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From Sea to Shining Sea: Where Should You Live in Costa Rica?

 Costa Rica is one of the most popular countries for American expats to relocate to. There are many reasons they are drawn here: the country’s beauty, pleasant year-round weather, low cost of living, and simple lifestyle. While Costa Rica is a wonderful place to live, different parts of the country offer their own charms. Make sure you understand the differences between these regions so you can choose the best place to live.

Here are some of the most desirable areas for expats to move to.

The Central Valley

The Central Valley is probably the most popular haven for expats. It’s home to San Jose and many other large cities, and clearly offers more modern comforts than the more secluded parts of the country. The temperate climate is one of the most appealing reasons to live in the Central Valley. Since the region is approximately 3000 meters above sea level and positioned between several major mountain chains, the temperature hovers around 70° throughout the year. This makes it a particularly attractive destination for retirees that want to avoid bitter, cold winters.

San Jose is located in the very center of the Central Valley. There are many suburbs that are within an hour of the capital. Since it's so easy to travel across the region, you shouldn't have any trouble getting to the various shopping centers and other important destinations located in different cities. The Central Valley is especially popular with older citizens due to its exceptional medical care. In more secluded parts of Costa Rica, healthcare facilities don't always have enough supplies to meet demand. Healthcare quality is usually still very good, but you may run into problems in these areas. The Central Valley is the hub of the country, making it relatively easy for hospitals and clinics to meet the needs of their patients. Finally, the Central Valley is home to some of the best museums in Costa Rica, such as the Jade and Costa Rican Museum of Art. It also has many of the best operas and other cultural sites in the country. If you have an affinity for the arts, it may be the perfect place for you to move.

What are the best cities in the Central Valley?

The Central Valley is home to about three-quarters of the native Costa Rican population. While the Central Valley cities offer many of the same comforts, they each have their own unique elements, so you make sure to do some thorough research before moving. San Jose is the capital, and is the most prominent city in Costa Rica. It has a population of 335,000 people, making it the largest city in the country, and the center of commerce in Costa Rica. You will find more shops, restaurants and other comforts in San Jose than anywhere else in Costa Rica. Many expats relocate to San Jose to start businesses, because there are so many opportunities to network with local business owners.

Heredia is another very popular city in the Central Valley. It is located in the heart of a province with the same name and has a population of about 120,000 people. Heredia is is probably the best place in Costa Rica for people that want to strike a balance between city and country life. You can visit the main parts of the city if you want to go shopping or enjoy the nightlife. If you want to get away from the hectic lifestyle, you can also explore the countryside and gaze at the farms that grow much of the country's coffee supply. Emma, a 27-year-old American expat, discussed some of the reasons that she chose to move to Heredia with “Heredia offers the best of both worlds: peace and convenience. I love living in the mountains, away from the city sounds (and smog), but I'm only a 30-minute bus ride to major shopping, the movie theater, or anything else I could want. I also love how safe it is. In my mountain suburb, I'm not scared to walk alone at night – that's very important when you don't have a car.”

The Gold Coast

The Gold Coast borders the Pacific Ocean and is in close proximity to Nicaragua. This area is known for its fine beaches, so it's a popular tourist destination throughout the year. There are a couple of noteworthy cities that many expats move to. One is Tamarindo, one of the main cities in the Gold Coast. It is very popular among both tourists and expats. It isn't difficult to see the appeal, because Tamarindo is home to some of the finest beaches in Costa Rica. You don't have to be wealthy to move to Tamarindo, because there are plenty of affordable housing options for people of modest means. There are many three-bedroom houses and condos selling for $150,000 or less. It's still more expensive than life in the smaller, more rural communities, but not nearly as expensive as living in San Jose. However, you may still need to exercise caution in order to stick to a reasonable budget, depending on your lifestyle. For instance, restaurants in Tamarindo can be a bit pricey, since it's a popular tourist destination.

Playas del Coco and Playa Potrero are probably the two next most traveled-to destinations on the Gold Coast. Many people go there for deep sea diving, hiking, and taking tours around the Catalina Islands. You can also enjoy many great sunsets throughout the year.

The Southern Pacific Region

As its name implies, the Southern Pacific Region is the southernmost part of Costa Rica that borders the Pacific Ocean. It’s a very secluded part of the country, so it’s not ideal for people who can’t do without modern comforts or regular medical care. However, it offers plenty of attractions for other people. The sheer natural beauty of the Pacific Region makes it a fantastic place to live for those who prefer the tranquility of nature over civilization. However, while it is a beautiful place to explore, it isn’t a very comfortable place to form a permanent residence.

 he area receives close to 200 inches of rainfall every year, so it can be very humid. Fortunately, the cool Pacific breeze keeps temperatures cool throughout most of the year, so the humidity isn’t as unbearable as it would be in Florida, for example. The prehistoric rainforest in this region is one of the largest in Central America. It is also the area where the events of Jurassic Park took place, although the crew itself was never stationed there, much to the frustration of many Costa Ricans who felt that their home was poorly portrayed.

Where is the Best Place to Live? It Depends on What You Want

While Costa Rica is the third smallest country in Central America, it really offers something for everyone. Whether you enjoy the activity of the big city or prefer a low-key lifestyle in the country, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a great place to live.

Younger adults will probably prefer living in one of the key cities in the Central Valley. San Jose is probably their best option, but Heredia, Moravia, and Santa Ana are also fantastic places to live. These areas are great for young adults because they have a lot of shopping centers and fun things to do. Young people who enjoy hitting the clubs will have a blast in San Jose and the other cities in the Central Valley.

The Central Valley is also a beacon to young expats who need to work and support themselves. Although there are rigid laws to protect the employment of Costa Rican citizens, many expats start their own businesses and find jobs teaching English or offering other specialized services that locals can’t provide. You will find the most opportunities to create a living in the Central Valley. Meanwhile, most retirees need to live in an area that offers decent healthcare. This group tends to gravitate towards the Central Valley, since it offers the best medical care compared to other parts of the country. However, there are large cities in other parts of the country worth considering, such as Playa Potrero. These areas tend to be less expensive than the Central Valley and make it easy for retirees trying to get by on a tight budget.

Have you decided where you would like to live in Costa Rica? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below: