CR News Headlines posted by on June 26, 2014
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Here are today’s headlines from Costa Rica:

 

President Solís says proposals to lower record-high fuel prices are not viable

The Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) sent President Luis Guillermo Solís two proposals for lowering record-high fuel prices: 1) Eliminate fuel taxes and 2) Reduce spending at the National Oil Refinery (RECOPE).

However Solís believes that the tax elimination proposal “is not a valid option considering the harsh fiscal situation the country is facing.”  Continue Reading

 

Supreme Court asks Solís to clarify Cabinet post for Lutheran bishop

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, on Wednesday admitted a citizen’s complaint over whether the appointment of Lutheran bishop Melvin Jiménez Marín as presidency minister is constitutional. Justices gave President Luis Guillermo Solís 15 days to formally respond.

Attorney Álvaro Orozco Carballo filed the appeal on June 11. According to Orozco, Jiménez’s appointment violates Article 142 of Costa Rica’s Constitution. Paragraph 3 of that article states that all government ministers must be “members of the secular state,” which the complaint interprets to mean that government ministers cannot be active members of religious organizations. Continue Reading

 

Costa Rica leads Central America in Cup of Excellence coffee auction

 

The breakaway favorite of Costa Rica’s 2014 Cup of Excellence competition took home the highest bid in the Alliance for Coffee Excellence international auction Tuesday.

Luis Enrique Navarro of Monte Copey in Dota, Tarrazú, winner of the Cup of Excellence in May, received $41.20/lb. for his lot. Maruyama Coffee, Sugi Coffee Roasting, Ponpon Coffee, and Orsir Coffee of Taiwan purchased 1,518 lbs. of Navarro’s coffee for $62,541.60.  Continue Reading

In pictures: Passenger jet converted into luxury hotel in Costa Rica rainforest

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/10812913/In-pictures-Passenger-jet-converted-into-luxury-hotel-in-Costa-Rica-rainforest.html?frame=2903227

 

Revealed: How governments can take control of smartphones

Legal malware’ produced by the Italian firm Hacking Team can take total control of your mobile phone. That’s according to Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab and University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab(which also obtained a user manual).

Operating since 2001, the Milan-based Hacking Team employs over 50 people and offers clients the ability to “take control of your targets and monitor them regardless of encryption and mobility,” while “keeping an eye on all your targets and manage them remotely, all from a single screen.”  Continue Reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Costa Rica a divine spot for even the mildly adventurous posted by on May 23, 2012

From Pavones, one of the longest left-hand waves in the world, to Witches Rock, a 12-foot-high, 300-yard-long wave featured in “Endless Summer,” Costa Rica has some of the best surfing known to humanity.

And if none of that registers with you, don’t worry.

Because while this surf mecca attracts the world’s best, it’s also great for beginners. My travel partner had never picked up a surfboard in her life. By the end of the vacation, she was ripping it up. So, if you’re curious about surfing and looking for a vacation that’s part adventure, part exercise and all relaxation, buy a round-trip ticket to San Jose, rent a four-wheel drive with a roof rack and tour Costa Rica’s west coast.

My main advice is travel during the dry season (mid-December to mid-May) and don’t worry about trying to find the “best” spot. There’s plenty of beautiful beach and surf to go around. Here’s a quick hit on my favorite locales.

Montezuma

Montezuma is not a great surf destination, but it’s a great place to start your adventure.

A five-hour drive from San Jose, Montezuma will wash off the stress and dust of travel and settle you into the beach mentality that Costa Rica locals call pura vida. Home to some of the most exotic beachside restaurants, bars and night life in Costa Rica, this artist-commune hamlet is known for its healing arts and yoga communities, eco-tourism lodges and canopy tours. It also hosts the annual Costa Rica International Film Festival, which attracts top filmmakers and talent from around the globe.

Hotels range from $10 a night for a dorm bed and a shared bathroom at the clean and eclectic Hotel Lucy, right on the waterfront, to $300 a night at Ylang Ylang, which offers secluded romantic private beachside bungalows, a pool, a spa and daily yoga classes. Cheap eats are found at the Bakery Cafe (one of our favorite breakfast spots), or enjoy an upscale romantic meal at Playa De Los Artistas right on the beach. The cuisine is Mediterranean, and the ingredients are always fresh.

Mal Pais

Many towns in Costa Rica are known for surfing, but Mal Pais is one of the few that is quintessentially surf. It’s also a favorite spot for celebrities. Forbes Magazine calls this place one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. But in spite of the stardust, Mal Pais is a laid-back, noncommercial getaway that delivers great surf.

If you’ve never been on a surfboard, take a lesson (all the schools in Mal Pais are good). Once you get the basics, rent the longest board you can find — there are surf board rental shops all over town — and ask the locals to send you to a beach with waves of about 2 to 3 feet.

Lodging prices in Mal Pais are the same as you’ll find in most beach towns in Costa Rica. If you want to go cheap, you can find cheap. If you want to spend money, you can do that too. But don’t rely too heavily on your guidebook. Ask the locals if they can recommend a good spot; it’s all part of the adventure. On our trip, we didn’t book anything in advance, nor did we stay in hotels. We just asked locals if they knew a good place to stay, and we consistently found fantastic private bungalows that were affordable and almost always on the beach.

Nosara

In contrast to the earthy surfing mecca of Mal Pais and the hippy eccentricity of Montezuma, Nosara is the oldest expatriate community in Costa Rica. And in spite of its dirt roads and rustic feel, it attracts visitors from all walks of life.

And it’s no wonder, because this spot has a lot to offer. The Nosara Yoga Institute is top-notch professional career yoga training center known throughout the world. Similarly, the Ostional Wildlife Refuge is famous for its olive ridley and leatherback sea turtle populations. And, of course, there is fantastic surf plus great surf rental shops and surf schools. In fact, many consider Nosara to be one of the best places to learn. (The smaller waves are easier to ride than at other beaches.)

Like most Costa Rican beach spots, there are numerous restaurants and hotels ranging from cheap to expensive. We met a British surfer along a road who found us a two-bedroom house with a kitchen and pool overlooking the rain forest for $30 a night. It even had a grill, which we used to cook up freshly caught lobster tails we picked up from a fisherman on the drive up.

Cabo Matapalo

For us, the most magical beach town in Costa Rica is Cabo Matapalo. Near the Panama border at the outermost point of the Osa peninsula, it’s a remote paradise far off the tourist path. If you want to see wildlife, this is the place. Howler monkeys shook the jungle with their booming calls, while flocks of red blue, green and yellow macaws sailed from tree to tree like crows, and spider monkeys regularly watched us doing dishes. Of course, we could have skipped the jumbo crayfish that occasionally nipped at our toes in the stunning crystal blue waterfalls in Corcovado National Park.

Cabo Matapalo is the only place where we suggest you book a place in advance. There are no hotels, and most of the bungalows were full when we arrived. In fact we were scrambling as the sun was setting, wondering if we were going to have to sleep in the car. That being said, we did manage to find one of the most beautiful places to stay on our whole trip, though I think pretty much anywhere you stay in Cabo Matapalo is awesome. Prices are a little higher here, starting at about $100 a night, but it is well worth it.

There are few sure things in life, but Costa Rica is one of them. I’ve been there many times and plan to keep going. This is not an expensive trip; and for what it delivers, it’s a winner. And please don’t sign up for one of those all-inclusive safe resort packages: You’ll never experience the glory. Go wild, rent a car, rent a board, paddle out, learn as you go and discover the pura vida that is Costa Rica. Who knows, it might change your life. It changes mine every time I go.

If you go

Montezuma: low end, Hotel Lucy (phone 011-506-2642- 0273, hostelz.com/hostel/125438-hotel-lucy; high end, Ylang Ylang (888-795-8494, ylangylangbeachresort.com

Eating: low end, Bakery Cafe (011-506-2642-0458); high end, Playa De Los Artistas (011-506-2642-0920, playamontezuma.net/playadelosartistas.htm

Mal Pais: low end, Mal Pais Surf Camp and Resort (011-506-2640-0061, malpaissurfcamp.com); high end, Beija Flor (011-506-2640-1007, beijaflorresort.com);

Eating: low end, Umi Sushi (011-506-2640-0968); high end, Mary’s Restaurant (011-506-2640-0153, maryscostarica.com/main.html)

Nosara: low end, Rancho Congo (011-506-2682-0078, nicoyapeninsula.com/vacationrentals/nosara-congo); high end, Harmony Hotel (011-506-2682-4114, harmonynosara.com/en/index.html)

Eating: low end, Beach Dog Cafe (tinyurl.com/cy8ken8); high end, La Luna (011-506-2682-0112, tinyurl.com/cmv4t3h)

Cabo Matapalo: all high end, Tucan Terra (tucanterra.com/tucan.html); Lapa Rios (tinyurl.com/cbb8zdd)

Eating: Buena Esperanza Bar (tinyurl.com/dxlnjes)

ctc-travel@tribune.com

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Costa Rica airfare sales posted by on May 9, 2012

Costa Rica is an adventure playground with laid back beaches, rainforests, active volcanos to colonial cities and cultural sites. The country is about the size of the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined — with the Caribbean Sea on the east coast and the North Pacific Ocean on the west.

Most tours include an overnight in Tortuguero National Park to spot alligators, monkeys, herons, egrets and more.

Another highlight is to Arenal Volcano and an overnight to witness nightime lava action from your bed (lodging suggestions at www.arenal.net/hotel). Visit Poás Volcano National Park for its magnificent waterfalls and the active Poás Volcano — famous for its bright green crater lake.

Activities are endless with opportunities for snorkeling, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, zip lining, river rafting, kayaking to hot mineral pools and posh spas.

Delta Air Lines is currently running airfare deals to both the national capital city of San Jose and to Liberia — the capital city of the northwest Guanacaste province.

Round-trip rates to San Jose are $541.43 and $609.49 to Liberia.

Both offers require a 28-day or more advance notice of travel. Travel on Fridays-Sundays are $10 more, each way. There are no blackout dates to avoid and these rates are valid on trips finished on or before April 3, 2013.

There is one big difference in the airfare rules. Travel to San Jose requires a minimum stay of any two nights. The sale rate to Liberia requires a 7-night minimum stay.

Delta serves both destinations with daily nonstop flights from Atlanta.

Both of these sale rates carry no ticket-by date. Since only a limited supply of seats is available, act quickly to make your purchase.

I recommend starting the search for available seats at Kayak.com vs. calling an airline directly. You can also search for the sale at travel Web sites such as Expedia or Travelocity, etc.

Costa Rica can be explored through independant tour packages or with escorted or guided tours. Some of the most comprehensive tour companies for Costa Rican vacations include Caravan, G Adventures, Gate 1, General Tours, Globus, Tauck and Trafalgar. Land packages range from $100 to $400 per day, per person.

Check out Viator (ww.viator.com/Costa-Rica/d747-ttd) for pricing on day tours and other sightseeing options.

The official Costa Rica Tourism website (www.visitcostarica.com) is an ideal spot to begin general trip planning. The site also offers links to Costa Rica vacation specialists in the greater Atlanta area.

Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.

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LatinExplore’s Combo of Costa Rica Travel Deals and Money Saving Tips posted by on May 3, 2012

Denver, Co (PRWEB) May 03, 2012

Travelers are gearing up for another summer and right now they are scouring the web looking for Costa Rica travel deals and smart money saving tips. Travelers can start saving substantial money while planning their trip and can continue to save money while on vacation without sacrificing excellent service and quality.

New York Times contributor Michelle Higgins recently wrote in the article “Are Travel Agents Back,” “And though no one has been keeping track of the reasons travelers are turning to actual human beings, Mr. Peterson suspected it might have something to do with the drawbacks of the Web. “It’s come to a point that it’s too much information to be confident that they have the ability to book the lowest fare” or uncover the best place to stay, he said of the respondents. “Consumers are hungry for that one-and-done shopping experience.”

Seth Kugel wrote a blog post for the New York Times Travel section entitled “Is the Best Travel Search Engine Around the Corner?” Seth wrote, “The result: Nearly every time, travel agents bested the Internet big boys on both price (the objective part of the test) and service (what you might call the essay question). In other words, the agents suggested alternate routes, gave advice on visas and just generally acted, well, more human than their computer counterparts.”

With the average traveler spending 5 hours researching and booking their vacations online, it’s easy to see why they are turning to travel agents to get the best rates and services.

For travelers who are still looking to book their own vacations, consider traveling to Costa Rica during the green season. The green season starts in late April and ends around the first week of December.
Costa Rica’s green season is the perfect time to take advantage of lower hotel rates; fewer tourists, easy transportation and comfortable weather (except for the months of September and October).
Travelers can expect to save around 30% by purchasing package deals with travel agents for vacations during the green season.

So now that the vacation is booked and everyone is all packed up lets start looking at some money saving tips.

Saving money on a vacation begins before arriving at the airport; prior to the international flight.
Before deciding to drive and leaving the car at the airport be sure to find out how much the airport parking fees is. The average price for parking is around $20 a day. Any vacation longer than 4 days justifies a cab ride in most cases.

Get familiar with your cell phone data and outgoing phone call rates.

Travelers who understand their phones data plans are less likely to suffer from a heart attack when the next cell phone bill is due after returning home. For travelers who are not clear on how their plan works shut off your data roaming. The e-mails can wait and they serve as a distraction from a much deserved quality vacation. Folks should also check their outgoing phone call costs. Depending on the outgoing cost look into downloading an app like skype. As a last resort it may be cheaper to buy a prepaid phone card.

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind while vacationing.

Travelers can save money by eating at Sodas. These are small family run restaurants that specialize in inexpensive meals and usually include a drink.
In Costa Rica a 10% service charge is included on the restaurant bill and tipping is not customary so don’t feel obligated to tip, unless the service merits it.
Looking for some inexpensive activities? Visit some of Costa Rica’s National Parks.

Costa Rica has the greatest diversity of species and ecosystems compared with other tropical regions of the world. Costa Rica has 32 National Parks and the entrance fees are usually around $5 USD with discounts for students and seniors.

Take advantage of the hotel pool.

Visitors are paying for the pool but are they using it? After a few days full of fun activities, taking a time out to splash around in the pool may be what’s needed to re-energize your batteries. On family vacations consider having a picnic poolside or make your way back to the room. Getting out of the sun for an hour or two is never a bad idea (especially on hot days with young children).
If you need help or want to ask questions about planning a trip to Costa Rica please contact Monica (head of operations for the travel agency LatinExplore) at 888.340.4943 or by email at customerservice(at)latinexplore(dot)com

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Costa Rica — peaceful, lush and friendly posted by on May 1, 2012

By Greg Lopez Midland Daily News | 0 comments
Posted: Monday, April 30, 2012 8:57 am | Updated: 10:34 am, Mon Apr 30, 2012.

A little over a year ago, I realized that I had air miles that were to expire at the end of the summer. Not wanting to waste the opportunity to use the miles, I began to investigate the list of possible destinations.

After some discussion with my wife, Susanne, we decided to travel with local friends on a family visit to Costa Rica. We had always heard so many wonderful things about the Central American nation — from the volcanoes to the lush, tropical vegetation to the fact that this is a peaceful country with very friendly people. We also understood that Costa Rica would be a place where children are welcome.

Early one morning in July of last summer, the Lopez and Brenes families, together with their triplets and our two boys, began our journey. After traveling all day long, we arrived at the international airport in San José and were met by relatives and friends of Jenn and Lenín Brenes and their children. Although it was late at night, these kind people followed us to our apartment hotel and quickly began warming up local dishes they had prepared for us so we would have something good to eat after a long day of travel. Although it was late, I especially remember the delicious rice and was amazed that they had gone to so much trouble to welcome us. They also had gifts for all the children! It was a kind and friendly gesture that we will never forget.

The next day, both families met at the breakfast buffet to begin our first full day together in Costa Rica. We had chosen to stay at an apartment hotel because we would have a kitchen and washing facilities in our rooms. But the property does offer a nice breakfast buffet included in the price of the room. So breakfast was always at the buffet, outdoors by the pool. I was curious to see what local foods would be offered. Each day, there was papaya, pineapple and melon. There were also pastries, fresh baguette, delicious juices such as blackberry juice, ‘gallo pinto’, a tasty Costa Rican dish made of rice and beans, fresh cream and omelets. There were all sorts of other dishes that changed each day but it was always good. When my wife, Susanne, tasted her first cup of coffee she had a somewhat startled reaction. I asked if something was wrong. She assured me that she was pleasantly surprised that the coffee was so good. Then again, we were in Cost Rica and they do have a good reputation for coffee.

During our stay in the country, we had plenty of opportunities to taste local fare. Both the Lopez and Brenes families had rented cars and so we had the ability to drive around the capital and other areas of the country to visit popular tourist attractions. Whether at a hotel or out on the road, eventually one has to stop to eat. One day, during a visit to an upscale mall in a suburb of San José, we stopped at a restaurant for coffee, cake and ice cream. The coffee there was great and it was neat to taste ice cream made of fruits we had never had before. One such fruit was ‘cas’ or Costa Rican guava. It’s creamy and refreshing! On another day, during a trip to Sarchí, where the famous painted oxcarts are made, we stopped at a restaurant next to the workshop. There was a huge buffet with all sorts of local specialties. I really enjoyed the ‘patacones’ or fried plantains and found the ‘picadillo de chayote’ particularly good. In countries in Latin America where I have lived, ‘picadillo’ refers to ground meat cooked with onions, garlic and spices. This ‘picadillo’ was a wonderful mixture of onion, corn, chayote, peppers, ground pork and fresh coriander (cilantro).

Although we did eat in many restaurants, it would be unforgivable to omit the many fantastic dishes that the relatives of our friends prepared for us during our stay in Costa Rica. On one of the first evenings, our friend Lenin’s father invited all of us over for ‘vigorón’, a dish made of chunks of fried pork and yucca. It was such a treat! The ‘micheladas’ prepared by Lenin’s brother-in-law, a mixture of beer and lime juice, went perfectly with the meal. During a stay at the country home of Lenin’s father, Lenin’s sister Karina offered us some of her own specialties one evening. Susanne and I will never forget her ‘ensalada de atún’ or tuna salad and the ‘frijoles molidos’ or mashed beans. The tuna came out of a can but already had peas and carrots in it. The mashed beans seemed so simple but were a welcome appetizer served with fried tortilla chips.

During our stay in Costa Rica, we discovered something new and exciting each day. Much of our time there was spent with our friends’ relatives. That, in and of itself, was such a great opportunity to get to know the country through the eyes of people who live there. We saw so much while we were there but we feel that we must return one day to discover yet other parts of the country and to see our Costa Rican friends again. Until then, we can prepare some of the dishes we enjoyed during our visit to the Central American nation and reminisce. Thanks Jenn, Lenín, and the kids for allowing us to tag along on your family visit!

Greg Lopez is a Midlander who loves travel and food. He combines those two passions in a monthly column for the Daily News.

Gallo Pinto

3 tablespoons margarine

1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 cups cooked black beans in their sauce

4 tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

2 cups cooked rice (cooked the day before)

Salt to taste

Sauté the pepper, onion and garlic in the margarine until the onions become transparent but not brown. Add the beans, cumin and Worcestershire sauce and some salt to taste. Stir over medium heat and cook until part of the sauce begins to evaporate. Finally add the rice and coriander and stir well over medium heat until the rice is hot. Cover and remove from source of heat for about 5 minutes before serving.

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Taking Advantage of Costa Rica Travel Deals During the Green Season posted by on April 28, 2012

People looking to take advantage of Costa Rica travel deals can find significant discounts during the green season.

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Costa Rica Travel Agent
Quote startHead south of the border – really far south – for the best dealsQuote end

Denver, Co (PRWEB) April 28, 2012

People looking to take advantage of Costa Rica travel deals can find significant discounts during the green season. The term “green season” was originally developed because it was considered more appealing to potential clients than the term “off-season” which usually led to them to think about poor weather conditions.

Costa Rica’s green season is from May to December for most regions, with the most precipitation occurring during the months of September and October. However, the months of July and August are the driest months of the green season making it ideal to achieve great value vacations.

Savvy travelers have been taking advantage of Costa Ricas green season during the months of July and August for years. A majority of hotel rates are discounted between thirty and fifty percent, the large crowds of tourists have disappeared, and sunny days at the beach are still very much the norm.

Yes the rainforest mountain slopes may be getting soaked but why should that prevent travelers from taking advantage of the huge savings on travel deals to gorgeous beach locations? If it does rain along the coast it usually starts in the afternoons and then stops by nightfall.

Emily Glazer (writer for The Wall Street Journal Travel section) recently wrote an article stating “head south of the border – really far south – for the best deals. Many countries in Central America and South America are experiencing a tourist boom for eco-travel in particular – thanks to a slew of new hotels and cheap package deals. And your dollar will go a lot further than in the U.S. and Europe.”

Travelers can take advantage of great travel deal packages like the Tamarindo Beach Escape. The package includes a four-night stay in the luxurious four-star hotel Tamarindo Diria Beach & Golf Resort, a welcome bottle of wine, meet and greet at the airport and a 4-day SUV car rental. During high season the package starts at $1378 for 2. People who purchase this package for travel in July and August save 30%. The package rate drops to under $1,000 for 2 based on double occupancy.

Casa Conde Del Mar is located to the north of Tamarindo and on average gets the lowest precipitation in all of Costa Rica. Even though the green season really doesn’t affect this region travelers can still take advantage of travel deals such as the Four-Night Guanacaste Beach Package for Two. The package includes four-nights at the Hotel Casa Conde del Ma (4-star hotel), a 4 day SUV rental, airport meet and greet and a welcome bottle of wine. The retail package price during high season starts at $1378 for 2 but for travelers heading south in July or August can save 30% and purchase the same package for under $1000.

Not all travelers are looking for a beach vacation. Visitors who want to explore some of Costa Ricas most famous volcanoes are in luck. The regional green season for the Arenal Volcano and Northern-Lowlands area is opposite to the Coast. This area offers the best weather during the green season.

Just because the Arenal Volcano regions green season doesn’t start until December, doesn’t mean travelers still can’t find Costa Rica travel deals offering substantial discounts.

The Three-Night Volcanic Spa Package for 2 is a perfect example. This package includes an airport meet and greet, private transfers, 3 nights at the Arenal Kioro (volcano view suite with hydro massage tub in room), welcome drink, Titoku Hot Springs, volcanic mud mini facial for her and a rainforest zipline tour for two. During the high season the package rate starts at $1,754.50. People who purchase this package for travel in July and August save 30%. The package rate is around $1,250 for two people.

Whether an individual wants to book their own trip or choose to alleviate the hassle and book their vacation through a travel agency one fact is clear, travelers can save a lot of money traveling during the green season without being overly affected by the amount of rainfall in the months of July and August.

If you have questions about any of the Costa Rica travel deals found in this press release or for more information please contact Monica McIntyre at 1.888.340.4943 or by e-mail at: customerservice(at)latinexplore(dot)com.

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