Market Conditions, National

Market Report - Costa Rica

Published on December 20, 2014

The Happiest Country in the World

Our research continued this month in Guanacaste, an area we find most appealing in Costa Rica. In this report, we’ll primarily talk about accessibility. Flights into the Costa Rica international airports such as at the improved Liberia International Airport from the states are still very expensive and almost double the price of flying into San Jose, the country's capital. For example, our nonstop flight from Fort Lauderdale into San Jose on Jet Blue was only $340 round trip. Affordable flights into the country make it very appealing for Costa Rica vacations when you compare rates to the Caribbean and Europe. Recently Southeast Airlines and United Airlines added more flights into the country. 

The sticker shock will come when renting a car. After several trips to Costa Rica, rental car costs are still averaging about $100 a day with full coverage insurance. To break it apart, Costa Rica’s GPS (a must have) and hassle free insurance runs about $50 a day.  After you drive around Costa Rica, you’ll quickly realize how risky it is and may find the ‘hand them back the keys no matter what happens’ risk free insurance method the way to go. I don’t care if you rented your car with your American Express card. Who wants the hassle of arguing with a foreigner as an American when your car is stolen or damaged? Tips when renting a car: Be sure not to choose the cheapest SUV or car. Suspension systems provide invaluable comfort on the unpaved roads and pot hole infested streets. This is not America. Most of the roads in Costa Rica are in poor condition but don’t let that scare you away from Eden. 

We find ourselves attracted to the less populated areas such as Playa Samara and Playa Flamingo, regions fully accessible by paved roads. To us, one of the biggest turnoffs in the country is the neglected roads and locals think nothing about it. We were quickly reminded when the GPS sent us on 12 miles of unpaved roads on Highway 21, from the Puntarenas ferry to Nicoya at night. It was nerve racking and was a different path than the GPS sent us on the last trip. Traveling on roads with deep pot holes and risky one lane bridges makes one think twice about visiting beach towns like Nosara, Santa Teresa and Islita. Only a seasoned travel would go to these places for Costa Rica vacations. Beach towns with fully paved roads from the airports become more priceless as you discover where to live in Costa Rica.

One of the many things that make Playa Samara special to us is the summer vacation-like feel the town has, call it a tropical Cape Cod. Samara is a small beach town where parked bicycles outnumber the cars. It's the perfect place to take up Yoga or attend a crash course in Spanish. A place where at sunset when the tide rolls in, surfers dominate the beaches. Beach bars with tiki huts and torches are the perfect people watching places to be. Playa Samara is a fascinating multi-cultural magnet. Many folks from around the world who vacationed here at some time or other, have planted themselves here permanently opening specialty restaurants reflecting their home town cuisine. Many of them are open-air restaurants with dirt floors. One night, a grasshopper the size of a small bird flew in and we watched the staff shoo him away. It made us chuckle, the craziness of it. We ate at that restaurant three nights in row because the food was fantastic and cheap.

We visited Tamarindo Beach again battling the traffic and beach crowds. This busy beach town has a transient Key West flair with a Spring Break vibe. This would be the last place we would want to escape and wind down. As a top surfing beach, combing the northern end of the beach where the ‘real’ surfers are is intriguing. The next beach town to the north is Playa Flamingo, nicknamed the ‘Monte Carlo of Costa Rica’. The mountain-like island protruding out into the sea with condos on the top and million dollar boats in the Potrero Bay is the first thing you'll see when you enter the area. Million dollar mansions continue further south overlooking The Palms Private Residence Club. What a gorgeous beach this gated community has and the price tag to justify it. Homes at The Palms are deeded oceanfront property which is rare to find with luxury real estate Costa Rica. Sales are doing well. The staff reports five sales in 2013 and 2014 for a total of 10.

Making our way south to the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsular, we found ourselves at Playa Tambor to check out Los Delfines, one of the few Costa Rica golf resorts. After retracing our travels, including the 12 miles of unpaved roads on Highway 21, we found ourselves back at the Punteranas Ferry in Paquera. Fortunately, the roads from Paquera to Playa Tambor are paved. We highly recommend the Tango Mar beachfront resort which is where we stayed for the night. Set far enough south into the Pacific ocean, the water was thundering blue green and beautiful. The next day we toured the gated community of Los Delfines. Amenities include a golf course, clubhouse with dining, swimming pool and oceanfront access. The beaches in this area weren’t as beautiful as we’ve seen however it’s hard to argue with the low price point and peace of mind living in a gated community. Rentals are permitted. Los Delfines is building new small casitas priced in the $160k's. For the price point, they’re worth noting as one of the Costa Rica golf resorts in Guanacaste and sales are going well.

Traveling to Los Delfines from San Jose can be done by two ways, by car connecting to the ferry or by small commuter plane from the Costa Rica international airports. While we weren’t overly impressed with this area, celebrities like Tom Brady & Gisele, Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt and Angelina are. Rumor has it the Nicoya Peninsular is becoming the ‘Malibu Beach of Costa Rica’. In addition to the jaw dropping scenery and gorgeous weather, we believe celebrities are drawn to the area's small beach towns like Saint Teresa because they are only accessible by unpaved roads and are the perfect places ‘to get lost’ during Costa Rica vacations. We plan to research more in the Nicoya Peninsular and at Las Catalinas shortly, another talked about luxury real estate Costa Rica development.

To date we’ve researched the following places in Costa Rica:

  • Carrillo
  • Flamingo
  • Islita
  • Jaco
  • Quepos
  • Samara
  • San Jose 
  • Tamarindo
  • Tambor

In our next news story about Central America, we’ll share with you more about Playa Samara and Carrillo. If you’re exploring Costa Rica for the first time and/or Costa Rica golf resorts, ask for our Costa Rica relocation information. If you've already been, we hope you'll share with us your favorite place by leaving a comment.