$200 Rent on Lake Arenal, Costa Rica

"I knew I was never going to retire in the U.S.," says Rose Aletti.

After a career in medical coding and data input in Greensboro, North Carolina, the adventure of Latin American living called to her…

"I was always the one who went off on my own day trips from the beach when I was on a girls' vacation in Cancún," she says. "Everyone else would be happy on the beach or beside the pool, but I'd be off on the bus to some little village or market."

Rose first visited Costa Rica in 2009 on vacation with her then-husband, Brian. It was a beach trip centered on Jacó on the Pacific Coast, and while Rose didn't fall for Jacó, her habit of taking solo side-trips brought her into direct contact with the natural beauty of Costa Rica, and the gentle friendliness of the people.

"I was just amazed by how welcoming people were to this tall, pale American woman traveling around on her own and asking dumb questions. I was taken to meet newborn babies, and secret waterfalls, and into little tin-roofed shacks for rice and beans. Everywhere was full of smiling, laughing people just cracking up as we tried to communicate in sign language. I had such fun."

Over the years, Rose let the idea of a Costa Rica retirement bubble in her mind. After a divorce in 2017, she took early retirement at 58. Knowing she would have to move somewhere more affordable, Rose returned to Costa Rica on a scouting trip. When she saw the countryside around the popular expat spot of Lake Arenal, she knew she'd found her place.

"I'm not interested in living on a beach, it's just not for me. I prefer to be up here in the mountains. It's much cooler, and the views are amazing—the lake, green hills and grazing horses, the perfect cone of the volcano…"

The main expat hub in the area is the town of Nuevo Arenal, with all the amenities an expat could need: banks, a pharmacy, a medical center, bars, restaurants, and cafés. "There's an Italian restaurant called Casa Italia I'll go to for an occasional treat, though I mostly shop at produce markets and cook from scratch at home," Rose says. "For anything more substantial, it's about 90 minutes to Liberia, where there are big stores, an international airport, and hospitals (both CAJA and private). There's also a small public hospital in Cañas, about 10 miles away."

Rose rents a one-bedroom casita for $200 a month, on the grounds of a larger home owned by a Canadian couple who plan to retire there eventually. "We came to an arrangement—I organize any maintenance work that needs to be done on the big house, and keep the place in order, and in return I get to use the pool, garden, and get a better deal on rent.

"Most of the expats live over on the north side of Lake Arenal, around Nuevo Arenal, and the roads and amenities over there are better. Things are a bit more rural here on the south side, but I have a little motorbike and I can get around the whole area easily."

With just one bedroom and bathroom, a small living space with kitchen facilities, and a deck, the casita suits Rose's needs. "There's no heating or air conditioning, but there's a ceiling fan and that's enough to be comfortable," she says. "I can hook up to the WiFi from the main house, and I could watch Netflix if I wanted to. I'm more of a reader than a watcher though. Evenings are just me and my Kindle. People sleep early and rise early around here. It's mostly farmers, and that's a farming schedule!"

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