When 40 Monsanto Chemical Co. sales reps visited Costa Rica recently, it was the outdoor experience that lured them, so the four-day event left plenty of time for adventure. “They stayed in San Jose, and we took them hiking through the rain forest first,” says Leigh Ann Cloutier, president of Spur Incentives in Austin, Texas. The following day, the group soaked in hot springs at the base of the famous Arenal Volcano — the only one in Costa Rica that's been active for 30 years. Arenal is known to spew huge ash columns, explosions, and glowing red lava almost every day — and it didn't disappoint.

The group's next excursion was a whitewater rafting trip down a fast-flowing, Class III jungle river that wound them through some spectacular vistas. Amazing displays of flora and fauna are the norm along the banks of the Rio Reventazon, where waterfalls seem to spring from nowhere against a tropical emerald backdrop of vegetation.

The group was most surprised, according to Cloutier, by Costa Rica's dollar value. “The airfare is fairly expensive, because of demand, so people expect everything to be high there — but it's not true at all. The rooms are an especially good value.” She cautions, however, to remember that San Jose is not a coastal city. “If your group wants the beach, and many of them do, it's a three-hour transfer to get there.” Her other advice: “Everyone expects top-notch limo service, but the limousines in Costa Rica are really old. I find that van rental works well — the vans are brand new and very nice.” Costa Rica is especially well-suited to small groups, Cloutier says. The largest hotel in the country, for example, has 225 guest rooms. And don't come here for non-stop nightlife. The sparsely populated country is the size of West Virginia. “Twenty five percent of the country is park land, so nature activities are very big.”

Getting in Touch

Argentina

Tourism Secretariat
(800) 555-0016
www.sectur.gov.ar/

Brazil

Rio de Janeiro CVB
(212) 259-6165
Fax: (212) 511-2592
www.rioconventionbureau.com.br

Sao Paulo CVB
55 11 289-7588
www.spcvb.com.br or www.visitesaopaulo.com

Chile

Chile Convention & Incentive Bureau
(562) 263-4711
Fax: (562) 263-4728
www.visitchile.org

Costa Rica

Costa Rica Tourism Board
(800) 343-6332
www.tourism-costarica.com

Panama

Instituto Panameño de Turismo (IPAT)
(800) 231-0568
www.visitpanama.com

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico CVB
(800) 875-4765
www.prconvention.com

Mexico

Mexican Tourism Board
(213) 351-2069
(800) 44-Mexico
Fax: (213) 351-2074
www.visitmexico.com

Cancun CVB
(202) 797-1222
Fax: (202)265-5930
www.cancuninfo.com