Nosara is Officially the Fastest Growing Surf Town in the World

  • July 10, 2017


While headlines like this one – “Waves like this in Nosara are worth $50 Billion” – might just be clickbait for the un-assuming social media circuits, Nosara is making headlines again as it has been claimed to be the “Fastest growing surf town” in the world.

The story was reported on, link can be found here, and we at the Nosara Real Estate report, in our eternal state of skepticism regarding hand picked data points and in consideration of rampant “fake news” , decided it would be prudent to follow up on this article and get the information directly from the source: the two post-doctoral PHD economists who performed the study and subsequent conclusions that stem from their data.

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Surf break discoveries create economic growth

The two economists named in this article who conducted the study are Dr. Samuel Wills, who is associated with the University of Sydney, Australia, and Dr Thomas McGregor, from Oxford University, England. After directly contacting Dr Wills, he was able to respond to some of our questions. Interestingly, he noted that the results were not just based on studying growth from Google Earth data, but more accurately and precise, they measured growth in “light” emitted during the night from NOAA satellites orbiting the planet, in the locations of the 5,000 different surf breaks. Dr Wills went as far as sharing the link to the actual data source from NOAA which can be found here.

Besides discussing the source of the data and its accuracy, Dr Wills explained that:


We can’t say exactly how much surfing contributed to growth in Nosara specifically. We can say, however, say that “regional classic” breaks like Nosara add 0.4 percentage points to growth each year on average in the long run, controlling for everything else.


Perhaps more importantly for you, we found that when waves disappear then growth falls by 2.2 percentage points per annum in the short run. So, rather than growing at 3% p.a., a place might only grow at 0.8% p.a. We showed this by looking at Mundaka in Spain, where a river mouth was dredged; and Jardim fo Mar in Portugal, where a coastal wall was built. You’d expect a coastal wall or a dredged river would increase growth, but they actually caused it to fall!


We can only talk about the “average” effect because we really want to isolate the contribution of surfing to growth. To do this we had to statistically control for any other possible explanations (eg. some regions are just growing faster for unrelated reasons), which we can only do by looking at lots of surf spots at once.


The punchline is that these numbers can definitely be used to help you make the case that destroying the surf in Nosara will hurt growth, by over 2 percentage points per year.

What exactly does this mean? It means that the current economic benefits provided by the quality of waves would surely suffer in the wave quality was destroyed, at a substantially higher rate of change when compared to the benefits. Is it possible this happens? It has in places like Indonesia where man made structures interfere with the natural perfection of a wave. There is currently an imminent threat to a famous surf break in Bocas Del Toro (read story here) from overzealous developers. Could this happen in Nosara? With the unique geography of playa Guiones, it seems highly unlikely, although never smart to entirely rule out the threat. Because of the protections given by the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, development in Nosara is strictly prohibited within the first 200 meters of the high tide mark, without concessions given in similar places such as Tamarindo and Jaco.  All the more reason to support the protection afforded by the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, which fronts Nosara beaches for a stretch of nearly 16 KM.

You can read more about this topic in the article abstract that was published on the University of Sydney website, link here.

One bit of confusion in his studies – in the  Top 10 list of fastest growing beach towns – you can see that Nosara, Costa Rica is number one, but Playa Guiones Costa Rica is Number 7. Most people will say “well, Nosara is the SAME as Playa Guiones” – and they would be correct. In general, when people refer to surfing in Nosara, they generally are speaking of Playa Guiones. However, on – the source of the locations used in the study – you can see that Playa Guiones and Nosara are listed separately. We cannot say if there as overlap between the data give for each spot, but what is certain is that Nosara is the fastest growing beach town in the world, as measured for 20 years , with the study only encompassing data until 2013.

Yes, you read that right – this data is only compiled up to 2013. As most who have visited Nosara in the last few year know, the rate of growth in Nosara has accelerated in the past few years, with the years of 2016 and currently 2017 seeing more growth than in 2010-2013, as measured by statics gathered from CFIA (College Of Engineers, which has on record all permitted construction projects in Costa Rica), showing a near 300% growth in construction area fro the year 2012 to 2016.

Is it too much to fast? Depends on who you ask. Nosara was created as an urbanization nearly 50 year ago. The balance it has comes from the green spaces (NCA parklands) and the refuge. In an era where most sustainability is nothing more than greenwashing, Nosara is unique in that it has a planned balance between growth and nature. Nosara is for those who are looking for that balance, not just in real estate, but also in lifestyle. We will keep our fingers to the pulse of the growth in Nosara. If you would like to have more information on this article, or programs to help promote sustainability in real estate, please contact us for more information.