A Turn-Key Expat Hangout in Costa Rica’s Central Valley

Like many expats living La Pura Vida in Costa Rica, Ania and Tom Dudek—and their two sons—first visited the country on vacation. “For years, we would come for a month and rent a house in a different area each time,” says Ania. “But one day, we fell so in love with Costa Rica and the people there that we decided to start a new chapter in our lives and move.

Six months ago, the family moved full time to the small mountain town of Atenas. Settled high in Costa Rica’s perfect-weather Central Valley, the town is midway between the beaches of the Pacific coast and the metropolitan capital of San Jose (only an hour’s drive east or west). A coffee and ranching town, Atenas is known for pleasant, sunny weather and touts the slogan: “The Best Climate in the World”.

“The climate in Atenas is one reason we specifically chose to live here,” says Ania. “But it’s also is a great place to live with kids. It’s a town with a regular lifestyle, rather than the full-time ‘vacation mode’ you’ll find at the beach.”

Not yet ready to retire, Ania and Tom jumped on the opportunity to buy a well-known restaurant and expat hangout in Atenas, Kay’s Gringo Postres. Well-located in the center of town, Kay’s has become an informal community center for Atenas expats over the years, where clubs and groups meet. The owners were selling to return to Texas for family reasons. And the 10-year dedicated kitchen and wait staff stayed on board, making the transition easy for the turn-key business.

“Working here, I found myself,” says Ania. “I love the people and I love what I’m doing. This is me.”

With reliable internet service in Atenas, Tom continues to run his masonry and landscaping business back in Canada, managing projects from Costa Rica and traveling to Canada when needed. Their sons attend Atenas’ private Green Valley School, which is bilingual, and take hip-hop dancing and taekwondo lessons after school.

In their free time, the family enjoys taking their dog for walks in the countryside, and going to the Pacific beaches close to Atenas. “Here in Costa Rica, you are more outside than inside and we are happier because of that,” says Ania. “You are out in the sun and hear the birds singing beautifully. We like the fact that we can hop in the car and in one hour we are at the beach. We love that about Atenas. You can go to the beach for the day or spend the weekend, and you don’t have to drive for hours to get there.

“People like to go to the beach on vacation. But if they are looking to move to Costa Rica, they should come to Atenas and just stay three or four days to see how nice it is here. We love it here.”

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