Costa Rica is a lovely tropical country in Central America that although small in size, contains many micro-climates so you can find the climate that suits you best. Whether you want the beach life, cool mountain living, city living, or tourist areas, you can find it in Costa Rica.
A quick overview of general areas:
Central Valley, dense population and an international airport; it boasts nice weather, plenty of shopping, Costa Rica’s largest hospitals and cultural events. But traffic is so heavy that nearly anytime of the day you can easily get stuck creeping and crawling along.
Northwest (Guanacaste) – Heavy tourist area; full of beaches, condos and hotels. Hot and desert-like. International airport.
Caribbean – Climate is different from the rest of the country with dry and rainy seasons not so defined and sometimes a direct opposite of the majority of CR. Fun to visit with a funky Caribbean vibe. When rainy season is in full force in the rest of Costa Rica, September and October are dry on the Caribbean side.
Pacific Side Southern Zone – Typically lush & green with mountain ranges meeting a wide plain along the Pacific Ocean. Has plenty of mountain and spring fed water and less traffic. High tourist season brings a comfortable uptick in population with a quiet hum.
Central Southern Zone – Gorgeous drives with beautiful scenery, very quiet & green. This area is where San Vito and the Rio Sereno border are located.
No matter where you go in Costa Rica, Ticos (how Costa Ricans refer to themselves) are ready to please and offer a wide variety of tourist attractions.
So why do I love the Southern Zone in particular?
When I drive along the Costanera (the Pacific coastal highway) once I get south of Jaco, I feel a smile coming on, relax and a feeling of Ahhhh. Traffic decreases, the landscape becomes more lush and green and life gives off vibes of a laid-back feeling. Unless you really like being stuck in traffic and spending lost time on the road along with thousands of other vehicles, driving in the Southern Zone if far more pleasant. The drives are beautiful; every trip out has something lovely to see. If you are looking for a real tension releaser, spend some time in the Southern Zone.
The Pacific Southern Zone has miles of coastline with quiet palm lined tropical beaches. No need to get to the beach early, you will still find your place in the sand any time of the day. Prefer the cooler life? The mountains are clearly visible along Costanera coastline. Head up with a 4-wheel drive vehicle to find those cooler comfortable temps. Many expats live in the mountains and when they want a beach day, drive down their mountain to visit the coast.
Agriculture is king in the Southern Zone. Everywhere you look you can find food; whether prepared at local sodas (sodas are small family restaurants) or full-size restaurants, grocery stores or abundant fresh food in farmer’s markets & roadside stands. Never have I seen a place with so much fresh local produce! Fresh caught ocean fish abounds & grass/range fed cattle can be seen grazing everywhere.
Have a medical need? First stop would be a Farmacia, which like the fresh food, are everywhere. Many farmacias have a doctor on staff for a quick evaluation, if needed. Or just tell them what you need because most Rxs can be bought over-the-counter in Costa Rica. Clinics and hospitals are within a reasonable drive of most places for more serious needs. What will medical care cost? Honestly, a fraction of anything you would pay in USA. Paying out of pocket is often less than co-pays and deductibles in the U.S.
All over the world, water is the resource everyone is talking about being in short supply. You can drink water in Costa Rica without fear of Montezuma’s Revenge. But here in Costa Rica, there are areas with water rationing during the dry season. Good news is that in the Southern Zone, water is abundant. When northern and western Costa Rica has turned brown during the dry months, the Southern Zone is still luxurious with plenty of water running freely down the mountains in rivers, streams and waterfalls.
The Southern Zone has just about it all in tourist attractions; beaches, fishing, ocean boating, river rafting, surfing, ziplines, horseback riding, hiking (whether climbing tall mountains or hiking along cool rivers), hanging bridges, jungle tours, wildlife, ATVs and more. Thinking of living in Costa Rica and need excursions for family and friends when they visit? The Southern Zone can easily fill a vacation with attractions that cost from nothing to reasonable tour prices. All without lines and crowds.
Cost of Living
One big reason people move to Costa Rica is to save money. Going to get personal here, it costs us one third to one half of what it cost us to live in Michigan. How is that possible with gasoline and imported goods higher? We live different down here. Taxes of all sorts and insurance premiums were killing our budget in Michigan. Life here in the Southern Zone is laid back and fulfilling. I don’t have a need to buy, buy, buy. No need to keep up with the “Joneses” in the Southern Zone. No one cares what car you drive or what you wear. I hear all the time how expensive it is to live in Central Valley of Costa Rica. Well, don’t live in Central Valley, where you can more easily duplicate an expensive lifestyle of N. America.
San Isidro de El General/Perez Zeledon
The city of San Isidro de El General is one of the Southern Zone’s jewels. It has just about anything you need along with our personal favorite, the famous San Isidro farmer’s market or Feria in Español. The San Isidro market is HUGE! Just about any food you need can be found there, fresh or ready to eat. And with grocery stores plentiful in SI, what you can’t find in the Feria, can be found in the stores.
Love The Locals!
Ticos in the Southern Zone are so friendly. Although our Spanish is getting better, when we first came we had a language barrier, but we could still find common ground to smile about, give and receive handshakes and hugs and of course, commmunicating with charades. Surprisingly, finding someone who speaks English is not that hard to find. Hiring the Locals for all types of jobs is affordable and easy and, for us, rewarding. Sharing our resources by giving jobs to the locals is incredibly rewarding.
What about an Airport?
The Southern Zone has small airports with charters to fly you quickly to San Jose along with plentiful buses. Many of us living in the Southern Zone have found that when we need to fly out of CR from SJO, that we just plan for a day of travel. How often do you really need an international airport in a year? Car storage is cheap and easy with several Tico businesses providing parking and shuttles to SJO. I personally prefer to live in the peaceful lush Southern Zone for 48+ weeks out of the year and drive to Central Valley for the little we fly out. Accessing the airport has turned out very doable.
We have searched through Costa Rica for where we will find the most contentment for our life and home. The Southern Zone checks off the bullets. It just feels different down here.
We have noticed after a trip to San Jose and its suburbs, once we get back to the Southern Zone we start feeling at home. Here the traffic is lighter, the vegetation greener and the people more laid back; life is less hectic in the Southern Zone. It is more common to see families and friends along the roads chatting and enjoying each other or whole families walking along the road coming and going to visit family and friends. They might even be walking the family goat!! Life in the Southern Zone is more like we remember as kids but with modern technology thrown in. Coming to southern Costa Rica gives us that,”Ahhhh!” feeling. Come for a visit and check it out for yourself.