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July 2021: Bouncing Back, Biomimicry, and Las Baulas!

Strong indications of Costa Rica’s recovery are all around us, whether in the form of new regulations to make it easier to move to the country or record arrivals in Guanacaste!

And against this backdrop, we’re highlighting the natural beauty of Tamarindo — including the Las Baulas National Marine Park, as well as the fascinating strategies of biomimicry that let us build safe, light, and beautiful homes on this mountainous terrain.

Costa Rica Bounces Back | Real Estate Update
Architecture Insights | Biomimicry and Vertical Slopes
Las Baulas National Marine Park | We ? Tama
Bicentennial Bonus: The Blueprint for a Singular Democracy

Costa Rica Bounces Back | Real Estate Update

Visitors from around the world are part of the lifeblood of Costa Rica, especially in our colorful community of Tamarindo. That’s why we’re thrilled to share in this month’s real estate update that Costa Rica just had its strongest stretch of months in nearly 2 years!

In addition, our Infrastructure Design team has begun to test a number of new designs for the roads, sidewalks, lighting, and other features around the community, all with the goal of making Senderos even more beautiful. 

Costa Rica Bounces Back

According to recent reports, May and June have been very strong months for Costa Rica and Guanacaste.

After promising showings in March and April (with close to 90,000 visitors to Costa RIca in each respective month), this continued upward trend is especially notable because May and June have historically been slightly weaker months for Costa Rican travel. 

In fact, according to data coming from Cámara de Turismo Guanacasteca, June saw a record-breaking number of international visitors in and out of Guanacaste, edging out all other years on record!

As of the time of writing, Costa Rica has continued its strides to welcome safe, smart international travel, with steps like offering COVID tests at international airports (like our local LIR) for travelers who need negative tests to return to their home country. 

All US providers of flights to Costa Rica have also returned to service. This return also includes US (and international) airlines adding a number of new flights to Guanacaste, including direct flights between Madrid and San José

The big additions last month came from United, who added four new routes including: 

  • Denver to San José 
  • Los Angeles to San José 
  • San Francisco to Liberia (Starting December 5th)
  • And Los Angeles to Liberia

The San Francisco flight is particularly noteworthy, as this is the first time this flight has been available!

Our entire region has been on the rise for a while now, and as Costa Rica continues to recover from the pandemic, it’s clear that the things that make Guanacaste great will only continue to improve.

Travel and Immigration Rule Updates | Insurance and Easy Importation

There have also been major updates to Costa Rican immigration rules and regulations that are worth a spotlight. Not only has Costa Rica eased the insurance requirement for visitors with vaccinations, but the national assembly has also passed a new law package to support increased immigration. 

Insurance No Longer Needed for Vaccinated Travelers to Enter

PC: Temple Health

Costa Rica has updated its international entry requirements, and as of August 1st will no longer require minors and vaccinated adults to purchase travel insurance before entering the country. 

In order to qualify, adults must:

  • Have received a Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, with the last dose administered at least 14 days prior to entry to Costa Rica
  • Display proof of vaccination, with full name, date of doses, formula, and lot number
    • For U.S. Visitors, the Covid-19 vaccination record card is sufficient

Unvaccinated tourists will still need to purchase travel insurance, and all travelers will still need to fill out the Healthpass Form prior to entry, but this update is one steady step further to Costa Rica’s full recovery, and towards the continued rebound of tourism into the country.

New Laws to Support Immigration Pass Through Congress

And in addition to Costa Rica remaining attractive to visitors, we’ve also been monitoring a series of new laws that would also make the country a more attractive place to move to, whether as a worker, investor, or retiree!

The new regulation, which passed into law at the end of June, made a number of changes to lower the barriers of entry to gaining residence and made it much easier to move here. Some examples include: 

  • Lowering the minimum investment in the country to $150,000 for an investor residency (was $200,000), and expanding the legal definitions of what constitutes an investment
  • Offering a one time credit for the tax-free importation of household goods and up to 2 motor vehicles
  • Lowering the real-estate tax for the next few years 
  • As well as making it easier to apply as a resident

All good news for people looking to make Costa Rica into their home!

Around Senderos | New Contracts and The Senderos Journey

Just a few weeks after its debut, home 3E is under contract! This is the third of three different homes designed by architecture guild member, Richard Müller. Contracts are out on his two other designs for 5E and 9E. 

Moving forward, our product development team will be working with the Guild to bring more of these fantastic homes to market!

We can also share that Homesite 7B is under contract as is a Senderos Collection Home on 24E. We’re excited to start the design-build process with our new prospective community members!

And on the other side of design and architecture, our infrastructure team has been hard at work on creating a different kind of beauty. 

Varying widths of road samples

A central part of the Senderos experience is the idea of journeys. After all, the name Senderos literally translates to a path, or a trail, and with it comes all of the joy of discovery and exploration. 

When you first enter Senderos, and for every moment as you explore the community, your journey should be exciting and inspiring, through interesting designs, dramatic views, natural and handcrafted beauty — and that doesn’t just mean the homes that are here. 

The very roads and trails you travel along throughout Senderos are laid and designed with just as much thought as the custom homes that dwell here, and we can share a small part of this process today. 

Our Infrastructure Design Team has gone through multiple different design and material combinations for the roads, walkways, lighting, and guardrails around Senderos in sketches and mechanicals before selecting a few finalists. 

Custom guardrail stanchions with integrated lighting

Those remaining designs are being laid down in test areas around the project now, and will then be subject to an extensive period of testing and weathering to examine which combinations provide the most lasting beauty to the area. 

Just a small part of the many infrastructure improvements to come!

The Future Looks Bright

While we’re not back to totally normal just yet, the future looks bright for Costa Rica. Visits are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels even in traditionally weaker months and show no sign of slowing down.

And from a real estate perspective, the signs are clear. With remote work, and in the aftermath of a year spent mostly isolated, there’s a steady reshifting of priorities. It’s becoming more and more apparent that more colorful, more vibrant communities connected to nature and the outdoors are on the rise.

And you might as well have just defined Tamarindo. 

Looking forward to what the rest of 2021 brings!

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Architecture Insights | Biomimicry and Vertical Slopes

Against the dramatic terrain of Senderos’ coastal mountainside, conventional architectural styles and construction strategies just wouldn’t work. That’s why we use cutting edge techniques inspired by the oldest blueprints on the planet — the ones from the natural world.

Biomimicry isn’t necessarily a new concept. In fact, you see attempts at biomimicry in almost every industry. 

We study spider silk to understand how to create new materials with incredible tensile strength, and study shark skin to better understand how to cut through the water. Scientists look to avian biology to better understand how to construct lightweight materials for our planes, and we study insect armor for sporting equipment. 

So it makes sense that we would seek to bring the learnings of nature into the architectural world. And as we learn more and more about our impact on the planet, and integrate our building projects into more dramatic terrain, oftentimes it is nature that leads the way. 

Costa Rica has a naturally rugged terrain brought forth by the ancient volcanic activity of the Ring of Fire, which was then carved by seas and wind for millennia, and yet the mountains of Costa Rica are not barren. They’re full of life, including some of the most expansive and beautiful forests on the planet. 

So while some people might look at building along the coastal mountainside near Tamarindo as an insurmountable challenge, we think differently.

By studying the designs of mother nature, which have existed well before us, we see these stunning vistas and mountainside lots as an opportunity to build homes like nowhere else on earth. 

The Intimidation Factor: Dramatic Vistas and Vertical Homesites

The west-facing views from one of the many mountainside homesites in Senderos

Based on conventional wisdom, it can be hard to believe when you explore a homesite in Senderos that you’re looking at your future home. 

Mountainside lots offer incomparable views and privacy, but most builders and homeowners are used to more horizontal, flat build sites. And it’s true that using a conventional horizontal building process on a more vertical homesite can be very ill advised.

To build a “flat” home on a mountainside first requires creating flat pads, retaining walls, and support structures (translation: a lot of concrete) before the home can even start construction. This translates to a very expensive build to start.

Also, to many perfectly reasonable people, a massive slab of concrete laid down on the side of the mountain doesn’t seem very safe or stable. And in the case of some of the most stunning design sites in Senderos, it likely wouldn’t even be possible to build using conventional construction.

But as you explore the home sites around Senderos, even the most sheer and awe-inspiring of them has one thing in common: they’re not barren. In fact, most are dotted with structures that have existed for longer than Tamarindo has had running water!

The trees.

Letting Nature Be Our Guide

Look out from Senderos and after the stunning sunsets, one thing might catch your eye — the trees! Despite the rough terrain, the climate, and the proximity to the ocean, the area around Senderos thrives with enormous trees stories tall.

You need only look further inland, to the cloud forests of Monteverde to find even more stunning examples of the way that massive structures jut out from the cliffside — resolute, steady, safe, and beautiful. 

PC: Commons

And Costa Rica is not alone. All around the world, you can find examples where enormous trees spring from the sides of cliffs, mountains, and hillsides. And they do it — somewhat unsurprisingly — without laying flat pads of concrete first. 

For the mountainside homesites in Senderos, there are two main ways in which we make use of biomimicry — in setting stable roots, and in choosing lightweight, durable materials. 

Setting Stable Roots

PC: Commons

Peel back the first few layers of dirt around one of the hillside giants and you’ll find an extensive root system stretching deep into the ground, sometimes as far and wide as the above-ground parts of the tree.

These roots provide an incredible source of stability in two ways. 

First, they increase the surface area in contact with the ground, which spreads the forces needed to keep the tree stable over a much wider area. And second, they help balance the weight of the tree between the parts that are underground, and the parts aboveground.

The exact same philosophy is used for mountainside homes, using structures called “tiebacks”, or anclajes in Spanish. First, our construction team drills into the soil to the underlying rock, just like the infiltration of roots into a hill face, then fill these holes with steel cables and injection grout (a strong, stabilizing compound) to anchor them to the hill.

These steel cables are the ‘roots’ as it were, and each place where they emerge is an anchor point for the home, called a “footing”. 

Now, rather than just laying one massive pad of concrete, you have concentrated points of contact to your roots laid out across the mountain, like you can see in the diagram below.

By using this technique, you’re able to create a root system with a number of touchpoints on the mountain where you can begin construction. 

This is where the second piece comes in — building with lightweight materials. 

Choosing Lightweight Materials

Another aspect of trees’ stability on the side of mountains is their natural selection of strong, lightweight materials. The trees that tend to thrive on mountain slopes tend to be much lighter per cubic foot than their flatland companions. 

We follow the same principles for choosing the construction materials within a mountainside home in Senderos. By building the structure itself out of lightweight steel and using Panelco walls, we’re able to significantly reduce the weight of the home itself, even once you factor in finishes, parking, pools, and other features. 

Home 5E might seem precariously perched until you take into account the fact that the roots of this system stretch deep into the mountain

So as a result, you have a home that has a strong root system stretching into the mountain, and you’ve worked to reduce the weight on the home itself, which is the only part of the home that actually has to contend with the sharp slope.

What you’ve done is completely change the physics problem. Rather than a massive concrete block that you’re hoping doesn’t slide down the mountain, you’re building a stronger, lighter, structure, where the vast majority of the weight is set into the ground. 

And the best part? This process requires a little more planning and a little more innovative technique, but is actually very cost-effective.

Not the First Time You’ve Seen This

You may not have known it, but there’s a very good chance that you’ve already seen this building strategy in place — because it’s very similar to the process used to build skyscrapers!

Before building a skyscraper, builders first have to drill down to the bedrock deep, deep underground (sometimes hundreds of feet) to set the deep roots of the building. Once this heavy, solid foundation has been laid, strong-lightweight materials are used to build the structure of the building. 

Skyscrapers actually take this biomimicry to an even further level by being designed to be flexible and pliable, allowing them to sway slightly in the wind and lighten the load on their roots — just like a large tree on the windy shores of Costa Rica.

Now, Senderos homes don’t need to drill quite so deep, because the homes in Senderos are only a few stories, rather than hundreds, and spread their touchpoints across a much wider horizontal area (proportionally). 

Still, the fundamental engineering solution is the same!

The End Result?

Home 9E, now available for sale

The benefits of the mountainside homesites in Senderos are apparent from the moment you first see them in pictures, and reinforced the first time you set foot on the ground where your dream home will one day come to life. 

And while it may seem like it might be impossible to build a traditional home on a slope up to 40% grade (which you’d be right about), you’re not building a traditional home. 

You’re building a masterpiece of biomimicry built where no other home could be, a single-family skyscraper. 

The result is a home with exceptional privacy, unparalleled views, a reduced footprint, effective use of materials, and a comparable construction price to many traditional homes.

There’s a reason we so often look to nature for guidance.

If you’d like to learn more about Senderos, and how you can make one of these incredible mountainside homesites into your dream home, you can reach out to us at info@senderos-cr.com

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Las Baulas National Marine Park | We ? Tama

Costa Rica is only so beautiful now because of responsible protections of the environment it made decades ago. In fact, current estimates are that 28% of Costa Rica’s landmass is protected in one way or another as wildlife preserves or national parks, with aquatic reserves making up an even higher percentage. 

While this article is about preservation and our treasured Las Baulas Marine Park, we know our readers are interested in real estate. So it is worth pointing out that these decisions made long ago to protect and preserve have also had long-standing positive impacts on land value. 

It’s simple economics. With so much land preserved, inventory of available land is kept in check. Scarcity shores up real estate values. And with remaining available land left typically adjacent or nearby the preserves, the values are enhanced.

One such protected area is our adjacent neighbor, the Las Baulas National Marine Park, which (along with the Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge) ecompasses much of the area around Playa Grande and the Tamarindo Estuary. 

The protection of natural beauty is a big part of what makes Tamarindo such a desirable place to live. In just a few short minutes you can move from a bustling downtown promenade filled with interesting shops and people, out onto a pristine beach, and then in a few more minutes be treading gently through the home of some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful protected wildlife. 

It’s no surprise that we’re supporters of Las Baulas — you can see the park from almost every home in Senderos after all! But even more than just preserving a view, our support of Las Baulas is a way to stay true to the Costa Rican principles of responsible development that have kept this country so beautiful.

Las Baulas National Marine Park

Las Baulas was founded in 1990, as part of Costa Rica’s massive expansion of its wildlife reserves and marine parks more than 30 years ago. 

The marine park proper covers 1100 acres of beach and 54,400 acres of maritime area, with a further 953 acres of land covered by the nearby Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge and estuary.

Though not really comparable to some of Costa Rica’s largest national parks (like the Guanacaste National Heritage Site, which covers some 360,000+ acres in the region), Las Baulas is one of the best examples of how a thriving community and nature reserve can coexist.

The Wildlife Sanctuary

A juvenile anteater, one of the many species found in Las Baulas PC: Costa Rica Star

According to The Leatherback Trust, Las Baulas is home to 153 species of birds, 34 species of mammals, 32 species of amphibians, 12 species of reptiles, and countless species of fish, including endangered species like the roseate spoonbill and yellow-fronted parrot.

The roseate spoonbill PC: Ebird.com

Despite their small acreage compared to large inland or aquatic parks, coastal marine wildlife preserves are just as important to Costa Rica’s ecosystems. Mangroves and beaches are places of transition where many species come to spawn or raise their young. 

One of the most iconic (which you may have spotted on the signs all around the park) are the leatherback sea turtles, which use Las Baulas as one of their ancestral egg-laying grounds. 

A baby leatherback sea turtle PC: Commons

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest turtles on the planet, and they have used the beaches of Las Baulas as a spawning ground since long before the area was first settled by humans. 

Scientists are unsure of exactly how leatherbacks (along with several other species of sea turtles) know to return to the exact same beach on which they were born, but without fail each turtle will return to where they were first hatched to lay their own eggs.

Though this is an incredible opportunity to see these turtles in their natural habitat, these turtles’ determined habits also represent an important responsibility — to protect the breeding and spawning grounds of these creatures for prosperity.

A Place for Adventure

Surfing Playa Grande PC: Frijoles Locos

Still, a big part of the fun of Las Baulas is that it’s not just a place to be protected and preserved — it’s a place to be explored and enjoyed. 

Playa Grande is one of the most famous surf spots in all of Costa Rica, with decent surf almost 300 days a year on huge, sandy beaches.

The waters around this area are a thriving location for whales, like the humpbacks that make their way through the area. 

Mangrove tours heading deep into the Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge along the Tamarindo Estuary give you the chance to explore one of the most unique habitats in Costa Rica, and see many of the native species there firsthand. 

And it’s hard to resist simply enjoying a stroll along this beautiful protected area to enjoy the sunset. 

Sunset over Las Baulas PC: Commons

Protecting Our Natural Neighbor

The relationship between Las Baulas and Tamarindo is an important one, and there are still definitely ways to improve. For example, preservation efforts have helped stabilize the population of leatherback turtles (once in decline), but there’s still work to be done to help these species recover. 

Turtle nesting tourism and preservation is one of the many ways that Las Baulas and Tamarindo work together PC: Commons

There are similar challenges with many species in the area, especially with fish and other aquatic wildlife. Now, these problems — of aquatic trash and overfishing — are global problems with dozens of causes. 

But, Tamarindo has an incredible opportunity to be both a thriving, growing town, and a positive force for the preservation of the natural world.

That’s why part of the Senderos mission includes contributing to Las Baulas and other nature initiatives in our area, both with our manpower, resources, and funds. Growing in tandem with nature is the way of the future for Costa Rica, and it’s a value we’re dedicated to upholding. 

After all, what we all fell in love with when we arrived here wasn’t just the streets, it was the streams and the surf, the forests and the beaches. 

So even as our community of Senderos grows alongside this beautiful town, we’re dedicated to growing smart, and preserving that rich natural wealth. Because the wild side of Tamarindo is something that our children and grandchildren deserve to fall in love with all over again.

If you’d like to learn more about Senderos, what it’s like to live so close to the wild side of life, and how you can contribute to our partnerships with Las Baulas, you can reach out to us at info@senderos-cr.com.

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Bicentennial Bonus: The Blueprint for a Singular Democracy

Costa Rica, along with much of Central America, celebrates its bicentennial on September 15th of this year. And to celebrate, we’re leading up sharing articles and projects that highlight the Costa Rica we love and how it’s come to be, starting with Costa Rica’s rich democratic history.

Diplomat Magazine Covers Costa Rica

There is something unique about Costa Rica. After all, you just need to visit the neighboring countries of Central America to feel like our little, peaceful nation has just gotten something right.

In this article from Diplomat Magazine, Rodolfo Solano Quirós, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship from the Republic of Costa Rica explains that a big part of this difference is Costa Rica’s singular focus on peace and harmony throughout its history. 

After all, Costa Rica took unprecedented steps in abolishing its army and conservation, steps which have made it a leader in Central America, and in some categories (like sustainability) all over the world.

You can read the article, which goes into detail about Costa Rica’s history and how it became the republic that we see today, at this link.

And if you’d like to learn more about why we love living here so much, and see how you can make Costa Rica your home, you can reach out to us at info@senderos-cr.com

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