Location Matrix

Hi All,

I wish there was a "location matrix" that would hone in on the best place given certain criteria.  In the absence of that, I figured you guys would be the best!

We are looking to retire or spend a good chunk of the year in Costa Rica within a decade.  As many of you suggest, we plan to continually visit CR to try to find the best fit.  Even with that, there are so many places!  We already visited Alujuela, La Fortuna, and San Ramon. 

Here is a list of dislikes & wishes.  I'm hoping to get some ideas of places to visit for potential homes based on my matrix.  I want to be honest about my thoughts & I fear that I may appear closed minded (apologies in advance!), but it is just what I'm comfortable with.   

1.  My husband wants somewhere nearby to hike in the jungle daily

2.  I'll need to socialize with other expats

3.  Good food.  The food in CR was good, but I need some "American" food now and again.   (San Ramon had a few restaurants that attempted American food, but it tasted a little "off").

4.  A nearby grocery store that sells half & half!

5.  Safe housing.  I was put off by seemingly all housing having bars on the windows & doors.  Didn't feel safe or welcoming

6.  I would love to be near the ocean, but Guanacaste seems to be too hot (from what I read) & not very lush.  I could handle a few months of 85+ degree weather, but not much more.

7.  If I'm near the ocean, it would need to be swimmable (i.e. no continual riptides).  In my perfect world, it would be white sand beach & blue water (I've pretty much ruled out Limon as too dangerous and remote).

8.  My husband would like enough land to have a small garden and a papaya tree.

9.  La Fortuna felt too remote and from what I understand, pretty rainy & cloudy

10.  Alujuela, San Ramon, and Grecia towns "proper" seemed too crowded (narrow roads) & congested.  Maybe all towns are like this?  Just something to get used to? 

11.  I'd like to be within a few hours of a major airport

Check out Palmares.

What makes Palmares different than San Ramon?  On the map it appears smaller.  Is there more expats there than San Ramon and/or more restaurants that cater to expats' tastes?

With your requirements I would suggest you look into the outskirts of  Santa Ana, Escazú and possibly Heredia where there are many fine restaurants. More likely to find secure 'gated communities' that may or may not have security bars on the windows. They are usually installed for good reason.

I have never see 'half &  half' here.

Papaya trees will pop up in most places...

You should search the 'net for swimming beaches.

Easy access to 'jungle'  may not be so easy, but it depends on what you/he considers 'jungle conditions'.

You have put in a tall order as they say. I think you'll have to narrow it down to the MOST important things and give up on some others. Like, living near a jungle doesn't jibe well with having a market nearby that sells half and half or perhaps even having milk all the time!

However, that said, I am 20 minutes away from San Ramon where there is a mall and supermarkets, super stores, theaters, banks, etc. as you know if you've been there. They have pretty much everything one needs. It's crowded, yes but you learn to go on certain days and times and not others.

So it's kind of a compromise situation.

Half and half? Buy cream and buy milk (mercados in San Ramon sell both) and mix them for half and half.

Socializing with expats also doesn't jibe well with hiking in a jungle daily, except maybe if you live in Monteverde or some little town in the Southern gulf area (Osa Peninsula). It IS possible to get many of the things on your list but one thing tends to rule out the next... For example, the southern zone is mostly NOT near an airport and mostly does not have big towns with all the amenities. (Though some might, I'm not that familiar with it. ) It does rain a LOT there though!

EVERY town I have seen in Costa Rica that is above the size of a "small pueblo" (i.e. in other words they have almost no amenities), is crowded and congested and traffic and parking is a bit of a challenge. That's because all the people from nearby pueblos go there.

Now have I seen EVERY place in Costa Rica so I can definitely say there is no place like what you describe? No. So keep looking. Meanwhile consider that you may have to narrow down your list to those things you really MUST have.

Escazu and that area is very crowded and congested from what I've seen. And no jungle or forest.

I live 5 miles outside of San Ramon on a mostly paved road (one part requires 4x4). We have forest next to us, we have land big enough to take a hike on daily, down the hill and back up, where we often see monkeys and toucans and other friendly wildlife; we go into San Ramon 2-3 times a week for supplies;  and we could go into town for expat meetings but we don't - or haven't yet anyway. Lots of expats live around here and they're on the increase.

We live on a 2 acre lot (have others available) that has a fruit orchard and garden.
Many around here do not have bars on their windows though a few do. We've never been burgled or robbed and only two houses in our area have been - both a long time ago and both left their house empty a LOT -  but then we have a modest house and built well off the road behind a locked gate. Could we be robbed? Anyone could be at any time, anywhere. I will not live with bars. If we get robbed I'll get some new stuff. We don't have a lot of "nice stuff" that anyone would take, anyway.

We have a variety of weather: windy, cloudy, foggy, hot, cool, rainy... and some days in the 90's but it's not nearly as hot as Guanacaste. At night it cools down to where we use a blanket sometimes, and at least a sheet or two. And no fan in the bedroom.

We're within an hour of the San Jose airport. So from my accounting, San Ramon - or the area near it - could offer most of what you are looking for, but it's not perfect. Palmares is similar but the town is smaller.  Are there mountains / jungle near there, Mauron? Not sure...

One question you didn't make clear: do you want to live out in the country ("near a jungle") or in a town (not near a jungle)? As far as I know there are no big towns near a jungle. Montezuma on the beach on the Nicoya Peninsula could work BUT it's pretty far from an airport or any major town.

Keep narrowing it down and decide what compromises you are willing to make. San Ramon is not perfect even for us but we like living here and glad we came!

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