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panama shopping city mall

Panama Shopping Trip

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Some new friends were planning on making a Panama shopping trip at the Costa Rica-Panama border this week and they asked if we wanted to join them.  We were unable to go on Tuesday as planned so they changed their plans and we all went on Wednesday instead. So many wonderful and nice people in Costa Rica!

Heading to Panama Border

There is a city in Costa Rica called Paso Canoas which is on the border of Panama-Costa Rica. This was our destination for Panama shopping! We live in San Buenaventura, which is 20km south of Uvita, so we headed south on the Costanera Highway (HWY 34) to Paso Canoas. San Buenaventura is approximately two hours from Paso Canoas (or 2 1/2 hours south of Uvita). It's a simple drive. Head south to Palmar Norte, take a right turn at the intersection of the Pan American Highway and Costanera Highway. Cross the Ri0 Terraba River over the iconic Palmar Norte bridge, like you're going to Palmar Sur and Sierpe. However, stay on Highway 2 (Pan American Highway).  The drive is pretty flat and easy, aside from it's a two-lane road the whole way!  There is a larger town Ciudad (city) Neilly which has a hospital, which is where some of the specialty doctors are located. 

Golfito, Costa Rica

About 1/2 way to the border is a town call Golfito, which has duty free shopping. Well, up to $2,000 tax free per year. Plus, there are limitations on how much you can buy of certain items, such as 3 carton of cigarettes or 12 liters of alcohol every 6 months; or one washer every year; or one stove/oven every 2 years; etc. This is separate from the $500 tax free when entering via the airport.

You must get a shopping authorization cart (TAC), which is how they keep track of what you've purchased.  Now you have to get this TAC, but can't use it for 24 hours.  And once you use it, you can't use it again for 24 hours after pick up.  So basically the first day you put everything on husband's card....then the next time you go back, you pick up the husband's card (which can't be used for 24 hours), so you buy everything on the spouse's card; and you keep switching like that...until you have to get a new card each year.

Golfito is known for cheaper prices on electronics and appliances. We didn't stop there today, as we didn't need anything and our ride wasn't going there. However, we'll write up another blog when we do visit!

Panama

As we get to the border, there's a big huge building in the middle of the road, which is the border for Panama.

panama shopping building

We turned left on the road right before the building, the left side of the road is Costa Rica and the right is Panama, but it's just a normal road.  When you go down the road a little ways and find a parking lot, you pay and they watch your car for you 500 colones/hr (~90 cents per hour).  We only had one reusable bag here in Costa Rica with us, so that's all we took with us. However, you leave it in the car because if you take it into the store, then they take it and tag it and you can't get it back until after you check out and everything is already in bags?!?!  So we left those in the car.

We walked into the building (which is on the Panama side--so we're in Panama, but we didn't have to check out of Costa Rica and check into Panama--you only have to do that if you need your 90 day visa)  WHAT?!?!?!  Well at least in this area of stores..more to come on that...

City Mall (in Panama)

First thing you see when you walk into the store is a McDonald's....oh it smelled so good!!!!  We didn't eat there today, but we will in September when we go back for our visa!!!!!

mcdonalds panama
OHHH the smell...I haven't had McDonald's fast food in months!!!

So this store has everything--you name it...shoes, hair products, makeup, clothes, sunglasses, pharmacy, groceries, electronics, etc. etc. etc.

panama shopping city mall
City Mall at Costa Rica-Panama border

It's this huge two story building and apparently Panamanians LOVE U.S. brands. Everything is grouped by brand. So there's a Guess section; Tommy Hilfiger section, Nike, Speedo, Toms, Bahama Mama, etc...just everything.  It's weird because all the women, men's and kids clothes are all in the same location, which is so weird.

panama shopping brands
Stores display products by brand.

And then the SHOES....thank goodness I don't need tennis shoes here, because I could have gone crazy. My brother would love this store as there were just walls and walls of all types of shoes and most cheaper than the U.S. Nike was a little less, but not like the other brands.  For example TOMs are around $80 in the USA but only $35 here.

Panama shopping shoes
I've never seen so many shoes in one place!!

Groceries in Panama

And don't get me started on the groceries!!!! So many more choices and mostly cheaper than in Costa Rica. They even had cheese from the USA so I had to get some Gouda, Havarti, and Muenster. It's one thing I miss about living in Costa Rica is the availability and affordability of cheese. I miss my cheese and crackers.  Ritz crackers were only .87 USD (this store shows prices in USD), so had to do some calculations to compare to the prices in Uvita which are priced in Costa Rica colones. After a while I gave up because they were all cheaper and I didn't want to think that much while Panama shopping! Plus, I'm used to converting colones into US dollars, not the other way around.

panama shopping cheese
Inexpensive and large variety of cheese! These are tough to find in Costa Rica

I was worried this would happen...we had nothing on our list but we ended up spending $71. In addition to the specialty cheeses and crackers, we bought some batteries (way cheaper). I also needed shredded cheese for tacos tonight and this way I didn't have to go to the store when we got back home.... and it was cheaper!!! LOL! I got some soft cat food as treats for the cats that we give them on Sundays as a treat; lunch meat was $3 cheaper per bag and we can freeze that.  Okay not even going to lie, we both got 2 HUGE Hershey's chocolate bars---it's not something you can find in the stores in Uvita.  I can't even remember what else we bought, but we had 3 sacks worth. Thankfully our friends had brought a cooler so we could put our cold stuff in there.

Stamp or no Stamp???

We lost our friends for a little while--we finally found them, they had already checked out and once you check out you can't get back in, so they had to go get the car and he ran in to find us--thankfully we were trying to stand in a central location and not move!  After checking out, we went down the road (the opposite way) to a Soda for lunch. 

I have never, in all my travels seen a border like this! There was a two lane road (that we were on) in Costa Rica. Then there was a strip of land that had stores, gas stations, grass on the other side of that was a two-lane road and that was Panama!!  After lunch we stopped for gas. We pulled in from the Costa Rica side, and we had to make sure to pull out on the right side. Turns out if we would have gone out on the Panama side we would have driven down to the border crossing and we would have been in trouble because we didn't have our in/out stamps...scary!!!  It was confusing, but intriguing, and I'm not sure what the planners were thinking when they designed it. Welcome to Central America.

gas station panama border
One side of this gas station is Costa Rica and the other is Panama--make sure you go out the right exit!!!

After lunch, it was LIQUOR time!!! As I mentioned, in the middle island separating the Costa Rica and Panama roads are shops, and there were liquor stores. Every Panama shopping trip should include a visit to a liquor store. The prices are great! Cheap! The first place we went to, only took cash but doesn't ask for your passport (like they are supposed to)!!  Bottle of Disaronna $12. Not as cheap as making it, but the stuff we made hasn't sat well with my stomach (more about making Disaronna in a future post) could be the cheapness of the vodka!!! LOL.  (and no it's not about the quantity either!!!)  They also had Moscato. Tt's Barefoot, which isn't the greatest, but it's the first Mascato I've found. Plus, it was only $4 a bottle.  So we picked up a stash.

panama shopping booze
Cheap liquor!

So we didn't actually passport stamp in and out in Costa Rica or Panama. You don't have to do that to just go Panama shopping, which is so weird. Unless you go on the wrong road and then you could be in trouble. Our friends showed us the building where we have to get our passports stamped, pay the immigration fee, then the building to actually check out of Costa Rica. Also, they showed us the building above with 'PANAMA' is where you go in/out for Panama....gosh, I hope we can do this ourselves next time in September!!!!

Once we made the last stop, we headed back north to home.  There is a check point about 1/2 way where they stop you and look in your windows..if you have a lot of bottles in your car, they may ask to see your paperwork/receipts, but they just looked and waved us on through.  We're told to go there after 4pm as they are closed!!! lol

We LOVED Panama shopping!!! We felt like we were kids in a candy store! We think it's better than Quepos, even if it is slightly longer drive. There are advantages like everything is in one location and it has more products and variety!


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Uvita Whale Watching Tour

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Uvita Whale Watching Tour

A friend of mine here in Costa Rica called to see if we wanted to go on a Uvita whale watching tour this week....ahhh of course!!!

She organized a group of 10 of us to go with Captain Marlon on tour.  The tour costs $50 per person, plus we gave a tip to the guides afterwards.

Getting There

The meeting place for the tour is on the whale's tail beach in Uvita.  The beach is part of the Parque National Marino Ballena (the National Marine Whale Park).

The main road to the beach and National Park has parking lots, which I recommend you use for parking. The street parking is not very well marked and I have heard of people getting tickets. Plus, parking only cost 2,000 colones (approximately $3.50 USD).

Then, we had to pay to get into the National Park which was 6900 colones ($6 each or $12).

Remember, the beach/park does not allow any alcohol, so leave that in your car (unless you can sneak it in!!!)

Marino Ballena National Park

whales tail uvita costa rica
Famous "Whales Tail" in Uvita, Marino Ballena National Park
Marino ballena national park
Marino Ballena National Park

Uvita Whale Watching Tour

Whales

There were 12 other people on the tour with our group, so a total of 22 people.  The guides started out with giving us life jackets and instructions on how to board the boat.

Once we got on the boat they stored our bags for us, as getting past the waves can sometimes we very wet; thus to protect our phones and cameras!

Once we were out past the waves, the guides started looking for whales and right off the bat they find a spot where whales have been spotted and two other boats are there watching.

By law the boats can only get so close to the whale and only so many boats can be in the same spot.  Even though the photo is zoomed, we were close enough to see how large these animals were!

uvita whale watching tour whale
Whales are huge and majestic mammals.
uvita whale watching tour
Whale "waving" to us!

We then headed north to the Dominical area, where we were able to see a mother with her calf.

uvita whale watching tour mother calf
Whale Mother and calf near Dominical
uvita whale watching whale

And they came up to the surface so many times...

uvita whale watching tour breaching
Whale breaching during the tour.

And I couldn't believe how many times the calf breached the surface---- or what we would call jumped...didn't get any photos as it happens so fast and unexpectedly, but did get this video...

Land

During the tour we came across this island, where we got to get out of the boat and swim for a little while which was really refreshing!

cano island costa rica

After swimming we were giving some fruit (watermelon and pineapple), along with water, which was a nice treat! 

The tour then headed south to Playa Ventanas, which is a beach by Ojochal.  This beach is famous for the "caves" along the water.  It's said you can sometimes walk or boat through them depending on the tides.

Cave at Playa Ventanas
Cave at Playa Ventanas

After seeing Playa Ventanas we had a wonderful boat ride (really fast) north back to the whale's tail beach where we ended the Uvita Whale Watching tour.

The guide said we saw more whales than is normally seen on the tours, so we had a fantastic time with friends and seeing the whales!  I can't believe some of the locals have never done this!!!  Wonderful day!


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monkey manuel antonio national park

Manuel Antonio National Park Tour

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Manuel Antonio National Park

This morning I saw a Facebook post that mentioned all national park entrance fees were waived for the day for National Park Day. So...guess what we did? We decided to go to Manuel Antonio National Park!

Getting to Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is located in the city of Quepos. Quepos is approximately 58 miles north of where we live in San Buenaventura.  We had to make a stop in Uvita on our way, so we ended up getting to Quepos around 10am.

After getting into Quepos (downtown), you must cross over the mountain to get to the park.  We figured it would take longer today due to the anticipated traffic. We thought there would be a lot of people going to the park since it was free today. However, the traffic wasn't bad.  The road is one lane each way and twists and turns, but every once and awhile there is this amazing view of the ocean.  Otherwise, the view is mostly hotels and restaurants for tourists.

As you get down the other side of the mountain, you run into a public beach, which is really nice (not in high tide though).  The road along the beach reminded us of Myrtle Beach with people walking everywhere, bars, and souvenir shops--but here it is only a couple blocks, not miles like in SC!

After you get on the beach road, which is running parallel to the beach, you take a left hand turn. There was a guy with a sign when we got there, which helped.

Then you will start to see people trying to get you to park your car.  These are not necessarily with the park, so just beware.  We were able to get parking in a huge field not more than a couple blocks from the entrance to Manuel Antonio National Park. It only cost us 2000 colones (less than $4).

manuel antonio national park sign
Sign at entrance to Manuel Antonio National Park

Tour

On our way to the park, we were approached by someone asking if we'd like to take a tour.  He had on a Park shirt, so we think

Boardwalk manuel antonio national park

Boardwalk at Manuel Antonio National Park

he was official, but you can never tell down here!

Since we weren't paying entrance fees (and we've had good tour experiences) we decided to go with a tour.  The tour cost US$20 USD (12,500 colones) each person.  For an additional $10, you can have a private tour.

Due to our circumstances, we did ask if the tour was strenuous/difficult and we were told it would be accommodated by the guide, as necessary.

The tour lasts approximately 1.5 hours and is well WORTH it!  There are platform trails that will lead you around the park, but the tour guide was able to spot animals that we wouldn't have seen ourselves.

So if you are going to see animals, take the tour. If you're going to just enjoy a walk, nature views, and the beach--you don't need a tour.

Entering the Park

Upon entering the park, besides taking your ticket, they do check bags to make sure no unauthorized items are brought in.birds of paradise

Before we left, we looked to see if we could take a picnic in with us.  We found that you could take sandwiches if in paper bags or Tupperware; same with chips and crackers.

However, when we arrived with our crackers in Tupperware, they were not allowed! (We did see people who  must have snuck things into the park, like chips in original bags).

We figured out that we were looking at some tour company site, not the official National Park site, so make sure you find the official site---or just take empty water bottle like we did.  NOTE: they do have a little stand that sells some food, but we didn't get anything but assume prices were probably high!

Tour Guide

Our tour guide was really good--he spoke very good English and communicated the whole tour in both English and Spanish, as we had mixed languages in our tour.

He was amazing at spotting the animals--but also really knowledgeable about them also.  For each animal he told us something about them, which made it that much more interesting.

The guide also carried a scope which allowed closer views of the animals---and he would use the scope to take pictures with your phone if you wanted!

He was very patient and made sure everyone heard his talk, got to look in the scope, and got pictures if they wanted.

Beaches

Within the park there are three beaches; however, we only made it to two of them while we were there.  But the views were spectacular; plenty of room to lay on the sand; water not too far away to walk out.

Our tour ended at beach #3 and that beach had picnic tables to sit and eat at.  The monkeys hang out at this beach and along the early path to beach #2---just remember to not feed them or even eat by them; they have been know to grab food if you're close by!

On our way out, we went a different way and saw beach #2. Both beaches had bathrooms with shower stations to rinse off, which is really nice.

Plus throughout the park are water stations where you can fill a bottle for drinking--and the water doesn't taste too bad!!!

Beach manuel antonio national park
One of the beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park
manuel antonio national park
Beach at Manuel Antonio National Park.

Animals

Below are some of the animals we saw on our tour in the park:

Note: we did see spiders, but you won't see pictures, I'm sure you can guess why!

Iguana--which we've come to think of like squirrels back home--they're everywhere!
Iguana--which we've come to think of like squirrels back home--they're everywhere!
Agouti manuel antonio costa rica
Agouti--which is related to the guinea pig?!?

We even saw a sloth! Check out the sloth video below!

sloth manuel antonio national park

We left the park around 1ish, but stopped to do some shopping in town, so we didn't arrive home until 5pm--we were tired and exhausted, but had an AMAZING day!


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sierpe river wildlife tour

Sierpe River Wildlife Tour

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Sierpe River Wildlife Tour

We recently met a couple at BINGO in Ojochal who recommended that we take the Kokopelli Sierpe River Wildlife Tour in Sierpe --in fact, they've gone on it at least four times and take all their visitors on the tour. That was impressive enough for me to book a tour with them.

Kokopelli Tours specialize in small groups (min. 2 people) for mangrove and wildlife tours on the Sierpe River.  We contacted the tour company, via email, on Wednesday afternoon, and they responded within 30 minuntes. It was great to hear that they have tours every day of the week, so we could make the tour fit into our schedule.  We set up our tour for Monday 8:30am.

kokopelli tours
Kokopelli Tours

Tour Basics

My husband and I were the only two people on the tour; along with the guide/boat driver.  Our tour guide was:

  1.  English speaking
  2. Very knowledgable about the wildlife; and
  3. AMAZING at spotting the animals for us to see!!

The tour left a little earlier than 8:30, since we were the only guests and we were there and ready.  The tour lasted 3 hours!!!! and we were provided 2 drinks each (either water or Tropical brand fruit juice).

The boat was a smaller size, which was nice; as we were able to go down some of the smaller river pathways that other boats couldn't---however, the seats in the boat were on the sides and faced inwards, so it made it difficult to sit comfortably and see all the animals (as the boat is cruising down the river).  Don't get me wrong, we SAW all the animals, and the guide made sure to slow down/stop, back-up, and even turn around to ensure we got a good view--and as long of view as we wanted.

sierpe river wildlife tour
Sierpe River

The Wildlife

Lizards

Right after pulling away from the dock behind the tour building, we stop next to the shore (by someone's house!!) and we see at least 15-20 green iguanas.  Big ones, fat ones, males, females, some sitting, some crawling, some in the trees....and some eating!!!  I have never seen so many iguanas in one area out in nature!  It was amazing--tour would have been worth that alone!

It seems that there may have been some food left for them, hence the number of them in one area.

two iguanas sierpe
Two iguanas photographed on the tour.

We saw several other green iguanas sitting on tree trunks, along the river during our tour.  But we were also able to see two different Jesus Crist lizards--one posing....and the other one was running on top of the water (hence their name).  I wish we could have got a picture of it running on water, but hence that's not how pictures work!

During the course of the tour, we saw many other green iguanas sitting on tree branches along the river; however, we were also able to see 2 Jesus Crist lizards!!  One was posing, but the other one was running ON water (hence its name)!  I wish we could have gotten a picture of that one--but movement doesn't show well in pictures and not to mention it was FAST!

sierpe river wildlife tour iguana
One of many iguanas we saw

Birds

We saw lots of birds, but some specific, unique and rare ones we saw were:

  • Green Kingfisher
  • Green Heron
  • American Pygmy Kingfisher
  • Amazon King Fisher
  • Wood Stork
  • Yellow Crowned Night Heron
  • Boat Billed Heron
  • Barn Owl
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Little Blue Heron
yellow crowned night heron sierpe
Yellow crowned night heron

Do bats count as birds??? I know they're mammals but heck, they fly, right? LOL  maybe I should have used the title "flying things".

bats tour
Bats on a tree.

Things in trees

Probably the best part of the tour (for me), was seeing the animals in trees... monkeys, sloths, and raccoons (okay I'm from the USA and I could see these nightly on my back deck, but the ones in Costa Rica are smaller and cuter!).

I love that I got to see these in real life versus at the sanctuaries here!

Monkeys

We were able to see 2 of the 3 monkey species found in Osa Peninsula; Squirrel Monkey and Howler Monkey.

howler monkeys sierpe costa rica
Two howler monkeys
howler monkeys sierpe
Howler monkeys climbing on bamboo trees
squirrel monkey sierpe
Squirrel monkeys in bamboo cluster.

Two-toed Sloth

two-toed sloth sierpe costa rica
Two-toed sloth

Things in and near the water

Okay these are the animals that give me the creepy crawlies....and sometimes nightmares---yes, the snakes--but guess the crocodiles are pretty cool--since I've never seen them in the wild!

We saw two different Tree Boas ---or course sleeping!

snake costa rica
Tree boa constrictor

Yep we saw a crocodile--and they can get up to 18 ft long (average is 14 ft)--this one was a little smaller at only 9 feet!! YIKES!!

crocodile sierpe costa rica
Crocodile in the Sierpe River

Scenery

While the animals were amazing, we don't want to forget about the scenery!

sierpe river wildlife tour
Siere River
bananas sierpe
Bananas

We LOVED this Sierpe River Wildlife Tour and give it a 4.8 out of 5--and we'll definitely bring our guests to enjoy this amazing hidden gem in Osa Peninsula.

Amy & Jason


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grocery shopping in uvita supermercado

Grocery Shopping in Uvita

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Grocery Shopping in Uvita

When grocery shopping in Uvita, there are two supermarkets and a farmers market to choose from. The supermarkets are:

  1. Supermercado el Pacifico
  2. BM

Both of these grocery stores are located on the east side of Highway 34/Costanera Highway in Uvita.

Based on gossip I've heard (but have not confirmed), both stores are owned by the same person/company, so you would expect the brands and prices to be the same....but not quite.

supermercado del pacifico uvita grocery store
Supermercado del Pacifico, Uvita.
bm supermarket uvita
BM Uvita (under remodel)

Products

Before we get into the unique stores, let's talk about the actual products here in Costa Rica. You may have read that groceries are cheaper in Costa Rica than in the U.S., which is true if you don't have any U.S. brand loyalty. While there are U.S. products here that we love, like Oreos, they come at a price. The price is higher on these products since they are imports and have costs associated with getting them to and into Costa Rice.

Eggs in Costa Rica

eggs in costa rica

Eggs are sold by the weight, typically 1200 colones per kilogram, and are not kept cold as they are in the U.S. Eggs in Costa Rica are not power washed to get rid of salmonella like in the US, so they have their natural coating so they don't have to be in the fridge.

Yogurt in Costa Rica

costa rica yogurtThere is Yoplait yogurt here in Costa Rica and it is sold in plastic containers (buckets), but the local yogurt (Coronado brand) is sold in a jug and lasts about 2 weeks. You will find the yogurt to be more liquid than those found in the U.S.; but great the flavor is good and they have interesting flavors, such as blackberry, peach, lemon, mango, strawberry, etc.

Condiments in Costa Rica

Again there are the U.S. brands of condiments, such as Heinz Ketchup and Mustard, or Hellman's Mayo, but they may not always be the cheapest. Many of the brands, even those U.S. ones came in bags. My guess is that the locals will initially buy the bottle of condiment, but then use the bags to refill the bottle. The bags are significantly cheaper, no matter what brand you choose. However, we've found that using the condiment directly from the bag works just fine.

I'm not sure about you, but I LOVE mayo! (I know some of you may be Miracle Whip fans, but you're going to be out of luck). What I found interesting is that most of the mayo's have lime in them. I was able to find Hellman's brand that had no lime and came in light also.

Laundry Soap in Costa Rica

laundry detergent uvita bm costa rica

Many options of laundry detergent - most of it is sold in large plastic bags.

There are liquid laundry soaps in the stores, but I've found that most locals use the powder, which isn't that unusual in itself; however, the powder comes in bags, which I don't remember seeing in the U.S. (However, I used those awful tide pods that people ate!). If my calculations were right, the powder is cheaper also---but I really like having a nice sturdy container--so will be figuring that out shortly.

Dish Soap in Costa Rica

Similarly, there is liquid dish soap, but most people use the paste. There are different brands, sizes, and fragrances of these dish pastes. I really really like them!!! If I would have not used my dishwasher in the U.S. and done my dishes by hand, I would have loved to have this available. Basically, you just rub your dish rag/scrubber over the top and you pick up a little of the paste and go straight to your dishes. It saves filling the sink with lots of water and dishes seem to go faster (or at least in my head)!

dishsoap costa rica axion
Dish soap cleaning paste

Soups and Spices

Many of the spices and soups come in packets. And many times you'll find you purchase 4 packets at a time, such as our Pico Gallo seasoning.

Alcohol

While maybe becoming more popular in the U.S., we definitely didn't see 1) Smirnoff in cans--usually glass; and 2) mixed drinks in cans. Bamboo brand is mojitos or rum/coke in cans. At one smaller store we saw the BamBoo rum/coke in a liter bottle, which we actually thought was just a type of soda a first!

Both the Uvita BM and the Supermercado have an air conditioned liquor room - it's like a liquor store within a store. The beer is kept in the main part of the store, but liquor, wine and specialty drinks are kept separate.

grocery shopping in uvita bamboo alcohol
Bamboo alcohol
grocery shopping in uvita spices
Spices sold in packets
liquor store uvita bm
Refrigerated liquor area at Uvita BM

Both the BM and the Supermercado have a large variety of liquor and wine to choose from. Wine and liquor are sold in refrigerated portions of the store, in both cases. Although the Uvita store will soon be 100% air conditioned (the only one in the whole area between Palmar Norte and Quepos).

Grocery Prices in Costa Rica

You will find that there are different products available at different stores. For example, we use a Pico de Gallo dry seasoning, which comes in packets of 4---however, in a can at the Supermercado, but not at the BM in Uvita. Surprisingly the BM in Palmar Norte does carry it?!?!

The store brand (we'll call it) for condiments at the Supermercado seems to be "El Angel", but it is "Banquete" at the BM. However many of the brands are the same, such as "DoniaMa" for white sugar; "Bimbo" for bread; or "Dos Pinos" for milk products. Typically you'll find a standard brand, but then one store will carry a different brand than the other store as an alternative.

In an effort to maximize our food budget, we decided to compare prices of our typical groceries between the Supermercado and the BM. What we found is that out of 74 items, 21 (or 28%) of the products were the same brand and price between the two stores. Of the remaining 53 items, approximately half were cheaper at the Supermercado and half cheaper at the BM. However, the price differences weren't significant. For example, Betty Crocker cake mix was .04 colones per gram cheaper at the BM; but Lengena Spaghetti noodles were .08 colones per gram cheaper at the Supermercado.

It should be noted that we did our comparison on the gram, milliliter, and kilogram level (for the most part). You really do

grocery shopping in uvita ketchup

Larger packaging does NOT always mean larger savings.

have to look at prices per measurement, as cheaper overall price doesn't mean cheaper and larger package doesn't always mean cheaper. For example, the Banquete ketchup (photo/left): There is one for 1530 for 610 grams, or 2.51 per gram. The larger size is 2140 for 800 grams, or 2.68 per gram.

Now all of our comparison don't take into consideration any sales that are going on; however, I haven't figured out how to determine if there is a sale before going into the store--like you would in the U.S. There aren't advertisements on TV or in papers, that I've seen (could be, but I haven't seen them. However, it might be helpful to take a laminated copy of the brand, price per measurement when you do go shopping, so you can check as you go.

Be aware of "freebies". Many times you will see a separate (maybe not even related product) that is included with another product. Sometimes it really is free---for example, once I received a 18 oz Pepsi with my 2.5 L Tropical ice tea and the price was the same without the freebie. But many times that may not be the case, so do your due diligence. These are our experiences grocery shopping in Uvita so far.

Store Layouts Are Different

What is interesting about the grocery stores in Costa Rica (at least in Uvita), is the layouts don't always make sense. For example, cheese slices may be found in multiple locations. You may see a case for local versus import brands (or some other weird segregation), so be sure to look around before finalizing your shopping. The layout can make grocery shopping in Uvita challenging, until you learn where everything is located in each store.

Typically, in the U.S. the butter is found with the other dairy products, but in Costa Rica, there is a separate "cooler case" for butter, which is found by the bread--way across the store from the dairy?!?! Or as you can see in the picture below, ice cream is by itself at the front of this store, but all the rest of the frozen food is in the back of the store.

There may even be a specially section, where there is Dijon mustard which is nowhere near the regular mustard.

speciality items uvita grocery
Dijon mustard is nowhere near where the other mustards are located.

Store Qualities

A couple things that set the Supermercado and BM apart are:

  • BM is currently expanding and will be air conditioned by the end of the year.
  • BM has a section for pre-made meals and rotisserie chicken which I haven't seen at the Supermercado
  • The specialty food section was found at the BM, but didn't see anything similar at the Supermercado

However, there are similarities in the stores also:

  • Both have an air conditioned liquor room (not the beer, but wine and liquors)
  • Both stores offer house hold items, such as towels, shoes, pans, plastic storage containers, etc.
  • Both stores have provided a "rebate" when spending over 20 mil. So far I've gotten 2 at the BM and 1 at the Supermercado; which were between 1200-1400 colones. You present the coupon receipt at check-out the next time you shop. Usually valid for 30 days. I haven't found a rhyme to it yet, as sometimes I've spent over the 20 mil and didn't get one.

Uvita Farmers Market (El Mercado)

Finally, the cheapest price for groceries may not be found at a supermarket at all. Uvita's farmers market typically has cheaper produce available than the grocery stores. The Farmers Market also has a wide variety of produce and other items not always available at the grocery stores. It is a good idea to add the Farmers Market to your grocery shopping in Uvita buying routine. Uvita's Farmers Market is every Wednesday, from 8 am - 5 pm, at the Salon Comunal Bahia Ballena.

grocery shopping in uvita farmers market uvita
Uvita's Farmers Market has a large variety of locally grown produce.

In conclusion, this post gives you some ideas around grocery shopping in Uvita, but how you approach it really depends how much time you have, how much time you spend, your budget, and if you really end up saving money by going to multiple stores--we haven't figured that out yet!

Let us know what you think and what your experiences are like. We're new here - and we're still learning!

Amy & Jason

CRLiving@OsaPropertyManagement.com

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alturas wildlife sanctary tour logo

Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary Tour in Dominical

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Earlier this week, we decided to take a Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary Tour, located just a few kilometers north of Uvita right off alturas wildlife sanctuary tour logo smallHighway 34. The sanctuary is a rescue and rehabilitation center for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. While the sanctuary tries to release the animals back into wild; there are many animals that are unable to go back into the wild, so they become permanent residents of the sanctuary.

The sanctuary was originally started up in the mountains above the town of Cortes, which is the town just seven minutes south of our house; however, the sanctuary was not able to continue at that location due to several logistical issues. However, an owner of a hotel had extra land and buildings and inquired on what he could do to help the sanctuary. So in 2014 the sanctuary was moved to it's current location between Dominical and Uvita.

The sanctuary will take in any non-domestic animal. There are five main reasons animals end up at the sanctuary:

  • Animals that have been electrocuted by the power lines
  • Animals who have been hurt on the highway
  • Animals who have been orphaned by the parents due to sickness/deformity
  • Animals who were unintentionally orphaned by people who didn't realize the parents were around (hence the need for more education)
  • Animals that have been previous 'domestic' pets.

Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary Tour Information

Typically tours are 15 people. When we signed up it was just the two us, but by the time we arrived, the tour had 17 people. The guide was extremely knowledgeable and spoke great English. We weren't allowed to go into the vet center, as they don't want any diseases to be transferred or to bother the sick animals. There was also the rehabilitation location and the baby housing, which we couldn't go see. We were only able to see the animals who permanently live in the sanctuary. These are typically animals who have been pets and now don't know how to live in the wild or they have disabilities and wouldn't be able to survive in the wild.

The tour cost: $25/adult ($32 if you want lunch), $15/kids (ages 3-12)

Below are some pictures of the animals we saw:

white faced capuchin monkey
White faced capuchin monkey

Photo below of sloths: 3 year old sloths--actually 2 there hugging each other. When sloths in captivity when they are little, they are given stuffed animals to hug, but because they were put together they hug each other all the time.

Alturas wildlife sanctuary tour sloths

3 year old sloths--actually 2 there hugging each other.

aracari toucan aracari toucan altura wildlife sanctuary
Aracari Toucan

Photo below: Spider monkeys (these two were about 75 years old, which is extremely old for them--so they don't move around munch)

spider monkey alturas wildlife dominical

Spider monkey

Photo below: The Amazon Parrot lived in a hotel for 35+ years and doesn't know that it can actually fly. There is nothing wrong with its wings and is kept in an open area, but it never flies away.

parrot at villas alturas wildlife sanctuary dominical

Amazon Parrot who lived in a hotel for 35+ years.

Below: Baby Scarlet Macaw who couldn't fly due to wing issue and does not eating the natural food, so can't go back into the wild.

macaw alturas wildlife sanctuary

Scarlet macaw (locals call them lapas)

Below is a photo of a Peccary - not related to the wild hog or any pig even though it has a snout like a pig---male was very 'angry'.peccary alturas wildlife sanctuary

Photo below: Scarlet Macaw mate for life and like a real live love story, one of the birds couldn't go back in the wild so the other one stays at the sanctuary, even though it can fly away.

pair of macaws alturas wildlife

Okay this was a white frog that was just on the side of the hotel building wall...not really in the sanctuary, right by here there alturas wildlife sanctuary frogwas a pond that had a large koi fish and at least 5 small baby turtles.

Nocturnal and Other Animals

There were a few nocturnal animals that we weren't able to see; hence no pictures. Those were a porcupine, kinkajou (also called honey bear; small and related to raccoon) and There was also a small American crocodile, but it was hiding in the water as it had just arrived a couple days ago, so couldn't get a clear picture. We did see two squirrels, but we've all seen those so I didn't take a picture! LOL.

Panama Owl Monkey

This animal is native to Panama, but it was illegally brought into Costa Rica over the boarder in a back pack when it was just a baby. Costa Rica was unable to get Panama to respond on how to get it back to them and into the wild there; so now it must stay by itself at the sanctuary since it's not native and also wouldn't know how to live in the wild now after so long. So sad really, since they are very social animals that typically roam in groups of 15+ - so sad for this guy!

Hotel Villas Alturas

I love animals, but besides the animals, the views at this hotel were AMAZING. You'll be able to see the whale's tail down on the shore (well hopefully you can see it!).

Tips about Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary Tour

A few things to note if you're going to visit: you can eat lunch there, but we didn't so can't provide any feedback on that. The volunteers were working towards the end of our tour (approx. 2PM) and it was slightly distracting and annoying as they were loud so it was hard to hear the guide. Not sure when they do the volunteer work (i.e. feed, water, clean the animals), but beware!!!

They do provide umbrellas, as you know it can rain at anytime in Costa Rica! However, they do not provide any insect repellent and there are lots of bugs that bite, so take some with you!

The path to the enclosures is a rock path which is steep both up and down, so ensure you're able to walk if you book the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary tour.

Volunteer Opportunities

They are always looking for volunteers to help out. In fact, several times volunteering was mentioned, but it was for a full week or, even months at a time. The reason for this is that there is quite a bit of training needed. I did inquire if a local could volunteer and it sounds promising(!), so I'm going to check into that. How amazing would it be to be around these animals once a week! Fingers crossed!

Comparing Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary Tour

This is the second wildlife sanctuary we have visited while in Costa Rica. The other one was the Toucan Sanctuary and Reserve in San Jose. While we liked the Toucan Sanctuary/Reserve in San Jose, we liked this one slightly better. The main reason we like the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary Tour a bit better was because it was more in the jungle and the animals' typical habitat. The Toucan one was in the middle of a residential neighborhood, which didn't have quite the same feel. However, both tours are well worth visiting and the entry fee is donated to the reserves to help these animals, which is the best part!

Contact Us for more information about this tour or other services

Amy & Jason | CRLiving@osapropertymanagement.com


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ojochal hiking group

Ojochal Waterfall Dreams…

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Last weekend my husband and I spent the weekend at a vacation rental house in Ojochal, that is now managed by Osa Property Management. We spent the weekend with long-time Ojochal resident Abigail (& her three kids) and another rental tenant (Derrick). After doing a majority of our work on Saturday morning, we decided it would be fun to get out of the house and do something. Abigail mentioned something about a waterfall in in the area that she used to go to as a kid, but hadn’t been there in 15+ years, so we decided that the group would go to the waterfall. Abigail couldn’t quite remember where the waterfall was, so she enlisted the help of her brother, Chuy, as he knew where it was. That’s where our Ojochal Waterfall Dreams begin…

ojochal secluded stream
Our walking “trail”

When deciding to go to the waterfall, we said we were going to leave the house around 10, but in Costa Rica time, that’s really 11! While we’re still at the house, Abigail tells us we’ll be leaving in about 10 min. When we come out to leave, she asks us if we were going to swim, since we didn’t have our bathing suits on…swim? I thought we were going to a waterfall. What I found out was that in Costa Rica any time you go to a waterfall, it means you’re going to swim in the little pond underneath the waterfall…that’s what kids do in Costa Rica…so if you’re asked to go to a waterfall–wear you suit and bring a towel (we changed)!!

We headed down the road from the house onto the main road of Ojochal and turned left onto a rocky dirt road right before the sign for the 2nd grocery store. Up and then down the hill, we arrived at a bridge going over a small stream and we park. hmmm??? I’m not seeing the waterfall, but okay he’s a local so he must know. Stay focused on the Ojochal Waterfall Dreams, I tell myself…

As we follow Chuy, he goes down a hill off the side of the bridge down into this stream and starts walking….what have I gotten us into?!?!

ojochal stream rocks
I know the rocks don’t look too big in the photo, but TRUST ME when walking over them, they feel 3 feet tall and are slippery!

We proceed to walk about a mile in the stream, which in most places is only ankle deep; however, there were a few spots where the water gets deeper and the rocks become bigger (and more slippery).

About this point, I’m thinking to myself:
1) This better be an awesome waterfall; and,
2) I wish Abigail would have mentioned that we were going to have to walk in a stream and that we needed to wear good water shoes to get there….(more to that story later).

Along the route, I sprain my ankle in between some of the rocks—and about gave up going the rest of the way. I wish I had been one of the kids who was being carried by Chuy and by Derrick!! My husband fell at least three times (don’t tell him I was counting and it was more than me!!). Thankfully, his camera backpack is waterproof.

ojochal hiking group

Chuy finally stops and all I see is this muddy pond….but guess there was this small entrance to the waterfall. Derrick, Abgail, and the kids all get into the water (my husband does for just a short period).

hiking in ojochal stream
Jason fell a few times, but still had a wonderful time!

The kids are having an amazing time playing in the mud; and Abigail and Derrick swim through the small rock through-way to the waterfall. Chuy and I don’t get in as we didn’t have our suits on.

Eventually the kids come out to have a snack, but are sent back into the water to wash the mud off. LOL. Finally, Derrick comes back and he tells us he walked 20 min past the waterfall, but didn’t see anything else exciting.

So here is the waterfall…

ojochal waterfall dream
My Ojochal Waterfall Dreams…came up a bit short this time.

Not even 5 foot tall!! We hiked through a stream and over huge slippery rocks (trust me they seemed huge!) to find that?! I asked Abigail, “This must have seemed big when you were a kid….”. She finally tells us (while laughing) that this wasn’t the waterfall she was thinking that we were going to…guess there was a miscommunication between her and her brother!! That’s good to see since we’ve had our share of miscommunication with locals as we learn Spanish LOL!!

Hence, this is why she didn’t tell us to bring proper shoes, as she didn’t remember walking in the stream, but on a path….well yeah…probably at the right waterfall. LOL!!

The lessons of this story are:
1) Be prepared for anything (i.e. water shoes, suits, and towels for any waterfall adventure; and,
2) This is the prime example of Pura Vida….we ended up at the completely wrong place, but we were with great people and if you go with the flow you’ll still have fun!

My Ojochal Waterfall Dreams are still alive!

Amy & Jason McIntosh


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uvita waterfall tour

Uvita Waterfall

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Uvita Waterfall

Costa Rica, and in particular the Bahia Ballena region, has many beautiful waterfalls. In fact, although there are several well known waterfalls within a short drive or walk from where we live, we are now just beginning to go explore them. Recently we were invited by Abigail Vargas, of Osa Property Management, to go and visit the Uvita Waterfall. Neither Lisa nor I knew where exactly this waterfall was, but when I asked Abigail what the official name of the waterfall was she said,"Uvita Waterfall. Everyone simply calls it that."  Ok! Let's go to the Uvita Waterfall! I've only seen one other waterfall in-person in my life, so I'm hardly an expert, but the sound, the power and the majestic beauty of them is amazing.

Based on Abigail's recommendation, arriving earlier in the day is advised due to the smaller crowds, so we met at 9 am in the parking lot. By "we" I mean myself, Lisa, our amazing Springer Spaniel 'Whiskey', Abigail and Abigail's four year-old son. We paid our admission fee of 1,000 colones ($1.70) per adult and kids are free (Whiskey was also free) and started walking to the waterfall.  We followed the cut-out path through the jungle for a couple of minutes, and with each step the roar of the Uvita Waterfall got louder, before arriving. Luckily for us, when we arrived, there was only one other couple there.

uvita waterfall vert watermark

Activities at Uvita Waterfall

This is the height of the rainy season so most creeks and waterfalls are flowing to capacity and are dangerous to swim in. However, although Uvita Waterfall was flowing powerfully, the pool below was calm and enjoyable to swim in. Lisa brought her GoPro video camera to capture some of our fun during the day (check out video below or click here).

Whiskey ran and enjoyed the cool water.

Abigail was a bit more daring than Lisa and I were...Abigail swam in the natural pool below the falls and jumped off a ledge about three feet over the water. There were other people (the Columbian's) who even climbed higher up the rocks to jump into the water. When I was a younger man I would have definitely climbed up some rocks and jumped in.

Meeting New People

As the day drew on Uvita Waterfall became a melting pot of people including locals, Columbians and Germans. This is very typical of the Bahia Ballena region of Costa Rica - a healthy and fun mix of locals and ex-pats enjoying each other's company. Not knowing Spanish had zero impact on our day and the few times I wanted to say something, and the facial expressions and exaggerated arm gestures didn't work, Abigail translated for us. Having Whiskey (the dog...) with us helped break the ice too, as everyone loves a friendly and happy dog running through and splashing in the water.  We were all eager to meet each other and learn from each other. This just does not happen in the United States too often.

By the way, the pictures don't to the waterfall justice. The roar of the water and surprisingly, the entire day was bug free.

So if you get the chance, talk to Abigail from Osa Property Management or look us up in San Buenas. We would be more than happy to show you Uvita Waterfall (really, that's the official name) and other amazing places nearby!! Pura vida!!

Lisa & Scott Norman

lisa and scott norman


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lisa scott norman costa rica living

Thanksgiving Costa Rica Style

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Thanksgiving Costa Rica Style

Sometimes, especially during the holidays, I miss my traditional food from back home. Thanksgiving is no exception - well, perhaps, especially Thanksgiving since catching up with loved ones around a large meal is what Thanksgiving has meant to me for years. This year was our first Thanksgiving Costa Rica Style.

Living here in the southern zone of Costa Rica was our choice. As we've mentioned before, we like the cost of living, more socializing with the Ticos than other areas, and the slower pace of life is what drew us here to San Buenas, between Chontales and Ojochal. That being said,,,,trying to find traditional style Thanksgiving day food is almost impossible!

Staple foods found back home, are not surprisingly difficult to find here in Costa Rica (flip the idea around: how many traditional Costa Rica foods does a typically grocery store carry in the USA?).

Lisa and I made our shopping list and then went out to find the ingredients for our typically Thanksgiving meal. We went shopping for cream of mushroom soup for my green bean casserole, any type of Stovetop stuffing,  and a spiral sliced ham...we went 0-for-3.

We did find a Butterball Turkey at the BM in Palmar Norte. They were all huge and only one price ….19,000 colones (~US$31). The decision was easy not to spend over $30 on turkey since it was just going to be Lisa and our neighbor Derrick to eat. So we went home with our normal weekly groceries, and some of the side fixings that we could find, and decided to plan for a Thanksgiving Costa Rica style instead.

On our new list we only had one destination on it: there is a local butcher just down the road from us in a town called Coronado and we were going meat shopping! Woo-hoo! Meat shopping! For those who remember watching the TV Show Home Improvement, I let out a Tim Allen-inspired-male-grunt-of-excitement and we dashed to the SUV.

The butcher cuts the meat "made to order" and we asked for a slab of ribs. He brought out this HUGE chunk of meat from the storage locker (it had to be at least 2.5 feet long!) and asked us how much we wanted. Using my hand signals, and over-dramatic facial expressions (I'm still working on my Spanish) we got exactly the amount we wanted. Next we ordered a kilo of ground beef - that was easier to order. Finally, we ordered six pork chops, each about 1.5 inches thick, which he cut to order. The entire bill was the same as the single BM turkey: 19,000 colones.

Supporting the local families here, and getting away from the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving was a wonderful, albeit initially unplanned, idea.

We got back home to the condo we are renting, fired up the grill and got to 'work'! Is grilling considered work? Look at how hard I'm working and how stressed out I look in the photo below.

thanksgiving costa rica style scott

So we should have enough food to carry us over until the end of the month, just without the turkey dressing and all of the casseroles of years past. I realize that for Costa Ricans it is just another Thursday, but with all of the turkeys and chickens running around the rural areas, I would strongly encourage them to celebrate Thanksgiving Costa Rica style with us next year.  I suppose if we had lived next to a Walmart, Pricemart, or other big chain store, this blog would not exist. We count our blessings and give thanks everyday that we live where we do, and for our wonderful opportunity to live here with amazing people and amazing wildlife.

Let us know if you'd like to join us next year for a Thanksgiving Costa Rica style. We will find you a place to stay and show you around our piece of paradise here in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica.

Pura Vida and Happy Thanksgiving!

Scott Norman

ribs on a grill costa rica
Happy Thanksgiving Costa Rica style


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costa rica drivers license vehicle

Getting My Costa Rica Drivers License

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Costa Rica Drivers License

For those who have been following our blogs, you must know by now that my Spanish is very limited. When there is anything that involves the government of Costa Rica, it pays huge dividends to do your due diligence ahead of time. That way, one will be prepared for most anything without any hiccups along the way. This is true for obtaining a Costa Rica drivers license also.

Getting back to my story, you just don't walk in and get a drivers license like you might in the USA. In fact, there are quite a few steps along the way that are different, and dare I say, smart.

The first requirement, which needs to be done several days in advance of going to the license bureau, is to find a government approved translator whose job is to translate your current (in this case from the USA) driver's license into Spanish. Keep in mind, although there are a lot of self-proclaimed translators that are available for most everyday help, when it comes to government documents it is necessary to use an "official" one. Contact us and we can recommend one for you, or you can do what I did, which was use social media to find one.

This means that whatever classifications you had on your state-side drivers license is the classification you would get here in Costa Rica. Since we live in the southern zone of Costa Rica in San Buenaventura, the closest office is in San Isidro de El General (or simply 'San Isidro' as the locals call it), located approximately 75 minutes away. We first spoke by phone and we were told what was needed.

  1. Copy of my passport and all of the stamped pages
  2. Copy of drivers license from the USA
  3. Copy of my cedula (note: a cedula is the official name of proof of residency in Costa Rica)

The total fee for this service was 15,500 Costa Rica colones (or about $25). Keep in mind: This is a necessary part that cannot be skipped!

The translators did their part and it was mailed to the Cosevi (another Costa Rica government agency involved with issuing drivers licenses), who then had it waiting for us at the licensing location. With a tracking number that was provided, I just handed the clerk at the post office the slip and out came a package with my translation.

The next step was to get a physical. That's right...before you get a Costa Rica drivers license you need to have a simple physical. What a great idea!  It makes sense that people driving 1/2 ton vehicles should have a minimum level of health.  The location was conveniently located across from the drivers license facility. There were several folks outside but they told me to go on in. In broken Spanish, I explained that I needed a doctor's examination "dictamen medico". I paid 20,000 colones (~$33) and was lead to a small adjoining room where I was examined. I had some simple, but important tests done including, vision test, reflex test, blood pressure checked, and listened to my lungs with a stethoscope. In all, it took about 10-15 minutes and after the exam, they said I was good to go.

So, I walked across the street to a guarded entrance. They wanted to see my passport, proof of medical examination, and cedula. This was all while the gate was still shut and passing items back and forth. Once let in, the usual "musical chairs" routine (a Costa Rica tradition!).

After visiting one office, was let out to go next door and pay the actual fee for the driver's license. This fee was 8 mil because there was a motorcycle and car endorsement . Went back to the gate, showed my paid documents and was taken to another room for more questions"are you a organ donor amongst others" and this went fairly well.

Picture time!!! Check out my great photo!

Walked out with a new Costa Rica driver's license and now legal to drive. By the way, they still get "rubber stamp" happy and stamped all kind of documents, some I got back and some they kept. The license is good for three years and there was no drivers test to take. It all very smoothly considering this ol' Gringo's Spanish??!!

Let me know if you want more information on how to attain your Costa Rica drivers license.

Scott Norman

costa rica drivers license

Here's a checklist of things that you need to do to get your Costa Rica drivers license:

  1. Copy of passport and all stamped pages
  2. Copy of current drivers license
  3. Copy of cedula
  4. An official government approved translator
  5. A physical and the subsequent document from the medical facility
  6. A little bit of patience
  7. Around $60 (bring colones)


Dominical, Uvita, Ojochal Property Management

Osa Property Management Experts  have lived and managed homes in the region for over 16 years. Not only do we live here, but we are one of the few LEGAL property management companies in the area with legally working, full-time, and fully insured employees (this protects YOU from potential legal problems also).

Our Team will ensure your property is well-maintained and actively rented (if you want to offer your home as a vacation rental).

We are focused on Hatillo, Dominical, Playa Hermosa, Uvita, San Buenas, Chontales and Ojochal property management.

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We ensure our clients, whether renting a home, or buying Costa Rica real estate to develop, have a positive experience.

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