Discovering Costa Rica’s Serene Central Valley Halved Our Living Costs

In 2013, my wife Jackie and I were approaching our 60s, and as time passed, the winters in Indiana seemed to be getting longer and causing more discomfort. We found ourselves at that crossroads where we wanted to decide where and how we were going to spend the next stage of our lives.

We initially decided on Costa Rica’s popular tourist town of Tamarindo, but as we traveled around, we discovered a completely new side to the country.

Located about 150 miles east of the tourist beaches is the Central Valley, at the base of the Central Mountains that form Costa Rica’s spine. The temperate climate, mountain views, larger towns and cities, and a more balanced mix of local people and expats piqued our interest.

Our retirement to the Central Valley town of Sarchi has been the wisest decision we ever made. It’s taken us back to a simpler life. Jackie has time to hone her baking skills, creating new recipes for breads, cakes, muffins, and cookies. I use my woodworking tools to create gifts and small crafts for our house. We hang our laundry out to dry instead of using an electric dryer, make our own ice cubes in freezer trays, and constantly improve our Spanish through friendly meetings with our neighbors.

And best of all…no snow. With temperatures ranging from the mid-60s F to the mid-80s F year-round, the only gloves we need are our gardening gloves. Our property has a small garden and a shared farming field behind the house, so we can grow our own tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, and fennel. We can go into our backyard in the morning to pick fresh oranges and limes for juice, gather avocados and passionfruit from our front yard for afternoon snacks, and microwaving food is a thing of the past.

This has benefitted not only our overall health, but our pocketbook as well. Our weekly food bill has shrunk to about $50 a week, from about $125 a week in the States. And we have more than halved our monthly housing costs since moving here. We paid roughly $2,000 a month in the States for mortgage, insurance, and utilities, and we saw these expenses drop to $770 a month since moving to the Central Valley…which shows just how affordable this region is. We could not dream of retiring in the States on the budget we have now.

On the couple of occasions when we wanted to consult a doctor, we found an English-speaking doctor locally who provided a thorough examination and laboratory blood work for about $50. Monthly blood pressure medicine costs about $30 a month. Many drugs that would be prescription only in the U.S. are over the counter here. Most pharmacies also have a medical practitioner who will check you out at no charge.

We have found ourselves using public buses more and more often for trips to the city, rather than driving. At a cost of about $1.50 for a trip to the capital, San Jose, the bus saves us the cost of driving, the frustration of dealing with city traffic, and, of course, finding parking. The Central Valley has a network of bus routes that allow you to travel throughout the area with minimal costs.

We tend to brag on social networks about the beauty of our new home in the Central Valley, with its friendly locals, warm climate year-round, and the abundance of flora and fauna that we never got to enjoy in the States. We can enjoy just slowing down to appreciate nature, neighbors, and simplicity.

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