirement age, cash in some investments, sell a property in your home country, get moved down here, and then pay off the loan.

Beyond Seller financing, the best option has been to borrow the money in the home country by means of a loan from relatives, a home equity loan, or some other lender. Home country mortgage lenders and banks typically don’t lend overseas, so you have to have some other source. In addition, if you are not a legal resident of Costa Rica when you buy, it is very difficult for you to get a loan from the normal banks and lenders.

Recently we have heard from some companies here in Costa Rica that have begun to make loans to foreigners for homes. While they aren’t for everybody, they might make it possible for you to get your dream home without Seller financing and pay it off when you are ready.

Keep in mind that many homes here are second purchases so they are treated like vacation homes. As is typical in other countries, loans for vacation properties may face extra scrutiny and higher fees and rates.

We just received information from a lender who is advertising mortgages for homes here. Note that this blog is being written in May, 2019. Things can change, but here is the information we received as of this writing, with a few annotations:

 

The interest rate and down payment will depend on your home country credit score, as follows:

 

All Owner-Occupied & Second Homes in Costa Rica

Minimum Loan Amount: $100,000   Maximum Loan Amount: $1,000,000

FICO (US only)CANADARATEUP TO LTVMAX DTI
>=800>=8508.50%75%28% / 45%
770-799820-8499.00%70%28% / 45%
740-769790-8199.50%65%28% / 45%
710-739760-78910.00%60%28% / 45%
680-709730-75910.50%60%28% / 45%
650-679700-72911.00%60%28% / 45%

 

Using a best-case scenario, this means if you have the top tier credit score, you will pay at least 25% down and have an interest rate of 8.5%.

Additionally, there will be extra fees associated with getting the loan, and some of those fees will be much higher than you are used to in your home country.

 

Loan origination 4% of the loan amount. (That’s a lot! In the U.S. this is more like .05%.)

Processing Fee $400.00
Underwriting fee $1,295.00
Funding Fee $175.00
Document Prep Fee $400.00
Credit Report $100.00, or $125.00 for 2 people.
Inspection Fee depends on property. Estimate $500.00
Appraisal Fee depends on property. Estimate $1,000.

 

 

If you were to buy a $400,000.00 home and you were in the top tier of credit ratings, here is how that might look with a minimum down payment of $100,000 and a loan of $300,000:

Down Payment:              $100,000.00
Loan Origination Fee:    $ 12,000.00
Underwriting fee:            $ 1,295.00
Funding Fee:                    $ 175.00
Document Prep Fee        $ 400.00
Credit Report                   $ 125.00
Inspection                        $ 500.00 (Estimated
Appraisal Fee                  $ 1,000.00 (Estimated)
Normal Closing Costs     $ 8,000.00 (Assuming 50/50 split with Seller)
                   Total to Close $ 123,895.00

 

These numbers come from just one company. There may be others as lenders open up offices here, but these will be representative as you consider your options.

One final thought: If you are purchasing a nice property to be used as a rental for a while, you might very well recoup your upfront costs (minus down payment) within a year. Then renters would make most of the monthly payments for you until you move in and pay off the loan. Run the numbers, talk to a rental management company, and consult an attorney. It’s certainly something to consider!

The “Perfect” Pineapple Smoothie

By Ron Snell

 

So people will argue with me about this because “perfect” is in the eye of the beholder, but I’m going to tell you anyway how to make the perfect pineapple smoothie.

It’s not original with me, so I can’t take the credit for it. I learned it from a friend who had a

smoothie stand in Dominical on the Southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, where I would take breaks from helping people buy or sell properties to get a quick refresher. Although I don’t deserve the credit, you can still thank me, because without me you might never have known.

First, let me just say that until you’ve had fresh pineapple from very close to where it’s grown, you haven’t really had fresh pineapple. Personally, I never ate fresh pineapples in the U.S. because they always had too much acid in them and my mouth is especially sensitive to that, leaving me instantly with sores.

Of course, we could say that about lots of things down here were buying real estate in Costa Rica comes with all kinds of fresh fruits whose flavors and consistencies you simply can’t compare to what you buy in North America or Northern Europe. Eat a few bananas down here and you will never again be content with what you get “up there.” Mangos, starfruit, mangosteen, lychees, papayas—there’s a reason places like Costa Rica attract people who want to eat healthily and live active lives.

So… the perfect pineapple smoothie:

Step 1. Get a good pineapple. It won’t take long to find a favorite source that you can go back to over and over, but until then don’t worry: you’ll see options in roadside stands and grocery stores all over the place. The thing is this: buy one that is already mostly yellow. It can have tinges of green on it, but if it’s too green it might not develop the juicy sweetness you’re looking for and may remain acidy.

NOTE! Feel it all over gently, probing for soft spots and particularly rot or too much softness around the stem. If it’s already juicy/squishy there, give it a pass because that rot can already be extending up into the pineapple from the inside.

Step 2: Cut the top off, peel it, cut the hardcore out, and slice it into small pieces about the size of two or three dominos stacked one on top of the other. Keep in mind that the top, that part with the prickly leaves, is all you need to get another pineapple started, so leave it with enough meat to hold it together. Toss it onto the right patch of ground and it will send out roots, right itself, and grow into another pineapple plant.

Step 3: If your pineapple is one of the small ones that are very common around here certain times of the year, put all of one pineapple into a medium ziplock baggie and then into the freezer. If your pineapple is one of the larger ones, you can get two ziplock baggie’s worth.

Step 4: While your pineapple pieces are freezing, collect a bottle of coconut syrup (“Sirope de Coco”), a container of plain unsweetened yogurt, and milk. Stash those in the fridge.

Step 5: When you’re ready to go to heaven without having to die first, put enough water in the ziplock baggie to cover the pineapple and loosen it a bit. Put ½ Cup each of milk, coconut syrup, yogurt and the contents of your baggie into a high-speed blender and whip it smooth.

Step 6: Pour into two tall glasses, grab two fat straws and a comfortable chair in a beautiful place, and enjoy! Trust me: The only thing better than this will be the next one!

“If I Move to Costa Rica, Do I Need to Learn Spanish?”

By: Ron Snell.

If you want the shortest possible answer to this common question, it would be “No.”
There are thousands of people who come to Costa Rica with only a few Spanish words in their pockets, and they have a great time here. Fortunately, many Costa Ricans in areas where foreigners hang out have learned enough good English to make sure everyone has a good time.

That’s the advantage of speaking the world’s number one language for business and tourism.

Many people even move here and love it for many years and never achieve fluency in Spanish. Maybe they know some basic vocabulary and can understand people who speak it slowly and clearly, but they wouldn’t be able to create three grammatically correct sentences in a row. Others learn to speak it very fast and fluently, but that might mean they have just gotten really proficient at stringing together a whole bunch of bad grammar quickly.
So the short answer is “No”, but there is a longer answer. Or maybe there are just some other considerations. Here are a few of my tips:

1. Everyone learns some Spanish if they are here long enough. What I would say about that is, “However much you learn, whether one word or 1,000, learn to pronounce it correctly.” Believe it or not, good pronunciation shows respect for the language and makes people think you know more than you do. Over and over, Costa Ricans say “You speak excellent Spanish” when someone has just uttered the only six words they know, but with perfect pronunciation.

2. Whether you know a lot or a little, respect the language. Once in a while we hear a foreigner fake speaking Spanish by exaggerating certain sounds or mocking the intonation.
There are contexts in which this is funny, but too often in public it comes across as implying that they think the language is nothing more than babbling monkey chatter. As a language teacher, I’m one who believes it’s valuable to mimic sounds and intonation, but it should be done in a way that doesn’t offend. Save it for your home or language class.

3. When you decide to learn a little Spanish, be reasonable. Set realistic expectations and don’t buy into marketing hype that wants you to think if you just buy this or that course, you’ll be fluent in a couple months. Languages don’t work that way. It took you several years to learn your first language, and the truth is that after 67 years of using mine, I’m still learning. So it will take you several years to learn this one. So what?

4. Learn a little well, and use it a lot. Being able to say some basic things correctly has as much value as learning to say a lot of things incorrectly. In addition, once you have some basic stuff you can say correctly, you can build on that. A solid foundation allows for some magnificent buildings, whereas a bad foundation can’t support anything worthwhile. You will find that the more you know well, the faster you will know more. That’s just how it works.

5. Finally, keep it fun. Laugh at yourself. Treat it like a puzzle or a fantastic neurobic exercise, which it is. Imagine your new language as WD40 for your brain, spraying off layers of rust and allowing it to move quickly and smoothly. Languages do that. They also offer insights into culture and open doors to friendships. Make steady progress, but don’t let it ruin your day.

You may never become as fluent as you wish, but any step in that direction is a step you will be glad you took.

How Do You Get Up Those Roads in the Rainy Season?

By: Ron Snell.

Directions for finding a property in Southern Costa Rica almost always start off something like this: “Drive down the coastal highway until you see this landmark, then turn left and go up the mountain.”

In a place where almost no roads are paved once you leave the coastal highway, that bit about going up the mountain can be rather intimidating to the uninitiated. Many a newcomer has asked us, “Is this road even passable in the rainy season?

The short answer is yes, but of course it’s a longer answer than that.
Most roads were cut into clay hillsides and as almost everyone knows, clay is the perfect soil for slip and slides. Left on its own in the rain, it would provide about as much traction as icy
pavement in Northern climates. Get a steep enough hill and you could create a superb tropical amusement park selling tickets to let people slide down it on their bare backs in the rain. I should know—I used to do that as a kid in Peru.

The good news is that layers and layers of rock or gravel have been added and packed into the roads over the years, creating a base that holds up well in the rains. Soft spots may emerge here and there, or extra heavy traffic may temporarily damage roads if they are too wet, but by and large there are few reports in the area about people not being able to go where they want even in the heart of rainy season.

Counterintuitively, our roads can actually get more dangerous in the dry season than in the
rainy season. This is because when the roads are wet, the clay acts as a sort of mortar holding all of the rocky gravel in place. Then when the roads dry out, the soil turns into dust, the rocks start rolling around, and now you are driving on ball bearings.
Most neighborhoods therefore do some serious road maintenance twice a year: once toward
the end of the rainy season in December, and once just after the end of the dry season in May.

Routine maintenance involves bringing in the appropriate truckloads of fresh surface material, a road grader and a packer. When it’s done, the roads are safe and scenic.
So… generally speaking the roads are not of great concern when you are looking at properties.

You will get used to them very quickly and not give them a second thought.However, there are a couple of things to always keep in mind when driving up and down our roads:

1. Take your time. Unless you have a genuine emergency, there is no reason to drive fast. Speed is the greatest contributor to torn up roads, especially in the dry season. In addition, your ability to stop quickly is radically affected by the condition of the road. Right around the corner there may be a pedestrian, a cute animal, or a fallen tree. You don’t want to hit any of those.

2. Use 4-wheel drive. Depending on the road and the season, many roads don’t require 4 WD, but you will save both the road and your tires by using it anyway. The more tires you have pulling, the less likely it is that you will spin and tear up the road surface.

3. When you purchase property in rural Costa Rica, always ask about road fees. Most of our
neighborhoods ask residents to contribute annually to road maintenance. It’s not legally
required, but doing so speaks volumes about your attitude toward community and your desire to maintain your property’s value, your safety and your enjoyment as you come and go. It’s a small price to pay for living in this beautiful place.

Earthquakes in Costa Rica.

By Ron Snell.

When we’re showing properties to people who want to buy real estate in Costa Rica, sooner or later an inevitable question comes up: “Are there earthquakes here?”

The short answer is, “Yes.” But there’s a much longer answer because the real question is, “Do I need to worry about earthquakes in Costa Rica?” And the short answer to that is “No.”
Costa Rica, and therefore every property in Costa Rica, is on the “Ring of Fire.” Take a second to Google “Ring of Fire map” and you will see images of a map with a bright red line that runs right down the western side of the western hemisphere, including Costa Rica.

There are a few good things to point out here:

First, that’s part of what makes Costa Rica topography so amazing. It’s why I’m writing this in a home near Dominical that’s 1,100 feet above sea level but I can see and hear the surf. A long time ago some massive plates under the sea starting pushing toward each other just like if you and a friend put your hands on a rug from opposite ends and pushed toward each other. Do it slowly and you can watch a mountain range push up between you. Put some luxury homes on one side of that mountain range and you have… voilá… the Southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica!

Every once in a while those plates still get a little uncomfortable and need to move a bit.

When they do, we feel a gentle shake that simply reminds us we are on active earth that supports our beautiful forests and animals and homes. We feel those shakes every few weeks, usually so slight that we aren’t sure if it’s something we did or something the earth did. Once in a while they are a little more powerful and we can hear a little clinking of wine glasses or see a bit of jiggle, but that’s not common.

Second, our soils don’t liquefy in an earthquake. When you buy land, you will be required to get a soil test done before you can get a building permit. In our area, I’ve never heard of a building project being rejected because of a bad soil sample unless it’s due to uncompacted fill or accumulated rubbish in the soil).

In other parts of the world, soils are the opposite of that magic mud you made as a kid.
Remember how you suspended cornstarch in water? When it was just resting or moving slowly, it was like a liquid. When you slapped it, it was hard. Those nasty soils in other parts of the world, on the other hand, are solid when they are stationary, but turn liquid when they are shaken, causing a lot of damage. Ours aren’t like that, so earthquakes don’t affect their
supportive strength.

Third, Costa Rica is picky about construction, and especially foundations. When I was a real
estate broker in Texas, it was unusual to show a house that didn’t have at least a little cracking because of movement in the foundation.

Here in Costa Rica, I can show you 50 homes in a row with no structural cracking (we might notice some hairline surface cracking of the exterior plaster, but it’s cosmetic rather than structural).

Before you can build here, you have to submit your plans to the College of Architects and
Engineers. They go over the plans with sharp eyes to make sure there is enough concrete and reinforcing bars. When they put their stamp on the plans, you can be sure that your home will be well built because your architect or engineer is responsible to visit the project regularly and ensure that it is built according to the plans.

So that’s my longer answer to two questions: Do we have earthquakes here? Yes. Do we worry about them? No.