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Costa Rica, A World Leading Trailblazer in Sustainable Tourism 

The jungles of Costa Rica - sustainable tourismResponsible and sustainable tourism has become a popular tagline with many countries the world over. It’s understandable, given the astronomical rise in our collective awareness of the negative impacts of over-tourism.

Among the many valiant efforts, Costa Rica reigns supreme. This is due to the country taking a sustainable (and renewable) approach in almost all facets of daily life, not only tourism. The country may be known as the beacon of eco-tourism yet it’s the extraordinary achievements in every other aspect of sustainability that sets it apart. It’s also what makes its eco-tourism sector a world-leading example.

The Costa Rican model doesn’t just show the world how to minimize the impact of tourism on its people and wilderness but also focuses on reversing the damage incurred by deforestation.

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How sustainable is Costa Rica, overall?

Today, between 98 and 99% of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable sources. The country is tipped to be carbon-neutral by the end of 2021, and have net zero emissions by 2050, which just means it will offset more emissions than it produces.

A bevy of initiatives is in place to promote and grow sustainability in tourism at every level (national and provincial). The amazing thing? They have been in place for decades, certainly long before ‘sustainability was even considered a thing elsewhere.

Almost 30% of Costa Rica is designated as protected wilderness and just over 50% of the country is blanketed in forest cover. This is the primary reason so many tourists visit every year: to enjoy immersive experiences in some of the most bio diverse reserves in the world, see an array of exotic wildlife, and have incredible and sustainable adventures in the best Mother Nature has to offer.

The UN Environment Programme calls Costa Rica a ‘Living Eden’ and says the country should be used as a template for a cleaner, carbon-free world. In 2019, the UNEP gave Costa Rica the Champions of the Earth Award, praising its progressive and committed leadership in sustainability.

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President Quesada is steadfast in his mission to grow the country’s economy whilst increasing its sustainability. A key component of his plan includes an overhaul of the transport system (currently responsible for 40% of the country’s emissions), the agricultural sector, and the waste management sector.

Sustainable tourism isn’t only focused on preserving wilderness, of course, it is also about nurturing local communities. Whilst tourists enjoy deep and meaningful cultural experiences in Costa Rica, locals are respected and empowered. This way, the tourism dollar directly impacts those who need it most. Through sustainable and responsible tourism, we see a rise in education levels (as well as health and well-being) and greater involvement in local political decisions that directly impact communities.

The most important sustainability initiatives in Costa Rica’s tourism sector

The national tourism institute, the ICT, introduced a Certificate of Sustainable Tourism more than two decades ago. It provides tourism enterprises with strict guidelines that help them manage and improve their sustainability and has been lauded by prominent entities such as the UN World Tourism Organization.

Sustainable efforts don’t all need to make major headlines to count. As we all know, the smallest steps can make the biggest impact when they are combined.

As an example, we use bio-fuel vehicles here at Costa Rica Rios and work with a local company that produces our biodegradable water bottles. We also collect and donate organic waste generated on our tours (sustainable cocoa bean farms LOVE us for this!) and work with local artisans, who produce sustainable souvenirs which we then sell on their behalf to our guests. Combining environmental, economic, and social efforts ensures that our tours are not just minimally impactful but actually beneficial in Costa Rica.

This is a country we love and cherish and we go to great lengths to ensure we reflect this commitment to sustainability.

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What does all this mean for conscientious tourists?

Although you arguably can’t come in blindfolded, randomly pick a tourism activity, and be ensured of sustainability (there are still irresponsible ventures, after all) planning a responsible and sustainable adventure vacation in Costa Rica is easy, as all companies are proud of their efforts and showcase their practical achievements in this regard.

As far as simultaneous economic growth and ever-increasing sustainability are concerned, it’s worth mentioning that this has made Costa Rica slightly more expensive to visit than it used to be. Despite the minor increase in prices, overall, the country remains one of the best value-for-money destinations in the world, precisely because traveling here is so rewarding.

Besides, tourists who care about the impact of their visit find the extra expense to be totally worthwhile. They get to visit a ‘living Eden’ with peace of mind, knowing their unforgettable adventures help support a country that has pioneered sustainable and responsible tourism.

Want to be part of Costa Rica’s extraordinary success story?

You can!

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