Costa Rica: Going Green, Going Great

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Costa Rica continues to be the southern belle of the ball, winning not only Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Award for the Best Selling Destination in Latin America, but also feted as Latin America’s Sexiest Romance/Honeymoon Destination—two awards they’ve garnered frequently in the past. These awards reflect Costa Rica’s continuing popularity—with travelers in general and lovers in particular—based on the country’s well-known charms, which range from a grand natural heritage of rainforests and cloud forests that rise between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, to a host of soft and sporting adventures.

Maria Amalia Revelo, deputy manager and director of marketing for the Costa Rica Tourist Board, notes that, “As in the rest of the world, tourism to our country has decreased this year, because our main market is the U.S., and North America all told makes up more than 60 percent of our inbound visitors. But the winter bookings look good, as does the bookings outlook for 2010.” According to Revelo, the “Costa Rica Plus” campaign, which launched this summer and was designed to accommodate last-minute travelers and to offer them extra value options—a free-night add-on to a 3-night package or a free tour or meal—has worked very well, and overall for the future, she notes, booking numbers are coming up. “We’ll recuperate,” she adds, “and we will probably get some savvy assistance from the hundreds of travel agents who have completed or continue to participate in the Costa Rica Tourist Board Specialist Programs [available online at recommend.com/education].”

Revelo points out the specialist programs are divided in two parts—one with general tourism planning information and one on Costa Rica as a green and sustainable destination. “We intend to keep sustainable tourism as our main market focus and why not—25 percent of the country is protected and 4.5 percent of the world’s biodiversity is present in Costa Rica. Tourism is our number one industry, and we are doing our best to conduct our tourism development by respecting our natural world and protecting it for the future.”

And while Costa Rica is a top destination for all types of travelers, romantics in particular tend to stay in intimate places such as secluded jungle lodges set against lush foliage and picturesque waterfalls, or upscale beach resorts providing romantic sunsets, sybaritic spas and a range of leisure activities.

One the newest and best examples of the latter is the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa, set quietly and luxuriously on a long beach, part of a 4,000-acre development that includes an 18-hole golf course and equestrian center. Special honeymoon packages, priced per night from $359, include oceanfront room, breakfast in bed, a 90-minite Sea & Stars Night massage for two and a private romantic dinner for two. Marriott, in fact, garnered Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Resort/Hotel in Latin America, where the hotel chain is expanding rapidly, particularly in South American countries such as Colombia. And indeed the brand has a leading presence in Costa Rica, where its family of hotels also includes the Spanish colonial-style Marriott Hotel San Jose(a comfortable and deluxe base for touring in the Central Valley), and the Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort (an hour’s drive from the capital to the Pacific). Marriott’s latest addition is the Residence Inn by Marriott San Jose Escazu, offering 109 all-suites accommodations ranging from studio to 2-bedroom units and are designed for stays of five nights or longer. Incidentally, this is the company’s first Residence Inn in Central America.

gogo grabs latin honors GOGO Worldwide Vacations, which got the nod this year for the Readers’ Choice Award for Best Tour Operator, Latin America—an award it has also garnered in past years—has a particularly strong choice of vacation options for Costa Rica.

The GOGO product offerings cover a wide choice of hotel packages focused on San Jose, the Central region and the Pacific coast, and according to Christina Savre, the tour operator’s product coordinator for Costa Rica and Mexico, “We have added new hotels for next year, from the Arenal Nyara in the highlands to Tango Mar by the sea. And our new tour mix includes a 7-night Nature & Beach Adventure, spending two nights each in the Arenal and Monteverde highland parks areas, as well as three nights at Si Como No Hotel in Manuel Antonio. In addition to deluxe accommodations, clients will partake in canopy tours, volcano walks and hot springs soaks.