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HomeTopicsExpat LivingLiving in Guanacaste, Costa Rica – Over a Decade of Changes

Living in Guanacaste, Costa Rica – Over a Decade of Changes

Nothing screams ‘I’m becoming an old man!’ like complaining about how things are different than they used to be. The fact is, my wife and I moved to the beaches of Guanacaste in 2012, and the beaches of Guanacaste in 2024 are a significantly different place. I’m tempted to say some things have changed for the better and others for the worse, but let’s be honest and recognize the world is made of shades of gray and any one change probably has pluses and minuses attributed to it. Love them or hate them, the following items are certainly different than they used to be.

The Gas Station has gas!

Upon arrival in Costa Rica one of the first tasks my wife and I completed was buying an overpriced, mechanically-doomed, very used SUV. We purchased it in San Jose and drove it to the beach in Guanacaste to start our new lives. One of the surprises of vehicle ownership in our new home was that there was one gas station in town, and by in town, I mean 35 minutes away in some other town.

We thought the distance to the station was going to be the inconvenient part of filling up, but it turned out that the actual inconvenient part was that the gas station often lacked the most essential part of being a gas station – gas. We would frequently pull up and instead of an attendant gently gesturing us toward an available pump, there would be an attendant dejectedly shaking his head ‘no’ at us. 

Sometimes he’d say ’30 minutes’ and about an hour later the fuel truck would arrive and we could fill up. When the schedule of the day didn’t allow for sitting at the gas station for an unspecified amount of time, we learned of a back up plan. In the town just before the gas station, there was a bar that looked like it had closed down years ago.

If you pulled in there and asked for gas, a crazy-looking guy who resembled Gene Simmons would sell you enough wildly overpriced bootlegged gas in old water bottles to get you by. These days, that old gas station has been replaced by a handful of more modern fuel stations. While there’s usually a healthy line of cars waiting for their turn at the pump, you can be guaranteed that they’ll have gas to give you once it’s finally your turn.

Beach Traffic?

Almost nothing eats away at a human being’s contentedness like traffic. There’s something about the inability to efficiently get where you need to go that is truly crazy-making. When we arrived in Guanacaste years ago, traffic was a happily forgotten part of our old lives in Pittsburgh. The often dusty, pothole ridden roads around the beach were far from ideal, but at least you could go as fast as your overpriced, money-sucking SUV could take you (Sorry, that car scarred me).

Over the years, many of the dirt roads were paved and travel became easier. Somewhere around four years ago, the number of travelers on these newly paved roads exploded. Now, I find myself adjusting my schedule to avoid certain roads at certain times of the day. Some traffic simply can’t be avoided. School pick-up used to consist of yelling at kids while driving, these days it’s yelling at kids while slowly plowing forward two car-lengths at a time.

At Least Rent is (was) Cheap 

It happens to many people, and it definitely happened to us. You move to a small Central American country, and you assume things will be cheaper than where you came from. It doesn’t take long to realize you were terribly mistaken. When we first arrived in the country, we noticed many things were the same price or even more expensive than the US. The car (!), gas, and electronics were all more expensive than we were used to.

Food and beverages were about the same. The one budgetary item that really felt like a win was rent. We were renting a nice little two-bedroom apartment five minutes from several spectacular beaches for a few hundred dollars a month. While analyzing our monthly budget and noting almost every line item was in the red, we’d remark ‘At least rent is cheap.’

Well, somewhere in the march of time rent stopped being cheap. You can blame world economics, gentrification, COVID-19, the value of the dollar, or supply and demand, I don’t really know why it happened, I’m just a guy who writes articles for the Tico Times. However, the reality of today’s rent in any beach town in Guanacaste is going to be a significant part of most people’s budget.

I have many grumpy old man tendencies, so complaining about how things are different than they used to be comes naturally to me. Complain as I might, change is a part of life. The one thing I know for sure is that Guanacaste in 2034 will be even more different than it is now. So, I guess I should just focus on the things that have changed in my favor, like I no longer need to buy water bottle gas in a bar from a guy who looks like Gene Simmons.

About the Author

Vincent Losasso, founder of Guanacaste Wildlife Monitoring, is a biologist who works with camera traps throughout Costa Rica. Learn more about his projects on facebook or instagram. You can also email him at:

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