As tourism to Costa Rica continues to grow at a robust pace --
arrivals are expected to reach 1 million this year -- local and
international suppliers are adding new products and enhancing
current facilities and services. As a result, agents have more
choices to offer travelers and the destination now holds appeal for
an even broader clientele.
For example, with the opening of several new golf courses in
Costa Rica and the construction of several more under way or
planned, the nation is gaining growing attention among golfers. To
capitalize on the opportunity at least one wholesaler has launched
a program of golf tours to Costa Rica.
In addition, innovative suppliers in Costa Rica continue to
expand options for activities and local excursions. There are now
as many as a dozen canopy tours throughout the country, and
whitewater outfitters have introduced rafting to yet another river
-- Rio Toro.
Other local options now available to visitors include mountain
biking around Lake Arenal and down the slopes of Irazu Volcano. One
novel activity now available in Costa Rica involves climbing up the
inside of a 150-foot-tall strangler fig, then rappelling down the
Given all the innovations on the local level, it is hardly
surprising that a number of U.S.-based wholesalers have added Costa
Rica to their product lineups.
At the same time, some of those who have been selling travel to
the Central American nation for years report that the quality of
existing facilities is improving, especially at Costa Rica's lodges
Dan Conaway, chairman of Elegant Adventures in Atlanta, a
wholesaler that offers custom vacations to Costa Rica, is one who
likes what he sees. "I am pleased to see a new generation of owners
stepping into many properties and really putting money into them.
These are people who aspire to be the best in the world."
Following are details of these and other upcoming developments
in travel to Costa Rica.
The biggest news on Costa Rica's accommodations front is the
opening this season of the 200-room Los Suenos Marriott Resort and
Golf Club, now under construction about 65 miles west of San Jose
on the Central Pacific coast. A November debut is slated for the
property, located on a 1,100-acre site near Bahia Herradura.
The resort property will offer an 18-hole championship golf
course, a beach club, water sports, a 178-slip marina, four tennis
courts, swimming pool and Jacuzzi, a 10,000-square-foot health
club, a retail village, a 4,000-square-foot casino and 5,900 square
feet of meeting space. Also planned are as many as 1,000
residential units, some of them available for timeshare.
In December 1998 a new 11-room lodge opened in Bosque de Paz, a
1,200-acre private reserve located not far from the Poas Volcano
National Park. Rates at the Bosque de Paz Rain/Cloud Forest Lodge
($105 per person, double) include guided nature tours, use of
nearly 18 miles of nature trails and three meals daily.
The lodge is located in an area that's ideal for bird watching
-- 250 species have been spotted -- and there is a butterfly garden
and hummingbird gallery as well. In addition, the lodge operates
tours to other birding hot spots, including Arenal and Poas
The 24-room Arenal Observatory Lodge, which is located less than
two miles south of Arenal Volcano within the Arenal Volcano
National Park, plans to open another 12 rooms next spring.
On the Nicoya Peninsula just outside Tambor, new owners of Tango
Mar have upgraded the property since purchasing it a year ago.
Changes include installation of a second swimming pool and
redecorating the property's 35 guest rooms.
American Travel Abroad, which has been selling tours to Central
and Eastern Europe for more than half a century, has introduced
four Costa Rica itineraries. The New York-based operator offers
scheduled group departures as well as independent hotel stays.
Earlier this year Delta Vacations introduced vacation packages
to Costa Rica. The operator offers a series of independent
programs, escorted tours and adventure travel options, all
commissionable at 12%. To promote bookings, Delta Vacations is
offering each traveler 2,500 bonus Delta SkyMiles for air-inclusive
bookings for travel that is completed by next March 1.
Grupo Taco has introduced vacation packages to Costa Rica from
its gateway cities in the U.S. as part of a new tour program called
Destinos Discover Central America.
Holbrook Travel of Gainesville, Fla., earlier this year
introduced a seven-night golf tour of Costa Rica and scheduled 11
departures for the program. Remaining departures this year are set
for Sept. 11, Oct. 23, Nov. 6 and Dec. 4. The operator plans to
repeat the popular program next year.
In addition, a Holbrook catalog released in August details
itineraries for four types of travelers -- honeymooners,
adventurers, budget travelers and families -- designed as a
blueprint to help agents and their clients plan custom trips to
Sunny Land Tours in Hackensack, N.J., is adding an emphasis on
Costa Rican culture to its tour programs for the upcoming season.
Beginning in November, Sunny Land's itineraries will include an
evening at the newly opened Rancho San Miguel outside San Jose.
Here, visitors will enjoy a choreographed equestrian display, a
performance of Costa Rican dances and a dinner of Costa Rican
This fall Temptress Adventure Cruises is relocating its
70-passenger Temptress Voyager to Costa Rica from Belize after a
complete refurbishment. The shipline, which operates eco-adventure
cruises, also has altered its Costa Rica itineraries and beginning
Oct. 30 offers sailings that incorporate a stop at Coiba Island in
Panama. Costa Rica ports of call include Curu/Tortuga Island,
Corcovado National Park/San Josecito, Golfo Dulce, Drake Bay and
Manuel Antonio National Park.
Among the most exciting additions to Costa Rica's golf offering
was the opening last year of the Garra de Leon Golf Course at Melia
Playa Conchal. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and described by
one golf travel supplier as a "masterpiece," the 18-hole layout is
an environmentally sensitive course that has been recognized by
An 18-hole championship course planned for Los Suenos Marriott
Resort and Golf Club is due to open by year-end.
At Barcelo's Playa Tambor Resort, the first nine holes of Los
Delfines Golf Course opened earlier this year; a second nine holes
is due for completion by the end of 2000.
Other newcomers on Costa Rica's golf scene include the Parque
Valle del Sol Golf Course, a nine-hole course (soon to be expanded
to 18 holes) located in a residential community just outside San
Jose, and Rancho Las Colinas Golf & Country Club, an 18-hole
layout near Playa Flamingo.
Plans are in the works for an 18-hole course at La Roca Beach
Resort & Country Club, an oceanfront resort complex just
outside Puerto Caldera that is still in early stages of
Construction of a new terminal at San Jose's Juan Santamaria
airport is in the final stages, and the terminal is expected to be
operational in time for the upcoming high season. Phase two of the
project calls for the integration of the old terminal into the new
Among new attractions of interest for the upcoming season is
INBioparque, a 20-acre park that will provide an introduction to
Costa Rica's many ecosystems when it opens in November.
Located in the province of Heredia about 15 minutes outside San
Jose, INBioparque features living samples of the country's
ecosystems, interpreted trails and exhibits on biodiversity,
conservation, research and sustainable use. It is a project of the
private, nonprofit National Biodiversity Institute.