Costa Rican Companies included in Condé Nast 2009 World Savers Awards

November 4, 2010

Conde Nast Traveller Magazine published its 2009 World Saver Awards, to recognize all the travel companies that one way or another are committed to help their communities and show social responsibility in the areas of Education, Poverty Alleviation, Wildlife Conservation, Health and Environmental and/or Cultural Preservation.

The participating industry sectors in Conde Nast Traveller’s World Saver Awards are:  small lodges and resorts, city hotels, large hotel chains, small hotel chains, large lodges and resorts, cruise lines, tour operators and airlines.

The following Costa Rica companies received honorable mentions:

Company: Nature Air
Industry Area: Airline
Honorable Mentions: Education Programs and wildlife conservation

Nature Air makes annual donations for Costa Rica students to learn English and about the environment; they also help in the reforestation of the Corcovado National Park.

Company: Grano de Oro Hotel
Industry Area: City Hotel:
Honorable Mentions: Education, Poverty Relief, Health (Runner-up)

Grano de Oro Hotel provides help to abused mothers, giving them vocational training and helping them to get a job. Grano de Oro was also the runner-up in the area of Health for offering medical treatment and psychological counseling to abused mothers.

Company: Lapa Rios
Industry Area: Small Resort
Honorable Mentions: Education, Poverty Relief

Lapa Rios encourages continued education among its staff and supports rural schools in Costa Rica.
Lapa Rios also helps its community by launching health initiatives and they helped building a recycling center on the Peninsula de Osa.

Company: Pacuare lodge
Industry Area: Small Resort
Honorable Mention: Preservation-environmental and/or cultural

Pacuare Lodge uses solar water heaters and instead of gasoline they use a water turbine to generate electricity.


Costa Ricans Ranked Among Happiest People in the World

September 17, 2010

Costa Rica is recognized worldwide as a country with a tremendously rich biodiversity, with lush and tropical scenarios, warm exotic beaches and a varied and vibrant culture; these are more than enough reasons for Costa Ricans to be ranked among the happiest people in the world.

Why should Costa Ricans not be the happiest people in the world if the army was officially abolished back in 1948, education has been and still is a priority for our governmental authorities, our fertile soils are very generous with our agro-industry and our lush and verdant Tropical Rain Forest holds a great number of species of unbelievable wild life?

The rich and unique culture of this small Central American country lays in the diversity of ethnic groups that inhabit this territory since pre-Columbian times, and the traditions added by Europeans and Afro-Caribbean slaves that ended up as free people in the Atlantic side of Costa Rica; the cultural richness is even more evident in the Costa Rica’s gastronomy and folklore present in every one of its provinces.

The authenticity of the people, the fresh air and verdant mountains, the sweet smells of fresh fruit, the powerful and yet beautiful scenarios of the active volcanoes, and the warm friendly atmosphere will be only part of the welcome you can expect in Costa Rica, the happiest country in the world!

Johnny Viquez

Put the poachers in jail and make them pay.

May 7, 2010

A group of CRIMILALS burned hundreds of acres at Palo Verde National Park in revenge for not been able to hunt at the park due to the good surveillance and dedication of the park rangers.

What is really frustrating is the old and insufficient law in Costa Rica to condemn these “assassins” for their crime, since in the best scenario they will pay a maximum of 3 years of jail or pay up to $1,500.00 (isn’t this offensive), but if they have no criminal records they will be set free without having to assume their responsibility for destroying hundreds of acres of pristine forest, killing hundreds or even thousands of animals and plants, and destroying the ecosystems that will be recovered not earlier than 40 or 50 years.

What motivates me to write about this situation is the urgent need to improve and renew the law, and to make every poacher captured in the protected areas pay accordingly to the damage done; if it was in my hands I would go from a minimum of 5 years (or $20,000.00 minimum) up to the time estimated for the area damaged to recover (up to 40 years).

I know that improving the law, putting poachers in jail, and the $20,000.00 will not bring back the forest, the birds and other animal nor the lushness and exuberance of the natural scenarios, but it will be a sufficient incentive for poachers to not to keep hunting and burning our natural resources.
I just hope that the poachers responsible for burning the Palo Verde National Park this month get identified and put in jail as a precedent for future cases.

Johnny Viquez

Open sky mining in Costa Rica?

April 21, 2010

We want to congratulate our new elected president Laura Chinchilla for her position and her guiding principle in regards of the open sky mining Project named Crucitas, located in the northern inland of Costa Rica; project authorized by current governmental authorities at a cost of destroying acres and acres of tropical rain forest including its ancient trees, thousands of species of flora and fauna and the pristine forest scenery of the area.

Mrs. Chinchilla has declared that she will suspend the permits given for the open sky mining in Crucitas.

Isn’t it ironic for the current authorities to promote our country as a country with a deep environmental conscious and as a leading nation in conservation of our natural resources, while our governments allows projects that are nothing but an ecological catastrophe?

The profit is irrelevant when the Costa Ricans’ natural patrimony is in jeopardy; when a small group gets a short term economical benefit, and tomorrow our kids and grand kids will suffer the absence of these natural resources, the sources of potable water (will get polluted by the chemical processes) and the impossibility of developing eco-tourism or rural tourism projects that in a long run will be more beneficial for a larger number of community members,  produce better job opportunities for the locals instead of been in risk of getting poisoned during the process of extraction of gold, or been wounded by the explosions that little by little will destroy the natural beauty of the landscape.

Will it be possible that we Costa Ricans can learn to feed from the hard and cold gold?

Will the gold quench our thirst?

Or instead will other countries buy bottled water from us?

Will the tourist come to our country and pay to see the exotic birds and the exuberant forest?

Will Costa Rica perceive economical benefits from other countries in exchange for preserving the forest and produce oxygen for the rest of the world?

Johnny Viquez

Costa Rica is consolidated as the most “Green Destination” in the world.

March 16, 2010

According to the article written by Leticia Vindas for the local news paper ( as a result of a survey made by CMI Green , the consumers interviewed concluded that Costa Rica is the destination that has done the best efforts to protect the environment.

The consumers interviewed (most of them from the United States), based their decision in the “green Experience” lived during their visit to Costa Rica, and by experiencing firsthand the sustainable practices that are use to advertize Costa Rica worldwide.

The CMI Green Traveler 2010 defines Costa Rica as the only destination that creates a Market conscience, also has been recognized by protecting and maintaining the National Patrimony for the past 50 years; the Costa Rican government has also made an investment of $1,92 million to the environmentally conscious tourism industry.

This recognition is tremendously important for Costa Rica, because it shows that we are working accordingly to our environmental policies says Allan Flores, Costa Rica’s Minister of Tourism.

Costa Rica Cell phone Service

February 8, 2010

It’s a secret!!! So tell everyone! You can get a cheap Costa Rica cell phone service while you visit the country….and it works very well. Roaming on your world phone can cost your hundreds…so can renting a phone here in Costa Rica. I am visiting Costa Rica for a few months. My girlfriend asked me to write about my cell phone experience, so here goes. You may be interested in this if you are visiting Costa Rica and want to have a local cell phone. The reason this is a secret is that so few know about this program. Even the employees of the only phone company, ICE (pronounced esay), don’t seem to know about it. You will have one chance to buy the SIM card you need and that is at the Juan Santamaria International airport (SJO) on your arrival in San Jose. The ICE kiosk is located between the baggage claim and the customs area. As you walk away from the baggage conveyors, look to your right for the small ICE desk, if you get to the customs X-ray machines you have missed the ICE kiosk. Since the prepaid program is intended for visitors, it makes sense that the kiosk is located in the airport and you will be required to show your passport to the ICE employee selling you the SIM card.

I know…I know…you need more info….OK…here is everything I know:

Costa Rica cell phone frequency for GMS phones is 1800, this means that you will need an 1800 band GSM phone. To understand this, google it or call your local cell phone company. If you have a “world phone” that takes a SIM card you most probably have a GSM capable phone. In my case, I called my USA cell carrier, Verizon, and told them I wanted to get a phone that would work with a Costa Rican prepaid SIM card on an 1800 band GSM network. They only had two phones that would work so I ordered one and it was in my pocket when I arrived at the San Jose airport. There are a number of sources for low cost GSM phone in the USA…one is Ebay.

You need to know how to unlock and configure your phone for GSM service. There are so many phone manufactures and configuration settings that understanding this is something you will have to learn for your particular phone. The ICE employees will give you a set of instructions to activate you SIM card and your cell phone service. But again, you need to unlock and configure your particular cell phone for 1800 GSM service. There will be actions needed to set up your specific cell phone. If you have a world phone, from your USA cell phone provider, your best reference may be your own USA international customer service… them BEFORE you come to Costa Rica….carefully go over the steps to configure your phone for the local system here….write the configuration steps down and have it with you. I would suggest calling them back on a different day and get another person to talk you through the steps and compare …. to be sure you have it correct.

Copy the section of your phone owner’s manual related to GSM service and if all else fails, you can do what no one does and read the instructions!!! Between your phone instructions and your USA international customer service you have a good chance of success.

You need a little cash to buy the SIM card at the airport. Approx 5 USD gets you a month of service and approx 80 minutes of local talk time or 15min of international calls, 10 USD get you a 45 days and approx 160 minutes of local talk time or 30min of international calls, and 20 UDS gets you 60 days of service and approx 330 minutes of local talk time or 60min of international calls. The ICE desk will take US bills $20 and under. ICE will give you an information sheet with: their phone number, how to buy additional minutes, how to activate your SIM Card / phone service, how to check minute availability.

Ok…even the most careful planners like me fail…sort of…in my case new SIM card would not activate because my phone’s “tones” were not compatible with the local service…..the work around was pretty simple and was give to me by the ICE representative after a few “help me please” calls…..I put my SIM card in my girlfriend’s Costa Rica cell phone….followed the instructions to active my SIM card … then put the SIM card back in my phone….and success….I have a low cost local cell phone….a lot of trouble you say….well yes….it took a couple of hours…but consider this…..I paid a $300 Verizon bill last year after roaming here with world phone Verizon so kindly loaned me for free..the Costa Rica cell phone rental service I tried was even more costly … so you have choices!  I will keep the prepaid for local calls and use Skype for VOIP international calls.  Between those two methods my cell phone and international calls cost me 70% less than just my cell service in the USA.

I am putting this here for those of you that are already in Costa Rica when you read this because I don’t recommend it. You can buy a phone here. The cheapest will cost at least $100. If you do that, be sure you keep the receipt and take it with you to the ICE office. You will have to find an ICE office that knows about the Prepaid program and has the SIM cards for sale so call, call, call, get a name and go see that person at that office. An American friend of mine was able to get the prepaid card at an office not in the airport but in San Jose proper. He and I returned to that same office a week later and the employees there knew nothing about the prepaid program. If you buy a cell phone here, you will have to search for an ICE office that has the SIM cards and knows about the program OR return to the ICE kiosk at the airport….but remember, the airport desk is between the baggage claim and customs and I don’t know how you would pull that off after you left the airport. I can tell you this….most ICE employees will tell you that it is not possible to get a prepaid chip….so expect that only the ICE employees selling the prepaid cards at the airport will know about the program. One note about discussing this with Ticos. Ticos have to apply and wait for a cell phone number…everyone refers to it as an “a line.” So a visitor getting a prepaid SIM card and cell phone service in a few hours is really simple and convenient compared to a Costa Rican national getting new Costa Rica cell phone service….so keep that in mind.

And last but not least, it is important to be aware that Costa Rica cellular connection is not infallible, the connection may not be good in some remote areas and sometimes even in some buildings.

For you process oriented folks here is a flow chart.

Get an 1800 band GSM phone (Costa Rica Cell phone frequency)

Have instructions for unlocking and configuring a GSM phone in Costa Rica

Have your USA customer service number for help with your phone

Have a copy of your owner’s manual GSM configuration instructions

Stop at the ICE kiosk between baggage claim and customs at SJO airport

Buy the SIM card

Read the ICE instructions and active your service

Call ICE and /or your customer service for help if you need to

Be Patient!!!you are not in Kansas!

Make a friend and give them a call!

Pura Vida, Charles the Gringo


11-23-2010 update
This time it got even easier.  The ICE representative activated my prepaid SIM card right at the kiosk next to the customs area at the airport.   This time there were no instructions to follow…..they did everything….I just showed my passport and paid for the SIM!  The process took 5 minutes.

Costa Rica Elections 2010: First Costa Rican Female President

February 8, 2010

Costa Rica ElectionsThe Costa Rica elections 2010 got to an end yesterday when a majority of Costa Rica people chose and voted for a new president.

Laura Chinchilla was elected after obtaining a 46.78% of the votes.  Yesterday since six o’clock in the morning many “Ticos” came to the voting stations and vote for the candidate of their preference, as the time went by the streets filled with cars hired by the different political parties displaying flags and posters of the candidates, taking the potential voters from one town to another in order to get as many votes as possible.

Also it didn’t take long before people walking on the sidewalks and showinCosta Rica Elections Night Celebrationg the colors of their favorite parties turned the streets into a colorful constant flow of voters.

Later in the afternoon just before 6 pm (scheduled time to close the voting stations) the celebration really started, thousands of Ticos on the sidewalks, standing side by side with the contenders from other political parties waving their flags and cheering for their candidate, got more and more excited, and then the crowd got lauder every time a car decorated with flags and posters went by., Laughs, jokes and respect for the others were the closing scenario for our democratic festivity.

Then the winner candidate approaches the state with a very emotive speech as the first woman ever elected as president of Costa Rica, and the high expectations of the majority of Costa Ricans are now in her hands and the continuance of “Partido Liberacion Nacional” for another four years in the government.

Written by Johnny Viquez

Costa Rica Elections 2010Costa Rica Elections 2010

Costa Rica Elections 2010

February 4, 2010

This article was written few days before the presidential elections take place in Costa Rica.

As a democratic country, the presidential Costa Rica elections are a motive for celebration and the Costa Ricans will take sides and go out to the streets and display flags in their homes, stickers on their cars and for months the upcoming election and the performance of the current government will be the favorite topic in TV channels, at the bars and restaurants, on the bus and even at the park. I would even say it will be the Costa Rican version for the Super bowl when it comes to TV ratings.

Although traditionally Costa Rica’s political field was dominated by two parties (Partido Liberacion Nacional PLN –democrats- and Partido Unidad Social Cristiana PUSC –Social Christian-) four years ago Partido Unidad Social Cristiana was displaced by PAC “Partido Accion Ciudadana” founded by former politicians from PLN & PUSC, becoming the third political force ending up second in the elections of 2006.

The dual party elections that were basically created in the 1940, forming a sort of a family tradition to be part of either one of the two parties for generations, was dramatically taken to an end due to the court prosecution against two former presidents of Costa Rica (Rafael Angel Calderon Fournier & Miguel Angel Rodriguez) for cases of corruption and influences’ traffic, both of them belonging to the PUSC.

Also the new and promising PAC was severely affected by the opposition of the party’s candidate Otton Solis to the free trade agreement between Costa Rica and the United States wanted by the majority of Costa Ricans.

Surprisingly an incipient party four years ago (Movimiento Libertario ML) has become the strongest opposition to the official party PLN for these elections in Costa Rica.

The official party is represented by Laura Chinchilla, former vice-president of Costa Rica who according to the latest statistics counts with a 41.9% of the Costa Rican’s voting intention.

The most important candidates for the Costa Rica Elections 2010 to take place on Sunday, February 07th are:

Favorite Candidates Costa Rica Elections 2010

Candidates Costa Rica Elections 2010

Written by Johnny Viquez A.
Know About Costa Rica

New Costa Rica Highway to the Central Pacific Coast

February 4, 2010
New Costa Rica Highway to Central Pacific Coast

Costa Rica Highway to Central Pacific Coast

The past Sunday (Jan 31, 2010) I decided to drive to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica on the brand new “Caldera Highway” expecting to drive for 50minutes all the way to Puntarenas Port, and 50 minutes back to San Jose, however I did not take into consideration that so many Costa Ricans had this exact same idea I had, and instead of the number of vehicles expected by the authorities the number was triplicated.

Yes, as you probably deduced already, it took me more than 50 minutes, but I may say I was pleased driving on an excellent carpet, well marked, good signage and although I encountered four toll-plazas along the way, I paid with no objections since I liked what I observed.

The first important difference was huge compared with the “Aguacate” road or “Cambronero” road, wide well marked lengths and wide open curves instead of the other two winy routes mentioned, although the scenery is not as picturesque as it is at the “Aguacate”, some parts of the highway have some very attractive scenarios.

In my personal opinion we have now another option to choose from, when it comes to go to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica from San Jose, just don’t forget to bring bottled water and a lot of change, since you will have to pay in the 4 toll plazas which by the way are very expedite.

I can recommend this new route to anybody  who come to Costa Rica and want to drive or just want to take maximum advantage of their time without expending it on the road.

By Johnny Viquez A.

New Highway to the Central Pacific Coast to be inaugurated on January 27th ‘2010

January 26, 2010
Costa Rica Highway to Central Pacific Coast

New Costa Rica Highway

The for long time expected highway to Caldera Port in the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica will finally be inaugurated by government’s official authorities on January 27th 2010, this new highway will cut the driving time to Jaco area, Los Suenos Marriott Resort and Villa Caletas Hotel in about one hour.

The inauguration of this new route will also be very beneficial for Manuel Antonio Area, another well known touristic area that shortens the driving time to get there from 3 ½ to 2 ½ hrs, this new highway will also be the best route to take, instead of the winy mountain road used before (El Aguacate road).

The City Mayor of Santa Ana has been trying to postpone the official inauguration claiming that the works are not fully finished; however the government officers are basing their decision of inaugurating based in the report of the governmental inspectors.