And then, all of a sudden we didn’t have an income. Ok, how do we continue? Due to the Coronavirus, Costa Rica decided to close the borders as well. The lodge provided us with an income, but we quickly realized that we couldn’t have guests for a long period of time. We got an idea and we started a new company.
This blog is also available in Dutch: er staat een paard op de parkeerplaats – een nieuwe onderneming in Costa Rica
What do you need to know about the coronavirus in Costa Rica?
It was going relatively well in Costa Rica. The government reacted fast after the first case was confirmed in the beginning of March. At March 16 the government decided to declare state of emergency. One of the consequences was closing the borders for tourists and foreign residents. In the days following national parks and beaches were also closed.
During the month September between a 1000 and 1300 new cases are reported every day. The numbers are sometimes a bit higher, sometimes a bit lower. After a small first wave the second wave started in June/July, most cases are seen in and around the capital San José. With daily presconferences the government is keeping us posted about the situation. The majority of the cases arise from families and friends getting together. The borders have been opened in the beginning of August and Costa Rica is slowing letting in more and more tourists.
Our second company: the pulpería
In order to have an income we started a pulpería. ‘Pulpería’ is the name for a Costa Rican local shop. Tico Times wrote earlier that the pulpería keeps doing good business during the Coronacrisis due to the virus. The pulpería is located around the corner, so you don’t have to travel far. It is small scaled and people know each other. How nice and comfortable is that in times like these?
We realized that the situation with tourism wouldn’t change soon. Of course we had to do something so that we wouldn’t stay without an income for a very long time. The idea to start a pulpería grew slowly. With the license of the company of Eliseo’s parents next door (hot springs Eco Termales Quepos) we could sell soda drinks and beers. We brought in some other products and the neighbors who visited us really liked this move. After asking around we learned that people were very excited about the fact that we would open a pulpería. We did have a space which we could turn into a shop without a lot of investments and we quickly applied for the license at the municipality. We started out with some basic products and now we are slowly expanding.
What do we sell?
We’ve got the products that you need in your daily life. Well, that you would need here. We’ve got food like rice, beans, tuna in cans, spaghetti and tomato sauce. Sponges for dish washing, washing powder, detergent, soap and toilet paper. Eggs from our chickens, freshly baked bread by Eliseo’s mom and vegetables that get delivered ones a week. Gas, candles, batteries, flash lights: not every house hold in the area is connected to electricity. One of the requests was a bar of soap that they use to wash clothes by hand. The neighbors can let us know what they would like to have and we’ll make sure we’ll get it for them. This way we can shop specifically and people don’t have to travel.
In general, we can get the products the same week. You have to think in perspective: there is no internet shopping and delivery service around here. There are only a few families that own a car and if you depend on public transport to travel to the city this is a good solution.
So every now and then there is a horse parked outside of the shop. People travel by horse, on a motorcycle or ATV or by foot. We found suppliers that are willing to deliver here. Most of the time we have to go away once a week, so if we almost run out of a product or in case someone orders something specific we can still go grocery shopping. We live a little bit remote and this way people don’t have to travel as much, which contributes positively to not spreading the virus.
Curious about our location? Here you can find more information.
Because of the current situation we removed all the chairs
Still close to home
That’s how we went to work. The location of our pulpería is about 50 meters from our home. We still have our work close to home and we are grateful that Eliseo doesn’t have to go somewhere else for a job. Normally Eliseo is working in the shop and Anouk takes over in case Eliseo has to leave. Another advantage of the situation is that Anouk can get more in touch with the neighbors than before.
How about the lodge?
So in 2017 we started our lodge. We are located in Dos Bocas, the village where Eliseo grew up. Anouk is from the Netherlands but has found her home here as well. After two quiet seasons we were in the middle of a busier third high season when all of a sudden we had to close down.
We are thinking about the future. How will this change traveling? What freedom will the tourists have?
We have two lodges, a terrace and a camping spot. We could alternate the use of the two lodges, so we would accept one reservation at the time. The camping spot consist of another terrace and a private bathroom. So there could be two separate groups at the same time without having to share a common space. I think we would have to organize everything a bit more beforehand, so we maybe we won’t be able to accept last minutes. When we know when the borders will open for tourists we will communicate our decisions and our cancelation policy.
It has been three months since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed and we have gotten everything organized. We are settling a bit down since it has been a stressful and chaotic time. As the situation is now we think we have found a way to make ends meet until tourists can visit Costa Rica again.
The neighbors are very happy with the pulpería. Still, it won’t get super busy. We live in a small community and people usually don’t have a lot to spend. Most of the time someone stops by in the afternoon when work is finished. For example a neighbors that stays a little while to drink a beer. Or a group of women that wants to leave the house for a bit and hang around to chat. There is a tv-screen and we have wifi, there is no cell service in the area. For now it’s not possible to have more people around. We can keep the 1,5-meter distance and we ask people to use the disinfectant gel that we have at the counter.
Since everything is close to home we can make the combination with having guests in our lodge in the future. It is a good thing that we don’t depend 100% on tourism anymore, especially when we won’t be able to have the occupation that we could have before. We have to adjust our self to what is the reality. As long as the borders are closed we are happy that we can have this company close to home and that we can do it together. And that is worth a lot.
Eliseo and Anouk are the owners of Calathea Lodge. Read more about the lodge. Anouk also founded ‘Bestemming Pura Vida‘, the Dutch travelblog about Costa Rica. Some of the blogs are translated and published on this website.