Grecia is our 2nd favorite town in El Occidente, the western Central Valley. If we didn’t live in San Ramon, we’d probably live in Grecia. The cantón (county) of Grecia is located in Alajuela province. The town of Grecia is the capital city of the cantón and one its eight districts. According to the latest census figures from 2011, the population of the cantón of Grecia is 76,898 and the population of the town of Grecia is 14,859.
The downtown area is a tad smaller than San Ramon and I believe a little better looking – though Gloria disagrees with me on this – and, like San Ramon, it has a lot going for it. Grecia is known for being the “cleanest town in Costa Rica.” This designation actually dates back to August 1st, 1989, when Grecia was declared the “cleanest town in Latin America” during a meeting in Cuenca, Ecuador, of the Latin American Chapter of the International Union of Municipalities and Powers. I often tell people on tour that it’s the cleanest town in the universe, as the townspeople have really bought into it and keep it looking rather spiffy. And, of course, the guidebooks repeat the assertion frequently.
It’s also a little warmer than San Ramon, as Grecia sits at 3,000 ft. elevation, while San Ramon’s elevation is 3,450 ft. Most expats live high up in the hills surrounding Grecia. Popular areas are El Cajon (4,000 ft.) and San Isidro. Both have stunning views of Grecia and the entire central Valley, with cooler temperatures and more rain that in town. Grecia’s main agricultural crops, from the time of its founding in 1828 up until the present, are coffee and sugar cane. We always know when we are driving through the canton of Grecia by the fields of sugar cane along the Pan American highway.
Grecia is also noted for it’s unique red-metal church, the Iglesia de la Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes. The metal panels from which the church was built were fabricated in Belgium, then in 1892, transported by ship to Puerto Limon on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, and then by rail to Alajuela. For the last 20 km. of their journey, the metal panels were transported in oxcarts to the Grecia town center where the church was constructed.
Grecia has a modern mall with a multi-screen movie theater. It is said that Grecia has more doctors and lawyers living there, per capita, than any other town in Costa Rica (though we couldn’t find any facts to confirm this). It has a small hospital and small branches of several universities. Unlike San Ramon, it sits 9 km. (about 4 miles) from the Autopista (Rt. 1) and is less than 30 minutes from the Juan Santamaria International Airport.