Embracing the Pura Vida Lifestyle: Lessons on Life, Building & Investing

life lessons from Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a way of teaching us lessons – of challenging what we think we know, what we think to be unchanging. Whether you’re here to invest or staying forever, the pura vida is going to serve up some lessons. Some will be hard-won. Some will be unwanted. Still others will be immediately welcome. 

It’s a journey – and one that I am so grateful to be on. And so, since I’ve been here (and had lessons handed to me) since 2006, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite lessons from life, building, and investing in Costa Rica.

Patience is a Virtue Worth Cultivating

When you live in Costa Rica, patience is a virtue we all must cultivate. While not an island, Costa Rica definitely operates (mostly) on island time: Ahora doesn’t mean “now” and mañana rarely means tomorrow. There’s always a line at the bank and the post office, construction timelines don’t often stick to the schedule, and start/end times are often just suggestions. 

Learning to adjust to the tempo of Tico time – Costa Rica’s relaxed approach to schedules and productivity – is a learning curve. For some, it’s a steep curve. And unless you already possess an abundance of patience – think extra patient by U.S. standards, then multiply it by ten – there will likely be moments that make you want to vent your frustration.

However, give it a year, a decade, and then a lifetime, and you’ll find that living, investing, and developing in Costa Rica helps you cultivate patience. Yes, there will be bumps in the road. Yes, you’ll have to readjust your expectations. Yes, you’ll have to update your development timeline. Yes, yes, yes – but it’s worth it.

Because, while the lesson can often be hard-won, eventually, you’ll realize that you’re better off for having developed that patience. Living here teaches you to roll with the tides, which is a life skill that helps you relax into the inevitable ups and downs of life. And by the time we realize we’ve adjusted, we’re happier people for our newfound patience.

Nature is Powerful (and that can be humbling!)

One Costa Rican thunderstorm is usually enough to redefine any newcomer’s understanding of nature’s raw power. As gale-force winds rip through the trees and set the roof rattling, as water falls in horizontal sheets (shut those windows!) and lightning splits the sky, you realize that nature is a powerful mistress and we are merely her humble subjects. 

Add to that active volcanoes, earthquakes, heavy surf, creepy crawlies, landslides, floods, and other acts of nature, and Costa Rica (and the tropics in general) reshapes how we interact with the natural world – including in how we build our homes, commercial complexes, and even our development infrastructure. 

For those who choose to stay and/or invest for the long haul, we learn a lot about how we fit into this natural world. We learn how to build and live in a world inhabited by insects, snakes, and arachnids. We give thanks for modern architecture, a breezy interior, and a strong roof – and then, for the lazy afternoon that allows us to enjoy a storm from the safety of our homes. And, yes, we do make a little time to sit back and enjoy the ride!

Natural Resources are Finite

To outsiders, Costa Rica seems synonymous with abundance: in almost every photo and video, the countryside is lush with greenery and teeming with 5% of the world’s total biodiversity. Smiles are freely given, and the sun is a daily visitor.

Yet, Costa Rica is exceptionally aware of how finite the world’s resources are. Without delving into a long history lesson, there was a time not so long ago when Costa Rica was on the familiar track of bulldozing biodiversity in the name of progress and development. In the 1980s, we made an about-face, looking instead to eco-tourism – then an emerging trend – as a means to restore, protect, and regenerate the country’s natural resources. Today, more than 25% of Costa Rica is protected.

Not despite, but because we’re now one of the world’s greenest countries, we are acutely aware of nature’s delicate balance. Our distinct wet and dry seasons make this balance ever more clear: toward the end of the dry season, when not a drop of rain has fallen in months, the aquifers can dry up. The ground is parched. In exceptionally dry years, our clean electricity (much of which is hydropower) becomes scarce.

So, we live in a perpetual state of both awareness of and gratefulness for nature’s abundance. We work to preserve and protect it (and we’re richer for this awareness). We build and develop accordingly, incorporating redundancy (water capture, storage, gray water reuse, solar panels, etc.) into our new construction

Don’t Take Water for Granted

With regard to the above – natural resources – the one that most often affects developers and everyday life is water. 

Costa Rica has two distinct seasons: wet and dry. During the dry season, especially in the midst of the driest dry seasons, when there hasn’t been a single drop of rain for months and the previous year was extra dry, it is not uncommon to run out of water. The dry season also coincides with the high tourist season, so the combination of limited water supplies and abundant visitors creates a tricky situation.  

The most responsible, forward-thinking builders, investors, and developers plan ahead. As I mentioned above, the best modern construction harnesses the best in modern knowledge and technology regarding water use, reuse, and storage to build in eco-conscious features and plenty of redundancy, to ensure not only water security in a home or building, but to preserve this precious resource for the benefit of the community. Water is precious, and it should be treated that way all year round.

Nothing is Constant

One minute it’s bone dry, and the next minute the tree tops are heavy with green. One day the waves are pumping, and the next day the ocean is a smooth as a mirror. One week town is bustling with visitors, and the next it’s only locals. One month the bougainvilleas are in vibrant bloom, and dawn and dusk are filled with the flutter dragonflies; the next month, the dragonflies make way for a new natural phenomenon that takes place as the season progresses and changes. 

Such is life in all regards, but perhaps nowhere is it more evident than here in Costa Rica. And the undeniable nature of this truth makes us better at the transition and adaptations, while also helping us think ahead and plan better for our futures. Beyond the personal benefits this brings, it also provides a very important lesson to investors and developers: plan for everything

Nature is an Essential Part of Your Well-Being

Costa Rica has consistently been ranked as one of the happiest countries on earth, and for good reason. In addition to having a relatively stable economy (it’s often referred to as the “Switzerland of Latin America”) and being a world leader in sustainability and conservation, Costa Rica is geographically stunning. The country boasts lush green areas and a vast amount of wildlife, containing almost 6% of the world’s biodiversity. 

Part of the Pura Vida philosophy involves cultivating a connection to the Earth and nature. Costa Ricans have a unique appreciation for nature, which shows in the many ways they engage with it: surfing in the morning, going to the beach to watch the sunset, taking walks through the forest, and more.

Moreover, many Ticos and local businesses are hyper-conscious of the effects that the environment has on the community, while working together to protect and preserve its balance. From installing solar panels to minimize a home’s demands on the grid (which is almost 100% green energy) to building wildlife preserves into new developments, there is much we can do to protect nature and preserve the well-being of our community. 

Less is More

I won’t lie: There’s only so much I (or anyone) wants to simplify. It’s specific person to person – my willingness to simplify might be different from my neighbor’s – but the unequivocal truth is that if you live in, do business, or invest in Costa Rica, you will experience some version of “less is more.” 

As a world, we live in an era of extreme consumerism. Through commercials, print ads, movies, television shows, and social media, we are regularly exposed to the idea that material wealth is a sign of success and happiness. The more you have, the better off you are. But as they say, money can’t buy happiness – and this truth becomes apparent when you are in Costa Rica.

Here, where it’s harder, more expensive, and much longer of a wait to order anything; where you have limited choice in building materials (or are required to import what you want); and – if we take a different approach – where tropical-modern architectural trends favor minimalism and clean lines, less is more. It’s often our only option. So, as always, we adapt and learn to thrive. 

Community Can Be Family

Costa Rica is a small world. Our diverse community is made up of individuals from around the world, and many of us who live here are far away from our extended families. That’s why it’s so important for many to seek a tight-knit, accepting, and caring community that feels like our family, rather than just neighbors.

It is this sense of community that makes Costa Rica such a special place to live. Everyone takes care of everyone. It is a place where we feel like we’re in good company – never alone or unsupported.

And with this in mind, when choosing where to build a spec home or how to create a successful development, consider how to create a community that will appeal to individuals from different cultures, religions, and backgrounds, who will find common ground, coexist in harmony, and enjoy similar recreational pursuits.

Create Your Own Pura Vida

One of the greatest lessons is learning that we can each create our own pura vida. A philosophy that reminds us to slow down, consider what matters, and roll with the tides.

Pura vida can be as simple as a smile and a new friend who invites you to be a part of their world. It can be a languid sunset over a stormy ocean. It can be as simple as having nowhere to be – or coming to terms with not always being where to you want to be (literally or figuratively). 

Your concerns, your priorities, your responsibilities remain, but pura vida often means learning to adapt to the unexpected, making changes on the fly, and accepting life as it comes. It’s a philosophy that not only invites us, but reminds us to savor the joy and happiness that life constantly gifts us, and recognize that you have everything you need right now.

This is my pura vida. What’s yours? 

Download Profit In Paradise: The Investor’s Guide To Costa Rica

Download Profit In Paradise_ The Investor’s Guide To Costa Rica

If you’re seriously interested in Costa Rican property investment or development, or simply seek to future-proof your build (and ensure a great resale price, when you’re ready), then you’re also looking to maximize your profit through smart building decisions. 

That means you’re just the type of person for whom I wrote Profit in Paradise: The Investor’s Guide to Costa Rica, my newest free eBook. This info-packed guide covers all the basics and beyond – from investment incentives and market indicators to the various types of investment, including property investment, businesses, and development opportunities.

Bottom line: There’s no one way to do Costa Rican investment – but there are wrong ways! So, whether you plan to retire here, manage a vacation rental property, invest in development, or dedicate your hard-earned cash to anything in between, your purchase is more than just a lifelong dream to fulfill: It’s a strategic investment decision. This eBook will help you make it wisely.  


Want to Discuss New Construction in Costa Rica?

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Whether you’re a buyer/seller, an investor, or a developer, you’re on the right track and in the right place. Researching the market, understanding Costa Rica’s new luxury, and getting into the minds of prospective luxury buyers is an essential aspect of the decision-making process. 

Hi, I’m Becky Clower, and the answers to your questions are what I do: I’m a real estate broker, agent, and owner of Blue Water Properties, as well as a real estate investor and developer. I’m also your expert and ally in this red-hot market.

I have the credentials – the HGTV appearances, the personal experience, the business prowess – to put me on the map, but what really sets me and my company apart is my expertise: I don’t learn from others; I learn for myself. I’ve built over a dozen homes, including two spec homes, and after selling out my highly successful Mango Walk project in just five months, I began developing two more projects: a 16-unit condominium development and a 12-unit commercial project in highly competitive Playa Flamingo.

Bottom line: I offer real, honest advice and expertise. So, if you’re looking for a broker, an agent, an investor, a developer, or simply a trusted advisor to stand by your side as you navigate your Costa Rican journey, however it manifests, then please get in touch. Let’s get started!

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