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Used to be Costa Rica was this remote, isolated getaway where travelers went to escape cell phones and city malaise. Even though the little country that kick-started the Central American travel craze has become one of the world's top tourist destinations and a seasoned player in accommodating hordes of travelers, it hasn't lost any luster for first-time travelers who are amazed at its rain forests, bird watching, beaches, surfing enthusiasm, deep sea fishing, remote villages and island-like hospitality.

Airfare deals to Costa Rica are fairly inexpensive these days with round-trip spring fares through Intratours (tel. 800/334-8069; www.intratours.com) starting from a low $212 out of Miami to San Jose and $382 to Liberia. Other low fares include $307 round-trip from New York to San Jose, and just $265 out of Los Angeles and Denver. Travel is good through May 31, 2005 for midweek departures with a maximum stay of 60 days and a mandatory Saturday-night stay. Intratours also has a hotel search engine that yielded one to four-star hotels starting in price around $60 for a Best Western Hotel in downtown San Jose. Once you get out of the city, most appearances of Western or Americanized influences disappear quickly.

Latin Escapes (tel. 800/878-9986; www.latinescapes.com) has been operating tours to Costa Rica well before it became an "It" destination. Their extensive tours range from do-it-yourself drives through the countryside to guide tours on motorcoaches that explore the country in detail. Currently, one of their more popular trips is an eight-day/seven-night, land-only "Discover Costa Rica" offer that covers some of the country's most important natural sites. This tour departs everyday and must be booked by December 15, 2005 with travel good until that date. Highlights include the Poas Volcano, waterfalls amidst the Central Mountain Range, the Tabaca Hot Springs, and the magic of Tortuguero, a Central American rainforest.

For a purely enjoyable beach vacation where you'll share the sand with travelers from all over the world, Fare Deals (tel. 800/347-7006; www.faredeals.com/tz9.shtml) has air and hotel combos starting from some low prices for departures out of Atlanta, Cincinnati, Louisville, Washington/Dulles, Orlando and Syracuse NY. A seven-night stay at a Costa Rican coastal resort starts from $559 per person based on double occupancy. Dubbed a moderate/first-class resort, the Flamingo Beach Resort at the Guanacaste beach area on the Pacific Ocean will be your home for the week. If you don't feel like worrying about meals or drinks, another Fare Deal trip that includes the same air component plus accommodations with all meals and drinks starts at $679 for a standard villa-type room during the month of May at the Giardini di Papagayo, a first class, "superior" resort. Upgrades to ocean front rooms are available. See the site for departure dates in late April and May as well as the detailed prices.

Fly South Vacations (tel. 800/234-5245; www.flysouthvacations.com) has a "Best of Costa Rica" package starting from $999 for a seven-night air and hotel package that gives you a guided introduction to the country's cultural, historical and natural treasures. This base price is for departures out of Miami; add $100 if you're leaving from Los Angeles, $150 from New York, and $240 from Dallas. This is a first-class motor coach tour of Costa Rica with a professional tour guide to give you insight into the Costa Rican experience. Daily breakfast is included. Travel is good at this price through November 30, 2005. A wide range of hotels including inland lodges and urban luxury hotels are available.