Thirteen percent of travelers are making travel decisions based on a destination’s impact on the environment (up from 8% in 2018), while 48% of travelers state that climate change will have a significant influence on what destinations they choose in the next 5-10 years (Source: MMGY Global’s 2019-2020 Portrait of an American Traveler Study). Sustainability is a hot button topic in the travel industry today with many travelers choosing eco-friendly hotel properties and transportation options over large chains and ease. However, sustainable travel is more than just accommodations and transportation. A world leader in sustainability, Costa Rica offers eco-travel experiences that educate and challenge visitors to rethink everyday habits and to develop greener practices when they return home.
Below are a few of Costa Rica’s eco-travel experiences:
Behind the Scenes Hotel Tours – Several hotels and lodges offer sustainability tours -- all you have to do is ask. These tours give travelers a rare glimpse at the inner workings of running a sustainable hotel and the inventive design and infrastructure solutions that make these hotels so desirable to eco-travelers. Nothing is off limits. Tour guides will show guests everything from their farming methods and waste management efforts, to water conservation and kitchen composts. Several hotels employ only members of the local community, invite guests to join tree-planting programs and have created wildlife sanctuaries on-site.
Rural Tourism Experiences – Costa Rica is no stranger to community-based tourism. All around the country, travelers can find opportunities to spend a day (or more) working with or visiting a local community that has benefited from tourism dollars or can participate in a family-run tour. Visit the historic towns of Sarchí and San Antonio de Escazu to learn more about Costa Rica’s oxcart tradition. Families hand painted oxcarts in beautiful patterns and colors and used them to transport coffee over the mountains for decades. Today, the colorful oxcarts serve as a symbol of Costa Rican pride and small souvenir versions, handmade by locals, can be purchased at shops around the country.
Farm Tour – Learn about Costa Rica’s organic farming methods, medicinal plants and how to make sugar cane juice. In Monteverde’s cloud forest and in the small community of El Castillo in La Fortuna, travelers can learn about farming without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers to produce hyper local milk and cheese, can try their hand at milking cows, learn about sustainable farming practices, and enjoy an authentic meal produced with ingredients made on-site.
Coffee Plantation Tour – Costa Rica is the 13th largest producer of coffee in the world. Every time someone purchases a bag of coffee in Costa Rica, 4% of the money goes back to the local schools (primary education is mandatory in Costa Rica). Visiting a coffee plantation is an excellent way to learn about Costa Rica’s coffee harvest and long history of coffee production, while giving back to the local community. Many coffee farms have been run by the same family for decades, and utilize natural compost, solar energy and are fair trade.
Zip Lining: Costa Rica was an early adopter of reforestation as a carbon renewal method, having recovered around 10% of its forests in the 80s, and achieving 55% protected lands today. The best way to experience Costa Rica’s immense rainforests and natural beauty is by ziplining over a forest canopy. Canopy tours last around two or three hours and are an unforgettable way to observe the forest and wildlife, including more than 400 species of birds.
Costa Rica Travel: Costa Rica proudly shelters more than 5% of the known biodiversity in the world and is home to 29 national parks. The country operators on 98% renewable energy and has 26% of protected landmass. While air travel’s impact on the environment cannot be ignored, simply traveling to Costa Rica will leave travelers with an even deeper appreciation for Earth and all of its natural wonders – and perhaps, a few “Tico” tips for reducing their carbon footprint at home.