What Makes Expat Residents in Atenas, Costa Rica So Happy?


Costa Rica is one of the most popular expat destinations in the world. And in Costa Rica’s central highlands, Atenas is a favorite place for international living. So, what makes expats in Atenas, Costa Rica so happy?

Live in Atenas Costa RicaOver the past decade, Costa Rica consistently has ranked very high in international surveys about retiring and living in the country and quality of life for foreign residents. Costa Rica has become one of the world’s safest places to visit and to live. And in 2016, Costa Rica once again topped the Happy Planet Index rankings as the Happiest Country in the World for its people achieving long, happy, sustainable lives.

There is a reason why Costa Rica is one of the most popular expat destinations in the world. It’s not because every day is “living in paradise”; rarely, is it like that anywhere. The reason is because the good benefits in Costa Rica outweigh anything negative, at least in the minds of most expats who have chosen to live here.

Costa Rica recently ranked one of the best places to live for expats in the Expat Insider — one of the largest expat surveys worldwide, run by Inter-Nations. The survey found that eight out of 10 expats “feel at home” in Costa Rica and nine out of 10 feel that Costa Ricans (“Ticos”) are some of the world’s most hospitable people. Overall, Costa Rica is the sixth best country to live in the world, out of 67 countries surveyed.

Happy expats live in Atenas Costa Rica
Happy expats live in Atenas Costa Rica

What makes expats in Atenas, Costa Rica so happy?

With an ideal location halfway between the capital city of San Jose and the Pacific Coast beaches, Atenas, Costa Rica is a favorite place for international living. Its location, great weather, beautiful scenery, relaxed lifestyle, and friendly small-town charm attract expats from all over the world. Out of a population of approximately 27,000, there are an estimated 1,500 foreign residents who live in Atenas full-time, and another 500 or so who own property and spend part of each year here.

We conducted our own expat satisfaction survey this month, interviewing foreign residents in Atenas from several different nationalities who have lived in the area from two years to more than 17 years. Not surprisingly, all said they love living in Atenas.

Atenas Costa Rica
Atenas, Costa Rica

What do they like best about living in Atenas? The small size of the town is very important. “Atenas has a small town feel where you quickly meet the locals, who greet you. I smile; I get a smile back, and sometimes a chat. I feel welcomed, everywhere. What you give here, you get back tenfold,” said one expat resident.

Atenas’ location also is attractive: near the San Jose metropolitan area (amenities, hospitals, services), near the beach, and nestled in the mountains with beautiful views and plenty of nature to enjoy and explore. Expats like the weather, friendly community, and peaceful country lifestyle.

Here are the results of our 2016 expat survey on living in Atenas, Costa Rica:

  • 100% are satisfied with life in general in Atenas.
  • 92% feel very at home living in Atenas.
  • 75% find local residents to be friendly and welcoming toward foreigners and newcomers. “People are always friendly and will try to help you if they can,” most say.
  • 67% say it has it been easy to settle into the community. Expats will find many more resources now than a decade ago to help them have an easy transition.
  • 92% report that Atenas is a good place to live for health and well-being. Expats in Atenas like the simple and unhurried lifestyle, rural small town character, no crowds, and easy access to fresh food, good water and pure clean air. They say Atenas has everything they really need, including good private and national medical care.

    Living in Atenas, Costa Rica
  • 92% love the weather in Atenas. Expats are happy they don’t have to shovel snow in Atenas, and the sun shines nearly every day. The city’s slogan is “The Best Climate in the World”, and many expats would agree, noting that the warm days and cool nights make for perfect temperatures where no air-conditioning or heat is needed. “I love the fact that you can be outdoors 365 days a year!” said one long-time resident.
  • 83% say they feel safe and content in Atenas. “My overall feeling is that it is still much safer than many other places in our world today,” remarked one expat resident.
  • 75% say the language has not been a problem living in Atenas; although everyone surveyed noted that learning to speak Spanish is essential to being happy here.

life-in-atenas-costa-ricaArticle by Shannon Farley

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