Costa Rica: Executives offer tips on business travel in the Costa Rican capital.

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Information and advice supplied by Claude Alcaras, SMAM Mutuelle delegate, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica; Julio Gamero, vice president of Avianca TACA Regional Airlines and executive president of  AeroGal in Ecuador; Jose Luis Lopez, president of Comercio Europeo CESA S.A. of Madrid.

Latin Trade: What do you like best about traveling to San Jose de Costa Rica?
Claude Alcaras: The National Theatre, the Children’s Museum, the Jade Museum, the Pre-Colombian Gold Museum and the Central Market.
Julio Gamero: I really like the people. They are polite and very kind to tourists, no matter where you come from.
Jose Luis Lopez: If you are asking specifically about the capital San Jose, I would say it is Costa Rica’s least charming place. I really feel the most beautiful and attractive places are outside the capital. My favorite part of San Jose, however, is the area around Central Avenue– the crowds milling about and the street life, as well as the Theatre Plaza and the theatre itself.

LT: What do you like the least?
Alcaras: Just the pollution.
Gamero: It’s hard to think of drawbacks in a particular city because I have learned that some traits that might not seem attractive to one person’s eyes can still have their charm. San Jose is a city that has the same problems as any big Latin American city, like traffic and pollution, among other things. However, this doesn’t make it any less attractive or make its people any less hospitable.
Lopez: The street crime.

LT: What are your favorite hotels for business travel?
Alcaras: The Hotel Presidente. I have been going there since 1997. The staff is excellent and it’s like my second home.
Gamero: San Jose has a wide range of hotels for people traveling on business including big hotels like the InterContinental, Marriott, Holiday Inn, Radisson and the Hilton’s Doubletree. It also has small boutique hotels with just a few rooms and very personalized service, like the Hotel Grano de Oro and the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, which evokes other eras in the capital.
Lopez: I don’t use hotels in San Jose, since I stay with family when I’m visiting.

LT: What restaurants do you recommend?
Alcaras: The Balcon de Europa, near Hotel Presidente. The food is very good.
Gamero: Costa Rica’s capital offers a broad range of international and regional cuisine. I have been in Italian, Japanese, Chinese, French and Spanish restaurants that have nothing to envy restaurants in those countries. Latin American cuisine is also very well represented with excellent Peruvian, Argentine, Brazilian and Colombian restaurants.
Lopez: Without a doubt there are two standouts. One is La Esquina de Buenos Aires and the other is Le Monaster in Escazu, which has a lot of charm. But in truth, there are many interesting places to eat.

LT: What practical advice would you offer to someone who is visiting San Jose on business for the first time?
Alcaras: In my case, it’s good to be in contact with the French–Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The chamber can orient investors and offer the best solutions when needed. The Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce also provides similar services.
Gamero: I really enjoy museums, like the Pre-Colombian Gold Museum, the Jade Museum, the Contemporary Art Museum and the National Museum, which is housed in a building that served as a military barracks during the 1948 Revolution. For nature-lovers, I recommend they do some adventure tourism in the Central Valley, like the “canopy tour” in the Tres Rios area– a two-and-a-half hour journey high up in the trees, using a zip line system. There are also coffee tours, where you can learn the art of coffee tasting, and even, why not, an excursion to a river to experience the adrenaline rush that comes with river rafting
Lopez: Patience and precaution.


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