Relocation Hotspot: San Pedro
Home to the University of Costa Rica and many urban conveniences, San Pedro is one of San Jose's hippest spots for the young and young-at-heart. From quaint sidewalk cafes to the lively bar scene on Calle de la Amargura, this eastern suburb gyrates to the beat of its own drum.
Its central location and student population guarantee San Pedro's wealth of modern services like high-speed Internet, cable television, and 3G cell phone coverage. Public transportation is inexpensive and will take you anywhere -- buses east and west bound pass on the main road, while the university buses have frequent service to Heredia, Alajuela, and many San Jose suburbs. The urban train connects San Pedro to San Jose and Rohrmoser, and a San Pedro-Heredia train route opened in late 2009.
San Pedro's cost of living is relatively high when compared to other parts of the city. Rents in San Pedro's desirable neighborhoods, such as La Granja and near the Universidad Latina, hover around $400 for a nicely furnished one-bedroom apartment; a three-bedroom unfurnished house runs $600-$1000. Those in search of luxury homes will pay more.
Though the cost of living may be higher than average, San Pedro more than makes up for it in local amenities. Four malls -- the San Pedro Mall, Multiplaza del Este, the Outlet Mall, and Terramall -- are located within a few miles of the town's central park. Together, they have myriad fast food restaurants and great shopping at brand-name stores like Kenneth Cole, Aeropostale, and Oscar de la Renta. Four multi-screen movie theaters offer the latest Hollywood releases and Terramall's VIP theater has the best seats in town where you can relax in leather recliners and ask the waiter to bring you sushi during the movie!
San Pedro is on the cutting edge of Costa Rica's culinary world, and it seems like new fusion restaurants open everyday. Take advantage of mouth-watering dishes at bargain prices -- order a salad, main course, dessert and wine for less than $25 per person. Your kitchen drawer of takeout and delivery menus will overflow. Home cooks love the Zapote and Guadalupe farmers' markets and both are only about five minutes via taxi (about $2) from San Pedro. There you'll find hundreds of farmers selling fresh produce ranging from familiar bananas and watermelon to exotic soursop and passion fruit.
Entertainment doesn't stop at the malls and restaurants; nightlife is San Pedro's forte. The Calle de la Amargura, located at the foot of the university, is a small street lined with dive bars and cheap restaurants. It's popular among the students, which means that discos and live bands are ever-present. A few blocks east, the country's first Jazz Club still has the best live music in town. Don't forget that San Jose is just 10 minutes away and has a wealth of museums, live theater performances, opera and other hotspots to explore.
Families with children appreciate the area's education system -- many of Costa Rica's best public, magnet, and private schools are located within a few miles of San Pedro. Pre-K-12 English-language programs are available at the Marion Baker School, the Blue Valley School and the Country Day School. The Colegio Humboldt in Rohrmoser teaches students in English, Spanish and German, while the Liceo Franco Costarricense offers classes in Spanish and French. Additionally, several of the country's highest ranking magnet schools, such as the Bilingual Scientific High School Reina de los Angeles, are located in San Jose.
Small clinics and private doctor's offices see to everyday illnesses and well visits, while San Jose's excellent hospitals handle emergencies and other concerns. The Hospital Calderon Guardia, just 10 minutes from San Pedro, works on Costa Rica's public health system and the private Hospital La Catolica is also just 10 minutes away. CIMA Hospital, a modern medical facility located in Escazu, is also a popular private hospital for expats.
San Pedro is one of San Jose's most popular and lively suburbs. Though the vibe here is young and hip, many old neighborhoods have managed to retain their privacy and upscale feel. This combination makes it an excellent option for expats searching for urban amenities, a high quality of life, and a location convenient to both San Jose and the coast.
Expat Spotlight: Stephanie, age 23
1) Why did you choose San Pedro?
I'm young and was looking for somewhere in the middle of it all. I wanted to be close to nightclubs, live music, and lots of restaurants. I loved the university atmosphere here, especially all the bookstores. I don't have a car, so I also needed a place with access to public transportation. San Pedro fit the bill.
2) What are the positive and negative aspects about living in San Pedro?
I love being able to step out my door and catch a bus to anywhere. I love having eight sushi restaurants within five minute's walking distance. I like being close to so much live music! As for the negatives, this is a busy area, which can make it quite loud. I had to buy earplugs to sleep. And sometimes I get worried walking alone at night, even when I'm with friends -- but there are lots of cheap taxis, so I don't even chance it anymore.
3) What's the expat community like?
There are a lot of young foreigners studying in San Pedro or interning in the city. I've met so many interesting people here, and have really expanded my worldview. The only problem is that the expat population is very transient -- most people are only here for a few months -- and that can be hard when you're in it for the long haul.
4) How's your Spanish?
You know, my Spanish is pretty good. I've definitely improved since I've been in Costa Rica, and I think it's really important to learn at least the basics. However, San Pedro's population as a whole is very fluent in English. I can walk into any supermarket or restaurant and someone speaks English. For that reason, I think this is a great transition town for those who have just arrived. If you're nervous to speak or don't know enough Spanish, you'll do just fine in San Pedro.
5) Any tips or advice about moving to Costa Rica?
I guess if there's one thing I'd advise, it's to learn Spanish. As I said, you can get around without it, but your experience in Costa Rica will be so much deeper and more meaningful if you speak the language. Some of the best experiences I've had are at a Costa Rican table, talking current events or culture with my neighbors. You can't do that if you don't speak at least basic Spanish.