Finding our Shangri-La
Jardin La Torre (Tower Garden), A Unique 55+ Retirement Community near San Ramon de Alajuela, Costa Rica
Finding our Shangri-La
My wife, Caryl, and I, retired US military, spent our first military assignment, in the 1970s, at Fort Gulick, the Caribbean side of Panama. Native Illinoisans, we learned to love all the tropics had to offer—although we never really adapted to the heat. At the end of our tour, we drove back to the States from Panama—a ten-day trek. We drove through most of the Central American countries, but only one really impressed us. We agreed that Costa Rica would be worth another visit. We didn’t realize that we would be driving within two miles of where we’ve been settled in Costa Rica for the past twelve years.
It took us 37 years to get back to Costa Rica—even for a visit. Life got in the way. In February, 2011 we finally found time for a three-day tour to view retired life in Costa Rica. During the two years prior to our visit, we traveled to all the retirement states of the union, including Hawaii, but couldn’t find what we were looking for—a year-round temperate climate, an easy pace of life, a pastoral setting with views, with access to a major city. In all fairness, parts of Hawaii offered these but it was just too far from the US mainland.
Sunset from our apartment
The tour guide for our visit was George Lundquist, now retired, who went out of his way to show us the good, the bad, and the ugly of retired Costa Rica and various parts of Costa Rica. We visited with expats who had lived here for a couple to many years and got their valuable input. In addition to recommendations of where and where not to live, we had our own preferences. For us, the coast was too hot, San Jose was too busy, and much of the country was too far away from San Jose’s major medical facilities—not needed then or currently, but high on our “must-have” list. Our first stop was San Ramon de Alajuela, only 45 minutes from the San Jose international airport, an hour away from five major hospitals in San Jose, and an hour away from the closest beach. We didn’t need to look further to meet most of our big-ticket items, but what put San Ramon over the top was the organized expat community with plenty of activities to plug into.
George and wife, Aija
San Ramon didn’t offer the views or pastoral setting we were trying to find, but on a second visit in June, 2011, we discovered El Empalme, a tiny, unincorporated village only eleven minutes from downtown San Ramon, with 50 to 100-mile views of the Pacific coastline, phenomenal sunsets, and the tranquility we wanted.
San Ramon also didn’t offer a place for retired expats to congregate regularly or engage in social or recreational activities—but neither did anywhere else we could find in Costa Rica. Caryl and I had been impressed with the activities, events, and recreation offered by various 55+ communities in the US, although we were not impressed with 100+ degree temperatures in the summer or 30 degree temperatures and snow and ice in the winter.
As mentioned before, the expat community in the San Ramon area already had a lot going for it, especially with various volunteer programs and a basic Spanish language course. However, with the exception of a monthly social, there were no organized recreational or social activities as we had found in most 55+ communities in the States—so we built a small activity center for activities, events, socials, and recreation.
The Vientos Bajos Activity Center
houses a gym, a pickleball court, an activity room, a golf simulator, and libraries of DVDs, CDs, books, and puzzles. We have weekly music group gatherings, and host music presentations and events—not only for the residents of Jardin La Torre, but for anyone in the area who wants to participate.
But we also have long-term residential rentals and turnkey residences for sale and residential lots ready for building. After three years of searching, we found most of what we were looking for in a retirement haven. Over the next twelve years, we supplemented this by building a 55+ community that would meet all of our needs and most of our desires. For us, Shangri-La DOES exist.
Give us a call! We’ll work with you to find just the right property where you can enjoy your retirement. From apartments to houses to pristine properties, we aim to meet your needs and budget.
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Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.