“There is nothing in this part of Costa Rica to compare with Arenal Hills.”
Dr. John Gonda, DVM
Drs. John and Sara Gonda met and graduated with Doctorates in Veterinary Medicine from the Davis Campus of the University of California in 1998 and 2000 respectively. They are the first family to call Arenal Hills their Costa Rican home-away-from-home.
When Dr. Sara Gonda was studying veterinary medicine at UC Davis in the late 1990s, she studied abroad in Monteverde, Costa Rica for a month. The area, its wildlife and the people made a profound impact on her, both personally and professionally. Now, she and her husband John, also a veterinarian, own a special piece of the region at Arenal Hills.
“When Sara first visited where she did her research, she fell in love with it all over again. I can see why, it’s such a magical place. The Arenal volcano is amazing—you can feel it just being there,” said Dr. John Gonda.
The Gondas and their two young sons ages four and 11, have been visiting Costa Rica about every six months for the last six years. In fact, their youngest son has been to Costa Rica seven times in his lifetime. The Gondas go there for many reasons – the climate, the outdoor activities, the scenery, and most importantly, the wildlife. They volunteer at Proyteco Asis Animal Rescue Center located near Arenal Hills in San Carlos, Alajuela, Costa Rica. It’s one of only two animal rescue centers in the country dedicated to wildlife protection, environmental education, and fostering a positive cultural exchange through education and service.
“The first time we went with to La Fortuna, I was struck with how family friendly the people were. They were very welcoming to kids and families. That’s when we started looking for a place in Costa Rica.” he said. “Once our villa home is built at Arenal Hills, we plan on going back five or six times a year until we retire. Then we can live six months in Costa Rica, and six months in Southern California. Arenal Hills fit the bill for exactly what we were looking for.”
After so many visits, the Gondas now have many friends in La Fortuna. That’s a big bonus to having a new home in Arenal Hills, along with a very gentle climate without high heat or humidity, no biting bugs, and lots of things to do. Both being veterinarians, they mostly enjoy just being in nature admiring all the diverse animal and plant life.
The Gondas have been practicing in their own clinic, the Arroyo Vista Veterinary Hospital in Moorpark, California, since 2004, and have a history of volunteering in their community. This includes the support of local sports teams and bringing in student volunteers from the Health and Science Academy at Moorpark High School, the Regional Occupation Program of Ventura County, as well as the Animal Behavior College training program. They specialize in small animal medicine. Their frequent trips to Costa Rica and volunteer work there continually refuel their passion for their practice.
“There’s so much to do in this part of Costa Rica. Our favorite pastime is horseback riding, and there is no comparison to riding in Costa Rica when you take into account the quality of the horses, the scenario around you and the wildlife. It’s magnificent.”