Legend has it that Costa Rica ("Rich Coast") earned its name some 500 years ago, when Christopher Columbus came ashore on his final trip to the New World and received an offering of gold from the local peoples. Unfortunately for the Spanish, the country proved to have few exports of real value, but was blessed with abundant natural beauty: volcanoes, rain forests and over 1,000 miles of beaches. All that combined with a stable democracy, high literacy rate and competitive pricing (many meeting expenses are tax deductible for U.S. organizations) have made the country a popular meetings destination, with plenty of options for groups. Meeting venues in Costa Rica range from 5 Star modern hotels to former coffee plantations to unique boutique properties.
Costa Rica's capital, San Jose, has a reputation for urban sophistication, with museums, well-preserved historic neighborhoods, a lively theater scene and bustling nightlife. The country's main hub, Juan Santamaria International Airport, is only 12 miles from downtown San Jose. It receives 4.1 million passengers per year, with direct flights from Atlanta, Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando and other U.S., European and Latin American cities.
Just five miles from the airport stands Central America's largest conference center, the Ramada Plaza Herradura. It offers 18 meeting rooms totaling 25,000 square feet of meeting and event space, attached to a 231-room hotel. Other San Jose Costa Rica event venues include the Costa Rica Marriott, with 12,000 square feet of meeting space set on a 30-acre coffee plantation, and the Alta Hotel, a boutique property whose restaurant, La Luz, seats 75 and has been rated one of the best in Central America for its innovative cuisine and impeccable service. Many cultural institutions, such as the Children's Museum, Gold Museum, National Museum and National Art Museum, are popular San Jose Costa Rica meeting venues for off-site events, as is the Costa Rica Country Club.
Given Costa Rica's small size, it's easy to break free of the capital and explore some of the natural wonders that have made the country a backpacker's paradise. Not far from the city are several canopy tour operations, where attendees can ride zip lines through the rain forest, and La Paz Waterfall Gardens, with its five waterfalls and large butterfly farm, is just an hour from San Jose. Arenal, an active volcano erupting every 47 minutes, is well worth the three-hour trip from the capital.