A large portion of Costa Rica is set aside as Eco-parks, not available for development. There are more gorgeous birds in this small country than I've ever seen anywhere. It is a paradise for photographers. Darling loved it and even tried to capture a photo of a huge blue butterfly, but it eluded her the entire week.
The terrain is mountainous and we enjoyed a week of meals on a veranda overlooking a fast-moving stream with (small) waterfalls. For residents of the Houston area, every small hill was a beauty and a challenge.
The people were friendly and helpful to us. We tried to speak Spanish, but it turns out we're only good enough to be polite. We tried at every opportunity, though. Darling and I both think that we should do our best to speak the local language. We even do that at home.
The fruits and vegetables were delicious. We ate more healthy for those nine days in Costa Rica than we ever have. My salt intake was way down - Ticos don't spice their food as much as I thought they would. One of the guys at the El Tucano let me know they had "chile de la casa" which was perfectly spicy, but not salty. The chicken was good, and other foods were good. Beans and Rice ("Pintos") were the main breakfast fare, unless you wanted scrambled eggs.
The weather was comfortable in the areas of the Central Valley that we visited. This is the dry season, though, so we have no idea what the weather is like when it rains a lot - as opposed to raining a few times each day. We did hear the temperatures on the beaches were in the high nineties (Fahrenheit), but we didn't get to the beaches.
Outdoor enthusiasts have more than their share of possible adventures. We did zip-lining in Monteverde and it was a blast. There is river-rafting throughout the country, as well as horseback riding, and hiking through mountain trails. Watch the mud in the rain forests, though.
There is a Wal-Mart in San Juan. That might not be a plus for everyone, but it appeals to me. We didn't go into the store because we ran out of time. I wonder if it looks like the one down the street.
All these positives, and yet we still don't want a second home there?
Our phone informed us the winds in the Monteverde area were at 15 mph, but we must have stayed where the wind channeled between the mountains, because it certainly gusted in the 30+ mph range while we stayed there. We love the cooler temperatures in the mountainous regions, and we loved the streams and environment, but we couldn't live in that area. For one thing, the city itself is tourist-based. Outside the mile-wide diameter of the city are roads that are just as bad as the ones in Rwanda - and that is a serious condemnation from me. We traveled with a couple we met, and they had only a two-wheel drive vehicle with only slight clearance. I had to get out five times and walk up the mountain road while the car traversed muddy ruts.
Lake Arenal might be beautiful and we might even be able to find a place we loved there, but it has bad roads also. The dwellings highlighted the poverty of the area. though the richness of the country.
Costa Rica is not a cost-effective area to live in. I don't know if the price structure is the same as in Africa - certain prices for locals and other prices for the tourists. All the tours cost (what I consider) a large sum, but that is the price for visiting, I suppose. For a one-time visit the cost was acceptable.
I did shop at a local shop and the prices were high, but what I would expect of a tourist town in the states. We studied some the real estate prices, too. Basically, Costa Rica costs about the same as the United States, and a little more for real estate than I expected.
You're not going to save money moving to Costa Rica. There are a lot of reasons to become an expat there if you want adventure, but you could get many of the same experiences in Denver, CO or Washington State.
We can grow many of the same trees in our area of Texas (and I'll be planting some soon).
We'll visit Costa Rica again, but it no longer looks like a place to have a second home. In the meantime, I wonder how the weather is in Ireland?