Live your best "pura vida” in these scenic, real estate agent–recommended locations.
From its top-rated surf breaks and diverse wildlife to its tropical climate and fresh fare, there are dozens of reasons why Costa Rica continually ranks among our most-recommended vacation spots. (Not to mention it’s a less-than-five-hour flight from Houston, about a four-hour flight from Atlanta, and a three-hour flight from Miami.)
Thanks to the many benefits of Costa Rica life, vacationers often feel like they never want to leave. Luckily, they don’t have to: “There are no restrictions to purchasing property in Costa Rica,” confirmed Wagner Loria, real estate agent and broker with Keller Williams Tamarindo. (The only exception is when applying for some beachfront and coastal properties, which may require a certain percentage to be owned by a Costa Rican, added Melanie Engel, broker and owner of Flamingo Beach Realty in Playa Flamingo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.) “American citizens have the same rights as locals when it comes to investing in the country. A good real estate attorney, title company, and accountant, plus an immigration expert and a good real estate agent, will be your best resources.”
If you’re interested in investing in a vacation home in Costa Rica, expect the process to take about one to three months, including prospecting, showings, offers, contracts, deeds, escrow, appraisal, inspections, and taking possession of the property, Loria added.
Any investment of more than $150,000 allows you to apply for residence as an investor, which offers benefits like expedited immigration window for residence, exempted import of up to two vehicles and one container exempted from taxes with households, among others.
“Related costs for the buyer range from 4 percent to 5 percent of the total investment. Real estate taxes are as low as 0.25 percent to 0.55 percent per year,” he explained.
Once you plant roots in this Central American country, you’ll either be in — or nearby — one of the five Blue Zones on the planet. Nicoya, Costa Rica is a Blue Zone where residents practice healthy habits that make it more common for them to live to 100 years or older.
“Investing in real estate for $150,000 or more can lead to potential residency options, which may be appealing for those looking to spend extended periods in Costa Rica,” said Anna Velez, real estate consultant with Coldwell Banker Coast to Coast Properties in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.“This comes with many perks including a tax free import of two vehicles for personal use.”
You can also tap into the 180-day tourist visa as you search, or utilize the new digital nomad visa, which allows Americans to stay up to one year without having to renew the visa if they can show a certain amount of income per month. (Work from beach home? Yes please.)
“Every imaginable taste and need can be satisfied in Costa Rica; be it a desire for a luxury lifestyle or one that embraces nature. Infrastructure and public amenities are reliable throughout, too,” Engel told Travel + Leisure. “The real estate market in Costa Rica is surprisingly stable and not prone to the bubbles and bursts experienced in North America. Those seeking to make Costa Rica their permanent home or aiming to purchase a second home can feel confident that their investment is sound.”
In addition, Velez added that compared to many U.S. vacation destinations, Costa Rica offers competitive real estate prices.
“Our clients are constantly surprised with the amount of house and land they can buy here with the same budget compared to their home cities in the U.S. The country's thriving tourism industry also offers excellent rental income potential for vacation homes when you're not using them,” Velez said.
If all of this sounds like a sweet deal, here are the best destinations to consider investing in your second home in Costa Rica.
If you’re a surfer, this is where you’ll want to hang for more than 10. There are more than 10 popular surf locations within 30 minutes — along with what Wagner said is a “chill lifestyle, ocean views, many activities, and strong resale value.”
Tamarindo is about 90 minutes from Liberia International Airport and has many expat services available, according to Engel. It tends to cater to a younger crowd, Velez said, but all are welcome. And you can leave your stresses stateside.
“Tamarindo’s atmosphere is laid back and fun-loving,” Engel added.
Weather is warm and breezy year-round, and both immigrants and locals are active in the community that’s studded with clinics, furniture stores, private schools, shops, and more than 100 restaurants.
Most properties in Tamarindo are walkable to the beach, shops, and the 100+ restaurants in town.
“Starter homes here range in the $350,000 to $500,000 range, with luxury and ocean-view homes $1 million to $2 million. Condos start at $250,000 for two-bedroom and two-bathroom property, but can climb over $1 million for luxury ocean-view condos,” Velez said.
Playas del Coco
A mere 25-minute drive from Liberia International Airport, Playas del Coco (also known as Coco) is the closest full-service beach town to that airport, Velez said. When she says full-service, she’s not kidding: The town features a major hospital, supermarkets, banks, specialty shops, and medical offices, as well as more than 70 restaurants and bars.
“The beaches around Coco are calm and are perfect for swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, and paddle boarding,” Velez said.
This area earns bonus points for affordability: The real estate prices in Playas del Coco are among the lowest of all beach cities in Costa Rica. (Translation: Your money will stretch here when you’re purchasing a second home.)
Several high-end luxury developments are being built nearby, including luxury Waldorf Astoria resort and residences, right in between Playas del Coco and Playa Hermosa. An ultra-luxury One & Only hotel is being planned for the area between Playa Hermosa and Playa Panama as well.
Expect starter homes to be listed between $200,000 and $400,000. Ocean-view and luxury villas clock in around $800,000 to $1.6 million, and condos go from $200,000 for a two-bedroom and two-bathroom to $700,000 for luxury and ocean-view developments, Velez estimated.
If a cooler climate and mountainous scenery is what you’re after, look into La Fortuna.
“Located at the foothills of the famous Arenal volcano and near the magnificent Arenal lake, this town offers a lot of local flavor with an abundance of hiking opportunities,” Velez said.
There are not many luxury homes in La Fortuna, but there are some of the world’s best hot springs—along with what Velez described as “enchanting waterfall hikes and jungles filled with hanging bridges and zip lines.”
Homes start in the $200,000 and $400,000 range; the average La Fortuna home is available for between $400,000 and $800,000. There are also a few very large acreages and farms with homes on them that sometimes go up for sale.
Many of us envision paradise like this: White sandy beaches, tropical blue waters, and a slow pace; these are just a few of many amenities that make this 2,300-acre luxury gated community at Playa Conchal a hot area to invest in.
Beyond being safe, beautiful, and secluded, according to Engel, “here, you’ll be amazed by tropical greenery, numerous bird species and Pacific sunsets that dazzle Playa Conchal.”
While it’s not cheap (lots go for $400,000 to $2.5 million, condos from $650,000 to $3 million, and homes from $750,000 to $10 million), your property will place you within steps of a golf course, tennis and pickleball courts, a 60,000-square foot beach club, a state-of-the-art fitness center, 13 restaurants, two spas, zip lines, skate and dog parks, miles of hiking and biking trails, a 98-acre wildlife reserve, and one of the top three expat schools in the area, Engel added.
When your guest room overflows, visitors can treat themselves at the nearby W Costa Rica - Reserva Conchal and The Westin Reserva Conchal.
You’ll be ahead of the curve if you snap up a second home in Las Catalinas.
“This newer car-free beach town presents an irresistible opportunity for buyers seeking a captivating blend of lifestyle and investment potential,” Engel said.
It’s a secure community that’s located on Playa Danta and Dantita, a region that offers a lovely blend of nature, beaches, and what Engel defined as “abundant conveniences.” (Think: Ocean-view and beachfront restaurants, a food court, an onsite grocery store, wine cellar, beach club with multiple pools, an indoor and outdoor gym, and miles of hiking and biking trails through the tropical forest.)
If yard work isn’t your idea of fun, consider the Casa Chameleon Hotel, which is situated at a high point within Las Catalinas. This offers some of the best views in the area and has residences currently up for sale.
Lots in Las Catalinas are $150,000 to $2 million, condos run from $400,000 to $2 million, and homes start at $1.5 million and climb to $10 million.
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