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177 Investing in Costa Rica's number 1 visit Tourism Destination Manuel Antonio

177 Investing in Costa Rica's number 1 visit Tourism Destination Manuel Antonio
177 Investing in Costa Rica's number 1 visit Tourism Destination Manuel Antonio

Podcast Transcription


[Richard Bexon]
Good afternoon, Sarah. How are you doing?

[Sara Gomez]
Very good, very good. Thank you very much, Richard. How are you?

[Richard Bexon]
Very, very good. Thank you. Happy New Year.

You're the first podcast of 2024.

[Sara Gomez]
Great, great. Very honored to be here with you this afternoon. Thank you very much.

[Richard Bexon]
Not at all, Sarah. It's an absolute honor. I mean, it's, it's, I gave you a bit of an intro before, but I mean, we've known each other kind of for many, many years.

And it's just kind of been great seeing your transition from hotels to tourism to real estate. And I think that you're able to give clients a really unique perspective into Manuel Antonio just because of your knowledge, you know, in the hospitality and real estate industry. So.

[Sara Gomez]
All right. Thank you very much.

[Richard Bexon]
Awesome.

[Sara Gomez]
I'm ready.

[Richard Bexon]
Awesome. Well, Sarah, like, give us an idea. I mean, you know, markets have had a good comeback at the end of 2023.

You know, real estate, real estate seems to have like flatlined or declined a little bit in most areas of the world. But I mean, what are you seeing happening in Manuel Antonio? Like what happened in 2023?

And what do you think is going to happen this year with regards to real estate?

[Sara Gomez]
Yeah, well, Manuel Antonio is not happening in the U.S. basically, which is our majority of our customers here. So sales have dropped a little bit, but not substantially. To be honest, we've seen it.

It's not like crazy, like in 2021 after COVID and all of those things. But we're still selling. We're still selling pretty well.

But what is good here or what this is what makes Manuel Antonio a unique market is we are a boutique market. We are a small place. We have never had, and I don't see that we will have like 50 condos at the same time for sale.

We are always with a small amount of properties, a small amount of lots or luxury homes. When a client, a customer is coming to look for a luxury home, we have three or four options, maybe five, but no more. So due to that, our market is still very stable.

Our price is still very stable. We've seen a little bit of drop on some prices, but not very much. It's still very substantial.

And something else that helps us to have these opportunities when someone decides to sell, they're not in a hurry to sell because you can make the decision. Yeah, I want to sell Manuel Antonio because I want to go somewhere else or I want to buy or I want to change. For whatever reason they've decided to sell, they can keep making money during the time that the property is on market because normally it's rental property.

So you keep making money, you keep renting the place because of the high demand of rental in Manuel Antonio. And with the low cost of insurance, the low cost on property tax and low cost on expenses in general, you can keep making money during the time you have the properties on market. So that's making no like to fire prices or like a fire sale.

So it's kind of what happens during the 2023 and this is more of what we expect for this 2024.

[Richard Bexon]
It's funny when you compare Manuel Antonio's to other areas like Santa Teresa, say, you know, where it's a huge spike and that huge spike at some point is going to come down, you know, it's going to happen. Manuel Antonio has already always been steady. But correct.

Probably number one of the number one tourist destinations in Costa Rica. I know it's the number one park. It's kind of a hill.

It kind of it's like a mountain hilltop. So there's like not tons of space there. So I think what you said there based on demand, like supply, there's not tons of supply, but the demand is high.

And like, there are vacation rentals there that do 80% plus, which is insane.

[Sara Gomez]
Correct. Exactly. Yeah.

There's rental property that basically made a hundred thousand dollars a year. We don't like it. It's pretty, it's pretty incredible.

[Richard Bexon]
Well, it's funny, Sarah, that we've known each other for many, many years, and I'm sure that you brought it up, but you're originally from Colombia. And I didn't realize I always thought you were Tika. It's funny, I didn't pay attention.

But like, how did you get to Manuel Antonio? You know, and what kind of stuff? I'd mentioned a few things that you've done there.

But like, what's your journey been like in Manuel Antonio?

[Sara Gomez]
Well, I moved 22 years ago to Manuel Antonio. I moved directly from my original town to here to Manuel Antonio. I never tried to live in another place or in San Jose or another area because Manuel Antonio is beautiful.

It's unique. It has all the amenities we need and all the diversity of places that you can work or study, you know, all the options you have here. So my first formal job was as a receptionist in a hotel where the clients or customers were 90% from the U.S. and Canada. And I didn't speak a word of English. But I found a person that gave me the opportunity. Hey, Sarah, let's try and see if you can have it.

So I think during these 22 years, I've been finding great people around me that give me opportunities. And I've been just taking advantage of those opportunities and doing the best job I can. And two months after, I was able to communicate because I immediately, I found a school and started learning, started, you know, practicing and all of that.

It was tough. It wasn't easy. I have to cry sometimes, but I made it and I, you know, I was able to do it.

And after that, I was an assistant manager and then I was general manager and I spent 18 years of my life in that place. So then after I moved out of this hotel or the hospitality industry, I keep on tourists, involved with tourists all the time. So I know this area very well.

I know the people and I'm not going to go anywhere. I love this. This is home for me.

[Richard Bexon]
Awesome. Awesome. And now you have basically a canopy company, a canopy zip line company as well, that also has a crocodile farm, is it?

It's not a farm. Yeah. I mean, and a butterfly farm as well, a cafe, which is also amazing.

[Sara Gomez]
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. We have like a total adventure park.

We have different activities there. We have jungle day tours, jungle night tours, the canopy tour. It's very unique place because it is right in the heart of Manuel Antonio.

It's a couple of miles from the entrance of the National Park, right on the main road. So where all the fun and the activity happens in Manuel Antonio. And we are right there.

So people can go have an adventure tour early in the morning, eight o'clock, then have delicious breakfast there if you want, and go to the beach or go to the pool or just have a margarita. So it's very, very well located, the place and good adventure without having to move so much from your place.

[Richard Bexon]
Very smart, because again, I think it's the only canopy tour in Manuel Antonio, like it's right at the top, whereas everyone else has to travel like an hour outside.

[Sara Gomez]
Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Involves like an hour drive there and then another drive or hour drive back. All of that here is we're walking distance from most of the rental properties or hotels in the area.

[Richard Bexon]
Why do you think Manuel Antonio is so popular for tourists, Sarah?

[Sara Gomez]
I know there's one word that I always describe Manuel Antonio is that Manuel Antonio is authentic. Here, when you come to Manuel Antonio, you really feel a tico town. You know, it's very authentic.

It's very unique. You're still feeling what Costa Ricans are, the beauty of that Pura Vida that I love that, you know, that sense that I always said that you can say Pura Vida for everything. And it's true here.

The combination of town, of local people, local food or local places, the easy way that you can sit on a restaurant in the same place with your maid that help you at home during the day or with the owner of one of the most exclusive hotels in Manuel Antonio in the same place. So you can share with everybody that for good or bad, Manuel Antonio is a really tico town or a very authentic, very unique, sometimes challenging things with municipality or things like that. But if you want to come and feel what a Latin country is, what Costa Rica beauty is, you should come to Manuel Antonio, because if you go somewhere else, some other places, yeah, you're in Costa Rica, but sometimes you don't see a tico around you for days.

Yeah. So that's what for me is like authentic. That's what describes very well to this town.

[Richard Bexon]
Well, and also the national park there. I mean, just the wildlife in it from sloths to snakes to monkeys. I mean, monkeys are everywhere, the cows too.

I mean, just everywhere there.

[Sara Gomez]
Yeah. That combination of wildlife, the beautiful beaches, the temperature of the water is all year around. Even when it's in October with rains and rains for days, the water is still warm.

And then you can do an adventure tour or go like rafting, kayaking, zip lining, whatever during the morning. And then you go find dining and delicious luxury place or, you know, go to rental property with a very luxury with all the needs or whatever you feel like comfortable. It's kind of the combination of that.

Or you can just, you know, jump in your pool very quietly and then have your sloth coming by or the red macaws fly by. So that's something that is just here. Sometimes I sit out on my porch just to have breakfast and monkeys, iguanas, agoutis, lapas, you know, toucans all at the same time jumping around.

So it's amazing. And for a person that comes with a heavy traffic or, you know, all that stress from work and then can see that, it's spectacular. For me, even 22 years here, I feel still impressed when I see those things.

[Richard Bexon]
I always love going to Manuel Antonio. Me and my family go two or three times a year. And I think anyone that first comes to Costa Rica, I'm always like, you got to go to Manuel Antonio.

[Sara Gomez]
Yeah. Yeah. It's not like one time coming.

Yeah. You at least wish to come back again.

[Richard Bexon]
What are the typical investments? And again, I know that this is weird, typical, but what are the investments that you think people are making? Like, what's been the majority of stuff or the stuff that people are looking to invest in in Manuel Antonio that contact you?

[Sara Gomez]
Yeah, without a doubt, rental properties. Yeah. Everything rents in Manuel Antonio.

Everything from thousands of dollars a night luxury home to $80 a night, small room hotel or a small condominium in downtown or something. But everything rents here. You know, the high demand of rental.

It's great. Everybody's looking to come and spend night and for every budget. So even it's a small place, it's very exclusive.

Very boutique. We don't have those huge 100, 200 rooms, places. But every place that you have, I personally have some Airbnbs.

I always rented. And easy. Also, there is very easy to find qualified people here to help you to work.

So even if you buy a property and you're not here, you have very qualified, you know, places or people to manage everything and do everything from you, even if you are outside. So you buy a rental property here. You have a place to come and spend time one or two times a year and then make the money the rest of the year.

That's kind of the biggest, the biggest amount.

[Richard Bexon]
What do you think is missing, Sarah, from Manuel Antonio? I mean, for anyone that's like is like, Sarah, I got a chunk of money. I want to do something in Manuel Antonio.

What would you suggest that they do? I mean, what do you think is missing?

[Sara Gomez]
We need that to be make Manuel Antonio a little bit bigger.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah.

[Sara Gomez]
We don't have a lot. We don't have a lot of options due to the thing. You know what?

It's a small, you know, the ends of the national park. We are basically like in a mountain. And so there is a lot of places that is impossible to build and all of that.

But that's but again, that's what makes Manuel Antonio unique. Being a boutique, not a lot of areas to build those huge condominiums or all those all inclusive big hotels.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. But I mean, is there not something that the area is missing? Like in some areas, you know, I mean, like food truck parks and other like container homes.

I mean, is there an opportunity that you see in Manuel Antonio that you think is not being taken advantage of from an investment point of view?

[Sara Gomez]
Well, there is a lot of areas here that are with not ocean view and people is not taking advantage of those, because for me, Manuel Antonio have a spectacular jungle views. And there are some areas to build like jungle view, luxury properties or luxury homes. Everybody is looking for the ocean views and which is I know it's beautiful and they're great.

And the value of those properties are really high. But I think people is dismissing the concept of what the jungle view is because it's not just looking at tree. When you see those views, all those trees changing colors, all are different times during the year or those birds that nest on those trees or all the wildlife that comes by.

For me, even is I think is better, even better view because the ocean is always the ocean. It's always blue. It doesn't change.

But with the jungle views, you see something different every day. Every single day you see a different view. So sitting on a porch or sitting on your terrace, having coffee or a glass of wine with those shows every day at any time.

So in people is always concentrating on looking ocean views, ocean view. I want an ocean view. And that's when I get requests from looking for appropriate most of everybody wants to view the water.

And if you choose those jungle views, you anyway are 10, 15 minutes away from the ocean. So you can go and see it every day. Yeah, probably that would be taking advantage of those because there are still areas and land in Mammal Antonio with with those characteristics.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. And affordable as well.

[Sara Gomez]
Exactly. Absolutely.

[Richard Bexon]
Some of the highest rental occupancy properties in Mammal Antonio actually do not have ocean view. Like it's incredible. When we looked at the data, it was incredible because, as you know, Sarah, we invested in you helped me invest into land in Mammal Antonio.

So yeah. And non-ocean view.

[Sara Gomez]
Exactly. Exactly. And I'm pretty sure that it's going to be an amazing project in there that will give value to the area, give value to the neighbors and will give value to you and your investors.

[Richard Bexon]
Definitely. Definitely. Well, I mean, you've managed one of the area's most prominent hotels.

I mean, I remember when the fall started and I was like, God, how is this place going to do well and make money? But like you guys did an amazing job. I mean, it was rated one of the top hotels in Mammal Antonio, if not in the region.

My question to you, though, is that a good business to invest into and why?

[Sara Gomez]
Absolutely it is. And one of the reasons is it's not many hotels for sale.

[Richard Bexon]
Right.

[Sara Gomez]
Someone buys a hotel and they want to keep it because it's making money. And again, it's easy to find qualified people. It's enough people in town to give, you know, good jobs for from, I don't know, gardeners, maintenance people, maids, cooks and also, you know, all the management team.

So that and the high demand of places or the tourists being so stable in this area, people coming and coming and coming and back, coming back again. It's what it makes it very profitable. Yeah.

In Costa Rica, we have a group of investors from the U.S. that are looking for hotels in Mammal Antonio for big hotels or high end hotels. There is none. And there's very few times that you can find a hotel on the market.

[Richard Bexon]
How easy is it to sell a hotel in Mammal Antonio? Because that's the thing, you know, it's always like, again, I've sold a hotel before. It wasn't difficult, but it wasn't easy either.

And sometimes, you know, hotels, depending on location, can be very difficult. But in your experience, I mean, do they sit on the market a long time or do they sell pretty quickly?

[Sara Gomez]
Well, no, it's not an easy sale. It's not it's not as an easy as sale a home or a piece of land. It's a little bit challenging.

Exactly. So you have to prove that because it can be beautiful, but you need to prove that it's making money, that is a profitable business. So involves a lot of more due diligence and involves a lot of more details and involve more people around the deal to than just a single family home.

But yeah, it's it's it's possible it's able to sell. But yeah, like I said, it's not it's not like something that is going to be one to the other day.

[Richard Bexon]
Sure, sure.

[Sara Gomez]
Yeah. Yeah. The location.

What important the most is the location and the numbers, of course.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, again, I've always said Mammal Antonio needs a renaissance, but it needs some of those older hotels need to be bought and done up because Mammal Antonio's occupancy rates are some of the highest in the country, but its average daily rates are not the highest compared to other areas.

You know what I mean? We've got Nyada looking like it's about to kind of finally break ground, you know, which is going to bring up the area, you know, incredibly. I mean, we're working on a project with the Reynos del Mar, you know, which, again, all this is just going to increase the average daily rate.

But what it needs is other people to come in, as you said, they're like as investors buy one of the older hotels there and basically go in and renovate it and kind of bring it up a little bit.

[Sara Gomez]
Yeah. Yeah. But that's when the numbers has to make sense for them as well, because then they you have to buy the place and then come and invest a lot of more money.

Yep. Bring it because, yeah, there is tons of old places here. And in terms of like the hotel I work for, they have to put a lot of money to make it better and, you know, remodeling and, you know, put in like more like on these these days, not very old places.

Yeah.

[Richard Bexon]
I mean, the capital expenditure in a hotel just in general is high, but in Mammal Antonio, just because the climate is as well, you know, because when you're in the rainforest, so like it's constantly being attacked Fortunately, people are willing to pay for that experience.

[Sara Gomez]
Exactly. Yeah.

[Richard Bexon]
You know, so I mean, what exciting things do you well are happening in Mammal Antonio in 2024, Sarah?

[Sara Gomez]
Well, I think one of the biggest or the two in particular, one is the expansion of the marina. Marina Plisvela is going to break ground this 2024. So 2024 and 2025 are going to be great expansion of the marina.

We'll be having news for use very soon. But yeah, new commercial plaza, new condominiums, new sleep. And the marina is calling the attention to a lot of people.

So people that will bring money to town and before it used to be the biggest prices or the values to the are around the park and around the National Park and around the beaches area. So Mammal Antonio, top of the hill. But right now, properties around the marina are getting increasing their value because of the marina, because before you have to come all the way to Mammal Antonio to have fine dining or to look for those nice services.

But now you have them at the marina. You know, shops have fine restaurants, a taco place and choose a place just to go and have an ice cream. So people is now getting a lot of value of those properties around the marina.

And now it's going to be bigger and it's going to be more, more, more investments. And also we'll get more people, people's places to go to find a good job. So the marina expansion is one.

The other one is government is finally given, I think, the attention that the National Park needs. It's putting the attention a little bit more there with infrastructure, with bathrooms, showers, things not only inside the park, around in the public beach, around close to the park. So we just have built here like all those services that we've been asking for it for years and years.

And finally we have those places. So like government, so, you know, the most visited park on the country finally is getting attention. So it's going to be even better just for the park and for all the areas around.

But I think that Manuel Antonio, the biggest thing is Manuel Antonio will be keeping as Manuel Antonio will be staying as that boutique place will be being authentic, will be that place that people wants to come because wants to enjoy the beauty, the jungle, the beaches, the amenities that you can find. Basically everything here, you know, you don't need to go. I go to San Jose very once in a while, only when I want to go a movie or want to go shopping.

But that's it, because everything you find it here. You find good health care services, you have shops, you have everything. So that's what being the boss of Manuel Antonio will be for more years being Manuel Antonio and being that authentic place that everyone wants to come back again.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, I mean, families love it. You know, I mean, honeymooners, I mean, everyone loves it because it's just, you know, it's probably the closest place to San Jose. Well, in the in that from the north all the way down, really, that has that jungle and beaches and great restaurants, et cetera, you know, I mean, because Hakko doesn't really have it.

And then everything north is a lot drier and flatter. Whereas, you know, Manuel Antonio has that kind of it's that mix between. Like comfort, but also the authenticity of Costa Rica with the jungle and the wildlife and the beaches and all the tours and activities.

So, yeah, I mean, I only see a great future for Manuel Antonio. I mean, that's why I personally invested in that. So I'm excited to be part of it.

But my last question for you, Sarah, if you inherited five hundred thousand dollars, this question I ask everyone, if you inherited five hundred thousand dollars and had to invest it into a business or real estate in Costa Rica, what would you invest it in and why?

[Sara Gomez]
Rental property.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah.

[Sara Gomez]
I will buy a house or whatever to rent.

[Richard Bexon]
Whereabouts?

[Sara Gomez]
Because like I said, everything rents here in Manuel Antonio. So I will be having a rental property here is an easy, easy job, easy thing to do, very profitable. You will be renting that place.

Like I said, I have a couple already, so I will invest more in that. It's basically one of the most easiest and profitable business here in Manuel Antonio.

[Richard Bexon]
Awesome. I mean, for five hundred thousand dollars, though, what do you get in Manuel? What do you get in Manuel Antonio?

[Sara Gomez]
Now, you can have you can get like a decent house, probably no ocean view, but you can get a house and you can put an Airbnb in two or three bedrooms pool. Yeah. Three bedrooms with a swimming pool.

Yes. If there is also a couple places that you can buy a condo in Capos for two hundred, two hundred and fifty thousand, you can get two if you want with a shared common swimming pool or something like that. And you can rent for like two hundred dollars a night.

Easy, very low cost on expenses or management or whatever. And actually you can manage yourself if you want and you don't want to give up those 20 percent for management. So yeah, that will be it's a very, very, very good business to do.

[Richard Bexon]
Awesome. Well, Sarah, I really appreciate you taking the time to come on the podcast, as I said. I mean, it's it's you're a Manuel Antonio expert.

I love people that have come from hospitality and now are in real estate and have their own businesses and are entrepreneurs and kind of just giving their viewpoint. So thank you very much for taking the time to come on here and chat with us.

[Sara Gomez]
Thank you for having me. I was very honored to be in this your first podcast of 2024. Thank you very much and hope to see you soon.

[Richard Bexon]
See you later, Sarah.

[Sara Gomez]
Thank you. Bye.

Let's Get in Touch!

We chat with Sara Gomez, a 25-year resident of Manuel Antonio who for 18 years ran one of the area's top hotels, has her own Adventure Tour Company and helps people invest in Manuel Antonio. Sara explained to us what the market is currently doing in this area, why the area has such high occupancy and where she would invest her $$ in Manuel Antonio.

Contact us: info@investingcostarica.com

https://meetings.hubspot.com/jake806/crconsult

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