Frances Jones leans back in her chair and motions to the rolling view from her terrace. Forest and coffee field-flecked hills stretch for miles to the Gulf of Nicoya and the Pacific. “When we found this place the house was simple—no porches—but the view was just killer. Even if it was a tent, we still would have taken it,” says Frances.
Like many folks, Frances and her husband Bruce were displeased with the politics and cost of living in the United States. And they wanted a cooler climate than where they lived in Daytona, Florida.
So they began their international search in Central America. “My brother-in-law was stationed in Panama at the time,” says Bruce. “He wanted us to move there, but we never made it after flying in to Costa Rica. We got off the plane, rented a car and wandered without an itinerary for one month. Well, we stayed lost, and fell in love with the place.”
Frances continues: “We decided to move down that month, so we rented a big ‘ole farm house in San Isidro de Grecia for a year. After that year we were certain we wanted to live here permanently. We put our house in Florida on the market and looked around Grecia until we found this place.”
“We were very fortunate—very blessed to be at the right place at the right time,” she adds.
“While Bruce headed back to Florida to sell our house there, I kept coming back to see it… I’d found my dream home.”
A pleasant climate was crucial, too. “We liked the weather here in the Central Valley,” says Bruce. “I originally wanted to be on the coast but we looked along the beach and found it was too hot. They say it’s the best climate in the world in the hills of Atenas. And I agree. Our neighborhood is at 3,200 feet above sea level, and generally stays in the 70s F year-round with cool mountain breezes.”
The couple have spent the last nine years transforming the once simple house into a luxurious estate to match the view. With vaulted wood-beam ceilings, a new second story, an expansive wrap-around porch and even an elevator, Frances jokes that she rarely cares to leave home.
The building costs were much lower than in the States, and the handiwork was superb. “We found an amazing contractor who stood behind his work. A couple months after they put in the upstairs addition, we had a leak, and I called to let him know…he said he’d be out the next day to look at it—but about 10 minutes later, he and his brother arrived to make an assessment. They came in, threw a ladder up (in the midst of a tropical rainstorm, no less) and fixed it within a day. No charge.”
And it wasn’t just improvements to their home that cost less than they would in the States.
After paying out-of-pocket for health care for 30 years, the modern, affordable medical care in Costa Rica was a huge bonus. “We only use the Caja (mandatory insurance) for emergencies. Once for stitches we were in and out in 30 minutes with medication and everything. We pay $100 per month for both of us…can’t touch it in the States,” says Bruce.
The couple keep busy. Bruce likes to work outside in the garden, where he can enjoy the ideal climate. And Frances has a passion for rescuing animals which has followed her here.
One of their home improvements is the addition of a small veterinary clinic, which is where she’s transformed the lives of countless dogs, cats, and wild creatures. “I couldn’t even guess how many animals we’ve saved here.” She shakes her head. “I’ve been rescuing animals since I was four years old; I can’t help it.”
To help pay for pet supplies, they occasionally rent out a room to traveling animal-lovers.
While Frances stays up in her castle on the hills with her furry pack of pups, Bruce moseys down to mingle with other retired expats over a cup of coffee in the mornings. They have local Tico friends, too. Their mountain-peak neighborhood has even thrown three fiestas in their honor. When asked if they have any trouble communicating in Spanish, Frances remarks, “Oh he doesn’t speak the language.”—”I get by fine!” Bruce cuts in.
While they don’t have any immediate plans of moving from Costa Rica, they do enjoy the surrounding countries as well. “I’ve traveled all through Panama and into Nicaragua. It’s all good,” says Bruce.