Offering a lush Central American climate and plenty of beaches, Costa Rica has become a very popular place for people to find and purchase their dream home. Costa Rica is one of the most stable countries in the region and boasts a strong pro-business and pro-investment culture that encourages anyone and everyone to buy real estate, including people from the United States. In fact, despite being a Spanish-speaking country with a Spanish-based legal regime, Costa Rica is one of the friendliest countries in Latin America for North Americans. Finding the right place to live is – as elsewhere – largely a matter of shopping around and finding the right area first and then finding the right parcel.
As is the case with all open real estate markets, the price is determined by many different factors though the location of the land in question is one of the most important of these. Due to the popularity of Costa Rica as a retirement destination, the land prices have increased rather dramatically in recent years, especially in the more densely populated areas within immediate range to many modern urban conveniences. However, excellent deals can still be found in the more remote and less populated regions of the country. Land also tends to be cheaper inland, away from the coast, though any new property development has to undergo an environmental impact analysis and receive government permission to proceed.
The provinces of San José, Heredia, Cartago, and Alajuela are the most densely populated, by both native Costa Ricans and foreign expatriates, and as such represent the most expensive provinces in which to find real estate. San José is both the capital and the country’s largest city and offers most of the conveniences and luxuries preferred by North Americans. Needless to say, this means it usually represents some of the most expensive property in the country. This is particular true in the western districts of Escazu, Santa Ana and Rohrmoser as well as the eastern district of San Ramon de Tres Rios. Alajuela offers somewhat warmer temperatures and the La Garita has become especially popular among foreigners. Heredia and Cartago are both a bit more rural, offering many smaller towns and somewhat cooler temperatures during the year and both have become popular with foreigners seeking to live a bit further removed from San José and Alajuela.
Considerably better deals are to be found in real estate in the more rural provinces of Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limon. Beyond the smaller populations, these three provinces also have another factor in common: they all have extensive beaches. Guancaste, in the northwest, is best known for its massive cattle ranches, or hacienda. Puntarenas – home of one of Costa Rica’s most important ports – has a more industrial feel, though there is still plenty of rural land available. Limon is best known for its very distinctive Afro- Caribbean feel, which seems more like one of the islands than most of Costa Rica does. In all of these provinces, the price for real estate goes up the closer the land is to the beach, with coastal properties being the most expensive and the most closely regulated. Alternatively, land deep inland is much less expensive and much less regulated.