Thursday, October 17, 2013

What are Food Costs in Costa Rica?

Since I did my last post on some of the food we've had in Costa Rica, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the prices we have paid for food at the grocery stores there. Many people are curious about the actual day-to-day living expenses, and this will help to give a good idea.

I gathered all the receipts I could find from our trip in July 2013, and the table below represents the actual costs we paid. I did convert the prices from the Costa Rican colon to the American dollar for an easier comparison.

We also purchased this lovely box of Choco Zucaritas (chocolate Frosted Flakes), pictured on the right, on our first trip to the grocery store (for the kids, of course!). We weren't paying attention to the price, until we got back to the house and realized we paid a whopping $7.50 for this 18 oz box of cereal--ouch!! The price for a bag of potato chips also almost gave us cardiac arrest. Wish I had the receipt for that one, but I don't, so can't remember how much they were. Once we realized how much we paid for those two items, we didn't buy them again--sorry kids! haha

This chart is just a small sample, but I think you can start to get an idea of why eating like an American will break the bank, while eating like a local will save you a lot of money. Plus I also didn't put on the chart the FREE coconuts we ate and drank. The coconuts came from trees on the property. Most people grow food on their properties, with the most popular probably being bananas, pineapples, and coconuts.

So, if you're willing to forgo the normal American diet of lots of meat, cheese, and processed foods, you will definitely find yourself saving money on your grocery bill. And, as the majority of ex-pats discover, you may also lose a few pounds and feel healthier in the process. In fact, several of our friends living in Costa Rica report coming off their cholesterol and other medications due to their new, healthier eating habits. Awesome!

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Food of Costa Rica--Yummy or No?

When you think of Costa Rican food, what do you think about? Many people don't even really know what kind of food would be considered typical Costa Rican; however, Costa Rica does have a couple of national dishes, and one special condiment. Any ideas?

Yummy Lizano!
When eating out in Costa Rica, if the restaurant caters to the locals, you will always find a bottle of Lizano sauce on the table--kind of like how we have ketchup on the tables in the US. Lizano is used in cooking and also as a condiment. It tastes great on eggs, rice, beans, meat--well, just about everything! It's not a spicy sauce, but instead is more savory, with a hint of sweetness. It's definitely an original Costa Rican invention, and hard to come by in the US. It is so yummy, I always make sure to bring home a few bottles after each trip to Costa Rica!

Yummy Gallo Pinto!
Without Lizano sauce, you would be hard-pressed to make one of Costa Rica's most famous dishes--gallo pinto. Before I knew Lizano was the secret ingredient in gallo pinto, I couldn't figure out why mine just didn't taste right--the Lizano really makes a difference.

Gallo pinto literally means "spotted roster", and the name probably comes from the dish's speckled appearance. Gallo pinto is one of my personal favorites, and in Costa Rica it is usually eaten for breakfast along with eggs, corn tortillas, and maybe some plantains or other fruit, bacon, and/or cheese.

Yummy Chicken Casado (Casado Pollo)!
For lunch or dinner it is typical to have a casado. In Spanish, casado means married, and no one is really sure how this dish got that name, but most think it refers to the "marriage" of the food on the plate. The typical casado consists of rice, beans (usually black), a salad or slaw, and fried bananas or plantains. It may also come with corn tortillas and your choice of meat or seafood. Either way it is delicious, filling, and one of the cheapest ways to eat in Costa Rica. The casado can be found in any local, family-owned restaurant, which is called a "soda".

To get a really good feel for the food available in Costa Rica, I've put together the following video for you. It highlights some of the meals we've had while there. It covers food from the local sodas and some from more upscale restaurants as well. I bet your mouth will be watering by the time you're done!

As always, if you're interested in more information about Costa Rica, check out our Costa Rica website or request your free DVD! And don't forget you can join us in Costa Rica this December and try some of this wonderful food yourself: click here for more details!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

News Flash!

Guest House in Costa Rica
The Guest House

We're going back to Costa Rica in December, and you can join us!! Yes, you read that right!

We're going to be involved with the December 5-8 Discovery Property Tour, and we'd love to have you join us. What could be better than leaving the cold winter behind for a few blissful days in Costa Rica? Yeah, I didn't think you would be able to come up with anything better.

So, here's the skinny:

WHO:   You, us, and a few other friendly people

WHAT:  4 days, 3 nights of seeing, hearing, tasting, and being in Costa Rica

WHERE:  The southern Pacific side of Costa Rica

WHEN:  December 5-8, 2013

WHY:  Let's find out if Costa Rica is for you!

Previous Tour Group Admiring the View
Breakfast at the Guest House

What can you expect on the tour? 

  1. First off, no pressure. We pride ourselves on NOT being "pushy salespeople." You will be taken around to view the area (including beaches, shopping, and hospital), different lots available, and houses in different stages of construction, but there are NO sales presentations. We know Costa Rica is not for everyone, and since we will be your neighbors if you do buy, we want you to be happy with us! So our saying is, "If you find a property you like, let us know; if not, no problem!"
  2. Most meals (including adult beverages), your transportation around Costa Rica, and your 3 nights' accommodations are included. Once at the Guest House, the meals feature local ingredients such as fresh seafood and meats, gourmet salads, and fresh fruits and vegetables. We do cater to dietary restrictions, allergies, etc., so please let us know ahead of time.
  3. There will also be some down time so you can enjoy the pool or gorgeous ocean view from the guest house, make friends with other Tour participants, or ask questions of us. The Tours are usually limited to 14 people which is a great size--not too big or too small.
  4. The price for the Tour is $299 per person ($598 per couple). If you do find a property you like, $250 of the Tour price (or $500 per couple) will be applied toward the deposit on the property! Tours do sell out, so please don't wait until the last minute to reserve your spot, or you may be disappointed.

Ready to join us December 5-8 in paradise? Click here to find out more or sign up for the tour! 



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's All About THE VIEW, Baby!

After 15 months--yes, FIFTEEN MONTHS--from our last trip, we finally made it back to Costa Rica! Wow, that was way too long, and we hope to NEVER repeat that mistake again! It sure felt good to be back. This time we had one daughter (the other two now have jobs, and they could not get the time off), our daughter's friend, and another couple with us for the ride. The couple had heard us talking about how great Costa Rica was, and so they decided to come see for themselves. More on that later . . .

Picture of Highway 34 in Costa Rica
Highway 34 in Costa Rica--I think this part is 40 mph--WHY??
After the journey from Los Angeles to San Jose (Costa Rica) to Ojochal, we were a bit worn out. It's not too bad of a flight (about 5 1/2 hours), but it's that last leg from San Jose to Ojochal that seems to wear me down the most. I think it's the speed limit that does it for me. It's usually anywhere from 40 to 80 kilometers per hour, which for us Americans equals a whopping 25 to 50 miles per hour! At that speed, it takes about 3 1/2 hours to get to Ojochal. Sometimes I feel like I could walk there faster! When you're used to driving 65-75 mph in the States, it can be torturous ... having to go 25 mph ... on a main highway ... on perfect roads ... with no other cars in sight. Sure, we've bumped up the speed sometimes, but we're not too keen on getting pulled over for speeding in a foreign country, so we tend to keep it right about the speed limit.

So, we finally arrived in Ojochal! We rented a house from Ojochal Vacation Rentals again, and we followed them up to the house. We had been told the house we rented had a fantastic ocean view, but we were not prepared for how gorgeous it really was!

View of the ocean from a house in Ojochal, Costa Rica
Any takers on those chairs?

Here's a video of the view (you'll also hear toucans and a touch of thunder):

Can you see why all the stress of getting there just melted away?!

It truly was a sight for sore eyes. Now to get back to the couple who came down with us, although it's getting ahead of the story a little bit, on our last day in Ojochal as we were preparing to leave, they turned to us and said, "You sure undersold this!" Costa Rica had worked her magic on them, too.

Are YOU curious as to what all the fuss is about Costa Rica? Why not check it out yourself? Sign up for a Discovery Tour, or click to request a free DVD!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Enter our "Happier Sweepstakes"!

Do you love getting something for FREE? If so, you'll want to enter the Sweepstakes that we're holding over on our Facebook Fan page! The Sweepstakes runs through the month of July, and then on August 1, 2013, we'll be giving away not one, but TWO free Happier Than A Billionaire books! And to top it all off, each book has been signed by the author, Nadine Hays Pisani! 

Click to go to our Facebook Page to Enter!
You'll enjoy reading this side-splitting book about the adventures (and misadventures!) Nadine and her husband encounter as they give up their hectic, stressful lives in the States and decide to move to Costa Rica--basically on a whim. Can living somewhere that is so different from what they are used to actually provide them with the lifestyle they were looking for? Was it worth leaving friends, family, and careers behind to tackle unreliable utilities, quirky neighbors, and so many obstacles along the way? Can the move actually make them happier? Nadine recounts all of the "ups and downs" of their transition in such a humorous and witty way, that it will be hard to put the book down. 

Be sure to head over to our Facebook Page so that you can get yourself entered in the Sweepstakes--Good luck!


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Zip Lining, Lost Reservations, and Flying Burritos

Ojochal, Costa Rica Vacation Day 8    April 13, 2012

I guess you could say we were looking forward to this day--partially. The beginning was going to be awesome with zip lining through the rain forest, but it was also our last day in Ojochal.

We got up early to head to Osa Mountain for their zip line tour. We had heard from several people that it was the best one around. The girls were excited because they got to ride in the back of the truck up the mountain, while we followed in our SUV.

 Once at the top of the mountain, we all got geared up to go!

Gary decided to wait the tour out because of his fear of heights. That may have been a good thing since some of the platforms were over 300 feet in the air!

With a little trepidation, the four of us took off:

Costa Rica zip line

Costa Rica zip line

Costa Rica Zip line

Costa Rica zip line

Here's a fun video that gives you a good look at more of the tour:

After the tour, we headed up to the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose. While driving there, we decided NOT to stay behind this guy for very long!

scary truck in San Jose, Costa Rica

The hotel we had reserved was located in Escazu, which is considered the Beverly Hills of Costa Rica. I'm not sure why it's called that, but I think it's because there are so many Americans living there, and the prices are quite expensive. It is located in the hills outside of San Jose, and has views of the central valley and some of the volcanoes.

Unfortunately the hotel (really a small bed and breakfast) was not located in our GPS, so as we got closer, I called to get directions. The gentleman who answered the phone seemed a little surprised to hear we were coming, and said he was sorry, but he had recently started working there, and could not give us directions either! He suggested flagging down a taxi, and following it to the hotel. Well, since a man was driving our car (Gary), there was no way we were going to stop and actually ASK someone for directions. So, we drove around the mountain for a little while until somehow we saw a sign for the hotel which lead us up a winding, narrow road to the very end of the street. I could not believe that Gary found it!

As we pile out of the car, we are greeted by the manager--a French Canadian who explains that there had been a wild fire a few weeks ago that came right up to the hotel. The electrical had been damaged, and the computers were fried, so they had lost our reservation and had not been expecting us! But, he welcomed us in and gave us a whole floor to ourselves as we happened to be the only guests at that time. The view was outstanding!

Photos of Hotel Mirador Pico Blanco, Escazu
(This photo of Hotel Mirador Pico Blanco is courtesy of TripAdvisor)

 And beautiful at night, too!

the lights of San Jose, Costa Rica at night

After unpacking, we decided to head out for some dinner. Not really knowing where we wanted to eat, we drove around until we spotted a TGI Friday's. I'm not normally a big fan of eating at American restaurants when I'm in another country, but we were all a bit tired from the long day and decided to take the easy way out--or so we thought. Even though we could see the restaurant on the other side of the street, the traffic was very heavy (it is a big city), and we weren't quite sure how to get there without doing a u-turn. But are u-turns legal in Costa Rica? And at this particular light? We didn't see any signs saying we couldn't, and didn't see any cops around, so Gary gave it a go. We almost got killed! Literally! People were honking at us, we ended up driving over part of the median, and the kids (and I) were screaming. But we did make it into the parking lot. Our family now affectionately remembers that incident as the "flying burrito"--as in, "Remember when Dad did that flying burrito and we all almost died??"

So after calming down, we walked into the restaurant, and discovered no one spoke English! We just had to laugh. I know, we're in a Spanish-speaking country, we shouldn't expect people to speak English, BUT this is a huge city with a large English-speaking community--AND we're in TGI Friday's! We did fine reading the menu and ordering in Spanish, but our brains were about fried by the time we walked out of there. It sure felt good to crawl into bed that night!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bugs, Beach, and Bad Hamburger

Ojochal, Costa Rica Vacation Day 7       April 12, 2012

Gary and I were again up with the sun and birds at 5:30, so we decided to go for another walk before the heat set in. We checked out the new house down the hill from our property, and admired the work being done. It's nice seeing houses starting to pop up around the development.

Today was another rest day, so after breakfast, we took a road trip around our development. While out looking at houses, we met Jan & Sonya who invited us into their home and gave us the grand tour. After leaving their place, we ran into Keith who was checking up on another home. He invited us over to peek through the windows of Dan & Lisle's house. Very nice! By the way, Dan writes a great blog about their Costa Rica adventures here. Be sure to check it out!

picture of custom house in Ojochal, Costa Rica
Dan & Lisle's House
 While there, I happened across a couple of interesting insects. The first was this caterpillar:

 Then this poor fellow. He was no longer of this world, but I couldn't resist taking a picture. I believe he was a cicada.

After finishing up our impromptu tour, we got ready for our lunch date with friends Jerry and Susanne at the Ballena Beach Club. I have to laugh at the name "Beach Club" because in my head it conjures up images of sail boats and yuppies flaunting their wealth. There wasn't a sail boat or yuppie around. In fact, it's just a nice, small restaurant only a short walk from the beach.

picture of Ballena Beach Club in Costa Rica
Ballena Beach Club
After lunch we walked to the beach for some more talk, relaxation, and my favorite--body surfing.

Picture of Ballena Beach, Costa Rica
Ballena Beach
Eventually it was time to head back. On the way back, we stopped at a roadside stand and grabbed some pipa fria before heading back up to the house. Pipa fria is a young coconut that has been chilled. When you order it, they chop off the top (usually with a machete), then stick a straw in it--pure coconut water! I'm sure you've seen bottled coconut water here in the States, but there it's fresh! It's available just about everywhere in Costa Rica for about $1-$2 per coconut.

Pipa Fria--Yum!
For dinner, we had planned on eating the hamburger meat we had left over from one of our grocery trips. We had MUCHO left over. "Why?" you ask? Because they use kilograms here instead of pounds. Gary was in charge of buying the meat, and a "very helpful" Gringo customer at the meat counter told him that one kilo was about 1/2 pound--it's actually the other way around. So Gary ordered 4 kilograms (thinking he'd get about 2 pounds), but instead he ended up with almost 9 pounds of ground beef. YIKES! When he came walking over to the shopping cart with a huge plastic bag bulging with ground beef I just starting laughing. Unfortunately when we pulled the remaining meat out tonight, it had gone bad. Bye bye, almost 7 pounds of ground beef! So we settled for grilled cheese, salad, garlic bread, and pineapple. Not too bad!