Costa Rica, or “natural paradise,” as Mauricio Ventura A., Minister of Tourism for this Central American country, likes to call it, “is a year-round destination,” and a well-rounded one, as well, he adds.
So what does Costa Rica offer your clients? According to Ventura, “we offer a complete country, where visitors can spend three to four days in a different area. It’s not just about a volcano, a waterfall, etc., it’s about a whole country—you participate in the Pura Vida lifestyle.”
With 40 percent of its tourism arrivals coming from the United States, if you haven’t set your hawk eyes on this Central American gem, you are missing out. It’s an obvious choice for those who love the great outdoors—27 percent of its land is protected and the country aims to be carbon neutral by 2021—but there’s also “gastronomy, museums, beaches, culture,” says Ventura, as well as “great people.” He also notes that Costa Rica is a natural for wellness vacations with its thermal waters—“instead of getting on a treadmill, go walk the trails, have an organic dinner.” Ventura quickly points out, though, that “wellness acts as a complement to a nature- or adventure-focused vacation.”
By visiting Costa Rica, you’d be helping out the people of Costa Rica, and that’s what tourism is about.
— Mauricio Ventura A., Minister of Tourism, Costa Rica
Ventura says ideally the best way to truly experience Costa Rica is to book a 12-night stay [Americans tend to stay 8 days], because it’s a “multi-destination visit.” He points to the country’s Caribbean coast as one of the places that should be visited by Americans visiting the country. “I think those who are not visiting that area are missing a very nice part of Costa Rica.” Adding that, “there are two different Caribbeans—the South and the North. In the North,” he says, “you find Amazonia waterways, black-sand beaches, small hotels. It’s here where you disconnect to reconnect.” The Southern Caribbean, meanwhile, is home to some of the country’s best beaches and picturesque parks.
The Pacific side, of course, is one of the country’s most popular areas, home to the Guanacaste region, where there’s a good mix of hotels, including all-inclusives (think Dreams Las Mareas) and small lodges. In fact, overall, says Ventura, Costa Rica is known for its small lodges, and he points out that in “the next couple of years, we’ll have, without doubt, several new small properties—some of the brands have never been in the region.”
Also new to the country is a convention center in San Jose, the capital city, set to open in April. It will bring with it six new hotels, Ventura notes. By attracting the MICE traveler, says Ventura, “we hope to break the seasonality that comes with low and high season. Although we don’t plan on becoming a mass tourism destination.”
“You leave Costa Rica a better person.” — Mauricio Ventura A., Minister of Tourism, Costa Rica
National Parks: This small country is home to 28 national parks, reserves and wildlife refuges, including Manuel Antonio, Tortuguero and Arenal Volcano.
Sustainability: Costa Rica law mandates that 70 percent of the land remains untouched, ensuring that the beauty of the land is preserved and not overdeveloped. With that in mind, it’s easy for visitors to go birdwatching or go hiking on mountainous paths in the forest. There are also aerial trams exploring the rainforest, and rural tourism offers travelers the opportunity to work with local farmers and to taste traditional foods in a local family’s home.
Adventure: For those who love conquering the great outdoors, Costa Rica offers an array of adventures, including white-water rafting (top spot: Pacuare River); climbing & rappelling (Chirripo National Park offers the second highest peak in Central America); ziplining (found throughout the country); tubing (there are 14 major river systems); birdwatching (there’s a national birds route comprised of 12 sites throughout the country); horseback riding (nature lodges all over the country offer horseback riding trips through pastures, tropical forests and along the beaches); and kayaking, as well as hiking, sportfishing, diving & snorkeling; surfing and paddleboarding.
Wellness: According to the Gallup World Index and the Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica is considered one of the happiest places on earth, so no surprise that it’s easy to find a yoga retreat in the middle of the rainforest, farm-to-table cuisine or a hot spring in which to relax. Visitors will be breathing “pure air” as they sunbathe on a beach, meditate next to a waterfall, or get a spa treatment that uses mineral-rich volcanic mud.
For accommodation information and more general information, go to visitcostarica.com.