San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Regional Vacation Options Still Available

The high season is upon us, and as the demand for Costa Rican tourist facilities and packages goes up a notch, so do the prices. Many hotels are already booked through the end of the year… but fear not! If you’ve got the money, there’re more than a few Costa Rican tour operators with their feet in more than a few doors, both here and in nearby countries. The Tico Times recently examined a few last-minute holiday vacation options.

Decameron (, 291-7373) an all-inclusive agency with a chain of hotels in Colombia, Panama, El Salvador, Mexico and Jamaica, said it’s sent some 70,000 Costa Ricans to the Colombian islands of San Andrés in the past five years.

Christmas or New Year vacation packages on the islands go for $469 per person Friday through Monday, or $549 per person Monday through Friday, including the 45-minute direct flight from Costa Rica, food, lodging and pretty much everything else. San Andrés boasts five Decameron hotels, and guests can use all their services, regardless of which one they stay at. With more than 1,000 package sales expected this season, the Costa Rica-San Andrés tour is easily the most popular of Decameron’s local promotions, though prices to other Decameron destinations are similar.

At the northern-Pacific beach town of PlayasdelCoco, the Hotel and Casino Coco Verde (670-0152) reported double occupancy space through Christmas for $96, including taxes and breakfast.

Carlson Wagonlit Travel (, 280-0122), a multinational tour operator with offices in Costa Rica, said it would use its connections this holiday season to find space in hotels, on flights and on cruise ships – “Just tell us what are your dream vacations, we’ll make them reality.” Typical all-inclusive destinations from Costa Rica include Miami, Colorado, Panama, the San Andrés Islands of Colombia and Cartagena, also in Colombia.

Here in Costa Rica, Carlson Wagonlit at press time had some $148 openings at Hotel Sugar Beach (Playa Potrero, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste); a few four- and six-person suites for $112 and $140 at Hotel Bahía Esmeralda (Playa Potrero); some $185 rooms at Hotel Doce Lunas (Jacó, on the central Pacific coast); $280 “jungle view” rooms at Hotel Parador (Manuel Antonio, south of Jacó); and $480 suites at Issimo Suites (Manuel Antonio), among others.

At press time, La Mansión Inn (, 777-3489) at Manuel Antonio – home of The Bat Cave bar, which is a bar in a cave, with bats – had a number of Christmastime rooms going for $250-425.

The Costa Rican agency Terranova (, 288-2520) is promoting a New Year’s cruise that leaves from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Dec. 31; prices for the seven-night Caribbean tour on Princess Cruises run from $780-1,100, not including taxes or airfare to Florida.

TAM Travel (, 256-0203), a 42-year-old Costa Rican enterprise, said its business with local hotels is strong enough to get tourists where they want to be, even if they should have reserved holiday spaces before now. The company also has a full catalog of one- or half-day tours – visits to volcanoes, hot springs, artisan markets, rain forests, gardens or golf courses, plus rafting or fishing trips. TAM offers several package tours, such as a six-day trip by airplane and four-wheel-drive car to northcentral Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano, on to the nearby Monteverde cloud forest and ending on a northern-Pacific beach. Contact the agency for package prices.

In David, Panama, about an hour from the southern Costa Rican border of Paso Canoas, the Gran Hotel Nacional (, 507-775-2222) has double rooms available from $66-80. The hotel features three restaurants, a movie theater, pool and 24-hour casino. If the drive seems too far, Air Panama ( has a quick flight from San José for about $100.

Nature Air (, 299-6000) is promoting a $249-plus-tax trip from San José to Bocas del Toro, an archipelago near the Costa Rican border in the northwest corner of Panama. The flights leave San José Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 1 p.m. The promotion includes two nights’ lodging at the Hotel Bahía, a 101-year-old building that was originally the main office of the United Fruit Company.


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