Opportunity Along Costa Rica’s Secret Caribbean

Not even the Costa Ricans know it’s here. The forgotten province. But they’ll hear about it soon enough—especially with the massive investment slated for the region. The biggest of its type in Costa Rica’s history.

So far, there’s been little development of the real estate and tourism markets on this nation’s Caribbean coast (yes, Costa Rica has one). It’s hard to understand why it’s been overlooked. Yet it has… and that means that this stretch of coast holds some of the Caribbean’s most undervalued real estate.

The two-and a-half-hour drive east from San Jose brings you through jaw-dropping virgin rainforest and the protected Braulio Carrillo national park to a coast stretching south into stunning white-sand beaches.

Limon, (Limon is the name of the province and also the capital city) was a company town. United Fruit managed the port, built the railroads and bridges, looked after the colonial buildings and was the major employer. When the company pulled out of town in the 1960s, Limon was forgotten. And when the Costa Rican tourism machine began bringing in droves of foreign visitors in the 1980s, it was the northern Pacific coast that most benefited.

The Caribbean side languished, creating what is today a bargain-hunter’s dream. The neglect of this region is one of those anomalies that produces excellent profit opportunities. And I’ve found a way you can buy land in a Gold Standard gated community here for less than half of what you could pay just outside those gates. It makes sense two ways. The region itself offers excellent value. This deal layers in even more value on top of that. I’ll explain how in a minute. First, though, some context…

Limon may have been forgotten up until now. But “forgotten” it is unlikely to remain. Business is coming to this coast. A new free-trade zone in Bufalo will house 12 companies. Each company must invest a minimum of $100,000 to operate here. But that’s dwarfed by the investment in the Caribbean ports of Limon and Moin.

On August 30, 2011, the Costa Rican government signed a $1-billion concession with Dutch company APM to build a new port terminal in Moin. It’s the biggest concession contract in the history of Costa Rica. Construction will start in 2013, and should take three years. It will increase the port’s capacity and turnaround time. And it will bring jobs to the area…an estimated 2,000 direct and 8,000 indirect jobs. Limon is making a comeback. And you’re now among the first to know.

Limon, the city, is a quiet affair. Bright, freshly painted plantation houses and colonial buildings in various states of repair skirt sleepy streets. Not a lot goes on. For now, that is. Close by—12 minutes by car—cruise ships and giant fruit transporters dock at the port of Moin. In between the two places you’ll find guest houses and beach bars.

Driving south from Limon is special—deserted beach on your left and mountain jungle on your right. Little restaurants serve up freshly fried fish and strong, rich coffee. Picnic tables sit under beachfront palm trees—all public access—this is where you can come to barbeque or eat a picnic. There’s no garbage. The locals respect their neighbors, community and environment.

A drive into the hills is a must. Seven minutes from the beach, the views to the ocean are spectacular. And the views inland are even better, with steep jungle-covered mountains. I visited a piece of land here accessed from a quiet country lane. The entry point is perched right at the top of the hill. The views are 360 degrees. The land here has been flattened and a wooden structure built to take advantage of the views. Most of the 50 acres is covered by dense and valuable forest. This farm has just sold for $150,000. That’s $3,000 per acre. This would be perfect for a little development or eco-resort. And there are more pieces like it.

The Opportunity…

Grand View Estate is the region’s Gold Standard project, which I mentioned earlier. The highway drive I took from the capital San Jose meandered through mountain passes and past gushing waterfalls. Here in the Talamanca Mountains, steep, forest-clad hills sweep down to a coastal plain and the Caribbean. You have views out to sea from some of the lots here, and the Caribbean beaches are an easy 30-minute drive.

The 640-acre Grand View Estates project sits up at 1,300 feet, which keeps temperatures fresh and gives views east to the ocean. Looking west, the views are to green mountains. The site is diverse, with virgin rainforest, five rivers, two waterfalls, and gently rolling hills. Wildlife is abundant, with hundreds of bird and animal species.

On entering the property, I was struck by the curving roads. There are no straight lines. We wound our way along lanes that follow the contours of the land…lined with flowers and grassed areas. Thought and work goes into these little details. They’re an important reflection on the developer.

A barbecue area with an infinity pool is complete. Nearby homes are complete and more are under construction. Buyers here plan to spend a lot of time here—many six months a year. For some, Grand View will be a full-time home. The community stables can house dozens of horses.

I shared the community guest house with a couple who were here to oversee the finishing touches on their home. It’s stunning…and they are tickled pink with their decision. They can’t wait to spend half their year here.

The first three phases of 79 lots in Grand View are already sold out. Phase four lots have just been released. Prices start at $65,028 for a 1.34-acre lot. At $12 per meter that’s an extraordinary deal, even for a region where good value is the norm.

You see, the developer bought this land many years ago and paid very little for it. So he can afford to price lots as he has. If he were buying the land today, at current prices, these lots would be priced much higher. In fact, you could pay $30 per meter for land in this region even outside a gated community. Yet here at Grand View, prices start at less than half of that. Value in the region, plus additional value in this project.

Editor’s Note: Read more about Costa Rica here.