Campo Alegre : the story
My first visit to Costa Rica was in 1998. I came to visit for a one-month vacation mostly centered around bird watching and national parks. I had been living in Europe and the Middle East for 15 years without a home base and I was considering making a change to a more permanent home. I fell in love with Costa Rica – the natural beauty, the slower pace, and the people won me over.
I returned to Egypt but began making plans to live in Costa Rica. First priority was learning the language so I began to take Spanish classes from a Columbian woman that was also living in Ma’adi, Cairo.
In March 2000 I had the opportunity to return to Costa Rica for a 6-week intensive Spanish Course. I chose Nicoya for the course mostly because they said they offered horseback riding as an extra activity. This appealed to me because I was going to have to give up my Arabian stallion if I left Egypt. Turns out the Spanish Course was phenomenal but they didn’t actually offer horseback riding. So, that’s how I found Nosara. I began asking around where was the best place to ride and Nosara kept coming up.
I spent every weekend in a little palm covered hut on a property in Nosara that rented horses. I decided Nosara was for me! At that time there were no long term rental to be had. There were a few hotels and a very few vacation rentals. I was certain I wanted to rent for at least a year before taking the step of buying a place.
After, weeks of looking I finally found my dream property – it was for sale. not for rent, but I talked the owner into renting to me with the understanding that I was very interested in ultimately buying. So I moved in and after one year made the deal to buy the property. The property was, and is, called Campo Alegre (Happy Place). It was originally part of a very large ranch that was purchased by some North American developers and then subdivided into parcels. The prior owner, a cruise director, was one of the original purchasers of 2 of the subdivided parcels that he combined and named Campo Alegre.
When he owned the property it was party central. There was a tennis court and a pool hall and he bused in women from San Jose to entertain his guests. He was only in Costa Rica a few weeks of the year and didn’t waste time with the niceties of maintenance. There was one main house – with four broken down refrigerators, store rooms full of rusted, broken, useless stuff, old furniture and stopped up drains. Then there was a guard house – barely standing. A pool hall – that basically had a large bar, a huge pool table and a tiny bedroom and disgusting bathroom. And there was a tennis court with huge holes in it. But when I saw the property I had a vision of what it could be and I guess I let that sweep me away.
For the next 15 years, after purchasing the property, I put everything I had into the property to make it a viable enterprise. I started with making the existing building rentable – just. And then everything I earned I put back into the property. Eventually, I decided I would have to sell part of the land in order to survive. So, in 2005 I sold the upper and lower corners and kept the remainder intact. With that money I was able to put in a pool and a horse stable with an apartment over the stalls and completely remodel the 3 existing houses. For several years I ran Campo Alegre as a small resort and eventually moved to renting the units long term.
I consider myself extremely lucky that I found Campo Alegre and have been able to live in Costa Rica all these years. I didn’t know anything about what section was what, I don’t surf or do yoga so those things had no impact on my decision to live here. I just followed my dream and somehow made it happen.