In early 2021, my wife Jasmine and I decided to add some adventure to our lives, become digital nomads and move abroad.
After months of researching what country would suit us best, we decided that Costa Rica would be our perfect fit. So, after six more months of penetration, we finally made the big move and landed in the small beach town of Uvita, Costa Rica.
When we arrived in town, we lived our first couple of weeks in a 350 ft.², 2 bedroom, 1 bath, container home.
The container home was very cost-effective and had everything we needed in the short term, but it was apparent that both of us wanted more living space while we looked for our long-term real estate.
After living a few weeks in the converted shipping container, we put the word out that we were now looking for a larger home. One referral led to another; we found the perfect place for our transitional stay within a few days. We were now living in a casita in Uvita, Costa Rica!
What is a casita?
The term casita literally means small house. As a custom home builder in Texas, I was familiar with the word used to describe detached living quarters next to the main house. Casitas are usually used as guest houses, pool houses, mother mother-in-law suites, or detached home offices.
When building a Casita, the designs usually include an open kitchen or kitchenette that flows into the living area and a single but full bathroom.
Adding a Casita to your property gives you the extra space to comfortably entertain friends or family members for an extended period. It also makes a great place to keep an eye on aging parents while giving them their privacy.
Casitas are typically only big enough for one or two people to live comfortably and only for short periods. The reoccurring joke made by Casita owners is:
“We want our guests to be comfortable but not too comfortable where they decide not to leave.”
As a builder, I heard that joke so often that I would mouth the words as homeowners say them…
The Buddha by Ballena
The Buddha by Ballena is a set of 3 recently remodeled Airbnb casitas nestled along the side of the jungle in the cozy beach town of Uvita.
Each casita is nearly identical to the next. They consist of 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom and rest in a private gated community with a beautiful garden.
This nature lovers compound is conveniently located within a 5-minute walk or bike ride from downtown Uvita’s amenities.
Uvita offers everything you could hope for in a small town. It’s a beautiful community with many great restaurants, 2 grocery stores, a weekly farmers market (video here), corner stores that randomly have the best salmon in the southern zone, BCR bank, pharmacy, and plenty of nature tours (bamboo forest video).
One of the best parts of the location is that the casita is only a 5 min drive to Marino Ballena National Park, home of the whale tail beach. Outside the entrance of the national park, you will find tour guides that offer nature tours as well as whale watching tours.
When you enter the community through the front gates, you notice the lush tropical landscaping surrounding the property. The gardens consist of many different jungle plants that are exotic to anyone visiting North America.
Nestled into the front of the courtyard is a cabana area with an outdoor sectional and table. This area is perfect for relaxing in the shade and has a BBQ to enjoy outdoor dining.
A long narrow, grassy courtyard stretches down the property in front of the casitas and ends at a small greenhouse and concrete bodega side by side to each other. The bodega houses the washing machine and dryer units shared by the three units.
The living area and kitchen
Walking into the house through the front door of our casita, you will enter into the largest room in the house. It’s a 24′ x 12′ open kitchen and living area with a vaulted ceiling from 8′-10′.
The home features a functional kitchen. It comes with everything needed to prepare and enjoy a small home-cooked meal. Concrete countertops rest on open concept cabinets without drawers or door fronts. In place of a pantry and upper cabinets, there are 10″ deep floating shelves.
The kitchen appliances include a single-elimination induction cooktop, a small but not “mini-refrigerator,” a toaster oven, and an electric tea kettle. We noticed many variations of this same kitchen layout in several Tico houses we have toured along the coast.
Locals from this area seem to grocery shop at least a couple times a week. This allows them to have smaller kitchens with less storage while eating super fresh foods.
The living room is cozily furnished with a small wall-mounted TV, throw rug, futon, and coffee table. And the climate for the entire 600 ft.² house is controlled by a single mini-split air conditioning unit. This unit hangs high on the wall between the living and kitchen areas.
Electricity and Internet
We brought our own electrical devices like apple tv, blue tooth speakers, and laptops for our work and entertainment. CR powers these devices with the exact 60 hertz, 120/240 Volt, type B electrical receptacle (plugs) used in the US.
Since CR is a Spanish-speaking country, most internet and streamed TV programming comes through in Spanish.
To get around that, we use a VPN or Virtual Private Network to trick our internet devices into thinking that we are in the US.
We also noticed that Hulu and Netflix have internally different programing for different countries. So the VPN makes it possible for us to keep up with our favorite American TV shows and makes sure that we can watch them in English.
Bedrooms and bathroom
The master bedroom is a 12′ x 12′ room furnished with art on the walls, a queen-sized bed, a wire shelving wardrobe, and a large window with black-out curtains. The window is functional with screens, so on those perfect temperature nights, we can open a window in the bedroom and one in the kitchen to generate a cross breeze through the house while we sleep.
The second bedroom is rectangular shaped and about half the size of the master’s. This room also came furnished with a queen-sized bed. However, before we moved in, the owners agreed to remove the bed to use the room as an office.
We found a nice steel-framed glass top deck and computer chair at a furniture store downtown. This helped us to set up the room as Jas’ home office. Or anyone working remotely, it’s nice to be able to close yourself off from the living area during virtual meetings.
The bathroom is outfitted with a tile backsplash that reaches 3/4 up the wall, a vessel sink, a walk-in shower with hot water, and modern-style wall-mounted fixtures.
One of the things that I now realize I’ve taken for granted in the US is the ability to flush toilet paper. Unfortunately for us, most houses in Costa Rica are not constructed with that in mind. Even if the house has its own septic system, there is a good chance that it was not designed for toilet paper and that the sewer line leading to it is too small to accept the additional volume.
But when the owners remodeled these casitas with that in mind. They upgraded the original 2′ diameter sewer lines to 4′ diameter lines. So I’m happy to say that we can flush away…at least while we live here.
Rent and utlitys
We are responsible for the monthly electricity and water payments for our unit.
During September, we ran the AC nearly 24/7, which significantly impacted our electricity bill. The bill was a shocking $300, which I’m sure $250 was from the air conditioning use.
Our water bill for the month was under $20. In addition, the high-speed internet is included in our monthly rent of $900.
We feel very safe, secure, and comfortable with our stay here. However, we have no reservation about leaving our belongings behind when we travel for a few days at a time.
In addition, the location is excellent as we didn’t have a car for our first-month in-country and we could easily walk everywhere we needed to go.
We definitely recommend a stay at The Buddha by Ballena for anyone visiting the nature-packed town of Uvita, Costa Rica. It’s perfect accommodations for a few days up to a couple months. Pura Vida!