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.


Costa Rica Insurance Market Opening Up


As readers may remember, one of the provisions of the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) was that the National Insurance Institute’s monopoly in the insurance market (since 1924) had to be broken.

In July 2008, laws were changed to allow this, and in August 2008 the Insurance Superintendency (SUGESE) was formed to oversee the entire industry. Shortly thereafter, SUGESE enacted a series of regulations establishing the conditions whereby new actors in the market can become licensed, as well as the conditions for the operation of the entire insurance industry.

To obtain a license to operate, insurance companies (also brokerages and agencies) must go through a complex process, greatly summarized as follows:

1. An application must be presented to SUGESE, outlining the corporate details and a business plan for the first three years. I have heard of application dossiers of nearly 1,000 pages.

2. If SUGESE finds the dossier clear and complete, it accepts it for study. If not complete, if additional information is required or if some of the conditions are not acceptable to SUGESE, a two-month delay ensues while the information is completed, supplemented or corrected by the applicant.

3. When the application is to the satisfaction of SUGESE, it issues an autorización condicionada (conditional authorization) whereby the applicant is given two months to get his act together and fulfill the promises made to SUGESE: form a corporation, set up the books, arrange for office space and equipment, hire personnel, install computer programs, establish a costly guarantee, etc., etc.

4. When all is in place, SUGESE sends an inspector to so verify. Anything missing or not to the satisfaction of SUGESE means a delay of up to two months. When all is well, SUGESE will issue a licencia de funcionamiento (operating license).

Once the operating license is in hand, one would think that insurance companies could open for business. Not so. There are still some steps missing:

1. All insurance products (types of policies) have to be vetted by SUGESE, which will study the contract conditions, monetary viability, reserves to be established, pricing, etc.

2. The sales force must be licensed. If an insurance company is going to sell through in-house agents, each must be individually licensed by SUGESE, which will require an entire dossier outlining and proving relevant studies and/or work experience. If sales are going to be focused through brokerages, these must be licensed by SUGESE, as must each broker working within a brokerage.

As my readers can imagine, this all takes time. What is the current situation?

Insurance Companies

–The National Insurance Institute, or INS, the “ex-monopoly,” is smartening up. Products have been improved, and premiums have been reduced in the lines where there is incipient competition. They have a full line of approved products, which they sell through several hundred agents and about 80 agencies (TT, Aug. 20).

–Mapfre, a world-class Spanish insurer, was licensed to sell auto insurance as of June. Sales are through about 50 in-house agents, but Mapfre will also operate through brokerages.

–Alico Costa Rica, a subsidiary of a company owned by American International Group and in the process of being acquired by MetLife, has had some group life and medical products approved, which it will offer through brokerages. The company expects to have individual products ready by January 2011.

–Pan-American Life Insurance Company, from the United States, expects to have approval at the end of August to sell group life and medical products. Individual policies will be available in early 2011. Sales will be through brokerages.

–ASSA, the foremost Panamanian company, has received approval for 13 products in dollars and 13 products in colones. These include casualty products such as liability, auto, fire, etc., but not personal insurance. Sales are through brokers.

–Seguros Bolívar, from Colombia, received its conditional authorization on May 13.

–Aseguradora del Istmo of Panama received its conditional authorization on May 12.

–Quálitas of Mexico received its conditional authorization on Aug. 13.


–Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Nacional have established brokerages whose function is to protect and insure the banks’ portfolios.

–Avanto, the first “private” brokerage, came on stream July 7. It has two licensed brokers.

–Confía received its conditional authorization June 29.

–Unity received its conditional authorization July 27.

–Unicen, of which the writer is a partner, expects to come on stream late August with three brokers.

The opinions and viewpoints expressed are those of the writer. Our purpose is to give the reader a better understanding of insurance in Costa Rica. For more information, contact David Garrett at 2233-9520

Ninth Insurance Company Opens in Costa Rica

By Adam Williams
Tico Times Staff |

Good news to all vehicle owners!!

The Quálitas Insurance Company, a Mexico-based auto insurer, has been approved to compete in the Costa Rican insurance market. Quálitas, which insures an estimated 20 percent of Mexico’s drivers, is the ninth company to be approved by the Insurance Superintendency (SUGESE) to operate in Costa Rica. The country’s insurance market was opened to competition when the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the U.S. (CAFTA) came into effect on Jan. 1, 2009. Prior to CAFTA, the National Insurance Institute (INS) had been the country’s sole insurance provider since its creation in 1924.

According to a press release by SUGESE, Quálitas has been approved conditionally. Quálitas has four months to meet additional requisites set by SUGESE before it can sell policies in Costa Rica.

Quálitas, which has provided auto insurance in Mexico since 1994, also sells policies in El Salvador.

Quálitas joins INS, Alico, Mapfre, Seguros del Magisterio, Assa, Pan American Life, Aseguradora del Istmo Adisa, and Seguros Bolivar as an approved insurance provider in Costa Rica.