Thoughts on New International Airport in Costa Rica

Written by Nick Halverson / February 2017

My first trip to Costa Rica was in March 2005. During that initial trip, the local real estate agent told me about the “New international airport that will be built soon.” Here we are twelve years later and still not another international airport.

In my agent’s defense, there had been government publicity, an article in The Tico Times, with a map, about the airport and he was simply repeating what he had read. Again, in 2007, then-Costa Rica President Oscar Arias held a public relations event whereby he signed a decree to move forward with an international airport in Osa.

In the past 18 months there has been a lot of talk about a new international airport to be built in Orotina. From contacts I have, as

Orotina airport costa rica

Proposed design for airport in Orotina

recently as six months, after the formal announcement had been made, no wind studies or environmental studies had been conducted. I find it hard to believe that the Orotina airport is as much of a ‘slam-dunk’ as is being reported. The latest news is that we will all know more by the end of 2017.

Is the airport going to be built in Osa? I would guess no.

As much as I would love to have an international airport 30 minutes away from our development (believe me, prices would go up quickly!), based on what happened the past 10 years from Oscar Arias announcing it, to now = very little of anything has happened. Osa currently doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to handle a project that large. I could argue it is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. The large hotel chains haven’t built here yet because there isn’t a reason to without an international airport. The feasibility studies would show that the region isn’t equipped to handle an international airport since there aren’t any large hotels in the area. It’s a circular argument.

In addition, after the signing of the document by Arias, the people of Costa Rica voted on Costa Rica’s participation in CAFTA

Oscar Arias airport palmar norte

In 2008, then President Oscar Arias, signed documents in Palmar Norte announcing the new airport. It was never built.

(Central America Free Trade Agreement) or TLC as it was known in Costa Rica. The Osa region voted against the measure, and it has been speculated that in retaliation for not supporting him, President Arias pulled the project out of Osa. By contrast, Limon on the Caribbean side, voted “Si” (yes) for the TLC, and soon after the vote, the Limon Port expansion was announced (Limon Moin Container project).

Regardless of the real reason why the airport was never started in Osa is still up for debate today. I have spoken with Osa Mayor several times, and he is continuing to try and push the project forward. However, he understands the difficulty of getting the politicians in San Jose, four hours away, to listen.

Another option that has quickly, and quietly, been worked on is to build a new airport in the San Isidro de el General, Perez Zeledon. Although not technically in Osa, it would be a great advantage for owners in Las Villas de San Buenas. The reason why this would be great for Las Villas de San Buenas is that currently San Isidro is only 75 minutes away. I have it confirmed by several sources, that the Osa municipality and the municipality of San Isidro are in late planning stages for improving and paving the road from the southern area of San Isidro that leads into Uvita. When this road project is completed, the trip to San Isidro will be cut down to approximately 45 minutes.

Aeropuerto PZSan Isidro (Aeropuerto PZ) has numerous advantages over Osa for the airport. Several include:

  • Large population base (~150,000 people) that may use the airport for outbound flights.
  • With the large population base, there are dozens of hotels already available.
  • A very entrepreneurial region of Costa Rica. There are 1,000s of business owners in the region who support commerce and trade.
  • By building the airport in San Isidro, the Osa region would still benefit due to the Pan American Highway that is already in place connected Palmar Norte to San Isidro (by way of Buenos Aires).
  • Plenty of flat land is available.
  • The project is not just an airport. The local government is planning on a multi-faceted development plan, including tax incentives for business to move there and other project tied to the airport.

Here’s a video that shows the concepts:


Regardless of which location is chosen, it will be a benefit to us here in the Osa region. I can’t guarantee when or where exactly, although I would estimate that the timelines are at least five years away. The one thing I can guarantee, is depending on where the location is chosen, land prices will go up quickly or VERY quickly.

 

2012 New International Airport in Southern Osa Costa Rica

Costa Rica, Real Estate, News, Travel: 2012 New International Airport in Southern Osa Costa Rica.

2012 New International Airport in Southern Osa Costa Rica

 

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the new international airport in the southern zone of Costa Rica.  This has been going on since I first visited in March 2005 when the broker we used to purchase what is now Osa Mountain Village alluded to a new airport. It is one of the most talked about issues when dealing with prospective real estate clients. As a rule, I don’t bring up the airport unless a client specifically asks about it. I believe that the Osa region is absolutely gorgeous and amazing the way it currently is (beaches, wildlife, ziplines, etc) – any purchasing or not because of an airport doesn’t understand what Osa is about. Having said that, if the new airport is approved, and when the “Golden Shovel” ceremony takes place to break ground, I would guess prices for land will go up at least 20% overnight. This will be a real ‘game-changer’ in terms of development in Osa.

Here’s an update from Costa Rica’s business newspaper, El Financiero, translation by Google. It states that ICAO (Government Aviation Agency) will be accepting bids on a final environmental impact study in April 2012 for the $60 million project. The studies are to be completed by the end of this year. Once that is completed it will be a “Go or no-go” decision. The great news is that all of us will know within nine months what will happen in regards to the airport.

The runway being proposed in Southern
Costa Rica will be able to accommodate
an Airbus 320 with approximately
150 passengers.

The runway will be large enough to land an Airbus A320 which can fly between 1,700-6,500 nautical miles, depending on the model and carry approximately 150 passengers. With that range, most cities from North America (Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles) will be able to fly direct to the new proposed airport. This will be a great benefit for those traveling to Osa. Currently travelers must usually take a day on the front end of a trip and a day on the back end of a trip to ensure they are in San Jose on time (3.5 hour drive from Palmar Sur).

I wanted to share with everyone what I’ve heard over the years so you can understand my opinion.  Below is a brief, and probably not entire recap, of the rumors and information I’ve heard/gathered through the years:

President Arias signing airport
declaration in 2008 in Palmar Norte

 

  • March 2006: Tico Times article announcing the airport
  • In mid-2008, then-President Oscar Arias announced in a ceremony in Palmar Norte that the airport was moving forward.
  • After the October 2008 TLC/CAFTA vote took place, and it showed that Osa as whole voted against TLC, it is rumored President Arias (who was in favor the measure that passed) withheld his support of the airport and instead shifted his focus to helping those who helped him get TLC passed. Therefore, he worked to help secure the financing and permits for the Limon port expansion.
  • July 2009, Panamanian President Martinelli and Costa Rica President Oscar write a press release stating the airport project is back on. Read here
  • In early 2010, President Arias scrambles to complete major infrastructure projects so he can get credit for them (which was great because projects did indeed get done, including the Costanera Highway paving project. Here’s a video of that soon after it was completed near Dominical)
  • 2010: Peninsula Sur newspaper writes an article about the airport
  • August 2010: New Palmar Sur terminal opens 
  • 2010: Rumors begin spreading that the existing Palmar Sur location will be used and the runway lengthened to accommodate larger planes.
  • In November 2010, Tropical Storm Tomas (see photo) hits Costa Rica causing over $150 million worth of damage in Osa. Funds that were reportedly set aside for infrastructure improvements for the airport are now used to fix the Pan-American and Costanera Highway.

A new airport will obviously bring many changes – some good – some not. The government is keenly aware of the pitfalls of what happened in Guanacaste and, previously, in the Jaco region of development (over development, unenforced laws, etc), and will be working closely to ensure the environment is impacted as minimally as possible.

As with most major infrastructure projects, this project has taken time – more than originally thought – however, I do believe we will see the airport project approved and ground to be broken in the next couple of years. Let’s all see what happens. I’ll keep you updated as I hear anything.

Pura vida!
Nick Halverson
Owner/developer of Las Villas de San Buenas

https://twitter.com/#!/costaricanick

Costa Rica Launches Aerospace Program

By Adam Williams
Tico Times Staff | awilliams@ticotimes.net
http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_07/072710.htm#story4
What the city of Houston, Texas is to space travel in the United States, the city of Liberia may soon be to Costa Rica.

On Sunday, President Laura Chinchilla announced that Liberia, located in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, will be the location for an initiative entitled “National Aerospace Development and Integration for the Central American Region in the Generation of New Technologies.” The presentation also included the unveiling of the Central American Aerospace Industry Chamber (CACIA), which will consist of numerous aerospace experts and companies in Central America. Chinchilla had mentioned further development of the national aerospace program as one of her priorities since her inauguration in May.

Liberia was selected as the site for the program’s launch because of its proximity to the headquarters of the Ad Astra Rocket Company, which was formed in 2005 by Costa Rican astronaut and rocket scientist Franklin Chang. Chang, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), spent many years working as a scientist and astronaut with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Ad Astra is based in Houston, Texas.

The Costa Rican branch of the company, located 10 kilometers west of Liberia on the campus of EARTH University, focuses its research on the creation of the plasma rocket, known as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR). Ad Astra in Costa Rica hopes to test one of their first plasma rockets in space by 2014.

“We want recognition for Costa Rica, so the country can enter this special industry,” Chinchilla said in May. “We hope that Costa Rica will be the first Latin American country (to enter the space industry).” (TT, May 14)

Of the various experts in attendance, several spoke on their ideas for the development of Central American aerospace, their plans to finance the projects, and explanations of how they will advance the use of plasma energy. According to Costa Rica’s foreign minister, René Castro, over 80 Central American companies have expressed interest in participating in the development of CACIA and the aerospace program.