My Study of the Areas of Costa Rica

Costa Rica Pacific Coast Sunset by Charlie Doggett

I’ve pretty much decided that IF I move to Costa Rica, I will start with a monthly rent apartment in the center of the country while I find a rental house or apartment that I could feasibly live in the rest of my life. Always getting ahead of myself, I’ve been reading two books and lots of websites about the various sections of the country where expats live. There are pluses and minuses for each and mostly has to do with the individual person’s interests and lifestyle. Here’s my quick synopsis for now:

  1. THE CENTRAL VALLEY is where 80% of all residents live, both Tico and expats. It has the perfect weather staying around 72 degrees year around; the capital San Jose is there with all its good shopping, arts, entertainment and international airport; and it would be easier living there except that the costs are not always lower there. But the further from the big city you are the more affordable it generally is. It includes some mountain villages. 
  2. THE NORTHERN ZONE is mountainous, more rural, more affordable, and has the possibility of some great views from your house or deck. I would especially like to have a view of the Volcano Arenal like I did from my hotel near there on the Caravan.com tour. There is also Monteverde and other mountain rain forests or cloud forests that would appeal to my love of nature. Though for that I would probably like the Talmanaca Mountains south of San Jose about as much and be closer to the coast. 
  3. THE NORTHERN PACIFIC or Guanacaste is possibly the most expensive area where a lot of rich people are building mansions and it doesn’t interest me unless I got a real deal. The combination of mountains, forests and Pacific coast beaches are beautiful and otherwise appealing, though really dry in the dry season, like 4-5 months of zero rain. 
  4. THE CENTRAL PACIFIC is very appealing and closer to San Jose for shopping, etc. and has both rainforest and beautiful beaches. Jaco is the big tourist center which I would avoid, preferring around Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park rainforest. But it is getting more popular too and possibly crowded, but still closer to San Jose than the South Pacific.
  5. THE SOUTH PACIFIC seems perfect in many ways for a nature lover like me and might be my first choice, though the new coastal highway has made it more popular and the rich are buying up the land fast. It would be an area I would explore closely before a final decision. And this would be closer to Corcovado National Park and Talamanca Mountains, both of which I love. There are many waterfalls in this area, the Cinca Vintanas (5 Windows, an ocean rock formation and blowholes) all of which appeal to my photography. 
  6. THE CARIBBEAN is probably the least popular for expats other than surfers and reggae-loving young people. But it has the most beautiful tropical beaches in the country, is less expensive for housing, has jungle right up to the beach, and is a real paradise for those who live there. It is very appealing to me except for the 4-hour drive to San Jose. The closest big shopping is Limon, the Atlantic-side port, not too far. If here, I would live in the south. The north Caribbean coast has Tortuguero park where I photographed more wildlife than any other one place than maybe Corcovado. But there are no roads to Tortuguero, you have a boat if you live there! 
So you can see that if I get the financial and housing issues worked out, there will still be some tough decisions for me to make. But starting in the center and exploring for six months or a year sounds like a good way to start if I can afford it. 

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