A longtime associate in Costa Rica real estate stopped by our office after being out of the country for an extended period. One of his first questions was, “So, what’s going on with the international airport?” My response was, “What airport?” He found that amusing considering the broker he just spoke to was talking it up like the asphalt trucks were lined up and ready to pour the tarmac. We both had a good laugh.
I’m not saying major infrastructure projects aren’t being completed here in Costa Rica. There have been many projects completed in the past two years—
- San Jose-Caldera Highway
- Quepos-Dominical Highway (affectionately known as, “The Dirt Road”)
- Re-paving of the Dominical-San Isidro Highway
- The Bridge at San Buenaventura
- The Bridge at La Cusinga (almost)
From that list it is easy to see the progress and the progression. What I mean by “progression” is the land routes need to be completed first before an international airport is built in The Zone.
Rumors to Reality
The list of rumors regarding the southern zone Airport is long and varied— operational for international flights by 2010, moving to a new site in Sierpe, moving south closer to the border in a joint venture with the Panamanian Government… to name a few. The reason I am sharing this news story released by La Nacion a few days ago and forwarded by a reputable broker in the area is it actually sounds like the government has a (more) realistic plan.
In summary, Costa Rica’s third international airport will be located in the same exact spot currently occupied by the Palmar Regional Airport. To comply with Aviación Civil (the FAA of Costa Rica) standards, the runway will be extended 400 meters and facilities for immigration, customs, and security will be constructed. The “facilities” will include extra hangers, buildings, and even a terminal that will provide hangers and services for commercial shipments. The price tag on this project is quoted at $25 million dollars, half the proposed cost of the mega-terminal in a new location. They did not release a projected completion date, but I would be shocked if it was ready in two years.
One of the most interesting points in the announcement is the Minister of Tourism’s call for more hotels to be built in the area. It is a similar point echoed by the longtime mayor of the Osa Canton, Alberto Cole. It’s safe to say, major hotel projects are going to get the green light, moving forward. One of the more interesting things to me is exactly how they are going to accomplish this with no Plan Regulador (e.g., zoning plan) for the area? Where are these new hotel-resorts going to be located?
What Does It All Mean?
It means that at some point in the future there will be international flights landing in Palmar. It means there will be more hotels, and the beaches will be alive with activity. It also means there will be many, many more investors buying in the area. People look at me funny when I say this area is poised for another b-o-o-m, but all of the regional signs—improved access from every direction and significantly lower property prices— point that way.
It means property in areas like Tres Rios and San Buenaventura, once thought of as “too far south of Dominical” will be a 15-minute taxi ride from the terminal. Check out Tres Rios Estate and Tres Sandalo 17 as examples. We only have a few listings in Palmar (see photo left), but I guarantee that number will double before the high season.
Most of the expats in The Zone have adopted the “I’ll believe it when I see it” philosophy. We have also been surprised by the recent completion rate of infrastructure projects. Safe to say, the completion of the 3rd International Airport in Palmar will be the crown jewel for the region. If you are interested in buying Costa Rica real estate, this recent news bodes well for smart investors.
My first visit to Costa Rica was in 2002. I immediately fell in love with the warmth of the climate and people. After spending two weeks in San Jose, Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side, and Tamarindo in Guanacaste, I knew there was a good chance I would return sooner than later. Sooner came just 6 months later when my uncle mentioned he was flying down to Costa Rica to close on a piece of property in the Southern Pacific Zone. On that trip I found my own piece of paradise above the small town of San Buenaventura, home to the San Buenas Golf Resort. Two years and 8 trips later, I decided to move to Costa Rica full time. Every day I am thankful for that decision.