The 2 million tourists who come to Costa Rica each year probably think they know this country pretty well.
They relax on pretty beaches, zip-line across the tree canopy, surf the wave of the mighty Pacific and trek through misty cloud forests.
But most tourists tend to stick to well-known beach towns and the Central Valley. That’s not where you’ll find the best property values right now or the biggest upside potential.
Here are my top three “buy” locations in Costa Rica:
#1. Southern Zone
Manuel Antonio national park is the second most-visited park in Costa Rica. But you’ll need to get up early. The park is so busy they restrict the number of people allowed in to 600 on weekdays and 800 at weekends and on holidays.
Most of the tourists don’t travel south of Manuel Antonio to the Southern Zone. Yet here, two-thirds of the land lies in national parks and reserves. Corcovado National Park is an immense, pristine wilderness without roads, stores or hotels. Massive trees tower overhead, filled with chattering monkeys, neon-bright frogs and spectacular birds.
The Southern Zone stayed off the tourist trail because it was tough to get to. But a new road opened in 2010. This place is on the up—yet you can still buy a lot here in a private community for only $40,000.
#2. Lake Country
Costa Rica’s gorgeous lake country is easy to get to. Visitors flock to a well-known tourist destination, a town called La Fortuna. It’s packed with souvenir stores, pizzerias, cafes, hotels and thermal spa resorts. One of the town’s luxury resorts even served as the setting for some episodes of the TV show The Bachelor in 2011.
Few of La Fortuna’s tourists bother to travel to the other side of the lake. It’s only 45 minutes away. They don’t know what they’re missing. It’s a hidden expat haven, unspoiled and low-key. Here, you can enjoy good food, great company and low, low property prices. You can buy large lake-view lots from only $32,000.
Costa Rica has two coasts. It’s where you’ll find the country’s most popular beach towns. But while the Pacific coast boomed with tourism and resort and residential development, everyone forgot about the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Big business forgot about it, focusing on the capital city, San Jose. Tourists forgot about it, flocking to the country’s Pacific coast. Property shoppers forgot about it, getting caught up in a buying frenzy on the Pacific coast and in the Central Valley.
But Costa Rica’s Caribbean side is finally getting the attention it deserves. Tour companies are adding it to their itineraries. A billion-dollar port expansion should bring thousands of jobs to the area. And property buyers are realizing how far their real estate dollar stretches here. You can buy a 1.24-acre lot for $70,070.