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Living the Beach Life in Costa Rica is Not for the Every Day Tropical Property Hunter

We get emails periodically from clients asking us about beach front properties.  These emails are tough to answer when the person has not yet visited Costa Rica and maybe doesn’t know too much about the country.  The fact is, there isn’t much on offer when it comes to beach front property in Costa Rica and we feel like a bit of a buzzkill telling this to our potential clients… at first.  The reasons why it is so tough to find great beach front properties will make you think twice about what your Costa Rica dreams are made of.

Our region of Costa Rica, called the Costa Ballena (Whale’s Coast), is very likely one of the most scenic parts of the world you will ever visit.  The reason for this is that this Southern Zone region of Costa Rica is still considered an emerging area.  Many of our towns’ roads are not paved and can be rough at times, keeping only the most hearty of people calling this area home.  We like the peace and quiet, and we like that the government is protecting our still green part of the world fairly protected from environmental degredation.  This means that there are quite a few areas that are not exactly available to development.

One of those areas is called the Maritime Terrestrial Zone (ZMT).  Real estate in Costa Rica is most often fee simple title, meaning that land owners have a deed for their property.  However, all property within 200 meters (around 600 ft) from the high tide mark – known as the ZMT – is owned by the government and protected for the fair use of all, and to keep the coasts natural and full of life.

Under Costa Rica’s maritime concession laws, the first 50 meters from the high tide mark are considered public land that cannot be owned privately, meaning that hardly any structures can be erected in this public zone.  This is especially true for our newly colonized Southern Zone. 

Land between 50 and 200 meters is considered a restricted concession zone.  It is administered by both the municipal government in that area and by the Costa Rica Tourism Institute (ICT).  In this area, it is only possible to own occupancy rights, never owning the land outright. 

Hotels, marinas and other beach front establishments in Costa Rica exist solely under maritime concession agreements, with very few exceptions.  On rare occasions, there are land owners who hold title to land that was formerly granted to Spanish colonists; or there are those who applied for title to beach front land before the maritime concession laws were enacted in 1977.

Maritime zone concessions can last from 5 to 20 years, so it is important that if you are looking into purchasing any land within 200 meters of the high tide line (or anywhere near that limit) that you check with the municipality about the rights to that land.  A foreigner with residency status of less than 5 years can only own up to 49% of a concession, meaning that they would need a Costa Rican national or a resident of 5 or more years to partner with on the deed, conceding 51% share of the title to them.

Why don’t people fight for their right to live on the beach?

The beaches are a natural breeding ground for many biting bug species like sand flies and other itch-inducing nuisances.  On the flip side, these species attract a food chain that affords many unique animal sightings nearby the beaches, including scarlet macaws, capuchin monkeys, sloths, and all sorts of terrestrial marine life.

Beach walks are a wonderful way to see rare wildlife and a great place to let your dog run free (as long as it’s not a national park).  Nevertheless, people are not clamoring for a beach front home location.

What is Costa Rica’s equivalent of beach front property?

We love to sell ocean VIEW properties, where the home sites are located between 1-3 miles from the beach and at a minimum elevation of around 400ft above sea level.  Being situated away from the beach means that a property will receive less highway noise and more sweeping views of the mountains, jungle valleys and the curving coast line in the horizon. 

Fresh mountain breezes are characteristic of these areas, reducing the full of the heat, and allowing for more life to exist in these zones.  The majority of the properties that we represent possess some or all of these characteristics, and most of the property seekers who come down to our region quickly forget about the beach and fall in love with the serenity of our hillside, forest-lined properties.

For those who still want to live the beach life, we have a few great concession listings that we can show you.  Get in touch with our team to learn more about what is available for beach front concession properties in South Pacific Costa Rica.