Last week I published the first in a series of articles about where to live in Costa Rica with a general overview of the best places for retirees. Today’s focus will be on the San José area. For many years San José has received a bum rap. People have complained about the crime, traffic and general atmosphere of the city.
Actually all of this above is changing. There are more police on the street and today San José is a much safer place. Retirees can feel at ease walking around the city during the day and early evening because of the increased police presence. Traffic is still a problem but steps have been taken to reduce the number of vehicles entering the city. There is a license plate restriction in place, several commuter trains are now operating and a new trolley line is planned in the not-too-distant future.
The city government is revamping downtown San José in an effort to draw more people back to the city. The population of the areas that make up the central San José area has dropped from about 70,000 people to 60,000 over the last 20 years, with many people moving to the suburbs other areas. Now urban planners are transforming the city by building more parks and pedestrian walkways. The city’s water, sewage and drainage systems have been improved and electrical wires have been placed underground.
The city government is also in the process of beautifying the Paseo Colón area and turning it into a “tourist corridor.” Concrete benches will be placed along both sides of the street where people can sit and relax. After 8pm vehicles will be allowed to park along the street to enjoy the area’s growing nightlife.
A bicycle path or ciclovía will eventually cross the city from east to west ending in the Sabana Park.
One of the new projects under way is the creation of a Chinatown. The project should be finished by the end of 2012. The area has several oriental supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses. There is even a Chinese-style gate being built at the entrance.
In addition, an even bigger effort is being made to attract more people by building high rise condominium towers along Paseo Colón and eventually downtown. In a few years the city will have a whole new skyline dotted with these structures.
The downtown San José area has a lot going for retirees and others. There is a National Theater (Teatro Nacional) where the National Symphony performs, many shops, outdoor cafés, eateries, pedestrian streets, bookstores, department stores, nightclubs, a whole slew of Gringo hangouts, Internet cafes, language schools, souvenir stores, museums, supermarkets, a Costa Rican-style central market district, several large casinos and a whole lot more.
A number of Americans live in the center of town because it is convenient and there is a lot to do to stay busy. I have a retiree friend who lives in downtown San José who says the following about it, “ After living in New York City so many years without a car, I have no intention of buying one in order to live in the suburbs of San José. Buses and taxis are always available if I want to travel outside the city. I can easily walk to to find most things I need such as the weekend farmer’s market, theaters, and good shopping. Near my home there’s also a hospital, several restaurants offering a variety of foods, a major bank and a few bakeries.”
On my monthly retirement/relocation tours I visit the best areas in in order to help my clients chose the best possible place to reside taking their lifestyle and budget into consideration. My guests actually get a sampling of what it is like to live in Costa Rica on my retirement/relocation tours and meet people who have made the move successfully.