U.S.-based tour operators who feature Costa Rica among their
products continue to expand their offerings to the Central American
Here we offer a sampling of tour operator products, including
those that feature tried-and-true itineraries as well as programs
that provide innovative alternatives.
Prices are per person, based on double occupancy. Commissions
are 10%, and many firms offer volume overrides.
THE CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE
A nine-night Caribbean Eco-Adventure itinerary introduced this
year by Sunny Land Tours of Hackensack, N.J., spotlights a region
of Costa Rica that is rarely visited -- the Gandoca-Manzanillo
Wildlife Refuge in the southeastern corner of the country near the
Panama border. "The southern Caribbean is a new frontier for Costa
Rica and has many advantages," says Lori Sidawi, executive vice
president of Sunny Land.
One tour highlight is the Almonds and Corals Lodge Tent Camp,
located within the refuge and a few steps from the beach. "The way
you get to your rooms is through a series of pathways and walkways
in a very dense, very lush verdant forest," Sidawi says. Activities
here include snorkeling and bicycling along the sandy streets of
small Caribbean communities that Sidawi describes as "very
"After two nights there we bring them to the Casa Turire Hotel
in Turrialba, primarily a coffee plantation town located in a
valley. It's a totally different environment."
Tour highlights: Two nights at Almonds and
Corals Lodge Tent Camp, two nights at the Hotel Casa Turire,
full-day trip to Irazu Volcano and the Orosi Valley, afternoon and
evening trip to Arenal Volcano and Tabacon Hot Springs Spa,
full-day whitewater rafting on the Reventazon River, and four
nights in San Jose.
Price: From $1,445, including roundtrip air
from Miami. A discount of $100 applies to travel completed by Oct.
31. Departures: Saturdays, year-round.
This year, Maupintour of Lawrence, Kan., has launched an
innovative 11-night tour that visits Costa Rica and the Galapagos
Islands. "This should have a real strong appeal to people who are
interested in ecology and the environment, since you're going to
two of the prime areas of the world for the preservation of the
environment," says a spokeswoman for the company.
"I see this as a real intelligent combination, and good use of
the air. If you're flying to Costa Rica, it's not that much more to
go to the Galapagos."
Tour highlights: In Costa Rica, two nights at the Tortuga Lodge
with guided explorations by foot and boat of Tortuguero National
Park, two nights at the Costa Rica Marriott, Rain Forest Aerial
Tram in Braulio Carrillo National Park, excursion by motorcoach to
Poas Volcano and San Jose city tour. In Ecuador, five-day Galapagos
cruise aboard the Santa Cruz, one night at the Hilton Colon
Guayaquil, two nights at the Hilton Colon Quito, and excursion
through the Valley of Volcanoes.
Price: From $4,595, including roundtrip air
from Miami, local ground and air transfers, air travel between
Costa Rica and Ecuador, cruise, services of tour manager and local
guides, sightseeing and most meals. Departures: Oct. 2 and 23.
A cornerstone itinerary of Costa Rica Connection's largely
custom FIT offering is an eight-night program called Best of Costa
Rica. John Aspinall, owner of the San Luis Obispo, Calif., firm,
recommends the trip because it features Costa Rica's southern rain
forest. "It's more remote and less commercial, not a beach
destination, but rain forest and beach, where the bird watching and
wildlife viewing is good."
Also, Aspinall says, "at Arenal, there's the active volcano and
the hot springs, and the drive to Arenal I consider to be one of
the prettiest drives in Costa Rica. Monteverde, being a cloud
forest, is a different type of ecosystem, with different birds, and
more of a focus on plants and ferns."
Tour highlights: Three nights at the Tiskita
Jungle Lodge near Golfito, one night at the Arenal Observatory
Lodge, two nights at Hotel Fonda Vela in Monteverde, two nights at
the Hotel Grano de Oro or similar in San Jose; also, guided hikes
at Tiskita, Arenal, Monteverde and Carara Biological Reserve, and
visits to Tabacon Hot Springs and butterfly garden. An optional day
trip to Sirena Ranger Station in Corcovado National Park is
Price: $1,320 land, through Nov. 30, including
internal air to Tiskita, transfers with private driver/guide to
Arenal, Monteverde and back to San Jose and most meals. Departures:
Tuesdays and Saturdays.
In Scottsdale, Ariz., Emerald Adventures (formerly Southseas
Adventures) is promoting an inclusive, fully escorted seven-night
tour of Costa Rica that provides good value. "We are more
economically priced than our competition, based on the hotels and
the fact that it is fully escorted and all but three meals are
included," says sales associate Carolyn Van Santen.
One feature of the itinerary, Van Santen notes, is the built-in
flexibility that makes it suitable for both active vacationers and
those who prefer a more relaxed pace. "You can do as much or as
little as you want. If you want to go whitewater rafting, we can
make those arrangements. If you want to go horseback riding, we can
Tour highlights: Two nights at Mawamba Lodge in
Tortuguero, guided boat excursions and nature hikes in Tortuguero
National Park, two nights at Las Cabanitas Resort in La Fortuna,
nighttime viewing of Arenal Volcano, one night at Allegro Resort's
Fiesta Village on the Pacific Coast, day trip by catamaran to Isla
Tortuga for swimming, hiking, sea kayaking or canopy tour, and two
nights in San Jose. Excursions to Tabacon Hot Springs and
activities such as horseback riding and river rafting are optional
Price: $1,706, including scheduled
international air travel on Continental Airlines (add-ons may
apply), internal air travel, most meals, services of an escort
guide and driver. Departures: Oct. 2 and 16, Nov. 6 and 27, Dec.
11. (Millennial departures, Dec. 26 and 27, feature slightly
different itineraries and pricing.)
For clients interested in a brief visit to Costa Rica at an
affordable price, Tara Tours of Miami is offering a basic
three-night air-inclusive package to San Jose priced from $399.
Company president Daniel Taramona says the low package price puts
Costa Rica within reach of a wide range of travelers. "It makes it
very easy for anybody to go to Costa Rica. For the first time
traveler or the traveler on a budget, they can have easy access to
Central America. They can have a taste so that later they can come
back and stay longer."
Package highlights: Three nights'
accommodations at Hotel Vesuvio, roundtrip air travel from Miami,
daily continental breakfast, room taxes and service charges. Price:
$399 through Nov. 30.
Thomson Family Adventures in Cambridge, Mass., (a sister company
of Thomson Safaris) is offering a trip called Beauty &
Butterflies: The Wonders of Costa Rica that is aimed at active
families who are environmentally conscious.
Jim Kackley, director of Thomson Family Adventures, says the
11-night itinerary is designed to appeal to family members of all
ages. "There's something to do at each place for each of the kids.
So when we go to Manuel Antonio, we offer things like dolphin
viewing and walking in the park, but there's also the opportunity
for teenagers to go boogie boarding and body surfing. At Selva
Verde, there's whitewater rafting on the Sarapiqui for older kids
and adults, and for the younger ones there's a float trip."
Tour highlights: Canopy tour on a suspended
walkway at the Rainmaker Conservation Project outside Manuel
Antonio National Park, tree planting with a local conservation
project at Bosque de Paz, two nights at Selva Verde Lodge, one
night at Tabacon Lodge, three nights at Villas Si Como No, optional
sea kayaking or horseback riding, two nights at Mawamba Lodge,
explorations by dugout canoe, and interpersonal exchanges including
visits with Costa Rican families, lunch at a local school and the
opportunity to participate in a local soccer game or visit animal
nurseries and plantations.
Price: From $3,190 ($2,890 for eight-night
school vacation departures in Feb. and April), $300 less for
children ages 12 to 17, and $500 less for children 11 and under.
Prices include air travel from Miami and all meals. Departures:
Dec. 22. In 2000, Feb. 12, March 11, April 15, June 10, July 1,
THE NATIONAL PARKS
Creative Tours in New Orleans is offering a nine-night
self-drive package, Costa Rican Classic Model of the Tropics, that
provides access to some of Costa Rica's finest national parks.
Creative Tours president Raphael Alvarado notes that 30% of
Costa Rica's territory is protected in national parks and wildlife
reserves. "This package visits several of these areas, so they can
perhaps see Poas Volcano, Braulio Carrillo, Rincon de la Vieja,
Monteverde, Corcovado and Golfito Wildlife Refuge. When you combine
those areas and a resort like Lapa Rios on the Osa Peninsula, it's
quite a concept."
Price: Through mid-November $929 land-only,
including two nights in San Jose; two nights at the Hotel-Resort
Tilajari, located east of the Arenal Volcano in the valley of San
Carlos; three nights in Monteverde; two nights at Lapa Rios, an
upscale wilderness resort; use of a 4X4 rental car and all meals
while at Lapa Rios. Departures: Daily.
SAVE THE TURTLES
For conservation-minded clients interested in enjoying a
participatory vacation experience, Holbrook Travel of Gainesville,
Fla., offers an eight-night Turtle Tagging program. "These are not
normal beach vacations," says marketing director Debbie Studivant.
"As a matter of fact it's hard work. You walk anywhere from five to
eight miles on the beach at night with no lights.
"It's an incredible experience though. The rewards are when you
see a turtle making her nest and, if you're lucky, laying her eggs.
You count the eggs and help the researchers measure the shells. We
have people who go year after year; they just love it."
Program highlights: Work with sea turtle biologists measuring
turtles, counting eggs, recording data and conducting beach
surveys; also, free time for trail walks and boating in Tortuguero
Price: $1,280 for one week, and $1,685 for two
weeks, land, including first and last night hotel accommodations in
San Jose; land, boat and air transfers to Tortuguero; dormitory
style accommodations at the John H. Phipps Biological Field Station
(operated by the Caribbean Conservation Corporation) and all meals
at the field station. Departures: Saturdays through Oct. 17.
"Costa Rica is a special and diverse country. To be able to
enjoy it during a 'once-in-a-thousand-years' event will only
enhance the memories," says Jim Hannigan, marketing director for
Costa Rica Experts in Chicago.
In addition to its custom itineraries, Costa Rica Experts has
put together several millennium packages. Among these is a 10-night
fully guided Millennium Adventure that incorporates the country's
top natural attractions and guided excursions.
Tour highlights: Three nights at the Monteverde
Lodge or similar, guided tour of the Monteverde Reserve, and the
Monteverde Butterfly Farm, excursion to Poas Volcano National Park
with lunch in the park, two nights at the Arenal Observatory Lodge
or similar, guided walk in Arenal National Park, two nights at the
Tortuga Lodge or similar, boat tours of Tortuguero National Park, a
full day of whitewater rafting on the Reventazon River, and three
nights in San Jose at the Hotel San Gildar or similar.
Price: $2,745, including air travel from Miami;
air, land and water transfers; park entrance fees; 18 meals.
Departure: Dec. 24.For More Information
Costa Rica Connection: (800) 345-7422
Costa Rica Experts: (800) 827-9046
Creative Tours: (504) 861-2639
Emerald Adventures: (888) 271-7836
Holbrook Travel: (800) 451-7111
Maupintour: (800) 255-4266
Sunny Land Tours: (800) 783-7839
Tara Tours: (800) 327-0080
Thomson Adventures: (800) 354-6030