Maritime Concession Property - Costa Rica Ocean Front Real Estate and Property

Maritime Concession Laws:  Real Estate in Costa Rica is typically deeded and fee simple.  However all property within 200 meters (about a tenth of a mile) from the high tide mark is owned by the government.  The exception is a few places that were deeded as old Spanish land grants before the maritime concession laws were written.  Under the maritime concession laws in Costa Rica, the first 50 metes above the beach are public land and considered to be the public zone.  Land between 50 meters and 200 meters is considered to be in a restricted concession zone.  This zone is admistered by the municipalities but is also overseen by the Instituto Costirricense de Turismo (ICT).  On maritime concession property you can only own occupancy rights, you can not own the land outright.  Maritime concession rights are from 5 to 20 years.  Typically maritime concession zone agreements were issued by municipalities for the development of tourism infrastructure.  Hotels, Marimas and other beach front establishments exist almost entirely under maritime concession agreements.  Before purchasing any property within 200 meters of the beach, whether improved or raw land, be sure to check with the local municipality about whether the seller has the rights to use this land, how many years are left on the concession and whether the right is transferable.  On rare occasions there is titled land in front of the beaches either through the Spanish land grants I mentioned earlier or through title application processes that occurred before the advent of these laws.    

To apply for a concession you must already have occupancy rights to the beach front property, or buy the rights from another person who has them. The next step is to present the application along with the public deed to the Municipality having jurisdiction over the site.  If the Municipality decides to give you the concession, it also has to be approved by ICT. Before buying any occupancy rights be sure to ask the seller where he bought the public deed and also ask the Municipality to certify the ownership of the occupancy rights and the person or company renting the land from the Municipality. These documents are not always available and though someone may appear to have the right, there is no record of it.  After approval of the concession by ICT, the property must be registered in the National Concessions Registry.  this registry is located in Zapote. at the National Registry. It is best to have the concession recorded here the information about title (ownership), location and property description are also located there.

In order to obtain a concession you must meet the following:

  • Hold the occupancy rights to a land parcel located in the Restricted Zone.
  • Have markers (mojones) on the beachfront property designated & established by the Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN).
  • Hold a Zoning Plan (Plan Regulador) which specifies the land use for those areas of the beach front (i.e. commercial, residential, industrial) under the plan. Most beaches do not have Zoning Plans. A private firm can make Zoning Plans. Those companies are usually contracted by the public sector or government through the ICT.  They can also be hired by parties in the private sector who are attempting to adjust their occupancy rights under the law and obtaining the concession. The best way to apply for a concession is for landowners of adjacent properties or interested investors to organize themselves and draft an overall,  land usage Zoning Plan. Upon completion, the plan is submitted to the ICT for approval. The ICT also works with the Instituto Costarricense de Vivienda v Urbanismo (INVU) to coordinate maritime concession zones.  It is the ICT's duty to enforce the law and their policy is not to permit the Municipalities to authorize construction on properties in the Restricted Zone without an approved Zoning Plan, however, most affected land currently has no Plan and in some cases ICT is now trying to remove properties constructed on maritime concession land that was done improperly.  There have been instances where public officials within the municipality granted improper concessions to various parties that have since been disallowed.

OCCUPANCY RIGHTS of maritime concession property have traditionally been transfered by a public deed of cession. These documents should include all pertinent details about the location, boundaries, measurement, use and reference to any previous transfer of the parcel under the maritime concession rules.  The land is technically leased from the municipality and the standard lease rate, referred to a s a "canon" (rental fee) is based on the value of the property.  There is also a land tax of .25% of the value of the property.  Municipalities are prohibited from changing the general terms of the concession but since these municipalities benefit financially from these leases, irregularities have been common.

Maritime Concession Zone ownership restrictions

  • Foreign residents must have a minimum of five years residency.
  • Corporations with bearer shares (these can affect ownership).
  • Corporations or entities that are domiciled outside of the country.
  • Foreign companies or Costa Rican companies when 50% or more of the stock is owned by foreigners.

Maritime Concessions are granted for a minimum of five and a maximum of twenty years. It is necessary to file an application for the renewal of the concession before the end of the concession period. That is done   It is important to file for renewal of any concession before the concession has expired.  Renewals are filed with the local municipality.