Originally a fishing village of tiny houses wedged onto a narrow strip of land between the ocean and a small cliff, Tambor is undergoing a massive transformation that will probably spell the end of the village and usher in a number of large resorts, a marina, and a lot of real estate development. 

It would be hard to find a more perfect location for an upscale resort community. The sea is gentle and the golden-sand beach that stretches for kilometers forms a perfect crescent across Ballena Bay. Behind the bay, level ground stretches back to a road, then rises to the farm town of Pánica.

If it’s so perfect, why is Tambor still so sleepy? Two factors seem to have have prevented a mad rush development: Difficulty of access, and the Spanish hotel group Barceló. As for the former, the road from Paquera past Tambor and onto Cóbano was paved only recently, and visitors from San Jose still must endure several hours of driving plus a ferry ride (if you catch it in time). The nearest city is either Puntarenas, or Nicoya, the road to which is still unpaved. More paved roads would certainly add to the area’s popularity.

As for Barceló, the story is that the company supposedly owns a significant portion of prime real estate near and behind the beach (yes it’s titled). It has already built the Barceló Playa Tambor Resort and the Los Delfines Golf & Country Club. The resort has a 9-hole golf course and villas. Barceló apparently still owns a significant portion of land. There are now several resorts under construction in the area, with more planned. 

Riverside developers – the same who built Riverside Escazú and the Sonesta Jacó Resort – are building two condotel resorts in Tambor, within the Los Delfines resort, known as Bayside and Ocean Whisper.  Also under construction are a five-story condominium project called Tambor Hills, and Terramar, a 72-unit low-rise condo project. A mega project called Punta Piedra Amarilla is also in the works.  Supposedly the project will include a marina and four boutique hotels, but as of the time of research it was still in the permitting process. The developers are also hoping to bring in a new car ferry to connect their facility with Port Caldera (which a new highway will soon connect with San José).

In addition to all that, investors are buying up farms with ocean views around the Pánica area. With those areas developed alongside the condominium resorts that are under construction and planned, Tambor is soon going to look like a very different place.

So what’s it like now?

It’s basically an upscale resort, a sleepy fishing village, and a row of upscale single family homes on a strip of titled beachfront land owned by expatriates enjoying their retirement. There are very few services outside the resort, just a tiny grocery store, a couple of restaurants and one or two souvenir shops.

Just outside of the Barceló property is a strip of titled beachfront property with single family homes and a bar, all worth in the high hundred thousands at the time of writing, and very likely to have appreciated further since.

Locals and expatriates tend to mix because there are very few places to go, but the budding retirement community is close knit and has a Friday-evening jam session in a beach bar, as well as meetings to discuss what’s happening in the area and exchange experiences. It’s known as the TGIF club. As you can see, there is very little to do right now in Tambor, so until the amenities come, a quiet life would be your only option. For now, many property owners are living in the area permanently. 

In addition to growing interest from retirees, there should also be increasing demand from the yachting and fishing crowd once the marina is up and running. Interest from families wanting a resort area with a safe swimming beach should be on the rise as well, all of which will help keep prices growing for some time to come.

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