You'll hear and see the phrase “pura vida” everywhere in Costa Rica. The simple translation is “pure life,” but the meaning goes much further and epitomizes the soul and spirit of this beautiful Central American country.
“Pura vida is a lifestyle, an expression that conveys the state of happiness, appreciation, peace and freedom of Costa Ricans (ticos),” says Pablo Solano, executive director of the Costa Rica Convention & Visitors Bureau. “You can say it to mean ‘see you later,’ ‘hello,’ ‘I am fine,’ ‘no problem’ and more. No other country uses this expression in so many situations.”
Mellow is Costa Rica’s national state of mind. The country is renowned for unplugged beach resorts, misty mountain hideaways, spectacular wildlife and adrenaline-charged adventures, making it an ideal destination for incentive travel.
Atlantic and Pacific beaches hug the east and west coasts, and a volcanic ribbon of mountains splits the country in two. World renowned as an eco-paradise, Costa Rica packs an astounding 33 national parks, 61 wildlife refuges and 11 conservation regions in a landmass slightly smaller than West Virginia. Twenty-six percent of the country is protected as reserves and refuges, national parks, wildlife refuges and wetlands. Teambuilding and pre- or post- meeting excursions range from zip lining to white-water rafting, horseback riding, birding, jungle hikes, whale watching and much more.
Numerous airlines and frequent flights from the United States serve Costa Rica’s two international airports—San Jose International (SJO) and Liber International (LIR), which host 25 international airlines that represent about 400 weekly flights.
Many major hotel chains have properties in Costa Rica and offer fine options for meetings and conventions. Here are three boutique properties in three different regions to consider:
El Mangroove (yes, it’s “groove” not “grove”), a member of the Autograph Collection, lives up to its hip name with 85 bohemian-chic suites decorated in soothing neutrals and locally sourced wood furniture. Located steps from the Gulf of Papagayo, El Mangroove specializes in ocean-to-table cuisine.
On a secluded rain forest headland above the coast of Puntarenas, Villa Caletas offers ocean views, jungle access, a private beach and awesome sunsets. The property calls its sophisticated décor “tropical Victorian, neo-classic,” which really means elegant, not ticky-tacky beachy.
Red-roofed casitas dot the lush hills of Hacienda AltaGracia, an Auberge Resort Collection property. Fifty oversize, chic rooms boast panoramic views, and the resort offers farm-to-table dining, a private airstrip (the hotel is accessible by road as well) and a unique equestrian adventure that takes riders along the Santa Maria Trail to Rio Calientillo, where they are served a traditional Costa Rican farmer’s meal wrapped in banana leaves.