Out of all the places in Costa Rica to start our adventure, we chose to live in Grecia.
In January 2012 we took a 10-day due diligence trip to Costa Rica. The purpose of the trip was to answer a 2-pronged question: Was Costa Rica a fit for us and, if so, What city do we start in? Costa Rica was a fit for our wants and situation so we had to decide where to start our adventure.
The first descision was deciding between the 2 main categories of environments – the Beach and the Central Valley. Yes, there are other options; Caribbean, Southourn Zone, Rainforest etc. but we had excluded these and narrowed our choices to the Northern Pacific beaches and the Central Valley. On our trip we spent time in both areas. We flew into San Jose and immediately drove to Grecia, both in the Central Valley. We had read Grecia has a great climate and a mid-size town vibe. From Grecia we drove to Guanacaste and spent time touring some beaches, Playas; Coco, Hermosa, Tamarindo, Conchal and Flamingo. We rounded out the trip with a couple of nights in the Arenal Volcano area then back to Grecia.
Although we love the beach we were concerned with the constant heat and the accompanied electric bill for running an AC, and until we were able to live within our budget for a while we wanted to start our adventure in the Central Valley; with its Spring like temperatures that do not require a heater or air conditioner. For this reason and those listed below, several months after this trip, we determined that Grecia would be our landing spot.
Already, at this point, we knew we would not purchase property, and if we did, it would be several years down the road. So, we would rent and therefore, be mobile. If we started in Grecia and did not like it, we could easily move.
Grecia is Just Right, in Size
Moving to Costa Rica from a decent size city in the States, we were looking for a town that had the amenities we were looking for, while at the same time, have a small town feel. Grecia met those requirements. There are plenty of restaurants, markets, grocery stores and things to do, yet it is a town of about 17,000 people. After living here for several months, just about every time we go out, we see someone we know – I like that.
Grecia Has Views
One of our requirements, easily met throughout most of Costa Rica, was a location with a view. Mountains surround Grecia and you can see them from many places in town. In addition, Grecia has 5 ridges that lead up, several thousand feet in elevation, from Grecia Centro. We live on one of those ridges; El Cajon. From our perch, at an elevation of 4700 feet, we can see the National Stadium and lights in San Jose as well as several other cities. From our porch we have a panoramic view of the mountain range as well as beautiful sunsets and the elevation provides for a cooler climate.
Grecia has Spring-Like Weather Year Round
I have lived the majority of my life in Dallas, TX. Suffering each year from barely bearable heat in the summers and only getting to enjoy spring weather for maybe a week each year. After determining we would not start this adventure in a beach area, we decided a requirement for our new town would be cooler, year around, weather. The weather in Grecia is awesome. In town the temperature range is 65 – 85 degrees and, with our higher elevation, where we are in Cajon, the range is more like 55 – 80, damn near perfect in my mind, and this temperature range holds true all year-long with the only change being more rain during the “Green” or rainy season.
On our 2012 trip we met quite a few people and stayed in touch with some of them. In addition, through social media, the Expatriates in Costa Rica Facebook Group and the Central Valley Living Yahoo Group, we met people who lived in Grecia and were very helpful in our research and who have since become REAL friends not just cyber friends.
Proximity to San Jose
Our research led us to believe that establishing residency would be an important step after our move. We wanted to start in a town that was close enough to San Jose, where our attorney is and where government buildings necessary to the residency process are located, to make the process easier. Grecia is 45 min to an hour from San Jose, an easy bus or taxi ride away. It is yet to be determined if establishing residency was the right choice.
If we had chosen another city in the Central Valley to stay in, other than Grecia, on our 2012 trip, we may have started this adventure in that city, as many towns in the central valley fit our criteria. As it was, we chose Grecia as a staring point and do not regret it.
We did research other towns in the Central Valley on the internet, but it was a bit unfair, as we had “feet on the street” in Grecia. These towns all looked promising and have some of the same characteristics as Grecia and may prove to be a future residence of ours. Runners-Up in the Central Valley (in no particular order) – Atenas, San Ramon, Puriscal and Cartago.
* Update: We have learned so much since moving here almost two years ago. So much so that I wrote a book about tips and observations from the point of view of someone living in the Central Valley, in a non-tourist town. Check out Living in and Visiting Costa Rica – 100 Tips, Tricks, Traps, and Facts on Amazon.