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Costa Rica & the Medical Traveler


It’s the beginning of the rainy season in Costa Rica. Former volcanoes form staggering peaks lush with greenery. Bound by the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, this is a land that has something for everyone. Beaches, a magnificent rain forest, active volcanoes and roaring rapids in splendid rivers are all within a few hours’ drive from Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose.

San Jose teems with both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Along Second Avenue, an automobile-free zone, walkers enjoy visiting the many stores and restaurants. Pleasant parks are plentiful, with benches for resting and spending a few minutes people-watching.

Delving into this American-friendly country is a great adventure that doesn’t really need a formal tour guide or group travel. A quick “lay-of-the-land” observation and some help from your hotel’s tour desk – or one of the many tourist information shops in town – will help you decide what to visit in this small but fascinating Central American gem.

As a medical tourist, I was excited to be able to explore and find fun adventures in conjunction with undergoing a dental procedure that I chose to have done in Costa Rica at less than one-third the cost of the same service in the U.S.

Dental veneers can solve many cosmetic issues but unfortunately in the U.S. veneers are frightfully expensive – up to $1,300 or more per tooth! In Costa Rica, that cost plummets to $350 for each veneer. I was able to receive high quality dental treatment by accredited doctors and have a week-long vacation for less than half the cost of the veneers alone in my hometown. That included the cost of the dentist, air travel, the hotel, tourist excursions, souvenirs and the charge for the company that facilitated the trip.

Medical tourism is becoming big business. From dental veneers to face-lifts and hip replacements, it is a sensible answer to the high cost of medical treatment in the U.S. The quality is superior, completely investigated and assured to be exceptional by the many companies that specialize in helping Americans find quality health care for less in an environment that is adventuresome and friendly.

I enjoyed a self-guided walking tour of San Jose the morning before my first dental visit to prepare for the veneers on my upper teeth. A bustling section of downtown San Jose, with its shops, souvenir stores and numerous museums was just a short walk from my hotel, The Clarion Plaza. The weather was pleasant, with a cool breeze and the daily rain usually waiting until mid-to-late afternoon to let loose its deluge.

With a few days to wait for my permanent veneers, I also had time to visit Costa Rica’s ecologically important rain forest to marvel at the myriad of plant and wildlife species. The guides obviously loved being ambassadors for the creatures and plants within their country’s green treasure. A sleeping three-toed sloth nestled in a tree as a sturdy gondola took us to the forest’s canopy – a breathtaking must-see for anyone visiting Costa Rica. For the more athletic, there is a zip-line through the canopy.

Unfortunately, I had to forgo a trip to one of the active volcanoes and healing hot springs but will make that a priority on my next visit.

Given it was the rainy season and the local rivers were flush with rapids, a white water rafting trip was high on my to-do list. Easily setup by the hotel tour operator and at a very affordable price, a friend and I set off to conquer the river. A few hours later, after only one major dunking in a class-four rapid, we were off the river and raving about the ride! Lunch at a local restaurant was a welcomed treat for the hungry river explorers.

The ease of my dental visits and the high quality of the experience as a medical traveler would not have been possible without the attention to detail attended to by Global Surgery Network, Inc. A relative newcomer in the medical traveler niche, I was delighted by the service provided. Global Surgery Network took care of everything, from the airport transfers and cars arranged for travel to the dental appointments. 24-hour contact numbers were provided, including that of the company’s president, Jack Schafer.

The dentist was waiting for me when I arrived at his state-of-the-art office. The procedure to prepare my teeth for the veneers was efficient and painless. I left with temporary veneers that looked great. Four days later, my permanent veneers were put in place and it was off to a local restaurant for a lovely dinner.

Global Surgery Network’s choice of hotel in San Jose was perfect. The Clarion Plaza is a small, four-story hotel with an old-world feel. The fourth floor Executive Club guest rooms are large, with two queen size beds and plenty of seating. Amenities included a lengthy week-night Happy Hour, lasting until 8:30 p.m., featuring heavy hors devours and free drinks. Breakfast was also included, with fresh local fruit, cheeses, meats, rice and beans and eggs – a hardy fare indeed.

Wireless Internet service is not unusual in most hotels but at the Clarion guests also have use of hotel-provided computers in the fourth floor business center for those who did not bring their own computer from home. A concierge is also available to arrange for local travel if needed and see to those other needs that always seem to arise, from help with international faxes to finding a safety pin.

Add fresh flowers, fruit and chocolate from the hotel’s General Manager to all of these amenities, plus a helpful, friendly staff and the result is a medical traveler who was very comfortable and felt very much like a VIP.

Costa Rica is an incredibly beautiful, friendly, interesting place to visit for any reason, but combine it with first class medical treatment at a fraction of the cost in the U.S. and you can’t go wrong.

Kathleen Neal, M.S., APR began her business, Arnold Neal Communications, Inc., in 2001 after a long career in broadcasting and non-profit public relations. Previously, Kathleen worked in television at two Atlanta stations and then worked in public relations for numerous non-profit organizations. She also served as association editor of Season Magazine, writing celebrity interviews, feature stories and travel articles. Kathleen and Mitch Leff, of Leff & Associates, LLC., facilitated workshops for non-profits. “Homerun PR” was a big hit and plans are to expand the concept for small businesses. Currently working on expanding her travel writing, Kathleen is also working on two non-fiction books. When time permits, you will find her on the racquetball court or in her garden.

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