Small-Town Living in Costa Rica’s Central Valley

Grecia is a popular town in Costa Rica for expats, and for good reason. The town is large enough to have enough variety in shopping to meet almost every need, but it is small enough to be comfortable.

When you go shopping or to eat out at a restaurant, you’ll likely run into a friend. In addition to its size and level of convenience, Grecia has what many consider to be the perfect weather—with daily temperature ranges from 60 F to 80 F, most homes do not have a heater or air-conditioner; they are just not needed—and wonderful views of the Central Valley.

There’s so many places to eat and get a coffee in Grecia, too. For breakfast, my wife, Jen, and I love going to Soda la Perla, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with room for only about 10 guests. We love the way they serve their coffee con leche, filtered through an espresso machine. It is a great place to practice your Spanish and eat where the locals eat, too. For lunch, we love Mas Q Sabor as much for the friendly owner, Jonny, as the tasty Mexican food.

Upon entering downtown Grecia, visitors will see the famous red metal church and the adjacent idyllic central park. There are multiple urban legends about how the church mistakenly ended up in Grecia, but they are just that, legends. The church was purposely commissioned and built in the late 1800s and is the centerpiece of the community.

In addition to the church, visitors will see a bustling town with traffic and noise and may wonder why so many people want to live in Grecia.

The reason is that most residents don’t live downtown. And while there are communities near downtown, most expats chose to live on one of five roads that follow ridges up the slope of Poas Volcano. These ridges are three to nine miles outside of town and are at a much higher elevation. Grecia Centro sits at an elevation of 3,000 feet while the mountain ridges range from 4,000 to over 5,000 feet. The higher elevation provides breathtaking mountain vistas, and smaller, less busy, coffee farming communities.

The five ridges are: San Luis, El Cajon, San Miguel, Carbonal, and San Isidro. Each ridge radiates from Grecia like fingers from an outstretched hand. Because the ridge roads are often many miles long, there are typically multiple communities (church, soccer field, convenience stores) on each ridge. For instance, El Cajon is about five miles long and includes the communities of Los Angeles, El Cajon, and El Cajon Arriba.

The ridges provide many different property types and prices. One I came across, located at 4,800 feet, is a beautiful home on the manicured grounds of a half-acre lot. The yard is planted with tropical flowers and fruiting trees including, mango, lemon, and banana. The house has two-bedrooms, two-bathrooms, and an office. The master suite has a door leading to the patio. The large kitchen is made for a chef and includes all stainless steel appliances. Just a 15-minute drive from Grecia, this home is listed for $279,000.

For just $137,000, in the hills above Grecia, a cozy wood paneled home sitting on one-third of an acre of land is available. I really love this one. Not only is the price right but the house has a warm feel to it, like a log cabin in the mountains. Have your coffee on a patio overlooking the breadth of the Central Valley—from San Jose to Sarchi. Enjoy the crisp cool mountain air while smiling at the deal you got on your home. The home has two very large bedrooms and one bathroom. All of this just 20 minutes from town.

High up on the El Cajon ridge sits a newly constructed home for the budget-minded. With three bedrooms and one bathroom, this small house has 900 square feet and a small yard. The home and yard might be small but the views are big—looking toward San José, Turialba Volcano, and the airport. The home sits just steps away from a bus stop and the bus to Cajon runs every hour, on the hour. All this for just $73,000.

Rentals are also available in Grecia and a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home would typically run from $700 to $1,200 depending on amenities. Many of the rental properties come fully furnished.

You can find rental properties available close to town available for long-term. I found one for $750 with two bedrooms and two bathrooms in a fully furnished home. The home is already set up for cable and WiFi.

Grecia is a great small town to live in. The people are friendly, the weather is nice, and the size is right. Make sure that if you check out the town, that you also look at the hills surrounding the town. You’ll be glad you did.

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