Despite its diminutive size, Costa Rica packs a punch as an incentive destination, and its popularity looks set to rise next year with Global DMC Partners ranking it in the top spot of its recent 2019 meeting and incentive hotlist.
With coastlines on both the Caribbean and Pacific, the Central American country boasts stunning beaches, rugged rainforests, volcanoes, weird and wonderful wildlife and high-adrenalin activities, making it ideal for creating unique and memorable group itineraries.
Costa Rica is proudly home to about 5% of the global biodiversity – roughly a quarter of its area is made up of protected jungle, teeming with wildlife including sloths, spider monkeys and quetzal birds – meaning no trip the country would be complete without a trek into the rainforest to spot some of the weird and wonderful birds and creatures. With 29 national parks, 19 wildlife refuges and eight biological reserves to choose from, groups are spoilt for choice.
The Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast is the best place to spot turtles, including green sea, leatherback and hawksbill species, that nest on the beaches. Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific Coast has stunning hiking trails, mangrove swamps, lagoons and more than 109 species of animals – everything from the mantled howler monkey to tree frogs to three-toed sloths – while Arenal Volcano National Park is popular for its hiking trails and stunning scenery. The Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, meanwhile, is considered one of the richest sites in the continent for the observation of birds.
Adventurous groups are well catered for in Costa Rica, with ziplining through the rainforests, rafting the Balsa River, horseback riding to La Fortuna Waterfall, and Pure Trek Canyoning – a multi-sport adventure combining rappelling, down-climbing, and river tracing in a deep canyon, among the activities recommended by TAM Costa Rica DMC.
Both coastlines offer an abundance of options, from swimming, snorkelling, fishing and surfing to simply soaking up the sun and Costa Rica’s renowned ‘Pura Vida’ (pure life, which is the country’s national motto).
Hotels & venues
In April this year, the country opened its first purpose-built convention centre, signalling its intent to become a contender in the international events market and a viable option for large meetings as well as incentives.
The Costa Rica Convention Centre (CRCC) is a futuristic and sustainable space located just six miles away from the capital city of San José and five miles from Juan Santamaría International Airport. It features a main hall (divisible into three sections); six conference rooms; six meeting rooms; large foyers and pre-event areas; a business centre and a VIP lounge.
On the hotel front, Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo offers 181 rooms, spa, a range of dining options and meeting space for up to 200, nestled on a Pacific Coast hillside and overlooking two golden sand beaches. The nearby Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo (below) offers 132 rooms and 21 suites, three beaches, golf, an extensive activity programme and dining experiences within a pristine 1,400-acre private peninsula.
The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa & Resort is an ideal base for groups wanting to visit Arenal Volcano National Park, offering 54 rooms including six master suites with views of the Volcano. Other boutique options include the Oxygen Jungle Villas in Uvita, and El Mangroove, a luxury Autograph Collection by Marriott property with 85 suites.
Last month, the hip W brand made its debut in Reserva Conchal in Costa Rica with a 151-room hotel, featuring several speciality restaurants, a bar and lounge, an infinity pool, a spa and meeting space. The 2,300-acre Reserva Conchal development is set in Costa Rica’s popular Guanacaste province, with amenities including a Robert Trent Jones II-designed golf course and a beach club. It’s already home to a Westin Golf Resort and Spa.
And there’s plenty of new properties on the horizon. Hard Rock International is planning to open the all-inclusive 294-room Hard Rock Hotel Papagayo, Costa Rica’s first Hard Rock hotel, in early 2019.
Santarena Hotel (below), a 45-room boutique in Las Catalinas, Guanacaste is set to open in February. The hotel also boasts a rooftop lounge and is home to one of the region’s best beaches, Playa Danta, which is just steps away and a local favourite for swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking and snorkelling.
Further ahead, the Rosewood Puerto Papagayo, Costa Rica is scheduled to open within the province of Guanacaste in 2021. Situated within a forested setting, the resort will offer 130 rooms and suites in addition to 92 residences.
The accommodations will be designed to make the most of the natural surroundings, with features such as open-air living rooms, large terraces and plunge pools. The resort will also offer a total of nearly 1,100 square metres of event space including a ballroom with a large outdoor terrace.