Cacique del Mar Resort Development:
A Comprehensive Overview
Michael Ryan, MRG International, Costa Rica

Costa Rica has an area of 19.730 square miles roughly the size of the state of West Virginia Located in  the  Central  American  isthmus  between Nicaragua and Panama, its geographical makeup includes dense rain forest, tropical canals and lagoons, beautiful beaches, mountain ranges (some as high as 12.000 feet) surrounding a central plateau, and both active and dormant volcanoes. 

Costa Rica is the most politically stable democracy in Latin America, already awarded a Peace Nobel Prize for its pursuant towards peace in the World, with a population of approximately 3.2 million. The country's main items of export include coffee, bananas, sugarcane and other tropical goods. Tourist today play the largest role in the Costa Rican economy in terms of generating foreign exchange and Guanacaste serves as the focal point of much of the country's beach resort destination tourist activity. In 1994, 764.000 tourist arrivals were recorded in Costa Rica, an 11.5% increase over the prior year.   According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, 1.000.000 tourist is estimated to arrive in Costa Rica by the year 2000. 


The Cacique del Mar lands were selected after a fourteen-month detailed investigation of the country to determine the optimal location for destination resort development. The lands were purchased in 1992 from former president Daniel Oduber, who was the father of Costa Rican tourism and forged the base for its future during his term. President Oduber selected and assembled the project and connected it with the highest quality roads to be found in the country along with the other necessary and scarce infrastructure, such as water and electricity. 

Once the site was selected, the developer was able to purchase the property from Mr. Oduber shortly before his death. His wife, Marjorie Elliot de Oduber, follows the project with interest, pleased to see her husband's conviction of properly developed site taking place. Once the site was purchased, the developer started work on a pilot project, the expansion of an exiting resort, to determine the real demand for product as well as to gain actual experience in the development, construction and operation process. The lessons learned from this successful pilot project have been incorporate into Cacique del Mar. Once complete, the developer sold their interest in the pilot project back to their local partners in order to fully concentrate on the Cacique del Mar project. 


El Cacique del Mar is located on the Gulf of Papagayo in the North western of Guanacaste Province on its most beautiful coastline known as the "Gold Coast". Guanacaste is the premier resort destination in Costa Rica and has been designated by the Government of Costa Rica as the highest priority for tourism development. 

The Gulf of Papagayo is considered among the most spectacular in Costa Rica, where calm waters meet white sand beaches and tropical lush green hillsides. It is ideal for all water sports as well as offering superior fishing and diving. It is home to a famous Papagayo breeze, a gentle wind that provides clear days and cool nights. The property is characterized by a beautiful beach settings, and hillside terrain that afford dramatic ocean views of Playa Hermosa, the Bay of Hemosa the world -renowned Bay of Papagayo, the Pacific Ocean and distant volcanoes. 

This area of Costa Rica has near perfect weather with an average of only three days without sun from November to May. Temperatures in the area range from the 60's in the evening to the 90's in the summer.  Average year around temperature ]s about 85 degrees. Summer or dry season starts late November and finishes by late June. Winter or rainy season goes from July to November with an Indian Summer during August. The project is 15 miles from  Oduber International  Airport an approximately 20 minutes drive over fully paved roads. The project is a three to four hour drive from San Jose or a 35-40 minutes commuter shuttle flight  from  San  Jose's  Juan  Santa  Maria International Airport. 

Resort Demand 

The developer, based on its success at El Cacique del Mar, at the previous pilot project, believe that a strong market demand exists for the proposed leisure industry product.  Additionally, they are summarized as follows: 

Costa Rica has varied attraction. Historically, it is country with museums, night and recreational centres, monuments, art galleries, theatres and plazas. It also possesses great natural richness and beauty captured in it's5 National Parks, Natural Reserves, Forestry Refuges, and an ample variety of flora and fauna species.   Other factors that have influenced the country's tourist development, especially in the Guanacaste area, include its beautiful beaches, tropical climate, its political stability, its low crime rate, and the excellent accessibility from the main gateway cities of international tourism.
Costa  Rica's  inclusion  in  the  General Agreement Tariff Treaty (GATT), which protects the country against discriminatory prices in international commercial operations.
The growth of the manufactured sector of products assembled in the free trade zones. Since  1987,  exports  have  substantially increased from U.S. $l.158 million to U.S.$2 billion in 1993, the result of incentives offered by the government to this sector.
Costa Rica's tourist sector has sustained a significant average growth of approximately 17% percent during the past five years.  In 1993, tourism ranked for the first time as the number one industry, surpassing agricultural exports as the number one economic sector importance and as generator of hard currency to the country and continues to expand.
Costa Rica has increased its attraction to groups of conventions and meetings under the signature  of  the  tax  treaty  exchange information agreement with the United States. Through  this  agreement,  United  States corporation can hold their conventions in Costa Rica and deduct the expenses in their corporate income tax return. In 1993 North American arrivals increased 16.2%.  Prom Sept. 96 to Sept. 97 the increase in North American arrivals has been 9.72%.
The stability of the country's traditional political climate, the overall improvement of the economy, and the governmental support and incentives to the tourist industry constitute favourable factors to develop El Cacique del Mar project.
The country's tourist attractions, its cultural and historic resources, as well as its increase in the development of tourist and eco-tourist activities are factors that have a positive influence on Cacique del Mar.
The completion of Oduber International Airport in Liberia in Guanacaste and its inauguration in October in October 1995 of scheduled and charter flights opens Costa Rica's "Gold Coast" to direct International Service as well as inter-shuttle service between Juan Santamaria and Oduber.   Currently  several international charters are serving Oduber. (See additional information provided about charter flights into Oduber International Airport)
The growth in touring facilities and residential development activities in the Guanacaste area will potentially favour the proposed project.
Based on an analysis of the behaviour of economic indicators, the estimated demand, and the development of the market area, it can be assumed that there is an expectation that tourist, long-stay segments and incentive groups will show greater growth.
The season for tourist visitors to Costa Rica goes from mid-December to mid - April, which is similar to that of the Caribbean consisting of approximately 121 days. The rest of the year is defined as the low season, which extends for 244 days. However, this situation of seasonally is changing and improving due to the continuous increase in business and trade in Costa Rica and the leveling of seasons due to growth of European visitation. In 1997, July and August equally produced high season occupancies and rates in certain key areas.

Country Description - Costa Rica 

Located at the crossroads between North and South America, Costa Rica is a country unique in the entire world. It boasts a wide variety of plant and animal life, home to 5% of all the plant and animal species known to exist on earth. There are more birds than all of Canada and the United States combined.  Costa Rica has a great variety of climates with twenty-five different environments in a country the size of West Virginia. 

The country has also protected large areas, committing 25% of the country's landmass to parks or nature reserves. The populace is no less unique, largely European they have created a society without parallel. Lacking a large indigenous group to subjugate, the arriving immigrants carved their own egalitarian and fiercely independent country out of the wilderness.  In doing so, a deep and natural democratic spirit was forged. Costa Rica is the second oldest democracy in the Americas behind only the United States. Often compared to Switzerland, Costa Rica is one of three neutral countries recognized and protected by the United Nations. Costa Rica has no army and is politically the longest and more consolidated democracy in Latin America, and has been able, therefore, to develop a universal health care system and free compulsory education which has led to the third highest literacy rate in the world. 

Long a diversified agrarian economy Costa Rica has moved forward to embrace all areas of the emerging global marketplace. Companies like Intel and Seagate have set up state-of-the-art high-tech factories alongside more traditional companies long established here such as Firestone and Scott Paper.  Non-traditional products have increased their share relative to the traditional coffee and bananas of old, specially high tech. Companies such as INTEL, Motorola, ACER, etc. and tourism has expanded to become the number one segment of the economy.  Costa Rica has been at the forefront of the changing and expanding world tourism market and is the number two eco-tourism markets second only to the entire continent of Africa. In addition, the facilities and activities demanded by the world tourist are being met with expanded infrastructure and projects like Cacique del Mar. 

Guancaste Province 

From 1570 to 1821, Costa Rica was part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala of Spanish Central American provinces. In 1787 the government of Guatemala awarded Guanacaste to Nicaragua. Twenty-five years later, Guanacaste was given to Costa Rica to enable Costa Rica to increase its population and be admitted to the Captaincy. The Captaincy was dissolved in 1821, and all nations of Central America were granted full autonomy. Residents of Guanacaste voted to remain a part of Costa Rica. 


Liberia is the capital city of Guanacaste province and was established over two hundred years ago. It is known as Cuidad Blanca (the "White City"). The name is derived from the many adobe houses which dot the city, built from white volcanic ash in the 19th century. The houses are quite pictures and have classical courtyards and beautiful murals. A short distance from Liberia is Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The park contains four complete Eco-systems within 34,801 acres. Vehicle access to the park is difficult, but the park itself is pristine and relatively untouched. At Las Pailas ("kitchen Stoves") the adventurous traveller will find over twenty acres of hot springs. Boiling mud pots, sulphur lakes and vapour geysers that colour the surrounding rocks red, green and yellow. 


Canas is a friendly frontier town located near the Corobici River. Four kilometres south of Canas is the La Pacifica Ecological Centre.  This private reserve provides an excellent advantage point for observing over 220 different species of birds. There are extensive trails paralleling the Corobici River. 

Other wildlife areas near Canas are found at the mouth of the Tempisque River. Rodriguez Laballos and Palo Verde are state-protected wildlife areas with unique topography and 300 species of birds. Other animal life, including large numbers of crocodiles, are found in the parks. 

Puerto Soley 

Puerto Soley is the northernmost Pacific Beach in Costa Rica. Virginal and pristine, it is protected because of a Natural Wildlife Refuge at Island covered with the nesting sites of the rare frigatebird. South of Puerto Soley is the Guanacaste and Santa Rosa National Parks, which were created in 1989. These parks cover over  280  square  miles. Guanacaste Park encompasses a large area of deforested land from Orosi to the Pacific Coast. Climates within the region vary dramatically from dry tropical forest to swamps.  Park Service is currently reforesting the park. Santa Rosa National Park is used primarily for scientific research. However, the Park is covered with an extensive system of trails leading visitors through a variety of topography. Playa Blanca beach is located within the park's domain, and attracts visitors because of its perfect beach and pale blue waters.  Naranjo Beach, located eight miles from the park ranger station, has white sand and vigorous surf. 

Beaches of Guanacaste 

One of the appealing aspects of the region is the variety of beaches found on Guanacaste's shores. Though traditionally cattle country, Guanacaste today is known mostly for these beaches.  El Cacique del Mar is located approximately fifteen miles from Oduber International Airport. 

Playa Panama, Coco and Ocotal are found approximately thirty Kilometres from the capital, Liberia. Coco Beach is a popular town of open-air bars, restaurants, hotel and boardwalks.  The beaches are very popular and Coco is a 10-minute drive from the site.  Playa Panama is a pristine, largely undeveloped beach surrounded by coastal woodlands. it is conducive to beach strolls or bird watching rather than surfing.  Playa Conchal is south of Brasilito, and is known for the millions of multicoloured shells that cover its beaches. 

Playa Grande has excellent surf and large nesting  population  of  leatherneck  turtles. Unfortunately there has been a great deal of urban growth in the area, leading conservationists to lobby for the area to become a "protected" site. 

Playa Langosta is located immediately south of Tamarindo across a deep estuary frequented by nesting sea turtles.  Surfers also enjoy Playa Langosta for its good waves and clear waters. 

Junquillal Beach, located approximately fifteen miles south of Tamarindo, is an expansive tranquil site.  It is often deserted and never crowded with surfers or beachgoers. 

Approximately three hours off the Inter-American highway from the town of Nicoya is the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, created to protect the endangered Olive Ridley turtle.  Many of the turtles use the refuge at various times during the year for nesting. 

Two major beach areas are reachable from Nicoya though only during the dry season. These beaches are extremely with both North American and European travellers to Guanacaste. 
Playa Nosara has wide, white sand beaches and gentle waters. In addition, much of the wildlife in these areas is protected. This has allowed the area to be more forested and rich in wildlife than other has beaches in Guanacaste. Parrots, toucans and howler monkeys are plentiful and a source of much delight to visitors 

Playa Samara, one hour south of Nosara, is a popular snorkeling location because of its fine reefs, crystalline shallow waters and minimal surf, During the high season Samara is favoured by Costa Ricans, many of whom have vacation homes nearby. 

Playa Carrillo is approximately eight miles south of Samara, and provides a near-flawless white beach with extensive offshore reefs. There are many isolated undiscovered beaches nearby, including Playa Caletas, found only at the end of rough roads (which  are  unappeasable  in  rainy  season). However, it has big surf and pleasant offshore breezes. 

Cacique del Mar 

As part of their global strategy, the developer has consistently sought out the finest locations for development. Locations where the balance between risk and reward provide the necessary security for investment and the types of exceptional return that make development such an attractive opportunity. 

After a multi-year global search, The developer selected Costa Rica as the number one location for destination resort development in the world. Once they had selected Costa Rica, The developer proceeded to conduct a fourteen-month search to identify the premier location within the country. The site, Punta Cacique, was not available since it belonged to the former President Daniel Oduber whose project it had been for the previous twenty years. Through diligent effort the developer was able to obtain the property and its attendant benefits.  Chief among these benefits being the Daniel Oduber International Airport, a full service international facility located twenty minutes from the project and now receiving international scheduled and charter flights.   The developer proceeds to develop a pilot project and based on its success and the lessons learned there completed the planning and approvals for Cacique del Mar destination resort and residential development. 

The developer, based on their studies and actual results achieved, believes that Cacique del Mar contains all the necessary elements for a successful destination resort and has backed their belief with substantial investments in the project. The developer has completed the necessary infrastructure, both physical and technical, and the first elements of the project are now under construction and exceeding projections. This document provides introductory material on the Cacique  del  Mar  Destination  Resort  and Residential Community and the Phase Total program for development. Additional information can be obtained by contacting Michael Ryan at the numbers provided. 

Project Description 

The project is being developed by MRG International throw its subsidiaries Costa Rica 
Cacique Agua Transporte y Utilidad, La Villa del Club de los Caciques y Extency international. 

The project is summarized in the following table: 

Sub project Estimated  Cost  (US$) Description Start Date Completion Date
Basic infrastructure $8,900,000 Bring public utilities to the site, build the main access road and main gates. Other pre-development activities. July, 1986 June, 2001
Resorts $330,664,000 1,476 hotel keys, a Greg Norman 18 hole Championship Course, a 200 slip Marina. These hotels will be built in phases. June, 1999 July, 2009
Town Center $9,459,248 33,400 sq. ft. of commercial area, 45,000 sq. ft. staged casino and 400 hill townhouses to be built in phases August, 1999 June, 2005
Residential lots $2,954,673 130 lot subdivision, 162 lot Golf course community October, 1986 June, 2000
Villas $426,487,500 2,089 villas to be built responding to market demand July, 1998 June, 2009
Ecolodges $14,000,000 Four ecolodges to be operated in pristine locations in the country August, 2002 December, 2007
The project is scheduled to be completely built in ten to twelve years and Phase 1 is to be developed in the first three years. 


The Ryan Group controls MRG International. The Ryan Group has been involved in over two hundred projects representing more than $2 billion in development. Starting as a professional firm or architects and engineers, it has expanded to include a construction firm, a project management division, and a full securities firm. The Ryan Group has extensive experience in Canada, the US, Central America and the Caribbean.  Over the years, the Ryan Group has received recognition for design and implementation. 

Its professionals have won numerous design awards  and  appointments  to  training  and regulatory bodies.  The Ryan Group has broad development experience in the areas of planning, residential construction, commercial centres and resort developments. Although the Ryan Group has grown tremendously since its founding in 1960, it has maintained a lean management style that responds quickly to its clients and to international business trends. 

Michael Ryan, age 35, one of the principal members of the Ryan Group has full responsibility in the development of Cacique del Mar and he holds the title of President and CEO of the Development.

©First Pan-American Conference
Latin American Tourism in Next Millenium: 
Education, Investment and Sustainability
May 19-21, 1999 / Panama City, Panama
Editor: Professor Kaye Chon, University of Houston

Back to First Pan-American Conference Proceedings Index Page
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