The Trevelise family of Steiner Ranch went to their new vacation home in Costa Rica in mid March and now three months later, they’re still there. The pandemic shut down flights, etc. forcing them to shelter-in-place. They have a flight booked for July 9 and they hope it doesn’t cancel.
Rebekah Trevelise, who runs a music studio in Steiner, recounts their adventure.
In January, we purchased a beautiful three-acre beach property in the little town of Los Pargos, Costa Rica (pop. 125). The town sits in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica which is on the northern Pacific Coast. Los Pargos is known for its famous surfing beach, Playa Negra (yes, the sand is black) and is part of a tropical dry forest where there are two seasons: dry season from November to April and wet season from May to October.
As a family of six, with kids’ ages ranging from twenty down to five, we had been trying to schedule a trip to our new home that did not conflict with the busy lives of kids’ activities, college schedules, business travel, and running a music studio. When our two college students’ spring breaks were extended, we all jumped on a plane to meet in Costa Rica on March 15. We haven’t been together on a family vacation in over three years.
Our little slice of paradise sits privately off a public side road and only a half mile from the beach. The property has two housing structures that contain three independent living quarters: the ranch house, the apartment, and the penthouse.
The main structure contains the apartment and the penthouse. When we’re up on the third floor, we enjoy one big open-air room with a kitchen, eating area, lounging area and a beautiful vaulted teak ceiling. It is the perfect place to enjoy the evening sunset while watching the monkeys traverse from tree to tree on our property.
Monkeys and blooms
Several trees on our property called “Cortez Amarillo” produce beautiful yellow blooms. During the dry season, the monkeys come to eat, stripping the trees bare of every single bloom. Fortunately, the trees just push more yellow blooms out a week or two later, and the monkeys come again. I guess they have a certain agreement between them.
When we arrived here at our property on March 15, our first big goal was to get connected to the municipal water which had now become available. There is an artesian hand-dug well on the property where we were previously able to access/use water on the property, but the well had “run dry” the first week of March. Therefore, we scrambled to get water.
After watering thirsty plants, I’m looking forward to seeing all the trees produce fruit! We have a grove of twenty-four mango trees, in addition to several lime, noni and starfruit trees.
In early May, the mangos were just showing the beginning stages of fruit production.
We’ve been told that the mango grove down at the bottom of the property by the creek will produce several thousand mangos each year, and the monkeys will leave us a few hundred.
We have a cashew tree on the property that is producing cashews, but we’re not going to touch them as they are poisonous and very hard to properly process for consumption. The coconut palms all over the property are expected to produce over four hundred coconuts soon!
Living with nature
Living with nature is an amazing experience. Bluegray tanager, white-throated magpie- jay, trogons, and hummingbirds abound making this a birdwatcher’s dream.
A large resident iguana lives in a drainpipe between the first and second floors. He’s a cool dude! There are geckos everywhere, and we hear them making a chirping sound at night. We see bats flying around at dusk when we’re up on the third floor. How nice to know they are around to help keep the mosquitos, ants, centipedes, and flies at bay.
Many species of ants take up residence here: large, red ants, winged ants, small black ants that stink when you smash them, teeny-tiny sugar ants, and army ants. The large, red ants love our clothesline as they need water to survive and are attracted to wet/damp clothing. It appears they also like to eat out the armpits of my husband’s shirts!
On one of our first nights here we were upstairs enjoying dinner and the sunset when our son nonchalantly walked over to the ranch house kitchen to retrieve something. After turning on the light, he walked in to find thousands of army ants all over the floor. It scared him understandably! We all worked at trying to sweep them out of the house, but that was almost impossible to do as they became tangled in the broom hairs and started climbing the broom handle.
After researching quickly on my phone, I learned how to manage these creatures which Costa Ricans consider lucky! They come to clean/eat carcasses of animals and food remnants. We decided to let the ants do their job and then literally an hour later, they were all gone. Every single one of them.
Adjusting to climate
Our bodies are learning to adjust and adapt to a different climate. The temperature here in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica are around 77 – 90 degrees year-round.
The sun rises around 5:30 a.m. and sets around 5:50 p.m., we’re all waking early with the sun. There’s no shutting it out here when all the windows are wide open all night! Since we wake earlier, we tire earlier.
We traveled here thinking we would be surfing every day at the beach for a week, so we only packed three days’ worth of clothing.
Fortunately, a washer came with the property. We currently hang our clothes on the line to dry, but have been told when the wet season starts, it will be almost impossible to get clothes to dry on a line. Looks like we could be purchasing a dryer soon.
Such a different way to live – with just the basics needed with no surplus.
Our diet has changed quite a bit, consisting of beans and rice with a few sprinklings of potatoes to mix things up. I cook a big pot of beans every 2-3 days. For dinner, we usually have fish, salad, and veggies. For dessert, my husband usually pan-fries plantains which the kids love with Nutella and peanut butter. What a blessing to eat freshly prepared meals together as a family!
There are several local, organic fruit and vegetable options. The local fruit guy lives within walking distance of our home, and the fish guy comes through once a week. We can hear him coming as his van has a loudspeaker attached to it announcing what he has for sale (I think – I still need to learn Spanish!)
We also have another fisherman contact that will deliver what we need. Surprisingly, my husband was able to purchase some vegan cheese and vegan butter that he likes at a nearby grocery store chain.
Dealing with pandemic
The president of Costa Rica has stopped all liquor/beer sales and has given curfews for driving. Not only is driving forbidden from 7 PM to 5 AM, except for essential workers with proof of such, but driving is only permitted certain days of the week.
The permitted day is determined by the last number of one’s license plate, so we can’t drive on Thursdays and Saturdays. Roadblocks with attending police are randomly placed, so if one is caught driving illegally, their license plates are immediately removed, vehicle owner is ticketed, and then the several hours ordeal of standing in line to pay $400 to retrieve one’s license plate ensues.
Early on it was so tempting to go to the beach and go surfing, but all beaches were closed until the end of April. Police were patrolling and issuing $800 tickets right on the beach to surfers and others wanting to still enjoy the beach area. The president of Costa Rica wants to prevent people from congregating, and it is working. The cases of COVID-19 here are minimal in the whole country of five million.
By now the rains have started (light rains every couple of days) and everything is turning so green and beautiful. Grass everywhere now instead of dirt.
Pros & cons
Sheltering in place in Costa Rica has been great for our family. We have had minor inconveniences like slow or intermittent internet, which can be frustrating, especially since I’ve temporarily moved my entire music school business online.
We have been able to tackle many projects like painting rooms, installing fixtures, and building additional furniture and accessories. My husband even built tree swings for the kids to enjoy. We have been enjoying outside activities together as a family every day: surfing (when the beaches are open), hide- and-go-seek, monkey-in-the-middle, playing in the sprinkler, soccer, and watching movies on the lawn. Inside, we have enjoyed cooking and eating all meals together, painting with watercolors, as well as playing Nintendo Switch and cards.
After one week here our two eldest kids had to jet back to our home in Austin to continue their college studies. They caught the last flight out of Costa Rica before the border officially closed and airlines pulled out. Our return flights to Austin continuously change with the ups and downs of the coronavirus situation. In the meantime, we are loving our new life here in Costa Rica. Pura Vida!