Living in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Here in Tamarindo, on the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, everybody knows everybody. Long-term expats number in the hundreds.

It’s a walkable little ‘burg—we can’t stroll through town without stopping several times to talk with friends—and the “Main Street” is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants run by Costa Ricans, Israelis, Argentinians, Italians, Americans, Canadians, and a dozen other nationalities.

Tamarindo is in the middle of one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica—but despite that I’m living a quiet, small-town life.

Shopping day is our favorite day of the week. And forget the drudgery of walking up and down the aisles of grocery stores full of expensive, processed and preservative-filled food. Side by side with the souvenir shops downtown are the small businesses frequented by locals. That’s where we buy our essentials.

You can’t buy everything in one place. And we’re on foot. So you’re forced to slow down and enjoy the place you live.

First stop is La Bodega—owned by Joey from New Jersey and his Costa Rican wife, Carolina. This friendly couple has a passion for healthy foods and helping the community. They have a young son, too, so we always end up talking about baby stuff.

We go for free range eggs, cheese, goat’s milk, honey, raw yogurt, and more. Everything is locally sourced, supporting local farmers and food producers. And it’s the only place in town to get health foods like spirulina and chia seeds.

(You can also get a killer balsamic portobello mushroom sandwich, by the way, washed down with fresh passion fruit juice. Just $6.)

If we’re lucky, the mariscos (seafood) truck will be parked across the street. It’s making deliveries to local restaurants but the vendor will sell to anybody. A kilo (that’s 2.2 pounds) of sushi-grade tuna—$10. Same for a kilo of mahi-mahi (or dorado, as it’s also known).

The fruit truck is down the street, at the corner. Juicy golden pineapple: $1. Watermelons: $3 or $4, depending on the weight. We usually stop here on the way back home—otherwise it’d be too heavy a load.

The local supermarket, called Super 2001, is run by Italians so there’s prosciutto, Parmesan, and ciabatta. Plus, they stock two imports I can’t live without: sriracha chili hot sauce and Belgian beer.

If it’s mid-morning, we visit with Heloisa at Cafe Tico. She’s lived here nearly 20 years and makes a mean espresso.

If it’s lunchtime we hit hole-in-the-wall cevicheria Ricante, which has great ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice) with plantain chips. Just $3.

If it’s happy hour, Wild Panda has the best cocktails in town. The sunbaked bartender makes them with fresh fruit only. May take a while to get that pineapple and rum drink, but it’s worth it.

Having lived in suburbia for much of my life, I never thought I could be a small-town guy. But we’ve come to love the sense of community.

And you know what? Even though this region, the Gold Coast, has a reputation for expensive real estate, you can live here quite inexpensively—for small-town prices.

You’ll find affordable condos within a few minutes’ walk of the beach.

And because everything is so close, they’d also be near Tamarindo’s center. Prices start at $77,000 for a two-bedroom condo, and $140,000 for a three-bedroom condo. And I recently saw a two-bedroom townhouse for $85,000.

Local agents tell me that prices are very negotiable. Sellers bought many of these properties at the height of the bubble and they’re eager to unload, even at a loss to themselves.

On this stretch of the Pacific, you get a great location for a great price.

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