Costa Rica Living Blog with Lisa and Scott Norman

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lisa and scott norman expats

Costa Rica Living Blog with Lisa and Scott Norman

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Costa Rica Living Blog

Lisa and Scott Norman are USA-Expats living in Costa Rica who want to share their stories with others who are visiting and/or considering a move to Costa Rica. They have experienced the highs and the lows of making a big move and will continue writing about their experiences here, on their Costa Rica Living Blog. Osa Property Management has provided them a platform for them to share their experiences in an unbiased, and personal, way.  The following post will provide a little about their background and what made them ultimately choose to move to Costa Rica. Enjoy getting to know the people behind the Costa Rica Living Blog – Lisa & Scott Norman!

Scott Norman

Scott grew up in Illinois, after attending college he began working in sales.  He first started at a automotive dealership as a scott normansalesman and over many years moved up to Vice President of the dealership.  As time went by, Scott decided it was time for a move to warmer temperatures.  He always loved visiting the beaches of the gulf coast and decided Panama City Beach, Florida was the place for him.  With his many years of sales experience, Scott quickly landed a job selling  yachts and sport yachts for the largest boat/yacht dealership in Panama City Beach.  Although Scott loved being around the yachts and especially the sea trials he decided it was time for his sales experience to go towards a new direction.

Scott had been introduced to a recreational vehicle dealer that was looking for an experienced salesman and Scott was just the man for the job.  Scott continued the rest of his career in the RV sales business and became the ‘go-to-man’ for Tiffin Motorhomes.

Lisa Norman

Lisa was born in Florida, but grew up in the southern area of Birmingham, Alabama. After graduating from the University of Alabama with her degree in Graphic Design and Photography, Lisa moved just a little north of her hometown where she landed a job in graphic design.  After three years, Lisa was ready to spread her wings and really wanted to move to Panama City Beach, Florida where she vacationed with her family.

Lisa was thrilled to find her ‘dream job’ and she moved to Panama City in November 1992 and started working as a graphic artist and photographer for a contractor on Tyndall Air Force Base.  Over the years Lisa became the main photographer on base, she documented all types of events to include: award ceremonies, graduations, change of command ceremonies, retirements as well as day to day activities all over the base and on the flightline.  She also shared the responsibility of on-call alert photographer for all after-hour emergencies.

lisa norman f15 camera

Lisa made many wonderful friends while working on base and spent many weekends SCUBA diving and spearfishing with the Tyndall Dive club.   Lisa spent a total of 21 years working at the base, starting off in the staff positions and moved her way up to assistant manager and finally Contract Manager for the Multimedia Center at Tyndall Air Force Base.  Lisa had the opportunity to photograph two Presidential visits as well as numerous other distinguished visitors over her many years on the job.

For all her years of hard work, the wing commander awarded Lisa the a flight in one of the base’s F-15 Fighter Jets. Many years later,  Tyndall AFB changed from a training base to a combat base and, unfortunately for Lisa and her staff, at the end of  2013 most contractor positions were replaced by active duty personnel.  Her dream job of 21 years had come to an unexpected end.

Lisa norman f15 jet
After years of photographing F15 fighter jets, Lisa was awarded a flight of her own.

Scott and Lisa met in 2002 and later married in 2004.  They both love the Panama City, Florida, USA, area and the beaches of the gulf coast.  Both Lisa and Scott were very busy with their careers, and they spent most of their free on their boat with friends at Shell Island or riding their Harley Davidson motorcycle with friends.

lisa scott norman harley davidson
Scott & Lisa enjoying an afternoon during their “Harley Years”

In 2017, Scott was eligible for retirement and they decided it was time to sell everything and move to Costa Rica.  Since they arrived in Costa Rica, these Retire in Costa Rica Bloggers have learned many things; from opening a bank account to buying a car and eventually getting their Costa Rica residency. Keep following the Costa Rica Living Blog here at Osa Property Management to learn from their experiences.

Other posts by Living Costa Rica experts Lisa & Scott Norman

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New Costa Rica Domestic Airport Terminal

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Costa Rica’s Domestic Airport terminal received a substantial upgrade in mid-2018. The new modern design is sleek, airy, and bright with improved traveler amenities, including mobile charging stations and a well-provisioned convenience store.

The open, streamlined layout of the new Costa Rica domestic airport terminal is visible before you pass through the doors, and a gorgeous, contemporary bronze sculpture accents the glass-paned entrance.

San Jose Domestic Airport

Once inside, the crisp, minimalist styling is soothing on the traveler’s nerves. Everything is well-marked, and signs are bright with large print, making information easy to read and locations easy to find. Airport staff, as always, are cheerful, friendly, and committed to customer service. Domestic flights are available through Sansa Airlines, with service to 14 destinations across Costa Rica, and Carmonair Charters, with service to nearly 40 stops nationwide.

Terra Tica, the shop located beside the gate seating area, offers a wide variety of refreshments, including fresh bakery items, cold drinks, and high-energy snacks. You’ll also find an assortment of locally crafted goods and vacation souvenirs.

The gates are well-lit and airy, with accessible seating and charging stations throughout ensuring your mobile device and/or laptop are fully charged prior to boarding. The tarmac is visible through floor-to-ceiling windows which span the length of the building providing natural lighting and great views while waiting to board your flight.

San Jose Domestic Airport

As with the previous Costa Rica domestic airport terminal, travelers walk out to their plane. There are now many safety improvements including well marked walking paths, high-visibility vests worn by employees to guide travelers to the correct plane and easier access, including ramps.

For those returning to San Jose at the end of their trip, enhanced accessibility and clearly-marked points of entrance alleviate passengers’ doubts about where they need to go when they deplane.

A roundabout in front of the terminal provides easy access to taxis and shuttles, and San Jose’s Juan Santamaria’s main terminal is but a short walking distance. Baggage handlers greet travelers at the entrance, and a central information desk is located across from the ticketing counters for travel or locale-related questions.

Updates are being made to regional terminals and airstrips as well, including San Isidro and Palmar Sur. For the most updated information on travel within Costa Rica, please contact us by phone or email, and be sure to check us out on YouTube.

Pura Vida!


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lisa and scott norman

Ex-Pat Living with Lisa and Scott Norman on Moving to Costa Rica

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This is the first of many ‘Lisa and Scott Norman Ex-Pat Living’ posts. We absolutely love it here in the southern pacific zone of Costa Rica and have been offered a wonderful platform to share our experiences, our learnings and our thoughts with everyone who wants to read our blog.

Trip #1: Guanacaste

We first traveled to Costa Rica in the fall of 2011 with family members. We chose the Guanacaste region because we had a timeshare condo there that we were using.  I vividly recall the winding roads being mostly dirt, not maintained, and lots of potholes, which was totally new to us (we lived in Panama City, Florida, at the time).  But the change was good. Different culture, exciting lifestyle and spending valuable time with family never gets old.

Total time visiting: ~1 week.

lisa and scott norman family

Trip #2: ARCR & Grecia & Atenas

Our next trip to Costa Rica was six years later, March of 2017 to be exact. By then we had decided we may want to retire soon and we had heard that Costa Rica was a popular destination for ex-pats.  With that in mind, we scheduled a very busy fact-finding trip.

At the beginning of this trip we attended a two-day retirement seminar put on by ARCR (Association of Residents of Costa Rica) in San Jose. There we learned valuable information about all things to consider when choosing to retire in Costa Rica.  After our two days in San Jose we visited the cities of Grecia and Atenas in the central valley, to see if these were areas where we might want to live.  These cities were chosen because of our research of having organized ex-pat communities and we wanted to stay somewhat close to the airport in San Jose (SJO – Juan Santamaria International Airport).

Since we were visiting in late March, everything was really dry. As we learned later this was about the end of the Costa Rica summer and not much rain falls during that season.  During this time we were staying in a small, country-side, hotel. It was cute and functional and we saw lots of birds and tropical vegetation.  We really enjoyed the area, appreciated meeting some ex-pats there but felt something was missing…we just didn’t know what exactly.

Total time visiting: ~2 weeks

lisa and scott norman bridge

Trip #3: San Isidro del General

After our second trip to Costa Rica, we knew it was the country we wanted to retire in…the only question was ‘WHERE in Costa Rica did we want to live?’.  We returned back to Florida and did more research online. It was decided we would head back down in a couple of months and explore the town of San Isidro de el General.  San Isidro (as it is often referred to), is located in a valley in the central-south-pacific area of Costa Rica.

They have flights from San Jose to San Isidro (Perez Zeledon airport), but we chose to drive along Ruta 2 of the Pan American Highway to get to San Isidro. This section of road is called the “Cerro del Muerte” (road of death) due to how dangerous it used to be to drive on. Now, there are breathtaking views, but it is important you pay attention when driving as the road climbs to over 11,000 feet in elevation. Although the locals can make the drive in as little as two hours, it took us four hours since we had never driven it before and didn’t know the pattern of the turns.  That trip seemed like it took forever and we were happy to arrive into San Isidro!

We had arranged to stay in a nice house that we found on Air B&B.  It had a view of the city down below and we  began our search for a home to rent for our final move the next year.  We liked the area, it has plenty of shopping and great energy, but again, something just didn’t feel right for us.

After a week in San Isidro we decided to take a different route going back to San Jose.  We chose the road that follows the Pacific coastline – called the ‘Costanera Highway’ (Highway 34 on a map). We saw some spectacular views of the water and finally felt like anywhere along that area would be a place we could finally reside. Having lived near to the ocean our whole lives, we both felt more ‘at-home’ near the sounds, sights and smells of the ocean.

We stopped for a short while and visited Uvita, Dominical, Quepos, and Jaco on the way back North. We did notice that financially the further North we went, the more expensive everything got.  It was quite a education and a lot of on-the-job-training.  Our thoughts were, we wanted to end up somewhere along the coastline but further south so we were thinking something south of Dominical (and we had ‘beach homesickness’). The southern pacific zone has some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Costa Rica.

Total time visiting: ~2 weeks

san isidro del general cathedral
San Isidro’s most recognizable landmark is the downtown cathedral

The One-Year Plan is Set

At this point, we knew we were making the right life changing decision of moving to Costa Rica.  I was close to retirement and put ourselves on a one-year plan. This meant that we had a goal of one year to prepare for the big move. This meant the start of letting subscriptions run out, becoming experts at selling our things on Craigslist, having a several garage sales, and whatever it took to sell all of our belongings except what would fit in a small storage building north of our hometown in Florida.

So, in the fall before the big move, we started looking for homes for rent and we picked an area between Uvita and Palmar Norte.  It was a little further south then most people look, but still close to the beaches.  We had scheduled our move for March of 2018 and wanted plenty of time to search for just the right spot.

We found osapropertymanagement.com through a Google search and spoke to the owner Nick.  He had some home for rent exactly where we wanted to be, between Uvita and Palmar Norte in a small community called San Buenaventura.  I thought it was smart to chose a property manager who knew the area and was someone who we could ask questions about where to shop, where to find a veterinarian for our English Springer Spaniel, and where the nearest banks were located.  It was important for us to find someone who actually had hands-on experience.

Trip #4: We found it! San Buenaventura & the Southern Pacific Zone

After taking several trips, and spending almost six weeks living and visiting several different areas of Costa Rica we were confident of our decision.

We made the move to Costa Rica in March of 2018 and have not regretted it one bit!  Nick and his company have been more than helpful, and we consider him much more than just another property manager.  His staff live in this area full time, are bi-lingual, and have been known to bring over some local cuisine for us to try after a Sunday family get together.  Now how can you beat that, there are such wonderful people down here.

Stay tuned for more information about our ex-pat living and all of the fun, adventures and challenges, we have in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica!

Pura Vida!

Lisa and Scott Norman

lisa and scott norman expats


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el refugio costa ballena benefit

El RefUgio Costa Ballena Benefit

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We think you can probably tell by the photo above that we recently had a very fun evening – which was for a very good cause. Anytime we spend time with friends, enjoy great food AND make a difference in the community – that makes a great evening! We attended the Halloween Spooktacular/fundraiser at The Bamboo Room restaurant in Ojochal for the El RefUgio Costa Ballena Benefit.  This is a yearly event that raises money for El RefUgio Costa Ballena which is an animal rescue organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and adoption, of abandoned dogs and cats in the Costa Ballena region.

El RefUgio Costa Ballena Benefit also will use the funds raised to reduce the overpopulation of dogs and cats by hosting low cost spay and neuter clinics throughout the region.  The work this organization does is performed primarily with the help of only volunteers and donations, so every dollar and colon matters.

The Bamboo Room generously hosted this event and held numerous raffles and giveaway’s to raise money for this wonderful organization.  Many people dressed up in Halloween attire as their favorite animal, while others like us, brought life sized pictures of their pets face attached to a stick and we would hold these pictures up in front of our faces for interesting camera shots.  A big shout out to the Bamboo Room for supporting this very important event that was very well attended.  There was enough money raised to spay/neuter approximately 50 dogs and cats.  More information and tax deductible donations can be made by visiting the El Refugio Costa Ballena website.

Needless to say, we had some fabulous chicken wings for dinner and enjoyed the live music of “The Bamboo Jam Band” who played a good variety of music to entertain the diverse group of people.

There are always lots of fun things to do in the Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica…this was just another “typical” evening of friends and fun (along with some fundraising for a much needed cause).

We will definitely add the El RefUgio Costa Ballena Benefit to our social calendar for next year. We hope to see you here next year too!

Pura Vida!!

Lisa & Scott Norman

lisa and scott norman


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palmar sur airport remodel photo

Palmar Sur Airport Remodel Update October 2018

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Palmar Sur Airport Remodel Update

We recently visited the Palmar Sur Airport Remodel project currently taking place at this popular airport for travelers vising the Osa Peninsula and nearby towns of Sierpe, Chontales, San Buenas, Ojochal, Uvita and Dominical. The following video provides an update and some great information about the Palmar Sur Airport remodel.

Click on the photo below to watch or view it on our YouTube Channel.

As mentioned in the video, everyone here at Osa Property Management is hoping that the airport is completed with the remodel by the end of calendar year 2018.

We are recommending to our scheduled guests to have a back-up plan in place if their plans include arriving into San Jose’s Juan Santamaria’s airport first, and planning on flying down to Palmar Sur. We can help with securing a car rental in San Jose, or hiring a private shuttle for you and your travel companions.

Once the Palmar Sur Airport Remodel is completed, this regional airport will be one of the nicest in the country. Palmar Sur serves travelers from Sierpe, Rio Claro, Chontales, San Buenas, Ojochal, Uvita and Dominical.


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rambutan fruit

How to Eat Rambutan Fruit or Mamones Chinos

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Rambutan Fruit (Mamones chinos)

The following video shows the proper way to eat rambutan fruit. In Costa Rica, rambutan fruit is also known as mamones chinos. I use the term mamones chinos in the video. However, both names are used.

Tip: Make sure you have a napkin nearby when eating them!


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golfing at san buenas golf resort

Golfing at San Buenas Golf Resort

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Golfing at San Buenas Golf Resort

Below is a video that we recently took of Nick Halverson and Abigail Vargas golfing at San Buenas Golf Resort with some clients of ours. Golfing at San Buenas Golf Resort is a great activity to enjoy regardless of skill level.

This particular afternoon, the group made a last-minute decision to golf late in the afternoon. They quickly gathered up their clubs, headed down to pick up the cart, and jumped on the links at about 4 pm. One advantage of golfing at San Buenas Golf Resort is that with their membership program, and for those renters who rent the condominium we manage, clients can enjoy unlimited free golf.  That’s correct – unlimited FREE GOLF.

San Buenas Golf Resort is the only golf course in Costa Rica’s Osa region. In fact, it is the only golf course between the country of Panama and Jaco. Here is more information about the golf course at San Buenas Golf Resort. Don’t worry about packing your golf clubs, they have plenty of sets for rent.

Contact us below if you would like more information about golfing at San Buenas Golf Resort, a Costa Rica vacation rental in Ojochal, Uvita or San Buenas, or if you would like a no-cost, no-obligation, bid to manage your property in the Osa region.


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palmar sur airport update

Palmar Sur Airport Update

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Palmar Sur Airport Update

In August 28, 2018, we visited Palmar Sur regional airport to get an update on the construction project there. The following is our Palmar Sur Airport Update.

In early August 2018, we had a client who had a scheduled flight from San Jose to Palmar Sur, via Sansa airlines. They were planning on a weeklong vacation at Casa Lapas. Approximately 24 hours prior to the clients’ departure, they were notified that the Palmar Sur airport was close and no other information was available. After scrambling to get the clients rescheduled to Perez Zeledon’s regional airport, we decided to investigate what was going on.

Below are a couple of videos that provide how the Palmar Sur Airport Update will improve traveling to the southern pacific zone of Costa Rica in the not-to-distant future.

Here is a list of the changes taking place at Palmar Sur airport. All of these changes are scheduled to be completed in four months – with a goal of being completed by January 2019.

  • Existing terminal is going to be increased in size from 750 square feet to over 5,000 square feet. It is still unclear whether or not the existing terminal structure will be kept or if it will be torn down.
  • Rental car kiosks and other kiosks will be built
  • The width of the runway is being widened

One of the goals of the increased width of the runway is to allow more models of aircrafts to be able to make emergency landings if necessary. Palmar Sur is relatively safe compared to other airports in the area due to the flat topography and ease of landing for planes coming in from the west/Pacific Ocean side.



palmar sur airport update sansa plane
Sansa airplane at Palmar Sur airport (when the airport was operating). The Palmar Sur airport is scheduled to reopen in early 2019.


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playa ventanas cave ojochal

GoPro Walking Through Cave at Playa Ventanas

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Playa Ventanas is one of the best all-around beaches in all of Costa Rica, and it is my personal favorite. A couple of years ago I strapped a GoPro camera on my head and recorded my journey from the front of one of the caves, all the way through, and out on the other side. Enjoy the GoPro Playa Ventanas video below!

CAUTION: DO NOT TRY THIS! IT IS VERY DANGEROUS! I made the video so it is not necessary for you, your guests or friends, to do it themselves.

The caves at Playa Ventanas are the inspiration for the name of the beach itself. ‘Ventanas’ means ‘window’ in Spanish. Therefore, these are not caves, these are ‘windows’ of the beach.

The windows (or caves) at Playa Ventanas are equally beautiful and fascinating. As the tide rises, and more water is forced into the holes of the caves, the louder the WHOOSH!! BANG!! gets, caused by the accelerating water. The best time to visit Playa Ventanas is NOW! Regardless if it is during low tide or during high tide. As you can see from the GoPro Playa Ventanas video, during low tide, it is easy to enter and explore the caves/windows.

playa ventanas cave ojochal


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Fusion Restaurant Costa Rica

Favorite Costa Rica Restaurants

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My husband and I have taken several vacations to Costa Rica. Before our first trip together, I’d been warned that Costa Rica ‘was not known for its cuisine’. Simple meals, prepared with seasoning – such as rice and beans, chicken or fish – are common throughout the country. I figured I’d find it boring, but I was in for a huge surprise. The food was so fresh and flavorful everywhere we went. Seafood, fish, fruit, and vegetables…harvested at just the right time (quite possibly that same day). Pineapples were sweeter, juicier…better than anything I could buy at home in the US.

While there may not be much in the way of fancy Tico food, there are still a lot of restaurants in Costa Rica. Many restaurants are run by ex-pats who wanted to bring flavors of home with them.  This makes it possible to sample menus from all over the world. And sample, we did… and developed a few favorites.

We have many more places to try, so it’s possible new favorites await us. Until then, here’s our Top Five. (I’ve noted price range by each name).

 

Citrus ($$$)

Curried Shrimp at Citrus

My absolute favorite, Citrus is perfect for a romantic dinner or a get-together with friends. The open-air restaurant located in Ojochal is nestled in rain-forest and bathed in soft indoor and outdoor light. The ambiance is dreamy and inviting, and the menu boasts flavors from around the globe, served with a distinctly French flair. Citrus’ offerings include several vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes, ranging from appetizers to desserts.

Citrus is open for dinner and serves wine, beer, and spirits. I strongly recommend making reservations: the restaurant is popular with vacationers and ex-pats alike, and fills up quickly.

 

Diqui’s ($)

Mother’s Day at Diquis

Diqui’s is a great casual restaurant situated on the edge of Palmar Norte, a short drive from Las Villas de San Buenas. The open-air restaurant is also a heladeria (ice cream parlor) and offers cones, smoothies, naturales, and frappés. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Diqui’s menu includes both Tico and ‘Western’ favorites.

Free wifi and friendly service.

 

Fusion ($$)

Pollo Tropical at Fusion

Fusion, located in Ojochal, just 5 minutes from Playa Ventanas, is a fantastic restaurant with an array of delicious offerings, including a full sushi menu. Decadent dishes like the Pollo Tropical pictured above boast unusual combinations of flavor that strike a savory balance. Here, strawberries are paired with basil pesto, wrapped in a seasoned chicken breast, and grilled to perfection. Served over a strawberry-balsamic reduction with salad and fried plantains.

Fusion serves alcohol and is open for Lunch and Dinner; it’s an excellent place for families and groups.

 

Restaurant Terraba ($$)

Restaurant Costa Rica

Authentic, bold dishes are hallmarks of this unassuming roadside restaurant. Enjoy the relaxing, casual environment, generous portions, and friendly service. Terraba’s moderately priced menu offers Tico and ex-pat favorites. Enjoy a casado for lunch, and pasta carbonara for dinner!

 

Villa Leonor ($$)

villa leonor seafood

Curried Shrimp at Villa Leonor

Villa Leonor offers delicious, authentic cuisine in a fun, casual atmosphere. Access the beach just beyond the restaurant to catch a phenomenal sunset before dinner. Or enjoy a dip in the restaurant-adjacent pool, and swim up to the bar.

The Sunday BBQ menu is especially delightful. If you dined at Leonor during the week, it’s worth the additional trip. So flavorful! I recommend the Pollo (BBQ chicken) and the Pinchos Camarones (pictured above).

 


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