8 years ago, I moved to Costa Rica after falling in love with surfing. And I found that everyone I knew back in NYC either thought I had lost my mind, or found the meaning of life. And most tourists I met who were visiting Costa Rica were dreaming about living there, and were full of questions on how people make it work. The answer? Everyone hustles to figure it out. And then keeps hustling.
Many of the jobs or skills that people have in the US corporate world are not available or useful when you’re living in Costa Rica in a tourist town. So you’ve got to be opportunistic, and still find a way to enjoy your new life in paradise. Here is an account of how one of our favorite surfer girls is making it happen in Costa Rica, from Kristen @sambatothesea. — Chief Bikini Officer, Helena Fogarty
As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun – – and I really can’t believe over four years have passed since leaving NYC: quitting my corporate job, putting all my belongings in storage (called Mom & Pop storage), and moving to Tamarindo, Costa Rica to surf. When I first moved, I worked for Robert August (AKA Mr. Endless Summer), blogging and running his social media. Working for such an iconic person in surf history was definitely an experience. I loved how most of the time I could make my own work schedule and I was stoked to not be working “in the office” every day. And I got to surf. All the time.
In my free time, I started to follow my other passion, photography. First, photographing and posting images of Tamarindo on my blog + Instagram was a good way to keep my family and friends updated on my Costa Rican adventure. Then, it became a side job. Why? Because I saw way too many ugly postcards for sale in Tamarindo. I decided to take the #uglypostcarddilemma into my own hands. I made my own, featuring my Costa Rican sunset photographs. They were an immediate hit in Tamarindo and I was stoked to have found a niche in market.
What started with nine postcards has evolved into over forty postcard designs with ~15,000 postcards sold in three and a half years. And selling my photographs via the postcards gave me confidence to pursue photography as a career – which happens to also be a good way to make a living here in the tropics. Today I’m so stoked to launch something I only dreamed of a year ago – – an online store designed to help you have a little bit of paradise in your home, with sunset prints, pillows, baby blankets (and more to come), aptly named The Sunset Shop.
(P.S. you totally want to keep reading for a special offer just for MI OLA mermaids!!)
I now spend most of my year in Costa Rica, with the remainder spent in magical Savannah, GA – which is gorgeous, amazing and also happens to be where my family lives. I know, you’re probably thinking why would I ever want to leave Costa Rica or split time? The honest truth? Costa Rica may be a little slice of Pura Vida for vacation, but living here (like I believe living anywhere else in the world) has its pluses and minuses. So what should you expect if you’re thinking of moving to Tamarindo, Costa Rica?
Pros & Cons of Living the Dream in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
No need for a beach getaway: I don’t have the crazy urge to go on vacation like I did when I lived in NYC. Sure, I miss the ease of hopping on a plane at JFK to Europe, but I’m at the beach every day!
Sunsets: The sunsets in Tamarindo are AMAZING!!! Soon after landing in Costa Rica, I started chasing and photographing the sunsets.
Surfing: The waves in Costa Rica are simply magical – – peeling waves, offshore winds, and warm water. Within a 5-10 minute bike ride, I have access to several surf breaks and several others within 30 minutes. Without a doubt, I’ve gotten spoiled here real fast!
(Check out MI OLA’s surf guides to Tamarindo, Avellanas, and Playa Grande)
Nature: Ahhhh, nature. It’s right outside – – the Howler monkeys at dawn, iguanas, singing birds. I love my daily walks on beach and through the hills in Tamarindo with my little Chihuahua Gidget.
The people: My friends are from all over the world. Tamarindo is a great example of a diverse, mixed community.
When your dream becomes everyday life, there are definitely things that can wear on you… until you get back in the waves. Here’s the reality that many don’t consider when they dream of moving to paradise.
Pura Vida: Ahhhh, the small thing called Tico Time. Meaning “latin time” or tomorrow is another day. Pretty much everything here just operates slower than the US. Long lines at the bank, slow internet, and driving 40 miles down the coast takes over two hours! Convenience and ease is not a focus, like it often is up north.
Sometimes I don’t surf everyday: Contrary to what my parents think,I don’t surf everyday. I’d love to surf everyday, but my work takes priority and other times the conditions are just not that great. Sometimes a week or more goes by without surfing – – (gasp!) I know!
Cost of Living is high: It’s expensive to live here. Costa Rica is not a cheap country. Most tourists are surprised at the cost of accommodations, tours, and food. And people who live here make a lot less. Think US prices, but much lower wages than the US.
It’s tropically hot: The sun is HOT, HOT, HOT! Tamarindo is located 10 degrees north of the equator, meaning that the sun is very strong here! And in April, the temperatures soar over 100 degrees with high humidity.
People come and go: Tamarindo is a tourist and very transient town. Just as fast as you make a new friend, another one is moving out of town! Some people only come for high season to escape the northern hemisphere winters and others are like me – – how has it been over four years?!
Four years ago, never did I think I would still be living in Costa Rica AND working for myself – – a passion that my pre-Costa Rica self would have said was impossible. In celebration of the launch of my shop, I’m stoked to offer you FREE sunset downloads, oh-so-perfect for your phone or computer background! Click here for your freebie, add the downloads to the shopping cart, and use code “MIOLA” at checkout! AND this weekend only, for MI OLA mermaids only, enjoy 25% off her whole shop – – use code “MIOLA25” at checkout.