Ten Reasons to Live in the Central Valley
Costa Rica may be smaller than West Virginia, but the terrain is incredibly varied and affords a wide range of relocation choices. Finding your niche is an exciting challenge! I live in the mountain outskirts of Heredia, and everyday am grateful that I call this beautiful locale my home. Here are my top ten reasons for living in the Central Valley:
10. Shopping Convenience
Most Costa Rican towns have access to major amenities like pharmacies and grocery stores, but for bigger purchases, you have to head into the city. Residents of the Central Valley have access to three urban centers – San Jose, Heredia, and Alajuela – with dozens of shopping centers and malls, Walmarts and Price Smarts, and other shopping conveniences. When I need to shop for gifts or hunt down hard-to-find items, I'm glad to live so close to major cities.
When I get the urge to spend an evening listening to live music, the Central Valley is always up to the challenge. There are literally hundreds of bars, clubs, music venues, dance halls and other after-hours hotspots to enjoy in the Greater Metropolitan Area.
8. Medical Services
In an emergency medical situation, I have access to the country's best medical facilities, from Heredia's brand new public hospital to Escazu's CIMA. Since I use the Caja whenever possible, I appreciate my location even more: if I needed to visit the country's top specialists, I could easily hop the bus into San Jose. And if my son were to require specialized medical attention, the Children's Hospital (Hospital de Ninos) is only 45 minutes away in San Jose.
I am most often found in the kitchen, up to my elbows in dough, spices or fresh produce. The Central Valley's temperate weather guarantees year-round access to a rainbow of fresh ingredients – plump strawberries, cucumbers, and juicy watermelons, not to mention a smorgasbord of exotic fruits and veggies I'd never encountered before. When I'm not in the mood to cook, the country's best fusion and international restaurants are a temptation I'm happy to indulge.
6. Proximity to the Beach
Admittedly, I'm more of a mountain person than a beach lover, but if I get the urge to wiggle my toes in the sand or eat fresh-caught fish, the Pacific coast is just a short ride away. Puntarenas, home to a lively boardwalk, skilled fishermen, and Churchills – snow cones gussied up with powdered milk, condensed milk, and a scoop of ice cream – is just one hour away. And the popular beach towns of Jaco and Playa Hermosa are just a few miles farther.
5. Mmm, coffee!
I may be the world's biggest sucker for a good cup of coffee, so I've definitely chosen the right place to live – the Central Valley's hillsides benefit from mineral-rich volcanic soil that helps produce incredible coffee. While you can purchase Costa Rican java throughout the country, some is only available locally. For example, Coopronaranjo brown-bags their beans for my local grocery store – they taste like they were just roasted yesterday – and Doka Estate (my all-time favorite) delivers right to my door for free!
The weather in the Central Valley is absolutely perfect. The rainy season turns the landscape green, and lowers temperatures just enough to enjoy hot chowder and a cozy blanket. In the dry season, the sun shines brightly but doesn't burn too hot – 75-80ºF is the daily average in the Heredia mountains. It's spring all the time, and I have no need for heat, air conditioning or even fans.
Public transportation is cheap – less than $1 will pay my way into Heredia, San Jose and other nearby towns – and service is frequent. Riding the bus and catching taxis saves me money – ciao to costly gas, routine maintenance, and car insurance – and affords me the opportunity to enjoy some of the world's most beautiful scenery.
2. National Parks
Almost everywhere you turn, you'll find signs pointing the way to the nearest volcano, or large green billboards heralding your proximity to a national park. From Heredia, I'm within a two-hour drive of at least ten national parks and volcanoes: Braulio Carrillo National Park, Barva Volcano, Guayabo National Monument, Irazu Volcano National Park, Juan Castro Blanco National Park, Orosi Volcano, Penas Blancas Wildlife Refuge, Poas Volcano National Park, and Turrialba Volcano National Park.
The view of the Central Valley, as seen from the mountainside, is breathtaking. From my house, I have a 50-mile panoramic view of the valley, from Alajuela east to Turrialba. At dawn, orange rays set the misty mountains aglow; by mid-day, the sun illuminates the entire valley; and at night, hundreds of thousands of lights wink and glow like fireflies in an open field.