The opening of the DanielOduberInternationalAirport in Liberia 12 years ago marked the beginning of a new era for Liberia, capital of the northwestern province of Guanacaste. The airport quickly turned Liberia into a hub of transportation and, a dozen years later, it’s more than just a hub; it’s become a center of development.
Residents of Liberia, once the heart of a predominantly agricultural and livestock industry, are now more likely to be working at one of the capital’s new shopping centers, hotels or even a rocket lab than raising cattle.
As the region continues to see breakneck tourism growth and investment along its fringes in many beach towns, it’s easy to overlook Liberia, the heart of Guanacaste culture and tradition.
Though the spirit of the Guanacaste sabanero, or cowboy, still lives on here in local casonas, bullfights and fairs, this place is changing. Fast.
Shopping centers, new hotels, multimillion- dollar developments and hi-tech labs are popping up around the provincial capital with an international airport just a half-hour bus ride from the beach.
Perhaps the largest project in the works is the $150 million Solarium development, a seven-phase project that will include a residential complex, commercial centers, free zone businesses, a hotel, industrial warehouses, a hospital, a movie theater and a selection of restaurants, according to a Foreign Exchange Ministry statement.
The 104-hectare development across from the airport will be surrounded by 75,000 square meters of forests and green spaces.
Still under way, the project’s warehouses are mostly being sold to national businesses in construction, finishing and decoration.
That project will include an upscale Hilton Garden Inn, one of many new hotels popping up around Liberia to satisfy the high demand coming from travelers using the international airport.
“The idea is to give travelers a place they want to come so they have a reason to stay,” said Mariana Estrada, owner of Liberia’s new El Punto Hotel. The 28-year-old Tica is one of many local and foreign entrepreneurs investing in Liberia.
Just next door to her hotel, which is conveniently located on the
near the airport, is the new Plaza Santa Rosa.
Designed to look like a traditional Guanacaste casona, the plaza is an open-air mall with plenty of parking – more than 200 spots.
The 20,000-square-meter plaza, which came with a $10 million investment, has 50 shops, including everything from five different bank branches to video and surf shops to fine Italian dining.
Stepping into the plaza is like stepping into the developed world. It’s the second commercial center to go up in Liberia, after Plaza Liberia went up a couple of years ago, and it’s one of many new developments in Liberia that suggest the place is changing, according to Estrada.
Traveling toward the airport from Plaza Santa Rosa, one passes by the EARTHUniversityLiberia campus, where an exciting new rocket lab has been set up by Tico astronaut Franklin Chang.
“This is a place with a tremendous influx of money,” said Chang, who hopes his lab will set a precedent for more hi-tech development and investment in Liberia. His lab is developing an engine that could one day take man to Mars in just over a month, and employs a crew of almost all Costa Ricans.
Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz said in a statement that the region’s diversifying exports – such as ethyl alcohol, textiles, cotton, fish, exotic woods, pineapple and melons – are a hopeful sign that the region’s economy will continue to grow.