We are in the Northern Zone of Costa Rica in Nuevo Arenal. Nuevo Arenal is a central point for travelers to go to the tourist town of La Fortuna. That is about one hour away. They can also go hiking at Rio Celeste to see the turquoise waterfall. That is about one and one-half hours away. They can also go on a day trip to the Monteverde cloud forest. And that is about 2 hours away. Nuevo Arenal is a small town that has a Costa Rican feel to it. It is a charming little town and is a wonderful area for doing business in Costa Rica.
The area is kind of a gateway to the entire Lake Arenal/Arenal Volcano area. It is about 45 minutes from the Arenal Volcano. It is one hour to La Fortuna. To see the turquoise water at Rio Celeste, you would travel about 1 ½ hours to Rio Celeste. The Monteverde Cloud forest is only 2 hours away. Then to get to the San Jose Airport, it takes about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. The Liberia airport is about 1 hour and 45 minutes. You can get to the closest beach, Playa del Coco in about 2 hours or a little more.
So, we are on Route 142, which is the main road around Lake Arenal. Our restaurant, Restaurante Caballo Negro, is on that route, as is the Lucky Bug Gallery. Many pieces of art are sold when you stop and either go to the restaurant or just stop to look in the gallery.
We have a small private lake on our property. Our guests can swim, fish, and just use our kayak or canoe and relax.
What are our Businesses?
When Monika came here with her husband, there was nothing on the property except for cows and kind of a swampy area. What came in the ensuing years completely transformed the property from nothing to a beautiful property with three businesses. She had a vision, and she cannot not be working, so they decided that doing business in Costa Rica would be a good thing.
Business #1 – Restaurante Caballo Negro –
This was the first business Monika decided she wanted to have. They used to make sausages and sell them out of the parking lot in front of the property. Then she had her husband, Willie, build the restaurant, but her vision was to have a round building. So, she got a round building.
Business #2 – This was the Lucky Bug Gallery.
Monika wanted to sell products solely made in Costa Rica, but she did not want the regular “touristy” type of souvenirs that everyone else had. So, being an artist, she started going to art shows in other parts of the country and networking with other artists so that she could buy their products and then sell them in her gallery. You can find pieces from her gallery in various hotels and homes throughout the country, especially in the Nuevo Arenal area.
Business #3 – Lucky Bug Bed and Breakfast –
Monika has triplets and they all loved riding horses, so naturally, Monika and Willie had a barn built to house their horses. When the triplets got older, their interest in taking care of the horses waned and so the horses were sold. She then converted the barn into a B&B and it has evolved to what it is today.
The businesses are not mutually exclusive. They complement each other. And this has helped in making it easier to run efficiently.
As an example… When people come to stay at the bed and breakfast, they eat breakfast at the restaurant and the soap that is used in the rooms is also sold in the gallery. When people are waiting for their breakfast in the morning, they sometimes take their coffee into the gallery and peruse the items for sale. And if they are just staying at the property for the day, they can come to the restaurant for lunch also.
Occasionally, we do open for dinner when we have a lot of guests. They seem to enjoy it, and although it makes for a long day for us, we enjoy making them happy when we can.
What is it like doing business in Costa Rica?
Years ago Monika had a large calendar on sheets of paper and marked the bookings on that. The only way to make a booking was either by email or phone. In the last 10 years, she has progressed into the 21st century. And here is how it happened.
When Doing Business in Costa Rica, AUTOMATE!
She was presented with an online booking engine that would keep track of reservations, prices, rooms, etc. She was hesitant at first and still used her paper calendar and we would compare once per week so she could get the data from the computer to her paper. And over time she finally got rid of the paper calendar and we now have a system that gives us timely feedback and keeps us up to date with all our reservations.
Restaurante Caballo Negro
The restaurant is run by Monika. She buys the food, she keeps the inventory so there is minimal waste and she does it all in her head. She just knows what to buy and when. That probably comes from the 250-seat restaurant she had in Northern California and the training she got in Germany on how to run a business. There you have to be an apprentice for any job for a couple of years minimum. So, when they get out in the world on their own, they can do almost anything.
Lucky Bug Gallery Doing Business in Costa Rica with Costa Rican Art
The Gallery is the result of building good relationships with other artists in the country and her taste in knowing what to buy, not only things she likes but what she believes clients would like. And so far she has had success in that department. Some of the artists come to the gallery and bring her items for her to sell, but many times she has to travel to San Jose, Cartago, Santa Ana, and other places to get what she wants to sell in the gallery.
All of this requires this website, a Facebook page, at a minimum.
Doing business in Costa Rica is not without some hurdles to go over, but none are insurmountable. Business licenses, and also taxes have to be paid yearly. If incorporated, there are attorney’s fees as well. When running a restaurant there is also a food handling course that needs to be taken every few years. It is in Spanish, so that may be a hindrance to some, but in the future, they might have courses in English, who knows??
While running a business in any country has pitfalls and hurdles to jump over, and it is the same when doing business in Costa Rica. When you add most of the dealings need to be in Spanish, that adds a little more of a challenge. Monika, being from Germany, did not know English when she moved to California with her husband, but learned it on her own. She did not know Spanish before coming to Costa Rica but can speak that language also.
She loves the challenge, and the reward is she gets to live on a property that is beautiful in a beautiful part of the world.