Costa Rica is a popular tourist hub – and as such, its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is highly influenced by that industry. In fact, income for tourism increased by 7 percent last summer (2017), and between 2012 and 2016, the tourism sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP increased from 4.4 percent to 6.3 percent. Accommodation, food, and beverage services were at the top of the list for most important activities.
That being said, many who are looking to purchase homes in the country want to focus on those busy tourist areas, the ones with the good economy and plenty to do – and we certainly don’t blame them! Purchasing a home in these areas opens up a wide array of possibilities for your finances. You could rent it out during the popular tourist season and then live there in the offseason for a more affordable cost of living in a beautiful country, or you could just live there year-round and enjoy the lower cost of living and all that Costa Rica has to offer. If you do decide that this is the right kind of investment for you, it’s important to know where to start when finding properties to purchase.
What to Consider
First, if you want to purchase property near a busy hub, where you can take part in all the action or rent it out to people who do, think about what type of market you’re after. For example, Atenas is a popular area to consider. It sits halfway between San Jose and the Pacific Coast beaches. It’s close to the San Jose/Juan Santamaria International Airport and has easy access to major highways. It’s known as a hotspot for international living.
There are also more mountainous areas that appeal to a different audience, for example, the Central Valley is known for having the most moderate temperatures in Costa Rica because it’s higher in elevation – which explains why Costa Rica’s capital city is located there, along with most of the country’s population. Those who like mountains and/or the busy city would head in this direction.
Aside from location, it’s important to consider other amenities, like the quality of nearby healthcare and/or education, if you want to live there or rent out long-term. Finally, you’ll want to consider pricing. Where will your money stretch the furthest? Here are some options.
Costa Rica Real Estate Trends by Region
Atenas/Central Valley: First of all, Costa Rica is said to have the best climate in the world. If you go to Atenas, you’ll see why. You’ll find that the temperature averages in the 70s all year round, and may sometimes drop into the mid-60s in the evenings – and that’s about as much fluctuation as you’ll see. In the rain season, of course, you’ll see rain, but that’s usually just in the late afternoon. Atenas offers a slow-paced life that many expat retirees find inviting, and so the likelihood that your neighbors will also be expats is high. If this area appeals to you, you’ll find that real estate prices are actually very reasonable. You can purchase a three-bedroom home for under $150,000, or a nice home in a gated community for as low as $200,000. Atenas is located in the Central Valley, which is the busiest and most popular part of the country, because of its gorgeous views and perfect temperatures.
The Southern Zone: There are three main cities here that are worth mentioning, so we’ll just discuss the Southern Zone as a whole. It spans along the Pacific Coast all the way to Panama. The area itself is more “off the beaten path,” but is highly popular with expats and some different types of tourists. For example, Ojochal is a jungle village known for gourmet restaurants run by expat foodies. Dominical is a surfing village that attracts surfing and water sports enthusiasts. The hub where all the banks, stores, and pharmacies are is Uvita. This area is for those who want a quieter life among fellow expats, but it could be good for those who wish to purchase in an untouched area with hopes that it could grow to be more developed over the years and raise your property value. Homes can be found in the $250,000 range for the best views and nicest areas, but you can find them for under $100,000 if you’re comfortable purchasing a little further out of the way.
Arenal: Another popular expat community, this town is home to Costa Rica’s largest volcano and its largest freshwater lake. You can find great mountain views and also live in the rainforest environment. This is perfect if you’re craving something more exotic and you’re into sports like mountain biking and paddle boarding. Real estate prices here are usually cheaper than in the beach areas. You can purchase a two-bedroom house or similar for around the $85,000 mark.