Thanks to consistent, high-quality waves and a variety of breaks, Costa Rica has been one of the world’s top surfing destinations for decades. It’s famous for breaks like Ollie’s Point, Witch’s Rock (made famous in the movie Endless Summer 2), Salsa Brava (site of many national surf contests), and Little Hawaii.
Peru is not on many people’s radar. It’s not on any top 10 retirement destinations lists; it doesn’t get much press at all, really. Mention “Peru,” and most people think of the wonder of the world, Machu Picchu, and…llamas. But during my recent visit, traveling the country, experiencing life there, and speaking with expats who call it home…I think I’ve discovered one of the world’s best-kept secrets.
As Peru is a big country, there are other areas you should consider, too. The following were on my list, but I didn’t manage to visit them during my recent trip. However, from what I heard from people on the ground, they seem to be worth checking out. And we’ll be checking them out soon.
Many folks dread the morning commute. But for expat Mike Sassorossi, his commute in the Costa Rican beach town of Tamarindo is a highlight of his day. Considering he enjoys views of a gracefully curving, palm-lined beach and of the vast blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean, it’s not hard to see why.
I’m sitting on a terrace set on an extremely steep drop, the misty valley floor visible far below. The surrounding mountains go all the way up to the clouds. Homes are set here and there, on small patches of flat land or on bits carved out of the hillside, among coffee plantations and farms. I’m high enough that the temperature is comfortable—in the 70s F—even though I’m firmly in the tropics. A sliver of the Pacific Ocean is visible on the horizon. As the sun sets, the ocean glitters.
I take the bend on the winding and steep mountain road, and a patchwork of forest, farms, and pasture is spread out on the valley floor far below. A river, with large rocks creating whitecaps, cuts through the landscape. Beyond it I can see Lake Cachí, glittering in the mid-afternoon light between the shield of pine trees that lines its shore. The tall, thin poro trees are in full bloom. Their orange flowers look like autumn leaves at a distance. They’re a favorite of local farmers, because when their nitrogen-rich seed pods fall, they act as a natural fertilizer.
If you feel “stuck,” stressed out, or trapped in your current situation, I can’t say that simply moving abroad will help you. But when you make that commitment… when you make that leap…something does fundamentally change inside you. You’re forced, in a way, to change your way of life. Your day-to-day routine changes. You’re forced outside your comfort zone. You feel a deeper connection with loved ones and new friends, and with your community. And soon a “switch” goes off inside you.
“What would we do in Wisconsin in retirement?” says Lance Koehler, reflecting on his new life in beachside Tulúm. “Go to the mall, shovel snow. Here I love the warm weather, the sun, and going to the beach.” Lance and his wife Jeanette have found more than their place in the sun. They’ve also found their place in the local expat community.
The hills are cut with steep, tree-filled river valleys, and peninsulas, capes, and coves mark the lakeshore. At 18 miles long and three miles across at its widest, the blue expanse of Lake Arenal, in Costa Rica’s northern highlands, anchors a region known for its laidback lifestyle. Here, in a place of perennial warm weather and volcanic soils perfect for gardening, you can find the small-town U.S. vibe of yesteryear. And at a highly affordable cost.
When you ask Jeanetta Owens what’s the best thing about her work and life in Costa Rica, it’s definitely the location. “I love it,” she says of the peaceful and beautiful town she calls home. “I love the people. They’re so giving, so caring, and so helpful. The people and the mild climate is what drew me to Grecia, and hands down is why I stay. Grecia offers a very tight-knit community where you will not find yourself alone for long.”