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Quepos Costa Rica Marina creates huge economic surge

It was no secret that the new marina that recently opened in Quepos would bring increased business to the local community. What was a surprise is how large the impact has been  and that the vast majority of the economic activity has been generated by small stores, restaurants and hotels located in Quepos itself in what has been dubbed the "Quepos Marina District". Many have invested heavily in their businesses and with help from the Chamber of Commerce and the Municipality of Quepos have helped to create was would be described as a renaissance of this sleepy former banana port and sportfishing mecca. Some assert that the concentration of businesses in a small convenient urban-like layout and larger than expected demand for a true angler friendly marina has combined to make the Quepos Marina District a place where tourists, business people and even enviromentalists are celebrating the positive change.

Quepos has long lived in the "shadow" of its neighbor or suburb of Manuel Antonio, home of Costa Rica's most popular national park by the same name and the many high end resorts that dot the seven kilometer road offering breath taking views between Quepos and the park entrance.

Before becoming a popular tourist destination Quepos was blessed with a natural port and was home to the fierce Quepoa Indians. They were formidable foe of the Spanish looking to establish a major port for the exportation of the riches provided by the new world of bananas by the United Fruit Company and Manuel Antonio was home to a handful of ex-patriots including the award winning singer Jim Croce, as well as other famous artists, musicians and friends of the counter culture that found the "hands off" culture in Costa Rica that tolerated the tolerant. A banana blight followed by political backlash against multinational banana companies resulted in the closure of the regions only job generating industry and collapse of the local economy.

In the years that followed most of the young people In Quepos with promise and families with the ability were lured by economic opportunity of the capital, and left for San Jose. Then, in the late 70s early 80s sportfishing pioneers found the flat waters off of Quepos allowed even the smallest of boats the ability to get offshore and experience the incredible amounts of sailfish, marlin and other sought after pelagic species that were drawn by the unique currents found just off the coast of Quepos.

Manuel Antonio National Park was created, surfers "discovered" world class and consistent warm water waves nearby and suddenly, there was a reason for everyone to come to Quepos. Its airport cut the 9 hour drive to 25 minutes in a DC 3. The coastal road was improved, homes and condos were built for the flow of part time and permanent residents and the Costa Rica tourism market exploded. Desperate for the tourism investment enjoyed by Quepos and competition from the international airport in Liberia brought another "bust" in the boom/bust cycle that Quepos had seen ever since the introduction of the banana to this part of the world.

The difference, this time, is that with the marina now located in basically what is an extension of downtown Quepos, the money being brought to Quepos is by a diversified accumulation of a few hundred wealthy yacht owners that are each bringing new "wallets" to Quepos, some of these people will want to stay longer than a weekend, some will come back more than once a year and other may decide to make an even more substantial comitment of time and money in Quepos. Already evidence of the increase is apparent. The popular La Sirena Hotel, a fourteen room boutique hotel just a half block from the marina, has made a substantial investment in their facility, including completely upgrading their $50 a night rooms to the level of the five star resorts found at the top of Manuel Antonio. The rooms now boast impeccable bathrooms, central a/c, flat screen cable, mini bar, free gourmet breakfast served poolside that has already attracted a head of a state and an "A" list Hollywood celebrity looking for comfort and privacy. The difference this time is with the mentailty of the business owners too.

"We are not going to charge what the experts say we could" says hotel manger Ken Carter, "we have done that before and it always ends up with a crash. We are going to charge $75 instead of $175 and keep the place full all year. Spending a fortune on a room is not in style anymore. What is in style is paying what we all can afford to pay. The tastes of the celebrities we get in here prove it"

He is not the only one adapting this approach. Kurt Hocker, owner of Hidden Bay Realty and owner of many properties in the area agrees. "It used to be that people tried to sell at the ridiculous prices because they did not know or have confidence in the "tomorrow" of this market. With the marina that is all out the window. I only make money when I sell something so trying to hit a "home run" means you have to wait a long time, if you price things that are just too cheap to walk away from, I get paid. I guess it comes with going through the market cycles a few times and doing what you can to avoid making the same mistakes of the past."

Prices for the simple things, like groceries and dining out has changed too. In the most popular watering hole, Wacky Wanda, its proprietor, "Wacky" Wanda Szcznesiak, also has built a going concern with Quepos's only air conditioned cantina. With such a feature in the warm coastal climate you could charge almost anything to attract those looking to escape the tropical heat. Instead, an imported call brand cocktail is less that $3 and therefore has a cross section of society enjoying its eclectic atmosphere (the bar has personal good luck messages from Fidel Castro as well as George Bush Jr.)

Not all the positive changes are due to the low prices but also to the investment in infrastructure to downtown. The municipality has built a long needed public parking lot with security and central location. The marina generously paid for the construction of a major bridge into Quepos and the roads in the city center have all been recently paved, creating an atmosphere more like Miami Beach than a third world port town. The national government has replaced all the major roads and bridges approaching Quepos cutting the drive from San Jose to just over 2 hours! The number of flights from San Jose has also increased, to as many as 14 a day in high season.

The Chamber of Commerce has also stepped up to provide assistance and their "Downtown Security Committee" has launched a video surveillance program in response to studies in London, New York and even San Jose that have show that the use of CCTV, or Surveillance Cameras, overseeing the public streets in these cities has cut the number of criminal activity by as much as 80% and also an increase in arrests leading to convictions.

A member of the Chamber remarked, "We saw what has happened in other towns when marinas and other large projects arrive. It can also bring a criminal element with it. The difference this time is Quepos is watching and we will have a program for businesses to add their own cameras to our system and be able to see it online. Its the first Chamber in the country to offer this level security to its members and we invite any business to participate."

Its clear, Quepos is once again the leader in Costa Rica when it comes to tourism trends and hopefully it will continue to be the example for the rest of Costa Rica to provide very competitive pricing, excellent service and quality products for its visitors with the most secure and relaxed enviroment possible. Ready to "discover" something special in Costa Rica? It looks like its Quepos....again.

Author recommendations for visiting Quepos or Costa Rica

Tico Travel (TicoTravel.com) started as a travel agency for surfers this agency is known for its ow prices and excellent information and service. They have an office in Costa Rica and the U.S. and their low cost airfare has made the one of the biggest airfare producers to Costa Rica and Central America.

CentralAmerica.com The first internet only based travel company dedicated to Costa Rica and Central America and is a favorite for those lookig for luxury at the best price. Rumours say Tico Travel is the "brains" behind the operation and is just their high end brand.

Hidden Bay Realty- Real estate can be a tough game but these guys cut through the baloney and have listing that others just are unable or incapable of finding for investors, home owners, property management or those looking for a seasonal/annual rental

Chris Howard=- Considered the "guru" of all things Costa Rica, his books on local Spanish in Costa Rica, the culture and how to make money, live or retire in Costa Rica. He is a "good soul" looking to help novices avoid the traps common for newcomers to fall into when they do not have the right advice or get suggestions from "confidence men" that use their knowledge of local customs and culture to take advantage of those they pretend to assist.


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