The Beautiful Place: Lugar Bonita

Lugar Bonita

“Where are you from?”  “How did you end up here?”   While we’ve been traveling those are among the first questions we ask and answer as we meet people and exchange our back stories.   One of the reasons we hear most often is that it’s cheaper to live here in a Latin American country or that one can have a much higher standard of living (think maid, cook, fancy digs) for the same amount of money.  Others move to another country because the people are friendly, the culture and history are intriguing, the weather is more agreeable or they’re hankering for adventure.  As for Wanda and Jerry…

Lugar Bonita

Wanda and Jerry had successful careers and upon their retirement sold their home in Arizona and took off for Costa Rica in 2000 with a dream of finding paradise.  They arrived in San Jose and began traveling around the little country looking for the place that titillated their fancy. They were among an earlier wave of expats who were relocating to a Costa Rica which was welcoming retirees with open arms and enticing incentives to move to their country.  In Costa Rica they could find a new home where the life style they wanted could be afforded after years of slogging it out as entrepreneurs on the American economic treadmill. They found a property east of Tamarindo beach in Barrio Josefina which measured one hectare or 2.5 acres and the deal was struck.Tne main house

The property had an existing house where they lived while they closely supervised remodeling and enlarging that structure and incorporating it into the future paradise they envisioned. The construction began in earnest in 2001 and was, by and large, completed in ten months.  When all was done there stood a main house with a large pool and the sizeable rancho, a covered open-air living area with a high peaked ceiling and huge outdoor kitchen. Lugar Bonita Rancho

Lugar BonitaScattered around the property as well, because Wanda loved to entertain guests were smaller casitas, free-standing abodes with en suite bathrooms.Lugar Bonita

And then the work began – turning the buildings into a home.  Wanda and Jerry imported the comforts of a North American lifestyle in two cargo containers including a riding mower and household goods; two sub-zero refrigerators, furniture and all the other paraphernalia and brick-a-brac that constitute a fully stocked home.  They hired a maid cum cook, who lived nearby, for six days a week to maintain the habitation and prepare the evening meals. Then they settled into the life they had dreamed of and Jerry, a passionate gardener with an engineering background, worked almost daily, ultimately removing thirty-five trees from the property and landscaping the grounds, bringing beauty forth.  And … life was good.Lugar Bonita

Another ten years went by and life moved on bringing health problems that forced a relocation to the States.  The property was put on the market and sold, after a couple of years, to two American investors.  They hired Wanda’s son, Sky, and his Colombian-born wife, Sandra, as their property managers.  The estate’s new iteration is as an end destination for weddings, fiestas, birthdays, reunions and all manner of happy events that can be rented by the night and accommodates up to eighteen people in comfort.Lugar Bonita

Our travels bring us into contact with many people and, in a fortunate happening, the Lugar Bonita was next door to the home we were housesitting. Sky and Sandra welcomed us to the neighborhood and invited us over to the property several times.  They shared the evolution of the Lugar Bonita as well as stories about Wanda and Jerry who followed their dream and created a paradise…Lugar Bonita

By Anita and Richard


  • What a great story. I always wonder about the health care piece of living abroad and sighed when I read they had to return to the states and then what a lovely surprise that Sky and Sandra could take over the property. How fortutious that you ended up next door and could tell their story!

    • It was terrific to meet Sky and Sandra and such a surprise to find a place like the Lugar Bonita next door. As for the health care component to living abroad … we’ve discussed this issue many times ourselves. We’ve been really happy with the dental and health care we’ve received while traveling and many expats that we’ve talked to have also been happy with both minor and major treatments they’ve received while living in Latin America. I think, like everything else, if you have cash, your treatment will be first-rate and comparable to the US (and a lot less $ than even a typical copay in the US).

  • What a fascinating story! Thanks for sharing~

  • This does look like heaven on Earth. I’m sorry to hear about the health issues. It certainly looks like the property is being maintained. Everything about it is stunning!

  • I have never heard of this place but it looks like heaven on Earth. I don’t think there could be a more tropical paradise than this! Then again, I have yet to find an area of Costa Rica that I don’t like :)

  • You’ve got me thinking about a move…. hmmmmm. Love hearing the story behind the place. Bonita Lugar looks absolutely lovely and a great location to celebrate any event. I’ll take one of the casitas.

    • We loved the idea of a vacation place you could rent out for the whole family for a reunion or to celebrate one of life’s milestones (wedding, birthday, etc.). However, staying in one of the casitas in solitary splendor (with an occasional dip in the pool) could also be a lovely way to pass the time…

  • What a nice story, I hope the medical problems were dealt with.

  • We’ve had a few carpe diem inducing moments during the last several months. That bumper sticker “don’t postpone joy” is resonating rather loudly. We’ve only visited Costa Rica once. I loved finding a central American country that has managed to not turn into a place run by drug cartels and to forego a standing army in favor of spending more on education. Pura vida indeed!

    • I hadn’t heard the phrase “don’t postpone joy” before but it really is a great life philosophy to follow. In our former lives we spent a lot of time planning for the future and sometimes failed to see and appreciate what was happening as it occurred. I love stories about people who decide to follow their dreams rather that waiting for the “right” moment.

  • What an amazing legacy –
    And an amazing experience for them while it lasted –
    I feel a pang of upset that they had to leave due to health events out of their control –
    But what wonderful memories to take away with them and have forever :)

    • I loved the idea that they pursued their dream despite their age and were able to enjoy ten years in a paradise they enjoyed creating. We’re meeting more and more baby boomers in our travels who are choosing alternatives to traditional retirement and it’s fun to hear their stories.

  • That’s quite the story – sounds (and looks) as if they were living the dream. Do you have similar aspirations?

    • Eventually, we’ll settle down again, and to be realistic, it will probably be because of health issues also as we age. The beauty of slow travel as a retirement life style is that, when we find a place we love, we can take more time to live locally and experience living in dream places…

  • Wonderful to see a happy ending to these types of ventures, health issues and other personal needs always ends up dashing dreams, but this has a happy ending, yeah!

    • We love these kind of stories as well, Noel. No matter what the age, it’s terrific to see people pursuing their dreams while they can. I remember the old saying “When you have your health, you have everything” and, now, we are finally understanding that statement. The time to follow your passion should be now versus later.

      • That is so true, Anita. My husband’s health has now gone south and he is no longer able to travel. So it does indeed change EVERYTHING when you lose your health. Travel and enjoy whatever you can while you can.

        • We feel incredibly lucky to be able to pursue our dream of travel now while we’re able to work with and around a few health issues versus later when it might not be possible. We’re now entering the ages where we’re seeing more and more friends affected by health problems that have a major impact on the life they envisioned in retirement. I’ll be thinking of you and your husband, Doreen, and wishing you the very best outcomes…

  • I like to hear the stories about people who have settled into dream locales. Wanda and Jerry put a lot of work into their Costa Rica home. It’s beautiful. With their son managing the property now, I hope they get to visit once in a while in spite of health issues.

    • We love to hear those stories as well, Donna, and we meet many expats with some interesting stories that we’ll have to share in the future. Jerry passed away a couple of years ago but Wanda will be returning to her “Beautiful Place” for a visit next week. I’m sure she’ll be happy to see it carefully maintained and enjoyed by so many.

  • Michele Peterson

    What an interesting post! We moved to Mexico, bought a home and are living there part-time until my husband is able to retire. I can appreciate the challenges Wanda and Jerry must have had renovating their home in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. That palapa-roofed room is a work of art — a masterpiece of craftsmanship.

    • How wonderful that you, also, have made some big changes and are pursuing a dream! We loved the rancho with the beautiful palm roof. The little metal cone at the top is an original design by Jerry to keep the roof intact during the heavy winds that Tamarindo experiences during the January and February. Simple and ingenious.

  • As I spent more than *20 years* running trips to the amazing paradise of Costa Rica, this story truly hit close to home. I too considered retiring in “The Jewel of the Ameircas”, but elected instead to do a 2+ year spin around Asia, and am now settled in Cuenca, Ecuador.

    But I must say, as I was reading your fine post Anita – I at first applauded Wanda and Jerry for “following their dreams”, and then was sad to read that after creating such a wondrous haven, they had to leave for health concerns. g-knows none of us knows what our future holds, but at least they realized their dream while still able.

    And even better, their son Sky now continues to tend their dream!

  • That place is amazing! That’s my dream right there! Hopefully I can persuade Mrs. Phil to retire there with me.

  • WOW! What a magnificent find. This will be a desitination spot for me when I return to CR. Next winter I have chosen Belize. Just to put the word into the Universe, I have chosen belize as my password.

    Take care

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s