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COSTA RICA: Peninsula Papagayo
A Dazzling Eco Discovery by the Four Seasons Resort

Costa Rica has a twenty-five year plan to transform Guanacosta, its northwest province, into a tourist destination similar to Hawaii. Balancing the expansion of luxury hotels, casinos, condominiums and homes for the wealthy with maintaining the natural beauty and ecology of the region may not be easy. The country has a respect for its natural resources and the environment, which they hope to keep beautiful and unspoiled.

The Four Seasons Company was in the forefront of developing the magnificent Peninsula Papagayo as it devoted several years to build a premier resort complete with time share residence and its own golf course. The spectacular landscaping and isolation of the property, which is less than one year old, can provide a very peaceful way for one to spend a week away from the hustle and bustle of home.

There are daily events at the hotel which can easily keep the guests very busy. Among the complimentary activities at this world class resort, which vary daily, are yoga, nature hikes, spinning classes, cooking classes, salsa lessons, demonstrations for scuba diving, golf and tennis lessons. In addition, there is a refreshingly delightful pool, two beaches, a spectacular golf course designed by Arnold Palmer exclusively for the use by the guests, and a wonderful spa offering a comprehensive menu of services. We participated in the "couple" treatment, which meant sharing a room. We each opted for a different massage - the Swedish and Healing Stone, and found both to be soothing and peaceful. The therapists were professional and well trained.

We met several guests who went deep sea fishing off the premises of the resort. One couple invited us to join them for a fish dinner consisting of one of their catches that day. The Italian Restaurant located at the Four Seasons prepared the sumptuous feast.

The Four Seasons will also arrange for you to have a private driver for the day. You choose the agenda - the driver will do the rest. We hired a driver to take us to Guaitil, a town where local pottery is made. Families in this area have been making these beautiful pieces for generations, and each home has its own kiln. We purchased platters, vases, bowls and beautiful "puzzle" boxes for very nominal amounts. Afterwards, we went to the town of Coco Beach, and dined at one of the local restaurants. The food was delicious, and a dinner for three cost approximately $30. We also paid $170 for our driver; however, the cost varies depending on your destinations. It was a bit pricey, but was well worth the convenience.

Some of the special Four Seasons packages include spa and golfing, adventure, romance and bed & breakfast. For cost and detail visit www.fourseasons.com and view the Costa Rica property. Or you can call the New York sales office at (212) 688-2440.

In addition to the activities available at the hotel, the Four Seasons works closely with Swiss Tours which has been servicing travelers for the past thirty-two years, and whose president, Emilio Gamboa, was born and raised in Costa Rica. We went on the Rainforest Tour and the Nature Float Tour, both conducted by Swiss Tours. The tour we enjoyed the most was the Nature Float on the Tempisque River in Palo Verde National Park. What made this so memorable was the variety of wildlife, including many species of birds, we saw from the comfort of an open air, canopy boat. We passed crocodiles, white face and howler monkeys, a variety of iguanas, and approximately fifteen species of beautiful birds. The cost of this one and one-half hour boat ride was $103 per person. The guides were knowledgeable, and, most importantly, had vision keen enough to spot the smallest creatures.

Swiss Tours provided several ways to participate in a rainforest excursion. We went on the skywalk tour. Our guide gave us a comprehensive lesson on the plants, trees and insects inhabiting the rainforest. The highlight for us on this particular tour was crossing the long suspension bridges high above the rainforest, allowing us to see over the covering. The longest bridge we crossed was built around a tree located right in the middle! Another alternative way to visit the rainforest, and for those more adventurous and fit, is the canopy tour. This includes being strapped in a harness and sliding on cables from tree to tree. People we spoke with who went on that tour were impressed with the safety precautions, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

For a complete description of the tours offered by Swiss Tours, and background information of their company, visit www.swisstravelcr.com.

Bear in mind that Costa Rica is in a tropical climate zone, so it is important to protect yourself with plenty of sunscreen. The rainy season begins in May, and ends in October. Our visit in October was not hampered by the rain. Most activities are scheduled in the morning, and the rain, if any, begins late afternoon.

American and European tourists are discovering Costa Rica in large numbers. This is not surprising. Just look at what Costa Rica has to offer. It is a fairly short flight from several destinations in North America. The country is politically stable, more economically sound than its neighbors with decent health care, and has a literacy rate of nearly ninety-five percent with English being one of the required courses throughout their schooling. A word about the natives (Ticos) is in order - they are friendly, accommodating, and helpful. They value visitors to their country, and it shows in so many positive ways. There is a common expression "pura vida". While it can be translated as pure life, it is also be used to say hello, good bye, or in the words of Bobby McPherrin, "don't worry, be happy" and they are!


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