• Ron Snell

Nothing to do and You Won't Get it all Done

If you are thinking about retiring in southern Costa Rica, you are most likely wondering what there is for retirees to do here.

In one sense, simply asking the question is a reflection on our home cultures, where it isn’t uncommon to have to find entertaining things to do because what we do for fun is different from whatever else we do. But what if you were in a place where whatever else you do is part of the fun? It changes everything.


There are certainly “things to do here.”


Go to the beach to surf, walk, read, hangout, swim. There are several gorgeous beaches and nothing is as beautiful as sunrise or sunset at the beach.

Walk for exercise. Most places where you’d be living, the roads are rural and hilly. Starting moderately, you will be pleased at how quickly you get conditioned to walk up and down the hills surrounded by utter beauty, taking time to gasp and gape at blue morphos, monkeys, rain bursts, cloud formations, flowers and so much more. Walk with friends to catch up on the latest, or by yourself to find deep peace and heavy breathing.


Take classes. A weekly yoga class will put you in touch with other pretzels of like mind. Surfing classes will motivate you to try something that your husband never thought you’d do. Standup paddling, kayaking, SCUBA, Spanish, tennis, gardening, cooking, ballet…keep your eyes open and you’ll be surprised at what’s being taught.


Volunteer. As with anywhere else in the world, there are always opportunities to become involved in the community as a volunteer. Teach English. Adopt rescue animals. Join a crime prevention team. Help raise funds for the lifeguards. Be a member of the water or road committee. Show up and find your niche, or show up and someone will find it for you.

Explore the country. Costa Rica is a small country, so you can visit different places pretty easily. Hit San Jose for dance, theatre or concerts. Go to Monte Verde for cloud forest, Guanacaste for dry savannah, Tortuguero for Caribbean turtle sightings, and the Panama border for snarled traffic and inexpensive alcoholic beverages, which isn’t the best combination.


Beyond the things to do, we believe you will find that the richest part of being here is reclaiming your own life. You will almost automatically and inevitably get closer to who you are and the world around you. Here are some examples:


Shopping for groceries becomes an enriching experience. You don’t just race through the process as if it were a hateful chore. At the farmer’s market in San Isidro on Thursdays or in Dominical on Fridays or in Uvita on Saturdays, you have choices of vendors and produce. You smell it, feel it, talk about it, negotiate for it. Maybe it takes half a day to go buy fruit, but when it’s over you have a memory that you can’t wait to share. Instead of dulling your senses, it brings them to life.


Producing your own groceries is irresistible. Inexpensive labor means that you can get help for the hard parts, but when all is in place, there is something enchanting about watching your fruit, vegetables and herbs growing. You will want to learn more, try different methods and plants, collect cuttings from friends. In this part of the world, it’s always growing season for something and a pleasant day will pass quickly while you putter around your growing green babies, so in touch with the land that it’s under your fingernails.


Home and yard maintenance presents new challenges here. Again, you can get help with the hard parts, but there’s something pure and rewarding about dressing down and participating in keeping the tropics from taking over your property. You’ll learn to manage water runoff, keep roads and driveways in good condition, trim plants with a machete, clean out ditches with a rake, discourage leaf cutter ants, and so much more.


Soaking in the world will make time stand still even as it slips quietly by. Sipping coffee in the early morning while the monkeys and birds and insects are all waking up to the sunrise is priceless. Reading a fascinating book in the evening while surrounded by nothing but natural views and sounds is incomparable. You may stand for an hour just watching a torrential downpour turn everything in sight into a waterfall or stream while lightning flashes blind you and thunder drums hard against your ears. Sometimes a long time passes while you lay motionless in bed, semi-conscious, listening to the sound of the rain.


You will form friendships with a greater variety of people. Some of them will be from your home country. Some will be from other countries. All of them will have a story, and all of them will be adventurers in some sense. In the absence of other things to do, you will rediscover the joy of playing croquet or Bunco or softball with your friends. Or going to the beach together. Or winching each other out of ditches in pouring rain.


Life finds its own pace. As one person put it, “You will wake up in the morning with nothing to do, and at the end of the day you won’t have gotten it all done.” Stuff comes up. You do it or don’t. You’re free to drop everything in favor of one more wave or a smoothie or a sit.


It’s Costa Rica. It will bring you to life in ways you can’t imagine, if you come ready to embrace a whole new quality of life.

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@2018 by Ron Snell.