You have had a car accident..!  What do you do?

Car Accident while in in Costa Rica – what to do?

If you are involved in a traffic accident in Costa Rica, the process is a bit different than that of North America.  Here is what to expect, and how to handle the situation.

Driving in Costa Rica can be a challenge. It is about being aggressive enough to reach your destination and being prepared for a multitude of possible reactions of other drivers.  It is about defensive driving at all times!  There are narrow roads, hills, curves, rivers, not enough passing zones, etc.  

If you end up in a traffic accident this is what you should do. 

Step 1 – Keep Calm

You probably expected this one, along with the typical advice of never leaving the scene of an accident.   While this is a hard fast rule in the United States, hit and runs are common in Costa Rica. If the other driver has left the scene, stay where you are and get an accident report from your insurer which is most likely INS and the police.  

Step 2- No matter what…take many, many photos and videos of the scene. Get anyone, a bystander, to also take pictures and give you their contact information.  This will become your proof, in case of a disagreement. If it is a hit and run, try to get a picture of the vehicle as it speeds away!

Step 3 – Don’t Move Your Vehicle

In Costa Rica vehicles involved in accidents are left where they are, until an inspection can take place.   This is what those reflective triangles in your mandatory, emergency car kit are for. Place these triangles in intervals of about 15 feet to alert other drivers that they are approaching an accident.   In the case of a blind corner or hazardous area, you could have an individual placed to flag vehicles and get their attention before coming right up on the scene. 

Step 4 – Call 911

This might seem exaggerated if there are no visible injuries; but 911 will also coordinate the inspection with the Transito Police.  These officers handle only traffic related incidents. They will come to the scene, perform a site inspection, and complete a report. If you call 911, the report is recorded and can be used later in case of a disagreement.  For your Insurance, you need to have a police record! 

Step 5 – Get the Facts and call your insurer.

After you finish taking photos of the scene, any contributing factors and the license plates of the cars involved;  get names and contact information from any and all witnesses. It is not a good idea to argue with the other driver, or discuss the incident with any of the witnesses.   Just get their information!

Most vehicles in Costa Rica are insured with the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS). Look in the glove compartment to confirm this and call their toll free number which is 800-800-8000.   If you have another insurance provider, their contact details will be in the proof of insurance paperwork in the glove compartment.  

 Step 6 – Answer the questions of the Transit Police and provide your information.  

While they may not speak English, just be patient and they will get someone that will be able to take your statement or ask any necessary questions.   Note that it in most cases it could take, and most likely will take, a few hours for an official to arrive on the scene.   

 Step 7– Removing your vehicle from the scene.   

Typically, the Transit Police will arrange for the vehicle to be transported to one of their yards.  Depending on the severity of the accident you may be given the opportunity to remove the vehicle yourself, by organizing your own tow truck.  If you have INS insurance there is a part of the policy that gives you ‘free tows” within a certain distance.

This may also be the time to consider whether or not you need an attorney. If you are unsure, you can consult an attorney and present your photos, copy of the incident report and your side of the events.  They will help you to know what is your next best action.

Got a traffic ticket?

At the end of a Transit Police inspection, they may issue you a ticket.   You have 10 business days to take action on this. This again may be where you want to consult an attorney.   

If it is a regular traffic ticket, you can pay this at any bank. It usually takes a few days for the ticket to be put into the system.  Many times, it never does show up – the Police officer does not put it in the system. But, keep checking!   If it is in the system and you do not pay it, it will be charged on your next Marchamo / Annual Registration and there will be fines attached to it.

 Driving in Costa Rica, requires you to use your defensive driving skills at all times.  You cannot go on “autopilot” at any time.  Roads are full of twists, turns, mountains and rivers, tourists in a hurry to get somewhere and then the “plain ole, crazy” drivers!

Drive safe out there. 

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Do you have a question about this blog, or real estate in Costa Rica? Feel free to contact us. 

What to do… as a retiree, on the Ballena Coast, in Costa Rica?

When you first arrive here in the beautiful southern zone of Costa Rica, you are still in “vacation” mode and doing “vacation” things, exploring this beautiful little country, and all the learning that needs to happen – where to shop, how to live here, etc. Your days are filled with these activities. And then, you sort of “get done”.

And, …. then… what if boredom sets in?  It can happen to a retiree anywhere in the world!  What to do with your day?  How many amazing sunrises can you watch? Or how many yoga classes can you attend, before life begins to get a bit ‘dreary”, in spite of the amazing things that Costa Rica has to offer.

It does take a certain kind of person to enjoy the ‘retired’ life, no matter what country you are in.   Just being an expat takes a bit of “pioneer attitude” and resiliency! And, then you add the “retired” bit to the equation. You are used to going to work every day, and now… you don’t! 

So, now, what will you do??  How do you fill your day, feel productive, etc.?? Let’s be creative….

Here are some ideas I have come up with, from my own experience, watching my friends go through this.

Make a good network of friends: Having a support network is necessary, even if you are not the outgoing type, make an effort to make friends, both Costa Ricans and other expats, it’s important that you have other expat acquaintances that can relate to your situation and can help guide you through learning life in this country.

Morning hike / walk – every weekday morning, around 7:00 am, there many are expats and their dogs walking the dirt roads.  They stop and chat, walk together, build friendships; and get some good exercise to walk off all that beer you are drinking each day!

Maintain your own pool!  Learn how from the guy currently doing it; maybe arrange to have them come and check on you every 2-3 months. This gives you something to do every morning, after that great cup of Costa Rican Coffee and your morning hike/ walk.  Then, jump in and cool off!

Grow some herbs, and other foods! Even in a small yard, you can have pots of herbs, etc. Watering, weeding and harvesting the results of your hard work… will give you something to do! Then, you will have to learn how to use all the pesto you are making, from that abundance of basil you grew!

Learn to make more of your own food – learn how to make things from scratch, such as broths, salad dressings, soups, etc., etc.  This will save you money and take up some of that time you have on your hands. Take a local cooking class, to learn how to make more typical food, with the interesting produce available here. 

Take a Spanish class! They are not expensive!  In our area they run about $15 for a 2-hour class.  Just attending class helps you to become more familiar with the language.  You can ask your specific questions, better than you can with an App or on-line program.  I prefer group classes, because I learn a lot from the other participants and their struggles or questions.  Having a bit of Spanish helps in your daily life, grocery shopping dining out, etc. 

Explore: Take day trips or short trips to explore the rest of Costa Rica.  On your 90 visa renewal run, while waiting for your residency to be processed; go to Panama and explore the area around David, Boquete; go shopping at the great places in David!  Then, explore the other nearby countries… it is inexpensive to travel from Costa Rica to these countries.  Keep being a bit of a tourist!  

Physical Activities: 

  • Take up golf at the Osa Golf course. A 9-hole, beautiful course at San Buenas, just south of Ojochal.  They have regular tournaments, etc.!
  • Saturday Volley ball in Bahia Uvita – go play, watch or heckle! Everyone is invited.
  • There is also Sunday Beach Volley Ball at Tortuga Beach, just south of Ojochal. Again, go out and play, watch or heckle!

There are many other activities and opportunities to be social, groups who regularly go to the beach. Take them up, do it, until you figure out what you like best! 

​Volunteer for a cause that you’re passionate about: When you find something that you are passionate about, there are many different volunteer opportunities in the area.  Look around your specific area and see what is around. Helping others is a great way of becoming involved with your community and making friends who you share interests with. 

Local Costa Ballena Volunteer Opportunities

  • Alturas animal sanctuary -clean cages, help with feeding, etc.
  • Reserva Tortuga -Playa Tortuga. Help with monitoring during turtle egg laying season, hatching time, etc.
  • DAWG – Animal rescue group, help with fundraisers, cleaning cages and walking dogs
  • ReFugio- Animal rescue group, help with fundraisers, cleaning cages and walking dogs
  • Family Support Center, Ojochal / La Manita Second hand store – many opportunities to help the impoverished or marginalized families and children in the area!
  • Beach cleaning / Blue Flag Committee for Beaches and the community of Ojochal. Once per month there are clean ups at 2 beaches in the Ojochal area. Find out who organizes them in your area.   Go and spend a morning with like-minded individuals and clean a beach.
  • Ojochal Athletic Group – fundraisers, etc. to support the local soccer teams and sports in the area.
  • Schools – English support, art classes, athletics, etc.
  • Local Library – Ojochal. Sort books, help people find a good book to read, take in donations, etc.
  • Help out a “English” camps and festivals for kids and adults. Help locals learn English and you will learn some and practice your Spanish.

Expat Social Activities in the Ojochal area:

 – “Friday at Five” at “La Mona Grita” in Ojochal, great opportunity to meet your neighbours!

– Expat gathering on Fridays at 5 at Stam Belgium Beer Bar, Ojochal before going to La Mona Grita.

– Live music at Los Gatos Locos, La Mona Grita and Bamboo Room.

– Bi-annual Community Garage Sale at the Ojochal Community Center

– Ladies Lunch – once per month a large group of ladies from the Ojochal area go for lunch and catch up.

– Love to watch sports? Since few of us have or watch TV, find a watering hole that has a big screen, go watch your favorite teams play, and meet more good folks!

Join the various, local Facebook groups for your area, village or town to keep informed of activities and happenings in your area. Since many of us do not have or watch much TV, and there are no newspapers or ways to learn about activities; Facebook is our only source of gathering information and learning about what is going on in our areas. Join the groups in your area!

You have skills, you may have hobbies, you may want to learn to do something new… now is your time! Find a way to utilize them, give back or create a niche!

Be creative, talk to others, and you will find ways to feel productive, give back and fill your retirement days! 

Then, I know you will come up with your own ideas on how to fill your days… and not be drinking too many of those delicious Imperial cervezas! 

To subscribe to our bi-monthly, informative newsletter click here! 

Do you have a question about this blog, or real estate in Costa Rica? Feel free to contact us. 

Families, schools and a whole lot more!

Expat families are finding ways to earn move to our beautiful little country – while either working remotely online with their current business or employer; or starting a new business from their Costa Rica home or studio space. They may not be earning as much money as before (although some do); but their everyday lives have become more like an extended family holiday, surrounded by wildlife, beaches and tropical weather.

Children learn very many valuable skills, such as how to make new friends, learning a second language, and very importantly – how to cope with change!  All such very important skills to have as successful children, teens and eventually as adults!

Every year, many parents of young children are finding that it’s far easier to learn how to live a simpler life, than they imagined!  Their kids still go to school in English, but they have the opportunity to learn another language, and have the impactful experience of being immersed in another culture and environment.


Most expat parents want their children to graduate with a US or International diploma. In order to do so, they need to attend a USA or Internationally Accredited school. Most of the English language and Bilingual schools in the area are also working on having their “MEP accreditation” – “Ministerio de Educación Pública  Accreditation” for Costa Rica.

Children who have graduated from secondary schools locally, have gone on to study around the world, with success.

There are four private schools on the Ballena Coast, where Spanish and French are taught as a second languages. There are also many “Costa Rican” public schools.

Private Schools

Escuela Verde / Escuela Costa Ballena – aims to prepare children to be resourceful and independent while inspiring them to give back to their community and the natural environment. The school, created by parents, teachers and children working together, recognizes that the people in a community must be supported to realize their own potential for growth.

Escuela Verde not only fosters an attitude of strong personal responsibility, but responsibility as a member of a multi-cultural community. Children are encouraged to understand their role as a learner and to respond accordingly. The students help to create a classroom climate that enhances academic and social learning. Parents are helped to educate their child. The continuity of values results in home and school environments that are effective in educating and shaping the whole child. Escuela Verde expands the foundation of each student to unlock their personal potential and to develop critical thinking as they journey to envision the future.

Uvita Christian Academy – students will graduate with a US diploma that is internationally accredited. The school supplements their regular teachers with graduates from Greenhead College in the UK, who come for one term exchange programs. They take the classroom outdoors, for fun and educational field trips.

Kabe International Academy – is a private, non-profit, preK – grade 5 school located in rural Costa Rica. Kabe aims to provide their students with a world-class education that empowers them to follow their passions and change the world. Kabe’s education centers on dual language and project-based learning.

Life Project Education – based in Ojochal, their unique inter-disciplinary student projects and family retreats emphasize holistic learning values such as understanding our place and potential within the universe, physical health and nutrition, energetic health and mindfulness, and connection to the natural world and dynamic communities.  Empowering children (and families!) to develop their authentic passions, purpose, and life path requires a new approach to teaching and learning. We believe the role of the teacher should move far beyond that of mere transmission and transaction. 

Local, Public schools – Ojochal, Uvita, Cortez public schools are less frequently chosen by expat families. Those who do choose to put their children in the local public-school system are richly rewarded with learning to speak and write fluently in Spanish. These children end up integrating more easily into the local community, so families in for the long-haul in Costa Rica, often choose this option.

After-school Activities

A number of organized after-school activities and programs exist for kids in the Costa Ballena. Children can learn skills, engage their talents, and explore the wonders of the region in safe care. Below are a few examples of what types of organized activities are available and popular with families in the Costa Ballena:

Team sports – pick-up games can be found on any beach or field, but playing on a competitive level is available, too. Team sports are a great way for kids to learn Spanish in a fun environment while also learning team etiquette and getting exercise. Places like the Eden Community Center in Uvita have a calendar of events open to the public.

Junior Lifeguard Program – The Costa Ballena Lifeguards occasionally provide a Junior Lifeguard Program for the youth in the Costa Ballena region. Their aim is to teach the youth to respect the ocean and the dangerous currents and big waves. They also teach their “junior lifeguards” about treating common injuries and practice a bit of endurance training, swimming, and other exercises.

Dance classes – Happy Feet Ballet Academy and Starlight Productions are two dance schools in the Costa Ballena that have world-renown instructors and producers putting on local productions of exemplary quality and skill.

Centro Educativo School Break Activities – Electronic Music and The Art of Printing were two courses offered in 2019 to keep kids learning and entertained during school break. Activities are catered to different age groups.

Reserva Tortuga – in Ojochal, has an annual “Summer Camp” in January, where children from ages 8-14 get to play “biologist for a week!

Rancho Merced – outside of Uvita, has children’s horseback riding session, and other activities catering to the younger crowd


The thing about living in the Costa Ballena is that typical “vacation-type” activities can become the everyday norm! Here are a few that families can partake in without a huge financial investment: surfing, boogie boarding, playing in waterfalls, hiking/exploration, horseback riding, visiting National Parks and animal sanctuaries, snorkeling, river/ mangrove exploring, ziplining, night animal tours, and quite a few more that are free or inexpensive.

Live Music – Because kids love dining out and live music, places like the Jolly Roger in Dominical and the Bamboo Room in Ojochal offer earlier live music (also popular with the retired expat!)  for the whole family to enjoy. Most restaurants have kid-friendly menus and the indoor-outdoor environments that are typical of Costa Rica, mean that kids have room to play, while waiting for food.

Museums – San Jose has a few options to offer, including the Children’s Museum, National Theatre, and Jade Museum. But, a bit closer is Finca 6, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can learn about the mysterious Diquis Spheres.

Animal sanctuaries and nature reserves – there are many volunteer organized shelters, sanctuaries and reserves that have a number of programs that help educate kids and adults in the local community about protecting species and their environment; as well as community outreach and taking steps to help species under the care and guidance of experts.  Volunteering at any of these is an important experience for children.  Playing with the kitties at Refugio, helping to clean cages, etc. at Alturas Animal Sanctuary are only a couple of the opportunities!

Shared events – Things like community movie nights are becoming more regularly scheduled events, at the Escuela Verde, with doors opening at 5pm and a small entrance fee, with all are welcome to attend and lots of families with young kids as regulars.

Shopping and Services

Because many families move to Costa Rica to lead a more natural lifestyle complete with healthy, organic foods, there are a growing number of farmers’ markets in the Costa Ballena.  The Eco Farmers Market in Dominical is open on Fridays from 8am to 1pm at Patrons Restaurant for organic produce and hand-crafted goods. Mama Toucans in Dominical offers daily shopping of over 5000 items, all certified organic. Sur Organico is a daily vendor of organic produce in Uvita and there is a large market held on Wednesdays, in the center of Bahia Uvita.

English-speaking pediatricians are available in the Costa Ballena. Dr. Maria Gustavo works out of her office in Uvita and at the Cortes Hospital, and she speaks English (2743-8743); and Dr. Jaime at the pharmacy provides cards and vaccinations.

Uvita Daycare charges $250 a month for 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, and can communicate in German, English, French and Spanish. Uvita also has the Centro Educativo, which is the Daycare/After-School Care part of Escuela Verde.

In Ojochal, there is the Beit-El Guarderia that has reasonable prices and the daycare director has a degree in education. Here your little ones will learn Spanish, and have good care, and learning experiences!

Community Support

For many years, there has been a youth program in Uvita called “Forjando Alas.” They have an after-school program that provides a safe place for at risk youth in the Costa Ballena community.  They rely on donations and volunteers from the community who share skills, activities, English, and self-confidence with kids.

Many expat-organized activities and program welcome all participation, regardless of financial circumstances (operating on sliding scales). There is a strong community desire for creating recreational and professional opportunities for children, through sponsorship programs or teaching for free.

Families also get involved in beach clean-ups, fundraisers, and events that are meant to bring anyone and everyone together from the community, to help create a safe and cooperative future for all to enjoy.

The Costa Ballena is full of opportunities for families of all ages and backgrounds to share in the enjoyment of the natural environment and it’s all thanks to our close-knit communities. Come and share in the growth of a better future for all in Costa Rica.

Do you have a question about this article, uvita real estate, ojochal real estate or something else? Feel free to contact us. 

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Caja Health Care System Costa Rica

Costa Rica health care system history

Let us explain a little bit about the history of the Social Security system in Costa Rica in order to better understand, what we know as “CAJA.” 

The Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social was created in Costa Rica in 1942 during the administration of Dr. Rafael Angel Calderón Guardia. The CCSS arose at a time of great public health difficulties in Costa Rica. With its creation, it achieved a system that unified efforts in a tripartite way by including contributions from the State, from workers of the time who advocated for better social conditions, and from employers. It this way, it created a social policy of solidarity, that would provide improvements to the social systems and supported the family.

The CAJA is an autonomous institution of the Costa Rican state, which means that it is independent, both administratively and financially, allowing it to be more efficient in the management and disposal of its resources.

This insurance is mandatory and covers workers and their families. There is also a welfare program which is aimed to assist those who live in poverty or are disabled.

The CAJA is responsible for the actions that are carried out in the areas of disease prevention, medical treatment, as well as the coordination of a large system of hospitals and clinics throughout the country. This system has around 29 hospitals and more than 1000 Ebais (local medical clinics). 

This is basically how this system works: Costa Rican employees must be registered with the CAJA, which is one of the largest responsibilities of employers when initiating the employer-employee relationship. This coverage also extends to the dependents of the insured person through the family benefit. Thus, all the health services that a Costa Rican needs, from medical control programs, prenatal care, hospital care, surgeries, medical care in case of accidents, cancer treatments, and any number of other procedures, are accessible in Costa Rica, thanks to the social security and the services provided by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund.

Costa rica health care system for foreigners

However, the CAJA is not only for Costa Rican citizens. Starting in the 1990s, there was an increase in the benefits given by the CAJA to immigrants.  The Costa Rican Regulations outline this coverage in Article 32 of the Immigration Ruling:

“Foreign people who receive approval of their permanent residency, temporary residency or those Special Subcategories of the Special Category requests shall, once the decision has been notified, proceed with the registration before Costa Rican Social Security Fund authorities.” 

So, this means that it is a fundamental requirement to register with the CAJA once the application for residency has been approved. Once a person has obtained the resolution proving their status as resident, it is mandatory for them to register with the CAJA. You are required to sign up with the CAJA before you can be issued your DIMEX/ Cedula or residency card. 

You may have asked yourself, “Why do I need CCSS insurance, if I already have my health insurance in my home country?” or “Why do I need to register with the CAJA if I have private insurance and can access Hospital CIMA or Hospital Clínica Bíblica if something were to happen?” 

You may be asking these questions particularly if you have heard many stories about the often times long waiting times, high demand, and the difficulty of prompt and optimal care, which can certainly make anyone doubt the importance of being registered with the CAJA.

However, rest assured, you will need to register with the CAJA regardless of your feelings about its effectiveness. This requirement has been established and is a part of the obligation of Costa Rican law, as we already mentioned above, and is one of the requirements to be a resident in the country.  The need for everyone to contribute to the social security system of the country.

The fact that Costa Rica´s best professionals are trained (and often in USA medical schools) and provide services to the CAJA. While recognizing and understanding its vast areas of improvement, CAJA is usually the one that deals with those situations of greater complexity. Many Ticos, regardless of income, use the CAJA for matters such as cancer treatment or major accidents. On many occasions, private hospitals will refer the patient to the CAJA system. 

Our personal experience with the CAJA system, on the southern zone of Costa Rica, has been really good!  We have received amazing, fast treatment for emergencies, regular checkups, etc. Waiting lines are not bad, especially if you time it correctly! Certainly no worse than what we experienced in Canada! A lot of the long ups and delays seem to be happening more in the central valley and San Jose area, than here in the southern zone. 

We, personally, make choices of when we use the CAJA system, and when we may choose to use the private network… sometimes it just makes sense to use a “private” service. For example, my husband had an eye issue; we wanted to see a specialist quickly, the next week; so we choose to use a private clinic. The cost for 3 visits, and a lot of time spent with him, was about $80! 

The CAJA system also covers almost all medications.  When I go to emergency for an issue, I walk out, having had very professional treatment, and my bag of medications! I am also covered for my thyroid and blood pressure pills… this alone almost pays for my CAJA!

So, in conclusion, while the mandatory registration with the CAJA may seem inconvenient and dealing with the CAJA can be a bit of a cumbersome process, at the end of the day it is an additional insurance in case of an emergency, that everyone is required to register for.

Do you have a question about this article or about Costa Rica real estate? Feel free to contact us! 

To subscribe to our bi-monthly, informative newsletter click here! 


The 2019/ 2020 High Season is in full swing here on the Ballena Coast, in Costa Rica. It began early, again, this year; and we are experiencing a huge increase of tourists, from many different countries; as well as many long-term renters who are “trying” Ojochal!  

Because of all this, the village of Ojochal, and the entire Ballena Coast is very busy!  Lots of tourists means a dramatic increase regarding inquiries about available properties in the area, and this is will be followed by an increase in sales throughout the year, and then into the following year! There are a lot of sales happening, however; it is still a “Buyers” market…for how long, we don’t know!

Our C21 Ballena Properties team continues to be one of the top 2 Century 21 offices in Central America. With our new, additional office in Herradura, we expect to be #1 once again in 2020! We continue to grow, expand and serve our clients!

On the Ballena Coast, Uvita continues to grow; and becoming a serious marketing hub and tourist center. The Wednesday market in the Bahia is a very popular event, with fresh produce, fish, meat, etc! There is always new stores, restaurants and services arriving! Read our blog “living in Uvita Costa Rica” to find out more about Uvita and it’s lifestyle. 

Ojochal has a new center near the entrance to the village -Plaza Tangara; with Citrus restaurant, Stam – the Belgium beer bar, a Dr’s office, a pharmacy, hairdressing and beautician shop, a wonderful gourmet deli!  The community continues to grow and thrive!

The Mona Grita continues to be a poplar expat hang out, especially for “Fridays at Five”. Neighbours and friends meet to have a few refreshments, get caught up on life; and then go for dinner! A great place to meet new friends!

The Look Out Hotel is under new management! We wait to see what it will be!!

The former Villas Bosque / Villas Oro hotel is under new management with many great improvements and is now called Villas en el Bosque.

Ojochal received its first “Community” Blue Flag in 2016. The community completed the work and received the third blue star in 2019! Ojochal is one of the few communities in Costa Rica, with this prestigious award. You can see it proudly flying at the entrance to Ojochal!  Proof of how awesome this village is.

The “Ojochal Family Resource Center” continues to support local families in need or crisis, send 22 + children to summer camp, provide Christmas hampers to 13 needy families, Back to School supplies for 45 children, and much more! For more information, to donate or support, go to their website:

The Ojochal Volunteer Library continues to gather books for all ages, help local children become more proficient readers, learn English, etc. They always welcome children’s books in both English and Spanish. Adult pre- read books are readily accepted! The Library is across from the all new, blue 2 storey, ASADA office in Ojochal.

Wondering about building a new house in Costa Rica?

The Ballena Homes Team, our sister company; works in partnership with a team of architects, designers, engineers, home construction specialists and infrastructure providers to deliver a complete range of professional services to our customers. 

By offering the option to build a new custom designed home, new property owners can invest safely, and acquire their new home in the tropics.  Every house is a custom design – to fit your specific needs!

For sellers you have the option of building a reasonably priced home on the “Lot” you own. This will not only increase the chance of selling the property faster, it will add tangible value; easier to sell!  And, the house could also become a source of income within the active, local rental market.

Every home is customized to suit your lot and your specific needs!   Ask the team of specialists at Century 21 Ballena Properties for more details.

Concept to Completion, Ballena Homes will manage each step of the process.

Do you have questions about this article or uvita real estate, ojochal real estate?  Feel free to contact us. 

For more information on buying a property in Costa Rica we recommend reading our blog “buying a property in costa rica – how long does it take to complete

To subscribe to our bi-monthly, informative newsletter click here! 

Living in Uvita Costa Rica

When we mention the word “home”, the first thoughts that come to mind are comfort, peace, and tranquility. After retirement, many people wish to relocate to a place that revives their being and allows them to enjoy the harmony and nature that they have so long been separated from. But why wait until retirement if you can already get your own slice of heaven at an affordable rate in Uvita, Costa Rica? 

Where is Uvita in Costa Rica?

Uvita is located on the Costa Ballena, the Southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. It lies in the southern part of the Puntarenas province. This area consists of a 22-mile stretch of white sand coastline, and a jungle-covered mountainous landscape full of spectacular waterfalls and tropical flora and fauna. The rainforests are home to beautiful bird species like humming birds, toucans, and parrots as well as other animals such as monkeys, iguanas and sloths.

Uvita is situated in between two towns: Dominical in the north, Ojochal in the South, and Uvita is in the middle. Dominical has one of the region’s most popular surfing spots, providing waves for both beginners and experienced surfers. Corcovado national park is only a short distance away and is considered one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Just south of Uvita is the Marino Ballena National Park, also known as the “Whale’s Tail”. This picturesque marine park is known for the migration of humpback whales. Whales come here year-round to mate, give birth and raise their young.  It’s also a great place for hiking, kayaking, and birdwatching.

Development in Uvita, Costa Rica

In the past the Southern Pacific was a difficult area to access; but surprisingly, this has proven to be a benefit to the region. While other tourist hot-spots experienced overwhelming development, Uvita remained largely untouched. In the recent years the San Jose to Caldera Highway facilitated access, which has reduced the travel time greatly. The improved road conditions also ensure that Uvita will continue to have a sustainable development. This is already visible today; the town has a well-developed infrastructure and an organized network of services and modern conveniences, such as: banks, expat owned cafes, an international school, and more. This offers interesting investment opportunities.

Uvita Costa Rica Real Estate

Whether you are considering moving to Costa Rica or investing in this beautiful country, Uvita should be taken into your consideration. Living in Uvita will give you the opportunity to be part of a growing and welcoming international expat community that enjoys living in the outdoors. The town has the perfect balance between fulfilling all your day to day needs and living in nature. This makes it easy to understand why numerous people have decided to make this paradise their home. Uvita offers real estate in a great variety, there are properties and homes for any type of buyer. There are numerous real estate options and the prices are very affordable. Home buyers and investors are still able to find great deals all over Uvita and the Costa Ballena. Do you want to know more about Costa Ballena? Read our blog on “Where, What is Costa Ballena“. Uvita offers ocean view, mountain and jungle homes, condos and land for sale. Browse through our Uvita real estate listings and take the first step towards achieving the future that you have always dreamed about.

Do you have questions about Uvita, Uvita real estate, or this article? Feel free to contact our Costa Rica Real Estate Office. We will happily share our experiences and knowledge with you!

Are you considering buying a property in Costa Rica? We recommend reading our previous blog to get more information on the process of buying or selling a property in Costa Rica.

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What is the perfect Expat life? How do you live it?

 It is, in my opinion, someone who is happy for having moved to Costa Rica; one who doesn’t find all the faults they can in their new home country, and embraces the differences and find humor in the processes.

I have identified 7 common barriers to having the perfect expat life be all want it to be. But be forewarned; achieving that life is not always easy and you will need to work at it.  Living in Costa Rica is a “simpler life” but not necessarily an “easier Life”!

Here are 7 obstacles that need to be overcome to enjoy the perfect expat life in Costa Rica:

  1. Complaining

We all complain. It’s human nature, and even after many years living in Costa Rica, I still sometime find myself wanting to complain. I sometimes compare things and situations that happen in Costa Rica with those in other countries. But are those other countries perfect? I doubt it. I know that the part of Canada I am from, sure is not perfect!

By complaining about differences, bureaucracy , we are focusing on the negatives which lead us to feel like victims. And, we didn’t come to Costa Rica to be unhappy victims! The important thing is not to use other countries, especially your “Home Country”, as a measuring stick and judge all of Costa Rica by that standard! Find a way to remember and to see the positives.

The perfect expat doesn’t spend all their energy thinking about moving back home, because they are already home.

  1. Learn the Language

Often, expats prefer to settle in a country where English is the primary language. True, and many Ticos nowadays speak English. However; that’s not the general population of Costa Rica. And, it is not the part of the population with which you will have the most contact. A lack of Spanish speaking ability doesn’t stop many of those who move here; they know that to have the perfect retirement life, their first step needs to be to learn rudimentary Spanish.

By learning a beginning ability in Spanish, you gain:

  • A better understanding of, and respect for the local population.
  • The ability to communicate what you really are trying to say.
  • An end for the need to employ a third person to assist you in accomplishing normal everyday things, like buying routine products, and 1,000 other simple tasks. 
  1. Live your own life

For some living abroad means being homesick and missing their family. Some of this is natural, and some people allow themselves to feel guilty about being far from family. They feel they must be there to take care of them, because they can’t take care of themselves. How silly is that? I have had clients who worried more about the credit card debt of their children back home, than enjoying their own life as an expat.

Another problem can occur when expats want to see their grandchildren grow, or when their older parents become sick and need more attention. Somehow, the expat decides that an occasional visit isn’t enough:

  • that they must be there to make sure everything is OK
  • and if they aren’t, they make themselves miserable with worry.

Another interesting perspective – one that denies others their right to live their lives as they see fit.  I have seen it happen many times that family who often live in the same neighborhood, never talk or find time to visit their mother or grandmother. And if they do, the children say “Hi” and head to their room our other activity, not spending time with the grandparents! They are busy, with busy lives of their own! Recognizing this as a reality, will help you to live your best life!

  1. Quiting your Job / Retiring

There are those who have dedicated their entire lives to their work or business. Those are the expats who often have a hard time adjusting to retirement; and being an expat. Because, they never took the time to acquire hobbies, and possibly never had much communication with their spouse. They become like a sailor or soldier who comes home after an extended time away; life progressed without them, and they have difficulty “catching up.”

Now that you’re an expat, you may have to work at staying busy. Start looking for new hobbies before moving to Costa Rica; things you always wanted to do, but never had the time.  Ask around your new community, find volunteer opportunities, etc. and you’ll be surprised how many things you can do to stay occupied and create the perfect expat life.

  1. Accept Organizational Bureaucracy

It’s always difficult to learn how to manage a totally different organizational bureaucracy than you are used to. Simple things like getting your cell phone to work, opening a bank account, or getting power and water installed, can be huge hurdles. And what about getting your household container through customs?

Don’t fight the bureaucracy; it can make those things (and more) feel pretty frustrating! … especially if you haven’t paid attention to obstacle #1. Be prepared to be frustrated until you “learn the ropes”; it will get easier as time passes.

  1. Handle Culture Shock

Some expats have a really hard time handling culture shock. Others don’t at all. Those who have traveled extensively, usually handle themselves somewhat better. But if you’ve lived your whole life in the same town, it’s much harder.

Keep an open mind, don’t take the approach “at home, we do/did it differently, so it must be better.” I am sure that your home country is not perfect either…. 

  1. Personality

Are you a “Type A” personality? A gotta have everything RIGHT NOW person? If so, then it may be bit more challenging to have a perfect expat life in Costa Rica.

If you want to live in Costa Rica and be happy, you will want to learn how to slow down and accept the slower pace of life. Always wanting everything done NOW?  If this has been your pattern, realize that slowing down is a good thing!

My “instant gratification” has been reduced immensely after living here a few years! I have learned that I can wait till my next trip to North America to get something I really want or need.

My recommendations

If you want to have the perfect expat life in Costa Rica, search for, find and talk to others who have gone through what you are experiencing. There are hundreds of expats and many good organizations (who can give you advice and tips that will help you make your transition easier.) 

When searching on line for information, ensure you are reading current posts and information. Often people are reading information that they think is current, and actually it is many years old. We have had many changes in the last few years…. so, ensuring you are getting current, relevant information will be crucial!  Check the dates of articles and posts.

When it comes to finding your perfect place to live, hire a realtor for your needs!

A good one, who will listen to you, and then assist you with some of the issues above. Or lend you a shoulder to cry on.

Do you have a question about this article? Or do you want to know more about Uvita Costa Rica real estate? Talk to us! We can share our experiences and knowledge!

To subscribe to our bi-monthly, informative newsletter click here! 

How the towns and villages, along the Ballena Coast and area got their names…

The origins of the names of places are sometimes obvious and sometimes obscure. The stories of how the places in the south central coastal region got their names are often interesting and tell us something about the area where we live.

Many places in Costa Rica were named by the church and our region is no exception. Examples of these are San Isidro, San Juan de Dios and San Josecito. A few villages already had local names when the church decided to give them the name of a saint. In these cases the inhabitants didn’t always embrace the new name.

Tinamastes is an example of a place where both the church name and the traditional name are used. The early settlers to the region cooked over an open fire, or in a fire box called a “fogón.” Much of the cooking was done either in a large pot or in a rounded cast iron platter called a “comal.” Rather that setting the pot or comal directly in the fire, three stones were placed in a triangular arrangement and the utensil was placed over the fire with the edges resting on the stones. These stones were called “tinamastes.” On a hill top near the present day village of Tinamastes, were three enormous boulders placed by nature in the same pattern as three tinamastes in a cooking fire. People began referring to the place as “Los Tinamastes,” and the name has remained to the present day. At a later date the church decided to change the name of the village to San Cristobal with limited success. Today both names are used by the residents of the town. Tinamastes is the seat of the District of Barú in the Cantón of Pérez Zeledón.

On the other hand the town of Matapalo, which was named after a parasitic vine is an example of a place where the church name never took hold. In tropical climates parasitic plants abound. One such plant is a vine with thick round leaves which completely covers the crowns of trees, eventually captures most of the sunlight and kills the tree. The vine is referred to locally as the “matapalo,” meaning “kill tree.” The first settler to the area, Juan Bautista Santa María Concepción, arrived by way of the beach, having walked northwest from the mouth of the Hatillo Nuevo River. Upon discovering a flat fertil area that appeared to be a promising site for agriculture, he decided to carve out a section of jungle and make his farm there. The most prominent feature seen from the beach was an enormous strangler fig tree with its crown completely covered with a “matapalo” vine, its tendrils drooping all the way to the ground. In describing how to get to his farm, Juan Bautista would tell people: “Walk down the beach until you get to the “matapalo.” Although the tree with the vine eventually perished, dried up and fell to the ground, the name was there to stay. At a later date the church tried to change the name of the community to “San Pablo,” but the members of the community kept calling the town Matapalo and, refused to use the new name. Matapalo is the seat of the District of Savegre in the Cantón of Aguirre.

I used to assume that a military general of the had once ruled San Isidro and the Valley of the General. If we delve into the history of the city we find that there never was a general or military presence of any kind, and the name probably came from the General River which had already been named when the town of San Isidro was founded. The source of the name of the river is not entirely clear, but some historians believe that since the river is the central waterway in the valley, and all other rivers and streams flow into it, the first adventurers to explore the region began calling it the General River, and hence, the Valley of the General. There are many places in Costa Rica called San Isidro, so the words “of the General” were added to the name to distinguish it. San Isidro is the seat of the Cantón of Pérez Zeledón.

Quepos, the seat of the Cantón of Aguirre, was named after the indigenous tribe that once inhabited the area. Puerto Cortés, originally called “El Pozo,” is the seat of the Cantón of Osa. The present name was given to it in the 1920s in honor of former President of Costa Rica, Leon Cortes.

Many places are named after plants. Though plants are not permanant fixtures, they often last long enough to become landmarks and end up lending their names to the place where they once stood. We have already mentioned Matapalo, but the Valley of the Guabo, Platanillo, Playa Guapil, Uvita and Dominical are others. Some of these have interesting stories behind them.

In Spanish a double-barreled shotgun is called a “guapil.” The word can apply to anything that has two cylinders side by side. At the entrance to what is today called Playa Guapil there once stood a coconut palm that was really two trees with the trunks stuck together like siamese twins or like a double-barreled shotgun. People started calling it “palma guapil” and later Playa Guapil. I once had a nursery of coconut palms. Out of about 1000 palm trees, three turned out with double trunks. Since the original double-trunked palm haa long since perished, I planted one of them on Playa Guapil, but within a week, someone dug it up and stole the tree. The same fate befell the other two as well.

The “viscoyol” is a sturdy cane-like plant with leaves similar those of a palm and a tough, straight stem lined with long, sharp spines. It is commonly found in humid soil throughout the coastal region. This plant produces bunches of small, round, purple fruits reminiscent of bunches of grapes. Grape in Spanish is “uva.” The word “uvita” is the diminutive form and means “little grape.” When people first began exploring the area around present day Uvita, the humid lowlands were covered with thick stands of viscoyol, and the people began to refer to the location as La Uvita. Hipolito Villegas, who was born in Uvita in 1909 says that it was called that when his father was born there in 1890. La Uvita is the seat of the District of Bahía-Ballena in the Canón of Osa. 

There is a well known local story of how Dominical got its name. In Costa Rica we have many different types of bananas including plantains, cuadrados, guineos and dominícos. In Spanish a field of bananas is called a “bananal;” of plantains, a “platanal;” of cudrados, a “cuadradal;” of guineos, a “guineal;” and of dominicos, a “dominical.” Before the appearance of roads, everyone walked down the beach to get from one place to another. In the lowlands near the beach of present day Dominicalito, one of the original pioneers of the area, Victor Sibaja — usually known by his nickname, “Chucuyo” — had a plantation of dominicos. When people walked down the beach and arrived at that point, they would say: “There is Chucuyo’s dominical.” For many years I believed this story, and it is certainly possible that Chucuyo did have a plantation of dominicos in present day Dominicalito. 

However; I recently came across an 1868 map of Costa Rica that shows the stream that is today known as “Pozo Azul,” as the Dominical River. Also, Punta Dominical is labled as “P. Dominical.” The name probably did come from the Dominico, but it existed long before Chucuyo was born. The place we know as Dominical today was formerly known as Barú or Boca Barú. Up until as late as 1958 the place known today as Dominicalito, was called Dominical. It is shown as such by a 1958 map of Costa Rica published by the Costa Rican Tourist Bureau (ICT.)

 Another story about a place name that was put to rest by the appearance of the 1868 map is that of Portalón. According to old time residents of Poratlón, the first settler to establish a large farm along the river was Leitano Céspedes, who had the custom of building beautiful decorated archways and gates at the entrances to his properties. This type of gateway is called a “portal” in Spanish, and a very large one would be called a “portalón.” As more settlers moved into the area they referred to his farm by this most outstanding feature. However, Leitano Céspedes didn’t come to Portalón until the early 1900s, and there is a place called Portalón on the 1868 map. It is located near the estuary of the present day Savegre River. The Portalón River isn’t shown on the map. We may never know the real story behind the name.

Present day Barú is located about three kilometers upstream from the mouth of the Barú River, at the point where the Guabo River joins it. All of the other place names within the region have a local explanation, but Barú appears to be an imported name of indigenous origin. For over 2000 years people have migrated to this region from the south, especially from the area which is known today as the Chiriqui province of Panama, the home of a volcano named “Barú.” These people probably brought the name when they came to settle in this region. According to the linguistics department of the University of Costa Rica, the word “barú” comes from the indigenous language Guaymi. I once spoke with two native Guaymi speakers, neither of whom spoke more than a rudimentary market Spanish. I asked them about the meaning of the word “Barú.” Although the exact translation of the word is not clear, the meaning appears to be similar to that of the English words meaning “river basin” or “watershed.”

The village of Hatillo is situated between two rivers, the Hatillo Nuevo and the Hatillo Viejo. The derivation comes from the Spanish word “hato” meaning herd. Some of the pioneers of the area around present day Hatillo believe that a rancher from the Valle del Guabo, looking for new land on which to expand his herd, cleared an area between the two rivers where today we find the small town of Hatillo. Once the jungle was cut away, sunlight flooded into the area, and several species of grass began to grow. Once the natural pasture was well established, the cattleman drove a small herd of cattle from his main ranch about 20 kilometers away, and left them in the new pasture. He and his cowboys visited the site periodically to check on the small herd. In Spanish the diminutive of most nouns is produced by adding the letters “ito” or “illo” to the end of the noun. Therefore, if a regular herd is an “hato,” a small herd is an “hatillo.” The rancher and his workers referred to the small herd as “el hatillo.” Later when the coastal region became inhabited by settlers, the community that developed between the two rivers retained the name. If this story about the origin of the name is true, it had to have taken place prior to 1868, because both rivers are shown on the old map. The one which is today called the Hatillo Nuevo, was labled as the “Hatillo V.,” and the river we now call the Hatillo Viejo, was labled as the “Hatillon.”

The coastal village of Bahía was named after a large ranch called “Hacienda Bahía” that once existed near Uvita. In the 1950s, the ranch was sold to the Alcoa Aluminum Company, which had the idea of mining bauxite. The mining venture never came to be, and the land was abandoned. In the mid 1960s, ITCO, the land and colonization institute, took title to the land, subdivided the ranch and distributed the parcels to landless peasants through a “homestead process”. The new settlement was called Bahía, after the ranch. It is located on the coast in front of the bay where Ballena Island is located, just to the southeast of Punta Uvita.

 The name “Lagunas,” meaning “lakes” or “lagoons,” is ironic because the area has never had an abundance of water. Over the years the name has given rise to many humorous comments about a dry place called Lagunas. Nevertheless, about two kilometers above present day Barú, on the left side of the road is a small lake. Prior to the deforestation of the area, there were several lakes. Lakes are a rarity in Central America, and these small bodies of water were a notable landmark. The first pioneers to work the land in this area were Don Miguel Gómez and his sons. His oldest, Evangelista Gómez felled the rainforest and made his ranch in the area around the lakes. He and other settlers began referring to the area as “las lagunas,” which was later shortened to “Lagunas.”

I have always found the ways in which places acquire their names to be fascinating. As new information, such as old maps, come to be known, old ideas are often modified of discarded. Much of what is written here was told to me by pioneers to this area. The information comes from people’s memories and has never been written down. Therefore, it may not be entirely accurate. If any of you readers have information about the names of the places in this region, even ones not mentioned in this article, please let me know.

This article has been written by the founder of Hacienda Baru. Jack is a published and highly respected historian, etc on the Ballena Coast

For questions or information about this article, please contact jack at Hacienda Baru:

For more information about real estate on the Ballena Coast browse through our broad inventory or contact us.

Do you want to know more about the real estate market in the South Pacific Zone of Costa Rica? Read our 2019 Report for the South Pacific Region.  

Why Moving to Jaco Beach/ Herradura Costa Rica is a Good Idea

When foreigners consider moving to Costa Rica or buying a vacation home in this paradise, they many times choose a beach community to enjoy everything that living in a warm tropical country has to offer.

Costa Rica has coasts on both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, with miles and miles of beautiful beaches to explore, however, there are a few that have become favorites among expats, one of them is Jaco Beach.

Just a little over an hour drive from San José, Jaco has something for everyone, even though many times Jaco is commonly referred to as just a party town, there is a lot more to it, yes, there is definitely a party scene if that´s what you are looking for, but in reality there is something for everyone, it all depends on what you are interested in. Here are some of the reasons why moving to Jaco Beach / Herradura is a good idea:

– Location: 

Clearly one of the reasons Jaco is probably one of the most popular beach communities in Costa Rica has to do with its proximity to the capital city. Its location compared to other beaches and National Parks makes it perfect for those looking for balance between the comforts of urban life and the benefits of living at the beach and surrounded by nature.

– Wellness and Fun: 

Looking for an easy-going lifestyle? Jaco is a fun beach community, bars, restaurants, theater, yoga studios, art exhibits, there are a number of entertainment options to satisfy different tastes and preferences; and, of course, you cannot forget the surf, horseback riding, ATV´s and the wide number of different tours and activities available for those that are always looking to live new adventures.

– Weather: 

The weather in the Central Pacific offers warm temperatures year round ranging between 80°F to 95°F. Dry months run from mid-November through the end of April and the rest of the year it’s what’s called ¨Green Season¨ . In Costa Rica green season means there is rainfall almost every day but usually only for a few hours or a portion of the day.

– Expat Community: 

As we mentioned before, many foreigners call Jaco their home, a large number of expats specially from North America have chosen to live here and also run their own business in town. The locals are friendly, and a large number speak English; these two factors are a great help when you are new in town.

– Affordable Real Estate: 

In comparison to other expat communities in San Jose, and other beach towns, prices for real estate in Jaco are actually quite reasonable. You can get a beautiful condo or apartment overlooking the ocean for a portion of what it would cost you in a coastal town of the United States.

If you are ready to move to Costa Rica by yourself or with your whole family, you will need some help with your relocation, to ensure that the process is easy and stress free, make sure you find a reliable and experienced team to walk you through the entire process, Ballena Legal Team is a law firm with years of experience in all aspects regarding relocation needs, and can provide you with the legal advice you require regarding Visas, residency procedures, real estate, business establishment, etc.
Relocating to paradise is simple if you follow the right procedure.

Talk to us, we can help! 

For more information or inquiries about costa rica real estate for sale, feel free to contact us.  

Do you want to know more about the real estate market in the South Pacific Zone of Costa Rica? Read our 2019 Report for the South Pacific Region.  

Are you thinking of buying property in Costa Rica? Read our blog for more information about the process.    

How much are sales commission and other fees?

A property seller asked what the sales commission and fees are to list and sell a property. The seller’s second question was: what happens if an outside source provides a buyer. So, I’m taking advantage of these questions and put it all in one blog.

Century 21 Ballena Properties does NOT charge any upfront listing fees. The sales commission negotiated into each successful real estate deal made with Century 21 Ballena Properties is equal to 8% of the final sales price paid for the home. For the sale of a Lot or parcel of land, the commission is equal to 10% of the final sales price. In exchange for this commission Century 21 Ballena Properties and their respective agents provide several crucial and professional services that assist in a smooth and challenge free transaction. Read our previous blog for more information about a realtor’s role in a real estate transaction.

In the southern zone of Costa Rica there exists a Multiple Listing service that is honored by all the participating Realtors in the area. Therefore, the sales commission we charge is not negotiable, as we share this commission with these other real estate agents 50/50 when they bring a buyer. The sales commission is ALWAYS paid by the seller and paid to the realtor on the day the transaction closes. At Century 21 Ballena properties we do not get rewarded for our efforts until the deal is successfully completed. 

Exclusive listing

When you sign an exclusive listing agreement with Century 21 Ballena Properties, we share it with every other real estate company on the Ballena Coast – creating a unique and extremely functional MLS system!

With exclusive listings, we allocate additional funds into marketing your property! These marketing dollars go into local and national magazines, biweekly newsletters, social media and on all of our user friendly and searchable websites that we maintain.

Sales commission agreement

Some sellers ask if they need to sign a sales agreement. YES!! When you are ready to sell your property a Century 21 Ballena Properties agent will present you with a Listing and Commission Agreement stating all of the legal particulars of the property, the sellers information and the terms and conditionals under which we will market and sell your property. In this agreement, we always include clauses that state who is responsible for the payment of the legal fees, closing costs, sales commission and the government taxes due on the sales commission.

Property Management

Our agent is not your property manager unless you pay for that service. You need to keep the lot clean, existing fences in good repair at all times, and utilities (if available), property tax and corporation tax paid yourself. The agent has no other responsibilities than selling your property.

Response time

The seller needs to be available by email, at all times, so you can respond within 24 hours to any offer we might receive. We always insist, no matter how bad the offer is, that you make a counteroffer 


C21 Ballena Properties will do everything possible to market your property on our own websites, social media, magazines, newsletters and other marketing tools available.

Legal Fees

Our agents do not get involved in quoting legal fees and closing costs.  Although closing costs are often shared 50/50, the buyer will usually negotiate the asking price. This gives the seller the option to counter and request the buyer pays the legal closing fees.

Do you have any questions about this article or real estate in Costa Rica? Feel free to contact us

For more information about the process of buying or selling a property in Costa Rica, we recommend reading our previous blog