Costa Rica Cost Of Living Update: 2 liter Coca-Cola bottle $2.60

“Can I drink the water?” People often ask me this with a tiny glimmer of fear in their eyes.  It’s the look of someone who was once a victim of an unfortunate intestinal calamity while on vacation.

“I’ve been there,” is all I can say, for I too have fought in the parasitical trenches. Once you’ve marched through that proverbial battlefield, you will never look at an unassuming ice cube in your Coca-Cola again. Every icy glass of soda becomes a potential enemy. Therefore, it is understandable people ask this question when considering a visit to Costa Rica: Is it safe to drink the water?

The only time I’ve been sick in Costa Rica was after eating at a fast food restaurant; I’ve never fallen ill from drinking the water. Costa Rica does not have the problems other developing countries do, but that being said, it doesn’t hurt to take some precautions.

When we moved to the beach, we heard that you have to be a little more careful with the water supply here. However, I’ve never had a problem eating out at any restaurants in the area.  This is saying a lot since I am prone to getting sick before anyone else. I make myself useful at dinner; I’m a canary in a coal mine, the first one to realize that colorful shrimp dish everyone is eating has a shelf life that expired two weeks ago.

Nevertheless, my husband wants to make sure that the water at our house is as clean as possible. We now use a reverse osmosis filter that he lugged from the states. Rob has a lot of things for testing, treating, and filtering water. And in a way, it was his obsession with water that led us to Costa Rica.

 Years ago, we owned a 265 gallon salt water fish tank.  On any given day you could have found my husband on a ladder, bent over into the tank, and scrubbing algae off a rock with a toothbrush. It was one of these days, while he worked on his tank, I was reading a book about Buddhism.

“Interesting, it says that materialistic possessions often cause suffering,” I read out loud.

In a moment of enlightenment, Rob stood back up on the ladder, algae toothbrush in hand, and said, “I hate this. I wanted it so bad and now I spend my day off cleaning it for hours. I’m being held hostage by this fish tank. If anyone is suffering right now it is definitely me.” He realized we needed to eliminate some of the things that held us back from doing what we really wanted to do—retire in Costa Rica. This meant not only selling the fish tank but also living in a place where the reef does not need periodic cleaning with a dental device.

Every few days, Rob assembles a very sophisticated setup that involves a 5 gallon jug, garden spigot, and a reverse osmosis filter. It looks much like a moonshine contraption found in a hill-billy’s backyard. In 20 minutes, the jug fills with water filtered down to 2 part per million. It’s absolutely delicious and we never have to buy bottled water again. It’s easy on the budget, as well as, the land fill. It’s a win-win. Except when Rob needs to haul the heavy jug of water back into the house. But of course this does build muscle so Rob gets the added bonus of a workout.

One should always take precautions when drinking water in another country. But feel confident your trip here will most likely not result in Montezuma’s revenge. So enjoy your pina colada. The water is pura vida in Costa Rica.