Where to Live, Pt. 3 – North and East of San Jose

In part 2 we took a look at some of the smaller cities/towns not too far away from the big central valley cities. This time we’ll continue eastward in our clockwise direction.

As in part 2, outside of the scattered communities themselves you’ll get the usual mix of fincas, open space, tiny clusters of houses and the occasional ‘estate’ type place. Our trip left off somewhere in the vicinity of Grecia. To the east are the ‘Poas’ communities: San Rafael de Poas, San Pedro de Poas, and Poasito. You have probably begun to see a pattern here. I haven’t done a detailed study, but the saints up in Heaven must be pretty proud to have dozens of towns named after them in such a tiny country as Costa Rica. Saint Ralph seems particularly popular. But I digress… The area between Alajuela and the Poas volcano is generally tranquil and rural. As you get closer to the volcano and the national park, you’ll notice the temperature slowly dropping as the altitude increases. By the time you get to Poasito, you may want to dig into that backpack for a sweater. If you can’t stand hot weather, this area is a good choice. Alajuela is still not all that far away but you’ll be far from the hustle and bustle and will enjoy the cool, clean, fresh air. You will also be close to Volcan Poas and the national park there.

Still further east are the communities of Santa Barbara and Barva. Some expats who live in Santa Barbara like it because it is safe and tranquil but still not too far from ‘civilization,’ being only a half hour or so from the airport and the Mall Las Flores in Cariari, not to mention that the town of Santa Barbara is large enough to have most of what the average person routinely needs. Barva is around 2 km north of the city of Heredia. It’s in the middle of coffee country and was first colonized by Spain in 1561. To this date it retains some of the old colonial atmosphere. The town and surrounding area have a population of a little over 30,000. Still further east is San Isidro de Heredia. It has a fresh climate and is relatively close to the highway that runs over the mountains San Jose and Puerto Limon, Highway 32. East of the highway there are a few tiny villages but mostly you will start to re-enter the suburbs of San Jose, which we’ve covered before.

As you head east out of San Jose you will go through Cartago. I have nothing against Cartago but there’s not much to interest most expats. East of Cartago is Paraiso. (In English, ‘paradise’)
Paraiso is home to a major tourist attraction, the Lankester Botanical Gardens, famous for its orchids and bromeliads. February to April is the most colorful season with many plants in flower that attract countless birds. Paraiso features a farmers market and a modern shopping mall just outside of town. If you get tired of healthy food there are American fast food joints close by.

For the next installment, we’ll visit Turrialba, the Orosi valley area, and the Ruta de los Santos. See you next time.

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