But on Wednesday, the last day of Costa Rica’s
second-annual Medical Travel Summit, organizers opted for a
change of scenery. Carloads of attendees headed to the
northwestern province of Guanacaste on Tuesday night. There they
received a four-hour tour of the Papagayo Peninsula, including
Marina Papagayo, the elegant Four Seasons Resort and the new
CIMA hospital (still under construction.
The excursion was an opportunity to
promote a growing Guanacaste, which has new medical
facilities, an expanding airport and a sprawling
900-hectare retirement community under development,
Sun Ranch. The trip helped flaunt
Guanacaste’s glossy future to medical tourism leaders.
It also showed potential tourists what Guanacaste is not
– San José.
Costa Rica’s grubby capital remains the
leader for medical tourism in Central America, with its
state-of-the-art hospitals and U.S.-trained doctors. But
Guanacaste hopes for a share of that market. And for an
obvious reason, industry insiders think it’s possible.
A model-sized version
of Clínica Bíblica’s future Guanacaste hospital, a $40
million project, was on display at the Medical Travel
CIMA hospitals are international medical
facilities built in underserved parts of the world. Both locals
and foreigners are treated at these hospitals. Approximately,
5,000 medical tourists were treated at the San José branch in
2009. When CIMA San José was built, around that entire
hospital was nothing but fields and grass. Now, 12 years
later, Escazú is a hub and they’re still building. The
same type of growth is possible in Guanacaste in the next
Nearby, in the province’s capital city of
Daniel Oduber Airport is adding a new terminal. The
airport continues to add direct flights to the United States,
making it easier to fly in and arrive at a hospital that’s less
than an hour from the beach. Other hospitals also have tentative
plans to build in Guanacaste.
One hospital already settled in Liberia is adding
a new wing that will serve medical tourists. Ronald Guerrero,
administrative manager of Hospital San Rafael Arcángel, said the
hospital takes in 90 percent Costa Rican patients. However, the
hospital is equipping itself for the influx of tourist that
could be coming to the region.
Guerrero has lived in the area for 15 years, and
he deemed Guanacaste ready to make a big leap in the tourism
“[I lived in Guanacaste] when it was a small
place,” Guerrero said. “Well, now it’s a little bit more people,
more crowded, more noisy and everything but still a much better
place to live and to recover from surgery than San José. A much
Other businesses are banking on that attitude.
The massive Sun Ranch community will include a $35-$40 million
Hospital Clínica Bíblica, a $12-$15 million resort and a
professionally designed golf course on its property.