By Ronan McMahon from International Living

Not even the Costa Ricans know it’s here. The forgotten province. But they’ll hear about it soon enough—especially with the massive investment slated for the region. The biggest of its type in Costa Rica’s history.

So far, there’s been little development of the real estate and tourism markets on this nation’s Caribbean coast (yes, Costa Rica has one). It’s hard to understand why it’s been overlooked. Yet it has…and that means that this stretch of coast holds some of the Caribbean’s most undervalued real estate.

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The two-and a-half-hour drive east from San Jose brings you through jaw-dropping virgin rainforest and the protected Braulio Carrillo national park to a coast stretching south into stunning white-sand beaches.

Limón, (Limón is the name of the province and also the capital city) was a company town. United Fruit managed the port, built the railroads and bridges, looked after the colonial buildings and was the major employer. When the company pulled out of town in the 1960s, Limón was forgotten.

But “forgotten” it is unlikely to remain. Business is coming to this coast. A new free-trade zone in Bufalo will house 12 companies. Each company must invest a minimum of $100,000 to operate here. But that’s dwarfed by the investment in the Caribbean ports of Limón and Moin.

On August 30, 2011, the Costa Rican government signed a $1 billion concession with Dutch company APM to build a new port terminal in Moin. It’s the biggest concession contract in the history of Costa Rica. Construction will start in 2013, and should take three years. It will increase the port’s capacity and turnaround time. And it will bring jobs to the area…an estimated 2,000 direct and 8,000 indirect jobs. Limón is making a comeback. And you’re now among the first to know.

Limón, the city, is a quiet affair. Bright, freshly painted plantation houses and colonial buildings in various states of repair skirt sleepy streets. Not a lot goes on. For now, that is. Close by—12 minutes by car—cruise ships and giant fruit transporters dock at the port of Moin. In between the two places you’ll find guesthouses and beach bars.

Driving south from Limón is special—deserted beach on your left and mountain jungle on your right. Little restaurants serve up freshly fried fish and strong, rich coffee. Picnic tables sit under beachfront palm trees—all public access—this is where you can come to barbecue or eat a picnic. There’s no garbage. The locals respect their neighbors, community and environment.

A drive into the hills is a must. Seven minutes from the beach, the views to the ocean are spectacular. And the views inland are even better, with steep jungle-covered mountains.

I visited a piece of land here accessed from a quiet country lane. The entry point is perched right at the top of the hill. The views are 360 degrees. The land here has been flattened and a wooden structure built to take advantage of the views. Most of the 50 acres is covered by dense and valuable forest. This farm has just sold for $150,000. That’s $3,000 per acre. This would be perfect for a little development or eco-resort. And there are more pieces like it.

Like those at what I consider this region’s Gold Standard project. The developer bought this land many years ago and paid very little for it. So he can afford to price lots as low as he has. If he were buying the land today, at current prices, these lots would be priced much higher. In fact, you could pay $30 per square meter for land in this region even outside a gated community. Yet in this project prices start at less than half of that.

In fact, it’s $65,028 for a 1.34 acre lot. At only $12 per square meter, that’s a killer deal. But there’s a way to subtract 15% from that already-low price. That means this large lot would set you back only $55,274. Or…interest-free financing is an option, too.

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