Turns out one of the best places to find small-town America… is in Costa Rica.
I’m talking about Atenas, a village of 5,000 in the Central Valley region in the interior of the country.
Expats that have made their home here—mostly retirees—say the warm and friendly locals and a very welcoming expat community remind them of where they grew up.
Kay Costello, a nine-year resident, says that neighbors and friends on the street always have time to talk, whether you’re passing by their home or run into them in town shopping at the weekly farmers’ market (the best place to buy fruits and veggies, by the way, at half to a third U.S. prices).
No doubt the innate Costa Rican emphasis on family plays a big role in that. As well as the tradition of hospitality toward new neighbors.
AARP called the Central Valley one of the top retirement destinations in the world in 2010—and featured Atenas heavily. And the climate is ideal. T-shirt weather all the time.
You’ll Enjoy a Great Climate Living in Atenas, Costa Rica
It averages in the mid-70s year-round. A few days might skew warmer and the evenings might dip into the 60s—just enough for a light jacket. But mostly it’s perfect. In the rainy season, late afternoons are wet, sometimes very. But mornings are clear.
Of course, if you need further confirmation, just see the motto on the back of the town’s buses: “El Mejor Clima del Mundo”: the best climate in the world.
Expats here tend to make their homes in the hills surrounding the town. The views of the surrounding coffee and sugarcane plantations, as well as forested valleys, are amazing. There are a wide variety of housing options.
A three-bedroom home with a mountain view can be had for under $150,000. There are higher-end options; several gated communities have homes running from $200,000 and up.
Expats Living in Atenas, Costa Rica
No matter where you live, the Central Valley’s ideal climate and Costa Rica’s rich soil mean your landscaping will be lush. Sara Basloe and her husband have been in Atenas for four and a half years. They have a huge organic garden, full of lettuce, carrots, broccoli and other veggies.
“It just grows here,” says Sara.
Ruth Thumm, from Ontario, has called Atenas home for nearly 20 years—she was one of the first expats in the area. She lives on $1,000 to $1,200 a month—which comes from a pension from Canada. Until the past few years, she was a snowbird—coming here when it was winter back home.
With the regular travel, one of the reasons she picked Atenas is that the airport is just 30 minutes away. And her other favorite thing to do, go to the beach, is just 45 minutes the other way.
San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital and its suburbs are just an hour’s drive away. It’s a modern city. There you’ll find shopping malls and big box stores with familiar American products and brands. You’ll also find the country’s best medical care, whether you stick with the public system or go the private route, which is still much more affordable than U.S. prices for everything from doctor visits to major procedures.
Many expats in Atenas head this way for shopping and medical care every few weeks. They’ve adapted to Costa Rican life—but it’s great to get those little tastes of home.
Convenience and a small-town atmosphere—who could ask for more?
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