Costa Rica’s Sea World
We’re traveling to Costa Rica in June. Are there resorts where we can snorkel off the beach? Ted Engman Alexandria Coast Rica’s coastline touches the Pacific and Caribbean, yet its shallow waters are hardly teeming aquariums. “Snorkeling is not off the beaches like in Belize,” says Orlando Burgos, the Costa Rican owner of Costa Rica Travel Guide (877-7866826, www.costaricatravelguide.com), which specializes in Latin America. “You need to journey a little bit.” Burgos adds that while many of the country’s resorts have beach access and snorkeling, the best marine life requires a drive or boat ride.
Some of the best snorkeling, for example, rests inside national parks. Manuel Antonio, in the central Pacific region, has pockets of good snorkeling, such as in the tidal pools of Playa Espadilla Sur and around the coral reefs of Playa Manuel Antonio. In Cahuita, on the Caribbean,snorkelers can explore a coral reef aswarm with sea fans, tropical fish, green turtles and other critters.
Cocos Island, nearly 345 miles off the Pacific coast, is the ultimate underwater experience. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has been compared to the Galapagos Islands. Reaching the park, which has no accommodations, is an adventure unto itself: The boat trip from Puntarenas can last up to 36 hours. For a less arduous adventure, take a snorkel tour to the Murcielago Islands in the Guanacaste region, along the northern Pacific coast. The islands are rife with whale sharks, manta rays and dolphins.
If you plan to spend most of your time in mask and fins, stay in the Tamarindo region. Tamarindo Diria Beach and Golf Resort (011-506-653-0032, www.tamarindodiria. com), for one, is a four-star property that offers three-hour snorkeling tours. Barcelo Langosta Beach (800-227-2356, www. barcelo.com) includes snorkeling equipment in its all-inclusive price, and guests can snorkel off the beach or see more vibrant sea life on a tour. For more information: Costa Rica Tourism Board, 866-267-8274, www.visitcostarica.com. My daughter is traveling to Egypt. Are there gestures that can be considered insulting? Robert Gauthier
Egypt’s history goes back many millenniums, but its customs are quite modern. For the most part, Americans can easily adapt to Egyptian mores, as long as they are sensitive to the Islamic culture. Women and men, for example, should dress on the conservative side, even in cosmopolitan cities such as Cairo. Both sexes should keep their skin covered — guys, choose pants over shorts; ladies, swap that mini for a prairie skirt — unless they are in resorts that cater to Westerners.
In social situations, opposite sexes rarely greet each other with kisses. Unlike Americans, Egyptians venture into each other’s personal space, so don’t be alarmed if someone talks or stands close to you. When shopping in outdoor markets, bargaining is the norm, but not in Western-style malls. And in certain indoor settings, such as mosques and private residences, you may be required to remove your shoes. If so, don’t flash the soles of your feet, which is considered an improper gesture. For a primer on Egyptian habits, check out “Culture Smart! Egypt” by Jailan Zayan (Kuperard). Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@ washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.