Sunday, August 30, 2009

ExPat Finances: 3 Secrets to Keeping Your Expat Finances in Order

By Nick Hodges, President of NCH Wealth Advisors

At the outset, Kathy and John look like the average young family. They both work full time while raising their two children, ages five and six. Kathy worries about having enough life insurance in place, funding their children’s education, saving for retirement, and taking care of her aging mom in New Jersey. They own rental property in Florida and want to buy another home in New York.

However, Kathy and John’s world is more complicated than that. They are expatriates from different countries: John is from Ireland and Kathy is from the U.S. They have lived and worked abroad for over 12 years. Kathy hasn’t filed her U.S. tax return in a couple of years because the tax professional she used closed the practice. They have bank accounts in U.S. dollars, Euros, and Dhs. Kathy’s career changed this year when she moved from the non-profit sector into the corporate world, increasing her income three-fold. Neither of their employers sponsors a pension or retirement savings plan.

1. Taxes. For U.S. Expats, it always starts with taxes. Even though Kathy earned less than the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion during the previous two years, she still must file her returns in order to receive the exclusion. Kathy needs to bring her U.S. tax filings up-to-date as soon as possible. This is a critical year for Kathy because she will earn more than the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion amount. She will need to have a detailed tax projection calculated before year-end to evaluate ways that she can legally reduce her tax liability. The other tax landmine for Kathy is U.S. Social Security taxes. While she was working for the non-profit organizations, they handled the U.S. Social Security taxes associated with her wages. This year, Kathy will be completely responsible for them, and may owe as much as $15,000 in unavoidable U.S. Social Security taxes. Kathy needs to find a tax professional knowledgeable in U.S. expatriate tax regulations to help her manage these issues.

2. Future Planning. Kathy and John are conscientious savers and planners. They live well within their means and have some very good goals for the future. However, because their funds are scattered across several bank accounts worldwide, they do not have one place that they can monitor their entire financial world. We talked about ways that they can simplify this process by utilizing a secure, online financial platform that would allow them to connect and track all their account information in one place.

Kathy and John need to establish an organized savings schedule to effectively meet their goals. They need to:

a. Calculate their monthly expenses and set aside at least six months’ expenses in a local savings account.

b. Research the price of homes in New York and begin to set aside a calculated amount that will allow them to purchase property in 12 months.

c. Establish college savings plans for each of their children and begin contributing the maximum annual amounts to each plan.

d. Research the associated travel, shipping and other expenses that will be associated with their return to the States in five years, adding at least 20%. Then they will understand how much they need to save annually to fund their return without worry.

e. Start saving now for retirement. Since their employers do not sponsor a retirement savings plan, they should take advantage of the tax benefits of investing in individual IRA accounts. If they still have excess cash after maximizing these contributions, they should consider other investment products specifically designed to build a strong asset base for retirement, investments with special features and no surrender charges.

3. Protection. Like many stateside Americans, Kathy has legal concerns about her family. Her first concern is that their personal desires for their children and affairs will be honored in the country they live in. While I am not an attorney, we did discuss their desire to change the executors of their wills. I suggested they consider speaking with an attorney about creating a living trust for their assets. With a living trust, they can separate the duties of the trustees between who will be the fiduciary of the money and who will be the guardian of the children.

Kathy is smart to realize that they need life insurance to protect her children’s future should anything happen to her or John. Her employer provides a modest life insurance policy, but we determined that it is not enough to protect her family. John does not have any life insurance at this time. Where an insured lives and works affects amounts and costs of a policy. It is very expensive to use a U.S.-based insurance company to insure someone living and working abroad. When Kathy mentioned that she has personal contacts at Zurich Life, I recommended that she pursue placing policies with them: a 15-year term policy on her husband for $1 million, and another one for $350,000 on herself. The recommendations were based on the age of their youngest child, who will be substantially raised in 15 years when the policies terminate.

In conclusion, it’s hard for expatriates to find their tax and planning answers in one place, even though they need someone that can advise them on their entire financial picture. Kathy and John need an advisor that understands how to help them properly file their expatriate tax returns and keep them on-track with their goals for the next five and ten years. However, please consider your own risk tolerance and investments objectives and goals before deciding your financial affairs.

Thank you to NCH Wealth Advisors 714-459-7020, for this excellent article

All Securities through Money Concepts Capital Corp. Member FINRA/SIPC
11440 N Jog Rd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418 Tel: (561) 472-2000
NCH Wealth Advisors and Money Concepts are not affiliated.


Nick Hodges, President of NCH Wealth Advisors, provides US expatriates with the best tools, strategies and planning techniques to help expats manage their tax and financial goals and dreams on a day-to-day basis regardless of their location. To claim your free gift, ExPat Life Portfolio Kit, visit his site at

5 Reasons to Hang Out in San Jose

Let's face it, when you come to Costa Rica you don't exactly want to make San Jose a destination. I mean, there's so much more to Costa Rica. But then again... You'd be surprised about all the fun things there are to do in San Jose.

Since I love to host friends and family at my house and I live in the Central Valley area, I've been able to explore San Jose extensively. So trust me when I say that it's actually a fun spot!

1. Avenida Central
- I always start here. This closed off central street is like a promenade filled with shops and some-what decent restaurants. At one end stands the famous Mercado Central, in the middle is the elegant National Theater and at the other end you can hop on a bus going to San Pedro and other happening spots around San Jose.

2. Mercado Central - This is a must! The oldest and largest Central Market of Costa Rica is always full of excitement and activity. Hundreds of fruit /veggie stands, fish stands, butcher shops, poultry vendors, souvenirs and food stands occupy the indoor arena. You can enjoy a typical Costa Rican lunch while shopping for typical souvenirs to bring back home. Be careful though, pick-pocketers are on the loose and they will get you. Keep all your possessions as close to you as possible and even better if you leave most of them in your hotel room.

3. National Theater - This is one of the most beautiful and elegant buildings in all of San Jose, at least I think so. If you have a chance to catch a show, do so! The tickets can range from $2 - $30 and it hosts a variety of shows: dance, opera, symphony, and much more. Right in front of it is a great park filled with hundreds of pigeons so if you're equipped with kid, they'll have a great time burning off that extra energy running after them.

4. La Sabana Park - Every city has a grand central park and San Jose is right up there with the best. Sabana Park is amazing! With a huge man-made lake and a beautiful cemented trail that takes you all around it, you'll feel like a true local. I always get my son a horsey ride and then let him burn more energy off at the playgrounds. However, after dark it becomes a bit dangerous, so make sure you pack up before sundown.

5. Museums - That's right! Get some culture while you're at it. My absolute favorite museum is the Children's museum. First of all the building is impressive, but once you go in, you'll never want to leave. Even my five year old is stimulated for 3 to 4 hours! And if you have time check these out too, Jade Museum, Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, Museo de Oro Precolombino.

Thank you to Marina K. Villatoro, The Travel Expert Blog (all you need to know about travelling in Central America) for this exceelnt story and you can also follow Marina on twitter @marinavillatoro

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Want to volunteer to help the Sonafluka Community Development Project

Basecamp International Centers offers a number of worthy volunteering opportunities worldwide and many in Costa Rica.

If you have some building skills and want to volunteer to help the Sonafluka community development project have a look at the Base Camp International site here.

This is a particularly rewarding project as the volunteer will be a part of the community and actually see the contributions they have made.

Reasons to Visit Costa Rica

by Arthur P. Maxwell

We all love a vacation to the beach. But when you think of Costa Rica do you think of jungles, wildlife, and zip lining over the jungle treetops or just a leisurely hike through the jungle to amazing waterfalls. Well now you can.

Long after the abolishment of the Costa Rican army, Costa Rica still has one of the most politically stable countries in Central America. With its diverse landscape from the beaches to the Cloud Forest Mountains it allows you to experience both mountainous landscapes as well as the coast. Costa Rica has two coastlines, the pacific side and the Caribbean side.

Traveling on a shoestring budget? Not to worry, Costa Rica has many hotels to meet every budget. The country is safe and easy to get around in and everywhere you go you will find the friendliest people who are willing and eager to assist you. Many of the luxury hotels offer all inclusive packages if you want to leave the planning to someone else.

Despite the size of this small country, Costa Rica is packed with adventure. Whether you choose to explore the jungle forest of Monteverde, or just relax on the beach, you might find that your time here is not long enough. You can zip line through the treetops, horseback ride from the active Arenal volcano to the beach, and so much more.

Many honeymooners visit Costa Rica to just sip cocktails and relax on the beach. But for those who are seeking adventure, you have come to the right place. You can enjoy extreme repelling down a waterfall, hike to the Continental divide or just explore this paradise by hiking through the Rain Forest.

As we have said, Costa Rica has a very diverse landscape and with that comes a very noticeable change in season. If you choose to travel to the northern part such as Monteverde, always remember to check the season for the time you are expecting to travel. Rainy season is typically between October and mid November, but this too can change.

You can start your vacation at the amazing beach of Manuel Antonio. Lush forest and sandy beaches with amazing wildlife will kick you vacation off to a great start. Then head up north to Monteverde, howler monkeys, toucans and the sloths await you. From there, horseback ride to the active Arenal volcano for the finishing touches to adventure.

This country is full of amazing people that will add to your vacation memories. They are warm, friendly and always willing to offer a helping hand when choosing your next vacation destination. Whether you decide to hit the hot springs of Arenal or choose to travel somewhere off the beaten path, help is always there.

If I had to choose over a packaged tour or going it alone, I would choose the latter. Costa Rica is rich in scenery, back roads and amazing little off the beaten path places. Touring with a large structured group will hinder you for having the incredible experience this country can provide. Live outside the box and take the roads less traveled, there is where the experience is.

About the Author:

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Article source:University Articles

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Costa Rica - A Good Medium Term Investment Opportunity?

Join us for a Webinar on September 2

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

James Cahill from Costa Rica Invest will talk about Costa Rica, land in Costa Rica, development land, the Costa Rican economy and the future plans of the principal emerging economy in Central America.

James will touch briefly on Costa Rica Invests current project.

Judy Ferguson will be available throughout the meeting to answer all your questions.

Looking forward to meeting you there.

Title: Costa Rica - A Good Medium Term Investment Opportunity?

Date: Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Time: 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EDT

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server, Vista

Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.4 (Tiger®) or newer

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Costa Rica ranks no. 2 for foreign investment in Central America and the Carribean

Costa Rica has just been ranked as the number 2 most attractive country for foreign investment in Central America and the Caribbean.

It ranked just 3 points short of Puerto Rico according to a study “Countries of the future for Foreign Investment 2009-2010″. This analysis is conducted every two years, by the IDF Magazine, a publication specializing in the field of foreign investment produced by the Financial Times Publishing Group.

Local talent and the country strategy to attract foreign companies listed as the main advantages.

The evaluation included analysis of seven categories:
  • economic potential
  • human resources
  • cost effectiveness
  • quality of life
  • infrastructure
  • friendly business climate
  • attracting investment strategy

Invest In Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country open for business and particularly to foreign investment. The Costa Rican government and its laws specifically encourage direct foreign investment.

This attitude pro-business attitude is shared by the two major political parties and has been actively implemented since the early eighties. Over the past 15 years the continual improvement of conditions destined to attract foreign companies has been the "Costa Rican trademark".

To support this effort, Costa Rican Investment and Trade Development Board (CINDE), a private non-profit organization, was set up to assist and guide investors and companies in the set up of their operations in Costa Rica.

A further step on this effort was the establishment of legislation to provide significant tax and operational incentives to companies in export related activities. These particular incentives are: the export contract, the free zone and the temporary admission system, all of which include total or partial tax exemptions and expedite customs clearance services among other simplified operational aspects.

Costa Rican laws, regulations and practices foster competition and do not discriminate between locals and foreigners, for the conduct of business. The only exceptions to this are the entities that are constitutionally precluded from total foreign ownership such as telecommunications, energy generation and insurance. Tax, labor, health and safety laws are also business and investment positive and are designed to help rather than to hinder.

This investment-friendly climate and government policy of making Costa Rica "the Silicon Valley of Latin America" has enticed commercial leaders such as Acer, Microsoft, GE, Abbot Laboratories, Continental Airways and Intel Corporation to make sizable investments here, both financially and physically, with major production and distribution facilities.

Western Union has chosen Costa Rica to host its Latin American regional operations center.
Costa Rica is now earns more from high technology exports (electoronics, pharmaceuticals and software) than from coffee, bananasm, pineapples or even its lucrative, thriving tourism industry.

The World Bank has given Costa Rica an excellent bill of overall political and economic health. The bank lauded the country as possessing "one of the most stable and robust" democracies in Latin America. It went on to praise the Costa Rica's "healthy economic growth rate" and "some of the best social indicators" on the continent.

The Economist Intelligence unit in March of this year listed Costa Rica as the 7th most politically and socially stable country on the planet - an ideal country in which to invest.

According to a report issued by the CINDE, thirty multinational firms set up new offices in Costa Rica in 2008, bringing $428 million in investment. A number of IT multinational companies (Intel, Microsoft) and pharmaceutical multinational companies (Abbot Laboratories, Johnson, Merck Sharp and Dome) have set up production units in Costa Rica. Companies such as Procter and Gamble, HP and Dell have also installed their regional customer service offices for the American continent in San José. In addition an important high quality textile industry has been developed.

The government maintains an open environment towards foreign investment especially in the high technology end. Generally speaking, foreign investment is concentrated in manufacturing (45%) and agriculture (25%, mainly banana and coffee interests). Other investments are placed in the railways, tobacco, communications, airlines, government bonds, and real estate. The US, Costa Rica's major foreign investor (78% in 1998), has interests chiefly in computer chip manufacturing, agriculture, petroleum refining, and distribution, utilities, cement, and fertilizers. The continued high level of trade with the US has been conducive to private foreign investment, especially in export industries. Investment incentives include constitutional equal treatment guarantees and free trade zones. Foreign direct investment in Costa Rica in 1998 was $530 million, or 5% of GDP.

Another industry that has been strongly flourishing in Costa Rica is the opening of medical equipment manufacturing companies. Foreign investors have not only found that Costa Rica’s political environment is stable and offers attractive incentives, but that the workforce is one of the most highly educated in the region.

Foreign investment is also strong in the real estate and hospitality industry. Costa Rica hotels have grown to include large exclusive beach resorts in the Northern Pacific Coast visited by high profile business people and Hollywood stars.

Costa Rica has enjoyed an average income that is among the highest in the region. And Costa Rica enjoys the fame as the Safest Latin American Country for Multinational Investment.

Now Costa Rica has already done so much and is ripe for foreign investment politically and physically. Costa Rica is building a competitive advantage for itself and the many high-tech companies who have chosen or are pondering the option to operate here. It is a country at a turning point in integrating itself into the modern world economy.

Costa Rica - the principal emerging economy in Central America

Crocodile Crazy

When you thing corcodile, what do you think - warning, danger, death or serious injury. I sure the words friendly, safe, playful pet don't come to mind.

But as an old Chinese saying goes, "nothing is really strange in a world as great as this" and in Costa Rica we have a man who incredibly has a pet friendly crocodile.

Known as the 'Crocodile Man', Chito Loco performs a weekly show in Siquirres, Costa Rica with Pocho, an enormous crocodile. The animal lover Chito swims, plays and even feeds Pocho, the giant crocodile. This is one of the world's most unlikely friendships.

Wading chest-deep through the green water in a 100 sq/m lake in Siquirres, this bizarre and dangerous spectacle draws tourists from around the world.

Calling quietly for his five meter long 'companion' before thrashing around, lifting his tail and head above the water.

'This is a very dangerous routine but Pocho is my friend and we have a good relationship,' says 52-year-old Chito. 'He will look me in the eye and he does not attack me". 'It is too dangerous for anyone else to come in the water. It is only ever the two of us.'

The bizarre friendship began nearly 20 years ago when Chito rescued the 980-pound crocodile after finding him close to death on the shore of the Parismina River, in the Caribbean province of Limon.

When I heard the story it reminded me of the Chinese proverb / fairytale- once upon a time, an old peasant met a snake in winter. The snake was freezing and the peasant feeling sorry for the snake decides to save the snake. So he takes the snake home and gives him warmth. However, when the snake gets enough power to attack, it bites its saviour and the peasant dies. The lesson learned is that sometimes an animals nature just cannot be changed

I just worry that Chito one day may become lunch for Pocho. A lot of friends on the website share the view that he will be the crocodile’s lunch one day and say the lunch issue is just a matter of time.

Seeing the man enjoy giving his dangerous 'companion' kisses and cuddles, I’m, however, somewhat moved. Humans have had very tenuous relationships with so called dangerous animals, like crocodiles and sharks; we kill them when we can while they attack us when we are near.

Is Chito Loco the exception that proves the rule?.

Peter Zhang (August 2009)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Health Care in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica has one of the best health systems in Latin America. In addition to National Health care Private Health care is also available, very affordable, and high quality. Many doctors speak English and have received training in Europe, Canada, or the U.S.

There are three large, private hospitals that most expatriates use: CIMA hospital in Escazú, Clinica Biblica in San José, and Clinica Católica in San José-Guadalupe.

Statistics from the World Health Organization place Costa Rica in the top country rankings in the world for long life expectancy even though the per-capita income of Costa Ricans is about one-tenth that of the U.S. and the U.K. Arguably, one reason for this is the slower pace of living in Costa Rica combined with a healthy diet and a great climate. Costa Rica just seems to be a healthy place to live.
Costa Rica's Government-Run Health Care System

With a government-sponsored network of more than 30 hospitals and more than 250 clinics throughout the country, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) has primary responsibility for providing low-cost health care services to the Costa Rican population. Although sometimes overburdened, this system has worked well for Costa Ricans for the past 60 or so years.

This medical care is open not just to Costa Rican residents but the CCSS provides affordable medical service to any foreign resident or visitor. Foreigners living in Costa Rica can join the CCSS by paying a small monthly fee--based on income--or they can buy health insurance from the state monopoly Instituto de Seguro Nacional (INS), valid with over 200 affiliated doctors, hospitals, labs, and pharmacies in the private sector.

Costa Rica's Private Health Care System

Many of the country's highly trained physicians and some dentists work in the mornings for the CCSS and operate their own offices and clinics in the afternoons and evenings. While private health care in Costa Rica is more expensive than that offered by the same doctors and surgeons through the CCSS, the price is still far below that of the average office visit in the U.S. For example, a private office visit to almost any medical specialist costs around $40. Continued treatments for diagnosed problems will vary, but will almost always be considerably less than comparable treatment in the United States and Europe. Dental work, too, is provided at a much lower cost than in the U.S. and Europe.

The low costs and quality of care have proompted a boom in “health tourism.”

Cosmetic & Re
constructive Surgery

Costa Rica has long been a destination of choice for those in search of the Fountain of Youth. Many of the plastic and reconstructive surgeons in Costa Rica have been trained and board certified in the USA and Europe and they provide their talented services to thousands of satisfied patients year after year at a fraction of the costs of similar treatments in the USA or Europe.

Dental Care & Surgery

Foreign patients, seeking periodontal work and dental implants arrive in Costa Rica in greater numbers every month. Cost per implant, is between $750 and $850. Laboratory work here is much cheaper, but the materials used are all FDA approved and imported from the States.

Legendary Investor Kaufmann looks to Costa Rica

It has been widely reported in the press that legendary investor Henry Kaufmann is investing heavily in Costa Rica.

Kaufmann originally made his reputation as a bond trader and dealer. Specifically he is best known as a contrarian investor - when other investors run for cover, Kaufmann looks for investment opportunities.

In the 1970's Con Edison was in serious trouble. Kaufmann bought their bonds at 30% of face value. The authorities said they would let New York go dark rather than help bail out the troubled electricity company. Of course New York's lights stayed on, the bonds didn't default and Kaufmann made fortune.

As Kaufmann's wealth has grown, so have his property interests.

He bought extensive properties in Soho New York at distressed pricing of US$30 per square foot and sold them on at US$200 per square foot.

Now Kaufmann has stated that he believes market volatility and low property prices are to stay in the USA. As a result he is looking elsewhere for his investment opportunities and his investment country of choice is Costa Rica.

It is extensively reported that Kaufmann believes that Costa Rica will become a huge market for retirees who want good weather, low cost of living and excellent medical care at a fraction of the costs in the U. S. and Europe.

As a result of these retirees and expatriates Kaufmann expects Costa Rica to double gross national product during the next 20 years.

Whilst other investors sell their foreign property interests to cover the losses on their local property (US and European) interests, Kaufmann feels the opportunities lie outside of these markets and specifically in Costa Rica.

And Kaufmann is not alone in these expectations - he joins Steve Case (AOL founder), Mel Gibson, Madonna, Oprah Winifrey and many others who have extensive property interests in Costa Rica.

Finca Di Pacifio Dos offers an incredible opportunity to benefit from land prices increases in Costa Rica. Teak growing on your land provides a secure return whilst the land has the potential to see spectacular increases.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Maps of Costa Rica

Need to find your way in Costa Rica. Below are a range of great sites offering different types of map to help you find your way: - beach map of Costa Rica with some great photos - detailed road maps of Costa Rica - detailed maps of tourist destinations in Costa Rica, showing hotels and resorts

Maptak - detailed Costa Rica maps tourist maps of Costa Rica, showing hotels, national parks, tourist attractions.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Costa Rica Geography and Climate

Costa Rica is located on the Central American isthmus, 10° North of the equator and 84° West of the Prime Meridian. It borders both the Caribbean Sea (to the east) and the North Pacific Ocean (to the west), with a total of 1,290 kilometers (800 mi) of coastline, 212 km (132 mi) on the Caribbean coast and 1,016 km (631 mi) on the Pacific.

Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north (309 km or 192 mi of border) and Panama to the south-southeast (639 km or 397 mi of border). In total, Costa Rica comprises 51,100 square kilometers (19,700 sq mi) plus 589 square kilometers (227 sq mi) of territorial waters.

The highest point in the country is Cerro Chirripó, at 3,820 metres (12,500 ft), and is the fifth highest peak in Central America. The highest volcano in the country is the Irazú Volcano (3,431 m or 11,260 ft). The largest lake in Costa Rica is Lake Arenal.

Costa Rica also comprises several islands. Cocos Island (24 square kilometers/9.3 square miles) stands out because of its distance from continental landmass and also because of its incredible marine biodiversity (PADI the diving organisation ranks it as the number 1 dive destination in the world) 300 mi (480 km) from Puntarenas, but Calero Island is the largest island of the country (151.6 square kilometers/58.5 square miles).

Costa Rica protects 25% of its national territory within the Protected Areas system. It also possesses the greatest density of species in the world.

Costa Rica is a tropical country, situated between 8° and 11° North latitude, fairly close to the equator. In the mountains above 2000 meters you get much cooler temperatures but the average annual temperature for most of the country lies between 21.7°C (71°F) and 27°C (81°F). The coolest months are from November through January, and the warmest from March through May. San José, the capital, where over a third of the population lives, stands at approximately 1170 meters altitude and has a mean annual temperature of 20.6°C (69°F).

The nation's climate is classically divided into two major seasons: rainy and dry. The dry season runs from January through May and the rainy season from May to November and December. Locally, the seasons were named by the early Spanish colonizers, who compared them to their own Mediterranean climate, calling the dry months "verano" or summer, and the rainy, grey and gloomy months "invierno" or winter. It is interesting to note that some of the coldest temperatures are registered during the early dry season or "summer".

Because Costa Rica is located only about eight degrees north of the equator, the climate is tropical year round. However, this varies depending on elevation and rainfall. Therefore, it is greatly affected by the geography of Costa Rica. The Caribbean (northeast) slopes of the Central Cordillera mountains receive the most rain with an annual rainfall of over 5,000 mm. Humidity is also higher on the Caribbean side than on the Pacific side.

Both coastlines of Costa Rica have an abundance of beaches, though the Pacific strands are generally both less developed and less spacious. Between the coasts, the interior of the country is shaped by four mountain ranges, which run from North to South. The capital, San Jose, rests roughly in the nation's center, settled within a highland valley. Cascading down to the Caribbean from the central mountains are Costa Rica's many great rivers, including the Reventazon. The Pacific side is marked by two broad peninsulas that hook out into the Pacific, the Nicoya and the Osa. It is a geographic curiosity that their shapes are almost identical, the Osa being a smaller rendition of the Nicoya.

Demonstrating an environmental sensitivity unparalleled elsewhere, Costa Ricans have set aside one quarter of their land as protected areas and national parks. Ecotourists are rewarded with botanical and animal marvels found nowhere else on Earth. Although Costa Rica is best known as an invaluable refuge for nature, this small nation is also a haven of peace with no army, more teachers than Police and a Ministry of Peace.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Backpacking Across Costa Rica

by Johnny C.,

Perhaps one of the most romantic, adventurous and exciting parts of growing up is taking a trip to Central America. The depth of experiences and the heights of excitement that this continent provides for young budget travelers and backpackers are simply awe-inspiring.

Costa Rica is one of the countries in Central America that attracts backpackers and enthusiastic travelers from all over the world. And it is hardly surprising, really, given the gamut of things to do and see here, from lying on the beaches to dancing in the cities. Costa Rica is defined by its beauty and its fun-loving attitude; traveling here is all about experiencing how life really should be lived.

Here, then, are some of the things that a budget traveler or a backpacker simply must experience while staying in Costa Rica.

The Beaches
With the Pacific Ocean to the West and the Caribbean to the East, Costa Rica is blessed with a huge number of absolutely breathtaking beaches. You do have to find them, however: Costa Rica's more frequented beaches (such as those around San Jose) are also its worst. Far better are the deserted and isolated idyllic spots tucked away along its coastlines. So be prepared to travel a bit in order to find your perfect beach in Costa Rica!

Rafting in Costa Rica:
For the adventurous backpacker, intent on doing something wild, a rafting trip down the Chorro Section of the Naranjo River is one of the most adrenaline-pumping activities the country has to offer. Not for the feint hearted, this wild rafting trip is an experience to reckon with.
If white water rapids are not your cup of tea, a rafting trip along the calm waters and beautiful surrounding scenery of the Penas Blancas river is probably a better bet.

Mountain biking:
Costa Rica is a mountainous place, which makes it great for mountain biking. Experienced bikers particularly enjoy the country's volcanic areas, as they provide fun - if at times testing - rides. The dirt road that lies between the Irazu Volcano and the Turrialba Volcano is a particular favorite.

Explore San Jose:
A trip to Costa Rica is incomplete without experiencing the capital, San Jose. This is a city that has the classic Central American flavor - evocative and vibrant; it will catch you in its net of color and spin you around until you're immersed in its web of fun. Life here isn't always an easy ride though; by day San Jose is as big and noisy a city as you will find in these parts. Still, the nightlife makes it all worthwhile!

While spending time here, San Hose hostels are probably the best place to put up in. Clean, comfortable, fun and cheap, they make for a good base form which to explore the city.
Hostel 1110, for example, is a long standing favorite with the backpacking crowd. Located near the Avenida Central, this hostel offers a wide range of facilities at a very decent price. Costa Rica Backpackers is also an ideal hostel for budget travelers and students who are backpacking in Costa Rica (especially those on the lookout for a party).

Before settling down and becoming a copywriter for Jonny Cooper did a backpacking tour of Costa Rica and he checked out a variety of hostels in Costa Rica and San Jose hostels

Article Source:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Surfing Costa Rica Style

If you’re a surfing fan, you’ll know the Billabong World Surfing Games Costa Rica 2009 is going on right now in Playa Hermosa, Jacó’s black-sanded southern neighbor. To score such an honor, Costa Rica beat out other popular surfing destinations like Brazil and South Africa and is bringing the world’s best surfers to Costa Rica’s Pacific shores.

With long pristine coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Costa Rica offers a variety of breaks and excellent waves in one of the most gorgeous settings in the world. Besides warm water, consistent year round surf, affordable prices and easy access to breaks, Costa Rica also boasts friendly people, international surfing tournaments (and now the world surfing games) and great surf camps. This is a destination for beginners and expert surfers alike. Costa Rica is home to world-ranked surfer Federico Pilurzu and the Costa Rican team were the 2008 Central American Surf Team Champions, The team included Luis Vindas, Gilbert Brown, Lisbeth Vindas and Nataly Bernold.

Costa Rica is sometimes called "the Hawaii of Latin-American surfing" because of the thousands of beach breaks and tons of oceanfront. Rivers galore offer lots of river mouth breaks especially on the Pacific coast. On the Caribbean side, there are great reef breaks. Costa Rica is small and you can easily switch to another break if once isn’t working for you.

Costa Rica culture supports surfing culture, with surf shops, board rentals, bars, restaurants, hotels.

Costa Rica continues to grow as one of the world's top surf destinations is because it is one of the few destinations where travelers can feel safe exploring any part of the country.

Some of the most famous surfing spots are:

Tamarindo remains the most popular and well known "surfing Mecca" on the northern pacific coast. This area offers easy access to a wide variety of surf breaks for all abilities including beach, river mouth and of course, reef breaks such as Witches Rock and Ollie’s Point.

Santa Teresa - a surfer and beach lovers dream. This long stretch of untouched beach continues on to Mal Pais and Playa Catalina offering some of the best surf breaks in the country. If you have the time to make it out here it is a true treat. The water is about 80 degrees year round and the sunsets are spectacularly beautiful.

Playa del Coco - whilst Coco beach isn’t for surfing, it is the best jumping off point to get to the infamous Witch’s Rock - an area known by a tall island formation just off the coast that houses the best waves in Costa Rica.
Samara and Nosara - these beaches on the Pacific side of The Nicoya Peninsula are less crowded than some of their northern neighbors, but serve as a great place for beginners to try some smaller waves. Nosara is more laid back and relaxed than its busy neighbor to the north, Tamarindo, while boasting world class surf almost all year.

Playa Hermosa and Jaco - this area is for extreme surf enthusiasts. This area arguably offers the most consistent year-round surf with over 3 ½ miles of steep beaches with excellent exposure to swells from almost any direction. Although this area is extremely popular, there are so many peaks up and down the beach that you can find an uncrowded, head high peak at almost any time of year. Playa Jaco located just 2 hours drive from the international airport