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Por/ By: Andrés Benavente


2010 was a dark year for the global economy but doubly so for Guanacaste.


The country, in particular this province, witnessed a sudden deceleration of commercial activity and the abrupt halt of new real estate investment, one of the worst hit industries worldwide. Moreover, this all followed years of accelerated real estate development and an intense growth in tourism levels.   


Nevertheless, 2011 is starting to be written with a different pen, a much more optimistic one, with which each stroke traces solid signs of recovery.

Investment and activity are returning to the area and many new projects that had remained frozen for months are now moving forward. 


A new airport is being built to

accommodate the growth in tourism 

The first good news is that the much-awaited expansion of the Liberia airport is already underway and on firm footing. 

If progress continues at the present rate, arrivals to Guanacaste after August of this year will be very different: A two story terminal, boarding ramps, more amenities, new commercial areas, more service personnel and expedited processing through Immigration and Customs.

This new terminal will not only expand to almost double the current operational capacity (it will be able to handle 1,500 travelers simultaneously), but it will also substantially increase passenger security and the quality of services provided to them.  As part of the same plan, it will also increase the size of the runways to enable them to receive larger aircrafts.


This expansion is an essential step in recharging the tourism industry in the province, which is now enthusiastically awaiting more news concerning the arrival of new flights. CATURGUA (Chamber of Tourism of Guanacaste) in conjunction with the ICT(Costa Rica Tourism Institute) and Mr. Carlos Benavides, Minister of Tourism, are working hard on this task.


'Family' airplane that brought
 the Saudi Arabian royal family
 to their holidays in Guanacaste 
(Boeing 747)

 Picture courtesy of Vitiok


Beyond the additional flights that already have been confirmed from Denver and El Salvador, there is progress in negotiations for future arrivals to Liberia by new airlines from Eastern Europe, Asia and South America. 


Simultaneously, multiple “Fam Trips(familiarization visits to present Guanacaste as a tourism destination) for wholesaler agencies from around the world are being organized for the coming months.

Medical tourism will have luxury headquarters. 


Another very big project being re-launched in the area following a year on standbyis the ‘Pacific Plaza Health and Living’, a mega community offering medical and residential services 10 minutes from the Liberia International Airport and the beaches of the Gulf of Papagayo.


The first phase has already started with the construction of the CIMA Hospital, which promises to be the largest and most modern facility in the region. 

With a total investment of $125 million, Pacific Plaza will be developed in 7 phasesin a 54-acre area, which will include villas, condos, hotels, offices, shopping centers and a recreational center in addition to the hospital.


During these last few years, Costa Rica and particularly the province of Guanacaste, have been betting heavily on attracting medical tourism to the region, and the arrival of CIMA and Pacific Plaza are key pieces in this projection. 


Another important milestone in promoting the country as a premier destination for medical tourism will take place in May when the country will host the 2nd Medical Travel International Summit, from May 2 to 4, 2011 at the Ramada Herradura Hotel in San Jose and the Hilton Papagayo in Guanacaste. 


Find more information on this event at:


The largest country club in Costa Rica  

Finally, a 3rd mega project in the region has recently been revitalized.  We are referring to the ‘Guanacaste Country Club’, a gigantic real estate project to be built on 2604 acres, mainly focused on promoting health and sport activities for residents.


The vast complex will include 1311 luxury residences.  A golf course designed by well-known golfer and designer Jack Nicklaus. 8 covered tennis courts plus a Jim Courier pro academy (all courts with US Open-style hard floor covering and one with seating stand for competitions). A huge swimming pool with tournament seating, 2 other pools and school by Olympic champion Mark Spitz.  It will also have a convention center, club house, fitness center, spa and playground,  restaurants, volleyball courts, 5 miles of hiking trails and 10 miles of mountain bike trails – all this in an enormous area at the foothills of the Guanacaste Mountain Range, just 10 minutes from Liberia and 20 from the International Airport (LIR).   


In addition to Jack Nicklaus, Mark Spitz and Jim Courier, the project’s co-developer add other big name and many experience:  Frank Biden, ex-Director of Legislative Services of the White House and brother to the current Vice-President of the United States, Joe Biden.

Jack Nicklaus and Frank Biden signing the official agreement.

The relevance of this project for Guanacaste, however, goes way beyond its size, the employment it will generate or the famous names involved.


The concept developed by Biden and his partner Craig Williamson is very unique:  They have made a commitment to developing all elements in the most sustainable manner possible. According to this, each building will incorporate bioclimatic solutions, low impact construction systems, use of local raw materials, water treatment and energy efficiency systems, and the entire project will have underground wiring, renewable energy generation systems, biological corridors and an internal program for the recycling of waste.


The plan is ambitious in every way.  If the Guanacaste Country Club is developed exactly as planned, it will provide a lesson on business creativity and environmental responsibility that will no doubt set a precedent for future developments in the region.


This will be the first project of such magnitude totally guided by the LEED Standards and supervised by the World Green Building Council, the entity that certifies environmentally friendly construction and developments on a global level.

On the other hand, Nicklaus promises a daring golf course, with an innovative and challenging design, as one of his goals for the future is to bring tournaments and official PGA tour competitions to this area.

 More info in




As if these 3 huge enterprises were not enough to point out the revitalization and new opportunities in the region, we’ll take this opportunity to let you know of some other relevant arrivals – such as the confirmation that Westin Hotels will commence operation in May 2011 of the Westin Playa Conchal Resort & Spa in Playa Conchal.

Meanwhile, another large world-class hotel chain has confirmed its entrance into the region: Hyatt Hotels, through its ‘Hyatt Andaz’brand, will build a luxury 150-room boutique hotel in the interior of the Papagayo Peninsula.

The Andaz Papagayo, which will be located next to the fabulous Marina Papagayo, will start operations in 2013.  It will bring a concept that promises to combine luxury and simplicity, following the unmistakable seal of Peninsula Papagayo –a 5-star hotel and residential community including the Marina Papagayo, a few private homes, Four Seasons Hotel and luxurious villas that belong to Steve Case's Exclusive Resorts chain.


As you can see…Guanacaste is back!


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Now we invite you to see this article in the virtual magazine (with better design) and then check other articles and tourist tips included on our issue 31.



Visit our latest issue on virtual paper
…or see previous issues in our virtual kiosk
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Tico Glossary Catalinas island 

Barra Honda Caves

Rincón de la Vieja

Diving in Guanacaste


Marina Papagayo Medical tourism

What does Pura Vida means? 

MAPS Ecology   Culture   

Hotels in Costa Rica Birds

watching guide MarineTurtles 

Playas del Coco NationalParks 

Transportation guide 

Humpback Whales 


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