Posted tagged ‘travel in costa rica’

The Tourist Tree? The Naked Indian Tree? It’s the Gumbo Limbo Tree in Costa Rica!

February 7, 2014

Living in the rainforest in Costa Rica means being surrounded by an abundance of interesting trees. One of my personal favorites is the Gumbo Limbo tree! A wildly popular tropical tree, it is native to the southeastern United States, but found widely throughout the Americas, West Indies and especially prominent in Costa Rica. This tree easily adapts to a variety of both dry and moist habitats, and is a fairly salt-tolerant species, enabling this tree to be found along most coastlines including around the Hotels of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Though consisting of a fairly soft wood, the Gumbo Limbo is considered a very wind-tolerant tree, making this species a good choice for hurricane or extreme weather areas.

This fast-growing canopy tree reaches heights of 50-60 feet and more, with a trunk that bears a striking color of green and red, with a thin paper like exfoliating bark. The Gumbo Limbo or Bursera Simaruba, goes by several aliases, such as the Spirit Gum, Birch Gum, Turpentine, Naked Indian, or more commonly named in popular vacation destinations…..the “Tourist Tree”, because of its red color and peeling skin!

The Gumbo-limbo is generally planted for shade and ornamental use in front or backyards, can be found along streets and highways, but it is also commonly used throughout Costa Rica as a “living fence” since it easily sprouts from cut branches that are stuck into the ground. With it’s naturally rapid growth, within no time farmers have a strong, natural, eco-friendly fence with which they can corral their livestock and mark their land.

The arils (or etable part surrounding the seed) provides an important source of food for winter migrating birds, including many migrants from North America, as well as local residents such as the Masked Tityra, Bright-rumped Attila, and Black-faced Grosbeak, the Baltimore Oriole, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and many species of Vireos. Additionally, Gumbo-limbo’s rapid growth, easy and low cost of propagation, and it’s ecological versatility make this species an ideal “starter” tree for reforestation projects.

There are so many more natural benefits to this great tree, as the sticky, turpentine-scented resin has been used for centuries for making glue, varnish, liniments, as well as a water resistant coating for dugout canoes. The aromatic sap is also used as an anti-inflammatory, a treatment for gout, a form of incense, as well as the leaves are brewed to make a medicinal tea for a wide variety of ailments. The bark is also considered a treatment against rashes caused by plants such as poison ivy and poison oak. Though the actual wood of the tree is rather soft and spongy, this versatile wood is traditionally used to manufacture the colorful carousel horses you see at county fairs, and other small wood products such as matchsticks, toothpicks, charcoal, boxes, crates, and interior trim have also been made from the Gumbo-Limbo wood.

Tribal or Native Indian medicinal uses include remedies for skin infections, skin sores, ingesting a bark tea for urinary tract infections, pain, colds, flu, sun stroke, fevers and to purify the blood. A length of bark about 5 cm x 30 cm is boiled in a gallon of water for 10 minutes or so for these local remedies and then used topically or can be sipped as a tea 2-3 times per day. Not only is it touted to provide the above medicinal remedies, but it is also said to kill bacteria, stop excessive bleeding, increase urination, increase perspiration, cleanse the blood, neutralize various venoms, helpful as a cough expectorate, reducing fevers and my favorite remedy…..increasing libido!!

So when out hiking, exploring, or just taking a drive around Costa Rica, no more passing that Gumbo Limbo tree and not even giving it a second thought. Just look at how much one can do and “cure” with this beautiful and unique tree!

But my friends… have been warned!!!! None of these uses are FDA approved, so please do not try these remedies at home! At least not without a Shaman present!!

Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and owns her own Vacation Rental Home company on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica at Manuel Antonio Rental Homes.


Sportfishing in Costa Rica…..Some Hints to Finding the Fish!

January 12, 2014

With well over 750 miles of coastline to explore, anglers coming to Costa Rica have a multitude of options to try their luck for both inshore and offshore sport fishing in this marine rich part of the world. It’s a big ocean out there, and if you don’t know what you are doing you can spend a whole day driving around burning expensive gas and finding absolutely nothing to put a bite on a hook! The main key to a successful day of offshore or inshore fishing is frankly knowing where and how to find the fish!

Naturally, there is no substitute for local expertise when it comes to finding fish, they live and breath the sport and no one

wants you to have a good fishing day more than your Captain and First Mate, so count on them for the best results! Every good captain knows where to find the fish, but if you are out for a day on your own, or if you are practicing to become the next best fishing captain for your next lifetime, you may find the following information helpful while exploring some new (or old) fishing grounds.
The first and foremost important tip for finding the fish is watch for Variation. Variation can come in several forms, some of them very obvious and others more subtle, so here are some helpful hints for you in case you are headed out for a day of great fishing action!

Los Corrientes (The currents)
The most tried and true method to finding gamefish in Costa Rica is fishing in “los corrientes”. These currents can be

spotted by a subtle change in color and in the temperature of the water. Baitfish and predators tend to be more plentiful in these currents, so an experienced captain will generally work the edges of “los corrientes” to see how the action is going before moving on to other options. When fishing from the areas of Quepos, Jaco, or Herradura, charters will find “los corrientes” about twenty-five to thirty miles offshore during peak billfish season and will generally head that direction to start their day. For that reason, it is almost always recommended to plan at least a 3/4 to Full Day of fishing to allow enough time to get into the really thick action!

Ocean Floor Geography
Invisible to the naked eye, the underwater geopgraphic structures such as canyons, reefs and other natural formations can increase

the flow of ocean currents, increasing the chance of good angling or even extreme angling in particular areas. The rapidly moving currents can trap bait fish allowing the large game fish to move in seeking an easy feeding session on the trapped bait. Similar to the seasonal currents, these fish rich currents are often found by looking for subtle changes in the water color or surface ocean temperatures. Professional and experienced Sport Fishing Charter Captains for the Costa Rican shores will always have one eye on the bottom (think GPS) and one eye on the surface looking for those subtle changes that are going to lead them to their prize.

Floating Debris
The rainy season in Costa Rica may not be the favored months for hooking the larger Gamefish (though they are prevelent year round,

so don’t let the rainy season scare you away!), but it is the hottest time of year for Dorado, including Bull Dorado which can often times come in weighing over fifty pounds! Since the heavy rains in the mountains of Costa Rica run out the local rivers located in the Quepos, Jaco and

Herradura areas, the experienced fisherman knows that fish love structure and obstacles, even temporary formations resulting from debris washing out to sea from the rain swollen rivers, so its always a good idea to head that way. Fishing deep around areas such as weed lines, floating pallets, or logs can yield a great Dorado hit, meaning a possible great dinner will be on the table that night! Other game fish can be found beneath the debris as well, so this is an area that is especially worth an anglers undivided attention!!

Underwater Structure
Wrecks and reefs provide structure or should we say a vacation home getaway for large bottom fish including Cubera Snapper and Grouper. This so called structure is also home to plankton and other small organisms that serve to attract baitfish which in turn attract the bigger game fish on the prowl for an easy meal. Keep in mind…..the main structure area may be overfished, while potential surrounding “satellite” sites around the structure can often be teaming with life as well, so keep your eyes and your fishing lines open. Larger Gamefish often hang out at these quieter satellite sites, so work that whole area for best results.


Its a big ocean out there, but sometimes you can see obvious “slicks” on the surface, so keep your eye out for any and all oily slicks on the water’s surface since these can often be a good sign for hungry for action anglers. Big game fish such as Dorado, Tuna, Marlin and Sailfish when feeding are chasing bait fish to the surface which releases fish oils, resulting in the “slicks” that you may witness. If you are lucky, this very slick could hold the trophy catch you have been seeking!


Offshore birds are always fishing in Costa Rica, so it is always a good idea to keep an eye on the sky as well! Searching for bait pods, tuna feeding, or trolling Billfish, pay particular attention to the many Frigate Birds who are great spotters, especially those that are circling in one particular location. The experienced fishing guide knows that even a lone Frigate Bird can lead you to a trophy Tuna, Marlin or Sailfish.

With prices high and time limited during a Costa Rica visit, when fishing offshore in our gamefish rich waters of Costa Rica, the

importance of local expertise cannot be overstated. Natural underwater geographic structures are consistent and well know and local Costa Rica Fishing Guides now have the ability to record the best fishing spots to GPS, giving them the edge when fishing for big game fish in these open waters…..something someone who does not live in the area is never going to know about. In addition, an experienced captain and mate will have developed keen eyes and experience, with some experienced Captains and First Mates able to spot schooling Tuna miles away just by looking for disturbed water and many of the other hints listed above.

So on your next Sportfish outing while fishing in Costa Rica (or wherever!), keep the above hints in mind for best results, and

be sure to find out more about Pacific fish species, fishing seasons, fishing reports, and the local weather conditions beforehand by checking out our link on fishing in the Quepos, Costa Rica area via your local Costa Rica Vacation House Rental or Costa Rica Hotel, where they are happy to steer you in the right direction for an unforgettable day of Game fishing in an area that still boasts some 17 IGFA World Records! You could be the next World Record Holder!! FISH ON!!!!

Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and owns and operates her own Costa Rica Vacation Rental Home business at Manuel Antonio Rental Homes!

“Carnavales” in the City of Limon: An Annual Costa Rican Tradition!

September 27, 2013

When: October 11-21, 2013 (annual event)
Where: Limón
Cost: Free
Hours: All hours!!

If you are planning a visit or vacation in Costa Rica soon, Costa Rica’s port town of Limón on the Caribbean side of the country, converts to an all out party every October to celebrate “Carnaval”! Vaguely disguised around celebrating Columbus Day (October 12th) or “Dia de Las Culturas” (as we know it in Costa Rica), locals as well as every strange character you can think of join together in the overconsumption of alcohol, while dancing and parading the streets of Limon to the popular Latin beats of blaring Calypso, Reggae, Samba, Salsa and many other tropical rhythms! A good time is generally guaranteed, all in the name of history, culture and a legitimately good reason to Party!

Background of Limon:
Limon (Spanish for Lemon) is the largest “city” on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, as well as the center for Costa Rica’s largest commercial shipping port in nearby Moin. Serving as the capital city of the Limon Province, Christopher Columbus set anchor in 1502. It is said that Limon was named after the large lemon tree that used to grow where the City Hall is now located, but that rumor has not substantiated over the years.
Also known at the Pearl of the Caribbean, Limon is an exotic province characterized by the friendly openness of its culturally diverse population, as well as the richness of its Afro-Caribbean customs.
Limon’s economy is based primarily on banana, cacao and pineapple production and exportation, as well as the raising of cattle, though the yearly cruise ship season brings a large influx of tourism to the area. Considered to have the largest population of black people in all of Costa Rica, the Afro-Caribbean culture derives from mostly Jamaican descent. Originally brought to this area as slaves to build the railway connecting the Atlantic coastline with the Central Plateau (San Jose) for the shipping of goods by land, a large Chinese immigrant population also remains from this same ambitious project.

Highlights of “Carnaval”:
The first Carnaval (that is the correct spelling for Costa Rica), was held in 1949 and was the brainchild of the late Alfred Henry King and friends, who felt it was a good opportunity to unite the Costa Rican culture (originally descendents from Spain) together with the primarily black Caribbean Culture (mostly African, Caribbean and Chinese descendents), which had suffered strained relationships throughout Costa Rican history. In just over 60 years, the Carnavales de Limon is now considered the most popular Festival in the entire country. It’s interesting that Costa Rica does not celebrate Columbus arriving to “America”; it celebrates the uniting of cultures. Pretty forward thinking!
During Carnaval, throngs of people line the streets to watch and cheer on the “beauty queens”, loud marching bands, and to see the brightly colored costumes of the “Comparsas”. Colorfully dressed and adorned coordinated dance troupes, the Comparsas wildly and skillfully shake their booties (booties of ALL ages and ALL sizes!!)to the loud tropical beats of mostly Brazilian Samba & Latin Salsa for miles and miles. It is quite a loud drum banging, hip swinging, cuchi cuchi type show, worth the 2.5 hour drive from San Jose!

My own Adventures at Carnaval:
Having lived on the Caribbean coast for 10 years, I have had the pleasure to personally attend Carnaval. Beyond the great live music throughout the 10 days of the event, one of my favorite parts (and there are many) is the Carnaval Infantil (Children’s Parade). Large macho men run around wearing large “muumuu” style dresses with HUGE handcrafted masks on their heads (see picture).
The “Mascaradas” as they are known, consist of men who play a game known as “Rass’em”. The lucky guy wearing the large mask (check out the peep hole in the picture, so they can see where they are going) chases the other men in the group, and when he is caught, the next guy has to put on the mask and dress and start parading around. A pretty amazing sight for this “macho” society, and really quite entertaining, if not a little creepy!
At night, the Limón Carnaval really comes to life! It’s like an enormous block party with everything located outside in the warm tropical air, just like a county fair, only A LOT crazier!! Rows and rows of booths (or “chinamos” as they are called here) of food, drink, handicrafts, local delicacies (more on those later), and dance floors dot the area and there are always people dancing in the streets (literally)! I personally love the Reggae music coming out of houses, offices and every corner of the city, that is my kind of music “mon”. My biggest challenge is trying to understand the Jamaican Creole dialect. I speak English and am fluent in Spanish, fortunately so are most of the inhabitants of Limon, as otherwise, I would be at a loss for much of what they are saying in their unique dialect. Whoppin? (What’s happening?) Watcha got? (What time is it?) Just a few examples that caused initial confusion on my part, but now seem a natural part of conversation!

The Food of Limon:
Visitors have not had the full Limon experience and definitely not the Carnaval experience without trying some true, authentic Caribbean style food. First and foremost, you must try the “Rice and Beans”. This is not your everyday “gallo pinto”, though it does look the part. This “rice and beans” is made with coconut milk, and if you are really lucky, has a touch of the super hot Panamanian Chilies thrown in for a surprise kick. Some other favorites of the area are the ubiquitous “Pan Bon”, similar

to Christmas Fruitcake in the USA and just as nasty to me, as well as “Pati”, a wannabe tasty empanada and Patacones (double fried Plantains), everything’s better fried!! Am I right? My very favorite has to be…… (drum roll please)…..”cajeta”. A delicious coconut candy with the texture of very firm fudge, this candy can be found sold on almost every street corner, store, bus stop or “chinamo” throughout the City. (I have some stashed in my refrigerator right now.)

In Summary:
If you haven’t had the good fortune to visit the Province of Limon during your Costa Rica vacation, it’s not just about the beaches to the South, or the endangered Marine Turtles to the North! The actual City of Limon is worth a visit, and I can’t think of a better or more exciting time to visit the area then during the yearly celebration of Carnaval!

Author: Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Sources: (Photo & Audio credits, please support their cause!)

Get out the Red, White & Blue….It’s Almost Costa Rica Independence Day!

September 10, 2013

It’s September again and in Costa Rica that means “Mes de La Patria” (Patriotic Month)! This colorful time finds the entire country in a month long celebration of their Independence from Spain with patriotic displays of their red, white and blue flag, colorful parades, thematic dances, concerts, the march of “Faroles” (more on that later) and any other number of celebrations throughout the country. Most events culminate around “Dia de Independencia” (Independence Day), which takes place on September 15th each year!

A country rich with national pride, Costa Rica encourages its citizens from a very young age to appreciate their Independence Day traditions which are to be celebrated and passed on to future generations. Schools plan elaborate patriotic displays and lively celebrations both the night of September 14th, as well as more parties, parades and civic marches on September 15th, an official National Holiday. For the school children, this month marks the culmination of many months of patriotic preparation, social studies on the importance of the date, as well as providing a special night to show off their artistic talents with the march of the “Feroles” (elaborate homemade paper lanterns).

Although September 15th is the official date to recognize Costa Rica’s independence from Spain in 1821, unlike independence battles common to many other countries, this actually wasn’t a particularly significant event for Costa Rica at the time, as the country had basically functioned independently for years from the Capitanía General of Guatemala. However, after the final Spanish defeat in the Mexican War of Independence (1810 to 1821), the authorities in Guatemala declared Independence for all of Central America. So, even though the official date of independence is in 1821, Costa Rica had basically been on it’s own for some time due to Spain’s lack of economical, political and even religious interest in this very poor region.

Nonetheless, the “Ticos” take a great sense of pride in their freedom and their official festivities actually begin on September 14th when a series of runners carry the “freedom” torch from Nicaragua (stopping for Costa Rica in the city of Cartago) and continue all the way to Panama. This is meant to be a re-enactment commemorating history when an official “news” runner ran from border to border of the then Federal Republic of Central America, notifying the people of the region of their official liberation. Costa Rica did not actually get the news until October 13th, 1821!

The runners, selected from local schools throughout Central America to carry the torch an average of 500 meters each, take on their task with great honor, as the mission serves as a great source of patriotic pride throughout the region. These runners cross the Nicaraguan border into Costa Rica each year on the eve of the day of independence arriving to the (then) capital city of Cartago, where the torch is usually welcomed by the acting president of the country, presently…. Laura Chinchilla. At this same time, most of the country grinds to a halt as almost all TV and radio stations broadcast the national anthem, with most citizens singing along whether they be young or old, home or standing on a street corner, whether riding a bus or driving a car, wherever they may find themselves, their enthusiastic patriotism is both humbling and contagious.

This impressive event is soon followed in even the smallest of pueblos and including the large cities by the sound of the local fire truck sirens that announce the beginning of the “Parade of Faroles”. These often elaborate homemade paper lanterns (with candle or light source inside) are meant to symbolize the original torch run and are proudly carried throughout the streets overhead on short poles by children, with their parents generally following closely along for safety purposes. The faroles are family projects and their design and size can vary greatly from child to child. Some resemble small “Tico” houses, others look like glittering globes, and others are elaborate “typical” scenes of churches or well known national symbols found in Costa Rica. The march of the faroles is often followed by a parade of children dancing traditional dances in adorable typical costumes….a sight that should not be missed!

Another daytime community parade takes place on the morning of September 15th which now includes the adults, important town functionaries, patriotic community members, and just about anyone who chooses to march along and show their pride for Costa Rica. Folks that live along the parade route generally have their houses and yards decked out with large Costa Rican flags and banners to celebrate the big day and they enthusiastically wave their flags as the parade marchers pass by.

So if you are lucky enough to live in or be visiting Costa Rica in the month of September, you are sure to take notice of the many festive displays of Tico pride and patriotism just about everywhere you go throughout the country. Therefore, don’t forget to join in and wear your own red, white and blue in celebration of Costa Rica’s “Mes de Patria”, the Ticos will welcome you with open arms and their usual big smiles will get even larger as the whole country celebrates Independence and Democracy!!

Sing along to the Costa Rica National Anthem!

Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Boutique Hotels in Costa Rica? Should they be Added to the Endangered List?

June 28, 2012
Popular Byblos Boutique Hotel in
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Walking down memory lane to the 1990’s, Costa Rica welcomed their first world class hotel chain, the Spanish firm known as Barceló. Specializing in the “All Inclusive” style of lodging, this style of travel did not take much of a foothold in this country, and the Boutique Hotel market remained the most popular choice for tourist accommodations. Now we fast forward some 20+ years and Costa Rica hosts more than a dozen major hotel chains! Everything from Marriott, to Best Western, Intercontinental, Hilton, Choice, Hyatt, Wyndham, Four Seasons and the most controversial group….Riu, which now serve as the main players, with more jumping in each year. If that wasn’t enough, ICT (Instituto Costarricense de Turismo) has now announced the Grand Openings of some 11 more new Chain hotels, among them Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, Wyndham, and other recognized names all planned for the GAM (Greater Metropolitan Area) or the already saturated Guanacaste region of Costa Rica.  With the economy barely stumbling along some 5 years now, all tourism areas of Costa Rica have suffered greatly from the world financial crisis, many areas averaging as low as 38% occupancy, which makes it hard to even keep their doors open and meet their financial obligations.  What will become of some of these hotels when the established hotel chains and their huge marketing budgets take over? As expressed by the Vice President of the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels, Gustavo Araya, “If the (tourism) numbers were more positive, the increase in hotel rooms would not be so worrisome.” (Paraphrased and translated by me……sorry.)
Does this mean the Boutique Hotel concept is ready to be added to the endangered list in Costa Rica?

The “boutique” style is said to have been created in New York back in 1984, though

A Lovely Boutique Hotel in Arenal

there are valid arguments that in 1981 both London and San Francisco boasted the first boutique sized hotels. Most likely, 1984 might be when the term “boutique hotel” actually was coined, with the term coming into more mainstream use. Entrepreneurs Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell opened the boutique Morgans New York on Madison Avenue in the heart of Manhattan, and the concept grew by leaps and bounds from there. Morgans was small, stylish and unique, unlike the big brand-name hotels that predominated the markets at that time. The actual term “boutique hotel” was said to be coined by Rubell himself, who described their new hotel venture as being like a boutique as opposed to a department store. A very succinct analogy if you ask me!

The most defining characteristics of boutique style hotels are that they are generally small properties, with less than 100 rooms and more often averaging between 3 and 50 rooms total. They take great pride in offering

The controversial Mega Riu
Hotel Costa Rica

a super chic atmosphere, unique design and décor, contemporary styling and quite popular these days, a rich historical value or background. Most boutique hotels provide highly personalized service, with very hands-on staff, management and/or ownership, offering a genuine personality that just can’t be found in the large hotel chains. Services can be limited depending on the size and luxury level of the property or you can often find some of the most dynamic local and gourmet restaurants, world class spas, and other unique features that make them stand out from the standard hotel offering. The concept has been so successful, that most multi-national hotel corporations have begun to brand their own chains of boutique resorts in order to try to capture a share of this huge market.

Still a popular choice for hotels in Costa Rica, the concept of “boutique”, “design”

The popular Marriott Hotel San Jose

or “lifestyle” hotels, as they are often referred, has spread throughout the world, to include European & East Asian countries, appearing in such places as Indonesia, mainland China, Japan, Iceland, Turkey, India & the Middle East, just to name a few. They continue to remain popular options throughout Central and South America as well or basically anywhere that provides a desirable destination for travel. I am fairly certain that you will find some sort of boutique hotel in almost any corner of the world these days!

Target Market:
There are no longer cookie cutter molds for guests seeking the “Boutique experience”. Travelers are constantly looking for something new and different, while definitely expecting more than the simple comforts once acceptable to the average vacationista.

Award Winning Lapa Rios
Fabulous Boutique Hotel

Whether planning a business trip, destination wedding, adults only escape, or just an overdue vacation, when planning travel, guests more often than not seek properties that are noticeably different in look and feel from the large branded hotels. Boutique hotels now even present a certain level of social branding. Those staying at these establishments are often considered as trendy, daring, fashionable, hip travelers that are quite often more ecologically minded. Since boutique facilities and their pricing can vary dramatically, there are now boutique properties designed to suit every demographic, any price range or social class, always with the idea of creating an unforgettable “guest experience” that just cannot be found in the larger hotel properties.

Boutique hotels retain certain benefits when it comes to cost of operations and overall profitability. They often have a large customer base to work with, as well as being favored by smaller travel agencies or tour operators that are looking to sell

Is this really what we want in Costa Rica?

the “experiential” concept that the boutique hotel property has to offer. Since boutique hotel owners do not have to pay a franchise fee to be part of a larger chain, the hotel can often operate with a lower overhead that adding costly amenities such as restaurants, spas and convention & meeting spaces would create. However, these added amenities can generate significant profitability and appeal to the hotel’s bottom line, so more often than not you will find every sort of amenity imaginable in todays boutique hotel properties. Another benefit for boutique hotel owners is that well established small properties tend to have a higher rate of repeat and word of mouth business compared to normal industry standards, which can save on boutique sized marketing budgets rarely able to compete with the huge marketing budgets of large branded properties. Nevertheless, successful boutique hotels must continually adapt to the constantly changing trends, needs, tastes, preferences, and technology in order to remain competitive in this cut throat hotel market.

In the end, whether it’s the most isolated green hotel getaway, the most unique historical location, the most private white sand beach, impeccable five-star white glove service, or you are just looking for that travel environment that loans their son’s boogey board, gives you cookies from their kitchen, offers the most incredible personalized guest services, or located in the most super chic locale, boutique hotels in every instance cater to their guests every need and whim. Who doesn’t want that kind of attention on their hard earned vacation? If we don’t continue to support the Boutique Hotel Industry, Costa Rica could end up looking like this:

Could Costa Rica end up like this?

So for your next Costa Rica vacation, bypass that mega chain hotel and try one of the many Costa Rican Boutique Hotels, you will be personally helping keep these unique properties off Costa Rica’s endangered list!!

If you have a favorite boutique hotel you have visited, please feel free to share it with us in the comments section!!

Author: Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.


National Stadium Debuts in Costa Rica Today, but not without Controversy!

March 26, 2011

Tens of thousands of people will be on hand for the inauguration of the new Costa Rican National Stadium today (known locally at the “Colosio” or “Coloso” or “Estadio”), the most modern stadium in all of Central America. Many more spectators will be glued to their television sets at home or visiting the nearest Sports Bar or local watering hole, to take in the day’s events that begin in the afternoon and end with the highly anticipated friendly soccer match between Costa Rica and China.

The Road to the Inauguration:
In May of 2008, after some 84 years of service, the demolition ball was
brought in to remove the old national stadium and make way for the new construction in La Sabana Park, to the west of Downtown San Jose. The old stadium unceremoniously closed its doors for the last time on May 11th, with the last soccer game held between the University of Costa Rica and a favorite local team, the Brujas F.C. Fifty five days later, after the first swing of the wrecking ball, the old stadium was reduced to a pile of rubble.

The plans for the new stadium for a capacity of 35,000 to 50,000 was officially announced in October 2008, and in December the Chinese construction firm, AFEC, was given permission to take the reins in building the new stadium. Chinese workers and the first materials and equipment from China were brought in beginning February 2009.

Not without controversy, many Costa Rican labor laws were bent (or broken) to allow this new Chinese workforce to enter Costa Rica and build this fabulous stadium, all that are enforced on already established businesses within Costa Rican borders. The fact that while snubbing the strict labor laws there were more than enough “Ticos” without work at the time (remember it is/was the recession), or that the majority of the materials used to build the stadium were brought from China, meant that little of this work would immediately effect or stimulate the Costa Rican economy in any way. But then did we really think we would get this Stadium for free as announced?

But then again, NO “Tico” project has ever been able to boast an accomplishment like that of the Chinese, one that astonishes those of us that live in Costa Rica, as on November 12, 2010, only 2 short years after officially announcing the building of the new Stadium, AFEC (the Chinese Company) delivered the almost finished stadium to the hands of now Ex-President Oscar Arias. Some three months ahead of schedule!! Alelujuah to the Chinese, you have definitely won our admiration!!

During the following months, a mad scramble to complete the finishing touches to the
stadium began, as the official March opening was announced, and plans were made to host some of the world’s finest musical & sports talent, among other entertainment planned for the inaugural event. That day has finally come……..March 26th, inauguration day is here!!

As previously mentioned, the building of this stadium was not completely without controversy. Liu Hong Bin, a 37 year old Chinese worker, hit by a construction vehicle on November 21, 2010, died while working on this project. Meanwhile, perhaps even more distressing and controversial was the complete snub to the country (or Territory) of Taiwan, a generous ally to Costa Rica for many years, by the getting in bed (if you will) with China, a country that repeatedly has crushed it’s own citizens human rights, as well as year after year shipped worldwide numerous products containing banned substances such as lead, pesticides, antibiotics, melamine, just to mention a few. Downright disturbing if you ask me. (Best if you don’t ask me.)

Taiwan Who??
A cry has gone out for Costa Rica to officially rename it’s “Puente de Amistad” (Bridge of Friendship) built with an incredibly generous donation of Taiwanese money. The huge suspension bridge spanning the Río Tempisque opened in 2003, and was a “gift” from the Taiwanese Government in exchange for commercial fishing rights in Costa Rican waters. But that was then and this is now, as then came China, with it’s booming economy and it’s infighting with that rebel island of Taiwan, and Taiwan is out and China is in! To
help understand, in 2007, Costa Rica and China established formal diplomatic relations after years of Costa Rica working directly with Taiwan. Then president, Oscar Arias, promptly ditched the country’s long-term monetary benefactor, Taiwan, in favor of its far wealthier and more powerful neighbor, China. The “Friendship Bridge”, as well as many other educational, infrastructure, security and other Taiwanese financed projects in Costa Rica were quickly forgotten when China promised to build Costa Rica a brand-new national multi-purpose stadium, the most modern in all of Central America. Meanwhile, locals in Costa Rica have already renamed the Taiwanese-built bridge… “Puente de la Apuñalada” (Back Stab Bridge)!

Our Efficient Chinese Friends:
The enviable pace of construction of the new stadium was something not previously seen in Costa Rica. While the majority of large (and small) construction projects in this country take indeterminable amounts of years to
construct or repair (note I didn’t use the word “finish”), such as the Caldera Highway which took 34 years to plan and create (and continues to undergo repairs & closures), the Costanera Hwy (43 years, but mostly “finished”), our National Bridges, reconstruction of the Platina Bridge, replacement of infrastucture after the Cinchona Earthquake, etc, etc, the building of the New National Stadium was an impressive example of how quickly a major project can be completed when the right work force is employed, the normal government bureaucracy is shelved, and funding isn’t an ongoing problem, with ongoing cost overruns.
It is most definitely proof of what the Chinese Culture of hard working, honest people is capable of doing! Again….impressive!!
Meanwhile, a huge Costa Rican flag waves at the National Stadium, known as the “Jewel of La Sabana,” the title given by former President Oscar Arias, but constructed by a force of entirely Chinese workers. “Thanks to the immense generosity of the nation of China, this dream will be possible in a matter of months,” Arias said during the National Stadium ground breaking ceremony on March 12, 2009. “Today we lay down the first brick of a stadium that will be proportional to the passion of our nation; a stadium that will be the heart of our country, in the middle of the lung of the city.” Time will only tell how much this stadium will truly cost us, but for now…..we’re damn glad to have it!!

The New National Stadium by the Numbers:
• $82 Million Cost of Construction (The true figure is said to be some $12 million more)
• 10 Minutes from Downtown San Jose in La Sabana Park
• 35,000 Capacity for Sports Events
• 50,000 Capacity for Concerts
• Alleged Capacity to withstand an 8.5 Earthquake on the Richter Scale
• 500 High Intensity Lights to Illuminate the Field
• 137 Digital Security Cameras
• 250 Wheel Chairs Spaces
• 1,500 Disabled Seats
• 22 Months of Construction
• 83,000 Cubic Meters of Concrete
• 500 Onsite Parking Spaces (Sad, but true!)
• 300 Additional Fuerza Publica Police Officers on Duty

Bring or More like….Don’t Bring:
Since it is a very strange list of items permitted or prohibited for the new stadium, here is a brief list of what has been published so far to help those that will be attending inaugural events:

Permitted in the new Stadium:
– Cell Phones (See details below and guess if you take yours or not)
– Cameras (Still only, no video) with no batteries or rechargeable batteries
– Flags, but without poles

Prohibited in the new Stadium:

– Smoking
– Video cameras
– Loose change (whatever!)
– Still cameras with removable batteries like AA or AAA, (again, whatever!)
– Umbrellas
– Paper confetti
– Food and beverages

Inaugural Schedule of Events:
Costa Rica’s new National Stadium inaugural events kick off Saturday with the highlight being a friendly soccer match between Costa Rica and China. Here is a detailed list of the other exciting events scheduled over the next few weeks while we enjoy….. Stadium Fever!

Official Inauguration:
Saturday, March 26, official opening ceremonies begin at around 1pm. The highlight of the inauguration will definitely be the highly anticipated friendly soccer match between Costa Rica and China. The opening event also includes official “Acts of Protocol”, with speeches by Ex-President Oscar Arias, the Chinese Delegation and current Costa Rican President, Laura Chinchilla. There will also be a ceremony for top Costa Rican athletes that will receive special recognition for outstanding performances in their fields over the years, as well as a firework show to top off the night. Teletica will be covering the inauguration live on channel 7 from 3pm to 6pm.
Costa Rica vs. Argentina
Tuesday, March 29, Costa Rica’s national soccer team faces rival Argentina in a friendly soccer match, featuring the world’s top soccer player, Lionel Messi.
Symphony Orchestra
Wednesday, March 30, is a night of classical music. The program includes: Intermediate Symphony Orchestra, Youth Symphonic Band, Youth Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and National Symphony Chorus. The event starts at 7 pm.
World Championship Boxing Night
Thursday, March 31 brings in boxing night to include some four Exhibition Matches and three World Championship bouts. The highlight of the night will undoubtedly be Costa Rica’s own boxing queen, Hannah Gabriels, who will defend her World Championship title.
Friday, April 1 is time to put on those dancing shoes, grab a dance partner and get to the national stadium for a night of latin dance music. Thousands of couples will show off their dancing skills in a typical open-air dance event known as a Lunada. The organizers promise an unheard of “air-conditioned” ballroom, food sales, and participation of some of this country’s most popular musical groups to include: Los Hicsos, Los Originales del Chiki, Marfil, Calle 8, Banda Chiqui, Lubin Barahona and Los Caballeros del Ritmo, as well as Son de Tikicia..
National Music Festival
Saturday, April 2 is live and loud music night with all the best musicians from Costa Rica, to include: Esteban Calderon, Le Pop, Marta Fonseca, Escats, Editus, Humberto Vargas, Maria Pretiz, Akasha, Time’s Forgotten, Dexnuke, Evolution, 424, El Parque, Ghandi, Cocofunka, Percance, Mechas, Pato Barraza, and many many more! Don’t miss it!!
Fiesta in The House
Sunday, April 3 features specially invited singers Victor Manuel, Gilberto Santa Rosa, and Don Amor performing all their greatest hits.
Live in Concert….Shakira!!
Jump forward to Sunday, April 10 is the highly anticipated Colombian Superstar Shakira live in concert! This night guarantees to be vibrant, colorful and festive event for one of Costa Rica’s most popular pop stars.

More information, including links to purchase tickets for varias events, can be found on Nacional Stadium’s new website:

Now, if only everyone can figure out where to park! Only 500 hundred parking spaces were written in during the planning stages, and no one thought to do anything about that until now. Now that there will be some 35,000 people planning to attend the opening events! Say what?? Yes, you read that right! So plan to pay huge fees to park in surround homes and business’ yards, lots or anywhere that will fit a car. Otherwise, plan for long walks and confusing new bus schedules to get you in there. DO NOT plan to park in no parking zones. Local “transito” officers have already promised some 300 officers will be on hand directing traffic and writing parking tickets that will cost in the area of $400 per violation! I guess I will just stay home and watch this all on TV!! Pura vida!!

Virtual Tour of the New Stadium HERE!!

Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Sources: – Henriette Jacobsen

Photo Credits:,-34.11,110.0 – Coleman Heckart

Costa Rica Classic International Billfish Tournament Returns to Quepos Costa Rica!

February 18, 2011

Quepos, Costa Rica, long considered one of the top sport fishing destinations in Costa Rica, plays host to the popular Costa Rica Classic International Billfish Tournament to be held March 10-12, 2011.

The Costa Rica Classic International Billfish Tournament which in years past was hosted in Quepos, had been held

Join us for the Costa Rica Classic!!

at the Los Suenos Marina in previous years, but once again returns to our popular area. This classic match up of some of the top International and Local Anglers will take the town by storm, with proceeds set to benefit the Boomer Esiason Foundation. This World renowned event is scheduled to be held at the brand new Marina Pez Vela, Quepos’ newest tourist attraction. Many nearby Manuel Antonio Hotels, as well as Hotels in Quepos will be offering special room rates for anglers, their crews and other fishing aficionados, but don’t wait too long, as space is limited for this popular fishing event!

The Event
The welcoming Cocktail Reception will be held March 10th at Hotel Mariposa in Manuel Antonio. Fishing teams will consist of a minimum two anglers per boat with

Offshore Fishing at it’s Best!!

up to six anglers per boat permitted. Individual anglers will be assigned to a team by tournament directors. This is a “Benefit Tournament” and modified IGFA rules apply. This is a Gentlemen’s tournament, and we are here to have fun, catch fish, make friends and help a great cause. THE HONOR SYSTEM APPLIES. Fishing on March 11 and 12 are lines in at 8:30am and out at 3:30pm, boats can depart the marina at 6:20am but no lines in the water until

8:30am. Boats must be back at the docks by 5:30pm. No electric reels are permitted, all rods, reels, line and leader must meet IGFA specifications. Any Billfish, Marlin, Stripe Marlin, Sailfish, Spearfish, Swordfish, regardless of size will be released in accordance with IGFA and tournament rules.

The Cause
The Boomer Esiason Foundation is a dynamic partnership of leaders in the medical and business communities joining with a committed core of volunteers to heighten awareness, education and the quality of life for those affected by cystic fibrosis,

Help us help this great cause!

while providing financial support to research aimed at finding a cure. The Boomer Esiason Foundation’s staff is comprised of individuals with expertise in cystic fibrosis and program development, event planning and fundraising, marketing and communications, and management. The Board of Directors includes leaders in the business community who generously give of their time and resources in support of BEF’s critical mission. These dedicated people may come from all walks for life, but they all agree on one thing: they’ll do whatever it takes to beat cystic fibrosis. This is more than just a fishing tournament, this could help change people’s lives!

Quepos, Costa Rica
Boasting some 17 IGFA Records, Quepos, Costa Rica is considered one of the best locations in the world for big game sportfishing. A small town some 160 km from

The town of Quepos, Costa Rica

the capital city of San Jose, Quepos can be found on Costa Rica’s central Pacific Coast, only 2.5 hours driving or a quick 25 minute domestic flight from the Juan Santa Maria International Airport. Although wildly popular for it’s sport fishing, the town of Quepos is conveniently located only minutes from Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica’s most visited and popular Park. Tourists are not only afforded fantastic fishing opportunities, but a wide variety of other tours and activities are readily available only minutes from local Costa Rica Hotels, fine restaurants, spas and bars. The town

center is a 5 block square filled with many eateries, farmers markets, art galleries and souvenier shops, all situated near the new beach front sea wall. If you happen to visit here during festival times, the streets are filled with dancing, parades and local concerts.

The Marina Pez Vela
Located in one of the most spectacular fishing locations in the world, Marina Pez Vela in Quepos, Costa Rica when completed will offer all

the amenities and services you’d expect to find in a five-star marina resort. Touted to soon be the finest full service marina you will find in all of Central America, just one visit to the 55+ acres of land and water at Marina Pez Vela will exceed the expectations of even the most demanding sportfishing, boating and yachting enthusiasts. Presently under continuing construction, the 300 concrete floating dock slips will eventually accommodate boats up to 200 feet. The first 100 slips opened June 2010 and surround the perimeter of the basin which will offer complete amenities of a first class marina facility. The marina slips are available for sale (with revenue sharing when rented out) or available for short and long-term renting. From 35′ up to 200′, Marina Pez Vela has opened up a new opportunity for boaters to explore the finest waters in all of Central America. Once you arrive here, you will not want to leave!

How Can I Participate?
For further information about this fun and important fishing event, I invite you to check out the official Costa Rica Classic website at or for further information about Cycstic Fibrosis and how you can support or donate to this worthy cause, please check out their website at

What Else??
The Quepos area will also play host to the upcoming Costa Rica Challenge,

another popular fishing tournament scheduled for March 17-20, 2011. So, if you’re busy in early March, you still have time to catch the “Big One” later that month! This will be the 3rd Annual CF & MS Fishing Tournament benefiting the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, both important causes that desperately need your support! Join us where the Rainforest Meets the Sea for one or better yet, both of these popular fishing tournaments!

Check out some of the great action from a past tournament:

Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.