Even though Costa Rica is only about the size of West Virginia, it has a variety of climates and landscapes to suit every taste…and a choice of locations to suit every budget. One of the most popular areas of the country with expats is the Central Valley.
This region is in the mountainous interior of the country, with elevations starting at about 2,200 feet—people live up to about 5,000 feet. That means a pleasant spring-like climate year-round that’s never too hot, never too cold.
It’s here that you’ll find San José, the capital of the country. And although it’s Costa Rica‘s biggest city, you’re never more than about 20 minutes from quiet countryside and farming communities where the pace of life is slow.
There are several towns and villages scattered among the hills, mountains, and valleys of the Central Valley, like San Ramon, Atenas, Puriscal, Alajuela, Orosi, and others. But let’s concentrate on one in particular; Grecia, which is to the west of the San José metro area. It’s a typical Central Valley town. I know it well because I lived there for several years.
Like other Central Valley towns, Grecia offers a lot of services and convenience. There’s a hospital in town, part of the Caja national healthcare system for which most expats pay about $100 per month per couple to use. And the top medical care in the country is an hour’s drive away in San José.
This is where you’ll also find the country’s best shopping (think big Home Depot-style hardware stores and markets with imported items), although Grecia’s stores are well-stocked themselves. And besides, you’ll do a lot of your shopping at the feria on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Fresh produce, fish, eggs, honey, and more from the local area—you can stock up for the week for under $40.
Compared to the beaches and popular eco-tourism areas of the country, the Central Valley doesn’t get a lot of tourists, which means you get to experience more of the traditional Tico lifestyle. Your neighbors will be farmers, shopkeepers, and schoolteachers…regular folks. There’s a strong community vibe, with plenty of fiestas and celebrations you’re encouraged to attend. It’s the best of small-town life.
Like in most Central Valley towns, expats don’t live right in the bustling heart of downtown Grecia, with its shops, markets, pleasant town square filled with mango trees, and little sodas (traditional Costa Rica restaurants).
They tend to be in the farming communities in the countryside about a 10-to-20-minute bus or car ride from the center. It’s quiet and peaceful with coffee fields blanketing the hillsides and deep forested river valleys. Often you’ll get a panoramic view from your property.
And there are plenty of options for homes (there are very few condos or apartments here) under $200,000.
A two-bedroom house in the El Cajon community, on a 2.5-acre lot, features views of Grecia below and the surrounding hills and valleys. It’s listed at $99,000.
In the Puente de Piedra neighborhood, there’s a three-bedroom home with a fence-enclosed garden with banana trees and tropical flowers. The owner is even leaving beds, sofas, a TV, and some appliances. This can be yours for $135,000.
In the desirable hillside San Isidro district, which is popular with expats, is a three-bedroom home with large backyard patio perfect for socializing. There are views too. The seller is asking $170,000.
At 4,700 feet, there’s a three-bedroom home with a large terrace for taking in the views. The kitchen has granite countertops and hardwood cabinets. The large garage could be made into a workshop, extra room, or even a small apartment for guests or to rent out. The asking price is $150,000 (recently reduced from $185,000).
In every part of Costa Rica you can enjoy some common benefits: lower cost of living, top notch but affordable medical care, and friendly people. And, of course, you have good value real estate too.
If the ideal climate, traditional country lifestyle, and mountain views unique to the Central Valley appeal to you…give it a closer look.