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The Costa Rica Asada Saga

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

The Costa Rica Asada SagaA water certification is needed for building permits and our building lot is serviced by the local Asada.

My wife, Katya, and I speak some Spanish (though probably not enough).

Still, we thought we knew the word “asada.”  It meant “roasted” and frequently modified “carne” or, in a masculine form, “pollo.”  Who knew that “asada” also means “local water administration?”

Well, now we do, and therein hangs a tale. Here it is (though I offer a strong caution that we aren’t sure we understand it completely, so ask Ivo or a lawyer!):

Hacienda Atenas

The area where we bought land, Hacienda Atenas, supplies water from a joint local well.  We pay a monthly fee to the water association for the water we get.  Their association, known as an “ASADA,” is currently informal in nature.  It has not officially registered with the Costa Rican government.

Apparently, it’s been like that for years.  And, apparently, for years that’s been OK.  But it seems that there was a law passed (who knew) many years ago requiring all “informal” Asadas to register with the government and become formalized.  And, lo and behold, the deadline for that registration was September 1st, 2014.


Needless to say, in good Costa Rican fashion, everyone (including Hacienda Atenas) waited until the last minute.  We are told that our subdivision has filed the paperwork, tramitando in Spanish, and is awaiting a formal inspection before it is formally certified.  And, since the whole country waited until the deadline, it seems that we won’t be formally certified until sometime in early 2015 (we’ve been told January or February).

The Costa Rica Asada Saga

No Plans – No Permits

None of this would matter of course, except for the fact that the Colegio of architects who must approve all building plans, has now announced that they will not approve plans (and therefore the local municipality won’t issue permits) in the absence of a formal Asada certification.  No certification of water availability, no approved plans.  No plans, no permits.  So much for our expectation of breaking ground in November.


It’s just a glitch of course.  Everyone seems confident that …. Eventually … Hacienda Atenas will get its formal Asada and we will get our permits.  But it does reinforce two things that anyone thinking about moving to Costa Rica should remember:

1) The rules and laws are sometimes a bit arbitrary, capricious and obscure; and

2) If you have a type-A personality and can’t stand delay or uncertainty, don’t come here!

The Costa Rica Asada Saga

Meanwhile, Katya and I are doing everything else we can to get ready to build so that the day after the Asada comes through we can break ground.  At least that’s our hope.

In my next installment:  the saga of the road to nowhere.

The Author

Pablo R. is an expat from North America who moved to Atenas with his wife Katya.

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