Posted by: luisabaldwin | May 18, 2010

Paso Canoas, Costa Rica

Hotel Los Higuerones, Paso Canoas, Costa Rica

A Visa Renewal Option

If you aren’t in the application process for a Pensionado visa, you have to leave the country for 72 hours.  This little ritual takes place every three months.  So, for those of you who are moving down to Panama, or anywhere else for that matter, go to the embassy before you come down and see if you can get a one-year visa for the country that you are moving to.  In Panama, this is about the amount of time it takes to get a Pensionado (retirement residency visa) visa.   We have some friends who were able to get the one-year visa so you should too.  Trust me, it’s the way to go.  These little trips add up although they do introduce adventures and changes to your routines.  If you scroll back to Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica on my web-site, you’ll see that little visa renewal trip.  While interesting and enjoyable, as of 2009, that three-day trip to Playa Zancudo cost U.S. $400.00 for two.  That’s U.S. $l,600.00 a year total that you can add to your cost of living, travel inconveniences not withstanding.

The following is one suggestion for your consideration if you don’t want to travel into Costa Rica.

HOTEL:         HOTEL LOS HIGUERONES
Phone:        (00)506-2732-2157 (it fills up so make a reservation)
Address:         100 mts. Oeste de la UMCA, Paso Canoas, Costa Rica
RESTAURANT:     RESTAURANTE INTERAMERICANA
Address:         Queda al frente de la Pizza FaBo
TAXI:         Alex
Phone:        (00)506-8701-0645
NOTE:    The (00) is the international dialing code to Costa Rica from Panama.

The verandas are a great way to wile a day away!

Getting to the border from Boquete by public transport is easy and  not terribly inconvenient.  Boquete’s proximity to the border was one of the considerations we had, as we knew about the “three month ritual” when we were picking our location to settle in.  We recommend that you leave your car behind and take public transportation.  It’s a real pain in the butt to get your car across that border.  People just aren’t doing it.  And public transportation is very easy.  You just take the bus to David for U.S. $1.25.  Walk around to the back of the bus station to where all the buses are parked and look for the “Frontera” collectivo bus.  An hour and half later and U.S. $1.50 poorer, you’ll get to the border after stopping for every single fare along the way.  Go to the Panama Migration and get stamped out.  Then you walk (fairly long walk) to the Costa Rican Migration and get stamped in to Costa Rica.  Then you just get a U.S. $1.50 cab to Hotel Los Higuerones and there you have it.  You’re ready for your “3-day three month ritual”.  Easy.

Charming old plantation-style architecture

It seems like there are about 3 choices close to the Costa Rican border.  One is the above mentioned Playa Zancudo.  Then there is Playa Pavones, the longest left-leaning wave in the world and world-renowned surfing spot, and finally there is the Wilson Botanical Gardens.  But all of those choices involve traveling further than the border town of Paso Canoas and are more expensive options.  Paso Canoas is the least expensive option.  This time we didn’t want to travel very far so we decided to look into Paso Canoas itself.  Now I have to tell you, the town of Paso Canoas is really bad.  It’s dirty, there are a lot of con men that will approach any tourist they think they can get money from and it’s just plain not a place you really want to spend time in.

Enter Hotel Los Higuerones.  The hotel is a definite oasis in a desert of hot-humid run-down chaos.  As the taxicab drove us down the road and we caught first glimpse, Jim and I silently prayed that this was the place.  It was!  Set way back from the road amid an attractive green landscape was an old-looking but relatively new construction colonial-style plantation structure.  It had a little class and refinement and you didn’t feel like you were in the middle of a shanty-style town.  What a shock.  The second shock was the price.  Many people are moving from Costa Rica to Panama for two reasons; one is it has gotten very expensive and the other is for their safety.  The crime has gone through the roof, literally.  Private security companies are doing excessively well as they try to stem the crowd of criminals who have gotten so crafty, they will literally break-in to a house through the roof!  Well, this lovely hotel (as of 2010) was $46.00 a night for two.  The rooms are quite well air-conditioned, there is Internet out on the verandas (the hotel will provide you with a long extension cord), and cable TV with some English language programming.  Best of all, to my knowledge, there has been no crime here at the hotel.  The owner is very strict when it comes to hiring practices and lives at the other end of the hotel. Cool!  Well, nothing is “cool” in Costa Rica…  This country is as steamy hot and humid as the tropics gets.  But you get my gist.

The bedrooms are simple but the beds are comfortable

There are a few particulars that those of you who are pondering this visa renewal option may want to consider.  There are no amenities.  So, for those of you who think it’s important to start your day out with coffee (that’s me), bring a little 4-cup coffee maker.  Across from the reception desk is a fridge with cold (well, semi-cold) drinks.  So if you require ice or really cold drinks, buy a bag of ice at the grocery store.  They’ll let you put milk and a few things in the fridge.  By the way, room #9 has Internet in the room.  All the other rooms have to use the veranda.  The signal isn’t strong enough to get inside but room #9 is directly above the router so the signal gets through.  Most of the rooms only have a double bed and a single bed but room #29 is the only room that actually has a king-size bed, fridge, and larger TV so that’s where we’re going to try and stay if we come back.  Having a fridge in the room makes a huge difference.  As of 5/2010, this room costs $50.00.  Good news!  This hotel does not have suicide showers but does have hot water.  For those of you who don’t know what that means well, Costa Rica is famous for a scary electrical hot water delivery device that is attached to the shower head. You never relax while taking a shower in Costa Rica for fear of getting an electrical shock.

The grounds

The cost of a taxi from the border is $1.50-$2.00 (it’s not very far) and the cab driver will stop off at a grocery store and wait if you ask.  If you want to hire a taxi by the hour the price is $15.00.  This hotel is immaculate!  And I mean really clean.  And I can also say that I have had great customer service here too.  Their heads are really in the right place and they really mean it when they say, “Para sirvirle,” to serve you.  Please allow me to explain.  The maid was cleaning and found my bag of ice in the bathroom.  The next thing I knew, there was a knock on the door and when I opened it, there was the receptionist with a cooler.  Very nice.

The hotel does have future plans.  They want to put in another 29 rooms, a pool and a little restaurant.  That would make it perfect but I’ve heard all about “plans” in Central America.  I wouldn’t be holding my breath if I was you.

We found a pretty good restaurant within walking distance.  It’s called Restaurante Interamericano and has little outdoor tables. Now, don’t get your hopes up too much.  Nothing in Paso Canos looks very good.  The buildings are a little run down.  But the food was pretty good, especially breakfast, and not too expensive by Costa Rican standards.  We paid about $4.25 for breakfast per person and dinners ran about $6.00 per person.  As of 5/2010 the conversion rate that all the vendors use is 500 Colones to $1.00 but you can ask to pay in US dollars.  The tip is included in the bill so you don’t need to tip unless you want to.

There isn’t much to do in Paso Canoas.  You can do some duty-free shopping.  All of the vendors deal in US dollars because Panama is on the US dollar.  Be sure to ask nicely for their best price.  I saved U.S. $23.00 on two pairs of shoes for Jim by asking.  But unless you are a real shopper (which I am not) it’s a good idea to bring your own entertainment; a book, movies on your lap-top, cards, a Backgammon board, etc.

Get your visa renewal in style and grace!

Photography by:
Luisa Baldwin
© All rights reserved

Hotel Los Higuerones is a good solution if you just want to put in your time to renew without having a bigger adventure.  Maybe next time we’ll try Pavones (a one hour $50.00-60.00 taxi ride from Paso Canoas) but on the wings of a move, we were a little bit too burned out for a big trip.  As it turned out, we had a very restful and pleasant “three-month ritual” renewal for about half the Playa Zancudo trip price, U.S. $250.00 (for two).

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Responses

  1. Thanks for your recommendation. We just left Hotel Los Higuerones and were extremely pleased with the accommodations. we never could have imagined such a nice hotel exists in Paso Canoas.

    • You’re welcome Ellie. A shining star in the middle of a not so nice border town. So glad that worked out for you and thank you for your kind words!


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