“Costa Rica: The Complete Guide” will be published in mid-February by best-selling author James Kaiser. It includes 496 full-color pages of history, adventure and advice for travelers.
After living in Costa Rica for nearly five years, visiting every corner of the country and learning the idiosyncrasies of the Costa Rican people, best-selling travel guide writer James Kaiser has come out with a new book: “Costa Rica: The Complete Guide.”
The book really began 14 years ago, when Kaiser graduated from Dartmouth College in the United States. Like other college graduates, he had no idea what to do with his life.
“I didn’t have a job, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I went back to Maine, where I’m from, and wrote a guidebook to Acadia National Park. I didn’t think any of the guidebooks on the market were very good, so I decided to write my own,” Kaiser recalls.
In 2000, Kaiser self-published his first book, “Acadia: The Complete Guide,” which has since become the best-selling guidebook to Acadia National Park in the United States. His subsequent efforts have resulted in best-selling guides to Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree and Yosemite national parks.
Although he studied engineering, Kaiser is now an established travel writer and photographer. He produces all of the content of his books.
“I’ve always been interested in art, so things like photography and book design came easy to me,” Kaiser says. “I was also interested in writing, but I’d never done it professionally. I found that the more I wrote, the better I became.”
Next Challenge: Costa Rica
Following the success of his U.S. guidebooks, Kaiser worked as a photographer for Yahoo Sports at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. To take his mind off the cold, he accepted an invitation from a friend to visit the warm, tropical country of Costa Rica. Kaiser says the trip was one of the best of his life, spent “hanging out with friends, going to national parks, relaxing at the beach, sailing, enjoying the beautiful weather and meeting amazing Ticos. I just fell in love with the country.”
His friend urged him to write a guidebook about Costa Rica.
At the time, Kaiser was finishing a guidebook to Yosemite National Park, and he focused his efforts on that. But when he finished, he couldn’t shake his memories of Costa Rica. His books were selling well, so why not head back to Central America? Although there were plenty of guidebooks to Costa Rica, none of them matched Kaiser’s personal style. Once again, he felt he could make a better guidebook, so he sold his belongings and headed south.
In the past five years, Kaiser has set foot in every corner of this small country. He has researched its people, culture, history and political system, and equally important, he learned Spanish.
In his book, he shares the good and bad experiences he had while living as an expat in the land of “pura vida.” He hopes that by sharing those experiences, travelers will have the best vacation possible by understanding how the country works.
But what makes Kaiser’s guide different than others?
“My books are filled with color photographs and fascinating background information,” Kaiser says. “Most guidebooks are black and white, and they focus overwhelmingly on hotels and restaurants. They offer limited information about things like history and culture, and they put that information in the back, as an afterthought. My guides are different. I think background information is one of the most important things you can have in a travel guide, so I put it in the front.”
That way, he says, visitors are better prepared and understand what awaits them.
The guide starts with practical matters: getting to Costa Rica, currency, weather, phrases, and, Kaiser’s personal favorite, “Top 10 ways to Avoid a Cultural Misunderstanding.” (Tip #1: In Costa Rica, it’s the customer’s responsibility to ask for the bill in restaurants.) Next up are in-depth chapters on culture, history, ecology and wildlife.
The second section, “Destinations,” divides the country by geographical areas into the Central Valley, Northern and Southern Mountains, Nicoya Peninsula, Central and South Pacific and the Caribbean.
When Kaiser is asked what it’s like to travel around Costa Rica for five years, he says he has plenty of anecdotes that weren’t published.
“There’s never a dull moment in Costa Rica,” he says. There’s always something interesting going on, and I never know what to expect.”
Among his most vivid memories he mentions trips to Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula, a boat trip to watch hundreds of dolphins off Drake Bay, nesting sea turtles at Playa Ostional and hiking to the top of Chirripó, the country’s highest peak.
“There’s literally no end to all the eco-adventures you can have in Costa Rica,” he says.
Kaiser is also committed to promoting environmental responsibility. “Costa Rica: The Complete Guide” is printed on FSC-certified paper that comes from sustainably harvested trees, and 5 percent of the book’s profits will be donated to nonprofit organizations that are working to preserve Costa Rica’s biodiversity for future generations.
“Costa Rica: The Complete Guide” retails for $22.95, and it will be sold in bookstores throughout the U.S. Travelers also can find it online at Amazon.com and BN.com. In Costa Rica, it will be available at 7th Street Books in San José, and Kaiser is currently negotiating with other local booksellers. He also is working on a full color e-book.
For more information about Kaiser and his guides, see: www.jameskaiser.com