When the AARP released their September/October issue entitled “Paradise Found”, which discussed the the best places to retire abroad. AARP enlisted Barry Golson, an award-winning travel writer and founder of ForbesTraveler.com, to cover what exactly makes a destination an all-around choice for peaceful, comfortable living for the retiree.
Costa Rica has long been recommended by international living experts, as a destination seemingly designed for retirees, but until now there has not been such specific mention of a particular town that stands out above the rest.
I live and work in Atenas, so at times I do feel biased; it was refreshing to read that the very same criteria I had used to select Atenas, as someone in their late-30s, also have been used to recommend this medium-sized Central Valley town to retirees.
AARP Ranks Atenas, Costa Rica One of “The Best Places to Retire Abroad.”
Atenas has been selected, because it is representative of Costa Rica itself. According to Golson:
“It is lush with nature, extraordinary wildlife, active volcanoes — as well as such comforting amenities as malls, supermarkets, and restaurants. Retirees have flocked here for years, drawn my its mild climate, its prosperity, its literacy rate, its health care, and, significantly, its stable government — with no army. This is as bio-diverse a country as you’ll find anywhere.”
The above Costa Rica qualities are exactly those found in Atenas. Although Atenas is rooted in agriculture and coffee production, expats from Canada and the U.S. found the town decades ago.
Naturally, one of the first concerns of those from the north is the temperature. Being a Northeasterner, I certainly looked for a destination where I would never have to pick up another shovel full of snow.
The town slogan of Atenas is “The Best Climate in The World.” That certainly worked for me. There is a rainy and dry season, but the temperature always hovers around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius).
One unique aspect of Atenas is that it is quite mountainous. The dramatic change in elevation offers just the right climate for nearly anyone. A five-minute drive up or down the mountain can result in much cooler or warmer temperatures and different wind patterns.
Have Questions About Buying or Renting A Home in Atenas?
Golson’s second category covers the social aspect of retirement. Although I’m not a retiree, I found Atenas to have just the right balance between Costa Ricans and expats. In fact, Atenas has the largest number of foreigners, per capita, outside of San Jose.
I certainly wanted to be a part of Costa Rican culture, learn Spanish, and be involved on the local level, as many retirees wish to do. However, it is natural to seek people from your home culture to share common experiences, talk about news from home, offer support when needed, or just to observe the cultural differences.
Atenas’ expats are predominantly American and Canadian, but there is large group of Europeans as well: German, Dutch, and Belgian. This cultural diversity makes Atenas an exceedingly welcoming place for retirees.
The cost of living in Atenas, while a bit higher than other smaller Central Valley towns, is much less expensive than living in the San Jose area. Compared to North America, the cost is a fraction.
Golson is correct to say that $2,000 is a comfortable amount per month for a retired couple (after housing), with $2,500 – $3,000 certainly allowing for more travel and dining. Services such as domestic and garden help are in the $3 per hour range.
The temperate climate leads to reduced utility bills, insurance costs are a fraction, and health care (for both people and pets) is incredibly affordable.
Golson does make one error in his housing costs. A house for $100,000 certainly can be found in Atenas, but it is not likely to be to North American standards. At this price, a home will be a typical, simple Costa Rican home; certainly comfortable, but without the finishing details and cosmetic enhancements that North Americans have come to desire.
A 3 bed, 2 bath home in a gated community is likely to be above the $200,000 level that Golson states, but there certainly are some wonderful homes under $300,000.
Rentals are hard to come by, but when available in Atenas they are an excellent value between $700-$1,500 per month for a two or three-bedroom home.
A key concern for the retiree, but for myself as well, was access to quality health care. I have a genetic condition which results in a high risk for blood clots, so having a private clinic in town and a less than 30-minute drive to a good hospital was a must.
Atenas has a private clinic called Linea Vital which offers emergency services, as well as 24-hour walk-in care.
Most of the staff speaks English, nearly all were trained in the United States, and they are much more attentive and caring than their U.S. counterparts, in my experience.
The same is true for one of Latin America’s best hospitals, Hospital CIMA, now just a 20-minute drive via the newly completed San Jose-Caldera highway. I found that their equipment and their protocol for treating my condition was exactly the same level as I encountered in the United States . . . but administered with far more compassion.
The cost for my two-day stay, medicine, and testing was $1,600, exactly 1/10th the costs as my visit to a U.S. hospital. Residents can become part of the social health care system, but private insurance is available starting around $2,200 per year.
Golson correctly highlights the leisure and abundant cultural activities to be found. Atenas has many traditional festivals and parades where both expat and locals share a terrific time. Located just 30 minutes from the beach and the city respectively, there is no shortage of things to do.
In fact, in my seven years of living in Atenas I have never heard a retiree tell me that they were bored.
In addition to a wealth of sites to see within Costa Rica, I have enjoyed Costa Rica’s central location for quick trips to Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, and Colombia as well.
The last category cited by Golson is access to the U.S. I would expand this to say access to North America, as travel to and from Canada is also quite simple. Access to the U.S. certainly was a key consideration for me. I can get a direct flight to my home state of New Jersey and be there in 5 hours — a quicker trip than from NJ to California!
Most people who choose to live abroad are certainly independent types, but it is nice to feel easily connected to home when the need or desire arises. Atenas is just 25 minutes to the international airport, so returning to visit friends and family (or having them visit you, better yet) is never an issue. You can always find a mortgage for a real estate property if that’s what you’re worried about, we recommend talking to your local bank or if your struggling with bad credit look for a mortgage here.
The title of the AARP feature is “Paradise Found” and I have seen the qualities described by Barry Golson first hand, on a daily basis, and many more that one must live here full time in order to appreciate: the weekend farmers market; the music; the sense of community; the peaceful Costa Rican people; and the Costa Rican trademark greeting of “Pura Vida” spoken in a way that indeed says, Paradise Found.
Need More Information About Retirement in Atenas?
The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) ranks Atenas as one of “The Best Places to Retire Abroad.” For more information about homes and land for sale in the area please contact our Recommended Realtors in Atenas Dennis Easters and Gerardo Gonzalez-Porras using the simple form below:
Article ID Number 2682
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