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Why Eco-Tourism in Costa Rica Is Worth More Than a Hashtag

Costa Rica is renowned for being the poster-child for eco-tourism and was the one country which spearheaded the sustainable tourism industry, worldwide, long before any other nation joined the movement. The national park system, set up over 50 years ago, covers almost one-third of the country, with new areas facing an imminent threat from exploitation or over-commercialization being set aside for preservation on an almost yearly basis.

The evolution of Costa Rica’s role as an eco-friendly tourism destination wasn’t an afterthought or coincidence but rather a consequence of some very direct choices. Doing away with an army in favor of conservation, Costa Rica literally set about to become THE world’s most sustainable tourism hub by which all others are judged. A few things happened as a result: first of all, the country cemented its position as one of the most bio-diverse nations, its expansive tropical wilderness home to a mind-boggling array of animals, most of them endemic, many endangered and some that used to be found all over Central America but are now only thriving here. There’s no doubt that Mother Nature is the biggest winner in all of this. Secondly, however, is the fact that Costa Rica’s entire economy now greatly depends on eco-tourism, so although some large-scale commercialization does happen, it is concentrated only in certain areas, leaving most others blissfully untouched. The ecological tourism sector is said to account for almost 20% of Costa Rica’s economy so rather than a gimmicky-ploy, eco-friendly activities and lodges here are the real deal. This is so much more than a hashtag gimmick.







Costa Rica has recently experienced a rapid proliferation of dams for hydro power on rivers draining its northern Caribbean slope. In the Sarapiquí River Basin, eight hydro power plants were built between 1990 and 1999 and more projects are either under construction or proposed. The majority of these dams are small (<15 m tall) and operate as water diversion projects. Because of the threat from a proposed hydro power plant a few years back, the irrevocable damage to the wilderness and tourism scene, the plan was finally (and permanently) shelved by the government in 2005. That’s the kind of power Costa Rica’s eco-tourism industry has here: it can protect and preserve whilst still allowing for tourism businesses to grow. No-one would ever begrudge Costa Rican’s from utilizing and surviving on their country’s incredible nature splendorous but it’s great to know that the government is intent on keeping the efforts clean, sustainable and as least-impactful on the environment as possible.

What Is Eco-Tourism, Anyway?

When you immerse yourself in pristine wilderness, staying in small lodges built with sustainable materials and after careful consideration of the impact of local flora and fauna, leaving behind as few ‘footsteps’ as possible, you are halfway to achieving an eco-friendly adventure. Yet the second half of the journey must entail some kind of education, of environmental enlightenment, if you will: this is at the core of the movement or at least it was as originally concocted in Costa Rica, before ‘eco-friendly’ became more of an Instagram hashtag rather than a bonafide philosophy. Eco-tourism, to be really effective, must involve some kind of immersion, not only physical but also intellectual. Learning about local environmental concerns and being aware of the natural links that determine the health of our entire planet (be it shortage of fresh water, plastic pollution and whatnot) is paramount to enjoying a full eco-friendly adventure.

Education is important because, as researchers have surmised, we only protect what we love and, usually, only love what we know. As much as your heart might pain seeing orangutans fighting for their lives against bulldozers decimating rain-forests in Borneo, you probably won’t be compelled to do very much about it if you’ve never actually been to Borneo. And so it is with Costa Rica: adventurous visitors who visit on exceptional eco-friendly tours usually become the wilderness’ best crusaders, the loud protectors, the ones who sign petitions, keep abreast of the news and go home with a renewed vigor to use and buy less, to recycle more and to be generally more aware of the impact they make on the planet, every single day.

This is why eco-tourism in Costa Rica is so important: the more of it there is, the less need for it there will be, in the future. The ultimate dream, of course, is that all tourism become naturally eco-friendly by default, in years to come.






What If The Love of Costa Rica…Gets a Little Bit Too Much?

Some visitors are surprised when they learn that most national parks impose a daily cap on visitors, some even closing for one day of the week. Yet this is done because when a country becomes as popular a travel destination as Costa Rica, all the love can get a little overwhelming. For the wilderness, that is.

Large crowds will inevitably make a taxing impact on the environment and that’s why many of the country’s most fragile areas are other off-limits to tourists or impose visitor-caps, something everyone should not only accept but also appreciate. When visiting national parks, it’s important to adhere to the rules, to walk only on designated paths, to not pick flowers, feed wildlife or otherwise disrupt the nature, even if it’s by speaking quietly so as not to stress the animals. A great way to help Costa Rica’s nature is to actively seek out-there regions that are lesser visited. By taking your footsteps off the well-trodden path, you can indirectly help it regenerate.

Costa Rica’s parks and nature areas are brimming with incredible finds – glorious wildlife and amazing landscapes – so seek a lesser-known region to have it and you’ll be not only ensuring an unforgettable experience for yourself but also helping the rest of the country out. That’s a pretty neat win-win.

How Can You Partake In Eco-Tourism Activities In Costa Rica?

Head over to our luscious country for the adventure vacation of a lifetime and, as long as you’re willing to soak up all the aspects of a visit, you can enjoy a rewarding and sustainable vacation. Here are some of the way you can do that:

Visit a locally-run farm

Many family-run agricultural businesses are at the forefront of sustainable farming in Costa Rica, with organic coffee, chocolate and fruit plantations utilizing high-tech methods and unusual techniques to promote their business and help their land. So why not contribute to their amazing efforts by visiting? For a small fee, you’ll enjoy an amazing behind-the-scenes-look at how world-class coffee, chocolate and other produce is harvested, get to taste-test your way through the day and will be infinitely more educated on the agricultural process by the time you leave. Kids LOVE these kinds of outings and given there are farms open to the public all over the country, including a visit is very easy to do on just about every itinerary. Read about our favorite Sustainable Farm Experiences to be had in Costa Rica








Visit protected areas that charge a fee

Weird, right? Why wouldn’t you want to go somewhere that’s free to visit? Well, because here’s the thing: the great majority of wilderness protection funds in Costa Rica come from park entry fees, the government pouring in funds back into that specific region, acquiring and preserving more wilderness areas as a result. Entry fees in Costa Rica are really reasonable and knowing your funds will go directly to conservation can give you peace of mind when visiting.






Choose small(er) eco-lodges and resorts

Smaller eco-lodges and resorts are likely to be locally-owned and family run and, sometimes, giving your hard-earned holiday funds directly to locals can be of immense help, most especially if said lodge happens to be in an area is being eyed by foreign-owned building planners. Helping locals stay in business is helpful in a multitude of ways: they’re usually a lot more aware and concerned about their environmental impact, given it’s their land AND their future. Moreover, smaller eco-lodges just naturally have a lesser impact on the environment and nearby villages when compared with mega-resorts that can tax a specific patch of wilderness with an overwhelming impact. Although some argue that 100 visitors leave behind the same number of footprints, no matter where they go, it does make a difference in how those footprints are spread out. A turtle nesting site on a beach couldn’t cope with two hundred visitors, but a hundred beaches will likely not suffer at all if they were to receive two visitors each. Spread the love all over Costa Rica and the country will be more than grateful!






Eco-lodges will usually offer a number of enlightening excursions that are both super fun and educational. Typically, you’ll explore the area of wilderness around the lodge, either by walking tours, horseback riding, bicycle riding and even kayaking and rafting. The latter two are phenomenal ways to reach remote areas that can’t be reached by road or on foot and, on overnight adventures, you can really explore far and wide. What’s more, you’re likely to see a lot more wildlife the further away from civilization you head which is why these kinds of eco-tourism activities are just so popular with nature lovers. You do your bit for nature by spreading out, you get to see amazing landscapes, spot more wildlife and have the adventure of a lifetime while you’re at it.






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What to Do With Kids on Family Vacations in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica rates among the world’s best family vacation destinations and that’s because this country is bursting at the seams with an array of outdoor pursuits that enthrall kids and adults alike. Families love holidaying here and that’s hardly surprising when you consider the inherent love of children and family-life the Tico culture boasts. Unlike other destinations that place an emphasis on separating adult-fun and children-fun, Costa Rica brings it all together, offering immersive and rewarding experiences to families who actually love spending time together and sharing unforgettable memories.

So why not plan a family adventure vacation with a difference for 2019?

Come and see what magical adventures await you all in wonderful Costa Rica.

Wildlife & Wilderness in Costa Rica

What makes Costa Rica so ideal for family vacations is the fact that parents don’t really need to do too much to entertain the kids: the country’s wildlife-enriched wilderness does a great job of grabbing everybody’s attention. A nature lover’s dream, this compact country is enriched with a host of eco-tourism projects that offer educational and totally fun activities for kids of all ages. In Costa Rica, kids learn about the importance of environmental protection by discovering rare and endangered species, by walking on hanging bridges in virgin forests and by exploring national parks full of creatures, sounds and smells. You’ll be amazed how fascinated children can be in unspoiled nature and even if you think your child is not the nature-lover you’d hoped he/she would be, just wait until you see them here, locking eyes with a sloth, spotting colorful toucans and giggling at the piercing call of howler monkeys. Jungle experiences are the #1 attraction for families visiting Costa Rica and rest assured that there are plenty of eco-lodges that offer comfortable stays for even the most creepy-crawly-phobic child (or parent). See our selection of the Best National Parks in Costa Rica that make for superb family vacations.

Family Vacation

Family-friendly Hiking Trails in Costa Rica

Families heading to Costa Rica for the first time can be anxious about the country’s extensive maze of hiking trails, thinking that the options for young families are limited. Not so! The most popular destinations, in fact, are tailor-made for family vacations, offering a wide array of options for parents with young kids in tow. Visiting Manuel Antonio and La Paz Waterfall Gardens to enjoying leisurely walks is a no-brainer for first-time visitors, especially those with very young kids or those who don’t normally hike very much in the great outdoors. If your family is a bit more adventurous and used to hiking then the whole country really is your oyster: Costa Rica boasts a multitude of hikes to waterfalls, mountain peaks, temperate and cloud forests, as well as endless miles of glorious beaches that can be walked for hours on end. You can read more about our favorite family vacation hiking trails.

Family-friendly Resorts in Costa Rica

Family-centered resorts are very popular here, especially along the north-western Pacific coastline, where you’ll find a bevy of excellent choices along some of the most celebrated beaches in the country. Yet if you’re looking for some quality time away from the maddening distractions of everyday life, then you might want to look into some of Costa Rica’s most unplugged eco-tourism lodges instead, where jungle activities, surfing, swimming, snorkeling and night wildlife-watching tours ensure the kids not even notice the Wi-Fi is missing. Read more about some truly special Family-friendly Resorts in Costa Rica.

The Best Amusement Parks in Costa Rica

It may surprise you to learn that Costa Rica isn’t replete with amusement parks and that’s because the whole country is considered a nature-filled family playground – the need for dedicated play parks is not as pronounced here as in other countries. Nevertheless, there are a few great options if you have children of varying ages and just wish to treat them to a different kind of day out. Costa Rica’s best amusement parks are much more organic and less commercial than those back home and most visitors love them precisely for this reason. In Costa Rica, kids can slide down thrilling water rides created with thermal springs, fly through tree-tops in pristine tropical rainforests and even indulge in a multi-sport adventure outing where horseback riding, zip-lining and kayaking provide all the thrills.

Mountain Biking Adventures

If exploring mountainous wilderness on two wheels is your family’s idea of a great vacation, then you’ll be excited to know that Costa Rica is traversed by hundreds of miles of exceptional mountain biking trails and is considered one of the world’s prime destinations for bikers. The country’s diversity means that no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll find one region at its absolute prime: perfect temps to hit the trails, a kaleidoscope of destinations and fantastic scenery, no matter where you go. Obviously, mountain biking adventures in Costa Rica are primarily suited to families who bike together regularly although there are plenty of short and sweet trails if your kids are just starting off and you’d like to test the waters. We offer tailor-made mountain-biking itineraries that will ensure your family has a fantastic, safe and unforgettable time.

Family Multi-Adventure Tours

At Costa Rica Rios, we combine everything that makes this incredible country so ideal for families and create multi-adventure vacations that captivate the hearts and souls of young and young-at-heart alike. Our most popular tours combine whitewater rafting, canopy zipline, horseback riding, hiking, hot spring soaking, surfing and wildlife-watching in a week (or more) of exceptionally fun adventures. We offer soft adventures for families with younger kids and more active experiences for those with fearless teenagers on their hands. We can take you to the most popular sites if it’s your first visit or more remote locations if you crave an off-the-beaten-trail journey. Our adventure tours are not only fun and varied but they’re also safe, affordable and planned to suit your needs. We take the hassle of planning every detail of your adventure vacation in Costa Rica so you can rest easy, knowing your vacation, and your family, are in capable and experienced hands.

Above all, we combine the best aspects of Costa Rica’s nature and culture to offer truly immersive experiences – these are the family adventure vacations no family will readily forget.

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