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Finding an address in Costa Rica is impossible without knowing the cardinal points or directions

Finding an address in Costa RicaDid you realize that finding an address in Costa Rica is not so easy?

My mom sent me this joke that makes a lot of sense if you are living in Costa Rica: While looking at a house, my brother asked the real estate agent which direction was north because he explained, he didn’t want the sun waking him up every morning.

The real estate agent asked, ‘Does the sun rise in the North? When my brother explained that the sun rises in the East, and has for some time, she shook her head and said, ‘Oh I don’t keep up with all that stuff.’

Well, I just gave you another reason to hire an American European affiliate real estate agent to purchase or sell your house. We all know our way around well and have no problems finding an address in Costa Rica.

Everywhere you go in Costa Rica, it turns around the cardinal points, the Los Angeles Times even wrote an article about it. If this real estate agent would be living in Costa Rica, she’d be out of a job. Because you need to know your cardinal points for finding an address in Costa Rica. How could you ever figure out the cardinal points in a country you don’t know?

Where to start

For starters, buy yourself one of those small compasses that you can stick on your windshield. After you have lived in the Central Valley for a while, you will get to recognize the surrounding mountains quite fast. You can use those mountains for orientation and in most beach areas it’s even easier. When you want to purchase or rent Costa Rica real estate, you need to read this blog.

Why is Finding an address in Costa Rica is impossible
It’s easy to find an address in Costa Rica with a compass

Street names and Street numbers

You might ask why we don’t have street names or street numbers. In the larger cities, there are street numbers, the North American system: Avenida Primera, Calle 23 = 1st avenue, 23rd street. Most of the street signs have disappeared many years ago. In San Jose, it would be easy for me to find and address on Avenida Primera. But if I would have to look for 23rd street I wouldn’t even know if I’d have to start looking west or east of Central Street.

See the San Jose map below? It shows all the streets and avenues. But if you look at the Santa Ana map below, you will notice that only downtown Santa Ana has the streets and avenue numbers marked. Once you go outside the downtown area, there is no more numbering. If you go in person to Santa Ana, you will probably not find even one sign as shown on the map. The problem is that the local residents don’t use this numbering themselves.

That is the reason I am much more comfortable with finding an address in Costa Rica that has a landmark.

Finding an address in Costa Rica is impossible without knowing the cardinal points or directions

The Catholic Church

If you have been a Boy or Girl Scout or have been in the army, you don’t need me to tell you about the cardinal points. Most people need help on that matter. One tip I can give you is that almost every Catholic Church’s front door looks out to the west.

The only reason I could find for that fact is that the largest windows in the church are always on the east side. That is because the sun comes up there and will give daylight inside the church during mass. Another reason seems to be that they’re oriented towards Rome and Jerusalem. Very few churches in Costa Rica are oriented differently. So you can use the Catholic church for finding an address in Costa Rica.

If you have a GPS, you need to research your different map options. You will find that the GPS map system for Costa Rica is set up for the cardinal point address system. If in a city, ask the person who gives you an address to give you a well-known landmark big enough to be on your GPS. When the address you are looking for is in a small town, just set your GPS with the name of the town. Do you have a Smartphone? Then you can install an App called Waze that a lot of Ticos use. That way they can send you the exact directions to their house of business. There are also several compass apps available for iPhone or other phones for finding an address in Costa Rica.

Why is Finding an address in Costa Rica is impossible
You can download a compass on most phones with internet connection

A landmark

All addresses in Costa Rica start with a well-known landmark:

  • a church
  • some grocery store
  • a factory
  • the local soccer field
  • a bar
  • or even a landmark that was there for years but has meanwhile disappeared or closed.

It is very customary to talk about “el antiguo” or the former and then the name of the place.

A city block

Costa Ricans measure by “cuadra”, which is a city block. No matter how long a block is, they part from the fact that a bloc is 100 meters. So if someone lives halfway down the block, it will be 50 meters. Some streets have blocks on one side that are longer

Finding an address in Costa Rica is impossible without knowing the cardinal points or directions

How to find the house

How do you find the right house in Costa Rica? It is not customary in Costa Rica to number the houses like they do in other countries. Some homeowners might just put any number on their front door, or a sign that says something like “Casa Winnipeg”. I strongly recommend doing this so people can find your new house in Costa Rica easily.

Typically, an address will first say so many meters north and so many west. This will be followed by “5a casa a la izquierda, tapia verde, porton negro con veranera roja.” Translated, this means “5th house on the left, green wall, black gate with a red bougainvillea”.

Why is Finding an address in Costa Rica is impossible
If the address you are looking for is in a small town, just set your GPS with the name of the town

An easy system

No matter where you live, near a Costa Rican beach or in the city, you will hear the weirdest directions. Or at least you’d think they are weird. But once you follow the directions, you will see how easy it is.

If you are not familiar with a city where you are looking for a certain address, or you have been away for a long time, you will need a map or a GPS to be able to find anything. Not in Costa Rica, the system is very simple. You only need to speak a bit of Spanish and not be afraid of asking around.

The easy way of finding an address in Costa Rica is to first find the city or town. Then see if you can find the landmark on your own or ask anybody for the landmark. Once you’ve found the landmark, follow the directions or ask.

You’d be surprised how easy it is to find an address in Costa Rica. It’s one of those interesting cultural differences you need to adapt to if you want to live in Costa Rica as a happy person.

Your American – European affiliate agent will show you how to get the “address” to your new home in Costa Rica, don’t worry.

Contact us NOW for an appointment.

Contact the AE MLS Costa Rica

Feel free to leave your comments on this blog.


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Ivo Henfling

Your West-side of San Jose real estate agent, covering Escazu and Santa Ana, Rohrmoser and Ciudad Colon.If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the Central Valley or looking for any property for sale in Escazu or Santa Ana, you need to contact Costa Rica real estate agent Ivo Henfling. Ivo has been selling Costa Rica real estate on the westside of San Jose, in the locations of Rohrmoser, Sabana, Escazu, Santa Ana and Ciudad Colon for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and those other areas. For Ivo, a deal is not a good one unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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