This Week in Costa Rica

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This Week in Costa Rica is a weekly, online radio program and podcast by US expat, Dan Stevens

Where do English Teachers Live in Costa Rica?


Costa Rica English Teaching News  - One of the most common queries about teaching English in Costa Rica is the question of where a teacher will be living. It’s clear why this ranks high on the list. Among other things, when someone is thinking about a life abroad, they like to imagine what their apartment will look like and where it will be situated. While dreams of living on a Costa Rican beach and watching the sun set over the ocean every night might be realistic for some, it is not a realistic expectation for an aspiring ESL teacher. 

Ninety-five percent of ESL jobs in Costa Rica are found in the Central Valley. The few jobs that do exist outside of the valley are with very small institutes and teachers earn a very minimal wage or are actually volunteers. This is especially true in tourist rich areas like beaches, where schools do not have to entice teachers to come, and can simply take the ones who are willing to offer their services for little to no pay.

With this said, if money is less of a factor than comfort and surroundings, the available positions outside of the valley will suit you just fine. In addition to this there are more lucrative private school options, such as the Falcon International School just outside of Jacó Beach. These schools generally have great benefits and competitive salaries to institutes in San José, but are extremely competitive and available positions are far and few between.

For the other ninety-five percent that will be working in the valley, the options are plentiful.

San José represents almost all of the capital’s metropolitan area. However, once more acquainted with the area, you quickly realize that there are actually many different regions, towns and neighborhoods that have their own uniqueness – and Ticos will be quick to correct you for incorrectly calling an area San José that is not.
Case in point can be found with the airport. Any local will interrupt you before you even finish saying that the airport is in San José – it`s actually in Alajuela. So while living in or around the capital will be your most likely destination, in all likelihood you won’t be living right in San José.

With Cartago, San Pedro and Los Yoses in the east, Heredia to the north, and La Sabana, Escazú, Santa Ana and Lindora to the west, there are many great options for living. Where you end up should mostly, but not entirely, depend on where you find work.

In the ideal scenario you would be able to stay in a low-risk environment, financially speaking, such as a hostel while you carried out your search for employment. This way, you would be able to apartment hunt with a general understanding of where your school is located. While certainly not an end of the world scenario, the constant high volume of traffic and precipitation during the rainy season make commuting longer than necessary distances an annoyance worth averting if possible.

If the hostel option is not viable, most language schools are located in Escazú, Heredia or San Pedro so apartment hunting right off the bat in these areas would be safe bets.

In terms of cost, as a general rule the further west you go the more expensive rentals become. Santa Ana and Escazú, while beautiful and more ‘Americanized’ – especially in the case of Escazú – are expensive. The same goes for La Sabana, which is also extremely beautiful, centrally located and home to La Sabana Park, one of the city’s biggest attractions.

San Pedro is a college area with lots of Universities and bars. Rent is quite affordable and many younger teachers prefer to reside here. Heredia, located just north of San José, is the most economical option. Rent on two bedroom apartments can be had for little, but the downside for some is it is not as lively as other places and lacks things to do in the evening. Though, for some, this is a positive.

The San José area is where most English teachers in Costa Rica settle. Where they actually live, though, is usually not right in San José. The options are plentiful and diverse. A little research and exploration when you’re on the ground will serve you well.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.


CR English Teachers’ Visa Runs to Panama

The Costa Rican Times - Costa Rica English Teaching News - Visa runs are a necessary part of life as an English teacher in Costa Rica. In part I of this series I discussed some of the options available in Costa Rica’s northern neighbor, Nicaragua. In part II, I discuss the other common destination for English teachers to take their mandatory vacation every 90 days: Panama.


Part of the fun of a trip to Panama is the actual trip itself. Unlike Nicaragua, where Costa Rican bus company Tica Bus provides both comfort and ease in terms of getting to and across the border, no such service is available for the journey south. The only exception would be if you’ve decided to venture all the way down to Panama City – but more on that later.

There are a couple border crossings to choose from but the two most popular are the crossings near Golfito on Costa Rica’s Pacific side and at Sixaola, on its Caribbean coast. Sixaola, based on its proximity to tourist haven Bocas del Toro, is by far the most visited.

Calling Sixaola a town is an extremely generous exaggeration. The pueblo – quite literally – has a convenience store, a liquor store and an information booth that they call immigration. The local bus will take you right to where the border crossing is located. Once off the bus, walk up the hill immediately in front of you and get in line to get your passport stamped out of Costa Rica. After this you will – and get ready – walk across a bridge, which looks like it can’t hold an ant, over to Panama. Do watch your step as to not mistakenly plant down on a loose board.

When you arrive on the other side of the bridge, get in line once again to get stamped into Panama. At this point you can either continue on your journey by local bus or take up the services of one of the local taxis that will be waiting for you. If you have a group of people, or made friends during your bridge crossing, the taxis are actually quite inexpensive.

The most common and popular destination in Panama to fulfill your visa run obligation is Bocas del Toro. If you’re not familiar with this group of islands on Panama’s Caribbean coast, I highly recommend researching them as they truly are one of the great natural wonders in Central America. If you’re coming from San Jose, as most English teachers do, the trip to Bocas has two options. You can either head there from San Jose in one day, which would take about eight or nine hours depending on border traffic. The other option is to break up the trip by spending a night in Puerto Viejo, a popular and beautiful beach town on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast situated about an hour by bus from the Panama border.

Whichever option you choose, once in Bocas you will marvel at its beauty. Bocas is a mix of a myriad of tropical islands, of which two realistically provide viable stay options. The main island, Colon, has numerous hotels and hostels at the disposal of its visitors. Colon is also home to most of the restaurants and nightlife spots in Bocas. If you like to party, you might consider this as your main hub.

If you seek a more tranquil experience, Isla Bastimentos is for you. The biggest island in Bocas, it is almost all jungle covered. The few hostels that do exist offer a very quiet and distanced experience. The island is great for hiking, exploring and is home to one of the more popular beaches in all of Bocas, Red Frog Beach, where, just as its name suggests, you can see rare red frogs.

Tours of all variations are plentiful in Bocas and for reasonable prices. One of the more expensive – maybe $20 per person – but also most worthwhile is the boat tour to Isla Zapatillas. Home to nothing but nature, you will be alone on a pristine island for the day with soft white sand, beautiful views and nothing but what you bring with you. This trip is a must.

While Bocas del Toro is by far the most common visa run destination in Panama, there are other options. Panama City is beautiful and gives a ‘big city’ feel not often found in Central America. If you can stomach the 16 hour bus ride – one way – from San Jose (or the alternative roughly $300 round-trip flight) it is definitely worth checking out. Panama City is also great for those who like shopping, as Panama is much cheaper than Costa Rica in general and Panama City has some great stores and even cheaper rates than other places in the country.

David is another great option for a quick visa run. Located on the western half of Panama, a crossing from Golfito is more recommended for this trip. The third largest city in Panama, it is only 30 kilometers from the border with Costa Rica enhancing convenience. While a nice place to visit to get a feel for ‘real Panama’ – as David is not as touristy as other places – there is not a lot to do. Nearby locations such as Boquete – including its famous hot springs Los Pozos de Caldera – and Playa Barqueta offer great attractions on your trip.

While just a sampling of things to do in both Nicaragua and Panama on your visa runs, the idea is that you are not limited to what you can do. The often maligned part of teaching English in Costa Rica can also be the most exciting. Both countries offer extensive possibilities and part of the adventure is finding them on your own.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.


Organic Food Options for Expats in Central Valley, Costa Rica

The Costa Rica Star -  If you go to any supermarket or fería (outdoor farmers market) in Costa Rica you will notice that organic produce is more expensive and not usually as attractive as regular produce. However the benefits of organically grown foods are many.


Organic foods are much healthier and beneficial for the environment. They are grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones and are not genetically modified. Crops are rotated also to protect the quality of the produce and not deplete the fertility of the soil like agrochemicals.

Organic produce is also good for one’s health. By eating this type of food you reduce your exposure to dangerous agrochemicals some of which can cause long-term health problems.

In some parts of the world the demand for organic produce has increased however in Costa Rica the organic produce market is still in its infancy. The main reason for a lack of interest in organic foods is their appearance and high cost. Prices usually are around 30 to 50 percent higher than regular produce. Nevertheless, Fernanda Pía of the Green Center Organic Produce market in Santa Ana has seen an increased interest in organically grown produce.

Here are some organic markets around the Central Valley where expats and other may obtain organic foods:

-Ecomercado located 100 south of the Jazz Café in San Pedro. Tel: 2234-1685

-Feria Orgánica el Trueque in Paso Ancho 200 meters south of the Iglesia Luterana. Tel: 8365-0548

-Feria Verde de Aranjuez in Barrio Escalante. From the Santa Teresita church 300 meters north and 300 meters west. Tel: 2280-5749

-Green Center located in Santa Ana. Tel: 2282-8618

-Mercado Contemporáneo KM O located on Avenida Escazú. Tel: 8706-5979

-La Cosecha Orgánica en su hogar offers home delivery. Call 8822-8512

-Viandas also offers home delivery. Tel: 8849-5357

Here are some restaurants in the San José area that offer organic dishes:

-Búho vegetariano

-Green Center (see their contact info. above)

-Mantras is one-hundred percent vegetarian

-Veggie House (several locations) Tel: 2282-8618 or 2224-6293 or 2280-9949

Article by Live in Costa Rica

CR English Teachers’ Visa Runs to Nicaragua

The Costa Rican Times - Costa Rica English Teaching News - For most English teachers in Costa Rica working under the table is an unsettling reality. The thought of moving abroad to work in a country where you will not be a recognized worker is not something that would land near the top of many to do lists.


While it can be a point of anxiety and stress for those that haven’t done it before, once in Costa Rica it is easy to see that everyone does it and it’s not really a big deal. From a legal perspective, ESL teachers are often given a free pass as they are providing a service to the nation’s population that the native population cannot provide to the same level.

Packing, traveling, where to go, safety, and passport stamps are all points that may leave a teacher sleepless a few nights before their trip. However, the silver lining of the unsettling nature of illegality for the English teacher in Costa Rica is it provides that same teacher the opportunity to do what many arrived to do in the first place: travel.

Any tourist is allowed to be in Costa Rica for up to 90 days of their original arrival. After this point they are considered to have overstayed their visit and can be subject to a variety of penalties based on different factors. As a result, English teachers embark on what is deemed ‘the visa run’- also called a mandatory vacation – every three months in order to renew their tourist visa and then return to their teaching position in Costa Rica.

The time you need across the border varies depending on who you talk to. When I arrived in Costa Rica over three years ago the company line was 72 hours. Nowadays some will tell you that length is still standard while others will claim you only need a few hours. Regardless of duration, the visa run is necessary and, if you’re going to go all the way outside of Costa Rica, you might as well enjoy yourself.

Where should you go?

Most choose options of convenience. This means going to border towns in either of Costa Rica’s neighbors of Panama or Nicaragua. Both offer diverse and interesting locations with a range of places to see and things to do. This column will focus on Costa Rica’s northern neighbor, Nicaragua.

Nicaragua is a large and beautiful country filled with incredibly nice people. It is also the second poorest nation in the western hemisphere, next to Haiti, and thus incredibly cheap for foreigners. The three most popular visa run locations in Nicaragua are: San Juan Del Sur, Grenada and Ometepe.

San Juan Del Sur is your typical beach town. Located on the pacific coast and not more than thirty minutes from the border it is easily accessible and a great place to hang out for a few days of R&R and away from your teaching job. Surfing isn’t the best right in town, but there are a number of high class beaches nearby with waves to challenge even the advanced surfer. It is very touristy so a lot of the locals speak English. On this trend, it is very easy to meet other travelers as it is a very well known attraction and collects travelers from all over the globe.

Grenada is about two hours by bus north of the border and is a beautiful Central American colonial town. Filled with art and history from the colonial era of Central America, it’s a great place to spend a day or two – but not three. Grenada is many things – deathly hot being one of them – and this includes boring after more than 48 hours. There is beautiful architecture, church towers to climb and even a fairly diverse nightlife. Two days though is all you will need here.

Ometepe is also a great option for your visa run. An island located in beautiful Lake Nicaragua, it is perfect for the nature lover. There is not much, if any, civilization. If you love hiking, climbing volcanoes and becoming one with your surroundings, Ometepe is for you. Given what it is, most combine Grenada and Ometepe into one visa run. This is in part due to their close proximity and also due to spending more than two days in either place is usually sufficient.

Be sure to check out my next column, where I’ll discuss some popular destinations in Costa Rica’s southern neighbor, Panama.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.

Teaching English in CR: A Teacher’s View

The Costa Rican Times - Proving yourself at a new job is a two-way street. While there is an obvious onus on a new employee to impress their direct superior, onus is also on that superior to prove that the new work environment is in fact desirable. It goes without saying that in order to get the most out of any employee, a positive and respectful work environment must be established from the outset of any professional relationship.


In my time as an academic manager I would always take this a step further. It was one thing for trainees, new hires or potential hires to listen to me speak about how great the company was; that’s what I was supposed to do. It was another thing to hear it from those who were in the trenches and doing the work.

I would always invite new hires to speak with any incumbent teacher on staff, privately, to get a sense of what it was really like to work both for me and for the institute. I found this tactic invaluable in giving the school credibility and in creating an open relationship with all employees.

That same principle extends here. It is one thing to read my columns. It is quite another to hear from a teacher who is actually doing it in the field. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit-down with a good friend of mine recently to discuss the life of an ESL teacher in Costa Rica.

Rebecca Michalski, 23, is from Pittsburgh where she worked as a Spanish teacher before moving abroad. Having worked for two major private language institutes – in addition to teaching high school classes and private classes to children – in over two years teaching English in Costa Rica, Rebecca provides great insight into the life of an ESL teacher and what teaching here really entails.

Many thanks, Rebecca, for your time. Our interview is here:

What went into your decision to teach in Costa Rica?

I first came to Costa Rica in 2009 to study for four months. I was out of my comfort zone for the first time, but I somehow fell in love with this place. After spending four months here, I went back to the States, finished school, and started looking for teaching jobs in the San José area.

It may be cliché, but my high school Spanish teacher truly changed me and to be honest, she changed my life. If I hadn’t had her as a teacher, I would have never continued studying the language, and would have never ended up in Costa Rica. I thought about how much that one teacher changed my life, and it really made me want to do the same for English learners here.

How did you find your first job?

When I started job searching, I was still in the States. I began searching through site after site of ESL job positions. I was contacting private elementary and public schools, as well as language schools that worked in the business sector. After a few job interviews via Skype, I was finally offered a job.

You’re an exception in this case because, as you know, being hired from outside of Costa Rica is rare. What would you say to people that have trouble finding employment from home?

To the people job searching while outside of Costa Rica, I would say that it will probably be a long process, so brace yourselves. I would suggest searching schools, institutes, etc. And start e-mailing your resume to as many places as possible. It can be frustrating because the majority of employers won’t even look at your resume if you’re not already in Costa Rica, but there are a select few companies that are willing to do so.

Can you briefly describe your very first class?

My very first class was a bit overwhelming. At my first job, I went through of one week of training. However as all teachers know, nothing can compare to real, hands-on teaching experience. Luckily I had experience as a Spanish teacher, but I remember walking into my first class as nervous as could be. My lesson plan was way too long, and my students were a lot more basic than I had prepared for!

Did you feel, after starting to work in Costa Rica, that you were adequately prepared?

I do feel that I was adequately prepared by the first company I worked for. They put us through a week of training, and provided us with almost every material I could possibly need.

If you could describe your life as an ESL teacher briefly, how would you describe it?

My life as an ESL teacher….I truly love the life I lead here, and a huge part of that is due to my job. I teach every day, Monday through Friday. Although our schedules change every few months, I have almost always worked a split schedule- class from around 8 or 9 to 12pm, go home for a lunch break and some free time, and then back to class around 4 or 5pm.

What was a good surprise for you after arriving?

In regards to teaching, a good surprise to me was how united my company was. They frequently had teacher “get-togethers” and events. We also had two yearly retreats, which was a great way to socialize with the other teachers as well as get to know various places throughout the country.

What’s the best and worst part of being an ESL teacher here?

The best: teaching my high school students and knowing that knowing English would actually make a huge difference in their lives. That made it worth waking up at 6:30am every Saturday morning for class for a year straight.

The worst: that there are very few schools and companies who are willing to help workers out with the visa process, meaning that teachers have to leave the country every 90 days.

If you could give one piece of advice for an aspiring teaching in Costa Rica, what would it be?

Go for it! It’s a beautiful country full of unique and welcoming people. Yes, San José and surrounding areas are not the prettiest places, but every place has its flaws. Between my job and my personal life here, I can truly say that Costa Rica has changed me. Just be sure that if you do come, that you come with an open mind…and of course, financially prepared. Teachers here aren’t making the big bucks, so be sure you are financially stable and have some money saved up.

And finally, if you do come here, make sure you stick it out long enough to see what the place and the job has to offer. The first months are the most difficult, and most people don’t suck it up long enough to stay, but no matter how hard it is at first, I promise that it will always get better!

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.


Geothermal Power: Costa Rica’s Next Clean Energy Solution?

The Costa Rica Star - Long, fat, round pipes in dark brown and off-white snake along the rust red ground through the underbrush. They remind me of giant worms from some prehistoric setting … though not quite like thatterrible 1990 movie Tremors.


The pipes belong to the Pailas Geothermal Power Plant at the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano in Costa Rica’s northwestern Guanacaste region. As the world investigates alternative energy solutions that are sustainable and not harmful to the environment, Costa Rica is actively exploring its own clean energy options.

The small Central American nation currently produces more than 90% of its electricity from renewable sources, mostly hydroelectric projects. However, hydroelectric power is weather-dependent, and during the driest months of summer it is stretched to its limits when water reserves are low. Wind turbine technology is being installed in many places as one solution. The Ad Astra Rocket Company, founded by famous Costa Rican astronaut and scientist Franklin Chang, in Liberia, Guanacaste, is researching the possibility to extract hydrogen from water also to produce renewable energy.

Costa Rica has a plentiful resource however that is largely untapped – volcanic geothermal energy. Geothermal power uses underground steam from volcanoes. The energy is harnessed by drawing hot water and steam from within the Earth’s crust, and then cooling it to move power turbines. An advantage of geothermal power is that it is continuously generated, and not dependent on weather conditions.

Being on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” Costa Rica is bursting with volcanoes. So far, the North Volcanic Mountain Ridge in Guanacaste has been the ideal region for geothermal power generation, with its Rincón de la Vieja, Miravalles and Tenorio volcanoes. The Miravalles Geothermal Field, which consists of five plants, produces nearly 14% of the National Electrical System’s (SEN) capacity; it opened in 1994.

The Pailas Geothermal Power Plant opened in July 2011 just outside the Pailas section of the Rincón de la Vieja National Park. The 600,000-year-old Rincón de La Vieja Volcano is the largest volcano in Costa Rica’s northwest region. “Pailas” means cauldrons, and a hike in the Rincon de la Vieja National Park will show you why this area is so popular for geothermal energy; steam pours out of fumaroles, sulfur lagoons boil with minerals, and volcanic mud pits bubble and spit.

At present, Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly is debating a bill that would allow exploration and production of geothermal energy inside the Rincón de la Vieja National Park. Costa Rica has a law that prohibits the extraction of resources from national parks, so lawmakers would either have to modify park boundaries and add territory somewhere else to compensate, or reform the National Parks Law.

Conservationists and officials with the Costa Rica Electricity Institute (ICE) are working to implement environmental considerations to plans for the geothermal plant to minimize impact. While Costa Rica’s volcanoes are a huge wellspring for geothermal energy, most are located within national parks, which were created to protect natural resources. For instance, the 11,000-hectare Rincón de la Vieja National Park and the neighboring Guanacaste Conservation Area have been declared a “World Heritage Site” by the United Nations. It will be a big step forward for Costa Rica if the country can create better sustainable clean energy solutions while at the same time protect the natural resources it has worked so hard to preserve.

Visit Rincón de la Vieja

Hotel Hacienda Guachipelín is the ideal place to stay when visiting Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. The first-class ecotourism lodge is a leading adventure and nature tours center, offering canopy zip lines, canyoning, waterfall rappelling, river tubing, horseback riding, nature trails, and natural thermal springs – all on a working horse and cattle ranch.

Hacienda Guachipelín offers guided hikes in the Pailas section of the Rincón de la Vieja National Park; you will visit the outside of the Pailas Geothermal Power Plant on this tour.

Article by Shannon Farley

Originally from Southern California, I have lived, worked and traveled all over the world for 20 years, and been in Costa Rica since 1999. I write for Enchanting Costa Rica ( and Enchanting Hotels (


Poorest Costa Ricans Live the Longest

The Costa Rica Star Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is considered one of the world’s most beautiful places — a 120-kilometre sliver of land where tropical rainforest meets the Pacific Ocean. Now it has another claim to fame: its residents, despite living in poverty, seem to be aging more slowly than wealthier people elsewhere.


Costa Ricans in general are known to enjoy particularly long lives. Costa Rican men have an average life expectancy of 78.6 years, slightly higher than that in western Europe or the United States, even though Costa Rica is a developing country where health care spending per person is only a fraction of that in the United States.

In 2010, a project funded by the National Geographic Society of Washington DC to identify the world’s longevity hotspots highlighted residents of Nicoya as long-lived even by Costa Rican standards. A study published last year by Luis Rosero-Bixby, an epidemiologist at the University of Costa Rica in San José, and his colleagues confirmed that elderly Nicoyans live two to three years longer than other Costa Ricans.

To understand why, David Rehkopf, an epidemiologist at the Stanford School of Medicine in California, and his colleagues took DNA from blood samples from residents of the isolated peninsula aged 60 and above, and measured the length of their chromosomes’ telomeres. These are protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that tend to get shorter each time the cell divides. Telomere length an accurate marker of biological aging, and longer telomeres are correlated with a longer life expectancy.

After controlling for variables such as age and gender, the researchers found that Nicoyans’ telomeres were longer than those of Costa Ricans from elsewhere, they report in Experimental Gerontology. The average difference was 81 base pairs, equivalent to changes caused by behavioral factors such as physical activity or giving up smoking. “To see it in something that doesn’t relate to the individual but to a whole region — that’s important,” says Rehkopf.

All in the family

To work out why the Nicoyans’ telomeres are so long, the researchers analysed 19 biological or behavioral factors including obesity, blood pressure, education and dietary habits such as consumption of fish oils. Diet made no apparent difference, and the Nicoyans were actually worse off than other Costa Ricans when it came to health measures such as obesity and blood pressure. “The typical risk factors didn’t explain it,” says Rehkopf.

Counter-intuitively, poverty seems to have a protective effect in Nicoya. The region is particularly poor; its inhabitants live a traditional, agricultural lifestyle, with limited access to basics such as electricity. Yet those in the poorest households had the longest telomeres.

The researchers also saw hints that strong social and family ties could be an important factor in the Nicoyans’ long lives. Nicoyans are less likely to live alone than other Costa Ricans, and among those who do, the telomere advantage disappears. Previous studies have linked telomere length to psychological factors including stress3 and social relationships.

Michel Poulain, a demographer and longevity researcher at the Estonian Institute for Population Studies in Tallinn, agrees that social ties could have an important role, particularly those that make elderly people feel needed. He visited Nicoya with the National Geographic project in 2007, and interviewed 35 residents aged 95 and over. “There’s terrific family support,” he says.

Both Rehkopf and Poulain emphasize that there is no single secret to long life, and that residents of longevity hotspots probably enjoy a lucky combination of genetic and environmental factors.

The chance to study these in Nicoya may be dwindling, however, as the region becomes more developed. “The local society is changing,” says Poulain. “I’m not sure that the longevity will still be evident in the future.”

Article by

CR ESL Teaching; Fake It ‘Till You Make ItFake It ‘Till You Make It


Costa Rica Teaching News - It was my first day of training for my first ever ESL teaching position. I was listening to the academic manager describe the school’s methodology, the student demographic and why the materials they used were the best in town. After concluding the generic pitch to sell the seven of us on why we should want to work for this school, the instructor said something – when describing what we needed to do in the classroom – that I will never forget: fake it ‘till you make it.

As is the theme when discussing teaching English in Costa Rica, the teachers subject to the majority of the focus are teachers new to the ESL world. The focus of my last column ( was on just this. The reason the Costa Rican ESL market is saturated with either inexperienced teachers or older teachers simply looking to enjoy life abroad – and using teaching as a means to pay the rent – is because the job prospects are not enticing for those with superior qualifications.

As a result, academic managers and TEFL and TESOL trainers accentuate the most basic of teaching skills in their trainings in order to best prepare their pupils before entrusting them with a live classroom.

Fake it ‘till you make it.

I thought he was joking when he said it; he was not.

While the words used in the message seem strange to new employees wanting desperately to make a great first impression in a hypercompetitive market, the idea is dead on.

Image prevails in Latin America. What occurs behind the curtain of a language school is best left as a secret. If an academic manager tells you “you don’t want to know” – believe him. Even the best teacher can be spit out and requested to not be assigned to a particular group again based on wardrobe alone.

Often times the best advice for any teacher in Latin America is to talk the talk – even if you can’t walk the walk.

In many cases looking and acting the part is as important – sometimes more so – as one’s skill as an educator. There is a certain appearance associated with an ESL teacher in Costa Rica and students can be quite fickle if you don’t appear to fit that preconceived image. Numerous teachers I used to work with – who were excellent, fully capable and qualified – did not find the kind of success teaching here as you would have expected.

It may be cliché, but the one chance you get at a first impression is even more prevalent in Latin America.

With this notion we find the inherent irony that is entrenched in the ESL teaching market in Costa Rica. In order to make it in this market you need to look, act and conduct professional classes as if you were a teacher stout on experience. This would be the expectation from the same language school that is paying you an hourly rate that would, under normal circumstances, not represent that type of return.

‘Making it’ in the Costa Rican teaching market means gaining student acceptance. Language institutes are client based and if a group or a client is keen on a certain teacher, you will be married to that group. Similarly if the opposite proves to be true, there will be no hesitation in reassigning you elsewhere.

If you are an inexperienced ESL teacher in Costa Rica, the best advice is: don’t let anyone find out.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.


Are You Overqualified to Teach English in CR?

Teaching English in Costa Rica is not for everyone. Many have trouble adapting to the culture. Some find the language barrier insurmountable. Others find the heat and seemingly endless amount of precipitation during the rainy season are reasons for sooner than anticipated departures. For some, however, the reason teaching English in Costa Rica is not a fit is because they are overqualified.


Being familiar with the nature of the beast is great – and basic – advice for anyone thinking about embarking on a new venture. Costa Rica, for obvious reasons, is constantly near the top of destination lists to teach English. It is a great fit for many demographics of teachers: the beginner, the retiree, the traveler and the non-committed, to name a few.

The common denominator is that no teachers in those demographics view teaching ESL in Costa Rica as a career.
I have received many emails lately from people looking for advice on teaching in Costa Rica. They send resumes, qualifications, names of prestigious language institutes where they have taught and their titles of seniority within those institutions. While certainly impressive, my canned response to all of these adventure seeking individuals is to know your market.

If you studied advanced linguistics, have a Master’s in TEFL, a PHD in ESL instruction or years of teaching experience at the College or University level, the reality is that you are overqualified for the majority of ESL positions in Costa Rica.
This of course doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t come; it simply means that you need to be aware of what you’re getting yourself into before doing so.

If you’re looking at a University position in Costa Rica, the answer is different. However, I’ll narrow the scope of this to what ninety-percent of ESL jobs in Costa Rica are: working in private language institutes.

Language schools treat their employees exactly the same regardless of background. If you are a linguistic PHD graduate or a college dropout with zero hours of classroom experience, you will be sitting next to each other on the bus on the way to your 6am class.

The teaching industry in Costa Rica doesn’t work in the same way as other places. It is not (entirely) experience based. This isn’t to say that an inexperienced teacher will be hired over a more experienced one. However, once hired, the job the expectations – and the employee management – are exactly the same.

This is where a lot of very qualified teachers run into some confusion. Language schools in Costa Rica do not have bank accounts filled with money they are not using. While advanced and prestigious qualifications may land you a primer position in the North American, European and Asian teaching markets, Costa Rica doesn’t work like that. The pay grade, starting hours, and employee management is uniform across the board.

The dirty little secret of teaching in Costa Rica is that language schools actually prefer hiring less qualified individuals. These are the teachers they can mold into the style of employee that fits their methodology. With more experienced instructors they run the risk of having the “That’s not how we used to do it at my University” discussion – a constant annoyance for academic managers.

The idea circles back to expectation management ( If you are a highly qualified teacher, but are simply seeking an opportunity to live abroad, hone your Spanish skills and do a little bit of teaching, then Costa Rica will treat you wonderfully. If you are an individual of similar educational prestige, but think that your qualifications will earn you a similar position of seniority here, then you will be disappointed.

This article originally appeared in the Costa Rican Times

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.


A Costa Rica Vacation Rental Tax in Place?

Costa Rica News – For all of you that are marketing your Costa Rican vacation rental properties on VRBO or other websites, you might have to start increase you prices a little if you abide by the rules.  The funny thing is that this law is going to be next to impossible to enforce in Costa Rica. After the 2008 market crash many foreigners had to stop traveling to Costa Rica. This led to fewer hotel stays, in addition to second home owners having to rent out or sell their homes to rental companies because they couldn’t afford to use them personally.


Now the hotels are claiming that they loose business to vacation properties, because many of these are private homes that don’t pay taxes or health insurance for workers are able to offer lower rates.

The Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) is putting forth efforts to enforce tax and licensing requirements for vacation rentals. “We are not trying to discourage renters. We are trying to level the playing field,” said Herman Navarro, a tourism manager in the ICT.

Hotels are subject to 13% sales tax and higher industrial utility rates. They also pay for services like lifeguards on beaches, which vacation rental occupants benefit from. Vacation rentals are able to undercut prices of hotels because they are not usually paying the same fees.

If a company owns 25 rental properties, it’s similar to owning a large hotel, and they should have the same responsibilities to the government, hotel owners say. They are getting income that’s not reproducing any benefit in the community. The law is equal for vacation properties and hotels but they are rarely enforced.

President Laura Chinchilla signed a clarifying law that will be published in the newspapers shortly. The law also applies to renting rooms in your own home, if they are rented for less than 15 days at a time. The ICT has completed a year-long investigation where it found hundreds of rentals that should be paying taxes. This list has been forwarded to the Ministry of Finance.

One hotel owner said, “We don’t mind the competition as long as we are all on an even playing field.”

Now lets think about how Costa Rica is going to enforce this law?

The government entity in charge of enforcing this law will have to solely rely on the owners presenting complete and honest occupancy and revenue flow from their property, and how many owners are going to actually do this?

The other option is they are going to have to watch every single vacation rental website in Costa Rica and monitor what prices each owner is placing on his or her property.  After monitoring this it will have to be placed in a system to hold the rental owner accountable for the taxes.

During this process the Costa Rican government is going to have to keep tallies on when the property was actually occupied and how much each client paid. Costa Rica cannot even keep tallies on the money it’s own government spends what makes anyone think they will be able to handle the 1000′s of vacation rentals in Costa Rica?


This article was originally published at The Costa Rican Times. 


Teaching English in CR: A Student Perspective

Costa Rica Teaching News - Living abroad for an indeterminate amount of time is a common inclusion on many bucket lists. Teaching English in Costa Rica provides great outlet to put a checkmark beside that bullet point for many reasons. Learning a new language, experiencing new cultures, trying new foods, new customs and challenging yourself to do new things are normal self-actualizing inclusions. With this said, there is one point that often gets lost when discussing teaching abroad: teaching.

What is often forgotten in the ‘finding myself’ discussions of life overseas are the individuals who are the recipients of the service being provided. In this context, these are the students.

In order to provide some perspective, I was lucky enough to sit down recently with an English student here in Costa Rica. I asked her many questions on the reasons for taking English classes, the process of learning the English language and its importance for Costa Ricans. Her answers are great insight for teachers into what ESL students go through and why they are in class at all.

Carolina, 32, is an Associate Collector for Western Union in Costa Rica. For the last five years she has worked at their Lindora branch, located just west of San José. Like all Ticos, she studied English throughout elementary school and, unlike a lot of Ticos, was lucky enough to have English classes provided by Western Union through language institute Idiomas Mundiales.

 Her common points of frustration – which are not dissimilar to many other English students – are working in English but living in Spanish, the pressure and expectation to speak perfectly with English speaking clients, the low quality of public education and the expense of private education.

Here is our interview:

 Is speaking English important for Ticos?

Yes, of course. As a requirement for a better job opportunity it’s very important. It should extend until you have the basic stuff to ‘survive’ – general grammar and certainly fluent speaking level.

What is your experience with the English language?

At the beginning [English] was interesting but I learned in a difficult way, almost by myself. I have difficulties with my basics cause I learned wrongly, without a strong education. I learned like a baby but nobody corrected me, so I’ve several speaking errors and grammar also and now is so difficult to correct them. [It] is like a bad habit…almost impossible to remove. For those who had the chance to learn English in a private school [it] is easier.

Do you like English as a language?

Mmmmm that is difficult to answer. I don’t hate it but I started feeling uncomfortable and annoyed especially when I want to express myself but I just can’t and [I] get confused, don’t have the words. Nobody understands [and] I get seriously frustrated and I feel like Gloria from Modern Family.

Can you briefly describe English instruction in the public school system?

I’m 32 and studied in the public school system. My teacher was terrible. She just repeated and repeated things and made us pray the Catholic [most] popular prayer. We followed a book with grammar…and usually the test was to learn verbs in past and present. Terrible!

Can you describe what you want in an English teacher?

To be creative, proactive, patient and to correct me.

Does your Western Union provide you with English classes?

Yes, they did. But, as I mentioned the problem is me. Cause I learned without guidance. Like an emigrant but here…listening and speaking Spanish all day long.

 You said they did. Are you not taking classes anymore?

That’s correct. I started with formal classes when my job asked me to do it and gave me the opportunity for free. I stopped [taking classes] because I finished the course.  [It] is too expensive to learn English [otherwise].

How often do you speak English?

Every day. I’m sure my customers don’t understand 100% what I’m saying. I do my best to pronounce the language. I know there are worse accents here but I get in problems when I’m trying to explain something[in depth]. I do speak Spanish very fast so I automatically try to do it in English and I can’t…cause I lose the attention I’m giving to the accent.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.


Trails in National Parks will be Demarcated for the Convenience of Tourists

The Costa Rica News (TCRN)- New fares and schedules in Costa Rica´s National Parks will be set according to the degree of difficulty and the type of services offered in their trails for the convenience of tourists.

The Intermediate level has little infrastructure and surveillance, which is ideal for relaxing walks.


From this Saturday August 24 the National System of Conservation Areas (Sinac) will start a process to classify the trails of national parks in order to help tourists identify which pathway is more suitable for them according to their conditions.

The five categories are: Opportunities (Class 1), Family (Class 2), Intermediate (Class 3), Challenge (Class 4) and Expert (Class 5).

“This initiative will offer ecotouristic innovation in Costa Rica and will make it easier for people around the world to choose the type of trails they want to visit, depending on their interest and the degree of difficulty they want or can go through,” said Energy and Environment Minister.

The criteria for the classification of the trails will be physical, and will include the total distance of the path, topography in terms of steepness, soil building materials, steps, railings, toilets, wáter taps, lighting, climate factors and volcanic gases, among others.

In addition, other travel services will be taken into account, like provision of rain coats, walking sticks, flashlights, tour guides, luggage transport, lodging or camping areas, as well as interpretation and information services.

The degree of difficulty and the type of services offered in each trail will be considered to define new rates and schedules.


1 – Opportunities: Ideal for people with special needs. It has the infrastructure and roads for traveling with walking sticks, wheelchairs, etc.  Continuous surveillance.

2 – Family: More flow of visitors and recreational space. Continuous surveillance.

3 – Intermediate: Little infrastructure and surveillance. Ideal for relaxing walks.

4 – Challenge: Walking with difficulty, this category can include a guide.

5 – Expert: Adventure trails that require special equipment.

What is the Costa Rica Blue Flag Program?


 Costa Rica News - Costa Rica is a country striving to be good to Mother Nature. It has been blessed with 750 miles of colorful sand and bountiful coastline. Costa Rica has many programs and initiatives in place to protect the environment, one integral incentive is the Ecological Blue Flag, a symbol awarded to praise ecological practices and protections and community efforts.

costa rica blue flag programThis program started in ‘96 with a goal of protecting the nation’s diverse ecosystems, preventing pollution, and improving the health of Costa Rica’s people and environment. They rely on a combination of organizations that deal with tourism, pollution, health, environment, and education, including ICT, CANATUR, AyA, MINAE, MINSA, and ME.

Being awarded a Blue Flag is a high honor for a community. The certification is monitored with daily and monthly checkups on tasks the beach communities are responsible for. They must score a 90% on all requirements to get and keep a Blue Flag. The categories judged are ocean water quality, potable water quality, quality of coastal sanitation areas, garbage, and garbage containers, treated waste and run-off water, environmental education, and security and administration.

In the first year, only 10 beach communities made the cut. In 2013, 90 beaches were added! Some of these include Manuel Antonio, Conchal, Tortuguero, Manzanillo, Santa Teresa, Guiones, and Samara. Punta del Madero Beach and Punta Blanca received all 5 stars associated with the Blue Flag! They received special acknowledgements for additional benefits of their communities including disabled access, recycling initiatives, rescue teams, security, and car restrictions. Consider looking for a Blue Flag beach community for your next Costa Rican vacation.  

Originally published at the Costa Rican Times by Kerry La

FAST Internet Coming to CR? We Will See

We all know how terrible the internet and cable services in Costa Rica are. In the last hour alone, my internet stopped working 4 times. The outages are usually brief, but annoying nonetheless.


VíaEuropa internet costa ricaYesterday my cable stopped working 12 times over a 3 minute period. I didn’t even think anything of it, because it’s so normal. The rest of the day it worked fine. You can’t let these things get to you because, for most people, life goes on, even without reliable services. It’s not the most important thing. For businesses, the story is different.

When Google went down last week 40% of the traffic on the Internet went down for 3 to 5 minutes, so the Internet going down for businesses in Costa Rica causes revenue lost each and every day.

Costa Rica is one of the more modern countries in the region, second only to Panama. There are many businesses here that need a more reliable internet service in order to be more successful. The government has had an “ah-ha!” moment, realizing that better internet leads to better financial success for businesses which leads to more taxes for them. Costa Rica’s Board of Telecommunications (Sutel) certified VíaEuropa, a Swedish company, to operate a new internet network throughout the country. This network will be “ultra-fast.”

It’s not the first promise we have heard of fast or reliable internet, but it seems more possible this time! The project already successfully launched in other parts of the world earlier this year. VíaEuropa’s network will be neutral and in alliance with Radiografica Costarricense (RACSA). The business model will create an optic fiber network that is 10Mbps, which allows you to upload and download at the same speed. The network could be used by both internet and TV providers.

The last battle that this group will have to overcome is the fact that ICE and RACSA will most likely try to sabotage any competition coming into the telecommunications market in Costa Rica. Good luck with that “ultra-fast” Internet dream becoming a reality. But at least the government of Costa Rica has finally realized that relying on its precious ICE to provide any kind of good service for Internet is no longer an option.

This article was originally published in The Costa Rican Times 

Setting a Budget; CR Cost of Living Comparison


 Costa Rica News – So many people are looking to make their hard earned dollars go further and are moving out of their home countries living abroad.  One of the areas drawing a large number of expats is Central America.  Most people do not have the ability to live themselves in the various countries before choosing one to call home.  The biggest question that people looking to move overseas asks “What is it going to cost me to live there?”

One of our readers submitted this to us today and it has incredible information about the cost of living in costa rica cost of living 1Panama, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. Tricia lived in multiple places and these were her findings.

Before you go peeking at our expense chart below, I need to make a few statements:

* This is OUR full disclosure cost breakdown of everything we spent money on based on the way WE live our lives.

* Our goal for a total monthly budget is $1,800 for living expenses ONLY.  Our income is higher but this amount is what we wanted to see if we could live with so that the extra could be set aside for savings toward further traveling.

* Our monthly rental goal with ALL utilities including WiFi is $800. We rented many different types of property from 1 bedroom/1 bathroom to 2 bedroom/2 bathroom; from 425 square feet to 1,200 square feet; high rise to apartment attached to a house, to single family home; from in town to rural to ocean front. We know we paid higher rents because it was only for one month. We also know that when we’re ready to rent for a year, our monthly rate will either decrease substantially or we will get a lot more for our money. Thus, keeping the rent within our budgeted goal.

* Phone costs are averaged based on what we actually spent over a 3 month period including initial purchase of SIM card, minutes, and data for both of us and any subsequent purchases of minutes/data. NOTE: we have only been Ecuador for 5 weeks and the line item shows the average of what we’ve purchased to date with 1.5 months remaining. We own our own unlocked iPhones.

* As we must be out and about much more than we would if we lived long term somewhere, we are eating out more than our “normal” 6-7 times, and are out socializing and meeting people to get a truer feel for each area. Thus, the dollars in meals below reflects eating out on average between 15-20 times a month and the “drinks only” will eventually be incorporated into our Entertainment budget. Where we ate was either typical fare or moderate priced. On a rare occasion, we went out for a special meal that was still well below US prices.

* We have NO car so there is nothing in this budget to indicate each countries cost of gas, which varies considerably at the moment.

* Currently, we are self-insured and pay everything out of pocket.  So only the true consistent item of Dental Cleaning was included and averaged over each 3 months (every 3 months for me; every 6 months for Mike)  We do have traveler’s insurance for catastrophic until we establish residency somewhere. Once residency established, a budget line item for medical/dental/vision will be made.

* Our meals at home became very simple and consistent. So that with what we bought at the grocery store being pretty similar in each location.  Groceries include wine & beer.  I don’t get into what’s more or less expensive in each country because it becomes a moot point when looking at the overall grocery budget.  Same for the cost of wine & beer in local establishments.

* Our One-Time Expenses are just that. Medical included my annual female checkups, swimmer’s ear in CR for Mike, and a banged up shoulder in Salinas, EC for Mike.  In my blog posts I breakdown the costs for each expenditure at the time we had to make them and won’t do that again here.  You may go back and read my blog posts for those individual occurrences. Dental included my new partial (1 every 15 years) and a new cap & veneer for Mike’s 2 front teeth. Tours included our actual time being a tourist but we will not be doing those on a consistent basis but will incorporate those costs in entertainment. Hotels & Transportation is the cost incurred while getting to and from an airport or when taking a side trip which has occurred every 3 months and will not be part of our usual agenda once we live somewhere full time.

See Full Detailed Cost of Living Comparison Here

So, with all of the above said, you can see, for actual day to day living expenses we spent a total of $5,521 in costa rica cost of living 2Panama for an average monthly of $1,840; a total of $5,387 in Costa Rica for an average of $1,796. And, so far, Salinas, EC is showing it was quite expensive.

A few specific clarifications to help you understand the spending patterns:

*Gorgona, PA: Our apartment had a death trap of a kitchen, so we ate out often (25x). Thus, there is no separate amount in Drinks Only because we always had our drinks where we ate.

*Tronadora, CR: We have nothing in Entertainment because all of our Entertainment was actually “free”. We would go with friends to the Tabacon hot spring river with drinks & snacks and sit for hours in the steam for FREE! We also did not get any “medicinal” massages that we love so much that are included as Entertainment in other locations.

*Grecia: Here too when we went out for drinks, we ate.

*Salinas: Can’t put a finger on it as to why groceries were so much more except that everything was always just a bit more. A dollar here, a dollar there. Wine & beer were definitely more for actually less quality.

Each location presented its own challenges from awkward housing with deficient kitchens (the term “fully furnished” is very loosely used), too few choices for eating out, to too remote of a location. In ALL cases, we are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt based on the data we accumulated, that we could make the necessary adjustments to keep within our desired budget of $1,800/month including medical once we are established and NOT diminish our lifestyle.

By Tricia Lyman

Any comments or questions can be emailed to Tricia directly at or visit her blog at

CR Teaching; Students Want to Learn English


Costa Rica Teaching News - It is easy to confuse want with need. Anyone who has taken even the most basic of introductory business classes would have been taught Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to help shed light on the important distinction. Maslow defines needs, of course, as those things such as water and shelter that are necessitated for one’s survival in life. Wants, in turn, are defined as mere luxuries. If Maslow had designed a similar ESL hierarchy, need would have, again, heavily outweighed the want.      

teaching english in costa ricaIn previous columns I have disputed common misconceptions about teaching English in Costa Rica. This is another big one. There is a common conjured image of an ESL classroom that has twenty innocent children smiling and laughing with their teacher while having the time of their life. It’s a really nice picture. What it isn’t, though, is an accurate representation of what most ESL classrooms look like.

This is certainly not to say that a realistic portrayal is found in the opposite projection, either. But when discussing classroom environment in Costa Rica, contextual perspective is a must.

As I’ve written in previous columns, the most common ESL teaching job in Costa Rica is teaching corporate English to adults. In a perfect world a teacher would find a room full of students eager to eat up his or her every word and make the most of the opportunity in front of them. This, though, is hardly ever the case. And if it is, it may not be for the reasons that you would think.

In the corporate ESL world students are placed into an English classroom with one goal in mind: to improve their language skills to be more successful at work. I use the phrase “are placed” because often times this is literally the case. While it is common that students don’t have to pay for the language classes (or at least pay more than a minimal course percentage) it is also common that them taking the class is non-optional. With the many fortune 500 companies from the U.S and Europe that are now present in Costa Rica, speaking English, especially at the echelon  of manager, at a higher than proficient level is becoming more and more a basic expectation.

Companies are willing to invest in their employees through language classes so long as their return is an improved work output. In many cases ESL student lists are created by managers and superiors based on who they need to speak better and not on which of their employees actually have the desire to speak better.

This leads to a mixed bag of students for an ESL instructor to deal with.

In every class there are at least three types of students. The student who can’t believe their company is paying for English classes and is going to take advantage of the opportunity presented for both professional and personal gain. The second type is the student who loves the class because it is during work time and he or she can use it as an excuse to not work for a few hours. The third type of student is the teacher’s nightmare. This student hates everything about the class. They hate that they are being forced to take the class. They hate that they are being obligated to learn a language they do not like. And they hate that they are being forced to learn a language just to be able to speak with clients and colleagues from The United States because people there refuse to speak a language other than English.

If you start working for a company that solely does what are deemed ‘public classes’ – those where students voluntarily enroll with their own money – this will not be an issue to the extent described above. Although you will surely still find one disgruntled student who knows he needs to improve his English skills for work but loathes having to take the classes. For the majority of ESL instructors in Costa Rica however, the sensitive corporate environment is where you’ll earn your bread.

Teaching English is not without its challenges. If this space is worth anything, it can be taken as expectation management. Just like your future students, to be successful in this field it’s essential to consider the needs in the classroom and not the wants.

This article was first published on The Costa Rica Times

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.


Costa Rica Biodiversity Growing Each Year

Costa Rica News - Costa Rica’s efforts in conservation have shown incredible results. Over the last two years 5,000 new species have been found in Costa Rica. This is most definitely a result of the National Biodiversity Strategy (abbreviated ENB, in Spanish) and the United Nations Environment Program.


Biological diversity typically decreases in time without intervention such as these programs.

Purposeful effort to maintain favorable habitats can increase the species living in a certain area as animals migrate to safer areas. The UN has asked biologically diverse nations to carefully plan conservation.

The ENB’s purpose is to classify all species in the country, which already contains a known four percent of the biodiversity in the world. They also note threats like population growth, waste, climate chances, and exploitation of species by humans or invasive predators. They are continually adjusting plans to study the environment and ecosystems of Costa Rica. They are doing this both to comply with the UN and to ensure the beauty and variety found in their country will be there in the future.

Their goals include ceasing to lose natural habitats, conserving 17% of land and inland water as well as 10% or coastal area, restoring 15% of degraded areas, reforestation, and reducing pressure on coral reef.

Costa Rica has 500,000 species including 300,000 insects. Most of the 5,000 new species found were insects. Some others were orchids, mollusks, mushrooms, fish, reptiles, and birds.

This article was originally published on The Costa Rican Times

Do I Need to Speak Spanish to Teach in CR?

 Costa Rica Teaching News - One of the more intimidating aspects of teaching English abroad is the language barrier. Without basic elements of the local language, things like buying groceries, ordering food in a restaurant and securing a date for Friday night can be tricky. This problem, however, should not translate to the ESL classroom.


The Spanish question is one of the most common I receive. For those that don’t have experience teaching English as a second language, it is a natural thought process. The concept of a student, who doesn’t speak English, learning from a teacher, who doesn’t speak their language, certainly looks challenging on the surface. With a change in perspective, though, we can see why this is actually the ideal situation.

The best method to learn a language is to be totally and completely immersed in that language. This is why many non-Spanish speakers arrive to Costa Rica and are easily able to pick up at least the very basic elements. When you live here, you are forced to interact in Spanish. For Costa Ricans, this full immersion only exists in their ESL classroom.

One of the very first things your TESOL instructor will tell you is that the target language is the only language to be used in the classroom. There are many reasons for this, but the most important being that in order to learn, improve, or perfect a language, one must be able to also think in that language. If the effort is made to take the students’ native tongue out of the equation, the learning ability is increased immensely.

Not being able to translate for students is a constant worry for potential teachers. This is, of course, both a non-issue and a big ESL ‘no-no’. While translation may help a student understand a word or two, it is not a recognized learning technique. While also disrupting the target language focus, translation simply doesn’t work based on the logistics of the language: English does not function the same as Spanish.

This is a common point of perplexity for many. I am routinely asked by English learners and native Spanish speakers how it is I expect them to learn English without translation. My simple answer to this query is: What language was Spanish translated from for you to learn?

We all learn our native language without translation. No native English speaker learned English via translation from another language. Why should learning a second, third or fourth language be any different?

This is the challenge for ESL instructors. Students will ask. They will beg. But the answer needs to be ‘no’. Translation is any easy way out for many awkward moments in the classroom. It’s not easy to stay the course when there are ten confused faces staring at you with no idea what you’ve just said. What separates the good from great ESL instructors, though, are those that can get any message across without translating.

Do you need to speak Spanish to teach English in Costa Rica? You will need to learn at least some to live in Costa Rica. To teach English in Costa Rica not only do you not need to speak Spanish, you shouldn’t even try.

This article was published in The Costa Rican Times 

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.

No Longer The Top Overseas Retirement Destination


About three decades ago, this country decided to make a business of the foreign retiree. The Costa Ricans invested in a formal and successful advertising campaign, targeting Americans primarily. Tens of thousands of would-be retirees from the States took up the invitation and relocated to this beautiful land teeming with rainforests.

The benefits were terrific: tax breaks, special retiree discounts, great weather, and, especially, the super-cheap cost both of living and of owning beachfront real estate. 

Fast forward a couple of decades, and, thanks to investors and speculators, Costa Rica wasn't so cheap anymore, neither its cost of living nor its beachfront real estate. Meantime, while prices had risen dramatically, the infrastructure hadn't improved at all. The infrastructure in Costa Rica today is, by all accounts, no better than the infrastructure in Costa Rica when it rolled out the foreign-retiree welcome mat all those years ago.

Worse still, after working so hard to woo American and European retirees, Costa Rica seemed to change its mind. The Costa Ricans didn't eliminate their famous pensionado program; they simply eliminated most of the tax breaks it had promised, as part of a deficit-reduction austerity package. And they didn't grandfather existing pensionados. So those who'd chosen Costa Rica for the retiree benefits it offered were surprised and disappointed to find that those benefits existed no more.

Now the Costa Rican government is considering a further pensionado program adjustment. They're talking about increasing, maybe substantially, the minimum monthly income requirement to qualify. And, again, if the change is made, existing pensioandos won't be grandfathered. To renew your status, you'd have to qualify under the new requirements.

We'll keep you updated on all developments related to the Costa Rican residency changes in the Overseas Opportunity Letter.

Find out more great information about life abroad at Live and Invest Overseas.


This Week in Costa Rica is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, expressed or implied.  This Week in Costa Rica is produced by Podfly Productions, LLC and broadcast with permission by the Overseas Radio Network.