Costa Rica welcomes all travelers and tourists, but Costa Rica specialty travelers can have a better vacation experience if they understand the specific challenges they might face as well as the resources available to them before embarking on their adventure. Costa Rica special needs travelers such as women, seniors, students, handicapped persons, and gays and lesbians all have unique challenges and needs that can be effectively addressed in the planning stages of a Costa Rica vacation.
The following tips are designed to aid Costa Rica special needs travelers, and to smooth the way for a terrific Costa Rica special needs experience:
- Travelers with disabilities. Costa Rica is in the beginning stages of making the country accessible to the disabled. Costa Rica does have a law in place that prohibits discrimination against the disabled in work and housing, but few public attractions are wheelchair accessible. Disabled travelers can benefit from booking their trip though an agency that caters to handicapped tourists. Vaya Con Silla de Ruedes (www.gowithwheelchairs.com) can arrange ramp and wheelchair equipped van tours of most major Costa Rica attractions. Flying Wheels Travel (www.flyingwheelstravel.com) is a travel agency that specializes in booking tours of the country and resort stays especially designed for people with disabilities.
- Gay and lesbian travelers. Costa Rica is a conservative Catholic nation with a firmly entrenched culture of traditional Latin machismo, but even so, gay and lesbian travelers report being treated with tolerance and respect when they travel to major attractions. Public displays of affection are probably not the best idea for gays and lesbians traveling to Costa Rica, but it isn’t as if the country is hostile toward these groups either. For inside information on what to expect and where to go, gay and lesbian tourists can contact Uno@Diez in San Juan (www.1en10.com), or book a tour through any of the many specialty gay and lesbian global travel agencies.
- Seniors. Senior citizens traveling to Costa Rica may be eligible for discounts on airfares, car rentals and hotels through AARP (www.aarp.org). Elderhostel (www.elderhostel.org) specializes in educational travel for seniors and Costa Rica specialty tours. Senior citizens are respected in Costa Rica, and many Americans, Canadians, and Europeans choose to retire there, so seniors may well run into someone they know!
- Families. Costa Rica specialty travel includes lots of great options for families, such as cabins or small vacation rentals with kitchenettes, resorts and hotels with babysitting services, and hotels where children stay for free. The Family Travel Forum (www.familytravelforum.com) and The Family Travel Network (www.familytravelnetwork.com) are two great all-purpose resources for locating the most family-friendly Costa Rica attractions.
- Women. Women traveling alone in Costa Rica will want to take a few special precautions. Costa Rica’s Latin macho culture is unfamiliar to many American and Canadian women. Women traveling alone receive lots of unwanted attention, whistles, catcalls, etc. For tips on how to cope with this attention and minimize it, check out Journeywoman (www.journeywoman.com) and sign up for the free newsletter. The site provides a realistic look at Costa Rica travel for women alone, along with lots of helpful tips and advice.
Costa Rica is a friendly, welcoming nation and tourists are its lifeblood. No one needs to be afraid of Costa Rica special needs travel, but it does help to plan well, be educated, and take sensible steps to maximize fun and minimize problems. Happily, lots of specialized travel services and free advice is readily available. If you belong to any Costa Rica special needs groups, make sure to take advantage of all of all of the support out there, and enjoy your trip!