The Best Time in a Decade to Buy on the Beach in Costa Rica

Think Costa Rica and think beach.

With both Pacific and Caribbean coasts, this little country wins bragging rights to 1,100 miles of some of the most beautiful sun-drenched shorelines in the Western Hemisphere.

And don’t worry about finding a place to lay your blanket or plant your beach umbrella. On our recent trip—during high season, no less—we found many of the country’s most popular and beautiful beaches virtually uninhabited.

My husband, Dan Prescher, and I have just come off a whirlwind tour of some of Costa Rica’s most appealing areas—and these include the picture-postcard beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula and the Gulf of Papagayo’s Gold Coast.

Our goal? To find out how property prices weathered the storm of the global real estate collapse.

They’ve been battered. We found that in some areas, today’s prices are about 30% lower than at any time in the last decade. Along the Gold Coast that number could be even greater…with discounts approaching 50%.

Two popular beach towns on the Nicoya Peninsula, Nosara and Samara, offer a laid-back vibe for surfers and sunset lovers.

In Nosara, small hotels and resorts cater to the yoga-retreat crowd, and in Samara you’ll find a massage school that attracts an international clientele—some like the area so much they never leave. Because of this international influence and the healthy-living aspect, both towns offer a nice selection of excellent restaurants.

Of the two, Samara is the more “developed”—with three “real” (as in “paved”) streets and more hotels and restaurants. It’s a bigger tourist destination than Nosara, thanks to the fact that the road is paved all the way here from San José. Drive time is just three hours.

Playa Samara is said to be the safest swimming beach in Costa Rica. Whether that’s true or not, I can’t say. But it and neighboring Playa Carrillo (which has no town at all and is rimmed by a long, shady grove of stately palm trees) are certainly two of the country’s prettiest beaches.

Nosara, though, is no ugly step-sister. Its beaches are just as enchanting. But it’s harder to access. The last 30 miles are via unpaved road—both a blessing and a curse. It keeps the number of visitors at a manageable level, but it might grate on your nerves if you were to live here full-time. There is a domestic airport at Nosara, served by daily flights from San José for about $83-$125 one way, depending on the season.

The town of Nosara itself, while not right on the beach, is close to two popular beaches, Playa Pelada and Playa Guiones. The area near Playa Guiones is the more built up—although don’t read a lot into that terminology. It simply means there are a handful more bars and restaurants to choose from.

So what is the real estate price tag here? Less than you might expect…

Within walking distance of Playa Pelada, a quarter-acre lot is selling for just $35,000 in a project called Nosara Springs. Here’s a video I shot not too far from that project.

The developer is offering terms, typically 20% down and financing at 6%, with no prepayment penalties. And that’s negotiable.

A bit farther from the beach, on a 6,060-square-foot lot, with three bedrooms, one bathroom and its own private pool, Casa Luz is selling for $249,000. And a very modern-style steel-and-wood two-story cantilevered house, with a floor-to-ceiling glass front, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, is selling for a negotiable $220,000.

Our pick? The house we liked the best at Nosara—and feel is the best value-for-price—is Casa Vista Hermosa. High on a hill on a one-acre lot with plenty of room to build a guest house, this large two-bedroom/two-bathroom house features a living space with kitchen, dining area and living room with glass doors that offer a bird’s-eye view of the blue Pacific and open onto a large outdoor entertainment area with bar, barbecue and swimming pool. The motivated seller is asking $475,000.

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