Costa Rica’s diverse inventory of brand and boutique hotels, seaside resorts and rainforest and mountain lodges, along with its rich natural attributes, are thrusting the country forward as a value destination for groups.
Its great outdoors is a playground for adventure, while the capital city of San Jose offers an aura of sophistication with several must-see museums and must-try restaurants. We were introduced to this and more during Expotur, the country’s premier travel tradeshow.
We explored the new 170,000-sf National Congress and Convention Center, scheduled to debut in 2018. “The new convention center will expand our MICE market outreach,” says Pablo Solano, executive director of the Costa Rica Convention Bureau. “And it will put San Jose firmly on the meetings map.” And then there were the experiences.
Unexpected Suspense for the Senses
Our home base in San Jose was the 82-room Studio Hotel, an art-themed hotel displaying more than 100 works of art by local artists. From the hotel, there’s easy access to Poas Volcano National Park and La Paz Waterfall Gardens, where suspended walkways run alongside the falls and sightings of wildcats (rescued and healthy) are guaranteed. Along the way, small groups can join locals for good, cheap food at a roadside soda (family-run diner).
We enjoyed a home-style breakfast in the landscaped gardens of the Sr y Sra Ese restaurant, located in Villa Bonita. Against a backdrop of orchids and bromeliads, we learned about preparing chorreadas (corn pancakes), empanadas, and gallo pinto (rice and beans). And we were invited to design our very own fresco, creating concoctions of luscious mango, papaya, pineapple, blackberries and granadillas—with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.
In Costa Rica’s Pangola Region, the Cinco Ceibas Rainforest Reserve and Adventure Park is a new experience for groups. Founded as a sustainable tourism effort to protect a 2,700-acre private preserve, the park offers mile-long walks through the forest on an elevated wooden boardwalk, kayaking on the Rio Cuarto, horseback riding through a teak farm and oxcart tours aboard a typical oxen-pulled vehicle—the national symbol of Costa Rica. The park also offers transportation to and from San Jose for groups of two or more.
Harvest to Cup
Also close to San Jose, the Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn offers one of the finest organic plantation experiences, including an in-depth coffee tour—from harvest to cup—that ends with a cupping session and farm-to-table lunch. During fall harvest, groups can join neighboring farmers in coffee-berry picking. The inn has a new conference room and luxury accommodations for small executive groups.
Creative Team Building
In volcano country, the Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa’s hot springs, spa treatments and adventure activities, and newly added 1,216 sf of flexible indoor/outdoor meeting space, are enticing MICE groups. Hacienda AltaGracia, an Auberge Resort, offers creative team building activities—from herding cattle with local vaqueros, joining a cooking class or a cheese workshop at a sustainable farm to visiting with a Boruca tribe mask-maker in his village.-Carla Hunt