SOME say there’s nothing like home for the holidays; others say the season is the perfect time to take a trip. If you’re of the latter opinion, many travel options are available this holiday season. From cruise ships to beaches to volcanoes, both in Costa Rica and in other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, destinations are out there to suit a myriad of tastes.
Vacation planners should know, however, that Costa Rica is quite a popular tourist destination for the holidays. That means many hotels are booked for the season by the beginning of October. But if you don’t already have a reservation, you’re not out of luck; many travel agencies have blocked off rooms in advance for peak weeks at the end of December and beginning of January.
Working with a travel agent is a good way to reserve your spot, and he or she can also save you time and hassle by organizing details such as ground transportation. A few agencies are listed here.
Decameron sells holiday vacation packages at all-inclusive hotels in Panama, Jamaica, Mexico and Colombia. Colombia’s San Andrés Island, a popular vacation spot for Ticos, is among the agency’s specialties. Just a 45-minute flight from San José, San Andrés is a festive beach area known for its large, all inclusive hotels. Decameron has several holiday packages available in San Andrés for three, four or seven nights, and travelers can choose between three- and four-star hotels.
For example, a New Year’s package for three nights at a three-star hotel, including all food, drinks and the use of beach and pool facilities, costs $469 per person.
Three nights at a luxury, four-star hotel runs $519 per person. Rates include a chartered flight on TACA airline from San José’s Juan Santamaría International Airport to San Andrés, and transportation to and from the hotel.
The offer is good Dec. 23 to Jan. 6. Discounts are available for children and solo travelers. For more information, call Decameron at 291-7373 or visit www.decameron.com.
IF cruising from one Caribbean island to another aboard a giant, amenity-filled ship sounds more your speed, Royal Caribbean has several trips available leaving from Miami, Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Setting sail from one of these ports Dec. 24, you can travel around the Caribbean to Saint Martin, Antigua, Santa Lucia and Barbados, and return to your original destination Dec. 31.
Rates depend on the length of the trip and class of accommodations on board. A seven-night cruise with an interior cabin, for example, runs $1,531 per person, including taxes, three meals a day and the use of all facilities on the ship. For more information, call 234-1818 or visit www.royalcaribbean.com.
Costa Rica Vacations, an agency based out of San José, has done all the homework for you to create packages combining Costa Rican hot spots, such as the northern Pacific beach town of Tamarindo, Arenal lake and volcano in north-central Costa Rica and the Osa Peninsula in the Southern Zone. They can also help you plan a trip to Panama. All packages include accommodations and domestic transportation.
The “Sol y Playa” package, for example, buys you one night at the Barceló San José Palacio, a flight south to the Osa Peninsula’s Drake Bay, and three nights at Drake Bay Wilderness Resort, near Corcovado National Park. The second half of the trip features six nights at Ocotal Beach Resort, on the northern Pacific coast, and another night at the Barceló San José Palacio. That makes a total of 11 nights, beginning Dec. 22 and ending Jan. 2, for $2,225 per person.
“Elves Gone Wild” is another vacation package that combines two of Costa Rica’s must-sees: beaches and volcanoes. The trip begins Dec. 23 with a night at San José’s Meliá Cariari hotel, followed by four nights at Jacó’s Terraza del Pacífico, on the central Pacific coast. A three-night visit to Arenal Volcano, with accommodations at the Arenal Country Inn, offers great views of this natural wonder. The trip wraps up with another night at the Meliá Cariari for New Year’s Eve. The nine-night package costs $1,115 per person.
Known for its pristine beaches and rainforests, the central Pacific coast’s Manuel Antonio is an exotic spot to ring in the New Year. The “A Holiday to Remember” vacation package, beginning Dec. 23, includes two nights at the quaint La Finca Que Ama hotel, just outside San José; two nights at Hotel Rancho Casa Grande in Quepos, near Manuel Antonio; and five nights at Manuel Antonio’s Casitas Eclipse. These Mediterranean-style villas are the perfect party spot for New Year’s Eve. A total of nine nights costs $1,140 per person.
To view these and more holiday packages, check out www.costaricavacations.com or call 296-7715.
IF you’re looking to cross the border and explore another Central American country this holiday season, Terranova, a Costa Rican agency that sells vacations throughout Central and South America and Europe, can set you up with a package including accommodations, airfare, ground transportation and tours.
For those who prefer shopping and nights on the town to beaches and volcanoes, Panama City could be the way to go. A three-day trip including airfare between San José and Panama City, lodging at one of several three-star hotels, breakfast, a tour of the town and a shopping trip to one of two commercial centers costs $440 for a double room and $429 for a triple. Three day trips are available leaving San José Dec. 24 through 28.
Cuba is another of Terranova’s specialties. A four-night trip, leaving from San José, will fly you to the beach town of Varadero to spend two nights, then transfer you to lively, urban Havana for two nights. Prices are $741 for a double room and $737 for a triple, including flights, accommodations, ground transportation and breakfast. The rate is available leaving San José between Dec. 21 and Jan. 6. For more information, visit www.terranova.co.cr or call 280-2455.