People always ask us why we moved to San Ramon de Alajuela as opposed to other, possibly more popular, locations in Costa Rica. Our interest in San Ramon actually began before our first visit, just from doing research on the Internet and in the books we read. It was reinforced when we visited this westernmost coffee town of Costa Rica’s Central Valley on the George Lundquist Retire on Social Security Tour in January 2008. We spent the next two years making follow-up visits and deciding where we would start our Costa Rica adventure. Following are the 10 reasons, in no particular order, why we chose San Ramon.
The traditions & customs are unchanged from years ago. The culture is still intact. San Ramon is not over-run with Gringos. You can walk the streets & not even see a Gringo face all day. I don’t think there’s even one Gringo business in town — some places are loaded with them. In San Ramon, the ratio of Ticos to Gringos is incredible. The actual population of the town of San Ramon is just under 14,000, however, more than 82,000 Ticos live in and around San Ramon and use it as their principle town for shopping. In this same area, there are only about 200-300 Gringos. I can practice my Spanish, do my errands, & maybe meet some great Ticos along the way. That’s what we were looking for!
Reason #2: It’s convenient to the airport.
San Ramon is only 45 minutes from the International Airport outside of San Jose. This is important to us because we do airport pick-ups & drop-offs for folks in the Western Central Valley. It also makes it easier when friends and family come to visit, or when we want to take a trip.
Reason #3: It’s convenient to the beach.
San Ramon is only a 45 minute drive to the beach. Playa Doña Ana is the closest, nice beach with monkeys. It has shade trees on a clean beach, picnic tables with barbeque grills, clean bathrooms, showers, and changing areas. It’s a real Tico family beach, not a sterile tourist trap. There are no souvenir shops or expensive restaurants. Its natural beauty is its strength. We love Costa Rica but we grew to love it even more when we started to go to the beach on a regular basis, two or three times a month. Gosh, who wants to live in Costa Rica & never go to the beach?
Reason #4: It’s convenient to good hospitals.
San Ramon is only about 50 minutes from the BEST PUBLIC HOSPITAL in the country, Hospital Mexico. We found this to be important after Gloria’s surgery last year. The successful ambulatory surgery, done at our local San Ramon Hospital, necessitated follow-up with a specialist at Hospital Mexico. We went at least six times, for doctor’s visits, blood tests, and xrays. What we learned was that many of the doctors at Hospital Mexico also work at the BEST PRIVATE HOSPITALS in the country: La Cima, Catolica, & Clinica Biblica, which are located just 1 hour from San Ramon.
Reason #5: We don’t need heat or air conditioning.
Living in San Ramon, we save about $300 per month on our gas & electric bill. Click here for more about our cost of living. We are able to leave our door and windows wide open most days, allowing us to “live outside” like we never could in Baltimore. If we’re cold, we put on sweatshirts; if we’re hot (almost never) we put on shorts. And no more shoveling snow like we had to do in Baltimore!
Reason #6: Lots of volunteer opportunities and chances for community involvement.
Whether you are interested in education – teaching English, art, or computer skills — animal rescue, citizen security, the library, fund raising, environment, Red Cross, or playing with the kids at the orphanage, there’s probably something for you in San Ramon. Volunteering is FREE and can enhance your life in many ways. Some say volunteering is good for your health & can even save your life!
Reason #7: It has wide streets.
We immediately liked the wide streets of San Ramon, so as we drove or walked the town it presented a less cramped feel & was generally more attractive. The town is also clean & well-maintained. You can really see that now, at the end of the rainy season. Shopkeepers are painting their storefronts, the Municipalidad is re-paving the Parque Central and installing better lighting, and roads are being repaired. San Ramon is a town “on the move” with a new woman mayor, lots of new buildings under construction, and the hustle and bustle of foot traffic. Yet it’s still a small town, with a small town feel.
San Ramon’s mall is complete with a three-screen movie theater, three banks, a grocery store, a food court, and lots of taxis available. We’ve only been in it about 20 times in the past 2 1/2 years, but it’s good to know that it’s there. We went to a movie there once. The theater had stadium seating and the popcorn was good. It was much less expensive than in the U.S. Wednesdays are the best days to go because they have discounts. It’s a small mall…thank God for small favors.
Reason #9: It’s convenient to San Jose.
San Ramon is just a one hour drive from San Jose and accessible by bus for $2.30 each way — even less if you’re a ciudadano de oro (senior citizen) like me. We enjoy going to the theater, both the Little Theater Group’s English language plays and productions at the National Theater. We have also enjoyed San Jose’s museums, art galleries, restaurants, the pedestrian boulevards, parks, and the Central Market. Most of the time, we go on day trips, but have also spent weekends exploring all that San Jose has to offer.
Reason #10: It’s a University town.
This was one of our top reasons for choosing San Ramon. Education and culture is important here. The “city of poets and presidents,” founded by exiled free-thinkers and intellectuals from San Jose, would not settle for less. The University of Costa Rica has a campus here, and small branches of other universities are scattered about town. Because we have these universities, we have more cultural activities. We are regular visitors at both the Jose Figuerres Cultural Center for concerts, art exhibits, plays, and local cultural fests, and the Museo de San Ramon, run by the University of Costa Rica (UCR) which recently reopened after an extensive renovation.
We have never regretted our move to San Ramon. It has become home to us in so many ways. Soon, we’ll write a follow up article with the reasons we stay in San Ramon.