Costa Rica: 5 Simple Ways to Travel Responsibly

Wanting to steer away from the weekend breaks to Europe and actually make a good impact on the planet? Costa Rica is the place for you; make the most of this tropical paradise and become an active member of the sustainable travel world. This Central American paradise is on track to achieve its goal to be carbon neutral by 2050, rates all hotels according to their degree of sustainability by the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism Program and national parks and ecosystems are preserved and kept clean.

This small country is abundant with opportunities for every type of traveller, from the adrenaline junkie, to the soul searcher and the romantic. There are so many options; choose from one of the many Pure Breaks Costa Rican trips or accommodation to experience the wonders of Costa Rica first hand. Follow these 5 ways to travel responsibly in Costa Rica to also contribute to this sustainable utopia.

Pick Sustainable Green Leaf hotels   

The Costa Rican tourism board pride themselves on the promotion of sustainable tourism. Hotels are rated according to their degree of sustainability by the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism Program (CST). The program provides a system of sustainability levels ranging from 0 – 5, with 5 being the highest level a company or hotel can achieve. The CST evaluates each hotel on a variety of factors in relation to sustainability. These include the relationship between the hotel and its surrounding habitat, how the company uses eco-friendly practices in terms of energy and waste management, customer participation in the company’s sustainability programs, and a mutually beneficial partnership between the hotel and the local community and population. 

Certifications are renewed every two years and in order to keep their leaf status, companies must continue to follow the strict guidelines and actively contribute to a sustainable tourism model. There are many ways that a hotel can earn a five leaf status. For example, reusing materials left over from construction, using green energy including solar panels and solar heating, taking part in tree planting and reducing the need to import foreign goods are all positive sustainable practices. Most of the hotels with a high leaf status have their own gardens and focus on a farm-to-table experience with regards to the offered cuisine. These hotels give back to the local community and beyond.

Take for instance Lapa Rios Rainforest Lodge, a Pure Breaks recommended remote five-leaf ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula, the first Costa Rican hotel to achieve this status. Sustainability is a core value at the lodge, being dedicated to natural conservation and community development from the very beginning. Their main aim is to inform tourists about the importance of certain causes they are committed to, such as protecting the endangered rainforest and the detrimental effect it would have should the rainforest be wiped out from existence.

In addition to this, they utilise renewable materials and locally-sourced biodegradable products along with organic foods. Staying at the Lapa Rios Rainforest Lodge will open your eyes to a whole different version of tourism; not the model which cares only about high profit and high guest turnover, but tourism that truly cares for the environment, local community, and exceptional customer service.

Choose off the beaten track destinations 

Ecotourism is all the rage throughout Costa Rica, however, very few destinations truly represent high levels of sustainability. By choosing somewhere off the beaten track away from the hustle and bustle of the city, you can be immersed in a whole new way of life. Yes, it’s likely you won’t have the luxury amenities you’re used to like high-speed wi-fi and cable TV, but what you will have is an unforgettable experience of a lifetime. Travel to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, Southern Caribbean coast or Tortuguero National Park and be at the forefront of sustainable tourism. 

“Costa Rica is leading the way as one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable places to travel in the world, by rating hotels on their sustainability levels and committing to reducing the country’s environmental impact on the world.”

Stay in Evergreen lodge and be in the midst of the spectacular Tortuguero National Park, only accessible by boat or plane. You can be at one with the surrounding nature and wildlife, falling asleep to the sounds of the endemic birds and waking up to the spectacular bellowing of the howler monkeys, just metres away from your own private lodge. The stunning scenery isn’t the only thing on offer at the Evergreen Lodge; you can take a boat trip to the National park, book a relaxing spa session or try the authentic Caribbean cuisine. Not only will you make unique memories but you will also contribute to the promotion of sustainable tourism and protection of the endemic flora and fauna.

Buy local, support local

Costa Rican hotels and restaurants are now focusing on farm-to-table and dock-to-dish programs, which help to support local farmers, lower environmental impact and reduce the need for foreign exports. Not only does this mean the food is more environmentally friendly, but it’s far fresher giving it a greater taste.

There are so many options for you to try local produce; try taking a trip to a local market and experience sensational Caribbean flavours. Every town and local community has its own farmers market where local vendors are happy for you to try the freshness, taste and quality of their products. Visit the Monteverde farmer’s market in one of the most sustainable areas of Costa Rica and experience the aromas and hustle and bustle of an authentic Costa Rican market.

Avoid Driving and Flying Where Possible

All types of travel leave some form of carbon footprint, but flying definitely has the largest footprint out of them all. Whilst flying is sometimes unavoidable in certain instances, there are several things you can do to offset the impact this has on the environment. When travelling to Costa Rica try to always fly direct; non-stop flights are significantly better for the environment compared to indirect as up to 50% of carbon emissions occur during the take-off and landing. When making your way around this magnificent country, whilst it seems more convenient to drive or book a plane everywhere, try to look for alternative modes of transport. 

Take for instance Mawamba Lodge in Tortuguero. This incredible destination is only accessible by boat, which has very little impact on the planet with the added benefits of seeing the spectacular landscape on the boat ride to and from the lodge. Not only is boat travel a great alternative option, but biking, hiking and walking are all greener and more natural ways to explore Costa Rica’s diverse landscape.

Book a guided tour or take advantage of the complimentary bike rental most hotels offer and experience the beauty of the surrounding at your pace whilst also doing wonders for your own health and fitness.

Research Costa Rica 

Really wanting to have a good impact on the planet and travel responsibly? Make sure you do your research. Costa Rica is leading the way as one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable places to travel in the world, by rating hotels on their sustainability levels and committing to reducing the country’s environmental impact on the world. Visit the Costa Rican certificate of sustainable tourism site CST – Instituto Costarricense de Turismo and  learn about the front runners of sustainable travel. The best hotels, companies and businesses in the sector are listed here as well as their overall sustainability rating.

In addition to this valuable resource, the Pure breaks website also makes it easier than ever to choose sustainable and eco-friendly hotels, as every hotel’s commitment to sustainability is clearly highlighted as well as ways in which they contribute to the local community and overall high-quality responsible travel.

“Sustainable travel to me always meant costly, unaffordable, and maybe even unachievable. After delving deeper in Costa Rica’s take on sustainable tourism, I realised this was not the case. Not only are there so many options when it comes to sustainable hotels, but little things like buying local produce and walking instead of driving can make all the difference.”

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