The New 49th President Will Make it Easier to Immigrate and Move to Costa Rica

By Laura Gutierrez of Immigration Help Costa Rica

Until 2018, the immigration (residency) process was relatively straightforward. Even though the DGME (Immigration) mandate was to process correctly prepared and submitted applications in 90 days, they went past that deadline. Still, my application approvals (and that of other competent service providers) averaged 4 to 7 months. Then came the crisis in Venezuela and Nicaragua (not a coincidence). Through its agreement with the U.N., Costa Rica was obligated to take in many refugees that it could ill afford. This overwhelmed the already faltering DGME system. Residency application approval times ballooned to 12, then 15, and 20 months.

Then came covid. Total system shutdown for many months. In October of 2020, in addition to questionable travel restrictions unsupported by natural science, one of the most onerous overkill initiatives within the immigration process was a burdensome appointment system that barred the door from smooth logistics for most applicants and, for many, turned into a nightmare. As though that was not enough, since March 16 this year, in fulfilling the requirement of post-residency application approvals of enrolling in CAJA, applicants were shocked to learn that they had to now enroll in a pension fund that they would never collect. In many instances, it resulted in a doubling of the previous monthly CAJA premiums.

Cumulatively, these issues caused despair for many current and would-be applicants for residency, as reflected
in social media conversations – and most certainly in my email inbox.

In response to those emails, I speculated in articles that there existed a strong possibility of a reversal of this discouraging degradation of services to residency applicants and an imminent reversal of that CAJA pension enrollment.

My speculations seem to have been bolstered as of yesterday’s seismic event: The inauguration of the 49th president of Costa Rica.

If this man and his very carefully chosen new team succeed in just half of their lofty goals, there will be a massive change for the better for all those engaged in the residency process (let alone all Costa Ricans desperate for change.)

One of the ideas mentioned during the election campaign was that if a bureaucracy cannot process an application in 90 days (assuming it was prepared correctly), it will automatically be considered approved. I am not holding my breath for that one, but indeed things like after-service surveys may produce steady nudges for vast improvements through better management and staff training.

So I encourage you, the discouraged, to read the compelling speech delivered by newly elected President Rodrigo Chaves this past Sunday. He is fluently bilingual, has spent much of his professional career in the U.S. and abroad, and “gets it” about how Costa Rica has to up its game to compete on the global market. Including making things much more attractive for foreign investment, tourism, and retirement. The screeching wheels of infuriating bureaucracy are about to receive and thorough lube job by a new breed of ministers carefully chosen for their skills and competency and who will be held to strict account.

Hopefully the stake of accountability has been driven through the heart of nepotism and indifference.

BTW: Within ONE HOUR on the job, President Chaves nixed the face mask and vaccine mandates. Free at last.

Therefore, there will no longer be justification for these ridiculous appointment systems. Look for them to be disallowed. Soon.

I translated the following speech to English for your benefit.

It will get you up to date on the country you chose to retire in and should provide a clear perspective to alleviate your fears and uncertainties.
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President Chaves:
With the solemnity, gravity and sense of historical responsibility that the times impose on us, I am honored to receive this presidential sash in times of extremely important challenges, not only for the future of our country, but for the very destiny of humanity. (Attention globalists. LG)

The Costa Rican people, by electing me, placed in my hands the responsibility of leading the country’s destiny for the next four years. With reverence and humility I say: they have and will have in me, during all that period, a faithful Mandatory – that is to say, someone who, from this moment and until May 8, 2026, will aspire, with all my efforts, to fully abide by your mandate, to fulfill and ensure that the will of the Sovereign People is fulfilled in all tasks of the State, within the rigorous framework of the Law that governs us.

The moment we live in is crucial. We are the ones called to make a historic change. And that call is imposed with the force of the voice of the people who demand from the polls an enormous obligation to the entire political class, which includes, of course, the three powers of the Republic.

It is time to leave behind the old practices that cost us so much, and rightly so, the Costa Rican people.

We are seeing ourselves before a mirror whose image we do not like, because it presents us with two faces that do not seem to reconcile. In short, the least benefited and the most vulnerable class of our country.

It is no coincidence that, in 2020, before the pandemic, about 60% of people between the ages of 18 and 22 said they had not finished high school. We see in that same mirror the face of working people, of people who have been concerned with training in the hope that their families have the standard of living they long for, that they deserve, or that, despite not having formal studies, they have used their ingenuity and their ability to work to get ahead. But at the same time it is the face of hundreds of thousands of people who see the day end without a job with which to face the personal needs of the next morning. It is also the face of nearly a million people trapped in informal employment. (Costa Rica’s population is 5,100,000 – LG)

It is a country whose soil has the capacity to feed us all, but it is also a country where hunger sits on the table of hundreds of thousands of people, who do not earn enough to even buy the basic food basket. .

It is a country whose bicentennial democracy, with proven roots in our civic culture, has captivated the peoples of the world. But at the same time, we see in that mirror in which we look at ourselves, detachment and mistrust of the parties and traditional politics, which does not imply any renunciation or denial of democratic values, but, on the contrary, expresses the desire for a more authentic experience of Democracy and supposes a more genuine and transcendent assessment of its fundamental practices.

The image reflected is that of a country that, over the decades, has built a strong, robust institutional framework, but that in recent years has seen, with shame, impotence and just anger, how the institutions have not provided quality public services or cleaned up their structures of the infamous ballast of corruption.

The outrageous waiting lists of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, (CAJA) which for years have subjected thousands of Costa Ricans, is not only a systematic violation of the right to health, but is also humiliating and distressing for those who medical care means life or death.

Not even the rulings of the Constitutional Chamber have moved the foundations of the Fund. We look at ourselves with astonishment in that mirror because it is not the Costa Rica that we want. We do not want the country where the streets wear out the clock of life in endless prey. We do not want the country of rural areas that see with sadness and helplessness, from afar, how the gates of development and the economy only grow in the central zone of the country.

(Note: Most ex-pats live in the rural parts of Costa Rica. – LG)

This is the mirror in which all of us, Costa Ricans, are looking at ourselves. A mirror full of contradictions, of dreams that refuse to be part of our reality, of dreams that do not have the shoes to run, much less the wings to fly. Those contradictions are more than figures in academic studies. They are more than the alarming data that, year after year, the State of the Nation reveals to us. Those contradictions hurt us.

These contradictions make the life of our citizens harder, more difficult than it should be in a democratic, peaceful and rich country like ours. These contradictions hurt in the absent bread on the table, they hurt in the young people who must make the difficult decision to leave their studies to contribute to the family support, or, worse still, in the young people who have fallen into the hole bottomless drug addicts, or have joined the ranks of organized crime.

Will we, compatriots, be able to make history?

Will we be able to really lead Costa Rica towards the future it deserves?

Will we be able to make the people who live in this great country dream again, and not just dream, but have the opportunity to build that dream into reality?

That is the great challenge that we must overcome.

I know very well that the challenge seems very hard. And it is! But, compatriots, let’s not fall into the trap of despair. Let us not allow ourselves to be overcome by the darkness that some have wanted to sell us, as if they wanted us to think that change and progress are not possible. Prominent figures of the ruling political class, flippantly, and perhaps as an excuse for not having made the decisions that should have been made, have made us believe that Costa Rica is an ungovernable country.

Do not!

It is not about ungovernability, but about making the decisions that need to be made, no matter how complex and controversial they may be. It is also a question of courage, even though these decisions go against the interests of small groups, those who have used their influence and power to benefit through public policies that have only diminished the welfare of the majority.

“The country is happiness, pain and heaven for all and not feud or chaplaincy of anyone,” José Martí told us, with words that speak to us not from the past, but from a tremendous present, from the permanent struggle for the desire for good common expressed in the citizen’s will.

I am very clear that if I put forward the beacon of that citizen’s will, I will never get lost.

If I put forward the path that each one of the men and women who voted for me, and also those who did not, have outlined for me, I will never use the excuse that this country cannot govern itself, because the order of the people is that it govern.

And that I do it with leadership, with energy, with determination, with humility, but, above all, with the conviction that each of my decisions and those of my team are guided by a will that has spoken, that demands of us, that it requires us to act for the good of the majority.

I say this, of course, bearing in mind more than anyone that the change that the country demands is not about an ambition or a personal project of a man named Rodrigo Chaves, but about rescuing a democracy, and that is up to all of us .

In the long history of more than 200 years of democratic life in the country, this possible historical accident, this, for many, unpredictable setback of the political orders, comes to raise the possibility of definitively changing the course of our lives.

As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that has achieved it.”

This change cannot be achieved by the will of a single person, but by the character of the thousands of Costa Ricans who, with their honest work and unquestionable dedication, build the country day by day. Costa Ricans who have demonstrated countless times the greatness of their spirit, leaving our country high in the most varied disciplines of sport, in the most beautiful forms of art and in the most innovative scientific discoveries and research.

Costa Ricans who, from the most diverse and complex conditions, today seek, with the best of their efforts, with the frankness of their actions and the commitment of their work, the honest sustenance of their tables and the modest tranquility of their families .

I know that at this moment many of these brave Costa Ricans must be watching or listening to this speech from their homes, worried more about the hunger that attacks their bodies than about the possible virtue that they can find in the words of this servant who speaks to you today.

I am aware that my eloquence should be the improvement of the conditions of thousands of Costa Ricans and not the beauty of a speech.

I also know that many others, disenchanted by the ghost of the unfulfilled dreams of previous governments, will not take the trouble to follow with an attentive ear the simple words of this man whom they decided today to name with such a high honor.

To all of you I address myself and say, see me as what I am, a humble instrument to fulfill the mandate of the people, a people that together can achieve the urgent change that history imposes on us.

See in me a counselor, who, in the full use of his powers, will seek no less than the best in the administration of this Government that unites us all, and nothing other than a future of peace, dignity and work for future generations.

See in me a facilitator, who, through a respectful and attentive dialogue, will seek the conciliation of a people that today is divided between deputies, unions, businessmen and institutions that for years have undermined each other’s development to obtain some benefit at the expense of the majority.

Today I tell you that the idea that they want to sell us of a tidy house – vanishes before the reality of the country. The reality is very different and it is a reality that is undeniable for us! As much as some want to continue scamming us.

Today we bravely face the imminent obligation to repair the country and fight with the conviction that God protects us and that it is only through the honest work of our hands and not through the indolent spirit of conformism that we will be able to build a worthy homeland for our children. and daughters.
We’re not just going to tidy up the house. We are going to rebuild it! This is the sign of our times, it is the urgent urgency for change, the deaf cry of a democracy that we will not let disappear!

I will not accept defeat, we do not have to accept defeat! I will never accept it because I know that the wealth of this country goes beyond its ecological diversity; it goes beyond its unique culture and traditions in the world; it goes even further than its unrepeatable history.

It is its people that make this country rich. My people, you are the ones who enlarge our homeland.

People who know as well as I do that there is a need for more employment, to lower the cost of living, for more tranquility in our homes and streets, to dream again, to trust again, to believe again that leaders still exist politicians who seek the best for the country.

It is the fundamental need of a country like ours! It is the plain certainty that our democracy is strong and that it will not be overthrown!

Costa Rica is a great collective force that beats like a heart full of hope.

This collective strength throbs in every corner of our nation, in the constant rush of the streets, in the commercial waves of the ports, in the offices and their comings and goings of papers and computers, in the sweet breeze of the countryside that feeds us, in the warm aroma of the home where our sons and daughters are raised.

I address this youth and tell them: Young people! I know that they must be tired of hearing that they are the future of the country, when their future is mortgaged to them from the cradle. A girl is born today in Costa Rica and, instead of carrying a loaf of bread under her arm, she carries a signed promissory note with thousands of dollars in debt. We are going to dismortgage the future of these young people. We will build your tomorrow with a prosperous present full of opportunities.

Women, you are part of that incessant beating of the Homeland. We will not tolerate the harassment they suffer every day and in all spaces of society. It is not possible for women to be afraid of walking alone in the street, it is not possible for women to be afraid in their own home, in their own work, in a park, at a concert. That is why my first political commitment as president-elect will be to stop discrimination and harassment against all women in all areas of our country.
We owe older adults, the inextinct force of our nation, more than we could name because the benefits we enjoy today as a country are the fruit of their efforts. You will not be abandoned anymore, because you deserve a fair old age, you who with your work built the foundations of this your country.

To our original peoples, who happily today, for the first time in Costa Rican history, have the representation of an indigenous deputy, I want to say: You will be included! We will repair that historical debt that fills us with shame and that has separated us as if we were different, when in reality we are all Costa Ricans with common desires and hopes.

I assure the LGBTIQ population that we are not going to go backwards in the recognition of the rights that they have achieved throughout their struggles for equality and appreciation for diversity, struggles that I respect and that I guarantee will continue unscathed in their victories.

To the public universities, origin of much of the force that has moved the country and that, I have no doubt, will position us in unimagined places, I say: we respect your autonomy, but we also recognize that autonomy does not mean or allow waste.

It is an arduous task to forge the future of youth, which requires effectiveness and efficiency in the use of public resources.

To public employees I say that the responsibility of their positions carries the weight of giving the country the commitment and dedication to serve their fellow citizens and support them, but they know that abuse and exploitation will not be tolerated.

(IE: Bureaucracies will be held to much higher standards of SERVICE – how-did-we-do? surveys.)

To the private sector, the primary driving force behind our economy, I say: we will let you work. We will also remove the obstacles that have historically prevented entrepreneurs from taking the place they deserve as key players in the country’s development. Yes, we will let them work, but we also say to those businessmen who have lost the “north” of ethics: Do not corrupt our officials! We will not allow that! Don’t expect the government to give away to some what belongs to everyone: the private monopolies are over! The privileges of public policies to favor some at the expense of the majority are over.
To investors, the country is responsible for its debts, we have never failed to pay, we will do what we have to do to honor our obligations to our people, to our public employees and to our creditors.

To our unions, we remind you that the issue is not government or the private sector, but a fair but firm search for the well-being of all the people who work in the country. The forces of the opposition are also forces of the people. They are also that common heartbeat that unites us as a country. Let’s build bridges that recover the people’s so damaged trust in their political leaders. Let us show Costa Rica the greatest courage of all: the ability to sit at the table, look each other in the eye with transparency and reach consensus that will bring peace, tranquility and development to our nation.

I also have something to say to those who use our territory as a bridge to export and store drugs: consider yourself notified. Find another territory! We will not tolerate their presence in our homeland.

To the corrupt, to those who direct organized crime, to those who frighten our citizens in the streets, we will not give them respite.

If the State cannot guarantee the security of its inhabitants, we have failed as a country, and failure is not admissible for those who serve the Homeland with love.

To the international community, we remind you that our tradition is and will be pacifist.

In Costa Rica, thank God, there is not a single armed and trained soldier as such, we do not have a cannon, much less a war tank or a combat plane, nor do we have artillery or armored ships that sail our seas. We are not a military threat to anyone at all. And it is in fidelity to this pacifist and civilist tradition that we call on the powers of the world and other governments to make a real commitment to harmony, reason, peace and respect for human dignity.

Let us pray for the peaceful solution of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

To you, to all of you, I am writing, paraphrasing the poet T. S. Elliot, saying that what we often call the beginning is often the end and that to reach an end is often to begin again.

That is, the end of a government becomes our starting point.
With the fear of God, which I consider to be the basis for the wisdom of a ruler, I end by saying:
This is our time. We are working, deciding, improving.
Costa Rica, the best is yet to come!
May God bless you and may God bless Costa Rica.
May work and peace always live. Thank you very much.

 

If you are in need of immigration assistance Laura can be reached by clicking here, Toll-free at 1-833-733-6337, Locally at or by sending an email to [email protected]

 

Issues With the New CAJA Rates for Migrants

From Outlier Legal  Here is the link to their website for more information  www.outlierlegal.com

As noted in an article we recently published, there are new Costa Rican Social Security Fund (better known as the CAJA) rates that apply for residents in Costa Rica who sign up after March 16, 2022.

This time, we are going to share some issues we have noted with this regulation and how it affects the people who already have obtained residency or are in the process of applying for it.

For further details, check out our past publication regarding the new CAJA rates for migrants. We will also post more articles about this in the upcoming weeks, since it is a matter our legal team is analyzing profoundly.

What is the main change in CAJA rates?

The significant change with the regulation is creating the requirement for certain foreign nationals (immigrants) with residency in Costa Rica to pay for additional insurance. Specifically, the additional insurance refers to making contributions to the pension system.

Previously, Immigrants were only required to pay the portion of the CAJA fees only covering for health care services, which is called Insurance for Illness and Maternity (Seguro de Enfermedad y Materninad or SEM for its acronym in Spanish).

However, the recent modification is requiring immigrants to pay for the insurance portion which covers pension or disability income (Invalidez, Vejez y Muerte or IVM for its acronym in Spanish).

So, this is the main change. Before, immigrants were not required to pay for IVM — now, they are.

Who is actually affected by this change?

We can review this from two perspectives. On the one hand, whether it affects people who already have residency, and on the other hand, whether it affects all categories of residency.

Regarding the former, people who already have their residency and DIMEX cards on hand are not affected by this change. Conversely, it affects all people who have not completed the residency process and do not have their DIMEX cards, and thus have not yet signed up for the CAJA insurance for residents.

The regulation does not establish (and thus there is no clarity of) whether people who will renew the residency in the future will see their CAJA fees increased during the process of renewal of CAJA benefits. This is a subject to be explored.

Regarding the latter, according to regulations it should only affect a few categories of residency, not all. However, due to the lack of clarity of the language, it can be inferred that the intention is to apply it to all categories of residency.

Section 1 of the regulation states that it is applicable to “all Costa Ricans who reside in the national territory, or rentistas and pensionados who do not work directly or indirectly”. These people can register as voluntary registrants.

Now how do we define rentistas, pensionados or voluntary registrants?

According to the regulation:

  • pensionado: a person who does not work (either as self employed or as an employee) and receives a pension from a foreign pension system.
  • rentista: a person who does not work (either as self-employed or as an employee) and receives income.

As noted above, there is no clarity. While they initially state in section one that these regulations should apply to Costa Rican rentistas and pensionados, later on in Section 16 is established that the regulation is applicable to all migrant people (immigrants) who do not work in Costa Rica.

The issue with this is that there are several other categories of residents who are not pensionados or rentistas who do not work in Costa Rica, or do not have an income in Costa Rica, who are considered immigrants under the language of the regulation.

Considering the language of the regulation, we can establish that it is applicable to pensionado (retired) and inversionista (investor) residents, and the inconsistent language may result in also being applicable to other categories such as rentista residents. 

A primary healthcare facility from the CAJA in Nicoya, Guanacaste

Specific issues with the regulation

A. Retroactivity

As noted above, this new regulation is applicable to people who do not have residency yet and it shall not affect the people who already have residency and DIMEX card. We must go a step further.

The registration with the CAJA is a requirement for the residency process. It is not possible to complete the residency process and obtain the DIMEX unless foreign nationals are registered with the CAJA. Thus, this makes the CAJA requirement an intrinsic part of the residency process.

This new regulation (if at all) should be applicable to people who initiate the process of residency since March 16, 2022 (first day of validity of the regulation). Conversely, it should not be applicable to people who have initiated the residency process prior to March 16, 2022.

Thousands of foreign nationals have come to Costa Rica and decided to apply for residency under the expectation that certain regulations will be applicable to them.

At the moment we see how many people who are finishing the residency process which they started a long time ago (considering how long the residency process takes and how long it takes the Immigration Department to grant appointments for filing due to the Covid-19 pandemic) are hit by the surprise that their CAJA fees have almost doubled from what was initially expected.

B. Reasonability

Another significant issue is whether the requirement to pay the IVM insurance is reasonable for foreign nationals.

As noted, the IVM is a pension for disability and retirement for old age. Is the CAJA going to pay pension to foreign nationals with residency (as defined in the regulations) who make contributions to the IVM? The answer is no. How come?

Well, in order to receive a pension from the CAJA, the contributor (in this case a person with residency) must have made a minimum of 180 monthly installments, which adds up to fifteen years of contributions.

So, if we apply this to a person who obtained residency as a pensionado we must imagine a person who currently receives a government pension from abroad which requires to be at least 65 years old to qualify for that government pension.

Therefore, we are telling this person that they must pay into a pension system in CR for 15 years for them to start collecting a pension when they reach 80 years of age.

That is not reasonable.

C. Equality

As noted in previous occasions, foreigners have protections under the Costa Rican Constitution, which demands for them to be treated equally as Costa Rican nationals.

Thus, these protections and the right to equal treatment extend to many areas of the Costa Rican life and legal system. When it comes to the topic at hand being the modification of the regulations for the registration of certain immigrants, we spotted some issues affecting the equal treatment.

Namely: Right to work and income-based fees from the CAJA. In this instance, Costa Rican nationals are allowed to enroll with the CAJA as voluntary registrants. The CAJA fees are going to be based on their income, but they are allowed to work.

Consider that the objective of the IVM is to supplement income (in the manner of a pension) when people stop working, by receiving a pension. This is allowed to Costa Rican nationals, but foreign nationals are required to bear the financial burden without being allowed either to work nor to receive the pension.

This is not equal treatment; it puts foreign nationals at a disadvantage when requiring to bear the financial burden with no access to economic activity or the possibility of having access to the benefits which is the purpose of the IVM system.

D. Access to healthcare

This is not an exhaustive list, but last we will like to address the issue regarding the ability of receiving healthcare services for foreign nationals.

Among other things, the new regulations include the limitation to receive medical assistance within six months of registering with the CAJA.

Under the Costa Rican Constitution, access to healthcare is a fundamental right and as such it cannot be limited in such manner. This type of limitation is not applicable to other CAJA registrants such as people on payroll.

The sole purpose of healthcare coverage of CAJA is to provide medical assistance when people need it.

CAJA is not a for profit corporation, and the objective of the organization is not to generate money — rather, it is to provide healthcare (and income security) to the population at large.

I understand that for many decades the Costa Rican government and the population at large have been concerned about the impact that immigrants have in the healthcare system (and other public services such as education and judicial services), but the solution is not to generate undue burdens and discriminatory practices to a section of the population.

Rather, the CAJA must focus on collecting the money owed by the largest debtors to the system, particularly the government. The Costa Rican government owes billions of colones (hundreds of millions of dollars) to the CAJA, which are not being paid.

Next Steps

We have a commitment to protect the rights of our communities as contemplated in the Constitution. As noted, we have identified some legal issues with the new regulations, and we are currently evaluating the legal avenues we can take to address these challenges.

Certainly, we cannot guarantee success, but as usual, we will give it our best shot. Sometimes we succeed, many other times we learn better.

Tips for Tipping in Costa Rica: Gratuity Etiquette 101

Published on March 30, 2022 by Paul Pitura 

A big question many North American tourists have when they travel to Costa Rica is how much they should tip. It’s a natural question, especially for Canadians and Americans who live in a culture where you tip everyone from the restaurant staff and taxi drivers to bellhops and tour guides. Not tipping can be considered rude and insulting, right? Is that the case in Costa Rica, too? Here’s a quick guide on tipping in Costa Rica, so you have a better idea of how much cash to have in your wallet during your travels here.

Tipping culture in Costa Rica

First, you should be aware that most hotels and restaurants will add 13% tax and a 10% service charge to your bill. This means a 10% tip is already included in your bill, and no additional tip is needed. Ticos very rarely tip when they go out to dinner, though this may seem odd to North Americans.

Since tipping isn’t something Costa Ricans are used to, most workers in the service industry aren’t going to be offended if you don’t leave a tip. However, it doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate the extra money. Wages for workers in the service industry fluctuate wildly, depending on where the business is located and the type of establishment at which they work. For example, in Tamarindo, a hotel restaurant marketed to international tourists will generally have higher wages than a soda – a small restaurant that serves a predominantly local clientele. Therefore, a tip may be an essential income supplement for some employees.

A 10% s service charge is included in restaurant bills, but a little extra is always appreciated.

Illogically, however, it’s mostly the wealthy tourist centers in Costa Rica that have gravitated toward a tipping culture. Businesses in places such as Tamarindo, Potrero and Playas del Cocos will often have jars with the word propinas (Spanish for tips) on them by the cash register. [You can argue that tipping has led many business owners to cut costs and to use tips as an excuse to pay less than a living wage, but that’s a topic for another blog.]

You may see tip jars in Costa Rica, especially at bars.

What should you tip in Costa Rica?

Cultural aspects aside, there are some things you should know about restaurant and bar tabs, hotel bills and other services you may hire while traveling in Costa Rica.

Restaurants

First, as noted, restaurants usually include a 10% service charge in your bill, so you’ll be paying this “tip” whether you want to or not. Most restaurants will indicate impuestos incluidos (“taxes included”) somewhere on the bottom of their menus. You’re free to add something extra if you think it’s warranted, but if you calculate your tip as a percentage of the entire bill, you’ll be tipping on the 23% already added for taxes and service. Still, no tip will be unappreciated, even if it’s 1,000 or 2,000 colones ($1.50 or $3).

Hotels

Costa Rica hotels also add the 13% sales tax and 10% service charge. They may give you a receipt with a vacant tip section, but you may wonder exactly where this money will go, and you shouldn’t don’t feel obligated to add anything. Sometimes hotel maids leave an envelope in your room welcoming a tip, and if they’ve done a good job, feel free to leave them a couple of bucks. Or if a bellhop enthusiastically hustles your bags to your room and shows you how everything works, there’s no harm in handing him a small bill.

Hotels also include a 10% service charge, though you may wish to tip the maid or bellhop extra.

Gas stations

If you rent a car in Costa Rica, you’ll undoubtedly need to fill up with gas. Bear in mind that self-serve gas stations are non-existent in Costa Rica – so do not attempt to put gas in your car yourself. Full-service attendants will take care of that for you. They may also offer – or you can simply ask them – to wash your windshield and check your oil and tires. If gas station attendants provide these kinds of services to you, one could argue that they’ve earned a tip of 1,000 colones or so.

All gas stations in Costa Rica are full service. Tips are appreciated but not expected.

Parking attendants

At many beaches and other tourist areas, you’ll find yellow-vested parking attendants enthusiastically waving you into a space where they’d like you to park. They’ll give you a friendly greeting as you get out of your car and will often say “Se lo cuido” – “I’ll watch it for you.” And when you get back, they’re more than happy to help you back out of your space, even if it means stopping other cars on the road.

Parking attendants who watch your car rely on tips for the majority of their income.

It goes without saying that these attendants are expecting a tip, even if it’s a dollar. Some of them may be employed by nearby hotels and restaurants, or they may be part of a community service initiative designed to keep popular tourist areas safe. But they definitely rely on tips for the majority of their income, and they earn it by spending all day in a parking lot watching cars. And there’s value to you in knowing that you can relax on the beach for four hours knowing that someone is keeping an eye on your car. It’s always a good idea to carry small bills when you drive to tip people like this. 

Boat captains, taxi drivers and tour guides

As a rule, Ticos don’t tip taxi drivers. In big cities such as San José or smaller pueblos such as Villarreal, taxi drivers don’t usually expect a tip from locals. However, in this day and age, they may expect a gratuity from someone who doesn’t speak Spanish and is a tourist. As a rule, a tip of 1,000 (red bill) to 2,000 (blue bill) colones is sufficient, depending on the length of your journey.

Tipping is more common when it comes to boat captains or tour guides. For example, if you take an all-day fishing excursion, you may want to tip the captain up to $50 for bringing you to the sweet spots and helping you hook all those marlins. The same goes for any tour guide, who may be herding you and dozens of disorderly tourists around while trying to educate you on local culture while at the same time directing you to the nearest bathroom and trying to get everyone back on the bus on time. It can’t be easy.

If a tour guide has done a great job with your group, always consider leaving a tip.

Tipping in Costa Rica

Tipping in Costa Rica is a matter of personal choice and comfort. Many domestic and international tourists travel through Costa Rica and don’t tip. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. It just means that anything extra you give will be much appreciated, but not expected.

This tip box for guides indicates that a little something extra is always welcome.

You shouldn’t experience the aggressive transactional expectation of being harassed for tips or made to feel guilty about not tipping. You should find a relationship of mutual respect and professionalism, where a tip is earned and not taken for granted. So, if it makes you feel good about your Costa Rican travel, then, by all means, share your propinas.

 

 

Costa Rica: Country Lifts Sanitary Measures

 

March 31, 2022

 
 
 
 

 

Costa Rica is on its way to the total lifting of the sanitary measures activated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Find below the sanitary measures that have been lifted and that are about to be lifted in the coming days:

  • As of 7 March 2022, the sanitary driving restriction was eliminated and the sanitary driving restriction exception letter will no longer apply.
  • As of 7 March 2022, the “health pass” requirement for Costa Ricans entering Costa Rica was eliminated.
  • As of 24 March 2022, people who have the third COVID-19 vaccine dose, who have direct contact with a positive case of COVID-19, will not be quarantined.
  • As of 1 April 2022, the use of the QR code will not be required.
  • As of 1 April 2022, establishments with service to the public will be allowed to operate at 100% capacity.
  • As of 1 April 2022, the “health pass” requirement for foreigners entering Costa Rica will be eliminated.
  • As of 1 April 2022, the insurance payment requirement for unvaccinated foreigners entering Costa Rica will be eliminated.

The mandatory use of a mask remains in force, as well as distance measures (1.8 meters), cleaning, and disinfection of workplaces. 

To obtain legal advice in Costa Rica on immigration and labor law, do not hesitate to contact us.

Playa Ocotal, Guanacaste Costa Rica

Playa Ocotal is a wonderfully peaceful place to enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing in the sun. Scenic hills and cliffs hem in the beach, and the Catalina Islands sit just offshore. The quaint village of Playa Ocotal is located a few minutes south of the popular beach town of Playas del Coco, where visitors can find numerous restaurants and nightlife options.

The calm waters of this part of the Pacific beckon sport fisherman from all corners of the globe

Fisherman anchor at Playa Octal, a safe haven at night away from the open ocean

The tranquil beach of Ocotal is situated in Costa Rica’s stunning Guanacaste Province on the northern Pacific coast. In Guanacaste, you will encounter an amazing world of pristine white sand beaches lined with swaying palm trees, endless summer days, and breathtaking sunsets. The region is home to a vast stretch of tropical dry forest that houses abundant wildlife and beautiful birds.

Playa Octal provides welcome relief from the otherwise inaccessible shoreline in this region. This black sand beach is an incredible pearl located within the beauty of Guanacaste. 

Activities near Playa Ocotal

Playa Ocotal is a fantastic place to scuba dive with Manta Rays, schools of tropical fish, turtles, sharks, and octopus. Sport fishingSurfingHorseback riding, and sailing are also popular activities in this area of Costa Rica.

The fish are bountiful in this part of ocean, and fishing thrives in this area

The hills of Ocotal are home to beautiful Villas with incredible views of the beautiful beach and ocean.  Bahia Pez Vela just over the hills to the south is a unique resort with ocean view and beach access villas and home to a great restaurant.  While Ocotal itself is home the famous Father Roosters with its renowned Margaritas on the Beach.  Los Almendros on the north side of the beach has great condos and Villas as well.  Great for a vacation get away or a permanent retirement home.  Do not miss the opportunity to visit Playa Ocotal when you are in Guanacaste.  Just 30 minutes from the International Airport.  You can be on the beach within two hours depending on customs and immigration.  Still the best location in the area are beaches of Playa Panama, Playa Hermosa, Playas del Coco and Playa Ocotal. 

Caja Costs Spike for Expats in Costa Rica

 

By Laura Gutierrez of Immigration Help Costa Rica

CAJA sticker shock.

For those who don’t yet know, one of the requirements for residency here in Costa Rica is that you must enroll in our national healthcare system (CAJA) upon approval of your residency application. You will be means-tested to assess “fairly” what you can afford to pay—the greater your income, the higher your CAJA premium. As of March 16th of this year, the premiums took a significant hit. More on that below.

Some crucial perspectives:

Those from countries like Canada, the U.K., or the E.U. will be familiar with such public systems. And mostly unimpressed. Particularly in the U.K., these universal “free” systems are bankrupt and not functioning well for those needing care for something more than a broken wrist. If you are over age 70, you may be blocked from certain types of care no matter the urgent need. Private care remains your only option. (Henry Ford and Beaumont Hospitals in Detroit get a lot of business from cash paying Canadians unable to get served through the “free” public system across the river in Ontario.) I mention Canada because it is often held up as a glowing example of a public healthcare system. Plus, I have lived in and gained citizenship there before returning to Costa Rica.
I remain shocked at how many math-challenged Canadians think that their healthcare is free. Nothing could be further from the truth. As with all public – government-run services, it is, in fact, grossly overpriced. Costs are also primarily influenced by Big Pharma. (Another dark subject we can skip for now.)

Quick example: In London, Ontario, I accompanied my late father-in-law to a local hospital for bladder issues. During the 7 hour visit, I noticed a steady parade of sickly-looking adults and many kids coming through the emergency room doors. At the time, there was some overblown swine flu terror. Most visitors were seen, patted on the head, and assured that what they had was just flu. I observed this for hours before inquiring of the triage manager what the hospital charged the government for each of these visitors with only the flu.

“Between $800 and $1,100 each.”

So much for free.

The point I am trying to drive home here is that if you require any medical attention, one way or another, you are going to pay dearly for it. (Which is why there is much emphasis on preventive care in poor Costa Rica.) At the same time, you will also pay for others who cannot afford to pay anything. Yes, we are our brothers’ keepers and, as such, must help out in a fair and equitable manner. The strong helping the weak and vulnerable. That is the stated mandate of any public insurance system. But those public systems are the most susceptible to abuse and fraud. Why? No one sees the bill from the medical provider to the government, which makes for a massive lack of transparency and accountability.
Unlike Canada, in Costa Rica, the public and private healthcare systems operate side by side. Many ex-pats and Ticos use both. When in a hurry for things not very costly, they go to the private clinics a la carte. If they can endure the long wait times with the public system (CAJA) on more serious issues, for economic reasons, they wait it out and get their medical attention at CAJA, where for the most part, the service is still world-class.

Unfortunately, that combination of side-by-side public and private systems opens up the opportunity for some doctors to double-dip. (certainly not all) They straddle both systems, and to make a complex story short, CAJA gets abused through over-billing and illegal use of their facilities.

Delinquency in paying premiums is also a pervasive problem involving high-profile corporate entities. (And even political candidates!) The other daily drain on the system is the steady flow of Ticos with nothing more than a sniffle, headache, or hurt feelings seeking emergency attention for such trivial matters. After all, they think: It’s free, and I get personal attention sorely lacking in my life at home. I wager that if everyone had to pay just 3,500 colones (USD$5) at the triage desk, visitor traffic would be reduced by 30% or more. There are other issues and complexities, but these are the broad strokes for now.
Costa Rica is hardly unique. This is a global problem over which entire elections are won or lost.
This was all happening before March of 2020.

Then COVID hit and was accompanied by economy destroying overkill social distancing restrictions of movement. Through studies by highly credible Johns Hopkins researchers and many others, those restrictions to movement have been proven ineffective and needless. The results? Those restrictions caused the permanent shuttering of over 1,600 businesses in San Jose alone. Think of all the employees and suppliers. Then consider the tax contributions collected from all those people. The country-wide unemployment spike caused a massive drop in CAJA contributions, creating shortfalls to the system. This is despite many dire warnings from cooler heads against these overkill social distancing initiatives. They continue to wreak economic havoc here in Costa Rica and around the world. ANY kind of insurance coverage is destined to see a spike in premiums this year. As are taxes, oil & gas, food, transportation, fertilizer costs to mention just a few.

You cannot have the populace stay home and get paid with printed money to do so and not have that followed by a tidal wave of inflation. We were warned over and over. Yesterday’s highly criticized economic predictions labeled as conspiracy nonsense are now today’s realities.
So read what follows through the above perspectives.

CAJA Has Two Parts:

The CAJA system here is comprised of two elements: Healthcare coverage – and – pension contributions. Think Social Security (U.S.) or CPP (Canada.) Anyone approved for residency under the various categories must enroll in CAJA before having their residency (DIMEX) cards given to them. Up to March 15th, 2022, their enrolment was only required into the healthcare portion of the system. The pension portion was only a requirement for native Costa Ricans.
Until now.

Foreigners now signing up for CAJA must participate in both parts of the system: Healthcare and Pensions.
Post-March 15th, monthly premiums for those approved as Pensioners (Pensionados) or Investors (Inversionistas) have almost doubled. While Rentista has not been mentioned in this new initiative, the CAJA staff apply the exact formulas for that category at CAJA signup. There is a constitutional law in Costa Rica that does not allow retroactive applications of these new rules. Therefore, all those previously signed up need not worry about similar rate increases. At least not yet.

For those still awaiting approvals on their Pensionado or Inversionista residency applications, count on these new premiums to apply when signing on to CAJA. Following your signup, there is a system to challenge the assessed premiums. But I am putting more faith in class action and group communications of protests rather than individual efforts unless you have deep pockets to play in court.

How much will you be assessed?

When Pensionados sign up, CAJA staff will now ask to see your proof of pension submitted to the DGME with your residency applications with which the DGME approved your applications. CAJA will use that monthly pension to calculate your monthly premiums.
For Rentista, they will use the USD 2,500/month figure on the approval Resolucións. (Based on three separate client encounters just last week.) Rentista is not mentioned in the new rule changes – yet. Count on an amendment.
I am uncertain precisely what math will be used to calculate premiums for those that qualified for Inversionista. This method may have changed with these new rules. I will cover that in more detail in a subsequent article, and by that time, I also hope to have official clarity on Rentista registrations.

*So that you know what to expect, refer to this latest chart used by CAJA in the attached Image*

Sample calculation:

1) Pensionado with USD $1,500/month income:
(1,500 x 6.24%) + (1,500 x 7.24%) = $201 Monthly CAJA Premium.

2) Rentista with USD $2,500/month income:
(2,500 x 8.2%) + (2,500 x 7.65%) = $396 Monthly CAJA premium.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

I do not yet have clarity on one other question: What is the age break – if any – on someone who gets the CAJA pension premiums added to the mix? IE: If I am a Pensionado aged 60 – 65 – 70+, and I pay into the CAJA pension system, at what age can I expect to start collecting my benefits? (It may be that I overlooked the answer in the voluminous 112 page PDF announcement from last September in La Gaceta. I’ll keep investigating this week.)
This all comes as a severe jolt to many who budgeted for lower monthly premiums. I know there will be massive blowback on this issue from many quarters. My constructive suggestion is that the ex-pat community form groups and send professionally and rationally written letters and emails of protest to their respective embassies to leverage the impact of such protests. Don’t leave it to someone else. Fight requires effort.
Also, here is the contact information to the “complaint department” at the ICT (Costa Rica Tourism Board):
Laura Chacon
Email – [email protected]
Be sure all such communications to her are officially translated into Costa Rica Spanish by an official translator. (Not abysmal Google translate). In the meantime, we will endeavor to get more meaningful information to guide all applicants through this situation to affect a fair outcome for all concerned.

There may also be more help on the way to reverse or adjust these rates by the new government to be sworn in after the April 3 runoff election. Though still not impressed with either choice, I have switched my allegiance based on stated intentions by one of the candidates/parties currently leading in the polls. Make much noise about this issue in public forums, Embassies, and to the ICT, so the pressure builds on the politicians and bureaucrats responsible for this poorly thought out change to the system. (Hopefully many will be replaced with new blood not part of the good ole’ boys club.)

Comparatively, even with all its flaws and problems, the Costa Rican healthcare system still offers better value for the healthcare premium dollar when compared accurately to other countries. Also of significant consideration: The unique healthy environment of Costa Rica and abundant, economical field-to-table fresh produce available year-round remains one of the main benefits of living here. I have lost count of how many clients have told me of dramatic improvements to their health and reductions in prescriptions in just their first year of living here. This lessens the need to access CAJA. Let’s not lose sight of what remains of significant benefit.

And no matter what happens in the future, one thing will never occur in Costa Rica:

Winter.

If you are in need of immigration assistance Laura can be reached by clicking here, Toll-free at 1-833-733-6337, Locally at or by sending an email to [email protected]

Monkey Business: Where to Find the Fab Four Primate Species in Costa Rica

Published on February 23, 2022 by Dana Kaleta

The four monkey species in Costa Rica

The four species of monkeys native to Costa Rica are the white-faced capuchin (mono cariblanco), spider monkey (mono colorado or mono araña), the squirrel monkey (mono ardilla or titi), and the howler monkey (mono congo). 

The white-faced capuchin monkey gets its name from the Capuchin friars in Italy, monks whose brown robes and hoods frame their faces. Similarly, the black body fur of the capuchin monkey frames its white facial fur and pink face. Up to 30 capuchins group together under an alpha male and alpha female. They are 12 to 22 inches long, excluding the tail, which is as long as the body, and they live 15 to 25 years in the wild. Capuchins are smart, ranking as the most intelligent primate in the Americas, and have been trained as animal actors and to assist people with disabilities. White-faced monkeys sometimes perform with organ grinders, and yes, that monkey named Marcel on “Friends” was a capuchin.

White Faced Capuchin Monkey in the jungle
White-faced capuchins are the performing stars of the Costa Rican jungle, often as curious about people as people are about them.

The gregarious capuchin adapts to humans out of curiosity, but that same curious nature can be a problem when rewarded with human food. On the other hand, their natural curiosity translates into nice photo ops when they check out passing tour boats. Voracious omnivores with a fierce-looking set of teeth, capuchins eat leaves, insects, fruits, lizards and crabs. Their population is stable, but habitat destruction is a threat.

White Faced Capuchin Monkey sitting on a sign in the rainforest in Costa Rica
This white-faced capuchin appears to be hiding the words of the sign, perhaps hoping tourists will disregard it.

The Geoffroy’s spider monkey weighs in as a larger species at up to 20 pounds. Spider monkeys’ legs and arms are well developed for agile movement, with the prehensile tail acting as a fifth appendage to propel the monkey through the canopy in swinging, flight-like maneuvers. Colors range widely from black and brown to reddish and lighter blond-brown tones. Spider monkey diet consists of leaves and fruits, nectars and insects. Their agility enables them to move swiftly in search of food, or to escape threats. In Guanacaste, spider monkeys are threatened by human hunters and natural predators, so they are not found as widely near beaches with less canopy, but can be spotted in national parks and other forested areas.

Spider Money sitting in a tree
Spider monkeys are big and fast, often moving through the treetops a lot faster than you can chase them.

The comparatively tiny squirrel monkey, recognizable by its orange-colored back and white and black facial color, is the smallest of the monkeys and lives only on the Pacific Coast. Safety in numbers means their troops may range from 20 to as many as 75 individuals. The squirrel monkey is under a foot long, excluding its tail, and weighs less than two pounds. The squirrel monkey’s size makes its list of predators long, including snakes, birds of prey, cats and humans. Deforestation and loss of habitat are a threat, and unfortunately squirrel monkeys are sometimes kept as pets. 

Squirrel monkeys are somewhat common in the Osa Peninsula, and can often be spotted scampering along power lines in Manuel Antonio. Their capture as pets has reduced the breeding population in the wild, and some subspecies are considered endangered. A few can be found in rehabilitation centers and sanctuaries.

A Squirrel Monkey resting on some green leaves
The smallest of Costa Rican primates, the squirrel monkey is cute, agile and rare.

The mantled howler monkey is the most common species in Guanacaste and is readily seen (and heard!) throughout the country. Howlers live in smaller troops averaging 12 monkeys led by a very vocal (howling) alpha male. They’re large creatures, up to 22 pounds, with a 3-foot body and equally long tail. They have black-brown hair and lighter brown, reddish, or even blond “saddles” of color draping their backs. A more recent emergence of orange-pigmented howlers in Costa Rica has scientists baffled in terms of the cause of the coloration. A howler’s lower jaw and neck area are large and pouch-like to accommodate the vocal cords which produce the guttural call that can reverberate for miles.

The howler’s call

Howlers are the world’s loudest terrestrial animal relative to their size. On my first trip to a sleepy Costa Rican beach town nearly 20 years ago, I woke to a surreal sound I could only describe as a cross between a pack of mournful dogs and a humpback whale. It was a howler monkey call, more than loud enough to wake me through closed windows and over the hum of an air conditioner!

A black Howler Monkey howling in the rainforest while sitting in a tree
I am howler, hear me roar! The mantled howler monkey is one of the loudest animals on earth, and it’s abundant in Costa Rica.

Humans converse at around 50 decibels, but the eardrum can rupture at 200. A howler boasts a whopping call of 140 decibels. Compare that to a male African lion at 114 decibels. Howlers’ diet of leaves, seeds and blossoms means a more sedentary existence, a more limited territory than other types of monkeys, and more siestas. A male howler calls to alert the troop to strange noises or predators, turns it up a notch when females are attracted to his call, and yells his loudest when competing with other males for territory or females. The main reason for the howler’s call is believed to be for turf – alerting other monkeys to steer clear of his troop’s eating and sleeping territory. 

Females, on the other hand, “howl” to communicate or to sound distress calls. Baby howlers make funny cooing sounds and squeals when playing and exploring. Today I easily recognize the pre-dawn “monkey alarm,” still as strange and exciting as ever, resonating across beaches and through treetops. 

It is common to spot “viveros,” or howler monkey nurseries of mothers and small silver-gray babies in a group, moms lazing and children riding their backs or playing in nearby branches. A troop’s territory ranges from 3 to 25 acres. In a healthy habitat, a troop can circle slowly around the “neighborhood” feeding on new leaves, then the same tree’s flowers, and finally its seed pods or fruits after the leaves fall. The deciduous nature of Guanacaste’s dry forest means many trees shed leaves during the driest months to put their energy into flower and fruit production. It’s easy to spot slow-moving howlers as they alternately munch on flowers or mangos, then nap on exposed branches between courses. 

When trees are cut down, howlers face threats traveling between disconnected clusters of trees and across roads to reach food. Natural predators, including felines and boa constrictors, and ground-dwelling hazards like dogs and vehicles, become bigger threats when howlers drop to the ground to amble to another tree. On the Pacific Coast, development adds to habitat loss and danger, and howlers often use electrical lines to reach other trees, resulting in electrocution and serious injury or death. Some newer developments use underground infrastructure to eliminate this risk, and the region’s electric provider has a system in place to identify danger spots and to install monkey “bridges” to enable safe passage. 

The downsides of captivity

Hormonal teen Freddy the monkey was much less “cute” as a pet than younger playpen-pal Freddy. My aunt had long since dumped her boyfriend and kept the monkey, but Freddy was a frustrated teen, jealous of males in the household like my dad and grandfather. He shrieked and hurled poo at visitors and flung himself onto the heads of men who dared enter the house, violently pulling their hair!

Monkeys becoming aggressive at sexual maturity explains why many are given up or abandoned after a few years in captivity, or are locked in restrictive cages. For male howlers, puberty means moving out of the familial troop at 3 years and starting anew with females who come into reproductive age at 3-1/2. It’s not uncommon to spot solitary males at this age, as they separate from the larger group and its alpha male.

Two monkeys reaching their arms out from behind a cage
It’s sad to see monkeys living in cages, but unfortunately this is the only option for many injured or orphaned monkeys to survive.

Wild monkeys need to stay wild, not to become dependent on humans for a handout. It’s illegal to feed monkeys, or any other wild animal, in Costa Rica. Avoid the temptation to patronize businesses where monkeys are lured with food.

Where to see monkeys in Costa Rica in their natural habitats

If you’re in Guanacaste, you’re in prime monkey habitat, so keep your eyes peeled. You’ll probably hear the howlers before you see them, and they’re not shy about visiting populated areas like Tamarindo – or anywhere they can travel through the trees. 

But monkeys especially thrive in protected areas like national parks, including the following: 

  • Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park: Howler, white-faced and spider monkeys abound throughout this large national park. Exploring trails on foot or horseback en route to scenic thermal features and hidden waterfalls brings you into prime monkey-viewing habitat.
  • Arenal Volcano National Park: Howler, white-faced and spider monkeys also make their home in and around La Fortuna and the national park. Footpaths, ziplines and hanging bridges that take you into forested areas and higher canopy are best for viewing.
  • Palo Verde National Park: Howler and white-faced monkeys can be spotted from wetland boat trips and on foot from trails among low dry forest trees throughout the park.
White Faced Capuchin Monkey sitting in a tree
White-faced monkeys, for all their charm, are specialists at making mean faces and guarding their turf.
  • Barra Honda National Park: Howler and white-faced monkeys are frequently spotted while hiking to the park’s cave system entrance and scenic overlook.
  • Las Baulas Marine National Park: While the park is known for the protection of its namesake leatherback sea turtles, howler monkeys are frequently and easily viewed by boat tour throughout the park’s winding mangrove estuary.
  • Santa Rosa National Park: This large park features diverse habitat from beach and mangrove to savanna-like pasture and dry forest, making it home to howler, white-faced and spider monkeys.

Where to see monkeys in Costa Rica in captivity

Though the word “zoo” is widely frowned on, there are dozens of animal rescue centers in Costa Rica where monkeys live in cages on public display. It’s important to understand that people typically don’t just go out and catch wild monkeys to put them in a zoo. Many were rescued from the pet trade or were born in captivity and have grown too reliant on humans for food and care to live in the wild. Many monkeys have to undergo rehabilitation after being electrocuted, attacked by a dog or hit by a car. Also, lone monkeys lacking a troop are in danger of being killed by other monkeys if released.

It’s exciting to see monkeys up close, but it’s also sad to know that many will spend the rest of their lives in a cage. Unfortunately, for most monkeys in captivity in Costa Rica, there are no better options. When possible, patronize those sanctuaries and facilities that make an effort to provide ample space and a safe and stimulating environment for their primate inhabitants.

Here are two of the top places to see monkeys at animal sanctuaries in Guanacaste:

  • Diamante Eco Adventure Park: The Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary at Diamante, near Playas del Coco, is home to a number of monkeys who are unable to safely return to their natural habitat. The staff has worked hard to replicate monkey habitat for the animals, and educational tours are offered to explain the park’s rehabilitation efforts.
  • Sibu Wildlife Sanctuary (Nosara): Sibu is committed to giving monkeys and other injured wildlife a second chance through its sanctuary, rehabilitation and protection efforts. At the Sibu website, you can “Adopt A Monkey” to provide rehabilitation care, or donate to efforts to reduce electrocutions of monkeys in Guanacaste.
A small black monkey holding onto a tree branch with its hands and feet
Some monkeys at animal sanctuaries are orphaned juveniles, incapable of surviving in the wild on their own.

Threats to monkeys and how you can help

A rainforest with tall trees catching on fire from two large orange flames
Forest fires are not uncommon, especially in the dry season in Guanacaste, and are one of the threats to monkey habitats.

Deforestation, forest fires, hunting and the pet trade have long plagued monkey populations in Costa Rica. Today, increased development and loss of canopy corridors near Pacific beaches are a constant threat, along with human and animal predators. In Costa Rica in 2021 alone, an estimated 7,000 animals were killed by power line electrocutions. On the positive side, reforestation efforts, forest fire prevention, construction of rope and fiber monkey “bridges” and education about the negative impact of keeping monkeys as pets have increased populations and reduced human threats. 

How to help? Several organizations near Pacific beaches are planting native trees and corridors to increase food and habitat for monkeys and other wildlife. Visit, contribute or volunteer your time to the efforts of those above and support local monkey protection projects in your area:

  • Salve Monos Costa Rica (“Save the Monkeys”): This organization was started in the town of Tamarindo in 2004 and focuses on helping monkeys thrive through habitat protection and reforestation, as well as prevention of electrocution and vehicle accidents. Several beach towns in Guanacaste now have their own chapters under the non-profit and partner with the Coopeguanacaste electric provider to build and install rope “bridges” and plant native trees to restore natural corridors.

Report sightings of monkeys crossing roads on the ground or using electrical wires to cross roads or to move between clusters of trees. Coopeguanacaste has a simple online incident report where you can provide details to protect monkeys at risk due to electrical lines or road crossings.

Freddy the monkey was surrendered to a small zoo in the Chicagoland area where he lived happily with his primate pals on Monkey Island. He initially responded to his name and ran to the edge of the island to greet us when called, but later (thankfully) chose his adopted troop over us. Education and animal rights advocacy have helped reduce the monkey pet trade in the U.S., but natural and manmade threats to monkeys remain.

Costa Rica enforces strong animal protection policy and boasts a world-class commitment to habitat restoration and protection. Costa Rica has also made efforts to improve conditions in zoos and to rehome captive animals to more appropriate sanctuaries and spaces. Enjoy seeing monkeys in sustainable natural environments and authorized rehabilitation sanctuaries in Costa Rica so we can all continue to wonder at their monkey business!

A monkey jumping from one tree branch to another in a tree
Spider monkeys are the acrobats of the rainforest, swinging through the canopy like Tarzan – except they use all four limbs and their tails.

Looking to Move to Beautiful Costa Rica? Meet Residency Expert Laura Gutierrez

Former tourists and foreign residents have chosen to live in Costa Rica for many good reasons, not the least of which is the breathtaking beauty, fantastic weather, and an idyllic lifestyle measurably better than those left behind. Most experience significant improvements to their health after living in Costa Rica only a year. Fewer pills, or none at all, tremendous stress and weight reductions. They are meeting agreeable, like-minded people. Single individuals encounter new romance and lasting love.

Through these life-enhancing encounters, there is an overriding chatter about Legal Residency as a means to enhance their lived experience. Realtors and other engaged professionals, neighbors, or experienced ex-pats in Costa Rica will all urge new arrivals to get started on residency. And for good reasons.

That then leads to these three key questions:

1) Why bother?
2) Can I/we do this alone, or is it best to retain legal representation?
3) How do I/we choose legal representation and credibly vet the many choices?

Why Bother?

Many fear of the complexity of the process and its costs. The prospect of engaging the bureaucracy also fuels procrastination. Especially in this time of covid and everything now done by appointment only. Those fears are often exaggerated.
If you plan to or have been living here more than seven months of the year, it’s a no-brainer.
The fact is that in Costa Rica, there is no other way to optimize your lived experience here and to access all the best of what you came here for in the first place.
Consider the following benefits of residency carefully:
o An end to annoying border runs.
o Avoidance of fines for overstaying your tourist visa.
o Easier to maintain a permanent domicile here.
o Obtain a valid Costa Rica driver’s license valid for 5 or 10 years.
o Access to affordable, world-class medical care.
o Secure banking with relative ease.
o Get a digital signature.
o Register a business.
o Employment – depending on the category.
o Quality private schools for the kids.
o Safely bring and keep your beloved pets.
o Returning to Costa Rica through the much shorter “Citizens” line at the airport.
o No need to purchase outward bound (return) air tickets.
o More straightforward clearance through security gates or roadside checks.
o Resident discounts on goods and services.
o The surprisingly important feeling like you belong.

But not having a residency card can put you in a state of permanent vacation, which leaves some people feeling like a permanent refugee.

NOTE:
If you live here less than six months per year, then residency benefits are negligible. Best to stick with the border runs and have outside medical insurance. (The Costa Rica government is considering a viable plan for those in this category. They are aware that there are many of you. Especially Canadians whose Canadian healthcare requires them to be in Canada at least six months of the year.) But due to the costs-benefits ratio dictated by current structure and requirements, residency is only ideal for those who stay in Costa Rica more than six months out of the year.

DON”T GO IT ALONE. (Ignore ALL blogs to the contrary.)

Overly thrifty types may be tempted to bypass the fees of any legal representation when considering the residency process. Perfectly understandable. After all, some people do their taxes, right? There are even some websites with lists of what you need to do and what documents are required. But each of those lists is missing crucial little details. Or they’re wrong. And if you get into difficulty, whom do you call to help you through that tight spot?

As tricky as that can be for some applicants, the document chase isn’t even the main issue.

You first need to understand that the Department of Immigration offices (DGME) are dramatically underfunded, understaffed, and constantly agitated with hopeful and nervous applicants who show up unprepared. Covid has made them even more autocratic and unsympathetic. Save your tears and pleading for “special consideration.”

This is code for “ensure your paperwork is perfect the first time.” If not, you will get to repeatedly endure the hostility of a staff member who learns that you’re the person who doesn’t want to cooperate with them.

They’re likely to return the favor. And don’t count on a translator app to get you through any tense exchange with them. Your poor understanding of the process or lack of Spanish does not translate into an emergency for them. Next, please!

The second is to understand that there’s no valet parking, express line, or separate queue for ex-pats. The same new appointment system constrains everyone equally. This makes for an onerous set of logistics and timing. Show up as little as one minute late, and depending on the mood that day of the intake staffer, you will be shown the door and start over. 80% of all hopefuls are declined due to incorrect, incomplete, or fraudulent paperwork. There’s no triage to filter that element out.

At the Department of Immigration offices here in San Jose (where ALL residency applications are processed), Laura often witnesses heated arguments between intake staff and do-it-yourselfers, followed by tantrums and tears on that long walk back to the parking lot. Including issues with the digital submission process.
Few understand that the same Department of Immigration that your application worms its way through, also handles all the thousands of applicants for refugee status. That makes for an overload of an underfunded system.

One only needs to walk up the street from the main DGME offices to see the daily throngs of hopefuls trying to claim refugee status crowded around the single entrance door to the makeshift processing “center” there. A heartbreaking sight to take in. Most come from Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Colombia. Inexplicably, Costa Rica is now also taking in refugees from Haiti.

Legal Representation a Must

You may have concerns about the general character or competence of those who offer Immigration services. Many horror stories bolster such fears. “Get the Gringo” is almost as popular as soccer in Latin America. There are 30,000 lawyers in Costa Rica alone. Many graduated from the less strenuous private schools that promoted enrolments driven strictly by profit. Bums in the seats. Lower standards for graduation. The public universities are far more brutal, with fewer successful graduates. This heavily implies differences in competency and ethics.
Most top lawyers refuse to handle residency because of its unique aspects. What are the odds of picking the right one for you from the few that do?

Most assuredly, there are reliable ways to check out anyone offering their services. High-quality websites with credible testimonials top such vetting methods. Such information sources should reflect the following attributes about any representative:

  • Has long experience and total focuson this business.
    • Knows Costa Rica Immigration Law and the immigration process cold.
    • Is professional in deportment and presentation.
    • Qualify you at the outset and understand your situation to the last detail. (no reckless promises.)
    • Be able to help you through obstacles that may arise with your document chase.
    • Understandably coach you with empathy for your particular circumstances.
    • Have all your documentation prepared perfectly.
    • Personally handles your precious documents (No delegating to 8-to-4 staff and messengers.)
    • Available after hours and weekends.
    • Knows every nuance of how things work at the Department of Immigration.
    • Works through the process face to face with Immigration staff with effective diplomacy.
    • Be able to communicate perfectly with you in distinct“North American” English and with Immigration staff in typical “Costa Rican” Spanish. Absolutely crucial.

Decide now to obtain residency with Laura Gutiérrez (or, if entitled – Citizenship),

  • Laura provides transparent and accurate advice on how you qualify.
    • She has excellent bi-lingual communication skills learned from being educated and working in the U.S. and Canada. (Dual Costa Rican and Canada citizenship.) If you ask a question, she’ll wait for you to finish, then answer in context and stay on point without talking over you.
    • She provides understandable guidance in a communication style familiar to you.
    • Laura is timely in her responses to your questions during the process.
    • She is very skilled at maneuvering through the unpredictable labyrinth of the Immigration Center. Her office is in San Jose, close to the Immigration Center.
    • No office assistants or messenger services in the communication chain of your application.
    • When you hire Laura – you GET Laura.
    • With her cheerful style and engaging personality, Laura will put you at ease at your first encounter. She has great empathy and has experienced it all from your side when she was a new immigrant to Canada.
    • She will never forget the nightmare that this process can be if handled with shoddiness.
    • Laura’s approval times are still well below the averages.
    • She knows how to make your case move as quickly as possible.

Immigration staff know Laura well and trust her to bring correct paperwork to avoid needless delays. 80% of all applications submitted to the Immigration Center are incorrect, missing documents, or fraudulent. So getting it right the first time through requires meticulous attention to detail and diplomatic dealings with Immigration staff.

While your application is processed, you can fully embrace the joy of Costa Rica worry-free with updates from Laura as to your status. However, if your case gets complicated, all the more reason to have Laura in your corner.
One of the most frequent phrases Laura hears after a client submission at the DGME is:

“Wow, Laura. This place is crazy. I could never have done this on my own.”

We expect a significant uptick in ex-pat migrations due to the optimal environment and post-covid flight from countries of origin. Not unlike how things went here in Costa Rica during past severe pandemics in 2003 and 2009 compared to other countries. So if you have been thinking about it, get the jump on your residency process as soon as possible. It is entirely possible to begin the process either from your originating country or from here in Costa Rica.
The splendor of Costa Rica lies just beyond the immigration line, as is the status of permanently happy rather than forever frustrated

If you are in need of immigration assistance Laura can be reached by clicking here, Toll-free at 1-833-733-6337, Locally at or by sending an email to [email protected]

THE MAKING OF LAKE ARENAL

The Making of Lake Arenal: Life-Changing Upheaval for Two Small Communities. Forty years ago, Costa Rica inaugurated the largest public works project in its history — damming a river and flooding a valley to create the second-largest lake in Central America and increase the country’s hydroelectric potential by 50%.

But for 2,500 people in two communities at the bottom of that valley, Arenal and Tronadora, it meant leaving behind their homes, schools, churches and even their dead before the floodwaters destroyed everything in 1979.

Two brand-new communities arose on higher ground to replace these towns, one called Nuevo Arenal and one still called Tronadora. There were some advantages for the relocated residents — new homes, churches, schools and community centers, streets with sidewalks and gutters, improved sewage disposal, and for the first time, grid electricity and telephone service.

Yet for many families, it was a heart-wrenching upheaval and the end of a simple way of life they had enjoyed for decades.

But for 2,500 people in two communities at the bottom of that valley, Arenal and Tronadora, it meant leaving behind their homes, schools, churches and even their dead before the floodwaters destroyed everything in 1979.

 “Arenal had an important community as far as cattle, dairy, lumber,” said Janeth Gutiérrez Briceño, 65, who moved to Arenal in 1977, just as the relocation was under way. “There was a very nice wooden school, an education and nutrition center, a church, a Banco Nacional, a dance hall.”

In the mid-1970s, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), the national electricity company, came to town and broke the news that all of this was going to be flooded and that everyone would have to move. Residents were given the option of trading their old homes for new homes in the relocated towns, or they could accept the assessed value of their homes and move away from the region. The only option they weren’t given was to stay here.

The view of the old town of Tronadora before it was relocated.

“Some opted to sell and leave town,” said Gutiérrez, a retired preschool teacher who now owns a bakery and mini super in Tronadora. “There were a lot of people who didn’t want to leave, and they had to leave their homes, with their chickens, pigs and everything.”

As the relocation wrapped up, the towns held a bittersweet goodbye party, or perhaps more of a wake.

“And I remember they did a goodbye dance, and some were drinking, some were crying, some were singing, some were shouting,” she said. “It was a big get-together to say goodbye to the old town. … And there was a cemetery there, too, that was flooded.”

Ramshackle structures in old Arenal.

Nobody had any choice in the matter, least of all the dead.

The project

ICE engineers had long noted that this valley to the north of Arenal Volcano would be ideal for building a reservoir because it was a large, flat basin with abundant rainfall. It was also 500 meters higher than the plains of Cañas — a gradient that would allow for hydroelectric production through the force of gravity.

The Arenal River flowed naturally through a gap between two mountains. If that gap were dammed, this huge basin would be flooded, creating a reservoir of 75 square kilometers. It would be the second-largest lake in Central America after the immense Lake Nicaragua.

View toward the south of dam construction.

 

In terms of total area, it was the equivalent of flooding everything between Heredia and Cartago, including much of the city of San José.

This reservoir would enable Costa Rica to increase its hydroelectric production by 600,000 KW — enough to supply 40% of the entire country’s electrical needs. And when the water’s work was done, it could still be used to irrigate the dry fields at the bottom of the slope.

The first step was to build a 560-meter tunnel to change the course of Arenal River. Once the river was diverted, construction on the dam could begin, with millions of cubic meters of sand, clay and gravel trucked in as fill.

When the dam was complete, the river would be restored to its original course, the flooding of the basin would begin, and giant turbines could start generating massive amounts of electricity.

But first, every human being living in that basin would have to be moved elsewhere.

 

Construction of Nuevo Arenal in 1976.

Where to rebuild?

Residents of the two towns were given a handful of options on where to relocate, and after weeks of discussion a vote was taken. Arenal (which means “sandy place,” referring to the ashy slopes of the volcano) chose a location on the northeastern edge of the basin called Santa María, and here construction of Nuevo Arenal began in 1975.

Tronadora (which means “thunderer,” and could be a reference to either volcanic eruptions or to a loud river nearby) chose a site on the other side of the basin near the current San Luis, and construction also began in 1975.

Leonardo Alvarez Picado, 72, was born in a now-flooded village called Caño Negro in 1947, and he also lived in Pueblo Nuevo (which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption), and in old Arenal and old Tronadora. Today he runs a restaurant on the main street in the new Tronadora, and can sometimes be seen trotting around town on one of his 10 horses.

“Arenal was a big town — it had nice restaurants, dance halls, a church, and was very good for commerce,” he said. “There were cattle and good, fertile soil, the best you can imagine.

“The majority of the people had their own lives, their fincas, their milk cows, pigs. The people lived well. We made cheese and sold it in Arenal every week, and that’s how we made the money for other expenses — food, school and everything.”

Alvarez recalls that few people mounted any resistance to ICE’s plans — “the people were like asleep,” he said.

Looking out on the soccer field across from his bar, he said, “These lands were a lot worse than Arenal, many times over, commercially. This is OK to live in, but to compare this to old Arenal and Tronadora, it’s not even their shadow.”

‘Ruined completely’

He says when ICE came around telling people they would have to leave, some people were nervous, but they raised no real opposition.

“A lot of people thought that selling was a good option,” he said. “But there were old-time farmers who were ruined completely, families that were born there … they were ruined completely because they had never left this place to go try something somewhere else.

“So the money they got, even though they had huge fincas and 200 cows or 50 or 100 —  that money, a few years later, was just enough to buy their daily food.”

Gutiérrez, the former preschool teacher, said, “Yes, people were happy with their new houses, because maybe their old ones were ugly. But with a new house and no food and no work, that’s no good, right?”

She said one of the worst outcomes of the relocation was that ICE was not required to pay one cent in taxes to the municipality in nearby Tilarán — erasing big sources of revenue formerly paid by the now-flooded fincas.

“They should have left a minimum percentage of their earnings for the municipality to invest in development projects that could generate employment, so that the young people wouldn’t have to leave,” she said. “A lot of the youth here go to San José to work and they never come back. There’s no work here.”

Gutiérrez feels that the electricity project benefited an entire country but impoverished the rural community that made it possible.

“We were very happy to develop the country, but at the expense of a small town,” she said. “We ruined one person to enrich many.”

Lake Arenal today

Today Lake Arenal is one of the most beautiful areas in Costa Rica, surrounded by verdant tropical forest teeming with abundant wildlife. The lake itself is blue and gorgeous, and you’d never guess it was created by human beings if not for the huge dam on its eastern edge.

Lake-view homes are prized by retirees, families and vacation renters, and Lake Arenal is a major draw for fishing, windsurfing, catamaran cruises and stand-up paddling. It’s surrounded by pea-green hills topped with picturesque white windmills (another major source of electricity generated by the region).

Nuevo Arenal is a smallish but thriving community with hotels, restaurants, stores, banks and a gas station, located along a paved highway between Tilarán and La Fortuna, the tourism capital of the region.

Control room at Arenal Hydroelectric Plant.

Tronadora is not a big magnet for tourism, nor is the much larger Tilarán, but both are immaculate towns with nicely paved streets and a wide array of services. The locals on the western side of the lake long for the day when a bridge will be built across the Río Caño Negro near El Castillo in the southwest, creating a major shortcut to La Fortuna and the wealth of tourism opportunity it represents. Even better, hopefully someday the road on the western edge of the lake will be paved.

For now, these towns get along the best they can — the older residents perhaps looking back on fonder days, the younger generation trying to make the most of the only towns they’ve ever known.

But when the wind, rain and fog roll in over Lake Arenal, if you use your imagination you can almost see the ghosts of the towns that preceded them hovering in the mist above the waters.

 

5 Day Trips to National Parks in Guanacaste

Published on February 9, 2022 by Nick Dauk
 
Costa Rica’s natural beauty is astounding, and its national parks fantastically showcase this diverse landscape. You’ll find magnificent vistas and stunning backdrops across the country – making it a challenge to decide which national parks in Guanacaste Costa Rica to visit.

The towns along Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast are great base camps for launching adventures throughout the country. Hiking, volcano viewing, wildlife tracking and more are all within a quick drive of the shoreline. If you’re renting a vacation home in Playas del Coco or Flamingo, consider making easy day trips to these five national parks in Guanacaste Costa Rica – no overnight stay needed.  

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park is a must-visit for anyone staying in or near Guanacaste. This amazing park is home to volcanic geothermal sites, primeval forests and seasonal waterfalls, offering extensive diversity across over 34,000 acres. The Blue Lagoon, or La Cangreja, is a popular waterfall known for its dazzling hues. Just as picturesque, though far more relaxing, are the Rio Negro Hot Springs, where a quick dip is always a pleasure.

Waterfall falling into a crystal blue body of water
The Blue Lagoon Waterfall at Rincón de la Vieja is worth the hike.

Distance from Coco: About an hour and 15 minutes. 

Distance from Flamingo: About an hour and 45 minutes. 

Things to do in Rincón de la Vieja National Park: If the mighty cone is not active, then viewing the fumaroles, mud pots and sulfur lakes on a hiking tour of the Rincón Volcano is a must.

Mud pits on the hike to the Rincon Volcano
Rincón de la Vieja is famous for its thermal features, including bubbling mud pots and geysers.

Barra Honda National Park

Barra Honda National Park’s claim to fame is housing the most complex cave system discovered in Costa Rica. Dozens of limestone caverns feature amazing stalactites and stalagmites, though only one is open for visitors. A helmet and harness are required to descend the 56-foot ladder to the bottom – a daring experience that you’ll never forget.

A guy climbing out of a rock pit on a ladder with a yellow helmet
There’s a great cave to explore at Barra Honda – after you descend the 56-foot ladder.

Above the caverns rests a tropical dry forest with an interesting mix of plant and animal life. Deer, racoons, agoutis and more join gumbo-limbo trees, savannah oaks and many other species of fauna and flora.

An agoutis sitting in grass, one of the animals you can find in the Barra Honda National Park
Agoutis are among the creatures you can see at Barra Honda National Park.

Distance from Coco: About 90 minutes. 

Distance from Flamingo: About 90 minutes. 

Things to do in Barra Honda National Park: If visiting during the rainy season when the threat of flooding closes the caves, Barra Honda’s hiking trails prove that the park is just as mesmerizing above ground. 

Santa Rosa National Park

Costa Rica’s national parks offer far more than picturesque backdrops, and Santa Rosa National Park is an excellent example. On March 20, 1856, a small group of Costa Rican soldiers defeated an invading group of foreign mercenaries at the Hacienda Santa Rosa in a matter of minutes. The historic mansion is now the site of a fascinating history museum which features memorabilia and photographs commemorating the conflict.

The Hacienda Santa Rosa Mansion in Costa Rica with a pale blue exterior and pink and yellow detailing
The Casona at Santa Rosa National Park is the site of a historic battle.

Santa Rosa National Park has a variety of ecosystems to explore, including marshlands, savannas and woodlands. Hiking trails lead through forests to waterfalls and down to the shoreline, where you may see surfers carving waves.

Distance from Coco: About an hour and 20 minutes. 

Distance from Flamingo: About an hour and 45 minutes. 

Things to do in Santa Rosa National Park: No matter when you venture from your vacation home to Santa Rosa National Park, scuba diving and bat viewing at the Murcielagos Islands are two great ways to immerse yourself in the natural history of the park.

Two people scuba diving in a school of yellow fish
The Murcielagos Islands off Santa Rosa National Park are a top scuba spot.

Las Baulas Marine National Park

Las Baulas Marine National Park is one of the most relaxing ways to combine an afternoon at the beach with a trip to one of Costa Rica’s gorgeous national parks. Headquartered at Playa Grande, but stretching from Cabo Velas to Playa Langosta, Las Baulas is where the ocean meets mangrove swamps and serene estuaries. Surf’s up on these shores, so be sure to bring your board.

A man surfing the waves in Las Baulas National Park in Costa Rica
Las Baulas is home to Playa Grande, a prime surf spot north of Tamarindo.

Though wave riding is popular, Las Baulas Marine National Park is best known for its namesake wildlife: leatherback sea turtles. This vulnerable species has used the shoreline to lay its eggs for millennia. Waterfowl, ocelots, anteaters and other wildlife aren’t uncommon sights, either, creating an incredible wildlife viewing experience for animal lovers. 

A leatherback turtle and its eggs buried in the sand
Watching leatherback turtles lay their eggs in the sand is a prime attraction of Las Baulas Marine National Park.

Distance from Coco: About an hour. 

Distance from Flamingo: About 30 minutes.  

Things to do in Las Baulas Marine National Park: If you’re planning on spying sea turtle nests elsewhere on the Nicoya Peninsula, use your trip to Las Baulas to kayak or canoe through the waterways to discover the lovely fauna and flora within. 

Palo Verde National Park

Palo Verde National Park is an amazing sight that treats you to two diverse ecosystems. It is home to one of the only remaining Neotropical deciduous dry forests, and the lack of water causes the tree bark to turn a stunning shade of green. Though the dry forest is unique, it’s not the only landscape that makes up Palo Verde National Park. 

Located on the banks of the Tempisque River, the park experiences heavy storms during the rainy season that flood the river to create mangrove swamps, wetlands, lakes and lagoons. Nearly 300 different species of birds roosting in the trees makes Palo Verde National Park a paradise for birdwatching.

A bright blue bird with a yellow beak sitting on a branch in the Palo Verde National Park
Bird species abound at Palo Verde National Park.

Distance from Coco: About an hour and a half.

Distance from Flamingo: About two hours. 

Things to do in Palo Verde National Park: Visiting during the rainy season? Don’t miss a Palo Verde boat tour. Howler monkeys, bats, white-faced capuchins and crocodiles may make an appearance as you float down the river.

A boat ride through the lush greenery and swamp in the Palo Verde National Park
Palo Verde National Park, famous for its birdwatching, is most accessible by boat.

Day trips to national parks near Coco and Flamingo are easy, stress-free, and well worth your time. Launch your trip from one of Special Places’ best vacation rentals so you can maximize your time experiencing Costa Rica’s natural beauty.