Hot Springs in Arenal, Costa Rica

A hot springs resort near Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

I’m floating in a natural hot spring under a black velvet sky sparkling with a million sundry stars, savoring the luxurious feeling of the rich revitalizing minerals as they wash over my body, relaxing and invigorating my mind, body and soul. I can feel the occasional deep earthly vibration from Arenal Volcano’s rumbly tummy. I think to myself, “Is this real? This is perfect. This is living.” And then it gets better.

The next morning I step outside on to the terrace to enjoy my morning cup of Costa Rican coffee while wild blue morpho butterflies float and flutter around the garden, dancing between tropical birds and iridescent hummingbirds that are buzzing around an array of exquisite flowers. As I enjoy a delicious plate of fresh cut papaya, pineapple, and mango, I hear some monkeys playing in the nearby trees and look up to see baby howler monkeys swinging from branch to branch in a lively game of chase while their parents watch from close by.

Just then, a fearless pizote saunters up to me to investigate my breakfast plate, hoping for a handout, but it’s already gone and time for me to return to my home in the city. As I drive back to the Central Valley, I promise to return to Arenal’s hot springs soon, but not too soon. First, I need to continue my goal of visiting new places in Costa Rica every other weekend.

blue butterfly

Blue morpho butterflies pause long enough for me to snap a photo!

Costa Rica is the land of biodiversity and microclimates and it’s possible to drive 15 minutes in any direction and experience completely different weather and landscape. White sand beaches, black sand beaches, deserts, volcanoes, national parks, rivers, waterfalls, jungles – it’s wild! Even in the Central Valley, you are never too far away from secluded nature. It’s easy to find yourself surrounded by lush green jungle, a kaleidoscope of flowers, and a menagerie of animals. You can even have this in your backyard if you wish. For me, this is a huge part of the magic of Costa Rica and the main reason I chose to live and work here.

A second factor in choosing Costa Rica as my international home was the proximity to the United States, my previous home. Trips back home to the southeast to see friends and family are easy, short, and relatively inexpensive.

In order to live in Costa Rica and afford this type of lifestyle, I teach English at a local university, 30 hours per week.

I have no prior experience teaching English, but had no problems finding a job here in Costa Rica and even found a company that sponsored my TESOL certification. Most companies require certification to teach English in Costa Rica and some will even offer a work visa. Although some companies make exceptions, a foreigner is legally not allowed to work in Costa Rica without a work visa. Without a work visa, most foreigners are required to leave the country for 72 hours every 90 days in order to renew the tourist visa. The law is different depending on what country you are from.

The average monthly salary for an English teacher in Costa Rica is $1000. This doesn’t sound like much compared to a normal wage in the States, but it is 2.5 times the normal Costa Rican salary of $400 per month. $1000 a month gets me a nice place to live, groceries, transportation money, and a budget for frequent trips to the beach, hot springs, or other areas of the country. For my next trip, I’m hoping to go to the Osa Peninsula to explore Corcovado National Park and to swim with the dolphins!

This article was originally published in International Living.