In general, if you have read positive things about Costa Rica, most of what you have read or heard about this country is accurate. Beaches are some of the best in the world, cost of living is low, people are truly genuine and nice, the government is stable, violent crime is less than the US, there is opportunity abound for investment and business and there is fun and leisure activities to suit every person.
When it comes to weather, the Costa Rican climate is equally accommodating. With the exception of the higher altitudes, daily temperatures usually linger around a very pleasant 75° to 80° F. (24° C to 30° C) Costa Rica experiences only two seasons -- dry (December through April) and rainy (primarily November to May with the wettest months being September and October). Temperatures are somewhat higher, and annual rainfall is much less, here on the Pacific coast.
Costa Rica is small in size and has an area of roughly 51,000 square kilometers (31,682 square miles). Even so, it is internationally famous and recognized for the diversity and density of its natural resources and for the fabled kindness of its inhabitants. These facts set it apart as an especially attractive destination for foreign tourists who, not incidentally, make far more than a million visits a year.
Everything in Costa Rica is based on a system of measurement that makes a tremendous amount of sense the whole world uses outside of the US….metric. (Except for building cost, which they seem to still quote in cost per square foot). Here are the rounded conversions for quick math:
10 sq feet = 1 sq meter 4000 sq meters = 1 acre 10000 sq meters = 1 hectare 2.5 acres = 1 hectare
Even though the Colones are used for daily transactions, all the real estate is always quoted in dollars. In the beginning of 2005, the conversion rate is about 465 Colones / 1 dollar.
In terms of ownership of beach property, it is important to consider a few points of the Costa Rican law. The first 50 meters of coastline (measured by the average tide) is owned by the government and can never be built on. Usually, the next 150 meters is still owned by the government and given by concession to the owner, and to technically own the property, 50% must be owned by a Costa Rican that has lived in the country for at least 5 years. All building on the next 150 meters needs to be approved by the government, which is not an easy process. One exception, if the property was bought before 1977, it is considered ‘titled’ land that can be built on after the first 50 meters.
Costa Rica is divided in several regions. The areas of interest are located on the Pacific Ocean side. They are divided in three main regions: San Jose and city limits, Puntarenas region or Central Pacific coast and Guanacaste region or North Pacific coast.
Half of the population in Costa Rica resides in the capital. It has a major international airport, fast food chains, car dealerships, and movie theaters – everything you would expect to find in a major metropolitan area. Prices in this area are generally less expensive than the price ranges seen in the beach regions.
This area has some wonderful beaches and potential opportunities.
Jaco Beach.- The first beach you will hit as you drive from San Jose is less than 2 hours from downtown. SOmetimes the waves look gentle and rolling, but they can be some of the largest in the Central area.
Playa Herradura.- It's another 30 minutes down the road and is famous for the huge Marriott resort. The beach is protected so waves are small and the town is truly unimpressive. There could be some opportunity to serve the swarm of tourists at the Marriott.
Playa Hermosa.- It's one of the best surfing beaches on the Central Coast and we witnessed that first hand. It is also well known by the surfers, so it is easy to see them in groups of hundreds competing for the incredible waves. Although black sand, it was soft to the touch. There are a few condominium complexes for sale that are located right on the ocean. However, it is a tiny community, with very little opportunity for investment, and all the land is in concession, which would make any building very difficult.
Manuel Antonio.- It could compete for beauty against any of the prettiest beaches in the Caribbean or Hawaii. There are pportunities for investment. However, the only real way to get there is to drive from San Jose, which can take 3-4 hours and roads are not in great conditions.
The Guanacaste Coast or North Pacific coast is known for it’s incredible beaches of soft sand and perfect waves and the best climate. There is a relatively new International airport in Liberia, only an hour drive from the main beach city of Tamarindo. The most beautiful beaches are among:
Golfo de Papagayo
Playa del Coco / Conchal.- 30 minutes SW of Liberia airport. This is one of most beautiful places and very popular for expatriates, but the prices are reflective of that – very high. Beach is beautiful, but guarded, so no waves. The overall description is: very calm ocean and suitable for small children; beach is crowded with shells.
Tamarindo.- One of ‘main’ cities in Guanacaste, still a very small town. But has grocery stores gas stations, etc. About 60 minutes from Liberia airport. Beautiful beaches with great waves.
Playa Avellanas.- About 10 minutes south of Tamarindo. One of best surfing beaches in Costa Rica, particularly for beginning/intermediate surfers or long boarders. This beach was huge and uncrowded, absolutely spectacular.
Playa Negra.- Connects to Avellanas to the south. This beach matches others in beauty and size, but gets some larger faster waves for good surfers.
Playa Junquillal.- About 40 minutes south of Tamarindo. Another terrific beach for advanced surfers. The roads were a little rough to get there and there is a bridge that floods occasionally during the rainy season. Lots of building and construction going on in this area.