22 vacation home features you cannot do without

You’re done sleeping around, and you’re ready to commit. You’re going to buy a vacation home in Costa Rica.

Your biggest decision will be location, and Costa Rica offers a wide variety of choices, from the beaches to the mountains to the valleys. You’ll be weighing a lot of variables, including climate, your tolerance for bugs and how close you want to be to other people.

So what vacation home features are important to you? Vacations are all about having fun, and you’re going to want the perfect venue for both recreation and relaxation.

Ivo Banner American-European

I suggest making a wish list of all the things that are most important to you. Here are some things you might want on your list:

1. Activities

You don’t want to get bored when on vacation. Costa Rica offers all kinds of outdoor activities, including ziplining, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, kayaking, birdwatching, fishing and many others. Which ones are important to you, and are they available in the area you want to buy?

2. Beach front

Do you want to be right on the beach or close enough so you can walk? In Costa Rica, beachfront property is usually not titled, but you can still buy a beach property located in the maritime zone. Just make sure you hire a good attorney who specializes in maritime zoning.

If this is your favorite thing to do, you may need a beachfront home.

If this is your favorite thing to do, you may need a beachfront home. (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

3. Beach view

Can you get close enough to the ocean for a beach view? In some parts of Costa Rica it is possible to purchase titled property that has a beach view. Not sure about the title? Again you should find a good lawyer who specializes in beach property.

Want a home with a view of the beach?

Want a home with a view of the beach? (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

4. Ocean view

An ocean view can be awesome during the day. Some buyers do not realize that the ocean becomes a black hole at night, unless you have a view of a marina or a peninsula. Many mountain ranges in the coastal areas offer more than just ocean views.

5. Nature view

The ability to see monkeys, sloths, birds and other wildlife is one of the biggest attractions in Costa Rica, and if you land in the right spot you can see them from your house. For some people, being surrounded by nature is just as attractive as a view of the ocean. If you search hard enough, you can find a home that offers both.

You may want a home where you're surrounded by Costa Rica's natural beauty.

You may want a home where you’re surrounded by Costa Rica’s natural beauty. (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

6. National parks

If you are a nature fan, Costa Rica is the place to be. There are currently 26 national parks, and Costa Rica’s protected areas encompass more than 25% of the country’s landmass. You may want a home that is close to one of these.

7. Butterflies and birdwatching

Costa Rica is a birdwatcher’s paradise, and the butterflies are stunning. Different species live in different areas, and they’re drawn to protected areas. If you love birds, find out what kinds you can see in the area where you’re looking to buy.

8. Fishing

Some people love marlin fishing, others enjoy flyfishing. Are there fishing charters in the area you’ve set your eyes on, and are they affordable? Can you park your own boat nearby? Are there rivers or lakes where you can get your bait wet?

9. Air conditioning

Some people cannot live without air conditioning, which in Costa Rica is not one of the most common vacation home amenities. Many vacation homes have ceiling fans and shutter windows. Check before you purchase.

10. Gym

Some people like to party, and some like to do as little as possible when on vacation. Maybe you like to stay in shape? If you’re looking at condominiums, do they have their own fitness rooms, or is there a gym in the immediate area?

11. Golf

Do you have a great handicap and want to keep it that way? Do you enjoy playing golf when the weather is good? I have great news for you: The weather in Costa Rica is good most of the time. Golf is one of those activities that obliges you to stay in certain areas. There are some great golf courses in Costa Rica, but they are few.

You may want a home near a golf course.

You may want a home near a golf course. (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

12. Parking

Many condominiums have a parking problem, especially when it comes to guests. Before you purchase, check on the parking that belongs to the condo you want to purchase. Also, will you buy an ATV and is there a safe parking spot for it when you’re away?

13. Swimming pool

A swimming pool is one feature that will be near the top of the list for most. Some love to dip in the pool when it gets too hot, others like to sit under an umbrella with a good book and a piña colada. Do you just want a little plunge pool, or would you like a lap pool where you can get some exercise? Maybe an infinity pool would give you that wow vacation you’re looking for?

Don't forget the pool!

Don’t forget the pool! (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

14. Jacuzzi

Maybe you don’t even know how to swim but you enjoy the massaging effect that you get in a Jacuzzi. Maybe the production of calming endorphins and the increased circulation to alleviate tension does it for you? If you love a good Jacuzzi, put it on your list.

15. Pet policies

If you plan to bring your pet(s) on vacation, you need to check the bylaws before you buy a condo. If you’re not in a condominium or a master planned gated community, you don’t have to worry. If you fly in for your vacations, you need to check the airline’s pet restrictions.

16. Playground

It’s important to you that the kids (or grandkids) also have a good time. Is there a playground or some kind of space for children to play?

Got playground? Don't forget about the kids.

Got playground? Don’t forget about the kids. (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

17. Restaurants & bars

You probably want to do your own cooking, but not always. When you’re on vacation, it’s a treat to go out for dinner, whether it’s for pizza and beer or a good lobster accompanied by a quality wine. Is your favorite food available near your vacation home?

18. Scuba diving & snorkeling

There are some parts of Costa Rica with excellent scuba diving and snorkeling, but in some coastal areas it’s lousy. If either of these is important to you, find out what’s available in the area.

19. Security

Since you won’t be in your vacation home most of the time, security is an important issue. Find out what measures are taken to ensure the security of your property while you are away, and whether it’s safe to just lock up and leave. You’ll also want to know how the security functions if you are renting your unit to a third party.

20. Shopping

Gotta have new shoes? If good shopping is important to you, you might find the choices lacking in coastal areas, and you may be better off in the Central Valley.

21. Tennis courts

Early mornings and late afternoons are a good time for a tennis match; otherwise it may be too hot to play. Tennis courts are not a very common amenity, so shop around.

If you're a tennis enthusiast, be on the lookout for some courts.

If you’re a tennis enthusiast, be on the lookout for some courts. (Ivo Henfling/The Tico Times)

22. Wi-Fi and cable TV

When it comes to cable TV and a good internet connection, you may have to do some homework. Cable companies in Costa Rica cover quite a bit of territory but they don’t cover it all. If you’re told the house has Wi-Fi, check it out for yourself.

Ivo Henfling founded the American-European Real Estate Group, the first functioning MLS in Costa Rica with affiliate agents from coast to coast, which has been in operation since 1999. Read his blog at or contact Ivo at (506) 2289-5125 / 8834-4515 or at


    Thomas Patrick Rosenberger | January 12, 2017

  1. Wow…Thanks for helping everyone to understand the various considerations for making the right choice when settling down into a vacation property. With all these variables, many of them geographic, it is wise to utilize the services of a real estate professional who knows this country and understands the culture.

  2. Marlene Paul | January 12, 2017

  3. Excellent Review, especially the part about pets. Traveling in and out of Costa Rica requires Veterinary papers on both ends,traveling on airplanes, unless you have a mini pet, can be a problem as well

  4. Ivo Henfling | January 12, 2017

  5. Thanks for your comments Thomas and Marlene, I’m glad you enjoyed the article

  6. J. Neff | January 18, 2017

  7. I’m suprised construction material / maintenance costs were not included especially in very damp / humid locations. As a property owner since 1991 and being in the industry in the States and Panama, I have seen firsthand what moisture and dampness can do to and concrete wall systems and CMU’s in the tropics…

  8. Brian Schaller | January 18, 2017

  9. We all have unique considerations. Make sure you make a list of yours! As well, whether with a lawyer, realtor, or trusted friend (better yet, a combo), make sure ALL questions are addressed. Those that get get paid may not always have your best interests in mind.

  10. Ivo Henfling | January 18, 2017

  11. Thanks Brian. Yes J. Neff, those 22 features are just a guideline. I didn’t get into building materials and finishes as the list would go on and on. If i’d write an article with the 122 features, nobody would have the time to read it all. But thanks for your comment. I’m NOT sure what would be the perfect building materials would be in a damp area like Jaco for example. Due to earthquake code, ALL our construction is CMU filled with steel rebar and concrete. Maybe you have some good suggestions?

  12. J. Neff | January 19, 2017

  13. Concrete is the best for construction in Costa Rica as long as it is “conditioned” or sealed with a water based penetrating reactive sealer belonging to the siliconate class… This class of sealers can be applied on damp concrete surfaces, are coat able (think primer and yes they can be applied over existing flat paints!) , are unaffected by UV, acids or sulfur gases and reduce / prevent mold from rooting into the substrate surface…in effect they create a permanent breathable glass structured seal of any concrete substrate that contains Portland cement with which it reacts with… In the States we call it “liquid glass” and once applied it cannot be reapplied… There is a company in Country near Escazu that has done work for the government, as well as, industrial and commercial since the ’90’s but as done very few residential work though that may be changing… I know the product was installed in Puerto Viejo over 15 years ago at a friend’s house and it is still dry…

  14. Ivo Henfling | January 19, 2017

  15. Thank you for those construction material comments J.Neff.

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