San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Alajuela on the Rise Northwest of the Capital

The city of Alajuela and its environs, northwest of San José, are becoming increasingly popular spots to buy property for both natives and foreigners.

Proximity to JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport, volcanoes, rolling coffee farms and numerous tourist attractions makes the region an interesting alternative in the Central Valley to powerhouse real estate areas such as Escazú and Santa Ana, west of the capital.

Property buyers are flocking to areas such as Grecia and La Garita to enjoy a more tranquil environment outside the increasingly congested city of Alajuela, capital of the province.

“Real estate (in Alajuela) is picking up; it saw a 20% increase from last year,” said Brett Butler of Emerald Forest Properties (267-6360, Butler attributes this increase mainly to outflow from the congested center of Alajuela, as well as San José.

Rene Méndez of the real estate firm ARS Consultants & Associates (260-1413,, agrees.

“(San José) is a bit saturated, so people are moving out to other sectors like Alajuela … (They) want to stay close to the capital, and the highway makes it very accessible for them if they’re living in Alajuela,” he said.

Méndez is working on a project near the court in Alajuela city, which will consist of 10 condominiums, a pool and outdoor recreation area. The condominiums are priced at $65,000 for a two-bedroom unit and $75,000-85,000 for three bedrooms. Méndez expects the project to be completed in the next two years.

The rural coffee town of Grecia, northwest of central Alajuela, has been seeing the most growth in the province, according to realtors.

Centered around a beautiful plant-laden square, Grecia is well known for its red metal Mercedes Cathedral and surrounding views of San Ramón and Naranjo. Its proximity to JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport, just 19 kilometers away, is also a big draw.

“The rural zone is where most prefer to live, outside of the traffic, pollution and noise of the center (of Alajuela),” said Omar Carmona of Grecia Real Estate (256-1616, “Foreigners like this area because it is located closer to the airport, capital, beaches, universities and other services.”

Grecia Real Estate properties, most of which are residential lots, are priced from $32,000-200,000, according to realtor Luis Gustavo Jiménez.While these prices remain reasonable compared to other parts of the Central Valley, Jiménez says they are on the rise.

“Many North Americans are coming with good amounts of money and raising the (real estate) prices in (Grecia),” said Jiménez, who has been selling real estate in Grecia for 10 years.

Butler confirms this, saying that most of his clients are North Americans eager to make their money go further in Costa Rica, and are looking for homes in the $200,000 range. Butler says $185,000 to $200,000 will get you about 6,700-7,620 square meters of property in the suburbs out past Grecia toward San Ramón. Butler says it is standard for such houses to come with three bedrooms and two baths.

While most properties being sold in the area fall into this price range, Butler highlights a few outliers for those looking for a bit more luxury: a couple of estates outside of Alajuela city are priced at more than $3 million.

Butler says he recently sold a house about 10 minutes’ drive from the center of Grecia to a South African couple. The house sold for $350,000 and included four bedrooms, 2.5 baths and three hectares of land.

As you move closer to the center of Grecia, the prices jump up drastically; homes here can be priced from $500,000 up to $1 million, according to Carmona.

Farther south, just a 10-minute drive from the airport, sits La Garita, a small town of about 4,000 people. It’s known for being an upscale, tranquil community on the west side of the Central Valley, says Christiane Goudsmit, owner of La Garita Realty (433- 9271,

“This area is small and stays peaceful,” she said. “It has always been strictly residential, so you won’t have any construction companies coming in here looking to build an industrial or commercial center.”

Goudsmit says the area has seen a surge in the past year, mainly from foreigners coming to enjoy the varying climate and escape the heat of the northwestern province of Guanacaste.

“We’ve got some excellent bilingual schools, (an educational bird-rescuing) project over at Zoo Ave, and the area’s also been a popular place for people to visit on weekends because of our great selection of restaurants,” said Goudsmit, who has lived in the area for 13 years and has been running her real estate agency for six. The area also offers a range of recreational activities, including golf, tennis, a public pool and bike paths.

Goudsmit’s Web site lists properties in La Garita ranging from $50,000 for a plot of land to $2 million for a mansion with four beds and 4.5 baths.

“We’ve gotten a lot of people moving from the Escazú area (west of San José). (La Garita) mainly attracts upper-class, well-to-do foreigners and natives,” Goudsmit said.


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