Costa Rica has been described as “a small country with a huge vision.” In Latin America, this has translated into a strong leisure market, built on its rich natural endowments, impeccable ecotourism and sustainable travel credentials, and pura vida Costa Rican hospitality. The country is now steadily improving it’s position in the meetings and incentives industry as well. Here are a few of the latest developments in the Costa Rica meetings paradigm.
National Congress and Conventions Center
A new focus was introduced to delegates attending Expotur, Costa Rica’s annual travel marketplace: plans for the new National Congress and Conventions Center, scheduled to debut in 2018. “The new 170,000-sf Convention Center Bureau will expand the MICE market outreach,” says to Pablo Solano, executive director of the Costa Rica Convention Bureau. “And it will put San Jose firmly on the meetings map.”
The new center, set on 25 acres just five miles from the Santamaria International Airport, captures the country’s sustainability mindset through a number of environmentally-friendly features—from reflective roofs and rainwater harvesting systems to LED lighting and 10,000 meters of solar panels that will provide energy for the building.
See the Cultural Capital Like a VIP
Delegates to Expotur were introduced to many of the products and services that support Costa Rica’s excellent reputation for dynamic pre-, meeting-break-, and post-excursions. We actually climbed aboard VIP City Bus, for a culturally-focused tour of San Jose. The large, comfy vehicle is a brightly painted, double-decker, carrying a smart and witty guide and live folklore musicians; following a welcome drink, we viewed the city out the window and walking, with one stop devoted to an authentic Tico lunch.
Going Urban in the Jungle
For another perspective on San Jose, consider Urban Adventures’ cultural immersions. Its “Pura Vida Experience,” for instance, follows a spiritual route of churches, explores the Central Market, visits a ceremonial mask-making family, teaches tortilla-making while dining out on local cuisine.
Custom-tailored day tours from San Jose are the thing. One very popular option is touring coffee plantations, and some of the best that take you from seed to cup are the pride of the Doka Estate, Café Britt Farm, and Finca Rosa Blanca. Visiting volcanos in the lush Central Valley is a must and uniquely accessible from the capital. Favorites are the Poas Volcano, whose bubbly crater is a mile wide, and Irazu Volcano, with two craters: both are active and located in national parks, teeming with birds and bromeliads.
Costa Rica is just plain good at managing its natural wonderlands and on-site DMC’s know how to turn a day into memorable adventures. One DMC to consider is Rain Forest Adventures near Jaco on the Pacific Coast where groups can enjoy canopy tours by aerial tram, 2 different zip lines, guided trekking tours, birdwatching tours, plus orchid, butterfly and frog gardens. Or go to sea for a perfect day of cruising on the Gulf of Nicoya. We sailed aboard Calypso Cruises’ 85-passenger catamaran to Tortuga Island to spend the day swimming off white beaches, playing volleyball, enjoying a gourmet lunch, or even trying a canopy zip line tour. This catamaran, the Manta Raya, converts easily into a charter for an all-day catered affair or a theme-party at sunset.-Carla Hunt