A lone surfer, board under arm, races into the oncoming surf. His dog follows, biting surf before retreating to the sand, waiting loyally. My guide turns to me: “About here is where it starts to look like Tahiti.”
I haven’t been to Tahiti so I don’t know if that’s accurate. I do know that the coast and terrain has undergone a dramatic transformation as we have travelled south.
The jungle canopy is an intense and lush green…rolls right down to wide sandy beaches…like a tropical duvet for the hills that rise steeply and dramatically from the other side of the road we have been driving on. It’s stunning.
We have pulled in off the coastal highway to one of the beaches (they are all public) that are tucked between forested headlands. Everything is quiet save for a ceviche vendor’s rustling as he sets up shop for the day.
His menu reads: Fish ceviche, shrimp ceviche and mixed ceviche. Prices are set at: $1.50, $1.80 and $2 respectively. This is where locals and traffic passing through will stop for lunch or a snack…their fast food. There is no development on the beach. Development hasn’t come here. When it does, this coast will stay protected.
That’s good…because second-home owners and retirees are set to come in their thousands.
As we set off again pointing south on a smooth new highway, my guide reminds me how difficult this place was to get to. Inaccessible, in fact, at certain times of the year. But now, in early December I’m driving on a smooth highway weeks after the wettest rainy season in living memory passed.
This new coastal highway opened last year cutting the drive time from Costa Rica’s capital San Jose from eight hours (maybe more depending on the time of year) to just over three. It feels like we are in a different world, but Manuel Antonio’s high-end hotels and million-dollar condos are now only an hour up the new road.
This is a text book “Path of Progress” play. This is a beautiful place where prices stayed low because it was difficult to get to. Now it’s easily accessible by road.
President Laura Chinchilla was in the area last October, lending her support to the new airport. The President toured the region and attended several meetings, emphasizing the importance of support for the tourism industry and the airport wherever she went.
Her commitment to the Southern Zone is more than populist rhetoric. Friends in other parts of Costa Rica were annoyed as they saw heavy machinery moved from their area to the Southern Zone to repair infrastructure after parts saw 100 inches of rain in 10 days. She’s putting her country’s money and heavy machinery where her mouth is, following through on her predecessor’s commitments. Eco tourism in the Southern Zone will be a big engine for growth in Costa Rica. Tourism is Costa Rica’s biggest earner. So, this is a very big deal for the country.
It’s a big deal for us because we can still buy ocean view lots here for one sixth…or maybe less…of what you would pay up north. It’s nicer here…and it will stay this way. What’s likely to change is the price tag.
Editor’s note: Ronan McMahon is the Executive Director of Pathfinder (International Living’s preferred real estate advertising partner), which focuses on opportunity for gains in strategic pockets around the world-before most folks have even heard of them. He writes for Pathfinder’s real estate investment service, the Real Estate Trend Alert. Ronan recently revealed the best buy in this region to Real Estate Trend Alert members—that alert is instantly available to all new members through the RETA online archive. To learn more about Real Estate Trend Alert, this video from Ronan explains everything.