Last Updated: 19-MAR-2016
Broke this trip up into three parts to aid in page loading.
We had been to Costa Rico before on cruises before and we were impressed. We visited the caribbean port city of Puerto Limon which has many issues but, when we got out of the city area we really enjoyed what we saw. We have gone on a number of cruises and decided that we wanted something different. Also, as with other vacations we are looking at possible long term retirement locations.
We had read about Atenas as a possible retirement destination and decided to check it out and relax. AARP called the Central Valley one of the top retirement destinations in the world in 2010 and featured Atenas heavily. And the climate is ideal. T-shirt weather all the time. Turns out one of the best places to find small-town America is in Costa Rica.
We flew US Air from BWI to Charlotte. Had to go thru customs so we had to show the passport at this point and get back on the same plane. The plane to San Jose was less than 1/2 full so the 3+ hour flight was easy.
On the way back, security in Costa Rica was quick. So fast that we arrived way early. The airport is very modern and had US chain restaurants in it. Some of the security checks were strange. When you board the aircraft they don't allow you to take any drinks on, even the ones you bought after security. Also, they did a quick visual search of all of your carry-on luggage even though you went thru the x-ray machines when you went thru security. When we arrived in Charlotte, we then had to get our luggage and then go thru customs. I assume that TSA does not trust Costa Rica screening so we had to go thru it again. But, it was generally quick.
Marian Veltman, from Bunki Tours, picked us up at the airport and drove us to the house after stopping in Atenas for groceries.
Atenas (ah-TEN-nahss) is the capital city of the canton of Atenas in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. It is also the name of the distrito (district) that includes the city. The district of Atenas covers an area of 3.44 square miles and has a population of approx. 27,000 inhabitants.
The city lies at an elevation of 2290 feet above sea level on the western edge of the Central Valley (Valle Central), 15 miles southwest of the provincial capital city of Alajuela, 12 miles from Juan Santamaria International Airport, and 21 miles from the national capital city of San Jose.
The town is surrounded by mountains and coffee plantations. It is located in a prosperous agricultural area which hosts a weekly farmer's market on Friday mornings. The town center features an immaculate, white church and a picturesque park lined with palm trees. There is a community health center, pharmacies, doctors, dentists, tennis court, fitness center, swimming pools, parks, banks, shops, bed-and-breakfasts, and restaurants in the village.
Atenas is a popular place for North American retirees.
There are three major real estate developments with existing homes and building lots: Roca Verde, Vista Atenas and Hacienda Atenas. There are other real estate developments in various stages of completion.
We have used VRBO to rent houses three times in Florida and once in North Carolina. We find it safe, easy and generally we know what we are getting into well before we go.
This is the house we rented Off-the-Beaten-Path Paradise and would rent it again but are trying other areas around Atenas.
The fact that Costa Rica generally has no addresses we had some issues in actually finding this house on a map, but we eventually found it.
Conclusions of the trip.
We plan on going back in December. We will be renting a SUV this time as driving was not as bad as some articles that we have read. Also, I drive in the DC metro area all the time so I am use to idiots ! Still, I will be cautious.. We won't drive into the San Jose area and won't drive late at night. Also, I plan on asking Marian & Aad for advice on our trips ! The main roads are in better shape than they are here in Pennsylvania.
We really liked the area and met a number of expats on the market day in the park (the FABULISTA DE COSTA RICA below talks of their adventures). Like we said we had to travel to Costa Rica to find what the United States was like many years ago. We enjoyed the evenings at the house, generally avoided TV and the news which made the trip great. My job is stressful and this was a very low stress vacation. The people were extremely friendly and we enjoyed the language issues with ordering food and buying things, as we found that the Ticos always helped as much as they could.
We were really surprised at how close everything was. I drive almost 180km a day to/from work. So, 30km to the beach is not an issue.
Rent vs. buy - At this time we are thinking of renting. The rental prices are reasonable and at 2-3 K a month for a nice house you can go many months for 500K to buy. Also, I don't have to worry about it when I am not in the house. This is what we are thinking as of now. But, will see. Moving permanently ? Well, will have to see how bad it gets in the states.
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