Costa Rica … Not To Mention Clima Rica, Cultura Rica And Café Rico

By some strange twist of fate, I have been to Australia nearly 20 times, the same for England and probably closer to 100 times to Mexico.   (Before you work yourself into a lather with overwrought envy, I will remind you that long ago I quite consciously traded treasure for travel, i.e. paltry money, powerful memories.  (See Memories Are Made Of This.)  Until this past week, however, I had never been to Costa Rica.  No doubt, were it not for my dear friends at Funjet Vacations, that would still be the case.  Thankfully, and to many of you shockingly I am sure, I was invited along with a hundred or so of my closest friends to spend a few magical days there.

Costa Rica translates into English as rich coast.  As my title suggest, however, the coast is far from the only aspect of Costa Rica that is opulent.   Just gaze upon this sunset for a moment.  I took this picture at the Pacifico Beach Club just before one of our evening dinners.  It looks even more magnificent with a rum and coke in one hand.  It became immediately apparent, even to someone as certifiably clueless as me, why this venue was selected!

Costa Rica Sunset

Just so you don’t embarrass yourself by attempting to swim around it, Costa Rica is not an island.  It is a Central American country that, like the US has an eastern and western coast.  There are several distinct tourist areas including Guanacaste, Arenal, Monteverde, Tortuguero, Central Pacific and San Jose.  Our excellent destination management company, CATours (as in Central American Tours but pronounced Cat Tours) has an excellent site with good information about various options.

Clima Rica

One of the most alluring attractions of Costa Rica is the incredible diversity of flora and fauna.  I have no idea what flora and fauna is, I just like saying it.  (Good thing I had never heard of those terms when I was struggling to name my two daughters.)  Just kidding, I really do know that it means IMG_1448plant and wildlife . . . or is it wildlife and plants?   Anyway, let’s not get lost wandering around that little tropical rain forest.

As one of my devoted readers, you must know by know I am an avid golfer.   Even so, this was my first experience trying to putt out with mantled howler monkeys lounging on the branches above me.  And in case you are wondering, they do howl . . . especially on your backswing.  This particular species apparently has a rather fiendish sense of humor.  According to a website called The Real Costa Rica, “Though Costa Rica covers only 0.03% of the surface of the earth, Costa Rica has approximately almost 6% of the world’s bio diversity.”    Click on the link above to read about Costa Rica’s 12 different climatic zones.

Cultura Rica

Guanacaste is not nearly so developed as many other resort destinations.  As an example, the ride from our hotel, the Riu Palace, to the Reserva Conchal Golf Course at the Westin Resort and Spa was an hour and twenty-minute ride over winding, narrow roads.  However, I was not in the least off put by that fact.  As an avid golfer, I would have walked that far to play another beautiful golf course (provided I had a caddie, of course).

More importantly, I viewed it as an opportunity to see the countryside.   OK, a lot of countryside.  Being my first trip, the last thing I wanted to do was spend the entire time at the resort, nice though it was.  IMG_1456

We were able to see lots of representative homes,  schools and stores, etc.  When we completed the round (the course record is still intact for those of you snarky enough to bring up my score), we had the option of heading directly back or visiting a little village called Tamarindo.  Forunately the driver had the good sense not to tell us it was in the opposite direction from our resort.

I would say Tamarindo is best described as a bohemian enclave populated by lost souls from the four corners of the world in search of inner serenity either through contemplation or puffing on various hand rolled medicinal fibers.  There are dive shops offering surfing lessons and, for the less adventurous, cafes with frothy cappuccinos and yummy flavors of ice cream.  I thought the Monkey ‘n Croc, pictured above, captured the ambiance nicely, even if by Tamarindo standards it is no doubt considered a bit haughty and pretentious.

Café Rico

Speaking of coffee, if you drink it by the barrel as I am prone to do (Starbucks should be sending me my stock certificates any day) the coffee is worth the price of the trip alone.  The reputation Costa Rica has for their coffee is, to say the least, well deserved.  My only complaint is that the word coffee should be feminine in Spanish, making the parallelism in my title ever so much more tidy!

IMG_1459 IMG_1463One thing the Riu Palace resorts all seem to do well is put on a party.  For the closing event they transformed the Papagaya Steakhouse into a Costa Rican rain forest.  You wouldn’t believe the size of the butterflies in Costa Rica by the way!  Below are a couple of more pictures to give you a sense of the beauty of the property.

DSC03261   DSC03264

On my aforementioned coach ride to the golf course, we passed a small fenced-in school yard and I could not help but notice the handwritten sign, “Orgulloso de Ser Guanacastecos” . . . proud to be from Guanacaste.   Having now traveled to Costa Rica, I have no difficulty understanding that sentiment perfectly.  I would be “orgulloso” too!

Hanging Ten In 2015: The Hottest Trends In Travel

Even if you have never surfed a day in your life and find yourself slightly older that your average backyard topsoil (OK, that would be me), you are still likely familiar with the term “Hanging Ten”, if for no other reason than you lived through all the surfing songs of the sixties.  According to Wikipedia, where we all turn when “remotely close to the truth” is good enough, “Hanging Ten refers to having both feet on the front end of the board with all of the surfer’s toes off the edge, also known as nose-riding.”

2015This blog post is dedicated to those of you who love to live life out on the end of the long board.  You are in a constant quest for the hottest trend and the “new next”.  You scoff at the idea of visiting last year’s destination . . . so utterly passé and embarrassingly démodé!

However, if the paragraph above describes you, you face a rather large dilemma.  How do you find out what are the hot travel trends for 2015?  Make one little misstep and you will find yourself drummed out of the army of the avant-garde faster than Bradley “Chelsea Elizabeth” Manning found his/her way to federal prison for violations of the Espionage Act.

Not to worry!  Here is my very practical suggestion.  Simply ask 1,226 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents.   But what if you are pretty sure you don’t know 1,226 travel agents, at least not well enough to grill them for detailed travel booking data?  Again, not a problem!  My wonderful friends at Travel Leaders Group do and, would you believe, they have already asked them!   How fluky is that?

If I tell you where you can find this treasure trove of timely information, will you promise, scout’s honor, not to go there until you have trudged through this entire blog post?  If you want to see the results of the entire survey, you merely have to click on the image below.

Travel Leaders 2015 Travel TrendsOK, now that was very, very naughty.   Don’t imagine for one moment I can’t tell that some of you have already clicked on the link.  There will be coal in your stocking come next Christmas . . . assuming Santa can still find any coal by the end of next year.  Since you obviously are intent on scouring the entire survey for yourself, I will just point out a few highlights and send you scurrying on your way.

1)  If you want to be hip in 2015, you would be wise to cast anchor for Alaska rather than venture to Vegas.  Why is that?  Cruising to Alaska has dethroned perennial winner Las Vegas as the number one domestic destination for 2015!  There is no better way to see Alaska than on with Un-Cruise Adventures.  Click the image below to see a very neat video.   Un-Cruise Alaska video2)  If you really want to be way cool, tune in to the brand new season of Downton Abbey, not for the riveting production but for the commercials.  One of the main sponsors is Viking Cruises which has helped to put river cruising on the map.  According to the survey, river cruising in Europe jumped another spot among international destinations in 2015 to #4!

Viking - Budapest3)  Finally, for those who really want to get all ten toes wet, try one of these hot, up-and-coming destinations:  Croatia, New Zealand (visit the farm where The Hobbit was filmed), Costa Rica or Vietnam.  When you return from one of those destinations, you will be the envy of even your snootiest friends.  After all, what is the point of having a snooty friend if not to make them jealous!

The time has come when you can jump from here to the survey without feeling the least pangs of guilt.  The ones who have already clicked obviously have long since seared your consciences, so you may disregard this absolution.   Have fun discovering the hot new trends and, when you are through, don’t forget to reach out to your old friends here at Travel Leaders to begin planning for 2015.

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