Ten years ago, Robert and Mary first visited Costa Rica. We visited Nuevo Arenal and spent some time at Agua Inn B&B.

So when we saw some land here in Costa Rica this past January we didn’t hesitate – and now we are proud owners of property in Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica. Over the coming year we will design a house, break ground, and, in 18 months, move to Costa Rica and have a new place to live. When it’s done, we plan to spend most of the winter in Costa Rica and parts of summer as well while spending Spring and Fall back with family in the States.

And so begins the story at Javier ’s ( * ) suggestion, I’m going to write a blog (not as often as Tico Nuevo!) about how we go from “dreaming” about Costa Rica to living in a new home. This is the first installment. What I want to talk about here is really the decision making process – whatwe were thinking; what problems we saw; that sort of thing. I’m not a great story teller, but maybe this will help others who are thinking similar thoughts.

So … the obvious first question is: why Costa Rica? After all, the first thing you might ask is “why not Arizona?” Or Nicaragua? Or one of the Caribbean Islands? Etc. Etc. Etc. Why did we choose Costa Rica to buy property? And once we chose Costa Rica, why Nuevo Arenal?

The truth is that when you factored in all of the things we wanted in a second home, it was a pretty easy choice – almost “obvious” to pick Costa Rica.

And yes Lake Arenal, its temperature, 75 F year around, water view without being at the beach, property lake view, the Arenal volcano and the kindest – happiest people in the world.

After the obvious reasons to live in Nuevo Arenal we thought : First, we wanted to live somewhere that was relatively near to our home on the East Coast of the US. We still have family in the US with grandchildren, children, brothers, nieces and nephews etc. who we wanted to be relatively near to. We more or less wanted someplace that no more than 5 hours away by plane with direct connections to our home. So that cut down the scope of where we could go pretty dramatically. Europe was out; so was Asia; and so was most of South America. If not for this requirement, we might well have bought a home in New Zealand (which is a wonderful place) or Vietnam (another great place) but both of them take 24-48 hours to get to. That was too far for us, so we had only North America, the Caribbean and Central America to consider.

Then, of course, since this was going to be a winter home, it had to be someplace warm. No point in having a winter home that was too cold – so there went Canada out the window. And it had to be a place where we could get good “bang for the buck” – a place where our American dollar would be fairly strong and useful in purchasing services. We aren’t poor people, but we didn’t want to be living in a place where we felt we were scraping by. So that, pretty much, excluded all of the southern United States.

The next factor we considered was one that was, perhaps, more unique to our own predilections. We wanted to live somewhere with a culture that was different from our own; and also one that had a real, local culture that was not overwhelmed by tourists and snow-bird visitors. We’d been on many Caribbean islands and our general sense was that too many of them were flooded by non-local culture and too dependent on tourism. We also both have always enjoyed Latin/Spanish culture – the food; the music; and the language. In short, we wanted a place that felt like a different, but recognizable community – so that meant somewhere in Lake Arenal area.

Add two more factors – we wanted to be safe (so there went Mexico because of the cartels and some of the other more dangerous countries) and we wanted to be someplace with a strong rule of law. We were afraid that if we invested our hard earned cash in land and a house then some disruption in the civil justice system would wind up threatening that investment. In our worst nightmares we imagined being sued by some local over a slight and having our house expropriated. We wanted someplace where that wouldn’t happen.

And in the end, if you do your due diligence, there really are maybe two places that meet all these requirements – Costa Rica and Panama. And we fell in love with Costa Rica – the

friendliness of the people and their welcoming nature made it an easy choice – we didn’t even go and look at Panama.

(*) Javier is the only licensed architect around Lake Arenal, he also is a member of Team Realty Lake Arenal.