Living In The Central Valley Of Costa Rica: Top 15 Facts to Know

All you need to know about one of the best places to live in Costa Rica - the renowned Central Valley, and what expat life there is like.

The Central Valley of Costa Rica is right where you guessed it!  In the central region of the paradisical country surrounding the outskirts of Costa Rica’s bustling capital of San Jose.

The gorgeous Central Valley offers a small-town friendly atmosphere with some of the best climates in the country and even the world.

To know if this mountainous and idyllic countryside is the quintessential destination to live out your expat days, here are some of the best must-know facts about the Central Valley. 

Sit back and relax, reading on to see if you can envision your mornings with your fresh Costa Rican brew looking out into the green hillsides of Costa Rica’s refreshing Central Valley.

1. There are a lot of expats living in the Central Valley

With more than a third of all of Costa Rica’s population living in the Central Valley, you will find plenty of expats residing within. Expats have discovered ideal locations creating culturally diverse communities throughout the region, finding new friendships and connections.

Living in the central valley, Costa Rica
Orosi hills in the Central Valley of Costa Rica.

Just post on one of the many social media pages of Costa Rica and you will be more than surprised how many expats are actually in the area scattered throughout the hills and valleys. 

2. All modern conveniances are available

The Central Valley offers you the conveniences of both of your favorite worlds: living out your pura vida days peacefully in serene small-town charm with the luxury of everything you need not far away. 

Upscale malls and plazas, urban centers, and the comforts and familiarity of home are only 30 minutes away.

Head into Alajuela, San Jose, or even Escazu to stock up on those must-haves and retreat into the slow pace of life for the rest of the day. 

Wal mart, PriceSmart, name-brand clothing and shoes, all those essentials that you still want are right there in one quick trip to the city.

Many of the other regions of the country have you making it a full-day excursion or even an overnight adventure just to get some of your desired amenities. Here you can be back in time for your afternoon siesta in the hammock before the sun gets too hot!

3. It is centrally located near Costa Rica’s natural playground

Jaco is the closest beach town having you at the Pacific Coast in just a short drive. It is an easy trip for the day to walk the black sand beaches and enjoy some surf and waves or enjoy the chill vibes of Playa Hermosa.

Living in the Central Valley of Costa Rica - Playa Hermosa
Playa Hermosa

Explore Poas Volcano and its stunning crater in the Central Valley or hike one of the many National Parks all within one easy day trip returning to the comforts of your own bed for the night. 

4. The unforgettable and stunning views 

Living in the hillsides of the Central Valley may have you spending most of your days just in your backyard. 

The breathtaking views of Costa Rica’s captivating landscapes are something that you will never grow tired of. The rolling green mountains of rooftops lining the scenic countryside are priceless.  

5. International travel is easy and effortless if you live in the Central Valley

The Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), is one of the only two international airports in Costa Rica and is a short distance away. Heading home to see loved ones is quick and effortless.  

Even better why not have them come to see you, picking them up at the airport is direct and you will be in and out in no time at all.  The bus route even stops right out front of the SJO airport it is that efficient.

6. Never a dull day when looking for some excitement

The Central Valley’s convenient location to San Jose means that you can revel in your quiet days in the surrounding regions and still be able to get to everything you need quickly and easily. 

Living in the Central Valley of Costa Rica
National Theatre of Costa Rica in San Jose

You will be close to the National Theatre, museums, galleries, outdoor concerts, and festivals you have art, culture, and nightlife all in neighboring proximity. 

Sports events, casinos, clubs, and all the exciting destinations are within the Central Valley. The Central Valley is essentially the hub and pivotal destination for the country.

7. Top-rated healthcare is easily accessible

With the best public and private hospitals in the country close, you have easy access to the top healthcare in the country.

One of the most popular private hospitals for expats is right in San Jose at Hospital CIMA.

Hospital Clinica Biblica has plenty of English-speaking staff and Hospital La Catolica is another within a short driving distance from many of the Central Valley communities.

Hospital de Ninos (Children’s Hospital) is less than an hour away and is also found in the capital. 

If healthcare access is an important variable in your decision, then the Central Valley is a must as it is the epicenter for all the private hospitals in Costa Rica.

Manu expats opt for international health insurance. To make sure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal. 

8. There are some great locations for expats in the Central Valley

If you love urban lifestyle, then living in San Jose is for you. it’s a true urban jungle, vibrant and lively, set against the backdrop of the country’s lush green mountains.

Living in the Central Valley of Costa Rica
The Central Valley view.

But if you are after a more peaceful lifestyle, the following locations might be worth your attention:

Atenas

Gorgeous contemporary homes and ranches are sprinkled throughout the mountains with stunning views of the Central Valley.

Gated housing, vista communities, and private casas without a neighbor to hear, the selection is extensive in Atenas. It is one of the top expat destinations in the Central Valley with its mild and near-perfect climate.

To find out more about this town, its costs and the lifestyle it offers, read our Living In Atenas guide.

Grecia

Grecia delivers a small city feel without the big city atmosphere so you don’t feel like you are missing out on too much. It is considered one of the cleanest towns with a mixture of country living and suburban lifestyle.

It is a great place for families to saturate themselves in the culture while still remaining within their roots, not feeling lost. Grecia is an amazing place to assimilate yourself to the country and not be overwhelmed especially with the cooler temperatures.

La Garita 

Under an hour from San Jose, mountainous landscapes of fincas, fruit trees and upscale family homes living La Garita’s community is a notable place for relaxed living. It doesn’t have all the busy amenities but is quiet small-town life where you can spend your days in peace and tranquillity. 

Several other areas worth noting are Escazu, Santa Ana, Tres Rios, Heredia, and even over towards the mountainous and cooler region of Cartago. 

9. Plenty of affordable and modern housing 

Renting is the ultimate way to see if your heart lies in a town and is the most affordable way to start your expat journey. 

Living in the Central Valley of Costa Rica
The Cartago area

Less than 15 minutes from the SJO airport in La Garita rentals can be as low as $900 fully furnished for 2 people including all of your utilities! Gardens, privacy, modern living all with the tranquillity you desire.

Upscale condos with up to 4 bedrooms, fully furnished, 3 bathrooms, private with a yard fit for a playground of a patio or ranch can be as low as $1500 in Grecia. 2-bedroom casas fully furnished can start as low as $550.

As Atenas is a popular expat destination growing in its community size rent can be a little more but homes can come with several acres and views to write home about. Just under $1,000 with all utilities included can find you in a 2 bedroom with a stunning terrace to look out into the hilltops.

You can learn more about the cost of living in Costa Rica in our Living In Costa Rica guide.

10. Arguably the best climate in the world

The Central Valley’s Atenas has been tagged by some as the best climate in the world for staying healthy. Depending on whether you are in the valley or the mountains the temperature and heat can differ with some boasting spring-like feels.

Living in the Central Valley of Costa Rica
Sunset in the Central Valley

You don’t need to be running your air conditioner all day long with temperatures ranging from the 70s to low 80s typically 72F to 75F with cool comfortable evening climates. 

Living at the higher elevations in the Central Valley can make it a bit cooler allowing you to pull out your familiar long sleeves and pants for a cozy evening. 

11. Magical and refreshing winds

You will be looking forward to the balmy winds especially the Christmas winds that last at least a month, sometimes a bit longer.  In a country of high temperatures and humidity, a breeze and wind are a blessing. 

There is indescribable magic as the winds flow through swaying the tropical leaves as you sit back and feel the revitalizing energy.

12. International and authentic cuisine 

Dining out could be where you see much of your money going as you are in the hub of amazing international and delightful cuisine. Pizzerias with seafood toppings, aromatic Pad Thai, salmon and steak burgers, savory Indian dishes. You may find it hard to stay in and cook! 

Don’t forget about the freshest and best strawberries from Poas or the endless fruit and vegetable stands of all the country’s flavourful exotic fruits. 

13. Coffee, coffee, and coffee!

Coffee plantations are prominent in the Central Valley with the rich volcanic soils and ideal altitudes and climates. They are stunning to see creating postcard-worthy visions.

Enjoy the gift of fresh brewed Costa Rican coffee right from your own region. 

Living in the Central Valley of Costa Rica
Coffee plantations in the Orosi Valley

14. Paved roads and highways makes travelling a breeze

Unlike the rugged terrains of many of Costa Rica’s roads, the Central Valley has plenty of paved and reasonably direct routes. You won’t need a 4 x 4 to get around, just be cautious of Costa Rica’s notorious potholes.

The photographic mountains and lush rolling hills can have you weaving in and around on some frightful heights so night driving can be a bit fearful if you aren’t accustomed to the terrain.

The positive is that the daylight hours have you looking out upon miles of breathtaking landscapes that you will never grow tired of. 

15. Safety of the Central Valley

Regardless of where you are living in Costa Rica, it is typical to have some sort of protection within your home. Whether you are living in a gated community, have a dog, strong doors with bolts, or a security system, you always want to have your possessions well taken care of.

Living in the Central Valley of Costa Rica
La Paz Waterfall Gardens in the San Jose area

You won’t have the same petty thefts of opportunity as the tourist beach towns but certain precautions are necessary.

Always leave valuables locked up at home and don’t leave them out on display in your vehicle. Take the time to know your neighbors.

Common sense is one of the best forms of prevention.

Final thoughts on living in the Central Valley 

Living in the Central Valley brings a sentiment that truly feels like home. It is one of the best places to live in Costa Rica where you instantly feel a part of without the need for much adjustment. You won’t miss much when relocating to this paradise.

The less humid temperatures, the magical winds, vibrant morning skies, and the twinkle lights of the homes through the valleys and mountains can sometimes feel surreal. It is one of Costa Rica’s never-ending gifts that keeps on giving all through your glorious expat days. 

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Sarah Jordan
Sarah Jordan

Sarah is a freelance writer who has given up her criminal justice career to follow her passion for writing. After volunteering with the sloths and monkeys, she knew her heart belonged to Costa Rica and it has been her home since 2019. A proud mama to her rescue dog Coconut, together they enjoy the Pura Vida life.

She is a contributing writer for the Costa Rica news and loves to write about all things travel and wellness-related.

Articles: 9

4 Comments

    • Hi Laura,
      You will definitely be welcomed by the people here in Costa Rica at any age. It is one of the best destinations to live as a senior with so much to do or as little as you want to do and enjoy the pura vida way of life without any judgement.
      There are also endless friendly gated communities to feel safe in with a mixture of both expats and locals. If you have any questions about a particular location please feel free to ask.
      Having small dogs will make moving here a lot easier for both yourself and your furry babies. There are forms required to be completed by your vet prior to moving to ensure requirements are met. Depending on the airline some will allow your pet in a carrier beneath the seat in front of you or a regular seat. Also Pet Lounge CR is a popular company that many have assist them. https://petloungecr.com/
      If these don’t interest you, there are also social media groups now Private Air to Costa Rica, (dogs allowed) where like minded people are flying charter together in order to safely relocate with their dogs big or small. They are regularly arranging flights.
      Thank you for your comment and I hope this helps to inspire your planning. Pura Vida!

  1. Hi Sarah
    I’m single woman looking to move to Costa Rica but not sure what to do.
    I’m going to a International Living conference 29-31 of July not sure how long to stay after to check things out. Any advise?
    Gracias

    • Hi Rosemary, Thank you for your comment. Its a perfect idea to take advantage of already being here in Costa Rica and using that time to scout out different areas to see if they align with your life.
      The first thing is to make a list of all the amenities you want to have close by in your ideal town and what is important to you. (i.e. hot beach days, cool mountain air, centrally located, city life, healthcare needs etc) Secondly, think about if you would have a vehicle or access to one after you make the move to Costa Rica or if you are comfortable with learning the bus system. This will help determine the areas in the country that you should consider seeing during your extended visit here.
      If you are able to allot yourself a minimum of two to at least three weeks and the luxury of renting a vehicle it will allow you to travel more efficiently maximizing your time here. Finding a hotel or airbnb throughout your stops won’t be difficult as you aren’t visiting during prime season. Often some towns sound ideal at first until you experience them first hand and realize they are better off as a vacation or weekend away.
      After visiting and having a general idea of what resonated with you, searching out social media expat groups in Costa Rica will help you to become acquainted with what life is truly like in the town.
      If you don’t see a town that is matching what you are looking for in the present Expatra articles for Costa Rica feel free to reach out again and I would be happy to help suggest a few more to stop and consider.
      Pura Vida!

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