This is an aerial view of the mouth of the Gulf of Papagayo and the end of the Papagayo peninsula.
The Four Seasons Papagayo Resort complex occupies the entire peninsula on the far side of this photo. The golf course sprawls across the higher ground on the right side of the peninsula. The hotel is located at the narrowest and lowest point of the peninsula in the center. By straddling the narrow neck of the peninsula, the hotel takes advantage of its location by having nearby small beaches on both the ocean side and the gulf side and having views in both directions.
Tomorrow I will post an aerial photo looking directly down on the resort and give my comments on the tourist experience at Papagayo. Today, I will share some of my thoughts about the economic effects of the Papagayo project.
The Four Seasons Papagayo was an investment of major significance for Costa Rica. It has spawned other tourist investments. You can see an example of that in the foreground of this photo, as hotel, resort and housing developments have been constructed at various other places along the coast. Other international hotel chains have been attracted to the area undoubtedly in part by the presence, success and prestige of the Four Seasons.
For example, there is a brand new J.W. Marriott very close to Tamarindo. Hilton has this year located two hotels in the area, one an ocean resort and an airport hotel at Liberia. Other major international hotels, such as Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, RIU, and others are under construction or in various stages of development in the region, although the economic downturn has placed $1.4 billion of development projects on hold, according to an article in the local newspaper last week.
There is a challenge for Costa Rica to control development and to ensure that development is compatible with the national commitment to environmental preservation. Last spring someone complained that a new hotel built by a Spanish-owned company in the Papagayo area was polluting the ocean water. The government authorities came in and did testing and found that the construction company did not hook up one of the sewer lines to the sewage treatment plant. The government shut down the hotel right in the middle of the high tourist season, causing hundreds of tourists to be relocated to other hotels. The tourists commented to the newspaper that they did not mind being relocated because they agreed that the hotel should not reopen until the problem was fixed, which it was very quickly.
In Tamarindo, the government has injected dye into the sewer systems for every hotel and restaurant to identify any threats to water quality to make sure that each sewage or septic system is working properly.
The President of Costa Rica, Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias, has imposed development controls to curtail the height and density of buildings on the country's northwest Pacific coast.
I apologize for the quality of today's photo, but I took this photo through the window of an airliner as we were flying in to the international airport in Liberia. (I recommend a window seat on the left side of the plane for the best view on the approach to the airport.)