Engineering, Building Codes, and Earthquakes in Costa Rica

Happier Than A Billionaire Bed and BreakfastCosta Rica Cost of Living Update: A high-end, thirty-inch stainless steel kitchen sink— $500. Anyone feel like sticking that in their luggage?

The biggest question I’m getting about building our bed and breakfast in Costa Rica concerns earthquakes.

“Are there codes you’re following?” they ask. I don’t blame people for inquiring. If you had the unfortunate experience of being caught in one, it’s something you’ll never forget.

We had a whopper of an earthquake a few years back. A 7.6  blast that was so strong, it felt like a bomb had exploded underneath us: a bomb that lasted close to sixty seconds. I was sure we were going to die while Rob was convinced we would live. What could have destroyed most of Guanacaste did not do as much damage as one might have predicted, and that is due to the strict earthquake engineering codes in Costa Rica.

When I asked my engineer, Alberto Solano, about my concerns over building a tremor-safe house, he reassured me. “Costa Rica safety codes are strict, and they are based on international ones that are also used in California. As you can see, we had a big earthquake and there was minimal damage.”

When we were digging out trenches for our foundation, Alberto walked me through the process. “There are a lot of calculations when building a house. What is the weight? How does it impact the soil below? It’s important you dig down to the hardest part of the soil. We want a strong foundation to avoid settling.”

In Costa Rica there is something called Tico Time: a more laid back way of living. “Manana,” is something you hear often when trying to get anything done. However, Alberto is not on Tico Time, and he makes sure that the plans for our house are safe and in accordance with strict engineering codes. I feel good that he is part of this process. Engineers are interesting people so I asked him why he chose this profession. I’m happy to learn he comes from a long line of Costa Rican engineers. Continue reading “Engineering, Building Codes, and Earthquakes in Costa Rica” »

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Building in Costa Rica

Building in Costa RicaCosta Rica Cost of Living Update: One huge papaya—$1.20

It’s been seven years, but we never gave up! I’m happy to announce that Rob and I just broke ground on our new home in the Mar Vista Community just outside Flamingo! But it gets even better: we decided to build a bed and breakfast so that others can enjoy Costa Rica as much as we do.

For sure there will be a pool, and Rob is already designing a garden with organic fruit trees. I would love to have an outdoor space for dining and barbecuing, and a patio off the second floor. My head spins with ideas, but I know how easy it is to get carried away with one’s budget. Rob and I have to be practical, but there has been nothing practical about our adventure from the start. Maybe for us, being “unpractical” works out the best. Continue reading “Building in Costa Rica” »

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5 Differences Between Expat vs Tourist Living in Costa Rica

Living like a local in Costa RicaCosta Rica Cost of Living Update: A six-foot yellow coconut tree—$12

I’m often asked for advice on how to travel like a local as opposed to a tourist. (It’s as if the word “tourist” is a vulgarity, one which summons up images of guys wearing sandals with socks or rocking undersized Speedos on the beach). I’m always eager to help but this is a tough question.

The answer is not cut and dry since it all depends on how long you’ll be here and what areas of the country you’ll be visiting. If you are only visiting for two weeks, it may be more difficult to accomplish the goal of living like a local. But if you are settling in for 6 months or more, you begin to understand the ins and outs of living in the areas you will be visiting. Continue reading “5 Differences Between Expat vs Tourist Living in Costa Rica” »

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Costa Rica Butterfly Conservatory Video: The Interview

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: New muffler (with labor and parts) for a scooter—$60

Do you enjoy butterflies? Do you like the idea of following a dream and starting a new life in Costa Rica? If so, you’ll love Glen Baines. A retired engineer, Glen made it his mission to regenerate an area of the rainforest  heavily deforested by cattle ranching. In doing so, he opened the largest butterfly conservatory in Costa Rica.

Watch our fascinating interview with Glen and learn what butterflies eat, why their wings are iridescent, and what it takes to keep them happy and healthy. And most importantly, what’s his favorite butterfly!

(You can read more about Arenal Volcano and Costa Rica in my latest book, The Escape Manual )

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Costa Rican Meal by the Sea

Fried Chicken CasadoCosta Rica Cost of Living Update: Fried Chicken casado by the sea— $5

We are getting near the end of the dry season, but at the moment things are nearly as dry as they can get. For locals this means two things: It will be very hot— and things will be very dirty—until the true rainy season is upon us. It’s this time of the year when unpaved roads become elongated dust trails. If you ride a scooter or take your bike to work, you’ll be inhaling a healthy dose of grit by the end of your ride. Driving in a car or SUV will not protect your nasal passages from the formation of clumpy dust bunnies either.

“Is dirt coming out of the air-conditioning vent?” I ask Rob while we’re heading out for lunch.

“No, I think it’s coming from the dashboard. Or maybe from the doors. Is there a hole in the floor?”

It’s not the strangest question. There could be a hole in the floor since there are tons of problems with our car. I think something is leaking and our transmission keeps slipping. I actually don’t mind the latter since it makes our engine sound like a Tyco Aurora slot car every time Rob steps on the accelerator. Continue reading “Costa Rican Meal by the Sea” »

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