7 Things to Know Before You Go To Costa Rica - United Hub

7 things to know before you go to Costa Rica

By Nick Harper

Squeezed in between the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean, wedged in between Nicaragua and Panama, the tiny republic of Costa Rica is a destination that should be towards the top of every traveler's bucket list. A land of almost unrivalled wildlife, volcanic scenery, adrenaline-fueled adventure and pristine white beaches, the Costa Rican saying of "pura vida," or “pure life," could not be more fitting.

Comparable in size to West Virginia, it's possible to see almost everything Costa Rica has to offer in a single visit – although one visit will never be enough. To help you get your bearings, here are seven key things to know before you arrive.

1. A tale of two cities

Costa Rica's big cities are small in number and population. Most travelers fly into the capital, San José, with a population of more than 330,000, and venture on from there. Located at the heart of the country, 'Chepe,' as the capital is affectionately known, appears unremarkable at first glance — a sprawl of concrete and noisy traffic. Stay a couple of days, however, and you'll find a city of historic neighborhoods full of contemporary art galleries, museums and fine cafés, restaurants and bars.

Your other option is to fly into the new Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia, with a population of around 60,000. This once-sleepy cowboy town has been reinvented as a modern-day tourism hub, but it's less a destination in which to dwell and more a jump-off point for exploring the Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja and the beaches of the Peninsula de Nicoya, both of which are highly recommended.

Hanging Bridge over Monteverde Cloud Forest

2. Get closer to nature

Most visitors flock to Costa Rica for its natural habitat. Nowhere in the world will you find so much diversity squeezed into such a tiny space. As much as 25 percent of the country is now protected by national reserves, with dense rainforests and dramatic cloud forests home to thousands of creatures both large and small. Of the many options, we suggest you prioritize the two below.

For lush tropical rainforests, head for Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific coast, taking trails through the forest to pristine beaches, past capuchin monkeys, iguanas and sloths. And for Costa Rica's best cloud forest, head further up the coast to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Under constant cloud cover and across more than 35,000 acres, it's home to more than 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds and 1,200 species of amphibians and reptiles. More impressive still, it's one of the few remaining habitats that support all six species of the cat family – jaguar, ocelot, margay, jaguarundi, puma and oncilla.

3. Eco-friendly accommodations

Costa Rica has been at the forefront of the sustainable tourism movement for many years, and its best accommodations come in the form of eco lodges – designed to have minimum impact on the natural environment in which they're located. This means the best places to stay are well away from the concrete cities. Of the many options dotted throughout the country, the five-star Lapa Rios is arguably the best. Set within a 1,000-acre private nature reserve in the Osa Peninsula, it boasts 17 bungalows with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the rainforest. Luna Nueva, La Cusinga and Finca Rosa Blanca Country Inn are just three other excellent alternatives among many.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica.

4. Go with the flow

Another of Costa Rica's biggest attractions are its volcanoes. More than 60 dot the landscape, most in the northern part of the country and in the Central Highlands, but only a handful of them remain active. Most tourists are drawn to Arenal Volcano, less than three hours north of San José. Arenal's conical peak rumbles and smokes, but since 2010 its explosions and lava flows have decreased significantly – it's considered to be alive but currently sleeping.

Even idle, Arenal is a sight to behold, and with its numerous hiking trails, hot springs, canopy walks and zip-lines through the treetops around it, its popularity is easily understood. Indeed, with 90 percent of the country's wildlife and 50 percent of its plant species living in the upper levels of the trees, taking a zip-line through the forest canopy is an essential experience.

5. Action and adventure

Blessed with two coasts, white-water rivers and the aforementioned volcanoes, Costa Rica offers rich pickings for adventure seekers. Zip-lining down the slopes of Arenal Volcano will have your heart beating faster, while the mountainous terrain and heavy rainfall combine to create perfect white-water rafting conditions – La Fortuna is just one standout stretch among many.

For a more sedate alternative, Arenal river tubing takes you through the heart of the North Central region's jungles, past a cast of crocodiles and caiman, kingfishers and iguanas. If you want to explore the deep blue depths, head across to the Caribbean coast to scuba dive and snorkel among the manta rays, manatees and whitetip sharks or surf the legendary Salsa Brava, translated as 'angry sauce'. As the name suggests, approach with great caution.

6. Sunshine and sand

Life shuffles by at a more leisurely pace on Costa Rica's two coasts, home to a seemingly endless array of breathtaking beaches. On the Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica's most celebrated — with a rocky headland shielding the beach from powerful waves, making it a very family-friendly option. The same can be said about the soft sand that slopes gently into the ocean at Playa Flamingo.

For a livelier alternative, follow the crowds to Tamarindo in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, where surfers seek out the swells and the parties stretch long into the night. Playa Conchal, with its white sand and turquoise water, is a snorkeler's paradise and beautiful secret to all those in the know. Likewise, if you know to follow the unmarked dirt roads to Punta Uva on the Caribbean Coast, you'll be rewarded with pristine water, coral reefs, palm trees and a sense of supreme, smug solitude.

7. Party on

The fastest way to understand a new culture is by observing people in their natural habitat. Smaller festivals take place across Costa Rica throughout the year and offer a window into Los Ticos (an affectionate name for the people of Costa Rica). But, to truly immerse yourself, consider one of the main events. Fiestas Zapote takes place in December in San José and features rodeos, fair rides and bull fighting.

Limón Carnival takes place in October in the port city of Limón and is a smaller-scale version of Rio's Carnival — a riot of costumes, floats and flamboyance. Fiestas Palmares, in the town of the same name, is Costa Rica's biggest cowboy party, with a two-week celebration of rodeos, carnival rides and beer.

And Fiestas de los Diablitos takes place in two indigenous communities, Boruca and Rey Curre, in December and February, respectively. There, the villagers don masks and costumes symbolizing ancestral spirits and reenact victory over the Spanish conquistadors.

Getting there

United Airlines flies to two locations in Costa Rica; the capital San José (SJO) and Liberia (LIR). For more details and to book, visit united.com or use the United app.

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By The Hub team, November 23, 2020

Critical medical shipments – Check.

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While this year's holiday gatherings will look a little different, millions of people around the world will still carry on the tradition of celebrating the holidays with a meal.

As the appetite for different types of food from all over the world increases, so does the need for safe and reliable transport. Fish caught in the United Kingdom can depart at breakfast and arrive in Washington D.C. in time for dinner. Thanks to United Cargo's expansive network, we are longer constrained by global distance or the seasonality of a product,

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Since March 19, United has operated nearly 8,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 272 million pounds of cargo on those flights alone. United Cargo is proud of the role we play maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access commodities from all over the globe.

Bon appetit!

Happy Veterans Day

By The Hub team, November 11, 2020

With thousands of veteran and reservist employees at United, we are incredibly grateful for their dedication, courage and bravery. Not only do they serve our country, they also bring a standard of excellence and professionalism to work on a daily basis.

We are thrilled to celebrate and thank our veteran and reservist employees this Veterans Day. We asked a few of them to share stories from their experiences while enlisted. Read a few of them below!

Larry Ferrarini, ORD Lead Ramp Service

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Tiffini Wilson, ORD Customer Service Representative

Tiffini served in the U.S. Navy Reserves from 1999 to 2013. She came from a military family and always knew she wanted to serve. In her experience, the Navy has a real sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. She feels proud that she is able to serve her country and other people get to stay home and feel safe.

Tiffini has worked at United for 24 years and feels grateful that her supervisors have always been supportive of her military service and flexible when she was deployed. She even received care packages from colleagues when she was serving in the Middle East. She has learned that being a leader is about listening, in the military and at United. She applies that mentality to when she is working with customers, as well. She says, "sometimes people are having a bad day and need to vent and be acknowledged."

Thank you for your service, Tiffini!

Terry Blake, DCA First Officer B767/B757

Terry joined the U.S. Air Force in 2014 and is currently serving. He says, "The military is a great career and I am proud that I have been given the opportunity to serve my country and the State of West Virginia." During his time in the service, he has been working aeromedical evacuation missions where he moves the critically wounded warriors from combat zones to hospitals in Europe and the U.S. He feels lucky to fly for United and work with many great people. He is proud to work alongside ALPA professional pilots and all the other employees at the company.

Thank you for your service, Terry!

Katherine McDonald, HR Partner Senior Manager

Katherine served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and says, "For me, serving is a calling. It means serving this great nation and being ready when needed." She joined the military to belong and contribute to something bigger than herself. When she was applying for her job at United, she found information about the United4Veterans business resource group on the company website. This increased her desire to work for a company that she could bring her military experience to and be celebrated. "The inclusivity I feel at United makes me feel so valued, both as an employee and as a veteran. I am so grateful to work for a company that is committed to our military employees and customers."

Thank you for your service, Katherine!

Troy A. Engholm, DEN Ramp Service

Troy served in the U.S. Air Force from 1983 to 2013. He says, "I loved serving 30+ years in our United States Air Force because it gave me a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride to know that I was serving in the best Air Force, with the best professionals, the world has ever seen."

After serving, Troy joined United in 2015 and has loved it ever since. He believes this profession allows us to connect families together and provide a multitude of experiences for our customers. They get to see the world. The most rewarding part of his job is when he sees joy on a customer's face.

Thank you for your service, Troy!

Fred "Motown" Crowell, ORD Lead Ramp Service

Motown served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1970. Motown grew up in Detroit and aspired to follow in his brother's footsteps by applying to a job at United. Just after he was hired, he was drafted to the Army and was on active duty in Vietnam. His unit was the first to invade Cambodia. His unit that served together still meet up every year in Washington D.C. at the Vietnam Memorial.

When he returned home, he returned to United and has been here for 53 years. Over the years, he's been able to travel with his family around the world and even take his wife back to Vietnam and show her where he was stationed.

Thank you for your service, Motown!

Garrett West, Regional Director Aircraft Maintenance ORD

Garrett served in the U.S. Marines for 7 years and 1 year in active reserves. From childhood, he had always dreamed of becoming a United States Marine. He has been grateful to serve with many different people from all types of backgrounds. And, he has many fond memories and experiences of cruising the Mediterranean when he was part of the Marine Amphibious Ready Group. He says, "Having the honor to wear the EGA (the Marine emblem that includes an Eagle, Globe and Anchor) and to represent and serve our great nation is beyond words."

Garret began his career at United as a frontline technician and has worked to a Hub leader. He says, "As we all press on and continue to work through challenges, the tenacity of our employees across the board and working alongside so many dedicated people has done nothing but instill confidence in our future."

Thank you for your service, Garrett!

Pete DeLeon, ORD Lead Customer Service Representative

Pete served in the U.S. Marines from 1977 to 1984. He grew up in a military family and had a desire to join early on. During his time in the Marines, he traveled all over the world, including to the American Embassy in Cyprus; Lima, Peru and Okinawa, Japan. He has a great sense of pride for his time in the service and feels grateful that he could give back to his country.

After the Marines, Pete joined United 33 years ago. He has held many roles in various places across the system. First, he was a load planner in Miami, then moved to New Orleans where he was the chief coordinator during Hurricane Katrina. Pete says, "I thoroughly enjoy what I do on a daily basis, working with and assisting customers. I enjoy the people I work with I look forward to coming to work on a daily basis as every day is different at the airport."

He says the Marines taught him how to be professional, treat people with respect and to make quick decisions when necessary. He always goes the extra mile for customers and colleagues.

Thank you for your service, Pete!

Steve Driver, ORD Customer Service Representative

Steve served in the U.S. Army for 20 years from 1976 to 1996. He says, "It was my honor to serve my country. I was very proud to be a part of the U.S. Army and protecting my country. The camaraderie was amazing. The way my unit worked together to complete missions was not like anything I've ever been a part of before. Wearing the uniform gave all of use a sense of pride." He has worked with United for over 23 years and he describes his time as very rewarding. He enjoys working with his coworkers and learning about the industry every day.

Thank you for your service, Steve!

Jim Herrera, ORD Lead Customer Service Representative

Jim Herrera served in the U.S. Marines Reserve from 1976 to 1985. Though he served after the Vietnam war, he saw the impact of that on his fellow veterans. Over time, he has seen a great shift in positive support for veterans and he is very grateful for that. He has been with Untied for over 42 years. He is grateful for the stability his career at United provides for him to do what he loves and raise his family.

Thank you for your service, Jim!

Session Martin, ORD Lead Customer Service Representative

Session served in the U.S. Army for 3 years and 9 months. He says that his time in the service means everything to him. He is proud to have been part of the team and did his duty to preserve our lifestyle in America. "I feel like I owned that to my country. If I had to do it again, I absolutely would," says Session. Even after 51 years at United, Session still says he is having a good time, he enjoys coming to work every day. His favorite part is connecting with the customers and networking with people.

Thank you for your service, Session!

Troy VanderWeyden, DCA First Officer B777

Troy has been flying the Air National Guard for the past 10 years. His missions include aeromedical evacuations, strategic delivery of troops and cargo across the globe, as well as humanitarian aid flights. Five years ago, his lifelong dream was fulfilled when he was hired by United. A special family connection is that his father is also a United pilot, Captain Alan VanderWeyden.

Troy shares, "United is extremely accommodating and appreciative of my and everyone's military obligations and offers endless support. The DCA Flight Operations has a strong relationship with the West Virginia Air National Guard and reflects highly on the Flight Operations folks and our personnel in the unit."

Thank you for your service, Troy!

Scott Kirby, CEO

'No excuses.' Fellow U.S. Air Force Academy grads are familiar with a lesson in leadership that I still apply in my work today.

This simple saying teaches freshmen cadets to take responsibility in solving problems, no matter whose fault it is. At @United I see this mantra in action every single day. Not one United team member caused this current crisis, but we are all 100% focused on solving the impact it has had on our company. Veterans Day is the perfect reminder that the thousands of veterans at our company — including the colleagues in these photos — are part of that charge. It's an honor to have so many veterans in our ranks.
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