With coastlines along both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica has more than enough natural beauty to capture the imagination. From coastal marine areas, national parks, and rainforests to biological preserves, refuges, and wetlands, the Central American country is known as one of the early pioneers of ecotourism. Costa Rica has won numerous awards for its efforts towards environmental sustainability and an impressive 90 percent of its electricity is generated from green sources. Experience Costa Rica’s industry-leading ecotourism and check out the many actions and activities you can do to partake in sustainable travel.
Stay and eat like a local during your visit to Costa Rica. Have an immersive experience staying at an eco-lodge and volunteering at an organic farm. Enjoy getting your hands dirty and see how food is cultivated, free from harmful chemicals or ingredients damaging to the environment. Many eco-lodges offer food tours that include hikes through cloud forests and visits to organic dairy farms or coffee plantations.
Enjoy a gastronomic experience at a Costa Rican coffee plantation. Coffee enthusiasts can go on tours that take you step-by-step through the production process, with coffee sampling along the way. Coffee has deep roots in Costa Rican hospitality and family traditions, so if a local offers you a cup be sure to accept it. Costa Rica may not produce as much coffee as places like Brazil or Colombia, but they do take it seriously. Coffee producers promote sustainability with fair trade and organic farming practices, even in the smaller, family-run roasteries and shops.
When searching for a meal, be sure to eat at family-run restaurants that generally make their food in-house, often with locally sourced ingredients, to reduce their carbon footprint. Try a traditional casado, which is a rice, meat, bean and plantain dish. If you’re in San Jose, be sure to visit the bustling Mercado Central. There you will encounter hundreds of vendors selling local fruit, vegetables, meats, coffees, flowers, herbs, local handicrafts, and more. The market gets busy, so avoid peak hours of the day.
Get an adrenaline rush zip lining through lush rainforests. Check out the canopies, waterfalls, and exotic flora and fauna as you zoom by. Costa Rica has been active in reversing deforestation since the ‘90s, so come enjoy their efforts to preserve these beautiful trees. Many hotels and eco-lodges have zip line facilities, so you don’t need to go far to find one.
Many national parks have tour operators that offer rides in aerial trams that take you high above the canopies for a unique view of the rainforests. Keep an eye out for exotic birds, such as macaws and toucans. Rest your feet, and consider the low-carbon footprint that is zip lining or aerial trams for a more adventurous way to experience this rich forested wonderland.
Hike one of Costa Rica’s more than 60 volcanoes and learn about their geological history from a local guide. Go to the Arenal Volcano, an active volcano that is perhaps the country’s most famous. Get close to a volcanic base as legally and safely as possible while venturing over solidified lava and lush rainforests. Head to Poas Volcano and see its bubbling, sulfuric lake from a safe distance at a viewing platform.
If your body needs a bit of rejuvenation after an active Costa Rican vacation, go to the hot springs near Arenal Volcano National Park. Relax in geothermal hot springs year-round, or get a massage. Mineral-rich mud baths and facials are all sourced from natural Costa Rican resources. Treat yourself to a coffee bean or chocolate body scrubs. The resorts located in Arenal National Park offer an array of wellness treatments that are organic and eco-friendly.
There is so much to see and do in the Central American paradise of Costa Rica. Proudly carrying their sustainability commitment into the next decade, with sights set on becoming carbon neutral by 2021, Costa Rica has come a long way, blazing ground as an early pioneer of ecotourism, and remains as one of the world’s top examples of how to do it right. Take a tour of the canopies and sip a cup of organic Arabica coffee knowing that even on vacation, you are taking steps towards sustainability.