Why I Love the Southern Zone of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a lovely tropical country in Central America that although small in size, contains many micro-climates so you can find the climate that suits you best.  Whether you want the beach life, cool mountain living, city living, or tourist areas, you can find it in Costa Rica. 

A quick overview of general areas:

Central Valley, dense population and an international airport; it boasts nice weather, plenty of shopping, Costa Rica’s largest hospitals and cultural events.  But traffic is so heavy that nearly anytime of the day you can easily get stuck creeping and crawling along.

Northwest (Guanacaste) – Heavy tourist area; full of beaches, condos and hotels.  Hot and desert-like.  International airport.  

Caribbean – Climate is different from the rest of the country with dry and rainy seasons not so defined and sometimes a direct opposite of the majority of CR.  Fun to visit with a funky Caribbean vibe.  When rainy season is in full force in the rest of Costa Rica, September and October are dry on the Caribbean side.  

Pacific Side Southern Zone – Typically lush & green with mountain ranges meeting a wide plain along the Pacific Ocean.  Has plenty of mountain and spring fed water and less traffic.  High tourist season brings a comfortable uptick in population with a quiet hum.  

Central Southern Zone – Gorgeous drives with beautiful scenery, very quiet & green.  This area is where San Vito and the Rio Sereno border are located.

No matter where you go in Costa Rica, Ticos (how Costa Ricans refer to themselves) are ready to please and offer a wide variety of tourist attractions. 

So why do I love the Southern Zone in particular?

95926EE9-332E-4849-B399-281B244B5B00When I drive along the Costanera (the Pacific coastal highway) once I get south of Jaco, I feel a smile coming on, relax and a feeling of Ahhhh.   Traffic decreases, the landscape becomes more lush and green and life gives off vibes of a laid-back feeling.  Unless you really like being stuck in traffic and spending lost time on the road along with thousands of other vehicles, driving in the Southern Zone if far more pleasant. The drives are beautiful; every trip out has something lovely to see. If you are looking for a real tension releaser, spend some time in the Southern Zone.

The Pacific Southern Zone has miles of coastline with quiet palm lined tropical beaches.  No need to get to the beach early, you will still find your place in the sand any time of the day.  Prefer the cooler life?  The mountains are clearly visible along Costanera coastline.  Head up with a 4-wheel drive vehicle to find those cooler comfortable temps.  Many expats live in the mountains and when they want a beach day, drive down their mountain to visit the coast.

Food 

Agriculture is king in the Southern Zone.  Everywhere you look you can find food; whether prepared at local sodas (sodas are small family restaurants) or full-size restaurants, grocery stores or abundant fresh food in farmer’s markets & roadside stands.  Never have I seen a place with so much fresh local produce! Fresh caught ocean fish abounds & grass/range fed cattle can be seen grazing everywhere.

Medical

Have a medical need?  First stop would be a Farmacia, which like the fresh food, are everywhere.  Many farmacias have a doctor on staff for a quick evaluation, if needed.  Or just tell them what you need because most Rxs can be bought over-the-counter in Costa Rica.  Clinics and hospitals are within a reasonable drive of most places for more serious needs.  What will medical care cost?  Honestly, a fraction of anything you would pay in USA.  Paying out of pocket is often less than co-pays and deductibles in the U.S.

Water

4A84E23C-62BE-4D69-8E58-B60C61D0F7E6All over the world, water is the resource everyone is talking about being in short supply.  You can drink water in Costa Rica without fear of Montezuma’s Revenge.  But here in Costa Rica, there are areas with water rationing during the dry season.  Good news is that in the Southern Zone, water is abundant.  When northern and western Costa Rica has turned brown during the dry months, the Southern Zone is still luxurious with plenty of water running freely down the mountains in rivers, streams and waterfalls.

Tourist Attractions

84827369-0734-4684-A899-763B3CAC9046The Southern Zone has just about it all in tourist attractions; beaches, fishing, ocean boating, river rafting, surfing, ziplines, horseback riding, hiking (whether climbing tall mountains or hiking along cool rivers), hanging bridges, jungle tours, wildlife, ATVs and more.  Thinking of living in Costa Rica and need excursions for family and friends when they visit?  The Southern Zone can easily fill a vacation with attractions that cost from nothing to reasonable tour prices.  All without lines and crowds.  

Cost of Living

One big reason people move to Costa Rica is to save money.  Going to get personal here, it costs us one third to one half of what it cost us to live in Michigan.  How is that possible with gasoline and imported goods higher?  We live different down here.  Taxes of all sorts and insurance premiums were killing our budget in Michigan.  Life here in the Southern Zone is laid back and fulfilling.  I don’t have a need to buy, buy, buy.  No need to keep up with the “Joneses” in the Southern Zone. No one cares what car you drive or what you wear.  I hear all the time how expensive it is to live in Central Valley of Costa Rica.  Well, don’t live in Central Valley, where you can more easily duplicate an expensive lifestyle of N. America.

San Isidro de El General/Perez Zeledon

The city of San Isidro de El General is one of the Southern Zone’s jewels.  It has just about anything you need along with our personal favorite, the famous San Isidro farmer’s market or Feria in Español.  The San Isidro market is HUGE!  Just about any food you need can be found there, fresh or ready to eat.  And with grocery stores plentiful in SI, what you can’t find in the Feria, can be found in the stores.   

Love The Locals!

Ticos in the Southern Zone are so friendly. Although our Spanish is getting better, when we first came we had a language barrier, but we could still find common ground to smile about, give and receive handshakes and hugs and of course, commmunicating with charades.  Surprisingly, finding someone who speaks English is not that hard to find.  Hiring the Locals for all types of jobs is affordable and easy and, for us, rewarding.  Sharing our resources by giving jobs to the locals is incredibly rewarding.

What about an Airport?

The Southern Zone has small airports with charters to fly you quickly to San Jose along with plentiful buses.  Many of us living in the Southern Zone have found that when we need to fly out of CR from SJO, that we just plan for a day of travel.  How often do you really need an international airport in a year?  Car storage is cheap and easy with several Tico businesses providing parking and shuttles to SJO.  I personally prefer to live in the peaceful lush Southern Zone for 48+ weeks out of the year and drive to Central Valley for the little we fly out.  Accessing the airport has turned out very doable.  

We have searched through Costa Rica for where we will find the most contentment for our life and home.  The Southern Zone checks off the bullets.  It just feels different down here.

We have noticed after a trip to San Jose and its suburbs, once we get back to the Southern Zone we start feeling at home. Here the traffic is lighter, the vegetation greener and the people more laid back; life is less hectic in the Southern Zone. It is more common to see families and friends along the roads chatting and enjoying each other or whole families walking along the road coming and going to visit family and friends. They might even be walking the family goat!! Life in the Southern Zone is more like we remember as kids but with modern technology thrown in. Coming to southern Costa Rica gives us that,”Ahhhh!” feeling.  Come for a visit and check it out for yourself. 

Serenity Gardens’ Fruit Trees

When we think of living in the tropics, visions of serene beaches, palm trees and tropical fruit are often what pops into winter-weary foreigner’s heads. Serenity Gardens EcoVillage has much of that covered with hundreds of fruit trees planted and on their way to producing an abundance of lush delicious fruit.

On Serenity’s 235 acres of land were planted hundreds of fruit trees in the past few years. We also have an avid fruit tree hobbyist, resident Jonathan Knobel, who has taken it upon himself to add to the village’s fruit tree inventory.

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Jonathan planting 99 fruit trees.  Rainy season is the perfect time to plant trees.

 

The following is a list of trees planted at Serenity Gardens EcoVillage

banana

coconut

papaya

water apple

plantain

orange

lemon

lime

longon

Surinam cherry

jabuticaba

snakefruit

mamon chino

 

guanabana

passion fruit

jack fruit

rambai

yellow dragonfruit

kiwi

star fruit

kumkut

grapefruit

kwai muk

sterculia nut

sugar apple/annona

Brazilian cocao

tarap/marang

durian

noni

avocado

carob

cinnamon

strawberry guava

mangosteen

lemon pie fruit

teranganu cherry

nam nam

mango

That’s in Impressive List!

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Surprising Discovery-Many citrus fruit trees here in our village produce 365 days a year!

Living in Serenity Gardens can be that vision of living in the tropics. With tranquil gorgeous beaches just down the mountain from our village, abundant fruit around us and palms gently swaying in the breezes, living the tropical dream is within reach.

 

 

Food, Food, Everywhere!

It is a given, we all need food to survive. Food security weighs heavy on some people’s minds. So lets talk about food in this issue. Living in Serenity Gardens EcoVillage is a step forward to food security. We have hundreds of fruit trees planted in our village along with several tropical root crops and pineapples. This is in addition to tons of locally produced foods to purchase. The Southern Zone of Costa Rica is a mecca of food production.  Agriculture is Costa Rica’s major industry, competing with tourism for top slot.  That’s a pretty cool combo for us transplants. Luscious food and vacation land at our fingertips!  Tico farmers are abundant and anxious for us to buy their products. We are grateful to them for all their hard work and appreciate them.  Being able to support them is a privilege we enjoy.

Of course as a owner in Serenity, you are welcome to grow and raise food on your land. But with so much food around us, if you would rather play, tour, discover and relax in beautiful Costa Rica, you won’t have far to go to find fresh locally produced food. If Buying Local is important to you, you can’t find an easier place to fill your kitchen with locally produced foods.

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It is easy to grow your own pineapples. Lemon tree in background that produces year-round.

 

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Abundant Bananas in SGEV!

SGEV has two Tico food trucks filled with fresh produce that deliver right to our doors! One of the Tico entrepreneurs will also do personal grocery shopping for us. All we need to do is email the pre-order the day before he heads off to San Isidro.

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Ramon & Guisselle Meza Solis, brother and sister team bringing SGEV food.
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Henry Meza and Toby Hinson delivering from Henry’s food truck

Local Ticas also make traditional foods that we can order such as papaya picadillo with handmade tortillas, miel de papaya, banana vinegar and much more. Sometimes we can place special orders for tamales, empanadas and casados for delivery.

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Delicious Papaya Picadillo with fresh tortillas homemade by a local Tica (female Tico)

Our local pulperia (small family owned store) has enough choices in foods to create a meal; such as eggs, potatoes, onions, garlic, chicken and meat along with many grocery store staples. Want to go out for an ice cream?  Got that too!

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Cecelia with customers in our local Pulperia where we can buy groceries

Just outside our little valley is the vast agriculture area of the San Isidro valley. Personally we have never seen an place with sooooo much fresh food. Just about any vegetable or fruit can be found in the SI valley; whether grown in the valley or on the surrounding mountain farms. No need to preserve food here; you can find year-round strawberries, mora berries, pineapples, vegetables and more. We haven’t seen a week yet without green beans available! (I really don’t miss the hours of messy time consuming canning just so I can eat locally in snow country!) About the only foods we miss are Michigan cherries, blueberries and apples. But with so many other tropical choices it hasn’t been a hardship; not a big deal when we can get wonderful pineapples, mangos, strawberries and watermelons every week!

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Local Tico farmer and family selling their produce at our local gas station

Living in Serenity Gardens makes eating FRESH unprocessed foods a joy!

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Eating Healthy is Easy!

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Life in Serenity Gardens EcoVillage

Welcome to Serenity Gardens EcoVillage blog about life here in the village

Many of you already own lots here in the village and are anxious to either start your life in Costa Rica or wondering if living on this mountain is for you. Other readers are contemplating purchasing into Serenity Gardens. Is this life for you? Can you fit into a new life style, a new country, do you know enough Spanish, what is the food like, do the locals like us here and much more.

Our blog posts will help you get familiar with everyday life here in Serenity Gardens EcoVillage. Instead of just another blog about Costa Rica, we will cover life here in SGEV and the Southern Zone.

Serenity now has many families and more on the way. We have 15 homes; 9 with full time residents, 2 new families soon to move in and the remainder in rentals. In terms of developments in Costa Rica, those numbers are impressive since building new homes in SGEV started a little more than 2 years ago. Serenity’s rental homes give an opportunity to stay for a week or for months; take us for a spin if you please.

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This is our mountain’s local swimming ‘pool’.  It is a gorgeous location in the jungle; people would pay ‘mucho dinero’ to have such a lovely pool.

Serenity Gardens EcoVillage is situated in the mountains along the southern Pacific coast in the Osa Mountains. Our nearest little town is la Trinidad. In Trinidad is our local school and a little store that will help you whip up a meal, purchase household products or buy an ice cream.   We can even pick up our mail in our local store; kind of like the old fashion country store with the post office inside.  Many of our new Tico friends and SGEV workers live in Trinidad.  We have a local food truck that will deliver fresh produce right to our doors along with just about any other food we order. We have local Ticas (Costa Rican women) that make traditional tico dishes for sale with delivery as well.

Continue driving east to reach Zapote and then to Pejibaye where you will find many businesses for your daily needs.  In Pejibaye are two grocery stores, dentists, appliance stores, a credit union with an ATM, hardware stores, car repair shops, many ‘sodas’ (little restaurants)and even  our local Pizzeria!  And much more.  For a longer day out, many of us go to San Isidro del General for one of Costa Rica’s largest farmer’s market, banking,  a hospital, doctors and clinics, pharmacies, shopping, plentiful and scenic restaurants to meet friends for lunch, etc.

Down the west side of the mountain to the coast will take you to Ojochal and Uvita; both popular in this area.  On the coast you can find many restaurants, beautiful and plentiful beaches and tourist attractions.  Also on the coast is a new hospital.

Costa Rica’s Southern Zone on the Pacific Coast is known for its beautiful beaches.  It wouldn’t be unusual to have a beach all to yourself.  Just imagine lounging and playing on the iconic tropical deserted beach.  Ahhh, what a life!

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In Costa Rica’s Southern Zone on the Pacific Coast beaches are beautiful and plentiful.  Just like this ‘beach day’, it wouldn’t be unusual to have a beach to yourself.

Are you fascinated by nature?  Life in Serenity is a nature lovers paradise and a continual surprise.  Are you an armchair bird watcher or more serious about birds with a Life List?  Are you an avid photographer?   Life in Serenity allows you to expand your hobby.  In coming blogs we will cover such topics of what you can expect living here.

Living in Serenity is a perpetual summer vacation.  One of Costa Rica’s biggest draws is the year-round summer; whether the dry season or rainy season, everyday is summerlike.

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Howler Monkey – Almost any morning you can hear them howling in the mountains
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Cusinga or in English ‘Aracari ‘- A smaller relative of Toucans

Please join us on a regular basis to become familiar with life in Serenity Gardens EcoVillage.  Better yet, sign up to receive this blog directly to your inbox with each publication. Click the ‘follow’ button in lower right hand to sign up.

http://www.serenitygardensecovillage.org

Serenity Gardens EcoVillage has several rental homes.  Visit the web site above and click on our Rental Page for a list of opportunities.

Send comments and questions to: Diane  or micasamontana@gmail.com

Curious about what it was like to move to Costa Rica?  Or wondering what our lives have been like the past 3 years?  Read our older blog detailing what we had to do to make this perpetual vacation a reality, our lives as Newbies in Costa Rica, building our house, adventures and more.  Go to http://www.franklinserenity.blogspot.com