Quepos and Manuel Antonio

Quepos and Manuel Antonio lie about an hour’s drive south from Jacó and host a very different community altogether. Of the two, Quepos is the bigger town but still very much a working fishing town rather than a tourist destination. Its real estate market isn’t as developed as that of Manuel Antonio, a 10-minute drive up the road.

Quepos has all the services one would expect to find in a large Costa Rican town, including an airstrip, a hospital, banks, small supermarkets and tourist shops. It’s not, however, the prettiest of towns right now, and drug use is on the rise. Expect, however, to see the commercial real estate market heat up as a marina comes online in the near future and attracts sport fishermen and other tourists to the town. Until then, Quepos is likely to remain a Tico town bypassed by second-home owners or permanent residents for the more attractive Manuel Antonio up the road.

Manuel Antonio, located as it is adjacent to Manuel Antonio National Park, is basically a tourist town. During the high season, as many as 600 visitors per day pass through the park, making it the most visited national park in the country. Manuel Antonio has the added dynamic of being a popular destination for the gay community, and many hotels cater specifically to this clientele. There is even an unofficial yet rather popular nude beach in a discrete little cove on Punta Quepos.

The community living here is relatively young and run the numerous local tourist businesses. The coastal road connecting Quepos to the Manuel Antonio National Park is filled with boutique hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs and spas, all with their share of the ocean views that make the town so special (and expensive) for many.

In the past, many real estate investors have come to Manuel Antonio to build large individual houses and buy tracts of land for segregation. The condominium market, however, has yet to take off. There are a couple mid-sized towers under construction, but for now the Manuel Antonio buyer is more interested in a single-family home for personal use and vacation rental.

The number of services available in Manuel Antonio is growing, though the selection is still slim compared to more developed parts of the country. More banks are opening branches and small strip malls now dot roadsides. The Friday farmers market is still the best place to pick up fresh produce, and fresh fish is always available in shops or down by the beach. Jacó is just an hour away for those who need a fix of imported foods.

Despite its distance from an international airport and city-quality shopping and services, real estate prices in Manuel Antonio have risen to be some of the highest in the country. The popularity of the park, the beauty of the beaches, and the quiet magnificence of the ocean views have all played a part in pushing vacation rental prices for family homes high. Renting a vacation home in Manuel Antonio can be a profitable business.

Foreigners and expatriates have also invested in land for segregation, flipping, or more long-term plans. Others buy land to build a vacation home or relocate permanently, or they buy and renovate existing homes.

A significant part of the Manuel Antonio expatriate community dedicates time to environmental and ecological causes. Several groups have set up shop with the purposes of promoting reforestation and education. ASCOMOTI, for example, though officially a group formed to lobby for the preservation of the endangered Titi monkeys, has taken on the role of researching large developments planned for the area to ensure that all construction and environmental regulations are being followed.

As groups like this push their sustainable development causes, however, something of a rift has opened up between “the environmentalists” and some of “the developers.” However, in general, the message is that development and investment is welcomed and needed as long as it abides by all the requisite regulations.

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