After spending the majority of my life in Los Angeles, CA I was ready for a change, a big one. Coming from a family of avid travelers I have always dreamed of living in another country. Sure, I have been very lucky to visit a lot of great places & even spend a semester abroad during college, however I wanted to really experience a different lifestyle. A friend and I visited Costa Rica during our holidays one year and we both immediately fell in love with the beach town of Santa Teresa. The people, the culture, the beaches, the food, the everything!! It was so hard to leave but somehow I knew it wasn’t forever.
When I got back to L.A., within 2 months, I made the decision to quit my job of 9 years, sublet my apartment, store most my belongings and move to Costa Rica indefinitely. I was lucky since I already had some friends who lived in the area that I met on my first trip. I was able to be greeted by familiar faces and have a lot of advice & knowledge to help make the move smoother, especially since I didn’t speak Spanish!
After visiting a lot of places I chose Costa Rica for a few reasons. The proximity to Los Angeles, so family & friends would be able to visit easily, the culture & pura vida lifestyle, the cost of living & the safety, and of course the weather! I didn’t set out with a return date in mind and to this day I still don’t.
I have been living in the Mal Pais/Santa Teresa for close to 4 years now and loving each day. Obviously there are some days I miss my family, or run into a problem that would be so easy to fix in the U.S., however when you watch the breathtaking sunsets on a pristine beach with good friends from around the world, you will understand.
Mal Pais & Santa Teresa is the epitome of Pura Vida&. Located on the Pacific, this surf town has a ton to offer. Stretching over 7 km on the main (unpaved) road there are a bunch of shops, restaurants, hostels, hotels, surf shops, etc. The town is a complete melting pot of people. You have the locals, a.k.a. Ticos & Ticas, some who have been here before there was even electricity, to the hundred of foreigners who have moved here, from over 50 different countries! Since it is a one road town, you will be sure to make friends in no time. People are very willing to help with language barriers, and for the most part they just want to share the Pura Vida vibe!
The dry season is around November – May, it is the hottest time of year & with no rain, from May – October is the "rainy" season, however the weather is still warm, and so is the ocean!
Coming from Los Angeles I took a red-eye flight landing in San Jose (SJO) at around 6 a.m. I opted to take a small prop plane from SJO to Tambor Airport (TMU), which, 25 minutes later, puts you only 35 minutes from Mal Pais versus the 6.5 hour drive from San Jose. There are two companies who fly to Tambor, Nature Air & Sansa who each do about 4 flights daily. Be sure to check as their schedule does change during rainy season & holidays. Alternatively you can catch a bus from San Jose to Mal Pais that run twice daily, 6 am & 2 pm, of course it is cheaper but much more time consuming.
Lastly you can rent a private shuttle or a car and drive to the town. You will have to take a ferry across (cars allowed) so again it’s all about timing. The roads once across the gulf are improving, however be prepared for potholes, dirt roads & fast drivers. Once you pass Cobano and get closer to Mal Pais it becomes unpaved & a bit bumpy.
Since I already had friends who lived here we were able to scout out an apartment prior to me arriving. We chose a simple Tico style house with two bedrooms & one bathroom. We had a nice garden in front, a small kitchen & a storage space in back for my roommates’ surfboards.
It wasn’t much, but the sunset views & ocean breeze made it all worth it. Since then I have moved to a few different houses, all pretty similar. If you plan to come for a long stay consider renting a small house or room with someone. People are always moving in & out of town so the turnover is quick!
There are also lots of places that will give you a discount for a longer stay, just ask around! Facebook is also a great way to put the word out there. Everyone in town uses local Groups & forums to post rentals, events etc.
Since I quit my job before moving here I was not immediately looking for work when I arrived. After living here for a bit I decided to start a local tour/information company with a couple of friends, where we mainly worked online doing bookings & promotions. Since then I have been lucky enough to work mainly online for both companies here & worldwide. Mainly I help with social media management, branding, website content & translations.
Although perhaps not completely legal, you can find some jobs around town that will employ short-term visitors depending on your skill set. The minimum wage is not much but neither is rent typically.
Like any other country you visit be sure to be respectful of the land & culture. With our thriving tourism it is easy to forget this once farming beach town was home to a few families & their livestock. Be sure to keep the beach clean, drive cautiously as there are no sidewalks or pavement and enjoy the local flair. Also be mindful of the ocean & the strong rip currents. If you don’t know a lot about the ocean or are not a strong swimmer make sure to ask a surf instructor or someone before heading out, it’s not often but the currents can get quite strong some places.
For the most part I have had great luck with my apartments/houses. I have had pros & cons in each but thats half the excitement. The most important thing I would suggest while looking for a place here would be the distance to the main road, as a lot of places you will need a car/quad to access and the safety of the house, you will want a safety box or strong door locks to keep your valuable stuff secured.
My biggest suggestion for others coming here to work is do a bit of networking before hand. There are again Facebook Groups that you can post in asking if anyone is looking to hire. Contact specific places & check to see what they may have to offer. If you get here and want to work the best way to do that is making friends with some locals and asking around.