Costa Rica!


Part One 

by J.T. MacMillan

There are good reasons why Costa Rica has been rated as the best place to retire in 2021 by International Living Magazine. Its great climate, stunning natural habitats and environmental awareness, affordable housing and healthcare, good governance and ever-improving infrastructure make it an appealing place to explore.

The locals are typically warm and inviting and embody the Costa Rican concept of "Pura Vida," best translated as "pure life" or "simple life." Self-named as "Ticos," Costa Ricans are often considered to be some of the happiest people in Latin America. Expats from America, Canada and Europe have been relocating and embracing "Pura Vida" here for years.

But the first time I came here in 2015 when these images were made, it was all about the monkeys. 

I wanted to see and photograph monkeys in nature, in the trees outside our window, or happen upon them when we were walking to the pool. Wherever. So, after we landed at the international airport west of Liberia in the northwest corner of the country, we drove 20 miles west to the condo at Vista Ocotal on the Pacific coast, and scanned the trees.

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Within minutes, 20 feet up in the canopy and a few steps from our condo I spotted this juvenile howler monkey and took my first dozen frames of the trip. Crazy.

I quickly learned that Costa Rica had more to offer than awesome monkeys. Decompressing from our "Vidas Locas"  back home in beautiful but busy San Diego usually takes a few days, but not this time. Ocotal Montage1blgOcotal Montage1blg

Our condo in sleepy Playa Ocotal, located just south of the busier town of Coco, is part of a modern gated community just a few hundred yards from the beach. The lovely crescent bay here is shared by the locals who fish and host boat charters, expats who live here, and tourists who visit. Even in the "dry" season, its rich biodiversity is immersive

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A female Howler Monkey makes a meal of flower buds on a tree next to our condo, while a male can be heard grunting nearby. I found them fascinating, but after living here for 5 years, our expat Canadian neighbors weren't fond of being awakened by them before first light every morning. 


This part of Guanacaste province located in the northwest part of the country is known as the "Gold Coast."  Its climate is considered “dry tropical,” with hot desert-like conditions from December to May, transitioning to rainier weather that peaks August through November. Year-round temperatures here stay in the 80-100 degree range, with March and April the hottest months. The relatively dry brownish landscape reverts to lush green after just a couple June rains.  Temperatures inland in the higher-elevation volcano regions are up to 30 degrees cooler year-round. 


Father Rooster is Ocotal's only restaurant and bar, but it's a good one. A little pricier than some of the area's other restaurants, its great food, inviting beach vibe and privacy are enough to lure tourists from nearby Coco. Just a few steps from our condo and right on the water, it's our favorite hangout and the perfect place to enjoy an Ocotal sunset.

(Click Photos to Enlarge)



Just 40 minutes west of the airport near Liberia is the small beach town of Coco, popular with locals, retirees and expats. A collection of restaurants, bars, night clubs and shops line the main street that leads to the beach here.


Once a modest fishing village, many of the locals still make their livings providing the local restaurants with the freshest of the fresh, at reasonable prices. Others work in the markets, bars and businesses that support this growing area. Modern grocery stores and name brand resorts are starting to establish themselves. It's a short drive or bike ride through the local village from the condo at Ocotal. 

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Friends who have been to Costa Rica recommended the beach town of Tamarindo as a fun day trip. A 90-minute drive south of Coco, this thriving beach community is known for its surfing, diving, sportfishing, luxury hotels, shopping, bars and restaurants. Still lush with nature, it felt a bit more touristy than Coco, as vendors offered horseback rides or tried to entice us to take a table at their beach-side bar.  

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"Jack Sparrow" works the beach. As far as we know, this is not the popular actor who made him famous (but you never know). ​​​​​


"Connected, in nature" and "connecting with nature," in Tamarindo



Where to Stay

Check online resources for options for accommodations that fit any budget. 

Our condo is located at Vista Ocotal, one of three sister properties in the Ocotal area, which includes Coco Bay Estates and The Beach Club. Guests here enjoy access to all the facilities at any of these three properties, including, pools, tennis courts and fitness center. 


This two-bedroom, one-bath condo at Vista Ocotal is in a gated community with a pool, and is a 3- minute walk to the beach.

(Please reach out to learn more)


Pura Vida at the pool at Coco Bay Estates


Coming Soon!

Costa Rica - Part 2 - Arenal Volcano & Diamante Eco Adventure Park

Please Share and Feel Free to Leave Comments Below!

J.T. MacMillan is a long-time San Diego-based photographer who got his start in metro-newspaper work and has been providing editorial, commercial, portrait and event photography services to some of San Diego’s most recognized public and private agencies for 28 years. To learn more and see other samples of our work click on the links below:

J.T. MacMillan Photography - Business Portrait Pros  - Galleries - Contact Us

© 2021 J.T. MacMillan - All Rights Reserved


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