Aug 012012
 
dollar+airplane+scarlet+macaw

The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice.   – George Eliot

Now that the Costanera Sur (Coastal Highway) has been completed, the new international airport for the southern Pacific zone is the single, most popular, regional question we receive. Most investors want it. Most environmentalists are alarmed by the thought of it. But, everybody wants to know how it is progressing and when/if it will be built.

dollar+airplane+scarlet+macaw

Can money and a safe environment co-exist?

As per a recent report in the July edition of Enlace, a small local newspaper here in the southern Pacific zone, the Costa Rican government just concluded a meeting to determine the future of the International Airport in the area.  They also discussed how this airport would also be the 1st “green” airport in Latin America.

Another Airport Article?

I’m skeptical when I see news articles for the new International Airport in the Sierpe/Palmar area.  There has been talk of building this airport since I moved here in 2006.  Although Costa Rica has developed by leaps and bounds over the last 10-15 years, slow progress is the custom here.  The difference with this recent announcement is Continue reading »

Jul 122012
 
Costa+Rica+Secret+Beach

I know what you’re thinking, “That’s beyond obvious, Mr. Guy In The Zone.” For those who tune into this blog on a regular basis, I agree… BUT, did you know that the search term “Where Is Costa Rica” gets over 13 million global monthly Internet searches? Two things came to mind when I saw this statistic—

  1. The Pura Vida Buzz, a phenomenon I will expand upon below
  2. Rising Interest in Vacation and Retirement
Costa+Rica+Secret+Beach

Searching for Costa Rica…?

The Pura Vida Buzz — The last time I asked the question “Where is Costa Rica?” I was waaaaay back in college.  My roommates were surfers, and they mentioned Costa Rica as a possible surf destination.   Search engines weren’t as populated with information in the early-90s, but there were a few travel books in the local bookstore.  The thing I remember jumping out at me was the color green.  Whether it was the frogs, the jungle, or the aerial views… Continue reading »

Nov 162011
 

A week ago, I was reading the Tico Times and the headline “Liberia Airport Renovation Nearly Finished” jumped out at me. It’s only been nine years since that airport opened, and now it’s getting $41 million dollars worth of renovations?? I had to figure out why, if only because it might offer a flash forward to what we can expect when (emphasis on “when”) the International Airport opens up in the The Zone, also known as, the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica.

Air port in Costa Rica

Regional to International, the Osa Airport Dilemma

Long Lines

Whether it’s checking into a restaurant, hotel, or airport… people do not like to wait, especially when the line stretches out the door. Long lines and airports are synonymous, but the leaders at Liberia International (and the Guanacaste business owners) have figured out that a bad traveling experience doesn’t inspire repeat customers. The Liberia airport is scheduled to re-open any day now, and just in time for the tourist season.

The Profitable Impact

Did you know that 225,224 passengers arrived at Liberia’s airport last year*? That’s an average of 18,768 people per month and just over 625 per day. In January, foreign visitors in Guanacaste, increased by more than 28% over January of 2010. With the upgraded facilities (think mini-Juan Santamaria), services, and new carriers (JetBlue, Air Berlin), they are clearly anticipating an increase in arrivals in the near future.

The Liberia airport has done wonders for the development (read- boom) of Guanacaste. Not only does the airport employ hundreds of people from the community, it also stimulated new business opportunities in the immediate area, including— hotels, car rental companies, and commercial centers.

Conversely, there can be, and usually is, a relative downside to rapid development. Have you been to Tamarindo lately? I went two years ago, and the sleepy beach town I visited in 2002 was almost unrecognizable. The main strip looked like it had a SoCal facelift, the renown beach break was packed with surfers, and I found myself longing to be back in quiet and verdant Zone.

How It Relates To The Zone

The second most popular question we get is “When is the International Airport in Palmar going to open?” My answer: “I have no idea.” It’s not that I don’t read up on the subject, it’s just difficult to believe the words of Alberto Cole or the Minister of Tourism.

As I mentioned in an article a year ago, the construction of this airport goes hand in hand with the construction of new hotels. (At this point the area doesn’t have enough beds to accommodate an extra 400+ people/day in The Zone… especially in the high season.) Adding small to mid-sized boutique hotels isn’t an effective and complimentary plan. For the airport to be viable, large 100+ room resorts will need to be built and one need look no further than Guanacaste and its growing pains to be concerned.

To date, Ben and I have not heard anything concrete regarding new resorts in the area. Taking that one step further, there are only a handful of residents who want this airport to be built. Simply put, the majority of people who most desire this new International Airport… are people who don’t live here.

Air port in Costa Rica

Tiger Heron in the Osa Peninsula

The Ecological Impact

Some of our reader saw the recent article in the Environment section of the The New York Times. The article outlines the potential ecological impact on the Osa Peninsula, an area that boasts 3% of the World’s known biodiversity. The author writes, “Construction is planned in two phases from 2012 to 2016… (initially) designed for 50 passenger planes.” IF (notice the big IF) that timeline is accurate, there will be a global blast of articles and special features, then… an influx of investors. Real estate and development markets will surely be stimulated, and these investors and relocators will have a large raw land inventory to choose from when they do arrive.

As real estate experts, Ben and I are standing in the path of progress and we are experienced “tour guides” in Costa Rica real estate. However, like the majority of people who move to The Zone, we also love our small town community and the postcard paradise that surrounds us.

 

* Costa Rican Tourism Institute

Aug 122011
 

August begins a new Guys In The Zone tradition, the poll question. As some of you know, we have been increasingly active with the social marketing and networking lately. LinkedIn, in particular, has inspired many new connections and ideas. The Poll will be a regular addition to our Talk Show and articles, and who knows? It may even inspire youto submit your own poll question about Costa Rica real estate and life in the Southern Pacific Zone. If you have a LinkedIn account, thanks for voting!

 

Aug 032011
 

This episode focuses on the most popular features people look for in Costa Rica real estate– the ocean view and proximity to a river/waterfalls. We explain how whether your desire is to buy an existing home or buy raw land & build, both of these quintessential property features add to the quality of life. If a picture is worth a thousand words, these video clips shot “on location” in two of the best developments in the area will speak volumes. Enjoy.


Episode14 by GuysInTheZone

Oct 122010
 

The Costanera Highway, The Caldera-San Jose Highway, The Cortez Hospital, The International Airport and The Diquis Hydroelectric Dam… it is easy to see that Costa Rica is serious about improving its infrastructure and securing a bright future.

Over the past decade, the dramatic increase in tourism and investment has sparked a bit of a power-struggle between proponents of economic growth and socio-environmental protection groups. In this case, the “power” is the proposed billion dollar hydroelectric project called “El Diquis” near Palmar in the Osa Peninsula. This isn’t recent news, but I believe it is worth mentioning as it will affect life in various ways in the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica.

Hydroelectric power is BIG in Costa Rica.

The Zone Is HOT

This large-scale project, facilitated by I.C.E. (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad), is calling for the construction of a dam on the Térraba River in the greater Boruca Canyon. The dam will create a lake equaling approximately 25,000 surface hectares (over 6 million acres), the largest of its kind in Central America.  By comparison, Lake Arenal is roughly 8,500 hectares.

This station will generate up to 630 megawatt units capable of providing over one million families with electricity!  This project is about Power, both electric and economic.  According to a Continuum report commissioned by the Costa Rican government, Continue reading »

Sep 072010
 

Half of my family is from Canada, eh.  My mother grew up in Newfoundland until the age of 13 when my grandfather found work in California.  The extended family that stayed behind, some later moving to Ottawa, would frequently visit us in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially during the cold, winter months.

A few years ago, when I moved down to Costa Rica full time, I realized there are a lot of Canadians visiting (102,471 in 2009*) and living the area.  One of the main reason Canadians (virtually all nationalities for that matter) visit, buy land, and in some cases, relocate to Costa Rica is the weather.  As one client put it, “Shoveling snow sucks.”  I have only experienced it a couple of times in Lake Tahoe, California, and I’d have to agree.

 

Canadians in Costa Rica

Shorts, No Shoes
The Southern Pacific Zone (The Zone) is the tropics.  Those living near the beach are rarely (if ever) cold here, and most people walk around in shorts 365 days out of the year.  For those who “melt in the heat”, The Zone’s unique geography offers many cooler locations up in the mountains, most offering spectacular views, waterfalls, and close proximity to the beaches and/or San Isidro, one of the fastest growing cities in Central America.  It rains 6 months out of the year, but even in September most mornings begin with blue skies and sunshine.

Active Adult Communities
The landscape and its wildlife are spectacular.  In fact, I’ve seen it written that the Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula is “home to more plant & animal species than all of North America combined.”  Add in the many outdoor activities available in the area— world class sport fishing, whale watching, bird watching, hiking, golf, tennis, and surfing to name a few — and retirement in Costa Rica is actually when many expat residents really start living.  In fact, I just left two clients who were headed to a waterfall, then to the Whale’s Tail in Uvita for a low-tide beach walk and snorkeling session.

Another reason Canadians love Costa Rica is the cultural adventure.  It starts with the ticos.  On the whole, the polite locals are family and community-focused, and even the toughest-looking hombre will break into a smile if you smile.  Yes, there are a few cultural nuances to adapt to—“yes” doesn’t always mean “yes”, “tico time” means being late, strange driving habits— but ultimately these are all opportunities to take a deep breath and grow a little.  The Zone has a safe, laid back feel to it… add a hammock and a good book into the mix, and it is relaxation-defined.

A “Lot” For A Little
Foreign investors continue to visit and invest in The Zone.  Add in the fact that annual property tax in Costa Rica is .25% and there is no Capital Gains Tax, and the investment picture is even more appealing.  Canadian citizens who claim non-resident status and have residency in Costa Rica are not double taxed by the Canadian government on their Costa Rica income.  If you’ve always wanted to make Costa Rica your home, please consult your tax attorney for more details.  But, in summary, to be a non-resident Canadian you must—

  1. live in Canada for less than 183 days in the tax year
  2. not have any residential ties (e.g., cars, houses, a spouse or dependents) in Canada.

We see a lot of people visiting, buying and relocating to The Zone.  There is so much room for growth here, success only requires imagination, a little research, and some good connections.

Beautiful weather, abundant wildlife, friendly people, and good investment opportunities… no wonder so many Canadians are buying real estate in the Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica!

*http://www.visitcostarica.com/ict/paginas/modEst/estadisticas.asp?idIdioma=1

Aug 292010
 

Answer: 98%.  The Question… what percentage of people first visit Costa Rica as tourists before buying their own piece of paradise?

Costa Rica is attractive as a vacation spot, for retirement and investment, especially in this “buyer’s market.” In particular, the Southern Pacific Zone (and I’m talking about the area south from Quepos to Palmar) has a number a factors that set it apart from the rest of Costa Rica—the mountains-to-the-sea geography, sunset ocean views, the verdant jungles, and the protected habitats. In addition, up and down this coastal region, resident Ticos and foreigners from all parts of the world enjoy a “small town” community feel.

Uvita's Whale's Tail formation taken from Escaleras.

For those who haven’t been down to The Zone (as we like to call it), there are small differences between the small towns in this area–

  • DOMINICAL—  Many of the visitors who choose Dominical as a home base are surfers or other people who want to be within walking distance to the beach.
  • UVITA—  Those who choose Uvita have either already explored Dominical or want to be close to the famous Whale’s Tail and boat launch for whale and dolphin tours, snorkeling and scuba diving adventures.  Simply put, the magical nature of these activities brings people back, year after year, in increasing numbers.
  • OJOCHAL—  Located 15 minutes south of Uvita, Ojochal is one of the more established expat communities.  Originally, the coastal road only came as far north as Ojochal, hence the pre-Costanera wave of development starting in the late 90’s.  It is known as the multi-cultural hub of The Zone and home to an amazing array of culinary options.

The Zone has received a flood of publicity over the past four to five years.  Heralded as one of the world’s eco-tourism hot spots, most tourists come to our area excited by the likelihood of seeing exotic animals up close and personal.  In fact, groups of monkeys and toucans make daily visits to our property and most of the eco-hotels in the region.

Boom Markets

Another reason for the area’s popularity, one we have written about extensively, is access — the completed Coastal Highway, the improved road from San Isidro, and the proposed International Airport in the Palmar/Sierpe area 40 minutes south of Uvita.  According to the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, tourism is up 9.6 percent for the first half of this year compared with 2009.[1] Perhaps the stimulus package in the U.S. and Europe is working?  (That was a joke.)

We only need to look at the effect of the new international airport in the Guanacaste region—131,295 tourist arrivals in the first half of 2010[2]— to understand why tourists, retirees and investors flocked there.  Thanks to the ardent publicity of television, print, and web advertising (e.g., International Living Magazine), there was a tourism and real estate boom in the first part of this decade.  The first part of 2010 is no different, as activity is up in this buyer’s market.

The Painful 2%

As for the two percent of property buyers left out of the original answer (in fact, they are the group who sparked this article), there are actually foreign investors who buy property sight-unseen.  Just in case you are not familiar with the term, it means buying land without physically seeing what you are buying.  This often happens when prospective buyers attend marketing seminars that pitch only one or two specific developments in an area.  The simple reason for this is… these marketing specialists are often The Developer!   They lure prospective investors to Costa Rica with attractive incentives like “fly and buy” programs, where discounts are applied to immediate land purchases.

There are potential problems with following this developer’s path to your future paradise.  Here’s a common scenario; you finally arrive at the small, regional airport in Costa Rica.  You meet your bilingual feet-on-the-ground sales agent/tour guide/driver.  He explains you have a full and exciting week ahead—dinners, outdoor activities, and multiple tours of the developments— so full and exciting that you never really have time to look around and get an objective view on land values and investment opportunities.

BEWARE… their bottom line is to sell you property in their developments.  I can’t tell you how many “seminar buyers” (most of whom are from Canada?) come to us after the fact and are shocked at the real market value of their land… and this was when the market was still strong.

Ben in the field with a client.

Pure Brokering

There is a simple way to avoid this investment pitfall.  Most of the real estate agencies in the area offer what we “Guys” like to call: pure brokering.  I use the word “pure” to indicate what Ben & I like to do.  I guess you could say, it’s the Guys In The Zone style.  First and foremost on our agenda is: “find you the most ideal property that fits your objectives” – pure brokering.

People ask us daily how the market is doing, and if you’ve been tuning into our Talk Shows for the past couple of years you know the market here has reflected the global market’s trend downward.  Markets go up and down… that’s just a fact of life wherever you are.  Ask any of the real estate companies in the area, activity is up… and this is typically our slow season.  It feels like we have hit the bottom, and this high season (Dec-Feb) is expected to live up to its name.

There are a variety of factors that make The Zone an attractive place to vacation, invest, and eventually retire.  And let me tell you, the only thing better than watching a flock of toucans hopping in the trees… is when you are watching a flock of toucans hopping the trees on your own property.


[1] http://www.amcostarica.com/thursday.htm

[2] http://www2.prensalibre.cr/pl/la_economia/28972-ingreso-de-turistas-aumento-un-96-en-primer-semestre-del-ano.html

Jul 262010
 

[This article is a continuation of Education In Rural Costa Rica, Part 1]

Private School

Simply put, the reason most tico families do not send their children to private school is the cost. The best private elementary school in San Isidro runs around $275/month. Even by gringo standards this can be viewed as a lot of money; however, most parents understand the benefits are significant, like— bilingual studies, text books, well-equipped teachers and classrooms… to name a few. “After school” extra-curricular activities often include— art, dance, and sports. These creative activities teach kids so much more than memorizing dates in history. They prepare them for life beyond the farm, should they choose to pursue it.

 

 

To give you an idea of how “private schooling” has become synonymous with success, there are currently 6 public and 60 private universities in Costa Rica.  The southern Pacific region is fortunate to have the Int. University San Isidro Labrador, only 45 minutes drive time from Dominical.[1] According to StateUniversity.com, “…higher education is free for nearly 50 percent of the enrolled students.” My guess is that scholarships are a significant part of the aforementioned $2 million (6.3%) of budgetary spending on education[2].

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.
– C. S. Lewis

Escuela Verde

The increase in private universities is a good sign for the future of the Costa Rica, but what about options for the parents of younger kids?  Let me share a quick story about Escuela Verde, a new private grade school that opened in 2009 in Uvita.  The school was founded by a couple of parents who were unimpressed by the public school options in the area, and their mission statement is clear,

 

“Escuela Verde prepares children to be resourceful and independent while inspiring them to give back to their multi-cultural community and the natural environment.”

 

After securing a building in Uvita Centro, they quickly rallied support from the parents and community.  The teachers follow guidelines for Costa Rica and U.S. grade level guidelines, and many subjects are taught in both English and Spanish.  Unlike many of the public schools, the kids are even responsible for completing regular homework assignments.   They even have scholarships for tico families that want to expose their children to the best educational option available in the area.  It is my understanding that they already have a long waiting list.  For more information, you can go to Escuela Verde’s website.

A Melting Pot Of Ideas

 

Compared to crime and politics, education does not receive a lot of publicity in the media.  However, it is a hot topic for parents who want to make Costa Rica their new home.  Perhaps the best news I can offer our readers and potential clients is that the Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica is a melting pot, ala the United States of the 19th and 20th centuries.  A blend of ideas, talents and energy has created a lively, international community… one that is keenly focused on sustainability, preservation, and education.


[1] http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/300/Costa-Rica-HIGHER-EDUCATION.html#ixzz0ix0kJIPU

[2] http://www.ticotimes.net/dailyarchive/2008_09/090208.htm#story1

Interested in Costa Rica real estate as an investment. They primarily live somewhere else, but they own property in Costa Rica for the asset appreciation potential as well as possible rental income. Some just buy and hold (land-bank). For developed properties, the investor has a vacation home to visit as desired.

Migrators spend a regular amount of time in Costa Rica during each year.

Re-locators are those that are looking to move to Costa Rica from wherever they are. They will live full-time in Costa Rica.