Nestled amid coffee plantations in Costa Rica's Central Valley, Atenas rests at the edge of the central mountain range, where it drops away to the west toward the Pacific coast.
Everything your eye falls on is beautiful, from green coffee and forest covered mountains, to splendid valley views and picture perfect coastal vistas. In addition to coffee plantations, the town is surrounded by cattle ranches and sugarcane fields.
Just a short drive from these quiet neighborhoods is the central area of town which has a lot going on. Here you will find many restaurants, grocery stores, shops and other conveniences. The downtown is the hub of local life, with a scenic park and church as the focal point.
This peaceful rural area has a growing expat community. Its location, great weather and small town ambience have made it a wonderful place to retire and live internationally. The number of foreign residents almost doubles during Costa Rica's high tourism season, from December to early April, when part-time residents and tourists arrive to enjoy vacation homes in Atenas.
A couple of things that make Atenas noteworthy are its climate and coffee. The town is said to have the best climate in the world, with average temperatures in the mid 70s F (21 C) year-round. The climate, combined with the area's rich volcanic soil, also make Atenas an excellent spot for growing coffee. Many of the local producers are small family-run operations and there are even some you can tour.
Interestingly, Atenas was located along the original oxcart trail. This route was used in the late 1800s to transport coffee beans from the Central Valley to ports on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts for export. Various references to the oxcart trail can be seen around town. One notable example is the monument of Boyero, an oxcart driver, about a kilometer east of downtown.
Many communities in Costa Rica have a farmers market, and Atenas is no exception. On Thursday and Friday both locals and expats gather to shop and chat about local happenings. Under the modern-looking structure, you will find an assortment of produce, coffee, souvenirs, baked goods, cheeses, meat, seafood, and even flowers.
The town is well located, as it is just under an hour's drive from San Jose with its world-class healthcare and other big city amenities, and an hour to the gold and black sand Pacific beaches in the other direction. It takes only thirty minutes to reach San Jose's international airport or the large shopping malls in Alajuela or Escazu.
Since the town's rugged terrain of mountains and valleys range from 2,200 to 4,000 feet, weather can be cooler or hotter, depending on where you live. Either way, you still save money as there is no need for air conditioning or heating.
Healthcare in Atenas also is very affordable. There is a well-equipped public health clinic, pharmacy, lab, and emergency room in the town center next to the Costa Rica Red Cross, which provides paramedic and ambulance service. Excellent internationally rated private hospitals are only thirty to sixty minutes away in Escazu, San Jose, and Alajuela.
There are plenty of clubs and community groups to keep expats in Atenas busy. There is a men's group, a book club, a Buddhist meditation group, a women's club, an artist's group, there are yoga classes, health clubs and gyms, local rock bands that play at neighborhood bars and restaurants. There is even a world-class wellness boutique resort with treatments and dining available to the public. There is a local animal foundation called Animales Atenas, a nursing home and children's orphanage where one can volunteer.
Just twenty minutes outside of Atenas is a set of secluded waterfalls, Las Minas Waterfalls located in the village of Desmonte. In nearby Rio Grande you can visit a historic train museum.
Some of the most attractive features of Atenas are its convenient location between the city and the beach, affordability, and the feeling of safety you get in a small town. In addition to that, the people of Atenas are kind, warm and welcoming. They greet you when you walk down the street. Shopkeepers are always polite and friendly. People are happy here. They laugh and enjoy life, and family time is very important.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Atenas' central park, which is lined with palm trees that draw flocks of green parrots and toucans. Here you can find children playing, older people enjoying a rest and a chat on the park benches, young people strolling along the pathways, and families out for a walk. The Catholic church borders on one side and the rest is ringed by the Atenas municipal building, the national bank, shops, restaurants, and ice cream cafes. It is the perfect spot to enjoy an ice cream or coffee or simply take in local life.
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