Message from Management: June 2010

Nick Halverson

CEO of Nick Halverson

Having spent almost three months in Costa Rica through the first half of 2010, primarily at The Village of San Buenas,I can best sum up the first 1/2 of the year in Costa Rica as “progress”. Costa Rica continues to successfully move forward with their balance of increasing their economy through private sector growth,

Nick & Duane Halverson

Nick & Duane Halverson at San Buenas Golf Resort (next door to Village of San Buenas development)

increasing education and protecting their natural resources. They have elected their first female president and are increasing their trade with more countries of the world than ever before.

Here are some of the more visible changes that have taken place this year:

a) New highway from San Jose to Jaco (Caldera)

This highway is now an easy, “North American stye” highway that is a great improvement from the previous, twisting/winding/corkscrew highway. The new highway has had a couple of “hiccups” so far as heavy rains have forced its closure but as with anything, it will take some time to work out the kinks.

I have spoken to people who have lived and worked in Costa Rica and this project has been in process for over 25 years. It is great that it is finally complete.

I have driven it several times and it is a great improvement.

b) New highway from Quepos to Dominical

After 47 years and several starts and stops, this highway is now complete. My first trip down to Costa Rica over five years ago involved flying into Quepos and heading south. I looked at a map and figured, “Heck. Only 23 miles +/- to Dominical? No problem!” We landed at the end of the day and by the time the rental car was ready it was dark. Well, the drive to Dominical took two-and-one-half hours!! From then on I flew into Palmar Sur.

Those days of bumpy roads and kidney slamming driving are over! The drive between Dominical and Quepos is as easy as the drive from Dominical to Palmar Sur – flat, easy curves, smooth…The drive now takes about 30 minutes +/-.

With the finishing of the two highways it is an easy 3 1/2 hour drive from San Jose to The Village of San Buenas in the southern zone. Here’s some photos of the completed intersection in Dominical:

c) Increased coverage of 3G cellular network

ICE continues to install more 3G towers in the southern zone including one in San Buenaventura.

d) Tourism is up over 10% in 2010 vs. 2009

e) More communications.

Cable Tica and ICE continue to install more high speed internet services throughout the country. We met with an engineer and a member of management from ICE at the project early last week. We are cautiously optimistic that the first house will have phone service by the end of 2010 and with the right hardware we already have internet access (via 3G network). I will be pushing them to put in a dedicated high-speed internet line soon.

This is great for the whole project. They are aware of our plans and have been very helpful. We will also be meeting with Cable Tica in the next month to discuss communication solutions.

Within the project I am proud to announce a new masterplan that was designed by our award winning master planner. More details to come in the next couple of months. If you would like a sneak peek, please contact me directly. There are more parks, green spaces and walking trails than any other development that I know of in the area.

Costa Rica in May and June is a great time to visit. The temperatures are cooler than in December/January with gentle winds. Don’t let the “rainy season” name keep you away. I will have my recap from June/July in a couple of weeks. Keep your eyes open for it.

If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica please let me know – I would love to meet for a cup of coffee or Imperial. We can also assist you in your trip planning.

Best regards,

Nick Halverson

Arenal Volcano: History and Information

This is an interesting article that owners of The Village of San Buenas may find interesting. Costa Rica is full of wonderful and amazing sites. Although The Village is approximately five hours from Arenal it makes for a great weekend getaway.

Originally written in Landings – Nature Air Magazine

Not by Fire Nor by Water

The Resurrection of Arenal and Surrounding Towns

By Cara S. Klempner

When William Blake wrote “Great things are done when men and mountains meet,” he probably wasn’t envisioning a tourist destination based around a lava-spewing 3-cratered conical volcano. But the push and pull of the Cocos and Caribbean tectonic plates have given rise to more than just stunning peaks and roiling magma; the area’s had its share of other frictions as well.

La Fortuna, east of Arenal Volcano, was a wild frontier where a few brave souls battled the elements and dense forests to clear farm lands and children walked miles to one-room schools. Settling west of the volcano around 1940 were pioneers from Alajuela displaced by the Central Valley’s burgeoning coffee production and rapid population growth. The volcano’s millenium-old westward eruptions had formed a large loam-filled depression crisscrossed with waterways, including the Arenal River that was later dammed to form the Arenal hydroelectric project. The sandy basin’s abundant grasslands were perfect for cattle farming.

Named after the then-dormant volcano, Arenal quickly became a commercial center for scattered settlements in the region. Passable roads into the region via Cañas and Tilarán ended at Arenal. In this broad, volcano-encircled valley, settlers would soon find themselves fighting for their lands against natural forces and the march of progress.

The Sleeping Giant Awakes

Prior to July 29, 1968, the Arenal Volcano’s lush forest cover gave it the appearance of an innocent mountain. That fateful Monday, its western flank erupted, spreading sand and ash over a 200 kilometer area. Newspapers reported 90 deaths, but eyewitness reports range into the thousands, with the cattle death toll totaling tens of thousands. The Global Volcanism Project has since determined that Arenal has had regular eruptions every few hundred years dating back seven thousand years.

Erminia Monge, 54, was an eyewitness to the eruption:

The images of that day are engraved in my memory. Two days before, it rained a lot. The next day there was sand falling, rain mixed with sand. Everyone knew then that it was a volcano – the radios were all staticky and you couldn’t make calls. The morning of the eruption was sunny and crystal clear. My father said he wanted go over to Pueblo Nuevo to see what was going on. We told him not to go.

Then there was a great boom, and an enormous cloud went up and came falling downwards. “Let’s get out of here!” my father yelled. We were terrified. We didn’t take anything with us; we just started walking as the day blackened into night.

My father returned the next day. The cheese had rotted, the cows were braying. People couldn’t cross out of the affected areas because the rivers were swollen from the rains. A helicopter distributed food to us every few days, the basics. We spent two weeks with seven other families – each in one corner of a tiny house in Venado; we bathed and washed our clothes in the river.

The campesinos were not people who would flee easily. When they saw the initial signs, they thought it would pass. The mentality was different then: people were used to waiting, and to accepting what God wanted. If they died, they died; if they lived, that was good too.

Clean Energy

As the region recuperated, many families moved to Arenal away from the volcano’s eruptions. Monge’s family followed, and as she was planning her wedding at 22, ICE was planning a hydroelectric project and that required the evacuation of the up-and-coming town. Monge became the first to marry in the new settlement of Nuevo Arenal.
ICE held meetings in the movie theater … the place was packed. People didn’t want to leave. Little-by-little ICE convinced people. They strung us along with promises of a special reduced electric rate, of new roads. Basically they were forcing us to leave.

My family didn’t leave until the flooding started. We thought, “What is in this new place for us? What will we do there?” The old town was small, but rich: everyone knew each other. People were honest, upright, and lent a hand to each other. In Nuevo Arenal we found a desert: there were no trees or roads—it was a mess. We had to travel by horseback 30 km to Tilarán for supplies, the roads were impassable. Many families were divided by the resettlement process.

Old ICE publications document an earnest, idealistic effort by young intellectuals fresh from San Jose’s universities and eager to apply their technical expertise to what was considered a wasteland. The team saw the resettlement wholly in positive terms: “The project will create new forms of employment, and new opportunities through better salaries, technical formation, and relations with people from other parts of the contry … there is also a possibility of new activities like fishing and tourism … factors which will unite in a process of cultural transformation.”

Eighty-two-year-old Mario Hidalgo, who was vice manager of energy for Costa Rica’s Electric Institute (ICE) at the time the Arenal plant was built, recalls:

“The idea for the dam came about in the 1930s. Topographers began studying the terrain and river flows. The conditions were ideal for creating a reservoir: this exceptional site allowed for the storage of vast quantities of water with minimal alteration. An additional benefit was that the water leaving the plant could be used as irrigation for agriculture in the dry Guanacaste region. Many people were interested in starting tilapia farms and growing rice along the irrigation canals. The Inter-American Development Bank pounced on it. It was considered ‘sexy.’ It wasn’t expensive, and it had so much potential. They immediately agreed to fund it.”

Jose Luis Sibaja, 61, is a seasoned community leader who was born in Mata de Caña, the relocation site that old Arenal residents voted for. Tourism and foreign settlement along Lake Arenal’s balmy, northern shores in the 1990s sparked a construction boom, boosting the struggling agricultural economy and generating significant revenues. As he recalls:

The first 15 years were very difficult. There was no work; farming was bad. Now with foreigners buying properties, land prices have risen, and some have benefited. ICE promised many things in verbal agreements, but talk is cheap. They abandoned us. They did come through on their promises of homes, but the roads, we are just now finishing! Most who came were farmhands, previously landless; ICE gave them small farm parcels with houses. These people had never had their own land. They came with nothing. It was a town full of poor people. There were immediate benefits for those of us living here: electricity, roads, banks. It was a great thing having these new people in the town.

ICE’s Hidalgo reflects that, “All change brings about pain. Some people are satisfied, others not. There should have been more follow-up with the resettled community. In a similar relocation situation, Hidalgo recalls the ethical challenge faced “An older woman lived alone with her cow; each day she grazed it in a pasture and milked it on her patio. Her house and the pasture were bought by ICE. A few days later, the woman died. There is no consoling oneself in these cases. When you put them on a balance: the woman, with her cow and her few belongings on one side, and on the other side, the project – you cannot say which one weighs more, you really cannot.”

Deep in the bed of Lake Arenal lie two pioneer towns, whose residents 35 years ago felt hope and fear clashing in their hearts as they faced the necessity to uproot. The volcano, its mineral rich waters now feeding luxury resorts, its molded terrain having birthed frontier towns, cattle farms and a major hydroelectric project, stands as witness and catalyst to the region’s development, growing with each lava spurt, and holding its own secrets deep within.

Nature Air: $5 Transfer Fee in San Jose (SJO) to Pavas

Airport Shuttle Service

To facilitate travel for Nature Air passengers arriving at and departing from the Juan Santamaria International airport (SJO), Nature Air offers an affordable VIP Shuttle Service directly to and from the Nature Air terminal at the Tobias Bolaños International Airport (SYQ).

For just $5 per person, passengers can make the ground connection between the two airports. One of our reps will meet and greet you at the airport and assist you with your luggage. All you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the friendly air-conditioned ride.

This service can be arranged and paid for in advance when booking your Nature Air flight by filling out the form below or directly at either airport with the Shuttle Coordinator, located at the orange Taxis Unidos stand in Juan Santamaria Airport or with the Concierge desk at any of Nature Air’s airports.

The shuttle departs three times per day from each location to accommodate most connections. For passengers arriving at Juan Santamaria, we recommend that you select an Airport Shuttle departure no sooner than one hour after your scheduled arrival.   Please allow for no less than one hour before your Nature Air flight is scheduled to depart when taking the Airport Shuttle from Juan Santamaria. Passengers looking to connect from Tobias Bolaños to Juan Santamaria should book the Shuttle 30 minutes or more after their arrival to Tobias Bolaños and three hours prior to your departure from Juan Santamaria for your international flight.

If your flight times do not correspond with the Shuttle schedule, or you prefer to arrange private transportation between airports, you may book this directly by contacting our reservations office:

The Tobias Bolaños International airport is located just 5 minutes from downtown San Jose, and approximately 20 minutes from the Juan Santamaria airport.

Nature Air chose Tobias Bolaños as its main hub to best accommodate the airline’s average 74 daily departures and arrivals to and from San Jose. As the main air service provider at Tobias Bolaños, Nature Air also avoids the frequent delays you typically find at the Juan Santamaria Airport. Our passengers do not have to deal with long security lines and traffic at other airports, and our facilities include a restaurant and other services for the comfort of our passengers. Additionally, our convenient proximity to downtown San Jose allows us to better serve local clients.

New Watersport in Costa Rica

Standing + Paddling

A Balancing Act on the Sea

Walking on water is a feat reserved for Jesus Christ Lizards, the son of God and anyone that’s mastered the newest fad in the water sports, a cross between ocean kayaking and surfing known as SUP. What’s SUP? ‘Stand Up Paddling’, a rewarding mid-ocean workout atop a buoyant long board.

I had the pleasure of trying out this hybrid sport in Nosara, one of Costa Rica’s many surf meccas, that has been rounding up offbeat adventure seekers for quite some time. While many come and go, the ones who stay convert their hobbies into careers. Spencer Klein, formerly the personal assistant to Jack Johnson, has been offering SUP tours for more than six months in the region. For the moment, he stands alone.

“In a year, there will be 15 other companies offering this in Nosara,” the foresighted instructor said. Not used to your conventional work situation, Spencer found a niche in nature-oriented tours. He started his own company, Experience Nosara, offering kayak and hiking tours as well as multi-day surf excursions to some of the best spots in the country.
In my first lesson, Spencer’s advice was all too encouraging: “You will fall 10 to 15 times before you get it right”. More out of fear of falling than talent, I earned the title of “natural”, keeping it to three spills, mainly from loss of concentration when I’d pan the shoreline for my boyfriend who was left in my wake.

In my first attempt, I wiggled my way on to the board before assuming the crouching dog position. Up to my knees and then foot by foot I was standing on wobbly legs. Like a proud Ngobe chief, I rowed my board slowly, eyes glued on the horizon. The learning process evokes tightened muscles that amount to a full body conditioning work-out. Once you get past the fear of falling, it is truly a Zen-filled experience, minus the beginners’ ache in my arms.

After our three hour lesson, we returned to the beach, failing to upgrade to paddle surfing. I felt like I had earned my way into some kind of secret club. A club of ‘people in the know’ like Pierce Bronson, Matt McCaughnehey and Jennifer Gardner – all SUP veterans.

Spencer has led tours of people from age five to 78. Some are looking to explore and others for a good workout, or a new way to fly fish. “I think it’s those people who are interested in getting out on the water but haven’t found their calling in any other ocean sports,” Spencer said. “My wife never really got into surfing, but when she tried stand up paddling, I would watch her paddle miles on end with a pregnant belly.”

The sport originated in the 50s or 60s with Hawaiian surf instructors known as The Beach Boys. They’d stand up on long boards and propelled by outrigger canoe paddles to keep an eye on the waves and large classes. “It saw a quick resurgence in Hawaii about a decade ago, and now you can read about Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts paddling on,” Spencer said.

If there is a place for the sport to really take on, Nosara is it. The healthy lifestyle ambiance is contagious, and the variety of beaches appeal to the equally varied SUP fans. As I returned to the juice bar at the eco-friendly Harmony Hotel, I opted for a Mango-Cucumber-Cilantro smoothie over an Imperial and started plotting my next boarding adventure to the region.

Nature Air Flight Special Pricing

Nature Air Pass

Be sure to fly into Palmar Sur (PMZ) to visit the Village of San Buenas.

Nature Air, Costa Rica’s leading airline, is offering travelers the freedom to go where they want by using their brand new Nature Air Pass. The pass is valid for a period of two weeks or one month and gives you the option to be completely spontaneous during your trip to Costa Rica. Like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, you can go where you want, when you want.

The pass entitles you to unlimited flights during the dates that you select. For the price of just two round trip tickets, you can fly as many times as you like during the period of two weeks. For less than the price of four round trip tickets, you can enjoy unlimited flights for the period of an entire month. With 16 destinations in Costa Rica to choose from, the Nature Air Pass is your access card to the best vacation to Costa Rica ever!

Take a dip in thermal hot springs, soar through the trees in a tropical cloud forest, swim with the sharks in the southern Pacific or enjoy a fresh seafood dinner on a dock over the Tortuguero Lagoon in the North Caribbean. For just $100 more, travelers may opt to include Nature Air’s 17th destination: the archipelago of Bocas del Toro in the northern Caribbean of Panama, Costa Rica’s neighbor to the south.

For help stringing together all of these excellent travel destinations, ask one of our Nature Vacation’s Travel Designers today. If you prefer to go it alone, you can book the Nature Air Pass by calling 1-800- 235 9272.

Click here for more info

Quepos – Dominical Costanera Highway Update

The road between Dominical and Quepos is now completely finished. All of the road has been paved, bridges constructed and an easy 30 minute drive is all that separates Quepos/Manual Antonio from Dominical.

Historically, this drive could take up to 2.5 hours. As recently as two years ago this would take well over 1 hour.

Here’s some pictures of the completed highway.

When we started purchasing land down in the southern zone five years ago it was a bit of challenge to drive to. Potholes on the Pan-American highway, potholes on the road from San Isidro to Dominical, or if you chose to drive through Quepos it added over an hour to go 22 miles.

Now the roads are in great condition on the Pan American highway, they are in great condition from San Isidro to Dominical and the road to Quepos is 30 minutes.

Here’s a video of the new intersection in Dominical: Click here

The time of “discovering” the southern zone is just beginning for most visitors. I believe in the next several years we will see a large increase in the number of visitors to the zone. For those who have ever considered purchasing now is a great time. The slow economy in the United States has lowered prices in many places in Costa Rica as US based owners shed their assets and with the new highways completed, do not hesitate if you eve r considered purchasing before the large influx of visitors come to this zone.

It is also important that developers protect the natural beauty that the Osa region has to offer.

At the Village of San Buenas we are committed to just that. We have removed approximately 75% of non-indigenous trees on the project (MINAE gladly gave us all necessary permits). This action alone took over a year and lots of resources, but we are now starting to see results. (We don’t touch any indigenous tree we find). We are seeing large numbers of loro parrots daily, we can hear the howler monkeys daily, and toucans and macaws are seen several times a week.

The reason for the quick increase (six months) is that they now have access to their food sources. We have also started planting more fruit bearing trees in the development. As we begin putting in roads and walking paths (scheduled to start in 2011) we will be planting almond trees to attract macaws as well as other trees to attract Osa’s magical wildlife.

Message from our Master Planner

Today we have a feature story published again in NewGeography:

This is an important article because it clearly explains why we have not advanced much towards the goal of sustainability.

More important it explains how we can achieve a sustainable future.

As you know by our past communications, we are the only land planning firm that develops new design methods and the automation (technology) to implement these new methods making them practical. We have been involved in the Civil Engineering, Surveying and Mapping software business for over three decades providing us with the experience and history few in this industry (if any) can match.

I can tell you that I have been part of the problem that we face today, as explained in the above link to the article. Until recently, I have developed and produced the very technology that holds the development industry hostage to minimums. It was not until our latest venture, that I had realized we do not need to do things faster, we do not have to teach the use of automated cul-de-sacs that assure monotony… We DO need to teach proper planning techniques and take the time and effort to create wonderful places to live – that is why we developed PPS – to share the knowledge and the technology we used to create Prefurbia, teaching and empowering the worlds land development related fields.

The current issue of Professional Surveying Magazine features the first of a 4 part series on Prefurbia. This is an extensive article series that takes on the perspective of todays professional land surveyors who often design much of our suburban and urban landscape.

Speaking of Professional Land Surveyors: We will be teaching 3.5 hours of continuing education at the 52nd NYSAPLS Annual Conference in January 2011 at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona New York. This class will teach the basics on design in this new era of Prefurbia. Attendees will download PPS from our web site ( onto their laptops and we will be providing course files to them. We are working with other State Organizations to teach similar classes.
Rick Harrison

Medical Tourism Expected to Rise

NOTE: Costa Rica’s healthcare is ranked above the United States’.

Costa Rica Developers Eye Health Care Centres
by Kevin Brass

The Costa Rican government is promoting a plan to help developers build projects centered on health care facilities for foreign retirees.

New developments would offer clusters of services, including nursing and research facilities, catering to senior citizens looking for an inexpensive alternative to medical care in their own countries

In the wake the global economic slowdown, health care centers are an opportunity for developers to “change strategy,” Minister for Competitiveness and Regulatory Improvement George Woodbridge told La Prensa.

Retirement communities generate “two to three times” the revenue of traditional tourism and real estate projects, Woodbridge said. A population of 10,000 retirees could produce 40,000 jobs and $340 million in foreign exchange, the government estimates.

Last year, medical tourism attracted 30,000 visitors to Costa Rica, according to government data. That number is expected to increase as health care costs continue to rise. The U.S. is expected to generate 1.3 million medical tourists in 2011, according to a report by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, which ranks Costa Rica in the top 10 destinations for medical tourism.

Until recently, most of the traffic in the past has been young people looking for cosmetic surgery and dental work, not seniors, Deloitte says.

“With health care at the center of attention in the U.S. this concept could certainly gain ground if implemented properly,” Panama developer Sam Taliaferro notes in his Panama Investor Blog. “If Obamacare gets legs one area that you can be sure will be left out in the cold is alternative health care practitioners. I bet they will head south with technology and skills.”

(For the record, the World Health Organization ranks Costa Rica’s health care system at 36th in the world, one spot ahead of the United States.)

Costa Rica Photos

Sunset ocean view lot in Costa Rica Village of San Buenas Look at my latest Costa Rica/Village of San Buenas photo album: 2010_JanFeb_CostaRica

Message from Management: Feb 2010

February 23, 2010

Dear Investor/Owner/Prospective Client:

As we begin the new year I wanted to make certain you were fully appraised of the status of the project and the latest news in Costa Rica. With this in mind we present you the following overview:

Nick Halverson

CEO of Nick Halverson

Costa Rica
Like virtually all countries Costa Rica has experienced a challenging national economy. Tourism was up just slightly last year which is not good for the country, but great compared to other regions of the world. Unemployment is increasingly a problem as many construction projects have stopped. I would term the economy as “sluggish.”

On the other hand there are good signs for the future. The country has made a definite commitment to upgrade its road system. For example, within 90 days there will be an excellent modern highway system in place from the northern border of Costa Rica to the southern boundary.

In January a new highway connecting San Jose to the Pacific coast was opened. This project took over 40 years to complete since it was first proposed. The drive from San Jose’s airport/Alajuela to Jaco is now just over an hour. It used to be approximately 2.5 hours. This means that the time to travel from San Jose to our development will now be 3.5 hours rather than the previous 5 hours.

The modern highway is one mile from our project. The fact that there is now easy access to the south is very favorable.

Costa Rican President Elect Laura Chinchilla

La Presidenta de Costa Rica

In early February there was a national election. The new President is a woman who is prodevelopment while still insisting that the environment is protected. Her name is Laura Chinchilla and she will be in office for the next four years. Previously she served as Vice President under current President Oscar Arias. We look upon the election as a good sign. Click here for more information and some of my observations about the election.

The newest hospital in Costa Rica is operating well. Please remember that it is but about five miles from our development.

Finally the town of Palmar Norte, which is 15 minutes from Paradise Developers, has added several new stores and the municipality has paved more roads, while retaining the Costa Rican culture.

The Village of San Buenas
Because of the slow economy worldwide many development projects are moving at a slower pace than in the past. We continue to move forward at a steady pace after working through the sluggish 2009. Specifically:

1.  We now have sold 39 lots . This is excellent progress and we have approximately 80 more lots to sell.

2. We have water and electricity to a small portion of the project. We will add these as buyers decide to build their houses.

San Buenas House

House for rent: Village of San Buenas

3. The first house has been completed and built  on Lot # 9.  It is now being rented out at the rate of $1,500 per week. Within the next 30 days a website for the house will be developed and linked to the main website of The house will also be available for  serious prospects that can stay at the house for free if they purchase during their visit.

4. It appears that a buyer will be starting to build a house in the next 120 days. I have met with the architect on his behalf several times and we hope he can get all of his paperwork approved soon.

5. We continue to generate interest every week through our marketing efforts and our price points make it one of the most affordable Costa Rica real estate options available. The purchase process for most clients is twelve months (from first expressing interest to purchasing), however, those who move more quickly continue to receive great bang-for-buck (cash discounts) and first pick of the lots. I always encourage prospective clients to visit the property as soon as possible. This way, they get first hand experience of the views, the area and the other options available in the project. They also can meet with architects, myself, our property manager, our workers so they quickly feel a sense of community and what The Village of San Buenas is all about.

Every year we also have several “site unseen” buyers which is also an option. I don’t encourage it but everyone of our clients who has purchased and then visited has been thrilled with their purchase. I am continuing to add more photos and videos to provide clients from around the world the ability to see and hear what the project is about. The videos and photos don’t do justice as to how beautiful it really is. Even with several thousand photos and hours of video I can’t effectively show the friendliness of the people and the local community.

Here’s a link to some photos:

Here’s a link to some videos:

6. We continue our Pay As We Go as a key strategy. Hence we have no long term debt.

7. Our biggest challenges for the balance of the year is to gradually build the infrastructure and to continue our sales momentum.

We continue to be optimistic about the future and are continuing to improve the project to exceed expectations.

Please check out the website at and review some photos from the last 60 days here 2010_JanFeb_CostaRica

You will notice we have a wide price range of lots available from the low $20,000’s to $294,000 based on location and views. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Nick Halverson