My name is Valerie Bihet, the VIBE director of the VIBE agency. I have been an event planner and DMC in Miami for five years. Over that period of time, I have sought out amazing locations, both near and far, created unique and one-of-a-kind events for corporate clients, brands such as Bulgari, LVMH, Guerlain, L’Oreal, Zenith, and more. I have learned so much and want to share what I know to better the special events industry as a whole. The sharing of information – especially with the economy the way it is – is imperative to help our companies grow stronger. With that said, I have just returned from a trip to Costa Rica and have plenty of great information to share.
The expression “pura vida” rolls off the Costa Rican tongue like a mantra. Pura Vida: it means Pure Life. It’s an expression of happiness, excitement, and national identity. And it fits Costa Rica and the Costa Rican people to a “T”. (Costa Rican locals are called Ticos)
The news for meeting, incentive, and wedding planners is that more hotels have opened recently with the size, service levels, and meeting facilities that are essential to a well-run event. The VIBE agency took a trip for few days and wanted to share with you its experience in this beautiful country that is filled with resources:
Costa Rica moved up the Tourism Competitiveness ranking this year, nabbing second place in all of Latin America, second only to Barbados. Despite being ranked 118 out of 133 nations for its roads, which are worse than in poverty stricken countries like Burkina Faso and Zambia, Costa Rica fell back on its natural resources and government support for tourism to secure 42nd place in the world, according to a report by the World Economic Forum that was presented yesterday in Switzerland.
This small Central American country enchants with its lush, blooming countryside, pristine beaches, and lovely people. For years, Costa Rica has capitalized on this Eden-like beauty, drawing eco-tourists to its lodges and hostels like bees to blossoms. A well-established ecotourism infrastructure leads visitors hiking through rain forests, rafting down river rapids, and visiting active volcanoes. In biological terms, Costa Rica is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. The country’s varied national parks and preserves, covering almost 25 percent of the national territory, protect vast extensions of wilderness that boast more than 9,000 kinds of flowering plants, 231 species of mammals, 383 kinds of reptiles, 830 species of birds and more than 2,000 butterfly species. Nature-loving travelers from all over the world come here for the country’s bird-watching and natural history tours, diving safaris, kayaking trips, and sport fishing.
In addition to its natural assets, Costa Rica enjoys a rich historical and cultural heritage. The country’s principal museums display impressive collections of pre-Columbian artifacts, and the rich heritage of Costa Rica’s Spanish colonial period is reflected in Catholic churches that are the central point of every town. Festive rodeos and horse parades mark rural celebrations.
Their native people are friendly and well educated, attributes no doubt fostered by the country’s democratic tradition and respect for foreign cultures. English is widely spoken in every corner of the nation.
Costa Rica has one of the best airline services in the Caribbean basin, with daily flights from New York, Washington DC, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Mexico and most Latin American countries.
Nowhere else will you find so many varied, crazy, mild or out-of-the-ordinary adventures in one place, including: whitewater rafting, rain forest zip lines, active volcanoes, deep-sea fishing, ATV adventures, surfing and an aerial tram ride.
Barry Roberts, vice president of the Ministry of Tourism, spoke honestly of his country’s charms and challenges. “Maybe we don’t have the sophistication of the Europeans, but if our waiters bring the plates in from the wrong side, they’ll do it with a big smile,” he said. “We have a very warm and very friendly attitude toward the North American people. . . . We are the new kid on the block and we know we have things to learn, but we are committed to the incentive market and absolutely certain you’ll have a successful event.”
During our Site Inspection Tour we Arrived via American Airlines on the two-hour flight from Miami (you can welcome your group with people costumed in the garb of folkloric dancers), we started the trip in San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital.
On the first full day we started the tour of accommodations, with the site inspection of hotels in San Jose area:
- the Melia Cariari Conference Center & Golf Resort – one of the country’s brand new properties – this low-rise resort offers every convenience in a tropical setting. Less than ten minutes from the international airport, the property has 220-rooms, meeting space to accommodate 600 persons for cocktails or 250 for a sit-down dinner, and a Fazio-designed, 18-hole golf course. Other amenities include a free-form pool, eight tennis courts, a casino, a business center, and a health club.
- the three-year-old Camino Real Intercontinental - this property has been polish and can hosts banquets for 600 persons and receptions for 1,000, and will dedicate up to 170 of its 260 rooms to groups. The property has also completed a renovation of its large poolside pavilion, closing its sides to make it usable on wet or windy days.
- the impressive, year-old Costa Rica Marriott – this property, a faithful reproduction of a 16th-century colonial hacienda, wowed the group with its period decor and attention to detail. The 252-room property, a sun-baked yellow with antique roof tiles, set amidst a 30-acre coffee plantation, offers groups a strong sense of history just a few miles from downtown San Jose.
- the Herradura Golf Resort & Conference Center. The hotel, just blocks from Melia Cariari, offers 234 guest rooms, an 18-hole golf course, 11 tennis courts, five restaurants, eight meeting rooms, a casino, and swimming pool in a low-key business environment. But for all that, the real star of this resort is the 25,600-square-foot International Conference Center. Its elegant 13,200-square-foot main hall features the latest in lighting and audiovisual equipment and can be divided into five separate meeting rooms.
On a second day we headed off on a city tour. After a drive by the National Theater, Metropolitan Cathedral, and other city sights, you can give a pleasant introduction to Costa Rican history with a tour of the National Museum and a quick taste of the museum’s pottery and gold, as well as some freshly brewed espresso.
After learned about the culture of this country and meet with the wonderful local people we were ready for more.
On the third day an Eco-Adventures you can either have a day if recreation and traveled south to the Reventazon River, to paddle your way down its thrilling Class III rapids. River rafting is one of Costa Rica’s most popular adventure sports or you can also stay on land, but also got a bit damp exploring the rain forest. And you can take in this Costa Rican national treasure both by foot and by aerial tram, which carried you first over the forest canopy then into the thick of the forest and have a lunch in the spirit of the day, with a green-on-green rainforest theme.
Saying good-bye to San Jose, you can took a short night flight to the northwest city of Liberia in the Guanacaste region - You can make your way out to the Pacific coast to
- the Melia Hotels’ gem, the Melia Playa Conchal Beach & Golf Resort – With 318 well-appointed mini-suites in a “village” of villas, the year-old resort is well suited to the incentive market. On a hill overlooking the property and ocean, the conference center can host up to 350 for a dinner, or it can be divided into five smaller rooms and enjoy an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones II golf course, Central America’s largest free-form pool, tennis courts, or water sports off the spectacular 3.8 mile beach, which is blissfully empty of any other resorts, homes, or anything that might break the view of the tropical coastline.
We can organize to greet your group by flag- waving school children and a bus decorated like a fiesta... Long summer days and beautiful beaches are two phrases that best define what Guanacaste is all about. A province for the active soul, Guanacaste draws visitors with its stunning shoreline, incredible bird watching, amazing horseback riding, excellent surfing, superb snorkeling, great ATV tours on some very unique beaches that you can’t access by road and wonderful mountain lake windsurfing. With so much to do, it’s easy to understand why so many people come to visit this amazing province.
A perfect gala dinner for your Group can be with a final-night folkloric party that just wouldn’t quit. Native dishes and a whirlwind of dancers will make a festive end to your program.
I hope that I was able to highlight some of Costa Rica’s emerging incentive potential.
If you need any recommendations or contacts don’t hesitate to contact us.
I would love your feedback and welcome comments on what you have just read. Please add anything you may have to share.