Photos:Costa Rica Tourism Board
By Vickie Sam Paget
Costa Rica is a wild and rugged Central American natural playground that appeals to the more adventurous Canadian traveller. In fact, 9.3 per cent of the country’s visitors hail from the Great White North, and Costa Rica is the country of choice for some 4.2 per cent of Canadian travellers who opt to visit Central America.
And although the country is small – covering just 0.03 per cent of the surface of the globe – it is home to an incredible five per cent of the planet’s existing biodiversity. Subsequently, 25.58 per cent of the country is composed of protected territory for the traveller to explore. So in short, you could say that Costa Rica is an exotic, ecological Eden.
Costa Rica 101
This eco-warrior’s wonderland occupies a privileged spot in the heart of Central America. While its 51,000-square-kilometres touch both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the country is surprisingly accessible, and your clients can drive from coast to coast in about three hours. This makes Costa Rica a great destination for travellers who like to hit the road and explore.
The Caribbean region of Costa Rica boasts some outstanding aquatic ecosystems and stunning white and black sand beaches, while the Pacific coast is home to the larger tourist centres of Esterillos, Jaco, Hermosa and Boca Barranca. The country’s Golfito region, near the gorgeous Marino Ballena National Park, is a big hit with surfers.
Clients who love to get their hands dirty will adore a visit to one of the natural hot springs at Arenal Volcano. Each of the springs evokes a unique ambience – some offer both hot and cold pools, while others offer waterslides and some even have swim-up bars. For example, the Eco Termales Hot Spring is a small spring that maintains its intimate atmosphere by accepting no more than 100 visitors at a time, while the Totoku Hot Spring boasts eight cascading pools that are beautifully lit-up at night.
Located on the Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio National Park offers a true taste of paradise with its stretches of white sand and evergreen forests that grow right up to the high tide line. This is a special place that 109 mammal species and 184 bird species like to call home. The park also features 12 little islands that are visited by dolphins and whales.
On the Caribbean coast, Tortuguero National Park is famous for the sea turtles that nest there every year. Time your client’s visit carefully and they could be exceptionally lucky and witness the newly-hatched turtles race across the sand to the sea.
Canadian adventurers who enjoy a little pampering will be happy to hear that Costa Rica’s all-inclusive options are on the rise. Earlier this month, Occidental Hotels and Resorts completed the conversion of the Occidental Grand Papagayo in Guanacaste into an adults-only resort. The resort joins the Royal Hideaway Playacar in Mexico’s Riviera Maya as the second adults-only property in the Occidental portfolio.
Alternatively, Hyatt’s ‘Andaz’ brand will debut its first Latin American property, Andaz Papagayo, in Costa Rica this December.
The Andaz Papagayo is just a 20-minute drive from Liberia International Airport. The 153-room property on the northwest Pacific coast features 21 luxury suites, flexible meeting space, three themed restaurants, a marina bar and a spa.
Four of the 21 luxury suites boast plunge pools and the presidential suite has a private, full-sized pool. The hotel also has a privately-accessible beach and two swimming pools, while the nearby marina has 180 slips for yachting.
Cruise business to Costa Rica is also on the rise, with a host of new arrivals, partnerships and improvements aimed to support the destination’s offerings and passenger services.
The arrival of the Island Princess, operated by Princess Cruises, to the Port of Limón at the start of the season marked the first of 64 ships expected to arrive in the port city this season – that’s a 12 per cent increase on last year’s figures.
Work is underway to improve the cruise market infrastructure in the region, as well as projects to restore the architectural and cultural heritage in the Caribbean city.
To further solidify the country’s cruise offerings, a new Mesoamerican regional agreement has also been implemented. For the first time, countries in the region have developed a partnership with cruise lines worldwide to introduce new routes throughout the Pacific.
The new route, named ‘Amazing Pacific’, will begin operation on January 14, with the arrival of Azamara Club Cruises, part of the Royal Caribbean fleet, to Costa Rica’s Puerto Caldera region.