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When visiting a foreign land, it is the smallest details that can be surprisingly confusing. One such thing is tipping. How much should you tip? On what services? Should you tip at all? If you are a first-timer to Costa Rica, you will find the following helpful.

Tipping in Restaurants

Every time you eat out in Costa Rica, a 10 percent gratuity is automatically added to your bill. This leaves tipping entirely up to you. In other words, tipping is not a necessity in restaurants here, however, if you think you can be a little generous to the waiter that is most welcome.

Tipping in Hotels

Tipping etiquette can change depending on the type of accommodation you are staying in. If you are putting up at a high-end resort, offer a tip of around $1 per bag to the bellhop and around $2 per day to the housekeeper throughout your stay. However, if you are planning to offer a higher tip to the housekeeping staff, we recommend to do so on the very dayof your arrival. That extra bit might guarantee you better service. When at the bar, consider offering a tip of $1 per drink to the bartender.

Tipping for Transportation

Tipping drivers and other people who help you around can be a bit complicated. If you are taking a cab for a short distance, the general norm is to roundup the fare to the nearest dollar. For longer cab rides, a tip between $1 and $5 should be fine.

Tipping Tour Guide

When it comes to tipping tour guides, be it a local guide or a private guide, a tip between $10 and $20 is polite, depending on the number of people in your group.

The figures mentioned are rough estimates. Listen to your heart and do not hesitate to tip a higher amount if you feel the service quality exceeds expectations. Enjoy your stay in Costa Rica. If you decide to make your stays longer and more frequent, consider buying a vacation home. Call us at 1-844-MY-HILLS for details about our luxury villas for sale at Arenal Hills.



A trip to a new country is never complete unless you delve deep into its culture through its cuisine. After all, the food habits of a nation say much about it. Costa Rica’s high-fiber, well-rounded meals, for instance, more than explain the amazingly high happiness quotient of the country.

Costa Rica as a nation is not a big admirer of red meat, sugary drinks, junk foods, processed food, and fatty dairy products like cheese. They would rather gorge on their Casado meals consisting of rice (gallo pinto) and beans, roasted pork, chicken and seafood, fried plantains, or a carrot, tomato, and cabbage salad. Their daily diets consist of fresh food items that contain very little to no preservatives and additives. This Central American country may not occupy a pride of place in the world gourmet map, but it does boast of a few traditional dishes worth trying.


A complete meal, Casado or Comida Tipica consists of beans, rice, red bell peppers, and onions. You can choose between pork and chicken as meat staple to go with. Don’t expect the meat to be fried; it is either grilled or sautéed. You will have to satiate your craving for fries with fried plantains. Every eatery in the country will serve you Casado, no matter what time of the day it is. You can have it either for lunch or dinner.


Before you cancel your plan of tasting ceviche because it is made of raw fish, think twice. Made with local tilapia or corvina (white sea bass), camarones (shrimp), or mixto (mixed seafood) tenderized with citrus juices and seasoned with finely chopped cilantro, garlic, hot and sweet pepper, onion, and celery, this appetizer is perfect as a hearty snack item for your beach day out.


The Costa Rican versions of tamales contain a corn-based filling (masa) made with small pieces of vegetables and meat. Folded in a banana leaf, the filling is steamed in boiling water.


It is a sweet and slimy dish prepared by adding water to a few tablespoons of chan seed which has a lavender-like aroma. It has a calming effect on your body and mind. Farmer’s markets are the best place to find an authentic version of the drink.


What is a meal without a sweet and sinful roundup? Common Costa Rican desserts range from simple Orange Pound Cake (quequeseco) and rice pudding (arrozcon leche) to a more elaborate Sweet White Spaghetti Squash (Miel de Chiverre) and multilayered cake filled with dulce de leche (tortachilena). Some of the other yummy desserts include cold caramel custard (flan) and corn starch pudding (mazamorra).

To experience the real Costa Rica, take a gastronomic journey through the country’s famous eateries. Better yet, live the experience whenever you want by purchasing a luxury, single-family style villa at Arenal Hills.  Call us today to learn more, 1-844-MY-HILLS.



Wealth has nothing to do with happiness, which explains why a developing country like Costa Rica has grabbed the top spot in the Happy Planet Index (HPI) rankings, not only once but many times with a substantial lead. The HPI, which ranks 140 nations according to “what matters most – sustainable well-being for all” using such parameters as life expectancy, well-being, inequality, and ecological footprint, doesn’t consider the standard success criterion like GDP. No wonder, some of the wealthiest nations like the USA, the UK, and even Switzerland fare poorly in the HPI list. This leaves us wondering, what is it that makes Costa Rica the happiest nation on the planet? Does it have something to do with its ravishing beauty? Is it their love for the environment? Does the culture and food hold the secret? Let’s find out; this could be a revelation for you.

No Army

Instead of spending zillions on feeding an extra-large army and buying military equipment, Costa Rica invests itsmoney on what matters – health and education of its people. Health and knowledge breed happy people – it is easy to see the connection.

Love for the Environment

Costa Rica is one of a few countries that strives to become carbon neutral by 2021. Unlike many other tourist destinations in the world that willingly lose their lands and ecological balance to the aggressive property developers and hoteliers, Costa Rica focuses on converting forests into park lands and nature preserve. The pride of having a green, well-kept country translates into happiness.

Philosophy of Letting Go

Costa Rican traditions forbid their people from holding grudges against another person for more than three days. Now, isn’t that wonderful? How can you remain sad or unhappy when you have no complaint against anything or anybody?

Healthy Eating Habits

Costa Rica has no soda, junk, or additives in the form of refined sugar and sodium; only a diet comprising fresh fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich rice and beans. The result? A regiment of healthy people that are strong from within and to whom the concept of food-induced mood swings is completely unknown. It is this healthy eating habit that gives Costa Ricans a high life expectancy of 78.5 years on average.

Slow Pace, Low Stress

By Costa Rican standards, rushing is synonymous with rudeness. A slow-paced lifestyle, on the other hand, allows them to relax, look around, and appreciate the nice things around them.

Living to Please Others

When you are surrounded by people who are eager to please you and are careful not to hurt other’s sentiments even unknowingly, what can you expect other than complete bliss?

Wouldn’t you like to visit this paradise called Costa Rica at least once in your lifetime? The happiness here is contagious. We won’t be surprised if you never wish to leave the place and if you decide to make Costa Rica your second home, contact us. Our luxurious single-family villas will make every bit of your Costa Rica experience even more memorable. Call Arenal Hills at 1-844-MY-HILLS today.



Costa Rica is the land of rainforests, waterfalls, lakes, and volcanoes. One look around and you will be convinced that the best of nature conspired to create this lovely place on the planet. It comes as no surprise that you can find animals of many species in Costa Rica. However, if you are in the mood for monkey business, consider catching the Capuchin Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, and Spider Monkeys in action. Learn more about these species here:

1. The White-Faced Capuchin Monkeys

The mischievous Capuchin Monkeys are native to Costa Rica and are known for their smartness and intelligence. You will find them at Arenal, Osa Peninsula, Manuel Antonio, Nicoya, Palo Verde, and Tortuguero. You may spot them in Manuel Antonio National Park, where they are often seen snatching food from tourists. So, be careful with your food!If you have been following the popular American TV show Friends, you’ve probably seen the White-headed Capuchin, playing Marcel, the show’s most loved character in the series. Capuchins are full of life and are extremely energetic, moving in a group of 20 members. You may see them walking on the ground, use tools, and behave like humans.

2. Howler Monkeys

The Mantled Howler is one of the largest species found in the Costa Rican forests. They are known for their loud calls,making their presence felt mainly during the morning or sundown. If you are in Costa Rica for the time, the Howler’s haunting call may scare your wits away, especially if you hear it at 5:30 in the morning. But relax! Expats staying in Arenal vacation villas hear the loud cry, and jokingly pass it off as their wake-up call in the morning.

Howlers roam in several parts of this Central American country including Guanacaste, Arenal, Manuel Antonio National Park, Osa Peninsula, Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, and Monteverde. The males are the loudest of the lot, and you can hear them howling from miles away. The Howler malesyowl to communicate with the group or to respond to their surroundings. They call mostly during the monsoon and howl at people and dogs. These monkeys mostly thrive on leaves and are not as active as the other monkey species. They sleep most of the time to digest the folivorous diet they live on.

3. Squirrel Monkeys

You will spot the Squirrel Monkeys along the Pacific coasts of Panama and Costa Rica. They are the smallest of the species found in Costa Rica. They live on both plants and animals, moving around in a troop of 20-75 members. Due to illegal pet trade and deforestation, the Squirrel Monkey is reducing in numbers as of late. Fortunately, the Costa Rican national parks are striving hard to save them from extinction. You will spot them in Manuel Antonio National Park, Corcovado National Park, and Osa Peninsula.

Watching monkeys in their natural surroundings is an exciting experience. If you want to experience it more often than not, why not own one of the villa homes in Arenal Hills? Call us on 1-844-MY-HILLS if you want more information about our vacation villas in the Arenal region.

Try a Trication in Costa Rica

Try a Trication in Costa Rica

If your idea of fun is running, biking and swimming more than a hundred miles in a day, chances are you aren’t going to lay on a beach somewhere when it’s time to unwind. Costa Rica is the perfect option for those who want to train hard and unwind even harder.

A new trend among triathletes, trications give them the opportunity to train in breathtaking environments, acclimate to new elevations, and enjoy a healthy mix of activity and relaxation. Many training “camps” throughout Costa Rica offer such getaways, usually lasting between four and seven days. Most are all-inclusive and can accommodate the fitness levels of just about any elite athlete. All are fully supported by coaches and support staff.

For those who choose to make the move to Costa Rica and train year-round, Arenal Hills is the perfect jumping off point to any training routine. From mountain biking to a couple-hour swim on Lake Arenal to scaling and then rappelling down a rainforest waterfall, Arenal Hills is located at the heart of trication paradise.

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Thinking About Hiking to the Peak of the Arenal Volcano? Think Again

Thinking About Hiking to the Peak of the Arenal Volcano? Think Again

The Costa Rica Star recently warned its readers that some tour operators based in La Fortuna in San Carlos are offering guided tours to the peak of the volcano. Be forewarned that they aren’t authorized by local tourism authorities. The National System of Conservation Areas, or SINAC, has been warning residents and tourists alike that tours to the peak are off limits because they are dangerous. SINAC sites that there are no trails, steep slopes, and the area is prone to falling rocks and landslides. Plus, the temperature rises dramatically and uncomfortably near the peak, putting hikers at further risk.

A better option is a trip to see the volcano through approved access points through the Coladas and Peninsula sectors. You can find quality, guided tours at the Arenal Volcano National Park, where you’ll find both volcano hikes and hot springs visits.

But perhaps the best way to experience the beauty of the volcano is from your very own veranda at Arenal Hills. The community is designed so that nearly every home has a commanding view of the volcano.

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Costa Rica is a Hummingbird’s Idea of Paradise

Costa Rica is a Hummingbird’s Idea of Paradise

Birdwatchers and novice wildlife watchers alike tend to catch their breath at the site of the bejeweled fliers who can hover indefinitely and fly backwards—making them unique among all other birds of the world. In Costa Rica, they range from very small to surprisingly large, with tail streamers, bright colorations and fancy head plumes.

Co-evolving with the plants of Costa Rica, hummingbirds have long, slender bills and long tongues, perfect for feeding on nectar. Eating their body weight in nectar each day, hummingbirds have an extremely high metabolism—the highest of any bird on the planet, in fact. To maintain their energetic existence, they also supplement their nectar diets with insects. While awake, their heart rate exceeds 1,200 beats a minute. At night, they go into a torpor state to conserve their energy.

Most hummingbirds live relatively solitary lives, and aggressively defend the nectar-bearing plants in their territory from other hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

The tiniest hummer in Costa Rica is the male of the species Selasphorus Scintilla, weighing in at just two grams. Camplyopterus hemilecurus is the largest hummingbird in Costa Rica, and weighs in at 11.5 grams. This bird is a flash of brilliant violet on its head and beautifully contrasting emerald wings.

Of the 50 species that live year-around in Costa Rica, ten of them prefer highland environments like the Arenal and Irazu volcanoes. In fact, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which is within minutes of Arenal Hills, boasts one of the highest concentrations of humminghbirds in a highland ecosystem. These include showy specimens like Panterpe insignis, known by its fiery red throat, and shimmering green body, indigo chest, and a radiant blue crown.

At Arenal Hills, we have purposely included flowering plants that attract hummingbirds to our community. These include orchids, Porterweed, bananas, ginger, and more. We encourage our residents to provide natural nutrition instead of sugar feeders.

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