A Little Oasis in Costa Rica

When my family and I were looking at rentals before our move to Costa Rica, we really had only one solid requirement: Our home had to be within quick driving distance of the hospital in San Jose where my wife was going have our baby.

But we didn’t want to be in San Jose—it’s awfully crowded and you should see rush hour.

Grecia was the perfect choice, and we found a three-bedroom house about five minutes outside of town for $1,000. Our monthly bills are under $100, including utilities, cable TV and high-speed Internet.

As we got to know our new hometown (pop. 16,000) we discovered that it has a lively center with department stores, bakeries, cafes, cheap but high-quality restaurants, and a weekly farmer’s market—with low-priced fruits and veggies.

It’s a real deal Costa Rican town—not set up (or priced) for tourists. It’s fun to go in for a $5 lunch of the Tico specialty casado (rice, beans, plantains, salad, with chicken, fish, or beef) and then do our weekly shopping—a fridge full of produce is $35. Sometimes we just stop by for an ice cream ($1 for a big cup) and sit in the park people-watching.

But we also enjoy staying home in our little oasis. We’re only five minutes out of town but it’s a whole other world. Set on the side of a ravine, we’re in a private neighborhood of eight homes. All we see from our patio is sugarcane and coffee fields and forest.

Birdsong is our wake up call—we’ve counted 20 different species since we’ve been here. It’s tranquil. And secluded.

That’s not something we expected in the Central Valley, which is home to an estimated 70% of Costa Rica’s population. But it turns out there are still plenty of pockets like this around. And it’s only “crowded” in the urban areas.

You can find peace and quiet, even a rural setting, not to mention great views—quite close to bustling small and medium-sized towns like Atenas, San Ramon, and Sarchi. You have your privacy but medical care, shopping, public transport, and all the rest is close by.

We can be on the beach on the Central Pacific, Playa Herradura to be specific, in less than two hours. Four hours or so gets us to the Northern Pacific and Nicoya Peninsula. Three hours to Lake Arenal. A short enough drive in each case for a quick weekend getaway.

And, of course, you’re only an hour or so from San Jose and its suburbs, which host American chain restaurants and some big shopping malls, even warehouse shopping clubs with American brands. We don’t go there often—we’re trying to “live like the locals”—but it’s great for the occasional visit.

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