Costa Rica Launches Aerospace Program

By Adam Williams
Tico Times Staff |
What the city of Houston, Texas is to space travel in the United States, the city of Liberia may soon be to Costa Rica.

On Sunday, President Laura Chinchilla announced that Liberia, located in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, will be the location for an initiative entitled “National Aerospace Development and Integration for the Central American Region in the Generation of New Technologies.” The presentation also included the unveiling of the Central American Aerospace Industry Chamber (CACIA), which will consist of numerous aerospace experts and companies in Central America. Chinchilla had mentioned further development of the national aerospace program as one of her priorities since her inauguration in May.

Liberia was selected as the site for the program’s launch because of its proximity to the headquarters of the Ad Astra Rocket Company, which was formed in 2005 by Costa Rican astronaut and rocket scientist Franklin Chang. Chang, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), spent many years working as a scientist and astronaut with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Ad Astra is based in Houston, Texas.

The Costa Rican branch of the company, located 10 kilometers west of Liberia on the campus of EARTH University, focuses its research on the creation of the plasma rocket, known as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR). Ad Astra in Costa Rica hopes to test one of their first plasma rockets in space by 2014.

“We want recognition for Costa Rica, so the country can enter this special industry,” Chinchilla said in May. “We hope that Costa Rica will be the first Latin American country (to enter the space industry).” (TT, May 14)

Of the various experts in attendance, several spoke on their ideas for the development of Central American aerospace, their plans to finance the projects, and explanations of how they will advance the use of plasma energy. According to Costa Rica’s foreign minister, René Castro, over 80 Central American companies have expressed interest in participating in the development of CACIA and the aerospace program.

Costa Rica Tourism Up Through First 6 Months 2010


Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – Costa Rica’s Tourism Board – has an optimistic outlook for this year, expecting to reach two million visitors for 2010. The optimism is based on the 3.96% increase in tourism the first half of this year as compared to the same period in 2009.

According to date by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (Costa Rica’s immigration service) the number of tourist arrivals from January to June 2010 was 1.124.044. In contrast, during the first half of 2009, 1.025.460 tourist arrivals were recorded.

Given these figures, the executive director of the Cámara Costarricense de Hoteles (CCH), Pablo Solano, despite the increase in tourist arrivals, the average occupancy rate reported by his membership has risen slightly over last year, averaging 60%.

Solano addedthat the hotel operators are positive that increase will continue due to the ongoing efforts by the Chinchilla government to attract more visitors to Costa Rica.

Tourist arrivals from the United States is still the most important market for Costa Rica, showing a 10% increase for this year, for a total of 468.172 visitors, 43.218 more than the first six months in 2009.

Medical Tourism in Costa Rica: Quality Seal of Approval

Tourists coming to Costa Rica, attracted by the medical offers now have the ability to differentiate between the services offered.

That’s because on Wednesday, the Consejo para la Promoción Internacional de la Medicina de Costa Rica (International Council for the Promotion of Medicine Costa Rica) introduced the label called” “ProMED”.

The seal indicates the quality standards required in the United States, providing tourists security for the services they are purchasing.

Hospital CIMA in San Jose, Costa Rica
Hospital CIMA in San Jose, Costa Rica

Companies who want to obtain the label must comply with national and international legislation with a cost ranging from us$400 to us$7.000 annually.

Approximately 14% of Costa Rica’s 2 million+ tourists receive some form of elective medical procedure done while visiting. This new “seal of approval” will help differentiate between health care facilities and should be welcome by medical tourists.

Source:, Nick Halverson and ICT

Apple iPhone Approved for Costa Rica

By Adam Williams
Tico Times Staff |

With the opening of the cellular telephone market to private participation approaching, the Superintendency of Telecommunications (SUTEL) has approved five new cellular phone models to provide service in the Costa Rican network. The five phones approved are the Apple iPhone, the Sony Ericsson U5a and X10 models, the Motorola A853 and the China Bird HK Ltda. B mobile model PL 72. Currently, only phones authorized by the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) can be used to provide cell service.

In addition to the telephones, SUTEL also approved three new Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, a datacard and a credit card verification device that can also be used as to provide an internet connection. Each of the approved items will carry the logo of SUTEL certifying that they can be used in the country.

Apple iPhone 4 will work in Costa RicaThe cellular telephone market was opened to competition when the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) passed into effect on Jan. 1, 2009. Prior to the opening of the market, ICE had been the only provider of cellular phone coverage in Costa Rica. New competitors are expected to enter the cell market by the beginning of 2011. According to SUTEL, the process of opening the market has been delayed on several occasions due to difficulties in freeing up frequencies shared by telecommunication, phone and internet operators.
With 3G towers located in San Buenaventura the ability to use the new Apple iPhone 4 is only months away within The Village of San Buenas.

Costa Rica’s Second Language Initiative

By Sophia Klempner
Tico Times Staff |

The Multilingualism Promotion Program aims to teach English, French, Portuguese, Italian, German and Mandarin Chinese to people throughout Costa Rica, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

The program, announced Thursday, aims to promote language learning as a tool to stimulate the country’s social and economic progress, as well as to improve the climate for business, investments and tourism, the ministry said.

The program will offer diverse language instruction options such as courses and conversation groups in community centers, as well as using foreign volunteers who wish to learn Spanish in exchange for teaching their language. In addition, some 200 Peace Corps volunteers will be teaching English throughout the country over the next four years.

The effort was launched jointly by Foreign Minister René Castro, Decentralization and Local Development Minister Juan Marín, Marta Blanco, director of the Costa Rica Multilingual Foundation, Shirley Calvo, director of Dinadeco (the National Community Development Office), Olman Segura, president of the National Training Institute (INA), and President Laura Chinchilla.

Segura said the program partners will immediately begin a process of “identifying the demand” among those interested in learning another language so that the necessary teacher hirings could be made. The program began by polling 200 businesses. The first language services will be offered in Guanacaste and Limón provinces, Segura said.

Marín and Calvo noted the importance of the program’s availability to young and elderly people, as well as children, in communities and municipalities throughout the country.

Castro lauded the efforts of the state universities, adding that the University of Costa Rica has 200 slots open for foreign language study at a number of levels.

The push for multilingualism, together with promoting an emergent aerospace industry and the biotech and electronics sectors, form a central part of President Chinchilla’s administration.

Blanco said with two years of experience under belt at the Costa Rican Multilingual Foundation, the group aims to see all high school students graduate with a good working knowledge of English within the next 10 years.

Multilingualism Promotion Program partner websites:

Costa Rica Multilingual Foundation:
Foreign Ministry:
President of the Republic:

Pre-Columbian Artifacts Coming Back to Costa Rica

By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff |
Spain may be bringing home the World Cup gold trophy this week, but Costa Rica’s bringing home something of its own from Spain.Thanks to an application sent to the court in Santiago de Compostela, Spain in 2008, the Central American country is recovering a pre-Columbian pot and a stone sculpture that have been held in Madrid’s Museo de América.

The artifacts are part of the “Colección Patterson,” which is composed of 1,500 pieces of pre-Columbian gold, jade and ceramic from a handful of Latin American countries. The items belonged to Costa Rican Leonardo Patterson, who resides in Germany and is accused in Spain of illegally trafficking the artifacts. He is believed to have 498 Costa Rican pre-Columbian artifacts in total.

Foreign Minister René Castro congratulated the actors in the recovery process, saying that “if a people do not care for and respect their history, they are certainly a citizenry without dreams and without future.”

Costa Rica has also submitted requests to repatriate items from Denmark (four pieces), Switzerland (8 pieces) and Italy (18 pieces). In June, Costa Rica achieved repatriation of 24 items, which are being held in the Costa Rican Embassy in Washington, D.C., awaiting transfer to Costa Rica.

The two Patterson pieces are now in the custody of the National Museum.

North American Anglers: $600 million to Costa Rica economy

Tourism is Costa Rica’s top industry and new research shows North Americans traveling there in 2008 to fish generated $599 million – or about two percent of Costa Rica’s gross domestic product.

The study, conducted in 2009 by The Billfish Foundation, Southwick Associates and the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), revealed 283,790 anglers visited Costa Rica and their economic impact even overshadowed commercial fishing. It was estimated 22 percent of those tourists visited the country for the exclusive purpose of fishing.

From that $599 million the study also showed sportfishing generated almost $78 million in tax revenues for Costa Rica and 63,000 jobs. In comparison, the effect of commercial fishing for the same species sought by anglers generated approximately $528 million to Costa Rica’s gross domestic product. Commercial fishing contributed $68.6 million in tax revenue and created 57,000 jobs.

“We have already had the opportunity to present the results of this study to the incoming vice president and minister of tourism,” said Ellen Peel, president of The Billfish Foundation. “And we will be making a formal presentation to a wider cross sector of government and business leaders this summer. The leadership in Costa Rica had no idea that their country receives more benefits from a sustainable recreational harvest than from the subsidized excessive effort in the commercial fishery.”

The comprehensive study included interviewing tourists at Costa Rica’s major airports to estimate the percentage who fished while visiting. The research focused on the expenditures and economic impacts of marlin, sailfish, yellowfin tuna, wahoo and dorado; species that are the most frequent targets of commercial fisherman and recreational anglers.

It was estimated the 283,790 North Americans visiting Costa Rica in 2008 spent a total of $467 million. The survey revealed $329 million was spent on travel including lodging ($119 million), restaurants ($15.6 million), flights and fishing guides ($88 million) and land transportation ($6 million). These dollars then change hands multiple times in Costa Rica, creating significant benefits for the nation’s gross domestic product. In addition, visitors spent approximately $105 million outside of Costa Rica prior to arrival for airfare or other travel expenses, though these dollars are not included in the economic analyses.

About 3,700 of those visiting Costa Rica have their own boats in the country, whether permanently or temporarily, and they spent approximately $138 million for items such as fuel ($45.6 million), maintenance and repairs ($25 million), furniture and accessories for their vessels ($48 million), staff and crews ($2.8 million), marina fees ($16.6 million), and taxes and insurance ($1.8 million).

“TBF believes that only when decision makers understand the economic importance of good fishing opportunities for tourist anglers will billfish conservation get on the radar screen of government leaders charged with economic development as well as fisheries management,“ said Dr. Russell Nelson chief scientist for TBF. “And now thanks to the dedication of TBF members and generous donors who have supported our socio-economic research, we are making the point.”

Additional work conducted in the U.S. by Southwick Associates, Inc. estimated 7.5 million Americans fished outside of their country in 2009 with 3.6 percent of them traveling to Costa Rica. Among anglers vacationing in Costa Rica, 40 percent said they would not have visited the country if they could not fish. Those anglers, who represent 116,000 visitors per year and about $135 million in tourism income for Costa Rica, said the main factor in determining their satisfaction is “quality of fishing” followed by “relative peace and quiet,” and “fishing services, boat and crew quality.” The majority of anglers reported they visited Costa Rica to catch billfish including sailfish, marlin along with dorado. Inshore species such as snook and tarpon were less frequent targets.

“This was the first study done in Central America that compares the economic contributions of recreational and commercial fishing for the same species,” said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, who coordinated design and methodology, management and monitoring of this research and generated information regarding U.S. anglers’ international travel activities. “We’ve completed similar work for Los Cabos, Mexico, and the results produced almost immediate benefits to fisheries management and conservation.”

That study found the Los Cabos area benefited by $1.1 billion to the economy.

Based on the success of socio-economic research in Mexico and Costa Rica, TBF already has entered into discussions with the new administration in Panama to conduct similar studies in that country.

There is great offshore fishing 20 minutes away from The Village of San Buenas. Let us know when you are visiting and we can line up a trip for you!
Complete reports are available at:

Message from Management: June 2010

Nick Halverson

CEO of Nick Halverson

Having spent almost three months in Costa Rica through the first half of 2010, primarily at The Village of San Buenas,I can best sum up the first 1/2 of the year in Costa Rica as “progress”. Costa Rica continues to successfully move forward with their balance of increasing their economy through private sector growth,

Nick & Duane Halverson

Nick & Duane Halverson at San Buenas Golf Resort (next door to Village of San Buenas development)

increasing education and protecting their natural resources. They have elected their first female president and are increasing their trade with more countries of the world than ever before.

Here are some of the more visible changes that have taken place this year:

a) New highway from San Jose to Jaco (Caldera)

This highway is now an easy, “North American stye” highway that is a great improvement from the previous, twisting/winding/corkscrew highway. The new highway has had a couple of “hiccups” so far as heavy rains have forced its closure but as with anything, it will take some time to work out the kinks.

I have spoken to people who have lived and worked in Costa Rica and this project has been in process for over 25 years. It is great that it is finally complete.

I have driven it several times and it is a great improvement.

b) New highway from Quepos to Dominical

After 47 years and several starts and stops, this highway is now complete. My first trip down to Costa Rica over five years ago involved flying into Quepos and heading south. I looked at a map and figured, “Heck. Only 23 miles +/- to Dominical? No problem!” We landed at the end of the day and by the time the rental car was ready it was dark. Well, the drive to Dominical took two-and-one-half hours!! From then on I flew into Palmar Sur.

Those days of bumpy roads and kidney slamming driving are over! The drive between Dominical and Quepos is as easy as the drive from Dominical to Palmar Sur – flat, easy curves, smooth…The drive now takes about 30 minutes +/-.

With the finishing of the two highways it is an easy 3 1/2 hour drive from San Jose to The Village of San Buenas in the southern zone. Here’s some photos of the completed intersection in Dominical:

c) Increased coverage of 3G cellular network

ICE continues to install more 3G towers in the southern zone including one in San Buenaventura.

d) Tourism is up over 10% in 2010 vs. 2009

e) More communications.

Cable Tica and ICE continue to install more high speed internet services throughout the country. We met with an engineer and a member of management from ICE at the project early last week. We are cautiously optimistic that the first house will have phone service by the end of 2010 and with the right hardware we already have internet access (via 3G network). I will be pushing them to put in a dedicated high-speed internet line soon.

This is great for the whole project. They are aware of our plans and have been very helpful. We will also be meeting with Cable Tica in the next month to discuss communication solutions.

Within the project I am proud to announce a new masterplan that was designed by our award winning master planner. More details to come in the next couple of months. If you would like a sneak peek, please contact me directly. There are more parks, green spaces and walking trails than any other development that I know of in the area.

Costa Rica in May and June is a great time to visit. The temperatures are cooler than in December/January with gentle winds. Don’t let the “rainy season” name keep you away. I will have my recap from June/July in a couple of weeks. Keep your eyes open for it.

If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica please let me know – I would love to meet for a cup of coffee or Imperial. We can also assist you in your trip planning.

Best regards,

Nick Halverson

Arenal Volcano: History and Information

This is an interesting article that owners of The Village of San Buenas may find interesting. Costa Rica is full of wonderful and amazing sites. Although The Village is approximately five hours from Arenal it makes for a great weekend getaway.

Originally written in Landings – Nature Air Magazine

Not by Fire Nor by Water

The Resurrection of Arenal and Surrounding Towns

By Cara S. Klempner

When William Blake wrote “Great things are done when men and mountains meet,” he probably wasn’t envisioning a tourist destination based around a lava-spewing 3-cratered conical volcano. But the push and pull of the Cocos and Caribbean tectonic plates have given rise to more than just stunning peaks and roiling magma; the area’s had its share of other frictions as well.

La Fortuna, east of Arenal Volcano, was a wild frontier where a few brave souls battled the elements and dense forests to clear farm lands and children walked miles to one-room schools. Settling west of the volcano around 1940 were pioneers from Alajuela displaced by the Central Valley’s burgeoning coffee production and rapid population growth. The volcano’s millenium-old westward eruptions had formed a large loam-filled depression crisscrossed with waterways, including the Arenal River that was later dammed to form the Arenal hydroelectric project. The sandy basin’s abundant grasslands were perfect for cattle farming.

Named after the then-dormant volcano, Arenal quickly became a commercial center for scattered settlements in the region. Passable roads into the region via Cañas and Tilarán ended at Arenal. In this broad, volcano-encircled valley, settlers would soon find themselves fighting for their lands against natural forces and the march of progress.

The Sleeping Giant Awakes

Prior to July 29, 1968, the Arenal Volcano’s lush forest cover gave it the appearance of an innocent mountain. That fateful Monday, its western flank erupted, spreading sand and ash over a 200 kilometer area. Newspapers reported 90 deaths, but eyewitness reports range into the thousands, with the cattle death toll totaling tens of thousands. The Global Volcanism Project has since determined that Arenal has had regular eruptions every few hundred years dating back seven thousand years.

Erminia Monge, 54, was an eyewitness to the eruption:

The images of that day are engraved in my memory. Two days before, it rained a lot. The next day there was sand falling, rain mixed with sand. Everyone knew then that it was a volcano – the radios were all staticky and you couldn’t make calls. The morning of the eruption was sunny and crystal clear. My father said he wanted go over to Pueblo Nuevo to see what was going on. We told him not to go.

Then there was a great boom, and an enormous cloud went up and came falling downwards. “Let’s get out of here!” my father yelled. We were terrified. We didn’t take anything with us; we just started walking as the day blackened into night.

My father returned the next day. The cheese had rotted, the cows were braying. People couldn’t cross out of the affected areas because the rivers were swollen from the rains. A helicopter distributed food to us every few days, the basics. We spent two weeks with seven other families – each in one corner of a tiny house in Venado; we bathed and washed our clothes in the river.

The campesinos were not people who would flee easily. When they saw the initial signs, they thought it would pass. The mentality was different then: people were used to waiting, and to accepting what God wanted. If they died, they died; if they lived, that was good too.

Clean Energy

As the region recuperated, many families moved to Arenal away from the volcano’s eruptions. Monge’s family followed, and as she was planning her wedding at 22, ICE was planning a hydroelectric project and that required the evacuation of the up-and-coming town. Monge became the first to marry in the new settlement of Nuevo Arenal.
ICE held meetings in the movie theater … the place was packed. People didn’t want to leave. Little-by-little ICE convinced people. They strung us along with promises of a special reduced electric rate, of new roads. Basically they were forcing us to leave.

My family didn’t leave until the flooding started. We thought, “What is in this new place for us? What will we do there?” The old town was small, but rich: everyone knew each other. People were honest, upright, and lent a hand to each other. In Nuevo Arenal we found a desert: there were no trees or roads—it was a mess. We had to travel by horseback 30 km to Tilarán for supplies, the roads were impassable. Many families were divided by the resettlement process.

Old ICE publications document an earnest, idealistic effort by young intellectuals fresh from San Jose’s universities and eager to apply their technical expertise to what was considered a wasteland. The team saw the resettlement wholly in positive terms: “The project will create new forms of employment, and new opportunities through better salaries, technical formation, and relations with people from other parts of the contry … there is also a possibility of new activities like fishing and tourism … factors which will unite in a process of cultural transformation.”

Eighty-two-year-old Mario Hidalgo, who was vice manager of energy for Costa Rica’s Electric Institute (ICE) at the time the Arenal plant was built, recalls:

“The idea for the dam came about in the 1930s. Topographers began studying the terrain and river flows. The conditions were ideal for creating a reservoir: this exceptional site allowed for the storage of vast quantities of water with minimal alteration. An additional benefit was that the water leaving the plant could be used as irrigation for agriculture in the dry Guanacaste region. Many people were interested in starting tilapia farms and growing rice along the irrigation canals. The Inter-American Development Bank pounced on it. It was considered ‘sexy.’ It wasn’t expensive, and it had so much potential. They immediately agreed to fund it.”

Jose Luis Sibaja, 61, is a seasoned community leader who was born in Mata de Caña, the relocation site that old Arenal residents voted for. Tourism and foreign settlement along Lake Arenal’s balmy, northern shores in the 1990s sparked a construction boom, boosting the struggling agricultural economy and generating significant revenues. As he recalls:

The first 15 years were very difficult. There was no work; farming was bad. Now with foreigners buying properties, land prices have risen, and some have benefited. ICE promised many things in verbal agreements, but talk is cheap. They abandoned us. They did come through on their promises of homes, but the roads, we are just now finishing! Most who came were farmhands, previously landless; ICE gave them small farm parcels with houses. These people had never had their own land. They came with nothing. It was a town full of poor people. There were immediate benefits for those of us living here: electricity, roads, banks. It was a great thing having these new people in the town.

ICE’s Hidalgo reflects that, “All change brings about pain. Some people are satisfied, others not. There should have been more follow-up with the resettled community. In a similar relocation situation, Hidalgo recalls the ethical challenge faced “An older woman lived alone with her cow; each day she grazed it in a pasture and milked it on her patio. Her house and the pasture were bought by ICE. A few days later, the woman died. There is no consoling oneself in these cases. When you put them on a balance: the woman, with her cow and her few belongings on one side, and on the other side, the project – you cannot say which one weighs more, you really cannot.”

Deep in the bed of Lake Arenal lie two pioneer towns, whose residents 35 years ago felt hope and fear clashing in their hearts as they faced the necessity to uproot. The volcano, its mineral rich waters now feeding luxury resorts, its molded terrain having birthed frontier towns, cattle farms and a major hydroelectric project, stands as witness and catalyst to the region’s development, growing with each lava spurt, and holding its own secrets deep within.

Nature Air: $5 Transfer Fee in San Jose (SJO) to Pavas

Airport Shuttle Service

To facilitate travel for Nature Air passengers arriving at and departing from the Juan Santamaria International airport (SJO), Nature Air offers an affordable VIP Shuttle Service directly to and from the Nature Air terminal at the Tobias Bolaños International Airport (SYQ).

For just $5 per person, passengers can make the ground connection between the two airports. One of our reps will meet and greet you at the airport and assist you with your luggage. All you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the friendly air-conditioned ride.

This service can be arranged and paid for in advance when booking your Nature Air flight by filling out the form below or directly at either airport with the Shuttle Coordinator, located at the orange Taxis Unidos stand in Juan Santamaria Airport or with the Concierge desk at any of Nature Air’s airports.

The shuttle departs three times per day from each location to accommodate most connections. For passengers arriving at Juan Santamaria, we recommend that you select an Airport Shuttle departure no sooner than one hour after your scheduled arrival.   Please allow for no less than one hour before your Nature Air flight is scheduled to depart when taking the Airport Shuttle from Juan Santamaria. Passengers looking to connect from Tobias Bolaños to Juan Santamaria should book the Shuttle 30 minutes or more after their arrival to Tobias Bolaños and three hours prior to your departure from Juan Santamaria for your international flight.

If your flight times do not correspond with the Shuttle schedule, or you prefer to arrange private transportation between airports, you may book this directly by contacting our reservations office:

The Tobias Bolaños International airport is located just 5 minutes from downtown San Jose, and approximately 20 minutes from the Juan Santamaria airport.

Nature Air chose Tobias Bolaños as its main hub to best accommodate the airline’s average 74 daily departures and arrivals to and from San Jose. As the main air service provider at Tobias Bolaños, Nature Air also avoids the frequent delays you typically find at the Juan Santamaria Airport. Our passengers do not have to deal with long security lines and traffic at other airports, and our facilities include a restaurant and other services for the comfort of our passengers. Additionally, our convenient proximity to downtown San Jose allows us to better serve local clients.