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The good and bad of moving family to Costa Rica

By on December 30, 2015 in Articles, Travel with 5 Comments

Celeste and children Graham and Amara, pose on a Costa Rican beach as turtles emerge from the breakers to lay their eggs.

By Geoff Barry

The Barry family relocated to Nosara, Costa Rica one year ago (“Family moves to Costa Rica,” March 2015).

We are in the middle of a two-year adventure that we embarked on for cultural and linguistic reasons, as well as to have an experience that we can remember together for the rest of our lives.

Here is an update of the good and bad of our experience.


n We have found our niche in the tiny little coastal town of Nosara. Dirt roads, jungle, intense humid heat, huge bugs, monkeys, tropical birds, snakes and other jungle animals have become familiar and a part of everyday life. Howler monkeys are very loud animals. It’s amazing how after time even their howls fade from consciousness much like chirping birds or crickets.

n This September, we moved three miles from our first house into a neighborhood next to the kids’ school. This has as been an awesome experience for the kids.  There are 14 children between the ages of 5 and 12 on the block. Every day after school is a massive kid block party. Relocating to this street has been a highlight for the kids.

n Surfing. Both kids have recently taken to surfing and are starting to make progress. Being back in the water again brings me tremendous joy. I met several of my friends while surfing, which I do religiously from 7 until 10 every morning.

n One of the factors contributing to our decision to come to Nosara was the promise we would be able to interact with local folks. We have been somewhat successful in this pursuit.

I have come to appreciate that friends are made by finding common ground. The more facets of one’s life that are different than mine, the harder it is to form friendships. Not surprisingly, the early friendships that have been more successful have been with people whom I have had something in common, such as education or surfing.

Costa Ricans are very warm and friendly people. Still, I would say that local interaction has been challenging but marginally positive. Making friends with other foreign families from around the world has been easy and a high point of the adventure. There is an abundance of wonderful families with young children such as ours in Nosara.

n We have used our time here effectively to explore our surroundings including Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.

n The fruit is something that is so good that Celeste felt it should be added to the list of positives. Passion fruit smoothies are something we enjoy at least once a day and will be terribly missed when we come back.

n The kids have thrived here as we had hoped. Their days are full of fantastic activities including horseback riding, competitive soccer, rock climbing and paddle boarding. The kids’ success here has made settling in easier for Celeste.


n The relocation process was difficult for Celeste and the kids. Being away from home was hard for everyone, less so for me in part because I have travelled back frequently to Wenatchee for work. Celeste had considerable anxiety with her new surroundings, as did Amara.

n Even now missing home remains a factor at times for all of us (for example when we continue to hear about the massive snow dumping at Mission Ridge). Last month all of Celeste’s girlfriends went on a road trip to run a half marathon on the Oregon coast. It was painful for her that she couldn’t be there.

Amara really misses her close girlfriends from home, Graham his soccer team.

n I had hoped that the kids would rapidly progress in Spanish once they arrived. In reality their progress has been no better than at home.

They attended Lewis and Clark Elementary in Wenatchee, a bilingual school that did a fantastic job advancing their Spanish.

In Nosara, most of the kids were English speaking natives or at least fluent in English. As a result, English is the primary language at school in Nosara.

Modest improvement in Spanish from the kids has been a major disappointment of the trip. Celeste, on the other hand, has been taking classes and has solidly improved her skills.

n The safety of the area was in some ways less than we had hoped. While there is not much violent crime in our area, there is a tremendous problem with home robbery and local theft.

Car windows are frequently broken, particularly in the high tourist season, homes are robbed on a constant basis. The need to be vigilant is a constant concern and detracts from the overall experience.

n Costa Rica is unjustifiably expensive. We did not embark on this journey to save money. Nonetheless, compared with its neighbors Nicaragua and Panama, it is twice as expensive and no more stable.

If we had it all to do over again, we would have explored options in Nicaragua and Panama further. Costa Rica is very creative and relentless in its taxation of foreigners, making it a complicated and generally difficult place to spend time. Even for Costa Ricans, the taxes are very high.

n The infrastructure in Nosara and Costa Rica is generally very poor. Roads are usually in very poor condition, even in highly trafficked areas making travel within the country slow.

Our roads are dirt with a travel speed of 15 mph on average. Utilities such as electricity, water and Internet are unreliable and frequently unavailable. Lights, when working, brighten and dim continuously which rapidly burns out devices.

Part of the delayed gratification for us will be returning to the infrastructure that we took for granted before we left: beautiful roads, perfect and nearly free electricity, lightning fast Internet…

n Two aspects related to work have been difficult for me: travel and inability to fully participate as a member of the hospitalist team at Confluence Health.

Travel each way takes at least 24 hours door-to-door. It makes for a long and exhausting day. More significantly, I have not been able to be a part of numerous projects that I would have really enjoyed, such as the implementation of the new hospital electronic medical record.

n Tropical illness is an ever-present hazard. Rashes are an everyday problem, especially for the kids. Other tropical illnesses remain a concern, in particular Dengue fever, which has plagued many of our friends.

In summary, thus far the trip has been largely what we had hoped.

There have been significant stresses and difficulties, particularly early on.

By taking the risk of leaving the familiar, we have gained the experience of learning what it means to make our home in a Third World tropical paradise. Our family has been greatly enriched by taking on this challenge.

Time is passing very quickly now. We look forward to our remaining time and also very much to our eventual return to Wenatchee.


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There Are 5 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Touching story was quite a read for me

  2. Brenda Kennedy says:

    I really enjoyed your story. My kids are looking into moving there. My daughter in law is the logical one looking at all the things you wrote about on the bad part. My son is looking at the good part only. They too want to have their kids to get more fluent in spanish. Has your family been sick at all? What about groceries and housing with washer and dryers. They have 3 young kids and a graduating daughter this year. What kind of business did your husband go back for and how were you and kids while he was gone? My son has an on line golf business that his wife works with him? What do the flights cost? Sorry for all the questions,im just thinking out loud about all the changes for those 3 and marti his wife. Thank you so much. Brenda Kennedy

  3. Henry Laskosky says:

    Thank you for your experience the good and the bad living in Nosara
    Costa Rica. I very much fine your experience there very useful to me . I am uncertain what to do about moving to Costa Rica. I am 77 years old, retired and living comfortable near Scranton, Pennsylvania. We experience winters November to March and short days.

  4. Derek Jones says:

    I guess Nicaragua has proven to be a LOT less stable than Costa Rica.

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