Costa Rica’s Ocean Views—A Quarter of What You’d Pay Back Home


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By Jason Holland, International Living,
The southern Pacific coast, officially known as the country’s Southern Zone, is the Costa Rica of postcards and guidebook covers. Palm tree lined, virtually vacant beaches. The wild sea with rocky islands just offshore. Deep, thick jungle surrounds you inland. One of the most biodiverse regions of one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, it’s home to howler monkeys, toucans, and sloths and hundreds of other animals, as well as lush plant life from towering tropical hardwood trees to delicate orchids and sturdy bromeliads sprouting from branches.
“Life has slowed down a lot for me,” says Jerry Thomas, 62, who lives in Ojochal, a small village surrounded by jungle, with his wife Susanne.

“A year seems like a year again, not three months.”

All in all, it’s a place to relax. To enjoy that hammock hanging on your front porch. But how much should you be ready to spend for that front porch and the house that goes with it?
Despite interest from investors and well-heeled vacation-home owners, you can still find good-value real estate. Prices start at $150,000 for simple digs, going up to multi-millions for the luxury palaces favored by wealthy vacation-home owners. So it may not be dirt cheap.
But with ocean-view (measured in degrees here—180 means no trees or hills block any of your view) homes starting at the low $200,000s, prices are a quarter of what you’d pay for similar property on the southern California coast, for example.
And there are alternatives. You can go inland—about 20 minutes from the beach—and forgo the ocean view in favor of a mountain and jungle landscape—which many long-term residents here actually prefer. You’ll get more house for your money and enjoy the cooler weather that comes with life at 1,000 feet.
The region has received increased attention in recent years thanks to the completion of the coastal highway in 2010, which cut drive time from the capital, San José, and the international airport there to three hours. That has spurred development.
This part of Costa Rica will never be home to fast-paced beach resorts. There’s a cap of three stories on buildings—so no condo towers or big hotels. There’s a large national park, Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, that covers much of the shoreline here—so no communities or resorts or cookie-cutter subdivisions near the ocean. The park, which protects migrating humpback whales that congregate just offshore during mating season, December to April, gives the region its other name: Costa Ballena, or Whale Coast.
The great thing is that the terrain here prevents flat, grid-like developments except for a few places in the lowlands. That means privacy and space.
There are also lots on offer here. A recent listing featured 3.2 acres of raw land 10 minutes south of Ojochal in the Tres Rios area. It’s in the jungle, two waterfalls on site, priced at $29,000.

And, of course, you don’t have to buy. There are plenty of rentals (usually with a three- to six-month minimum stay) so you can explore and find your dream home on your schedule. A 1,800-square-foot ocean-view home in Uvita with a pool is available for $1,200 a month.
It may be on the radar of retirees and real estate agents. But the Southern Zone is far from crowded or overrun. And the pace of life there remains little changed at its core. Sure, you have more and more modern conveniences, top-notch restaurants, imported items at the grocery store, hospitals, fitness centers, and all those comforts from home. But you’re still worlds apart from North America. It’s destined to remain a quiet area of lush natural beauty.


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