Nosara is on the Pacific coast in the Northwest of Costa Rica and over the past 50 years it has become known as both a gorgeous, low key slice of paradise and a classic example of American retirees creating their own distorted real estate market.
This creates quite a bizarre local economy.
You drive down earth and stone roads, no tarmac, with small fields of cows belonging to family farmers, run-down shacks selling household basics and coca cola and under-powered Honda motorbikes dragging people to work, two adults to a bike.
It feels fairly ‘poor’ (is that western condescension?) but happy – plenty of food and the climate is great.
Then turn off the main road, down an innocuous track and suddenly a gleaming render-and-teak-and-glass architect designed house stops you in your tracks.
Nosara, you see, is not really Costa Rica. With direct flights to Liberia (2 hrs drive away) from LA, NYC, Washington and Colorado, the village has become a de facto American resort, mixing family second homes with retirement living.
You only need to spend 3 days here to work out why. (The first day you are too confused as there is no centre; everything is hidden behind trees and down random lanes. The second day you have just about got your bearings and on day three you start to strut like a local.)
The beach is stunning, the waves powerful and consistent, the water warm. The food is varied and excellent, the place is full of the yogarati, the pace is slow – it is lovely. There are lots of estate agents and this is just the sort of place where people come, fall in love, come back and then buy the house. Think: Cape Town or the Algarve or Ibiza
I chatted with one of the agents. He said the direct flights to Liberia have changed the game, “we always had more inventory than buyers but that has changed. It is $1 million if you want 4 / 5 bedrooms and a seaview and we now have low stock and good demand. It is incredible the wealth which is moving from the USA to Nosara – most of the purchases are cash”.
How does this make the Ticos feel? (Tico being the name for local Costa Ricans, it is not offensive). My mountain bike guide (yes, its been a grueling trip!!) said there is a natural tension – the 2nd home owners do not want Nosara to grow and they do not want a tarmac road, but the (local) business owners want more tourists and they want some darned asphalt.
Meanwhile Nosara will thrive. The lure of surf + yoga + Tico relaxed vibe + paradise beach is strong and America is close by. Apparently there is a direct flight from Gatwick to Liberia but we’re out of season for Brits – watch this space once the Summer hols starts.
Speaking of surfing, it is difficult here. Much harder than Playa Samara, our last destination. Stronger currents and choppy waves but we persist. All is good.
We stay here for Lola’s birthday (2 days and counting, it is on Weds 27th June – all messages welcome) and then move up to the cloud forest on Thursday.