With 70,000 residents in the metro area, San Ramon, in Costa Rica’s Central Valley, has many of the advantages of big town life: widely available and cheap medical and dental care; an abundance of shops, restaurants, and cafés; and just that feeling of “energy” that comes with living in a bustling regional center.
But it still retains that unique Costa Rican flavor. And being in the Central Valley, the weather is ideal, averaging in the mid-70s year-round.
No wonder many expats have come to take advantage of all that living in San Ramon, Costa Rica provides.
San Ramon: A Convenient Location
San Ramon is about an hour-and-a-half west of Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, along the PanAmerican Highway. This makes it easy to pop in to San Jose and its suburbs (Escazu, Cariari, and Santa Ana, among others).
There you’ll find American-style big box stores and malls with your favorite brands from the U.S. for everything from food to clothing. You can also catch a movie in English at a cineplex, go bowling, or dine at one of the high-end (but still affordable compared to U.S. prices) restaurants in the area for a change from the usual Costa Rican fare of rice and beans. You have sushi, steak houses, bagels, and more.
You can get everything from computer software to clothing in San Ramon. But many expats make pilgrimages every few weeks to San Jose and its suburbs to stock up on items they just can’t get anywhere else, like parmesan cheese, coffee creamer, and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
Also in and around San Jose, you have the best medical care in the country for both the public and private systems.
Once you become a legal resident, you join the Caja public health system. For around $50 a month, you get free care, from doctor’s visits to major surgery. And the best public hospitals, including Hospital Mexico, are in San Jose.
On the private side, you have world-class facilities at Hospital CIMA in Escazu, and Hospital La Clinica and Clinica Biblica in San Jose. They take private insurance, including many policies from the United States and INS, Costa Rica’s national insurance company.
An Active Expat Community
Many of the expats in San Ramon have taken an active role in the town through volunteering and charitable work.
The Community Action Alliance is a joint expat/Costa Rican group that works in the local community in many ways. They’ve raised money for retirement homes and orphanages, donated musical instruments to schools, and worked with animal rescue centers. Check out their website here.
They’re also engaged in community outreach, economic development, and environmental education and preservation.
Many expats also work as volunteers on their own as English teachers, art instructors, and more.
San Ramon: A Center of Arts and Culture
With a campus of the University of Costa Rica in town, San Ramon is alive with cultural events. Concerts, featuring everything from jazz quartets to full orchestras, occur regularly, with both Costa Rican and overseas groups playing.
If you’re an art buff, there’s also a lively art scene in galleries and other venues like cafés and restaurants. Many local expats have taken up painting and show their work regularly. Local artists are also active. The art is not just beautiful but affordable too.
Where to Live in San Ramon
Most expats who are living in San Ramon, Costa Rica make their homes in the hills and mountains outside of town in rural and semi-rural settings. It’s the best place to get great views of the surrounding sugarcane and coffee fields and natural areas. On clear days, you can see the Gulf of Nicoya to the west from many of those hilltop homes. Three bedroom houses with great views and modern features start at $150,000. Fully furnished rentals with two bedrooms, can be had for $600 or less.
San Ramon is located conveniently off the PanAmerican Highway. From the country’s main international airport, Juan Santamaria, it’s a little over an hour by taxi or private transport.
But if you’re going to be in the area for a while or plan to explore real estate in the hills around San Ramon, I recommend you rent a car for freedom and flexibility. Just make sure you get a GPS as it’s easy to get off-track on some of the windy mountain roads.
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