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Maritime zoning for Costa Rica beach front property

Maritime zoning for Costa Rica beach front propertyWe get questions if you can own Costa Rica beachfront property with maritime zoning all the time.

For those interested in buying Costa Rica beachfront property, this article will make the information more accessible.

To begin with, not all beach property has maritime zoning. You can purchase fully titled land in front of the beach or overlook the beach or within walking distance to the beach and never have to worry about Maritime Zoning.

No matter if you are purchasing Costa Rica real estate or Costa Rica beachfront property to live or as an investment, you should be aware of the pros and cons of each property or beach concession.

Also, if you want to purchase land ON the beach, it will not be titled (as a rule). As in many other countries in the world, Costa Rica’s beaches are public property.  So, if you would like to build or buy a beachfront home or business, you should familiarize yourself with the special rules regarding a beachfront property in Costa Rica. Take your precautions and make sure you check on all the beachfront property restrictions.

The Maritime Zoning Law for beachfront property

Maritime zoning for Costa Rica beach front property

The 1977 Maritime Zoning Law (Ley sobre la Zona Marítimo-Terrestre – Ley Numero 6043) regulates ownership and usage of beachfront property in Costa Rica. The law creates two zones along Costa Rica’s Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Islands are also subject to this law. The government owns this “Maritime/Terrestrial” restricted zone and local governments (municipalities) administer it.

You measure from the high tide mark inland.

The two zones total width of 200 meters along the beachfront:

The Public Zone (Zona Pública)

This is a 50-meter wide strip of beach between the high tide line and the outer line of the “Restricted Zone” (Zona Restringida). This beachfront zone is open to the public. Private possession or occupation of this area is strictly prohibited. This is why you will find access to the Public Zone everywhere. However, no one may trespass private property or the restricted zone in order to reach the public zone.

The Restricted Zone (Zona Restringida)

This is a 150-meter wide strip of beach from the limit of the Public Zone inland. The law allows the government to grant leases called concessions for the occupation and use of this beachfront area for terms that range from 5 to 20 years. This is the land that homes or businesses along the beachfront may use for personal or monetary gain. The restricted zone will allow certain buildings. Those buildings will revert to the municipalities (local Governments) at the termination of the lease unless the lease is extended between the parties.

How do concessions for maritime zoned beach property function

The National Geographic Institute (Instituto Geográfico Nacional), used to be a division of MOPT (Ministry of Transport and Public Works). Since April 2013 to the National Register is in charge of Costa Rica’s maritime zone. The Costa Rican authorities are unable to grant building permits for the development of beachfront property if the zone is not marked and a development plan has not been drafted and approved.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) authorizes leases on the Restricted Zone. The local Municipal government grants and administers the government beach concession for possession of land with maritime zoning. The Registry of Concessions in the National Registry in San José records all concessions.

Maritime zoning for Costa Rica beach front property

Approved Zoning Plan

The buyer of a beachfront property must have an approved Zoning Plan (Plan Regulador) in place before the municipality grants a concession. Only the actual concession will clearly define the rights and terms of ownership that the occupant has to the property.

Concession Term

The local municipality grants these concessions or leases for five to twenty-year terms. Once the concession (lease) has been approved, it is registered in a special Concession Registry in the National Registry. You can go to the National Registry website and search “Por Número de Finca o Concessión“. The municipality charges a yearly fee for the duration of the lease. Failure to pay may terminate the lease and result in the loss of any buildings on it. The lessee applies for an extension of the lease concession at the Municipality. ICT in the institution in charge of the approval of the extension.

Just like the beaches of Costa Rica have a restriction, any waterfront property in Costa Rica has restrictions. For instance, rivers and lakes also have setbacks and restrictions for building a boat dock for example.

Who to contact

Costa Rica beachfront property has certain restrictions and you should know about it. Therefore, instead of just checking this manual in Spanish to obtain a Maritime concession in Costa Rica, contact a specialized attorney.

When you purchase beachfront property in Costa Rica make sure you are assisted by knowledgeable affiliate beach real estate agents. You can contact them here NOW. We can recommend also a very good closing lawyer who can walk you through the due diligence process easily.


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Ivo Henfling

Your West-side of San Jose real estate agent, covering Escazu and Santa Ana, Rohrmoser and Ciudad Colon. If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the Central Valley or looking for any property for sale in Escazu or Santa Ana, you need to contact Costa Rica real estate agent Ivo Henfling. Ivo has been selling Costa Rica real estate on the westside of San Jose, in the locations of Rohrmoser, Sabana, Escazu, Santa Ana and Ciudad Colon for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and those other areas. For Ivo, a deal is not a good one unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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