When we first considered moving to a foreign country, giving up the rat race, safety and tranquility were among the most important factors for us when choosing a location. Next came convenience to services, and a great climate. We found it all in the little mountain town of Atenas, Costa Rica.

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For us, we immediately realized that Atenas had the climate and tranquility that we sought, but we were also surprised to find a high level of local shopping options and quality services. Now, adding to the convenience we have easy access to San Jose via the San Jose/Caldera Highway (27) giving us easy access to premium “American” style shopping and services just 20 minutes from Atenas.

Over the past several years it seems like every corner of downtown of Atenas has seen improvements. The town has not necessarily expanded, but several decrepit buildings have been torn down and replaced with attractive new commercial spaces and many existing shops have also invested in major upgrades.

Atenas has four large supermarkets with modern designs all of which carry a surprising variety of products.

It is not uncommon that we have to shop at more than one store in order to find some imported products (we like our Heinz ketchup), but both CoopeAtenas and El Canario supermarkets offer a nice array of imported products, even good old Campbell’s soup! All the stores have the staple groceries that most North Americans are accustomed to purchasing.

There is a feria (farmers market) every Friday that has fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, homemade cheeses and other local specialty items. Currently the municipality of Atenas is building a new, larger farmers market just at the edge of town that will be very similar to the farmers markets in neighboring towns of Grecia and Alajuela. The best part is that it will all be under roof.

Additionally we have an organic farmers market in Atenas where we can place weekly orders for a wide variety of organic produce, prepared foods and homemade breads.

The indoor-outdoor central market is another great source where local produce, meats, fresh seafood and an array of other items are available everyday of the week. The local produce is so wonderfully fresh and inexpensive.

Also, in the past few years both of Atenas’ largest hardware stores have expanded, both doubling their capacity. The selection of products rivals any hardware store in America.

Our gas station in town also doubled the number of pumps and added an attractive new convenient store. Several new plazas have popped up with appliance stores, modern fitness centers, pharmacies, coffee shops, and everything in between.

One thing that is really appealing for us is that downtown Atenas measures only about 6 commercial blocks. We can park anywhere and walk to everything with-in a few minutes. Renting a video, going to the bank, grabbing medicine and hanging out with friends over coffee before noon is a common weekly routine all the while enjoying a beneficial walk.

Three years ago the long-awaited (30+ years of waiting) San Jose/Caldera Highway (27), finally opened making trips to Santa Ana and Escazú a short 20 minute drive from downtown Atenas. My mother lovers her monthly visits to “little Amercia”, better known as Escazu.

It’s nice to live in a smaller agricultural town that has a “real” Costa Rican feeling, but an easy 20-minute drive to the largest mall in Central America – Multiplaza Escazu which more recently opened a massive new addition and continues to upgrade and expand with a stadium seating movie theater and new food court. Next door to Multiplaza at Avenida Escazu you can watch an IMAX movie and have a cup of joe at Starbucks.

By just crossing the street you can have a bloomin onion at Outback Steakhouse, a pitcher of beer and hot wings at Hooters. Just five minutes away in Lindora there is an Applebee’s and all the fast food you desire or enjoy good, fresh sushi at Matsuri.

For years Costa Rica has been universally recognized as one of the most stable developing countries in the world, which we can confirm without reservation. Having been here for over seven years, we have witnessed an amazing amount of progress in this wonderful country.

Not everyone likes the fact that parts of Costa Rica are becoming more “Americanized,” but we personally love the occasional visit to “America in Costa Rica,” and feel comfortable knowing that the best hospital in Central America, CIMA, is only a 20-minute drive, while still being able to enjoy the tranquility of a small town and calling Atenas home.

Retirement In Costa Rica. Atenas gets a makeover.

Article/Property ID Number 2461

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