Costa Rica 3rd Place on Yale’s Environmental Index

May 14th, 2010

The Yale University has Costa Rica raked third in the world on the 2010 EPI (Environmental Performance Index) just below Iceland and Switzerland.  Other countries of America Rank as follows: Chile 16th, Panama 25th, USA 61st. The bottom of the table has:  Central Africa Republic and Sierra Leona.

The 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks 163 countries on 25 performance indicators tracked across ten policy categories covering both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. These indicators provide a gauge at a national government scale of how close countries are to established environmental policy goals. The EPI’s proximity-to-target methodology facilitates cross-country comparisons as well as analysis of how the global community is doing collectively on each particular policy issue.

For more information on the 2010 Environmental Performance Index, please contact:

Christine Kim
Research and Program Director
Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy or viste the website: http://epi.yale.edu/

Manuel Antonio National Park

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Frontier Airlines Welcomes Pets Aboard

May 13th, 2010

If you were planning a trip to Costa Rica but didn’t know what to do with your pet, you can now bring it with you. We offer pet friendly accommodations in Los Sueños Resort. We welcome small well behaved pets to join their owners in their Costa Rica Vacations.

Frontier announced  yesterday: “Frontier announced that customers can now travel with their small, furry friends in the cabin of the aircraft for a $75 each-way pet fare. The new in-cabin pet policy applies to small dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters or small household birds. All pets must fit into a carrier that fits under the airplane seat and they must have proper health documentation in order to fly.”

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Disney’s project of reforestation in Costa Rica

May 5th, 2010

Saving Forests One Tree at a Time

By: Peter Lehner

Source: NRDC

News about forest conservation is often filled with sobering facts about the damage caused by deforestation.

Just recently a United Nations study found that globally we are losing the equivalent of an area the size of Costa Rica each year to deforestation.  This is scary news; as we lose our forests so go countless species, some still yet to be discovered, and even more greenhouse gas emissions are released into the atmosphere.

Encouragingly though, the UN study also found that targeted efforts have helped slow the global rate of deforestation. While much remains to be done to save our forests, we are seeing that we can make a difference.

Last year, with the support of our members, NRDC’s Revive a Rainforest initiative planted 30,000 trees in Costa Rica’s Central Valley.  Our local partner CATIE, a regional leader in tropical resource management, will use this project as a model for farmers, rural communities and organizations interested in reforestation initiatives.


Photo Credit: CATIE

I helped plant one of the first trees and I’m heartened to see how big the trees in our Member Rainforest have already grown — from just a few inches less than a year ago to nearly three feet tall.

Our reforestation initiative is also now seeking to restore the biodiversity of 50 acres of former cattle pasture and plantation land on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Working with the Friends of the Osa (or FOO), NRDC’s Revive a Rainforest initiative will now plant up to 50 different species of trees and plants.


Photo Credit: Tina Lee & Kristine Bucchianeri

I’ve been travelling and working in Costa Rica for many years but had never had the chance to visit the Osa Peninsula until last year.  I was amazed by the abundance of wildlife — in one afternoon I saw toucans, four different species of monkeys, hundreds of dolphins in the Golfo Dulce and trees full of scarlet macaws — including one that was very friendly! The Osa is one of the wildest places on Earth and we must do all we can to protect it from the persisting threat of unsustainable agricultural and expanding real estate development.

We can restore areas that have lost their biodiversity and recreate the type of habitat where animals such as the jaguar and spider monkey can thrive again. The goal of our project with FOO is to do precisely that.

The project site will be a living laboratory, especially for young people in the Osa to learn first-hand the importance of protecting forest biodiversity. We’re excited about these projects and very grateful to the NRDC members who have supported our efforts to revive Costa Rica’s rainforests.

And I’m happy to say that The Walt Disney Company is also excited about our project and has selected the Cerro Osa Restoration project as one of five habitat restoration efforts that will receive support through Disney’s Friends for Change: Project Green.

Through the Friends for Change website kids can learn how to help the planet through simple every day actions – involving their friends and tracking their collective impact. Kids can also vote to help Disney decide how much support each habitat project will receive.

Disney’s initiative means that starting at an early age kids will have a real opportunity to see and learn just how important small steps like planting a new tree can be.

In fact, as we are discovering, these small steps can collectively revive a rainforest.

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Traveling in Bicycle from Guatemala to Argentina

April 29th, 2010

This week Rolo our Property Manager met an interesting couple. He is from Argentina and she French. Ramiro and Jessica stayed a couple days close to our Stay in Costa Rica office and as Rolo saw they were riding bicycles he asked: “Where they were coming from?”
They answered: “Cuba”.
Rolo surprised asked: “Where are you going to?”
They Answered: “Argentina”
They are indeed and interesting couple. Good luck guys!
To learn more about their trip you can visit their blog:
http://losvelocos.blogspot.com/

Joaquin Rodriguez

DSCN1532

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Restaurante La Casona del Maiz

April 29th, 2010

Here is a place you should not miss if you come to Costa Rica. It is called La Casona del Maiz which means the “The Big Ole’ House of Corn”. Well excuse my translation but what is important is this place is one of the few traditional spots that still exist here. Located in the mountains surrounding San Jose this cultural relic from the past has not changed much over the past 60 years and although it is a classic tourist opportunity, very few tourists ever see this place. The fact that is fairly busy with nearly all local Ticos shows it has real authenticity. The food is fantastic and as you would expect the prices are reasonable.

Waitress La Casona del Maiz

The dish I ordered here is typical farmer’s meal with Homemade Rice and Beans (Gallo Pinto), Scrambled Eggs, Farmers Cheese, Fresh Tortillas and Avocados all served on a banana palm leave. You can also get the same meal with other options. My understanding is the Beef is not too good in Costa Rica but the chicken here is outstanding and very fresh. As a matter of fact the chickens in the field next door looked kind of scared to me.

The kitchen is meticulously clean and as you can see the cooks, waiters and waitresses dress in traditonal wear. They also sell all kinds of souvineers, art and dried fruits and sweets.

You find La Casona del Maiz about 10 minutes outside the airport on your way through La Garita on the old highway on your way to the new highway, so this will not cost you much additional travel time on your way to Los Suenos Resort. Come visit Costa Rica and don’t forget to include La Casona as part of your travel experience.
Larry Savage.

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Costa Rica Infant Mortality Rate Down In 2009, Lowest In 59 Years

April 27th, 2010

The study reveals that ten infants less died in 2009 over 2008, giving Costa Rica the lowest infant mortality rate in the last 59 years.

Figures from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos (INEC) – census and statistics board - reveal that in 2009 there were 75.000 live births and only 663 deaths.

The reduction is being attributed to the purchase and use of special equipment in prenatal care, in addition to better trained medical personnel, especially in the care of premature babies.

The ministra de Salud, María Luisa Ávila, highlighted the positive impact of universal health care for pregnant women with good prenatal care.

Another encouraging factor is that 97 percent of births in the country now take place in hospitals. This allows for better attention of the mother and the newborn.

The ministra said that as part of the program they have been educating pregnant women to get more prenatal care, controlling pregnancies and promoting breast feeding and the immediate contact between mother and newborn.

The vice-ministra de Salud, Ana Morice, emphasized that there was also a reduction of deaths from communicable diseases like respiratory infections, diarrhea and meningitis.

Morice said that the reduction was due to vaccinations.

The infant mortality rate largely reflects the living conditions of the population and its stability is subject to the variability of various social factors.

SOURCE: www.insidecostarica.com

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Goldman Prize honors Costa Rican activist

April 20th, 2010

Costa Rican biologist Randall Arauz forced his government to enforce its laws to protect endangered shark species from slaughter just for their fins.

This made him winners of one of six Goldman Environmental Prize being presented today in San Francisco. The prize, the largest for grass-roots activists in the world, comes with a $150,000 check for each of six recipients, one for each inhabited continent.

Stopping shark cruelty

Arauz began as a sea turtle biologist who helped found the Association for the Restoration of Sea Turtles. But in investigating the fishing practices associated with turtle deaths, he realized a larger problem in his nation was Taiwanese fishing boats coming to Costa Rican waters to fish for sharks. “They hack the fins off, then throw the still-living shark overboard,” Arauz says.

He has been fighting a legal battle for three years to force these foreign fishing fleets to follow Costa Rican law, which requires that sharks caught in the country have their fins attached.

Finning, which feeds a growing Asian appetite for sharks’ fin soup, is unsustainable and cruel but unregulated in many places, Arauz says. “The flesh of the shark is only worth 50 cents a pound, whereas the fins are worth $60 to $70 a pound, so to fishermen, the limiting factor is the space in their hold. If they hack the fins off and only bring the fins, they can capture more.”

He says he’ll use the Goldman prize money to get off-road vehicles so the staff can get down to beaches where sea turtles lay their eggs.

Source: USA TODAY  Read Full Article Click here
Learn more about the Goldman prize. Click here

Randall Arauz of Costa Rica fought against fishermen who cut off  sharks' fins and then throw the sharks back.
By Will Parrinello
Randall Arauz of Costa Rica fought against fishermen who cut off sharks’ fins and then throw the sharks back.
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A Costa Rica Golf Adventure Appeals to All

April 14th, 2010

By: Joel Zuckerman

There are a number of great reasons as to why the Central American nation of Costa Rica is such a worthwhile vacation spot, and we’ll cover that ground shortly. But in the meantime, let me present two simple facts:

Cariari Country Club

Over the last 60-plus press and/or discovery trips I’ve participated in over the last dozen years to five countries and more than 20 states, I have never been without my golf clubs. But on a recent family foray to Costa Rica, instead of dragging along my casket-sized, rolling travel-cover and sticks, my “golf bag” was the size of a tobacco pouch, and contained only a half-dozen balls, some tees and a glove.
It’s not that I’m such a huge fan of rental sets, and truthfully, the various clubs I used during my rounds in Costa Rica were literally and metaphorically a mixed bag. But there is so much to see, do and experience in this tropical paradise, I purposely limited golf to just two rounds total during a weeklong visit, leaving plenty of time for adrenaline-fueled adventuring.
Landy Blank knows the Costa Rican golf scene as well as most anybody as he is the owner and founder of Costa Rica Golf Adventures, a specialty tour company. “We first came here 20 years ago, and we loved it so much we kept coming back,” begins the native Philadelphian who has lived in Costa Rica for some 15 years. “The people are wonderful and very welcoming, as is the climate. Part of the country is mountainous, so temperatures are cooler, and it’s very warm down at the beach.”

Interest in golf has grown dramatically from both tourists and Ticos (slang for a native Costa Rican) in recent years. The National Golf Association has tripled in size since Blank began his business in the mid-1990s. So these words sound strange coming from a golf tour operator. “I wouldn’t call Costa Rica a bona fide golf destination,” continues Blank, who moved to Central America from Charleston, South Carolina. “To me, a golf destination is when you can park yourself in a hotel, and play a range of courses either on or near property. There are half-a-dozen viable golf options in Costa Rica, though they are fairly spread out. There are three courses on the northwest coast in Guanacaste, two in greater San Jose, and one in the central pacific area near Jaco Beach.”
Costa Rica is often described as the size of West Virginia, and just as rugged in terrain. A common expression states that if God himself squashed the island flat, the landmass would be the size of Texas. “It’s not very big, but it’s not easy to get around,” offers Blank. “The roads are tricky, with potholes and such, full of switchbacks, hairpin turns, one-lane bridges. A destination might only be 100 miles away, but can take three hours of driving to get there. So you don’t play one course in San Jose (the capital city) in the morning, and another one if the afternoon elsewhere. It doesn’t generally work that way.”

Driving isn’t particularly easy at Cariari Country Club, either, though it’s not quite life-threatening. It’s tight, target oriented, tree-lined and full of OB stakes, a situation that’s psychologically exacerbated by the presence of a sticky white substance ringing many of the omnipresent hardwoods on the course from the ground up, a resin that deters insect infestation. From a glance from the tee box it appears as though all these trees are also OB, in addition to the real stakes.
Lots of ravines, hard doglegs, plenty of fairway woods and hybrids off the tee and a few road crossings give one a sense the course is shoehorned onto the available acreage. It’s a crazy-quilt property as a whole, slightly disjointed, with netting, odd ditches and plenty of housing. But the individual holes are quite interesting and fun to play, taken one at a time.

Battling the Rapids in Costa Rica

Uphill and down, narrow and wider, plateau greens, tough bunkering. Barely 10 minutes from the nation’s main airport in San Jose, Cariari is an excellent way to begin a vacation, particularly if one is staying at the nearby Ramada Herradura, just a half-mile down the road. With many U.S. flights landing in the evening, staying at this well-appointed Ramada and touring Cariari early the next morning before heading towards the beach or mountains is an efficient way to begin a Costa Rican adventure.
Of course, some guys come to Costa Rica and never get too far from San Jose. They just want to golf, gamble and have a good time with the ladies. (Both casino gambling and prostitution are legal. The two “shrines” to the latter are the Del Ray Bar in San Jose and the Beetle Bar in Jaco Beach for those so inclined.)
Others, such as this correspondent, come to golf, but just as importantly experience the outdoors in other ways, either on zip-lines, ATV’s, in a kayak or sailboat, or even on a rappel line. Bearing all that in mind, it’s easy to understand that despite his company’s name, Landy Blank also handles groups that don’t play golf at all. This is not surprising, considering that fishing, whitewater rafting, even bird-watching are among the many activities available to non-golfers.

For pure thrills, it’s hard to beat zip-lining – unless you’re inclined to lower yourself down a sheer rock wall, tethered to a climbing rope, either adjacent to, or actually through a natural waterfall; more on the latter in a moment. Zip-lining is ubiquitous throughout Costa Rica. It combines speed, height, natural surroundings and awesome views, assuming one has enough wherewithal to look around while traversing from tree to tree on a wire and pulley system. The Canopy Vista Los Suenos tour features 13 separate “zips,” a latticework of wires stretched among the thick forests near the Los Suenos Resort. However, for every 10 adventurous souls willing to zip-line, probably only one or two will be willing to hitch themselves to a climbing rope and descend through the waterfalls, a uniquely adrenaline-fueled adventure offered by Pure Trek Canyoning up in the Arenal Volcano Region.
You can get just as wet without wearing a climbing harness or helmet, courtesy of the snorkeling, kayaking and sailing adventures offered by Kayak Jaco and its gregarious owner, American Neil Kahn. For those adventure-starved and time-pressed, one can get a “two-for-one” water experience by kayaking to the gorgeous beach near the company headquarters in Jaco, then snorkeling among the rocks just offshore, feeding grounds for dozens of different species of fish. It’s all that most would require, water-wise, and making it back to the hotel for lunch or a midday tee time is easily within reason.
Jose Quesada is the Director of Golf at La Iguana Golf Club, at the Marriott Los Suenos Resort near Jaco Beach, not even 15 minutes from the recommended kayaking and zip-line adventures. “Years ago the only courses in the country were private. But because a number of resort and public-access courses have opened over time, now golf is becoming another vacation activity that visitors really enjoy, with all of our other great activities,” explains the native Costa Rican.

They will really enjoy the game at the highly-unusual La Iguana. It occupies a narrow valley that is by turn part rainforest, part jungle and part wildlife refuge, and eventually, a more standard resort experience that concludes on flatter terrain with some long-range ocean view holes. “You experience different climates, and different environments on our golf course. It’s like a little tour of Costa Rica itself,” concludes the pro.
La Iguana is a spectacular, if indifferently maintained golf course, and the chance to fail in spectacular fashion is lurking around every fairway bend. High jungle walls hem in the golfer, often on both sides. The wetlands, pinching fairways, cross-hazards, lateral hazards and oddly-angled greens force a golfer to play defensively and a bit off-balance. Repeat plays and a degree of familiarity would mitigate this feeling somewhat, but an initial playing (and let’s face it – most resort guests or visitors are only playing a round or two at most) will leave many golfers a bit out of sync.

One of the Tight Holes at La Iguana Golf Course

This may be a golf course at a resort, but it isn’t a typical resort course by any stretch. La Iguana is a tough, albeit exhilarating test, and only as the course descends from the upper reaches to the flatland of the resort does it begin to mellow and return to normal as the ocean holes give way to the finish.
While the Marriott Los Suenos is a fine and elegant hotel, an equally great lodging option is the well-appointed condominium rental program at Los Suenos Resort, as administered by the management company, www.stayincostarica.com. Spacious and tastefully decorated, the program allows families to spread out a bit, access a private pool and private gym, and rent golf carts to tour the spacious property, if so desired. And because it features fully-equipped kitchens, visitors have the option of cooking any meal from the comfort of their temporary home.

The Springs Resort and Spa

Let me conclude by recommending two distinctive Costa Rican lodging properties that are utterly delightful and, in keeping with the recurring theme of this travelogue, are completely golf-free. Every room, every pool, every deck, restaurant, lobby area and stairwell at the superb Springs Resort and Spa has a billion-dollar view of the Arenal Volcano looming just across the valley. It’s one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world and is accessible by day hikes or nightly lava viewing expeditions. Many guests eschew leaving the property, however, instead luxuriating in no less than 18 separate freeform naturally-fed hot springs and pools, ranging in temperature from 76 to 103 degrees.
While reaching the world-class Springs Resort is a three-hour expedition from San Jose, the bucolic Vista del Valle Plantation Inn, despite its serene setting, is remarkably just 30-odd minutes from the airport. Even the most nature-centric hotels are usually pockets of shrubbery, trees and gardens set amidst the various bungalows. But this low-profile, tucked-away inn, with its smattering of villas, cabins, cottages and “casitas,” turns this sensibility inside-out.

Pool with Volcano on View at Springs Resort & Spa

This place is an unending field of flora, fauna, forest and garden, dotted with the occasional lodging property. The twisting paths from the main restaurant and pool area wind up and through an amazing array of flowering plants and vegetation. Finding one’s bungalow nestled amidst all the rich foliage, at least the first few forays from the lobby area, is an adventure in and of its own. In this small way, it’s a microcosm of an initial visit to the wonderful country of Costa Rica.
For more information, be sure to visit:
www.golfcr.com
www.kayakjaco.com
www.stayincostarica.com
www.puretrekcostarica.com
www.thespringscostarica.com
www.vistadelvalle.com

Joel Zuckerman, called “One of the Southeast’s most respected and sought-after golf writers” by Golfer’s Guide Magazine, is an award-winning travel writer based in Savannah, Ga., and Park City, Utah. He has written five books, including the epic “Pete Dye Golf Courses” in 2008. Joel’s course reviews, player profiles, essays and features have appeared in more that 100 publications internationally, including Sports Illustrated, Golf, Continental Magazine, Travel & Leisure Golf, Sky Magazine, Golf Connoisseur, Golfweek, Estates West, Millionaire and Golf International. For more of Joel, visit www.vagabondgolfer.com.

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Costa Rica comes third in the Travel Competitiveness Report

April 7th, 2010

Canada, USA and Costa Rica have the most attractive environments for developing the travel and tourism industry in the continent, according to the third annual Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report, published by the World Economic Forum.

The first place was given to Canada for its great variety of landscapes and it airport infrastructure.
The second place in America was given to USA for its human, natural and cultural resources.
Costa Rica got the third place based on natural resources.
Brazil came in fourth and Mexico fifth.

Below is a description of the Report

Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2009

The rankings are based on the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI), which measures the different regulatory and business-related issues that have been identified as levers for improving travel and tourism competitiveness in countries around the world.

This year’s report, published under the theme “Managing in a Time of Turbulence”, reflects the difficulties the industry currently faces, which must be overcome to ensure strong sectorial growth in the future.

This is particularly captured by the topics covered in the analytical chapters, exploring issues such as the impact of oil prices on the tourism industry, the importance of price competitiveness for attracting tourists and the extent to which the Index explains differences in travel intensity between countries.

The Index was developed in close collaboration with the Forum’s Strategic Design Partner Booz & Company and its Data Partners Deloitte, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

For additional information or to see the world ranking please visit:

http://www.weforum.org/en/initiatives/gcp/TravelandTourismReport/index.htm

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New Direct Flight from New York to Costa Rica

March 30th, 2010

New Direct Flight from New York to Costa Rica

American Airlines will offer a direct flight from New York to Costa Rica starting April 7th 2010.

Itinerary

From NYC to CR

The Flight will depart New York on Saturdays, Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays at 3.35pm NY time. The plane will land in Costa Rica at 7.15pm CR time.

From CR to NYC
The return flights from Costa Rica will be on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays and Fridays at 8.30am and landing in New York and 3.30pm

The plane

Boeing 757.
The plane can carry a total of 188 passengers. (22 in Business class and 166 in Economy class.)

AA Special

American Airlines is offering 5000 miles for flights booked between April 7th and June 30th. For further details go to: www.aa.com

Stay in Costa Rica Specials

Stay for 7 nights on any of our condominiums and pay for 6 nights. Additional information at www.StayInCostaRica.com

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