A Tropical Beach Home for One-Third of the U.S. Price

Costa Rica’s northern Pacific is a place where you often might be one of a dozen people on the beach.

It’s laidback and on a reasonable scale. Small villages. Quiet resort towns. Manageable. Lots of trees and natural areas. Not crowded. The level of development, though increasing, is still very small. And the attention development has brought has ensured there are plenty of services and amenities for those who live there.

Some of the most popular affordable properties on Costa Rica’s Northern Pacific Coast are condos on or within a quick walk of the water. And while prices vary according to level of luxury, you get a lot for your money no matter what price point. Prices start at $89,000 for a walk-to-the-beach two-bedroom unit. Try $200,000 and up for something with a panoramic ocean view and luxury finishes like granite countertops.

Real estate in Costa Rica is heavily influenced by trends in the U.S., so there was a lengthy break from construction here after the bubble burst in 2008. Development is now coming back to this area. But it’s more sensible. Local authorities are working to make sure infrastructure keeps pace with new construction.

There are three towns on the northern Pacific coast in particular where you can find a range of condo options, from simple to luxury, but all on the beach or within a stone’s throw: Playas del Coco, Tamarindo, and Playa Flamingo.

Coco is a popular spot for retirees, with a lively town center and plenty of services and amenities like good shopping and medical care. The international airport in Liberia is about 30 minutes inland. And there are plenty of condo communities scattered up and down the beach. I know of a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in a tropically-landscaped gated community with 24-hour security that lists at $179,000.

The kitchen has granite countertops, custom hardwood cabinets, and a dishwasher. You have views of the surrounding mountains from your private balcony. And from the common pool area, you have an ocean view. The beach is three blocks away and 10 minutes brings you to the center of town for dining and shopping.

Farther south, in the fishing village turned expat-hotspot Tamarindo, you’ll find affordable condos. It’s a younger crowd in this town, but expats of all ages have created a strong community. The surf is always up. Beach bars are a popular place to enjoy sunset. And a Saturday morning farmers’ market is a great place to pick up organic produce, home-made baked goods, and handcrafted jewelry. Many expats buy condos cheap and customize the interiors to their liking. With the low cost of labor, it can be very affordable to renovate.

One such property is a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom condo a five-minute walk to the water and the center of town. It’s a blank slate, so to speak. It has two levels, with the bedrooms upstairs and the open kitchen and living room downstairs. The community is guarded and has a pool. It’s for sale at $89,000.

Of the three communities, Flamingo is the most like an expat enclave. It’s mostly residential, with several condo developments set on the long gracefully curving white-sand beach, which is consistently rated one of the best in the country. There are some great restaurants as well, from local seafood joints to high-end gourmet dining.

Many residents are snowbirds, who come down during North American winters seeking refuge from the cold. If you have a boat, you could put it in a sheltered cove just to the north where local fisherman and sport fishing charters anchor. There are plenty of luxury options here but still plenty of affordable properties. You pay a premium for an ocean view…but not as much as you might think.

A two-bedroom condo, with an expansive view of the Pacific from your balcony, is just a quick walk away from the beach and town center. There are granite countertops and North American appliances in the kitchen. It comes fully furnished. And you also get free use of the facilities at a nearby resort, including a gym and pool. The resort also has a small casino. It’s listed at $220,000.

You’ll hear this part of Costa Rica referred to as the Gold Coast, and as its name implies, it’s a very desirable area. If fun in the sun and a laidback beach lifestyle is for you, you should put it on your list…

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