Escaping a Rapid-Fire Lifestyle in Atenas, Costa Rica

My favorite day of the week is Friday in my country town of Atenas—although since moving here, every day is pretty good. On Fridays, I pile all five of my dogs into the car and head early in the morning for the farmers’ market, followed by a lively off-leash hike on a forested mountain trail near town. Since temperatures rarely dip below the 70s F, we can get out and about at any time of year.

This market is the place to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, dairy products and meats, plants and herbs, as well as organic coffee grown locally. Whenever I visit my hometown in Southern California, I am always shocked at how expensive fresh produce is, especially organic products. In Atenas, for about $30 I can fill my refrigerator with fresh vegetables and fruits, plus a couple of packets of invigoratingly strong coffee.

The farmers’ market always turns into a social event. While my dogs wait in the shaded car, I chat with my favorite vendors and with any of the many expats who happen to be at the market as early as I am.

The active expat community is just one of the things that makes this town of around 27,000 people a great place to live. There are plenty of clubs and community groups to keep expats busy. There is a men’s group, a book club, a Buddhist meditation group, a women’s club, and an artists’ group. I enjoy attending yoga classes and occasionally go out to hear the expat rock bands that play live music around town.

People are happy here. They laugh and enjoy life, and family time is very important. It’s quite a change from the hectic, rapid-fire pace of life my friends and family live back in Southern California.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the town’s central park, which is lined with tall palm trees that draw flocks of green parrots or toucans. Here you can find children playing on the recently built playground, older people enjoying a rest and a chat on park benches, young people strolling along the pathways, and families out for a walk. It’s all just part of the rhythm of life in this town I’ve grown to love.

Atenas’ location, great weather, and small-town ambience have made it a wonderful place to retire and live internationally. Around 1,500 foreign residents from all over the world live here full-time, about three-quarters of them retirees.

The town likes to boast that it has the world’s best climate. Even in the rainy season, from June to November, most mornings are sunny.

While the cost of living has risen during the time I’ve been here, it’s still affordable compared to Southern California. My husband and I average $2,500 in monthly expenses. We own our home and our one car, have a housekeeper who comes once a week, and go out to eat once or twice a week. Groceries, pet supplies, and household items run $600 to $700 a month, shopping at the farmers’ market and our modern supermarket in town.

Healthcare here is also affordable. We have a well-equipped public health clinic, pharmacy, lab, and emergency room in the town center, next to the Red Cross, which provides emergency paramedic and ambulance service. If you are a member of the national public health insurance system, treatment is free. Many expats opt to use the private health clinic, which has three ambulances.

A popular expat hangout here for the past 10 years is Kay’s, famed for its Sunday brunch. For $11, you can feast on a sumptuous breakfast buffet of smoked ham, sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes with onions and peppers, biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, and orange juice.

There are worse ways to start your Sunday morning.

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