When Dale Giampapa first visited Costa Rica on vacation 29 years ago, it was a very fateful trip.
“I knew the first day that someday I would live here,” recalls Dale, who’s now in her 50s. “It was the way I felt. It was beautiful. And I felt like I was more connected to nature and the people I met. I was more connected to the things that are important in life.”
And 12 years ago, she made her dream a reality and moved from her home in Sarasota, Florida to the Costa Ballena—a stretch of southern Pacific coast known for its dramatic coastline of green, tree-covered mountains; wild, blue Pacific waters; and palm tree-lined beaches with nobody around.
The region, also known as the Southern Zone, has drawn increasing numbers of expats in recent years. The completion of the coastal highway a few years ago made access from the rest of the country a lot easier and that has brought development. But it remains a very quiet and peaceful area.
Large-scale development is non-existent, which was a major factor that drew Dale. No tall buildings, no high-rise condos, no large resorts or hotels.
“I liked that it was undeveloped. And there is an emphasis on natural beauty,” says Dale, who prefers this region to the Central and Northern Pacific beach towns frequented by tourists.
Visitors here are more of the eco-tourist variety. And as far as long-term residents, homes are in the jungle, hidden from view. Or they dot the hillsides, offering expansive views of the ocean. Access is by four-wheel drive only in many cases.
You have verdant rain forest full of wildlife like howler monkeys, sloths, toucans, and more. It’s one of the most biodiverse areas of an already extremely biodiverse country.
Dale lives in classic Costa Ballena style, in an open air Bali-style house up a hill in the jungle. “Casa Tranquila” (listed on AirBnB.com) offers views of the Pacific and close contact with the natural world that surrounds it. It’s outside of Ojochal, a small village set in the jungle, just east of the coastal highway that runs all the way down to Panama.
“I designed my house with the knowledge I would have to support myself,” says Dale.
She also works as an independent hair stylist at a nearby hotel. She had worked as a stylist for many years back home, as well as in interior design and real estate.
She’s busy—but doing things she likes.
“I live. I enjoy working in my garden, cooking, sewing, swimming, walking on the beach, getting together with friends,” says Dale. “And I spend an hour every morning watching the animals; monkeys come by my house almost every day.”
“Back in the States everybody is so busy working to make enough money to survive that your relationships are based on what you do, not who you are. Here my life is calmer. There’s plenty of stuff to do, but it’s nice to just sit and enjoy nature.”