Where to Live, Pt. 2 – Puriscal, Atenas, Grecia & more

Part 1 of this series gave an overview of the country and detail about San Jose and its neighborhoods and suburbs. Now it’s time to expand our focus. We’ll begin by looking out a little farther from the major cities into areas still within two hours of the “big cities”.

Once you get away from the “big cities” you will find a mixed bag. There will be coffee farms, cow pastures, areas of untended land, little clusters of homes in hamlets that seem to have no name, some large houses and plenty of tin roof shacks. You can sometimes see this all within 5 minutes. Zoning and land use planning aren’t really a strong point of Costa Rican culture. Scattered throughout the large area within an hour or two of the cities will be smaller cities and towns. Because we have to start somewhere, we’ll start southwest of San Jose, in Puriscal.

Puriscal is about 30 miles (less than an hour) from San Jose. Population of the whole area is only 11,000, and the ‘city’ itself much smaller. It is noted for it’s clean air and spring-like climate. It offers a more tranquil and secure atmosphere than San Jose, yet not too far to make use of San Jose’s shopping, hospitals and other services. Bus service to and from San Jose is good.

To the north is Atenas, which boasts the ‘world’s most perfect climate.’ While that is a matter of opinion, there is no question the climate is pleasant. Like Puriscal, Atenas is close to San Jose without being urban. It is also quite convenient to the airport and Alajuela.

There is a large Gringo population in the area, so if you’re not fluent in Spanish you can still find people to talk to. Prices of property can be a little, ah, inflated in this area precisely because of the number of Gringos.

I can not stress too strongly that you should rent before buying, in Atenas or anywhere in Costa Rica. As of this writing, it is a buyer’s market, no matter what the real estate agents tell you. Hear me now and thank me later.

Somewhat closer to Alajuela are Grecia and Sarchi. Grecia boasts that it is the cleanest city in Costa Rica. I don’t know how that was determined, but it is certainly cleaner than San Jose. Sarchi is famous for its woodwork and furniture. Grecia has the feel of a large town while Sarchi is spread out and smaller. Both have climates similar to the other locations mentioned.

Heading further north, we come to San Ramon, Naranjo and Palmares. These three ‘cities’ are all on or close to the Interamerican Highway. San Ramon has a population of well over 100,000. Naranjo has a population of around 20,000. Palmares is only around 5,000 but is host to a giant festival each year that can draw up to a half a million people. Farmland and rural property abound in this area and the climate is pretty much the same old perfection you tend to find in Atenas, Puriscal and Grecia.

In the next installments we’ll move eastward and then southward. Stay tuned!

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