The important decision on: Where to live in Costa Rica comes down to three basic geographic areas of choice:
- The Central Valley:
Escazu and Santa for the more affluent, closer to the main highway connecting San Jose to the beaches, and expensive.
Some favorite cities in the Central Valley are Tres Rios and Curridabat. Solid middle class, cities to walk and enjoy and not to far from San Jose downtown.
- The Higher Elevations:
Atenas, Grecia, Arenal, San Carlos. The higher elevations provide a cooler weather and by consequence a slower pace of life. You will save on electricity and the mosquito population is almost zero. You will also find the most affordable prices, while you choose Where to live in Costa Rica. Plus very important, San Carlos was just named the best experience destination in the world.
- The Beaches:
Guanacaste on the North Pacific side is hot and humid, very dry during the dry season and extremely touristy.
The South Pacific (favorite beach area for many) includes Quepos, Dominical, Uvita, Manuel Antonio. Hot and humid and not dry during the dry season. Quepos and Manuel Antonio are a little touristy but not so bad. I also like the South Pacific as it is closer to Panama which can be used for border runs and for shopping at a duty free zone in Golfito.
The Caribbean side Puerto Viejo and Cahuita. Some of the most beautiful beaches, less developed and a large population of Black Costa Rican’s. It’s like another country.
From what I can see from my extensive traveling and living in Costa Rica is that the beaches are the main draw for many, but being on vacation and living somewhere are two different things. The beaches are incredible but after your 200thincredible sunset and 3rdtrip to the doctor to have a potential cancerous mole looked at, you may find you are missing something. At the end, what is your tolerance to heat, mosquitoes and higher electric bills?
My personal choice is the Central Valley, and that is where I’m heading next, for the life, food, art, and culture, you just cannot compare the Central Valley for things to do. My family and I attend events, art galleries, the National Theatre, Concerts, beautiful malls, outdoor festivals, movie theaters, go carts, and specially incredible dining.
In the beginning I was all in on Escazu, it is knows as the Beverly Hills of Costa Rica, but now I prefer San Isidro de Heredia, Tres Rios and Curridabat because they are upper middle class, walking distance to everything and not as expensive as Escazu. In the Central Valley you can survive without a car and rent one for your trips.
All that said my advice is get to know the different areas, stay light on your feet and come to Costa Rica with nothing else but an open mind and keep things simple.
- It’s Costa Rica, not the USA or Canada, and there will be things to get used to. You will not change Costa Rica into the USA.
- Learn Spanish.
- If you have medical needs look no further, the Central Valley has the best hospitals.
- Costa Rica can and is expensive, if you buy a phone or a computer you might have a heart attack.
- Housing, medical care, labor (painter, plumber, etc.) are really the only things that are inexpensive.You might even get use to having a live in maid.
- If you buy a car, buy a 4-wheel drive, it’s the only choice.
- If you rent a house or an apartment, you will find the best deals with a local.
- WAZE (a navigation app) is a must, it’s impossible to get around without it.