22 vacation home features you cannot do without

January 12, 2017

You’re done sleeping around, and you’re ready to commit. You’re going to buy a vacation home in Costa Rica.

Your biggest decision will be location, and Costa Rica offers a wide variety of choices, from the beaches to the mountains to the valleys. You’ll be weighing a lot of variables, including climate, your tolerance for bugs and how close you want to be to other people.

So what vacation home features are important to you? Vacations are all about having fun, and you’re going to want the perfect venue for both recreation and relaxation.

Ivo Banner American-European

I suggest making a wish list of all the things that are most important to you. Here are some things you might want on your list:

1. Activities

You don’t want to get bored when on vacation. Costa Rica offers all kinds of outdoor activities, including ziplining, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, kayaking, birdwatching, fishing and many others. Which ones are important to you, and are they available in the area you want to buy?

2. Beach front

Do you want to be right on the beach or close enough so you can walk? In Costa Rica, beachfront property is usually not titled, but you can still buy a beach property located in the maritime zone. Just make sure you hire a good attorney who specializes in maritime zoning.

If this is your favorite thing to do, you may need a beachfront home.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and famed Costa Rican-U.S. astronaut Franklin Chang became friends in space – and were reunited recently at Chang’s new plasma lab in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.

Nelson, a former astronaut and current member of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space, used the visit to catch up on Chang’s efforts to create a rocket fueled by plasma, or superheated gas, that would make space travel quicker and cheaper. Today’s liquid hydrogen- or oxygen-powered rockets take more than two years for a round trip to Mars, while the variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket (VASIMR) Chang envisions would take eight months or less (TT, July 21, 2006).

“Franklin Chang receives support from universities and private companies, but when the rocket is ready to fly, it should be part of NASA,” the Florida Democrat told the daily La Nación following his Feb. 18 tour, referring to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Chang, a 25-year NASA veteran, said U.S. support is key to the project’s success. “U.S. government support is important, though our company operates with private capital,” he said of his Ad Astra Rocket Company. “The activities we develop have an impact on the activity of the International Space Station, a program of the (U.S.) government, so it’s important that the government get involved in a positive manner.”

Chang opened the laboratory just outside of the provincial capital of Liberia last year, saying he hoped to develop a plasmapropelled rocket by 2007 and send rockets to the International Space Station in 2010-2011.

Nelson traveled on the Columbia shuttle as a mission specialist for six days in 1986, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy – a trip in which Chang also participated. Nelson is widely recognized as Congress’ NASA expert, the statement said.


If this is your favorite thing to do, you may need a beachfront home. (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

3. Beach view

Can you get close enough to the ocean for a beach view? In some parts of Costa Rica it is possible to purchase titled property that has a beach view. Not sure about the title? Again you should find a good lawyer who specializes in beach property.

Want a home with a view of the beach?

Ex-President Rafael Angel Calderón, Jr. (1990-1994) appears ready to run for President again, despite the corruption allegations hanging over his head.

Luis Fishman, president of the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), told the daily Al Día recently that Calderón plans to run again and will soon make the official announcement of his presidential aspirations.

He has received “great popular pressure” to run again and “won’t be defined by the Prosecutor’s Office,” which is investigating the allegations.

Calderón is accused of masterminding the distribution of millions of dollars in kickbacks related to a medical equipment purchase made with funds from the government of Finland. After the allegations surfaced in 2004, Calderón was arrested and placed in preventive detention, both at his home and in a penitentiary, for approximately one year. He is now out on bail.

Fishman criticized the Chief Prosecutor’s Office for failing to place any formal charges against the former President after more than two years of investigation.

Calderón has been called as a witness in the proceedings against another public official accused of corruption, former Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) board member Hernan Bravo (TT, Feb. 9).

The PUSC president, who served as Vice-President during Abel Pacheco’s term in Casa Presidencial (2002-2006), said he wouldn’t consider a role as Calderón’s vicepresident because he’s “cured” of that desire. He became estranged from Pacheco during the election and held onto his office for most of the four-year term without any official functions.


Want a home with a view of the beach? (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

4. Ocean view

An ocean view can be awesome during the day. Some buyers do not realize that the ocean becomes a black hole at night, unless you have a view of a marina or a peninsula. Many mountain ranges in the coastal areas offer more than just ocean views.

5. Nature view

The ability to see monkeys, sloths, birds and other wildlife is one of the biggest attractions in Costa Rica, and if you land in the right spot you can see them from your house. For some people, being surrounded by nature is just as attractive as a view of the ocean. If you search hard enough, you can find a home that offers both.

You may want a home where you're surrounded by Costa Rica's natural beauty.

Visitors to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in San José can look forward to a speedier visit, thanks to a recently completed overhaul of the facility.

The Consular Section now features more client windows and a computerized customer-attention system that lets U.S. citizens seeking passports or other services, and others seeking visas to the United States, know when their turn is coming.

The embassy previously announced that once the renovations were complete, current wait times for visa appointments would be reduced significantly or even eliminated.

For information on embassy services, visit sanjose.usembassy. gov.


You may want a home where you’re surrounded by Costa Rica’s natural beauty. (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

6. National parks

If you are a nature fan, Costa Rica is the place to be. There are currently 26 national parks, and Costa Rica’s protected areas encompass more than 25% of the country’s landmass. You may want a home that is close to one of these.

7. Butterflies and birdwatching

Costa Rica is a birdwatcher’s paradise, and the butterflies are stunning. Different species live in different areas, and they’re drawn to protected areas. If you love birds, find out what kinds you can see in the area where you’re looking to buy.

8. Fishing

Some people love marlin fishing, others enjoy flyfishing. Are there fishing charters in the area you’ve set your eyes on, and are they affordable? Can you park your own boat nearby? Are there rivers or lakes where you can get your bait wet?

9. Air conditioning

Some people cannot live without air conditioning, which in Costa Rica is not one of the most common vacation home amenities. Many vacation homes have ceiling fans and shutter windows. Check before you purchase.

10. Gym

Some people like to party, and some like to do as little as possible when on vacation. Maybe you like to stay in shape? If you’re looking at condominiums, do they have their own fitness rooms, or is there a gym in the immediate area?

11. Golf

Do you have a great handicap and want to keep it that way? Do you enjoy playing golf when the weather is good? I have great news for you: The weather in Costa Rica is good most of the time. Golf is one of those activities that obliges you to stay in certain areas. There are some great golf courses in Costa Rica, but they are few.

You may want a home near a golf course.

Among the tens of thousands who marched last week against the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) was a group whose presence may have surprised some observers: the Anti-CAFTA Front of the National Liberation Party (PLN). The recently formed organization, along with a similar opposition group within the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), has proved that despite strong loyalties among the faithful in these traditional strongholds, CAFTA is one area where some members won’t toe the party line.

While the pro- and anti-CAFTA stances of most parties’ legislative representatives appears fairly stable, these counter-movements cast doubt on the claim that last year’s elections, which pitted pro-CAFTA candidate Oscar Arias against anti-CAFTA Ottón Solís, constituted a kind of “referendum” on the agreement – an idea Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias repeated this week when asked why the administration doesn’t feel a popular referendum on the pact is necessary.

Though the Liberation Party is the source of the country’s highest-profile CAFTA advocate, President Arias, as well as the united legislative faction leading the fight for the agreement’s ratification, members of the newly formed front say the party itself is divided.

“The position in favor of CAFTA has not been unanimous within Liberation,” former PLN presidential candidate and Front Against CAFTA member Rolando Araya told The Tico Times. He said though he believes most liberacionistas are ambivalent toward the pact, minorities both for and against it exist within the party.

“What’s happened (in the party) has been the same as what’s happened in the country – great indifference,” said Araya, who said he has met many anti-CAFTA Liberation members throughout the country, several of whom eventually formed the group.

Oscar Campos, a former legislator (1998-2002) and Front organizer, said the group has approximately 110 members – and is growing. Participants include veterans of the National Liberation Army, which fought in the 1948 Civil War; former ministers and legislators; and young people, he said. While the group does not categorically oppose any trade agreement with the United States, it opposes the current proposal because it would change Costa Rica’s development model and create low-quality jobs rather than expanding promising sectors such as high-tech industries, Campos said.

Araya, the brother of San José Mayor Johnny Araya, also of the Liberation Party, explained opposition to CAFTA didn’t necessarily affect party members’ support for Arias in last year’s elections.

“Many people voted for Oscar Arias but aren’t in agreement about CAFTA,” he said. Political analyst Luis Guillermo Solís, himself a CAFTA opponent and former Liberation member, agreed.

“I don’t think there’s necessarily any contradiction in opposing CAFTA and supporting Arias. CAFTA doesn’t fill the whole agenda of a political party. One can be very much against one part of the agenda and for other parts,” he said.

Araya said Liberation members on both sides of the CAFTA debate have certainly sought to discern what renowned party founder and three-time President José “Pepe” Figueres (1948-1949, 1953-1958, and 1970-1974), would have thought about the agreement, though he believes it’s clear.

“He once said, ‘Poor people are the lamb on the altar of free competition,’”Araya said of Figueres, who abolished the army and helped draft Costa Rica’s current Constitution. “A man who says that isn’t pro-CAFTA.”

Members of Social Christian Unity –which has a shakier history of CAFTA support, with former President Abel Pacheco (2002-2006) moving back and forth on the agreement and the current legislative faction unified in favor, but with certain conditions – recently launched an anti-CAFTA front as well. What’s more, party president Luis Fishman, who served as Pacheco’s estranged vice-president, has established himself as a firm opponent of the trade pact.

Speaking at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) Feb. 22, Fishman said he and the rest of PUSC had been part of “an ideological error… in thinking that neoliberalism was the solution.

“I could never agree with a free-trade agreement like this, where 10% of the documents deal with products while the other 90% impose upon us a model of development that absolutely contradicts our principals of solidarity,” Fishman said, according to online news site Informa-tico (www.informa-tico.com).

Ex-President Rafael Angel Calderón, Jr. (1990-1994), who recently announced plans to run for President again on the PUSC ticket in 2010 (see separate article), told the daily La Nación this week he is in favor of CAFTA.

PUSC’s five legislators support the pact with certain accompanying legislation; Liberation’s 25 legislators have promised full support for the pact, now awaiting debate on the assembly floor (see separate story).

Asked this week whether any members of the Citizen Action Party (PAC), whose 17 legislators lead the fight against the trade agreement in the assembly, might favor CAFTA, party leader Ottón Solís told The Tico Times it’s likely.

“There must be” pro-CAFTA members, he said. “There are many people who are with PAC even though they differ with our position on development, because (they support) our ethical struggle against corruption. But I haven’t spoken with them.”


You may want a home near a golf course. (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

12. Parking

Many condominiums have a parking problem, especially when it comes to guests. Before you purchase, check on the parking that belongs to the condo you want to purchase. Also, will you buy an ATV and is there a safe parking spot for it when you’re away?

13. Swimming pool

A swimming pool is one feature that will be near the top of the list for most. Some love to dip in the pool when it gets too hot, others like to sit under an umbrella with a good book and a piña colada. Do you just want a little plunge pool, or would you like a lap pool where you can get some exercise? Maybe an infinity pool would give you that wow vacation you’re looking for?

Don't forget the pool!

Correos de Costa Rica S.A., the company that manages the country’s postal service, has been plotting changes to the national address system for some time – and the first step toward modernization got under way this month.

The company now requires anyone sending mail to add a five-digit postal code to Costa Rican addresses in an effort to make the mail system faster and more reliable.

The first digit of the code corresponds to the province: San José 1, Alajuela 2, Cartago 3, Heredia 4, Guanacaste 5, Puntarenas 6, and Limón 7. Digits two and three denote the canton, and the final two digits denote the district.

For example, an address in District 1 of the canton Aserrí, in the province of San José, would have a code of 1 for San José, 06 for Aserrí and 01 for the district: 10601.

To determine your code, call 800-900-2000 or visit one of Correos de Costa Rica’s 120 branches nationwide. Geovanni Campos, the company’s distribution director, told The Tico Times that while corporate clients have already received training to prepare them for the new system, the company will work to inform the general public through radio announcements and the distribution of informational pamphlets later this month.

Next up: postal addresses that use street numbers rather than the classic Tico “200 meters west of the Escuela de Monterrey” system. A team of consultants from Brazil’s postal service, one of the world’s largest and most modern systems, will visit Costa Rica March 19 to help Correos de Costa Rica plan for this step, Campos said. One of the goals of the meeting is to decide when to implement the change.

The new addresses, which have been in the works since 2003 as part of a $1 million overhaul of the address system, will include the avenue, street and number of meters from the corner where those roads intersect to the front door of the building (TT, July 8, 2005). The country’s 81 municipalities have been charged with ensuring their streets and avenues have names, and more than 432,000 addresses have already been determined in the Central Valley, according to Campos.

Campos told The Tico Times last year that it will probably take Costa Rica more than a decade to adjust to the new system, given the cultural attachment to informal addresses based on landmarks (TT,May 26, 2006) – even landmarks that no longer exist, such as an higuerón tree in the eastern suburb of San Pedro that has been gone for years but is still used in directions.

A previous attempt to impose street addresses in 2001 was discarded in favor of the new plan, leaving Santo Domingo de Heredia, the northern Central Valley city where a pilot program was implemented, peppered with now-unused numbered signs above the doors of homes and businesses.


Don’t forget the pool! (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

14. Jacuzzi

Maybe you don’t even know how to swim but you enjoy the massaging effect that you get in a Jacuzzi. Maybe the production of calming endorphins and the increased circulation to alleviate tension does it for you? If you love a good Jacuzzi, put it on your list.

15. Pet policies

If you plan to bring your pet(s) on vacation, you need to check the bylaws before you buy a condo. If you’re not in a condominium or a master planned gated community, you don’t have to worry. If you fly in for your vacations, you need to check the airline’s pet restrictions.

16. Playground

It’s important to you that the kids (or grandkids) also have a good time. Is there a playground or some kind of space for children to play?

Got playground? Don't forget about the kids.

In the northwestern Central Valley town of San Ramón, 15 Traffic Police officers are learning English to better meet the daily challenges of their jobs in a country that attracts mostly English-speaking tourists.

The officers have been taking basic conversational English classes at the University of Costa Rica campus in San Ramón since January, according to the daily La Nación.

Students include transit police from the coffee towns of Grecia, Naranjo and San Ramón as well as other police stationed along the northern

Inter-American Highway

The Roadway Safety Council (COSEVI), part of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT), is paying for the classes, according to Gerardo Aymerich, financial manager of the Traffic Police.

The 15 were chosen for the classes after being recommended by their bosses because of their demonstrated job commitment.

Project collaborator Marianela Fernández says she sees English as increasingly important with the growing number of foreigners visiting and living in Costa Rica.

She said she hopes to be able to offer intermediate and advanced level classes to these students, as well as start more students at the basic level in the future.

According to La Nación, the English taught in the classes will focus on language police use daily, such as greetings, traffic signals, traffic rules, as well as directions and procedures.

“If the university offers us other levels and the capacity for more officials, we will not disappoint them,” said Marcel Morera, Regional Assistant Director of the Transit Police.


Got playground? Don’t forget about the kids. (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

17. Restaurants & bars

You probably want to do your own cooking, but not always. When you’re on vacation, it’s a treat to go out for dinner, whether it’s for pizza and beer or a good lobster accompanied by a quality wine. Is your favorite food available near your vacation home?

18. Scuba diving & snorkeling

There are some parts of Costa Rica with excellent scuba diving and snorkeling, but in some coastal areas it’s lousy. If either of these is important to you, find out what’s available in the area.

19. Security

Since you won’t be in your vacation home most of the time, security is an important issue. Find out what measures are taken to ensure the security of your property while you are away, and whether it’s safe to just lock up and leave. You’ll also want to know how the security functions if you are renting your unit to a third party.

20. Shopping

Gotta have new shoes? If good shopping is important to you, you might find the choices lacking in coastal areas, and you may be better off in the Central Valley.

21. Tennis courts

Early mornings and late afternoons are a good time for a tennis match; otherwise it may be too hot to play. Tennis courts are not a very common amenity, so shop around.

If you're a tennis enthusiast, be on the lookout for some courts.

The heads of 25 public institutions Monday signed a “Contract with Citizens” in which they pledge to carry out 10 actions aimed at reducing poverty as spelled out in the Arias administration’s National Development Plan, according to a statement from Casa Presidencial.

Among these 10 goals is improving the process of selecting beneficiaries of social programs such as Avancemos (Let’s Get Ahead), which provides funding to help students ages 12 to 18 stay in high school.

Other tasks are geared toward providing better housing for those living in shantytowns and helping indigenous children gain access to social services and education, the statement said.

The contract divides these 10 goals into 39 tasks, for which specific institutions are named responsible.

The idea is to coordinate the efforts of state organizations involved in implementing social programs, such as the Housing Ministry, Planning Ministry,Mixed Institute for Social Aid (IMAS) and Agricultural Development Institute (IDA), explained Housing Minister Fernando Zumbado, one of the 25 leaders to sign the document.


If you’re a tennis enthusiast, be on the lookout for some courts. (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

22. Wi-Fi and cable TV

When it comes to cable TV and a good internet connection, you may have to do some homework. Cable companies in Costa Rica cover quite a bit of territory but they don’t cover it all. If you’re told the house has Wi-Fi, check it out for yourself.

Ivo Henfling founded the American-European Real Estate Group, the first functioning MLS in Costa Rica with affiliate agents from coast to coast, which has been in operation since 1999. Read his blog at https://www.american-european.net/Costa-Rica-Real-Estate-Blog or contact Ivo at (506) 2289-5125 / 8834-4515 or at ivo@american-european.net.

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