Earning Income from Vacation Rentals in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

When Jeanne Cordes discovered Costa Rica, she was living on the Isle of Palms, South Carolina with a successful real estate business. As a single parent raising two teenage boys, the family took adventure vacations at Christmas break and trips that fed their love of surfing, windsurfing, scuba diving, sport fishing, tennis, golf, and horseback riding on the beach.

After a number of trips to Tamarindo, Jeanne was convinced she should buy property there. She felt that the entire area of Guanacaste province on the northern Pacific coast, known as the Gold Coast, had a big future.

“I felt like I could retire or even further my real estate career in this area. I had grown tired of the constant rat race and mundanity of life in the U.S.,” Jeanne recalls. “I longed for adventure and freedom. The boys and I all immediately fell in love with Tamarindo and the surrounding beach towns. This was back in the late 1990s when the area was still virtually untouched but ready to explode with new infrastructure and modern development.”

Initially, Jeanne purchased an ocean-front lot in Rancho Playa Negra, about 25 minutes south of Tamarindo. The lot overlooked Monkey Point, one of the best surf beaks in the world and her sons’ favorite surf spot. Yet, the pull of Tamarindo was strong. Here was a developing area with lush forests on mountaintops right next to pristine beaches and surf.

Jeanne also loved the sabanero (cowboy) culture of Guanacaste. The town was a melting pot of different international people who lived alongside the Costa Rican locals. And as it grew, there came great restaurants, entertainment, and a selection of modern amenities such as golf, tennis, and nightlife.

“I decided to flip the ocean front lot in Playa Negra and purchase a penthouse in Sunrise, a new luxury condo development,” she says. “It made more sense in terms of investment to own a place that could be rented and resold easily. The great thing about buying and selling property in Costa Rica is that there is no capital gains tax, thus enabling multiple property sales and purchases without paying an exorbitant tax each time.”

For the first time in her life, Jeanne was able to realize her dream of owning fine horses and working within the horse community in the area. “Those friendships and experiences are worth everything to me. Also, finding a tennis club in Tamarindo and meeting new friends there was a joy.”

As Tamarindo grew into this large tourist center, Jeanne longed for the countryside where she would be closer to her horses. “I found a property that would allow me to retire from real estate, but continue to make a living,” she says. “I lucked into a beautiful property near Black Stallion Hills Ranch and Eco-Park just 10 minutes outside of Tamarindo. It was older, with two homes and a good amount of land, but needed remodeling and landscaping and infrastructure changes.

“I purchased the property for less than the sale of the penthouse in Tamarindo and also had the money to make the necessary improvements. It was a long and grueling year of remodeling but finally I was able to move into the smaller casita and start renting the larger home for vacation stays. Villa Blanca, the jungle house, was born. It is just minutes from Playa Tamarindo and on site is Black Stallion with its amenities—zip lining, horse tours, BBQs, and entertainment complex.”

Jeanne needed to rent Villa Blanca to vacationers, so she tried all the different online rental sites, but Airbnb was the best. She also lists on HomeAway. She caters to families wanting a more authentic stay, a little removed from the center of tourism. Her clients are mostly from Europe and Canada.

Jeanne says that along with her Social Security, she makes enough income to live the life she wants and sustain her horse habit. As a legal resident, she has socialized healthcare (called Caja), which pays for everything. The monthly Caja fee is less than $50 with no deductible. She also uses private care, which is one-tenth the price it is in the U.S.

“The journey will leave you exhausted yet exhilarated,” says Jeanne. “I have made the trek and I am forever grateful to this place I now call home.”

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