Though a small city by world capital standards, San José, Costa Rica has a wide range of housing options. There are the towering condo complexes in the western suburbs of Escazú and Santa Ana, sublets for students in San Pedro, and single-family residences of the northern suburb Heredia.
Where you live should be determined on whether you have a car, if you prefer a country or city life, and where you will be spending most of your time. Most foreigners find a place to live through Costa Rica craigslist or by walking around looking for ‘Se Aquila’ signs. Foreigners traditionally gravitate to the barrios and towns.
San José, Costa Rica Neighborhoods
Barrio Amón/Barrio Escalante: The historic section of the capital city, this area is home to dozens of fine restaurants, beautiful parks, cultural centers, and museums. It’s perfect for someone who prefers an urban existence and likes to get around on foot. Be forewarned this area is also the capital of Costa Rica’s sex tourism industry and prostitutes and transvestites abound.
Belén: This western suburb of San José has been recognized by several entities as the best-managed municipality in Costa Rica. Close to the airport, near the headquarters of many of the multinational companies and bordered by two major highways, Belén is enjoyed mostly by families who are looking for safe neighborhoods and single family homes.
Escazú/Santa Ana: With tall condominium buildings and chic apartment complexes, these western suburbs boast some of the highest-priced real estate in Costa Rica. Close to posh shopping centers and high-end restaurants and an easy commute into San José, Escazú and Santa Ana draw some of the wealthiest locals and foreigners alike.
Heredia: Primarily a single-family residential community, Heredia is home to many university and study abroad students. Older Expats flock to the mountainside, where homes come with beautiful views of the city and are somewhat withdrawn from the intense development activities that plague other parts of the country. Due to the traffic in and out of Heredia, this spread-out suburb is not commuter friendly.
Los Yoses: A quiet residential neighborhood on the eastern fringes of San José, Los Yoses is home to many embassies and non-profit offices. This neighborhood is perfect for someone who wants a peaceful existence, but also to be within a short walk to supermarkets, bus lines, and cultural activities.
Rohrmoser/La Sabana: Young professionals thrive in this section of the city. Close to La Sabana Park and interspersed with fun bars and restaurants, this is a happening place for those in their 20s or 30s. In close proximity to the center of San José, Rohrmoser and La Sabana are good neighborhoods for those who are car-less and don't mind paying for short taxi rides.
San Pedro/Curridabat: Life is centered around the two major universities here—the Universidad de Costa Rica and the Universidad Latina. Many students and young English teachers bunk together in this area, sharing the rent on three- and four- bedroom houses. Great for single people in their 20s, San Pedro has plenty of cheap eats and packed bars. Curridabat is its tamer eastern neighbor. San Pedro and Curridabat are bus-friendly, a little too spread out for walking, and are too trafficked for driving.