Previously, we covered the 10 reasons we chose San Ramón de Alajuela. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a quick summary:
- Reason #1: It’s still a real Tico town.
- Reason #2: It’s convenient to the airport.
- Reason #3: It’s convenient to the beach.
- Reason #4: It’s convenient to good hospitals.
- Reason #5: We don’t need heat or air conditioning.
- Reason #6: Lots of volunteer opportunities and chances for community involvement.
- Reason #7: It has wide streets.
- Reason #8: It has a mall.
- Reason #9: It’s convenient to San Jose.
- Reason #10: It’s a University town.
We are happy to say that all of these reasons are still valid. To know San Ramón is to love it. Now, after more than ten years of living in San Ramón , we have a few more things to add to the list. So here are the reasons we still choose San Ramón as our “home town.”
Reason #1: It’s still a real Tico town. That’s what we were looking for, and that’s what we still love. We know we mentioned this reason the first time around, but it bears repeating and some clarification. San Ramón is not over-run with Gringos, the traditions & customs are unchanged from years ago, and the culture is still intact. Best estimates are that there are 300-400 Gringos, in the greater San Ramón area. Even so, the ratio of Ticos to Gringos is still incredible. The town of San Ramón is only 1.29 kilometers square and has a population of about 11,000 people, however, more than 80,000 Ticos live in and around San Ramón and use it as their principle town for shopping.
Reason #2: Where we’ve lived. We love where we’ve lived! For almost four years, we lived at the Cabinas, 10 minutes west of the town of San Ramón. It’s beautiful and green, primordial, and so different from anywhere we had ever lived before. It’s like living in the jungle but it’s just 10 minutes from town. And renting there is easy, with Cesar looking after our needs. Everything included in the rent so we didn’t have the hassle of dealing with a lot of the day-to-day challenges — though the challenges are few, and the pleasures are many. Just click here to watch the video we made on our front porch.
After our years at the cabinas, we moved to the Magallanes area of San Ramón, about a mile from the cabinas as the crow flies and 1,000 feet lower in elevation. We rented a lovely house for four years. It was surrounded by trees and banana plants, with a great view of the Gulf of Nicoya and the coast. At night, the lights of Puntarenas and nearby towns sparkle like diamonds. And we had a large porch where we could enjoy living and dining outside and watching the sunsets.
After the house was sold, we moved to an apartment in downtown San Ramón where we are currently living. Living in town is much different from living in the country. Yes, it’s noisier and we miss all the jungle sounds and green all around us. But we are really enjoying the convenience leaving our car in the garage and being able to walk just about anywhere we want to go. Plus, we are living more in the culture and have lots of opportunities to practice our Spanish!
Reason #3: San Ramón has a great feria (farmers’ market), held on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. We frequent the feria to buy fresh flowers, just-picked fruits and vegetables, produce, meats and more from family-run local businesses. You can find most of the familiar items you’re used to, and if you are more adventurous, you can try some of the unfamiliar tropical offerings like guayaba, pejibaye, and mamones chinos.
Reason #4: There are lots of opportunities to volunteer and make a difference in the community. Many of these opportunities have been through initiatives of the Community Action Alliance which is dedicated to helping Expats integrate into the local community, volunteering, and trying to make San Ramón a better, safer, more prosperous town.
Whatever your interests, there are ways to be useful in the community. Many English-speaking Expats serve as native language speakers, helping the local teachers with students trying to prepare for better jobs by learning English. Other Expats volunteer at the local orphanage; they play with the children, engage them in fun projects, and provide groceries and other assistance. And still others volunteer with the local recycling center, teach in the local schools, and raise money for the schools to buy new equipment.
Reason #5: These last years in San Ramón, we have established some of the best relationships of our lives. We have met some wonderful people, both Expats and Ticos, as well as people from other parts of the world, and it just keeps getting better and better. Our social life is almost too busy, going to the beach, having dinner with friends, concerts, art exhibits, & cultural activities in town.
Daily interactions are so personalized here. When the battery in my watch needs to be replaced, I go to see Hector at the relojaria (watch shop), walk next door to Optica Rosan and ask Gladys to adjust my glasses, then walk a block to the Parque Central to have an ice cream cone and visit with the local Costa Rican pensionados (retirees). And when it was time to make our monthly donation to the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) – over 5,000 families in San Ramón canton have made a monthly pledge – Alejandro came by on his motorcycle to personally collect it. When we lived in the country, we even got visits from the traveling nurse from our local clinic when it was time to get our yearly flu shots. And when we visit our doctor, dentist, or friends on the street, we greet each other with a hug and kiss on the cheek.
Reason #6: The Climate. Some people noticed that climate was not one of the 10 reasons we chose San Ramón . But after more than nine years living here, we can accurately report that it is one of the reasons we stay here. Matter of fact, it’s the 6th reason we chose to stay in San Ramón .
Generally speaking, the climate in the Central Valley is similar. It varies a little from town to town, depending on elevation. The greatest differences in temp and rainfall are in the hills that surround all the towns in the Occidental (western Central Valley). These include Grecia, Sarchi, Naranjo, Palmares, and San Ramón. Most of these towns sit at about 3,000 feet, except for San Ramón at 3,450 feet elevation. Again, all these towns have hills around them with more rain and cooler temps. Check out my weather map and enlarge it; the blue areas, with more rainfall, are where the hills are.
San Ramón is a little higher than other Central Valley towns, and some consider it not to be part of the Central Valley, but rather in the “Occidental.” Because San Ramón is a little higher, it’s cooler with a little more rain and clouds. San Ramon gets 80+ inches of rain per year, with more in the surrounding hills, like at the Cabinas (at 3,850 ft. elevation) where we lived for almost 4 years. Gradually, we got used to the weather, and now that we’re living at 3,000 ft. elevation, with slightly warmer temperatures and just over 100 inches of rain per year, we had to get used to it all over again.
Either way, in town, the hills, or where we live now, the weather is delightful. Pleasant temps, breezy, and cool at nights for sleeping, with lows about 65°f at night and highs about 80°f during the day). It sure beats the weather in Baltimore, where we’re from! What more could anyone ask? So, in conclusion, we’ve got another reason to stay in, and love, San Ramón – the climate.
Reason #7: Healthcare
A while ago, we met a new acquaintance in Alajuela. She and her husband live up on the mountain towards the Poas Volcano at about 4,000 ft. elevation and only 20 minutes from downtown Alajuela. It was a beautiful day, clear and bright, and the view of the Central Valley was breathtaking, one of the best of thousands of great views in Costa Rica. She has been in Costa Rica for 15 years with her husband and runs a small but cute restaurant and gift shop.
During our conversation, she mentioned her husband’s illness and the medical system in Costa Rica. She felt it leaves a lot to be desired. Even though the hospital in Alajuela was fairly new (opened in October 2004), it was beset with problems from its inauguration. It is a public Caja hospital which was poorly staffed, poorly run, and underfunded, though in recent years, those problems seem to have been minimized.
I immediately felt very lucky to be living in San Ramón , where our Caja hospital is more efficient, and not as crowded, as the one in Alajuela. Our lines are shorter and everything seems to work pretty well here. The staff at our hospital seems proud of its accomplishments and history. Our local clinic (EBAIS) is a good one too. We feel so fortunate to live in San Ramón where the medical system seems to function well.
Over the years, the Caja’s has started to come back after many years of mismanagement. Funding is being restored and improvements are being made. The restoration is happening quickly but not overnight. We can visibly see the difference since our arrival.
Unlike most expats and some Costa Ricans, we use the system extensively. We have had success with the system and even know a few Ticos who have had successful open-heart surgery at Hospital Mexico, less than an hour away from San Ramón. So far, we are satisfied but we were relatively healthy when we arrived and take few medications. Also, we use a combination of public and private healthcare, even in San Ramón.
We pinch ourselves everyday over our good fortune to have this great, exciting, beautiful, and fulfilling Expat life. Yes, it’s been the people! ALL OF YOU who have made our dreams come true beyond our wildest expectations. THANK YOU!