San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Caribbean Marina Planned North of Limón

A large luxury development is in the works for Costa Rica s Caribbean coast. The project, called IslaMoín, will be located just north of the port city of Limón and include a 380-slip marina, condominiums, villas, private lots, and a hotel and restaurants.

Pending approval for permits and concessions, the development will be the first of its kind for the country s Caribbean coast, and the only for the time being: Out of 15 marina projects seeking permits from the Inter-Institutional Commission on Marinas and Tourist Docks (CIMAT) and the three under construction at the moment, IslaMoín is the only one on the country s east coast.

The developer, José Soler, said the Caribbean is the natural choice for building a marina.

If you look at it, 84% of the boats are in the Atlantic, he said.

More than just a place to store a boat, Isla- Moín is envisioned as a lifestyle destination for Caribbean boaters who want easy access to their boats in a hurricane-free zone, Soler said.

Boat in the Backyard

The development is slated to take place on a sliver of land with 2.7 kilometers of Caribbean beach on its eastern edge and the MoínRiver at its back. In addition to the regular ocean marina sketched out in the preliminary plans, some residents would have slips off the river, in their backyards.

It s about 35 meters, your backyard, so you ll be able to have a 100-foot boat in your backyard, said Soler, a Costa Rican who has a similar arrangement at his Florida home with his own 41-foot Hatteras yacht.

He said housing options at the site will include condos for between $230,000 and $1.3 million; 3-bedroom beach villas starting at $750,000; and waterfront houses starting at $1.6 million. Boat slips will sell for $150,000 to $1.2 million, depending on the size of the slip.

The later phases of the project will include a luxury hotel and a variety of restaurants.

In all, Soler said the project will cost about $500 million.

The advantages of developing a marina in the Caribbean, Soler said, are multiple.

Low Caribbean tides make the house/boat slip combination possible, as opposed to the 12-foot tides on the Pacific side of the country that would flood a house, Soler said.

Also, a large portion of the recreational boaters in the world are located in the Caribbean, where, during hurricane season, insurance costs go through the roof and the storms close down boating for months.

Florida alone is the state with the most boats in the world. Florida gets hit by hurricanes…All the boats could come down to Costa Rica, Soler said. People have to pay a fortune for the insurance, and they could just head their boats down to Costa Rica.

Soler said IslaMoín is below the 10 degrees North latitude (roughly at the Costa Rica-Nicaragua boarder) above which boat insurance is very costly during hurricane season.

Although hurricanes regularly skirt Costa Rica and cause heavy rains and flooding throughout the country, none have ever touched land here, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Building Schedule

The timeframe for beginning this kind of project depends partly on the various permits and concessions the developers must line up. The marina approval itself has three stages the preliminary inquiry, the detailed project plan, and the construction plan of which IslaMoín has passed through only the first.

Judging from the three marinas that have passed through the entire process and are currently in the construction stage, the whole process typically takes three years, said Oscar Villalobos, the technical secretary of CIMAT.

Most of the time is taken by the developer doing studies and gathering financing for the project, he said, noting that Isla-Moín submitted its preliminary inquiry about six months ago.

Soler, however, is optimistic, noting that the project is preparing to submit the detailed project plan and has already done its environmental-impact study and submitted it to the Nation Technical Secretariat of the Environment Ministry (SETENA), a step that is also necessary to obtain the building permits and concessions from the LimónMunicipality.

Pending the result of that review and the granting of concessions and permits, the timetable for IslaMoín has earthmoving for the project starting before the end of this year and the marina construction starting at the beginning of 2008. Much of the project would then be completed within two years, Soler said.

Marina proposals for the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica have recently met stiff resistance from environmental groups, who claim such projects if excessively large or improperly planned can have lasting negative effects on the environment.

On the OsaPeninsula last month, proposals for a 257-slip marina in Puerto Jiménez, and another 600-slip marina farther south sparked criticism from community leaders and environmentalists, who said the environmental cost isn t worth the potential economic benefits.

But CIMAT s Villalobos assured that any approved marina would strike the delicate balance between the natural world and the need for employment in isolated regions (TT,May 4).

Tourism Potential

The construction of a luxury marina and resort on the Caribbean coast fits with efforts authorities have been making to develop tourism in the area. In January, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) and the Atlantic Port Authority (JAPDEVA) pledged $5.7 million to spruce up Limón and make it friendlier for tourism (TT, Jan. 26).

Last year, both Sansa and Nature Air began making regular flights to Limón (TT, June 23, July 7, 2006) and more than a hundred cruise ships stop on the Caribbean side of the country every year.

Soler said his project, fully developed, would bring about 5,000 direct and indirect jobs to the region.

The infrastructure on the Caribbean side is another reason he chose it for development over another part of the country. The LimónAirport is only 15 minutes from his property and is technically international, while the highway that leads to San José is also close by. Regional resources played a role as well.

The advantage that we have is that in Limón, there s water, he said. In the Central Pacific, they re trucking in water.

In recent years, so much water has not always been a good thing for Limón province. Jorge Rovira, Costa Rican Red Cross chief of operations, said his group does an average of about one evacuation a year in the region south of the city of Limón, which includes Puerto Viejo, Talamanca and Sixaola.

Rarely, however, are there any flood related emergencies north of the city, he said.

We haven t had any intervention there other than very superficial ones, he said, noting that the MoínRiver (also known as the TortugueroCanal) has never presented many problems.

Soler said that s because the canal is right near the ocean, so any potential flood waters from heavy rains drain into the Caribbean instead of pooling in lowlands, which is what happens so often in the area south of the port city.

Soler and his father spent 16 years in Costa Rica during the 70s and 80s developing public works projects, including aqueducts, a section of the

Inter-American Highway

, housing developments and a water main in Limón.

More recently, Soler has been behind the construction of a variety of subdivisions in Florida. This will be his first luxury development in Costa Rica.


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