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Costa Rica Surpassing Mexico as Spring Break Destination

Article Summary:

Costa Rica is on a good trend; in the past several years travelers are choosing Costa Rica over Mexico. And it isn’t just spring-breakers driving the increase.

Photo Credit: Costa Rica Views

Original Article Text From Statemsan via Google Translate :

Even in Off Season, Costa Rica Beckons

As I looked up from my Kindle during boarding for our flight from Dallas to Costa Rica, I suddenly found myself surrounded by high school and college kids.

“Oh, yeah,” my husband said. “It’s spring break.”

“Shouldn’t they be getting drunk on a beach in Mexico?” I replied.

Maybe not. Michael Kaye, a Costa Rica-based travel agent and owner of Costa Rica Expeditions, says he has seen a trend in the past several years of travelers choosing Costa Rica over Mexico.

According to the Costa Rica Tourism Board, 2011 saw a 4.6 percent jump in visitors from 2010. Market analysts predict a 7 percent increase this year.

And it isn’t just spring-breakers driving the increase.

“We found that it’s not just the college kids, a lot of their parents are coming with them,” said Mark Mead, co-owner of Mead Brown Vacations in Costa Rica, which manages villas there and in Mexico. “If they do their research, they know there is a lot more to do down here than drink on the beach.”

There’s a focus on sustainable and eco-tourism, activities from zip lining to scuba diving and scenery from volcanoes and rainforests to gorgeous beaches. For Texas residents, it’s all a direct flight (just over three hours) from Dallas or Houston.

Michael Brown, of Brown Mead Vacations in Costa Rica, summed it up: “Costa Rica not only has beaches and beer, we have monkeys, sloths and scarlet macaws.”

And the off-season, which runs from May to November, is one of the perfect times to go. Here are some must-see destinations.

San Jose
The main entry and departure point for the country, San Jose can be a little overwhelming. It’s a sprawling, noisy metropolis and has all the pollution and crime that go along with that.

Where to stay
Grab a cab at the airport and head for one of the many bed-and-breakfasts in the Alajuela area. It’s not far from the airport, has more of a rural feel and is well-positioned to see some of San Jose’s best sites.

What to see
For a day trip, visit the Doka coffee plantation to see how some of the world’s best coffee is made and try some of the final product. Then set out for the Poas Volcano to see the crater and hike the national park. Afterward, head down the mountain to see the La Paz waterfall. Hire a local cab driver as your tour guide. Hosts at any B&B can recommend a reliable one.

Arenal
The Arenal region, one of Costa Rica’s most rugged and lush landscapes, is in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano and just a couple of hours by bus from San Jose.

Where to stay
After arriving in the main town of La Fortuna, grab a cab up to one of the many mountain resorts. The Observatory Lodge is the closest hotel to the volcano’s crater. It offers breathtaking views of the lava flows when they’re active. The full-service resort has gorgeous rooms, a beautiful pool and wildlife that wander right up to have breakfast with you.

What to do
Head up the mountain to the crater viewing area or down the mountain to check out any of the hot springs resorts. I recommend Tabacon, where dozens of pools fed by the volcanic hot springs are hidden along jungle pathways.

For something more active, book a horseback tour with Alberto’s Horses. The La Fortuna Waterfall tour takes riders over challenging terrain to the gates of a national park, where riders trade their blue jeans for bathing suits. The steep hike down takes about 20 minutes, but swimming at the base of the ice-cold waterfall, surrounded by towering rain forest, is one for the bucket list.

Monteverde
High up in the cloud forest, the town of Santa Elena is the gateway to some of Costa Rica’s most verdant forests.

Where to stay
The Arco Iris Lodge was my favorite hotel in Costa Rica. With upstairs sleeping lofts, it’s like sleeping in a tree house. It’s a convenient walk to some of Costa Rica’s best restaurants. Take advantage of the cheap laundry service.

What to do
Check out Selvatura Park for zip lining and sky bridge tours. Zip lining hundreds of feet above — and through — the cloud forest canopy on a series of cables is the closest anyone can get to flying. While leaving the platform for the first time can be a little nerve-wracking, the safety equipment is in top shape and the guides are very reassuring. The final 1-kilometer line is a heart-pounding adrenaline rush with amazing views.

What to pack
Pack light and like you’re going to summer camp. Don’t forget a rain poncho and flashlight. Power outages are common, especially in the mountains, and, speaking from personal experience, you don’t want to be stuck navigating a trail at night by the light of your iPad. Bug spray with DEET is also a must.

We managed to pack for two people in our old college backpacks, and we’re glad we didn’t take more.

When to go
While the period from May to November is sometimes called the rainy season, it really only rains for an hour or two in the afternoon, leaving the morning free for fun activities. But it’s still a good idea to avoid September and October trips because of particularly heavy rains.

“The main difference between high and low season is more availability and lower rates,” said Dana Cohen of Visit Costa Rica, the government’s tourism board. “You’ll see a lot of specials during the low season, cheaper airfare, and it’s easier to negotiate.”

Some highlights of the offseason:

■ Turtle nesting in Tortuguero, June-September.

■ River rafting is more exciting because of higher water levels, May-November.

■ The raptor migration along the Atlantic coast, August and September.

■ Squirrel monkey mating season in Corcovado, June-September.

Link to Original Article:

From Statesman

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