September 29th, 2008

Sunny Dispositions

First-time visitors to Costa Rica often have the same impressions about the country. They agree that Costa Rica’s natural beauty is breathtaking. They say that the food is simple but very tasty. And they all comment on the friendliness of Costa Rica’s people.

This last impression might seem an empty platitude, were it not for its truth. The people of Costa Rica are, in fact, remarkably friendly, cheerful and happy. They are quick to make jokes, plan parties, laugh at themselves, and they are especially friendly to foreign tourists. Costa Rican good cheer probably stems from various sources.

Costa Rica is one of the few Latin American countries that does not have an army. There are no soldiers standing on street corners with machine guns or keeping a watchful eye over people in public areas. Costa Ricans are proud to say that their tax money supports schools and education, and not a standing army. The country has one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America, and Costa Ricans almost all share a lifelong love of learning. Costa Ricans like to say that their country is best represented by the happy march of uniformed schoolchildren to and from classes, rather than by the ominous march of a national army.

This lack of a military creates a sense of that is fully alive in the minds of most Costa Ricans. They like to think of their country as a union of gentle and peace-loving souls. Because Costa Ricans would rather get along peacefully than argue, the country has developed a reputation for good-natured joke- and story-telling. Costa Ricans enjoy making one another laugh and passing their time in good humor.

Family is of great importance to people of this country, and extended family members have traditionally lived close to one another and been very involved in each other’s lives. Everyone has cousins and aunts and uncles who are as close to them as friends. Because family gatherings tend to be large, almost every family occasion turns into a party. Costa Ricans love parties with their families, friends and fellow workers, and they throw parties at the least provocation. Everyone loves music and dancing, and social gatherings become boisterous and lively.

Fun and enjoyment are practically a tradition in Costa Rica, and visitors are right to note that the Costa Rican people are a cheerful bunch.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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September 16th, 2008

Keeping the City Green

The park district of San José has embarked on a serious program to restore and renew the green areas of the city. Under the auspices of this program, known as Socios Ambientales, or Environmental Partners, the city works together with individuals to protect nature in urban areas. The municipality has chosen plants that are native to the city and appropriate for urban life. The municipality encourages business owners to plant these particular trees in sidewalk planters or to grow these native flowers in the city’s park areas. The individual business owners are then responsible for the care and watering of these plants. The idea is to promote the growth of native flora and fauna and to encourage individuals to take an active role in restoring the beauty of their city.

The Sleep Inn is doing its part to revive the green areas in the city and to protect the environment in general. In honor of its third anniversary, the Sleep Inn recently planted several trees around the edge of its property. These trees are of two types, selected by the city for their appropriateness to the urban climate and for their attractiveness to birds and other animals. The first type of tree produces a fruit that birds enjoy, and the other attracts hummingbirds when in full flower. The plan, according to hotel manager Horlando Salas, is to help restore San José’s natural beauty and to draw birds and other animals back into the center of the city.

The new trees are only part of the Sleep Inn’s overall effort to protect the environment. The hotel is currently working with the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) to qualify for a certificate in environmental sustainability. To that end, the hotel has implemented energy-saving and recycling programs in both the hotel and casino buildings. Each hotel department has been working toward more efficient use of natural resources and more environmentally sound cleaning and waste-management practices.

Mr. Salas hopes that local businesses will work together with the Sleep Inn to protect and restore San José’s natural beauty.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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September 16th, 2008

San José Posible

San José is poised for a major transformation. Like many cities in the United States, San José witnessed a significant economic and population shift in the eighties and early nineties, as city residents and businesses left San José for the new surrounding suburbs. The city economy suffered, and urban crime rates increased.

City leaders and urban architects worried about this recent downturn and created various incentives to encourage both businesspeople and homeowners to return to the city. They also recommended several city beautification projects and urban improvements. The municipality of San José formed the Committee for the Regeneration and Repopulation of San José. Following the precepts of the Committee, the Institute of Tropical Architecture came up with a plan, San José Posible, to address the architectural, ecological and aesthetic issues facing the “new” San José.

As part of the San José Posible plan, the Institute of Tropical Architecture proposed closing off several of San José’s congested streets to form outdoor pedestrian areas. The city followed the Institute’s suggestion and closed traffic in areas that would then become city pedestrian zones. The first such zone met with great success; its communal outdoor space is free of traffic noise and vehicular congestion and is a pleasant place for pedestrians to stroll.

The Institute also hopes to promote and encourage the construction of multi-use buildings that incorporate commercial space, parking, residential units and plenty of outdoor garden space. San José Posible hearkens back to a time in San José’s history when the city streets were tree-lined and quiet, and businesses and residences coexisted in urban tranquility.

The Sleep Inn San José Downtown has been a leader among the businesses hoping to restore and reinvigorate San José. When the Sleep Inn was first built, there had been no new hotel in the central downtown area for fourteen years. The mayor of San José praised the Sleep Inn for its strong show of faith in the economic future of the city. Recently, the Sleep Inn has undertaken several projects to contribute to the beautification and improvement of the downtown area.

Click here for more information about the Instituto de Arquitectura Tropical.

Click here to read more about San José Posible.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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September 3rd, 2008

Culture at Our Doorstep

The Hotel Sleep Inn San Jose Downtown is the place for lovers of precolombian art. Within a short walking distance of the hotel is Costa Rica’s renowned Museo de Jade, which is the largest museum collection of jade in the Americas and which contains some of the country’s most valuable and interesting pieces of precolombian jade.

Located in the high-rise national insurance building (El Instituto Nacional de Seguros, or INS) just across the park from the Sleep Inn, the museum is open from Monday through Saturday. Its five-gallery exhibition space traces the origin of jade-work in the country and presents each piece in its historic and archaeological context. Jade, as a material, had particular cultural and religious significance to the native population of Costa Rica. The origins of each of the pieces—many of which were acquired through trade—are often as interesting as the pieces themselves.

The Jade Museum also features works in ceramic, gold, wood and bone. Guided tours are available in both Spanish and English.

Visit the Jade Museum website.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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September 3rd, 2008

The Rainy Season Could be the Right Season for a Trip to Costa Rica

When planning a trip to Costa Rica, vacationers often hope to avoid the rainy season. They imagine waterlogged beaches, muddy walks through the rain forest and unmitigated dreariness. For them, a trip to the tropics should be sunny and rain-free.

However, for those travelers willing to take the wet with the dry, the Costa Rican rainy season can be a wonderful time to plan a trip. The rainy season usually begins in late April and lasts until November. Most mornings are clear and sunny, and the rain normally only starts after lunchtime. An industrious traveler can do a lot of hiking, swimming or sightseeing before the rains even begin each day.

During the rainy season, plants and trees spring back to glorious, verdant life. Rivers are full again, the air is clear and cool, and the vegetation is lush and just what one would expect in the tropics. The rain itself is spectacular. It pounds heavily on streets and sidewalks but is surprisingly warm.

More importantly for travelers, the rainy season can often mean a reduction in prices. Hotel rates tend to be lower at this time of year. Many tourist attractions are less crowded, and travel bargains are more plentiful.

Although the rain makes day-trip planning more uncertain and can adversely affect driving conditions, it can also make for a truly memorable Costa Rican vacation.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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