Las Catalinas

A Costa Rica Beach Town

Master Plan and Precedents

Our master plan calls for a compact gem of a town surrounded both on land and at sea by beautiful nature. About 1,000 of our 1,200 acres will remain in a natural state, though we will actively help it regenerate into a full fledged tropical dry forest – a rare and particularly beautiful and interesting ecosystem.

Our planning has been influenced by the New Urbanist movement which is re-establishing the practice and techniques of building walkable neighborhoods, towns, and cities. We have also been heavily influenced by the pedestrian hill towns of the old world. We have studied these historical precedents intensely (and joyfully – they are wonderful!) and they have helped us tremendously.

What is included in the Las Catalinas master plan?

We are creating a seaside resort town and area at Las Catalinas. It is a beautiful and delightful place that provides a superlative experience for the people who live there – whether fulltime or for just one night. The plan for Las Catalinas includes:

  • A primary beach town neighborhood on Playa Danta that we call Beach Town.
  • A secondary beach town neighborhood and primary hotel site on Playa Dantita.
  • Associated hill town neighborhoods on Punta Penca, Punta Guachipelines, Las Cruces, Windy Peak, and McHenry Peak.
  • Las Catalinas will mainly be a town of houses, as opposed to multifamily buildings, because we think there is something special about that.
  • Our plan includes restaurants, stores, a number of small inns, and maybe one or two bigger hotels, a school, civic buildings, offices, and recreational facilities like beach clubs, playgrounds, and an equestrian center.
  • Las Catalinas has a major emphasis on beautiful shared spaces that are great for walking and gathering: streets, passageways, plazas, and parks. Almost every house in Las Catalinas is set on a beautiful park or plaza of some kind.
  • Approximately 1,000 of the 1,200 acres of Las Catalinas will function as a nature preserve where we are actively assisting the regeneration of a full tropical dry forest. Having this nature at the edge of town is an important part of the experience of the town.

In Las Catalinas there will be a great emphasis on a rich and beautiful public realm and on the joy of getting around under your own power. Our development will be compact and will utilize only a small percentage of the land. There will be no high-rise development. No buildings will have more than four stories. Las Catalinas will be environmentally friendly in terms of energy and resource efficiency, water usage, water treatment, storm water control, and enhancement of wildlife habitat.

Las Catalinas will be a true town, with an economy based on resort, second home, and tourism activity.

What are the precedents or models for Las Catalinas?

The developers and designers of Las Catalinas have intensively studied many of the great places of the world.

  • Our physical planning methodology includes pedestrian streets and passageways that are very responsive to topography, frequent plazas and public spaces, and a great deal of attention to planning for views. Our primary models for this are the hilltowns of the Mediterranean. Some of the towns which have influenced us especially strongly include Ronda (Spain), Eze (France), the Cinque Terre (Italy), and Pienza (Italy).
  • We have learned many important principles and techniques from the New Urbanism movement in the US. Specifically, Glenwood Park in Atlanta and Seaside and Rosemary Beach on the gulf coast of Florida have been particular sources of learning and inspiration.
  • Traditional buildings in Central America have offered great lessons regarding finishes, materials, and techniques. Particular sources of inspiration include Antigua (Guatemala), Casco Viejo (Panama), and San Miguel de Allende (Mexico).
  • As a resort town, our programming has much in common with places like Aspen, or Carmel, or St. Barth. Las Catalinas won’t be dominated by any single hotel or club, but instead will have a rich variety of inns, shops, recreation, and activities.
  • While Las Catalinas draws on successful precedents wherever possible, we are also to some extent a new invention. Las Catalinas is a town that is built for pleasure – not for defensive or other reasons that might have applied to old-world hilltowns. Las Catalinas buildings won’t look like those in an Italian hilltown, because our climate is tropical and there is a great desire for outdoor living. So while we a drawing from a rich pool of wisdom and tradition, Las Catalinas is unique.
  • More information on this topic can be found in this blog post.

Why are you building a town instead of a normal resort?

We are building a town because we think there is something truly magical about the experience of a walkable beach town. For us it is vastly superior to the experience in any normal "resort development".

  • We want to be able to walk out of our doors and really be somewhere, with a variety of fun and useful destinations close at hand. We don’t want to have to get in the car and drive every time we want to do something.
  • Building a real town allows greatness to happen. In a normal development the "amenities" are all run by the developer, and tend to be mediocre. For example, in a normal resort the beach restaurant would be run by employees of the developer. In Las Catalinas our restaurant is The Green House at Las Catalinas, owned and operated by one of the most capable and well-loved restaurateurs in all of Guanacaste. Similarly the owner/operators of Pura Vida Ride and our equestrian center are passionate, leading entrepreneurs in their fields.

Why are the houses so close together?

Keeping our development compact is a key to making it really walkable, so there can be numerous attractive destinations just a short stroll away. Also, keeping the development compact allows us to keep over 80% of our land in a natural state, and having that nature at the edge of town is itself an important part of the experience of the town. Remember, we are building at a human scale rather than at an automotive scale. The large amounts of "buffering" space that are needed at the automotive scale are simply not needed when the cars are not present.

Is the road to Las Catalinas going to be paved?

We completed the initial paving from Potrero to Las Catalinas at the end of 2011. However we are not satisfied with the top coat on the road (which is what is called a "chip seal") and are investigating further improvement. In addition we are leading an public/private effort to pave the road from Potrero to Flamingo, but there is no definitive timeline on this yet.

Is there going to be a supermarket at Las Catalinas?

Currently there are three supermarkets located in the town of Potrero, just adjacent to Las Catalinas. We are very interested in attracting a full food market to Las Catalinas, but do not have one lined up yet. In the meantime, Pura Vida Ride includes a "general store" offering excellent coffee, fresh baked goods, snacks, and other items.

Will there be a pool, spa or gym at Las Catalinas?

Over time we do plan to build one primary beach club (which would include a pool and possibly gym and spa facilities) and multiple neighborhood pools around Las Catalinas. We welcome the addition of independent gyms and/or pools, as one would find in other leading resort towns. In addition, as inns and hotels develop at Las Catalinas, many of them are likely to include spa and gym facilities.

In the meantime, excellent spa and exercise services are available in Las Catalinas on a call-in basis.

Will there be a pier at Las Catalinas?

Our intention is to build a pedestrian pier where boats can pull up and guests or residents may board on or off. The process to gain approval for a pier is fairly lengthy. We are also able to provide mooring blocks for Las Catalinas boat owners. We do not plan to have a full marina at Las Catalinas.

Will there be a golf course?

There will be no golf course at Las Catalinas, but there are some fine courses nearby.

Will there be tennis courts?

Our master plan includes tennis courts, but they are not part of our immediate development plan. In the meantime there are active tennis clubs in Flamingo, Playa del Coco and Tamarindo which may be of interest to our residents and guests.

What is Las Catalinas? Las Catalinas is a new beach town located on the Guanacaste Coast of Costa … read more...

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Las Catalinas Introduction Video