Costa Rica – a growing investment destination

When most people think of Costa Rica, they envision beautiful coastlines, picturesque beaches, perfect climate and heavenly lifestyle.

What they don’t often think of, however, is a strong economy and burgeoning export market – and a growing destination for investment real estate.

Indeed, Costa Rica is becoming increasingly popular among Canadians as a place to buy recreation and investment property.


Costa Rica is accessible with about 10 daily flights from major centres across Canada. It boasts two major airports, with a third scheduled to begin development in 2021. It’s safe, and has few serious crimes compared to other southern tourist destinations. Canadians can enjoy one of the world’s best climate zones with relatively low humidity, and year-round temperatures ranging from 21 to 30 degrees Celsius. Costa Rica is not an urban jungle – it’s a real jungle with abundant bio-diversity, exotic animals, protected zones and likely the first country in the world to become carbon neutral.

The country’s mountainous terrain means it never developed large farms as did other parts of South America, so it was never dominated by a land-holding class. Elected governments have instead prioritized education, clean water, social security and free health clinics in most small villages.

Costa Rica boasts a strong economy with a growing export market for technology, food products and healthcare. Many major corporations have set up manufacturing in San Jose and other parts of the country because of a well-educated population, access to world markets, free trade with Canada, the US and China and reasonable labour rates.

The Southern Nicoya Peninsula

Costa Rica and specifically the Southern Nicoya Peninsula is one of five “blue zones” in the world, where
many people live beyond 100 years of age. The social fabric and family focus, organic foods, limited stress and debt all contribute to longevity. A recent Gallup survey on happiness conducted for National Geographic says Costa Ricans are consistent leaders when it comes to social relationships, a sense of purpose and physical health. Since 1970, the country has seen life expectancy increase from 66 to 80 years. The death rate from heart disease for men is a third of what it is in Canada.

The Southern Nicoya Peninsula is on the western flank of Costa Rica on the Pacific coast. It boasts a strong social community, development centred around small villages with farmers’ markets, small micro-breweries and local organic foods grown within 20 km of most restaurants and homes.

The area also has strict limits on development and urbanization to protect the local culture and the environment. Beautiful, lush forests, waterfalls and pristine beaches surround the Peninsula and are protected by law. Trails and a network of roads make it all accessible for the locals and tourists.

Los Delfines

Guillermo Barcelo of Barcelo Resorts found this paradise 20 years ago and purchased 5,000 acres to protect the land and maintain the nature reserve. He has since taken a small number of acres and helped develop the region on land along the Southern Coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Los Delfines, an exclusive community tucked in alongside Whale Bay, is located on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. More than 250 homes have already been built in this gated community, and many are owned by Canadians.

In many ways, Los Delfines follows the same buying process as a Canadian development. Buyers purchase a fully titled property via initial deposit, then make incremental payments as your home is developed, with a hold-back at the end which is not payable until the home is completed. Prospective purchasers who have made their initial deposit are welcome to a three-day real estate tour of the area and Los Delfines before they make their final decision.

The current development phase, named Brisas del Mar, comprises 97 homes just 500 ft. from the beach. They are 1,270-sq.-ft. three-bedroom detached bungalows with a modern European design. Each includes a car port, solar panels, air, laundry and optional pool. Priced from US$279,000 to US$309,000, more than 60 per cent of the homes are sold. Maintenance fees ($160 per month), taxes ($480 per year) and utilities such as cable, Internet and hydro cost approximately US$4,000 annually, Barcelo says.

Homes are rentable at US$1,000 per week, and US$1,500 per week with a chef and housekeeper. Owners who are renting their property for three or four weeks a year can cover all their taxes, utilities and fees, he says. The homes are rentable primarily during the winter season for 18 to 20 weeks a year. Los Delfines has its own rental program, or owners can opt to rent their properties on their own.

Scarcity of land in the protected zone, walking access to the beach and the growing demand for property in Costa Rica has caused the prices of real estate to increase steadily over the past 10 years, according to Barcelo. Land prices could increase at least five per cent per year as demand grows from the Millennial demographic.

Securing financing is not difficult, with Canadian banks in Costa Rica and the benefit of the Free Trade agreement between Canada and Costa Rica. Legal and accounting professionals are also available through Costa Rica to assist such international transactions.

As for the growth potential of their investment, the development owners say they wouldn’t be surprised if Canadian buyers see the value of their properties double within three to six years, depending on market conditions.
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