Attorney in Costa Rica

The maritime zone in Costa Rica. Beachfront real estate.

Concessions in Costa Rica to buy beach front real estate.

The dream is to buy a beachfront property in Costa Rica.  This is a fantastic idea, and a sound investment.   Costa Rica is a less hurried land, a place where you can relax.   Can foreigners acquire beachfront property in Costa Rica?  It turns out that special care must be taken if you are acquiring a maritime concession! Nothing is as relaxing as the ocean, and many people contact me to acquire beachfront real estate in Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limon.   

When considering beachfront properties, you should know about the Maritime zone Area, and State Concessions.  This is not your every day  due diligence.  The Maritime area changes the rules of the game,  because we are no longer talking about private properties, but rather State given concessions.  It´s a whole new ball game.

What is the maritime zone? Is beachfront real estate privately owned?

If you wish to get that beachfront property, then it´s best to be clear on what the maritime zone is.  Imagine the ocean in front of you.  The maritime area, by law, is not privately owned.  This State-owned area runs two hundred meters from the mid-tide line. All beaches are public by law, so there is no private ownership in these areas.  According to Costa Rican law, the maritime area is divided into two zones:  

A. The Maritime Public Zone:

The first fifty meters from the mid-tide line is called the public zone, which extends to islands as well. In good theory, no edifications should be in this public zone, which is destined for public enjoyment. All beaches, without exception, are public spaces because of public interest.


B. The Restricted Zone:  

From the end of the public area and up to another one hundred fifty meters inland, the law designates this as a restricted zone.  It’s in this zone where you can obtain a concession from the state to use and enjoy this area.  With the necessary permits, you can utilize the area under the concession.  However, it’s important to note that property purchase is not allowed in this area. 

The local governments of Costa Rica, or “municipalities,” grant concessions to use and enjoy the land in the restricted zone for a determined time frame. So even though, you can’t technically buy property in this area, you can acquire the concession from the Municipality.  You can also acquire it from the person to whom the concession was granted in the first place. Concession time frames vary from municipality to municipality but are usually given for twenty years and may be renewed constantly.

Be careful. You are not purchasing privately owned properties, but rather a State concession:

You can certainly acquire the concession that has a beachfront home in Costa Rica.   But as a lawyer, I must advise you to be very clear. If you acquire beachfront real estate in the maritime area,  you are not acquiring a privately owned real estate property, but rather a State Concession.   It’s important to know what you are getting yourself into!  It’s always much better to buy private-owned real estate in Costa Rica, with a secure property title in the Public Registry, which is what most people do.

Every municipality has a Municipal Regulations Plan that establishes the zoning of each concession lot. If the municipality grants the privilege to build houses, you have every right to build one. As part of due diligence, it’s essential to investigate zoning when purchasing beachfront property in Costa Rica, especially in the restricted zone. Even though zoning might allow building, obtaining the necessary permits is still required before proceeding. The person entitled to the concession must also pay a benefit to the municipality, which substitutes the territorial tax. 

Can foreigners get a concession in Costa Rica? Things to know about beachfront real estate concessions.

Since a concession is not private property, you can´t transfer, sell, compromise, or mortgage it.  You need authorization from the Municipality and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute for most things.  There is no mediation nor arbitration with the State.  Sorry, but no concessions can be granted to foreigners who have not resided in the country for at least five years. Neither can they be given to corporations constituted entirely by foreigners or to corporations whose shareholders are foreigners, in at least 50%.  There are, however, many ways around this. Many people opt to have Costa Ricans set up the corporation and later on acquire the shares.

You may ask yourself, what happens if you build a house in a restricted area, and the Municipality decides not to renew the concession?   The municipality can deny the concession renewal for several reasons.  These range from public interest reasons, convenience, contract breach, or if the property ends up in the public zone.  If the concession is extinguished for reasons that are not your fault, then the State must pay for the just price and costs of the uplifts, similar to an appropriation.  If you are looking into buying a home in Costa Rica, avoid a headache and buy one that is not in the maritime zone.  

Buying a home in Costa Rica. Beachfront property.

Where can I find beachfront real estate for sale in Costa Rica?

That´s the easy part.  You can choose between the two oceans to acquire a beachfront property in Costa Rica.  Maybe you like the Caribbean vibe? In this case, you should visit Limón, which is beautiful. 

I prefer the Pacific Ocean.  I recommend visiting the Manuel Antonio area in Puntarenas or heading to Guanacaste.  You will find that buying  Guanacaste real estate is a dream come true.  This area is dryer and has white beaches and incredible sunsets.  Even though Guanacaste is far from San Jose, the Liberia International Airport is convenient.   Tamarindo is a popular place to buy Guanacaste real estate.

Many ex-pats, however, enjoy purchasing real estate in Jacó, near San José, the capital of Costa Rica.  Buying a vacation home in Costa Rica makes sense.  Our country is beautiful and peaceful.  We don´t even have an army!

There are many places to purchase beachfront real estate in Costa Rica:

Beachfront real estate in Costa Rica is an excellent idea because of the diversity of climates.  We have all environments except for snow. If you are looking into buying a vacation home in Costa Rica, there are many places to choose.  Even near the beaches!  But I always advise that you buy a home in Costa Rica that´s titled property.  Concessions give you a lot of limitations.  However, if you are set on acquiring the concession, our real estate law firm can help you with the process.  

Dr. Christopher Pirie Gil.

Attorney at law in Costa Rica.

Beachfront concession in Costa Rica. Buy property in Costa Rica.

Contact us for maritime zone issues.