By Richard Kern, Editorial Director
Nature lovers come in all shapes and sizes – from those who tend to favor zip-lining, ocean kayaking and hiking to those who shun anything more strenuous than an open-air massage. In between are the more traditional outdoor types who prefer to commune with nature via photo safaris, plantation tours, river cruises or leisurely treks to the beach.
“Pura Vida.” That’s what Costa Ricans call it – literally, “pure life.” What it really means is living life to the fullest, every day and in every way.
Costa Rica is one of the most diverse countries in the world for its size. The southern region tends to be wetter and more tropical, and this is where most visitors spend their time hiking the rainforest, riding aerial trams, surfing, kayaking and snorkeling in pristine hidden coves. If your incentive program participants are into these kinds of extreme outdoor activities that also carry a corresponding laid-back vibe, then this is an area you may want to check out.
Further north, in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region, the recently restored Hacienda El Viejo is a great place to see how the country’s old-style cattle ranches and cane plantations operated, right down to a steer-powered sugar cane press and a fresh sample of the sweet “jugo de cana.” Nearby, at Palo Verde National Park, you can arrange a riverboat tour from Tempisque Ecoadventures that showcases the area’s abundance of tropical birds, lizards, monkeys, crocodiles and other native wildlife.
The Tizate Wellness Gardens Hot Springs, about 18 miles from Liberia, is the perfect spot to enjoy a fantastic lunch made from locally produced ingredients. Afterwards, you can saddle up for a horseback ride up the mountain, then hook up to a zip-line that brings you back down – platform by platform – to the main building and a relaxing soak in the thermal pool heated by the nearby Rincon de la Vieja Volcano.
Boutique properties. Massive golf resorts. Remote coastal hideaways. Glittering highrises. You name it, Costa Rica has it. To acclimate your incentive group when they first arrive in Costa Rica, consider the gentle immersion a night or two at the Real InterContinental would provide. From here you have all of San Jose at your fingertips.
Looking to get away? The JW Marriott Guanacaste is considerably off the beaten path at the far end of the Hacienda Pinilla property outside Tamarindo, about 45 minutes from the Liberia airport in northwest Costa Rica. However, you won’t feel isolated because the hotel is literally right on the ocean and has every amenity you could ask for, including an amazing full-service spa, 18-hole golf course, five restaurants and dedicated meeting space that can handle up to 600 people.
Another Marriott property worth considering is the Marriott Los Sueños in Playa Herradura, which also offers plenty of amenities – the Sibö Rainforest Spa and a Ted Robinson-designed 18-hole golf course, as well as a casino and nearby marina.
Finally, if you’re looking for something a bit more intimate and romantic, you can’t do better than the Parador Resort & Spa in Quepos near Manuel Antonio National Park. How good is it? For the fifth consecutive year, the World Travel Awards – the Oscars of the global travel and tourism industry – named the Parador “Mexico & Central America’s Leading Hotel” and “Costa Rica’s Leading Spa Resort.” With more than 30 brand new suites and nearly 100 rooms artfully arranged around the property, the hotel also includes five pools, the Pacifica Spa and a half-dozen restaurants and lounges. This is truly a little slice of paradise.
Of course, the property you choose depends largely on the personality and preferences of your attendees. But no matter where you stay in Costa Rica, nature is all around you in the form of pristine beaches, outdoor spas, breathtaking balcony views, pools of every description, flora, fauna – ahhh, pura vida.