Costa Rica


Costa Rica is in Central America, between Nicaragua and Panama, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. Four volcanoes, two of them active, rise near the capital of San Jose in the center of the country. One of the volcanoes, Irazu, erupted destructively in 1963-65. (See Wikipedia List of volcanoes in Costa Rica.) Environmental issues include deforestation and land use change, largely a result of the clearing of land for cattle ranching and agriculture, soil erosion, coastal marine pollution, fisheries protection, solid waste management, and air pollution. (See Wikipedia Deforestation in Costa Rica.) The World Heritage listed marine protected area Cocos Island National Park is still being threatened by illegal fishing.

Both the Costa Rican and Panamanian parts of La Amistad International Peace Park (La Amistad International Park) are jointly inscribed on the World Heritage List, including La Amistad (1982) Talamanca Range, La Amistad Reserve, and La Amistad National Park (1983 &1990). The Costa Rican World Heritage site forms most of the core area of the Biosphere reserve. (See Wikipedia Biosphere reserves of Costa Rica, List of Conservation Areas of Costa Rica, List of national parks of Costa Rica, and World Heritage Sites in Costa Rica.) The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (Corredor Biológico Mesoamericano) is a large habitat corridor in Central America, stretching from Mexico southeastward through Costa Rica, resulting from an earlier program called “Paseo Pantera”, the path of the panther. The Eco Preservation Society is seeking volunteers for reforestation and conservation projects in several locations on Costa Rica central pacific coast. The ARA Project is an NGO dedicated to the conservation of the two native macaw species of Costa Rica: the endangered Great Green Macaw and the Scarlet Macaw, which uses volunteers in their breeding program and reintroduction projects. The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica, near Cahuita, provides volunteer opportunities to help with the rescue and rehabilitation of sloths referred to the sanctuary. The Butterfly Farm pioneered the exhibition of live butterflies in Costa Rica. There is also a Monteverde Butterfly Garden. Sea Turtle Conservancy has worked for the conservation of endangered sea turtles in Costa Rica since 1959. Talamanca Dolphin Foundation (Asociacion Pro Delfines de Talamanca), based in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, was Costa Rica’s first dolphin foundation. Amigos de los Parques Nacionales is a membership program created by ProParques, Fundecor and SINAC (Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservación).

Costa Rica is one of the foremost ecotourism destinations in the world. Ronald Sanabria, a native of Costa Rica, is Vice President of Sustainable Tourism for the Rainforest Alliance (known as “Alianza para Bosques” in Costa Rica). Michael Kaye, founder of Costa Rica Expeditions and their extensive network of ecolodges throughout the country, is another legendary figure in the story of ecotourism development in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a party to the 2001 Convention Establishing The Sustainable Tourism Zone Of The Caribbean, of the Association of Caribbean States. A so-called ecolabel, the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) Program is a product of the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT), and is a member of the Sustainable Tourism Certification Network of the Americas. Costa Rica also participates in the international Blue Flag ecolabel for beaches and marinas, called “Bandera Azul Ecológica” and administered in Costa Rica by the National Water and Sewer Service (AyA). Costa Rica even has a national chamber of commerce just for ecotourism, CANAECO (Cámara Nacional de Ecoturismo). COOPRENA (Consorcio Cooperativo Red Ecoturística Nacional) is the cooperative national ecotouristic network, specializing in rural community tourism. The regional Talamancan association of ecotourism and conservation, ATEC (Asociación Talamanqueña de Ecoturismo y Conservación) operates the Greencoast web portal out of Puerto Viejo, listing numerous local service providers. Ecodestination is a local company that organizes field trips for teachers and their students to Costa Rica, in partnership with Serafin Station turtle research station. Beatrice Blake, author of the guidebook New Key to Costa Rica, not only designs Customized Ecotourism Itineraries, but also maintains a directory of Community Based Ecotourism.

Canopy tours via zip-line above the canopy have in many ways become synonymous with Costa Rica. Claiming to be the Original Canopy Tour, OCT operates zip-line tours in Mahogany Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest, and Limon. In addition to zip-line, canopy tours are available via aerial tram (gondola), in the Veragua Rainforest near La Amistad. Costa Rica Sky Adventures also operates fixed “Sky Walk” canopy platforms and elevated walkways. Desafio Adventure Company guides whitewater rafting on the Rio Balsa out of their office in Monteverde. Many ecolodges offer popular horseback tours, though Costa Rica Horse Tours claim to be the horse trekking experts. Everything seems to be “eco” in Costa Rica, even the Abangares gold mines ecomuseum in the Sierra Abangares. (Originated in France, an ecomuseum is a museum focused on the identity of a place.) Riverboat Francesca offers the wildlife boat tours on the inland canals and natural rivers of Tortuguero Conservation Area, in the Caribbean watershed from Moin to Tortuguero National Park. Costa Rica Adventure Divers, in Drake Bay along the Osa Peninsula, are scuba diving specialists.

There are countless nature and eco-lodges all over Costa Rica, from funky one of kind places to slick corporate chains. Interestingly, many of these lodges are located near the boundaries between Costa Rica’s major tourist regions.

North Pacific: ACTUAR lists a number of community based “ecolodge” experiences for the Nicoya region (without their own websites), including Cerro Escondido Lodge, La Amistad Lodge (Chira Island), and Monte Alto Lodge.

Central Pacific: The “birdwatching hotel”, Cerro Lodge is an environmentally friendly project located on a farm in Tarcoles.

South Pacific: Lapa Rios Eco Lodge is in a private nature reserve spread over 1,000 acres of lowland tropical rainforest on the Osa Peninsula where the Golfo Dulce meets the Pacific Ocean. Campanario Biological Station (Proyecto Campanario) offers a variety of educational programs in the tropical rainforests of the Osa. It’s even possible to rent a six Level Treehouse In Costa Rica, deep in rainforest of the Osa Peninsula Rental, only five minutes from the beach. Dolphin Quest Costa Rica is another remote ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula, accessible only by boat. The Swiss owned and operated Golfo Dulce Lodge is surrounded by the undisturbed primary lowland rainforest of the Piedras Blancas National Park. La Leona Eco Lodge bills itself as the closest ecolodge to Corcovado National Park. Corcovado Adventures Tent Camp offers affordable lodging in Drake Bay. Almonds & Corals Hotel is an open plan lodge located inside the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Finca TicoOrganico is Arlie Haig’s organic coffee farm and ecotourism project located in San Vito, convenient to La Amistad.

Northern Lowlands: Arenal Observatory Lodge is conveniently located near Arenal Volcano National Park. Monteverde has quite a few “nature lodge” options, including El Sapo Dorado, Hotel Belmar, and Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge.

Central Valley: In Braulio Carrillo National Park, Amos Bien’s Rara Avis is one of Costa Rica’s oldest rainforest lodges. The Centro Neotropico Sarapiquis, an ecolodge operated by the Landscape Foundation Belgium, is adjacent to the Tirimbina Biological Reserve on the Rio Sarapiquí. Selva Verde is another well known ecolodge with its own nature reserve in the Sarapiquí region. Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel is a boutique mountain hotel on the 75-acre Los Angeles Private Biological Reserve. The ecolodge Selva Bananito is nestled in the Cordillera de Talamanca.

Caribbean Coast: Pacuare Jungle Lodge is on the banks of the Rio Pacuare, flowing from the Cordillera de Talamanca into the Caribbean. Turtle Beach Lodge is located near the town of Tortuguero, which translates to “Land of the Turtles”. Samasati Nature Retreat was built without the use of heavy machinery or any major land movement on 250 acres of virgin forest overlooking the Caribbean near Puerto Viejo. Punta Mona is an 85 acre off the grid, family owned environmental education center, botanical collection, permaculture farm and eco-lodge, dedicated to sustainable ways of living.

Biosphere reserves:

  • La Amistad 1982
  • Cordillera Volcánica Central 1988

IUCN members:


Costa Rica is a Central American success story: since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. Although still a largely agricultural country, it has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism sectors. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread. Costa Rica dumped its army in 1948, becoming a heralded “island of peace” in Central America. (See Wikipedia List of countries without armed forces.) Because of its stand, Costa Rica attracted Quaker settlers (read tourists who stayed) who created Monteverde (Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve), one the pioneer communities in ecotourism. By protecting the forest, they could protect their water supply, and then they discovered these forests attracted ecotourists.

See Wikipedia Indigenous peoples of Costa Rica. ACTUAR (Asociación Costarricense de Turismo Rural Comunitario) is the Costa Rican association for rural community based tourism. Pacha Mama is a prominent example of ecovillage and intentional community in Costa Rica, and regularly sponsors events for the public. Finca Rosa Blanca coffee plantation in the Central Highlands of Costa Rica offers a luxury sustainable boutique hotel experience. Guaria de Osa is Jonathon Miller Weisberger’s remote ecolodge, hosting shamanic retreats on the Osa Peninsula, not far from Corcovado National Park. The locally owned immersion school, Centro Panamericano de Idiomas, offers the opportunity to study Spanish language in a number of locations around Costa Rica, including Monteverde.

World Heritage:

  • Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park (1983, 1990) *
  • Cocos Island National Park (1997, 2002)
  • Area de Conservación Guanacaste (1999, 2004)

ICCROM members:


  • The effect of land use change and ecotourism on biodiversity: a case study of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, from 1985 to 2008 by EN Broadbent, AMA Zambrano, R Dirzo & WH Durham, 2012
  • The importance of education in ecotourism ventures: lessons from Rara Avis ecolodge, Costa Rica by B Sander, 2012
  • Ecotourism in Costa Rica: Environmental Impacts and Management by E McKeone, 2011
  • Activist tourism: Perceptions of ecotourism and sustainability in Costa Rica by FG Shinnamon, 2010
  • Agrotourism and agro-ecotourism in Costa Rica by F Zumbado-Morales & U Gretzel, 2010
  • Ecotourism as a Social-Ecological System: A Case Study in Guanacaste, Costa Rica by J Gallaher, 2010
  • Ecotourism impacts in the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica by AM Almeyda & EN Broadbent, 2010
  • Forest-based ecotourism in Costa Rica as a driver for positive social and environmental development by A Bien, 2010
  • Social and environmental effects of ecotourism in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica: the Lapa Rios case by AMA Zambrano & EN Broadbent, 2010
  • Agro-ecotourism in Costa Rica: A Participatory Rural Appraisal Case Study by JM Bagdonis, E Hand, G Larson & M Sanborn, 2009
  • Ecotourism as a development strategy: experiences from Costa Rica by JF Koens, C Dieperink & M Miranda, 2009
  • Community Impacts of Ecotourism: A Case-study of a Women’s Artisan Cooperative in Monteverde, Costa Rica by E Kuo, 2008
  • A decommodified experience? Exploring aesthetic, economic and ethical values for volunteer ecotourism in Costa Rica by NJ Gray & LM Campbell, 2007
  • Development Or Disintegration: A Social Impact Focus Of Ecotourism In Costa Rica by M Aaberg, 2007
  • Wasted visits? Ecotourism in theory vs. practice, at Tortuguero, Costa Rica by ZA Meletis, 2007
  • A framework for sustainable ecotourism: Application to Costa Rica by J Courvisanos & A Jain, 2006
  • Costa Rica: Banana Plantations or Ecotourism? by M Dawson & T Jamal, 2006
  • The Consumption of Conservation: Ecotourism in Costa Rica by J Iveniuk, 2006
  • Ecotourism and rural development. The case of La Cangreja National Park, Costa Rica by E Díaz-González & K van Koppen, 2005
  • Ecotourism and sustainable development in Costa Rica by BD Buchsbaum, 2004
  • Globalization, ecotourism, and development in the Monte Verde Zone, Costa Rica by EA Amador, 2004
  • The organization of ecotourism in Costa Rica by S Geic, 2004
  • Towards A Model For Sustainable Ecotourism Development In Monteverde, Costa Rica by E Ernst, S Shannon, R Hawks & R Smardon, 2004
  • How’eco’is ecotourism? A comparative case study of ecotourism in Costa Rica by CJ Stem, JP Lassoie & DR Lee, 2003
  • Neotropical Orchid Eco-tourism: Educational Experience Of An Orchid Neophyte At The Bosque De Paz Biological Preserve, Central Volcanic Range, Costa Rica by S Kirby, 2003
  • Conservation narratives and the ‘received wisdom’ of ecotourism: case studies from Costa Rica by LM Campbell, 2002
  • Never ride a turtle: ecotourism in Costa Rica: a case study from a national park by T Lerfald, 2002
  • The use of choice experiments in the analysis of tourist preferences for ecotourism development in Costa Rica by RR Hearne & ZM Salinas, 2002
  • Biodiversity in the neotropics and the case of Monteverde, Costa Rica: a close look at tropical montane cloud forests, ecotourism and the interdependence of their association by K McGinley, 2001
  • Spectacular quetzals, ecotourism, and environmental futures in Monte Verde, Costa Rica by LA Vivanco, 2001
  • The role of local development in protected area management: A comparative case study of eco-tourism in Costa Rica by CJ Stem, 2001
  • Ecotourism in Costa Rica: an economic framework of analysis by J Courvisanos, 2000
  • Ecotourism on the edge: the case of Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica by C Minca & M Linda, 2000
  • Opportunities and threats to local sustainable development: Introducing ecotourism to Venado Island, Costa Rica by B Beeler, 2000
  • The pros and cons of ecotourism in Costa Rica by J Dasenbrock, 2000
  • Below the Surface: The Impacts of Ecotourism in Costa Rica by S Narayan, 1998
  • Ecotourism at a crossroads: the case of Costa Rica by LM Lumsdon & JS Swift, 1998
  • Ecotourism demand and differential pricing of national park access in Costa Rica by LC Chase, DR Lee, WD Schulze & DJ Anderson, 1998
  • Ecotourism in Costa Rica by D Weaver, 1998
  • Impacts on developing countries of changing production and consumption patterns in developed countries: The case of ecotourism in Costa Rica by C Inman, N Mesa & R Oleas, 1998
  • Influence of ecotourism on conservation policy for sustainable development: The case of Costa Rica by FT Wildes, 1998
  • Ecotourism demand and differential pricing of national park entrance fees in Costa Rica by LC Chase, DR Lee, WD Schulze & D Anderson, 1997
  • Evaluating Ecotourism Lodgings in The New Key to Costa Rica by B Blake, A Becher & JS Earle, 1996
  • International ecotourism and the valuation of tropical rainforests in Costa Rica by S Menkhaus & DJ Lober, 1996
  • Sustainable ecotourism in Costa Rica: the Monteverde cloud forest preserve by B Aylward, K Allen, J Echeverría & J Tosi, 1996
  • The use of client evaluations in the ecotourism process: An example from Costa Rica by CH Cespedes, 1996
  • Turtles & Tourists: Assessing Ecotourism Potential At Ostional, Costa Rica by LM Campbell, 1996
  • Ecotourism and wildlife conservation in Costa Rica: potential for a sustainable partnership? by TA Damon, CB Vaughan & PR Krausman, 1995
  • Biological impacts of ecotourism: tourists and nesting turtles in Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica by SK Jacobson & AF Lopez, 1994
  • Ecotourism and Interpretation in Costa Rica: Parallels and Peregrinations by WE Williams, 1994
  • The environment/development interface in Latin America: ecotourism and Costa Rica’s search for sustainable development by DR Meadows, 1993
  • An assessment of ecotourism and its impact on leatherback sea turtles at Playa Grande, Costa Rica by PW Herzog & M Gerrand, 1992
  • An ecotourism assessment of Tortuguero, Costa Rica by DNB Lee & DJ Snepenger, 1992
  • Ecotourism, sustainable development, and conservation education: Development of a tour guide training program in Tortuguero, Costa Rica by SK Jacobson & R Robles, 1992
  • Ecotourism and buffer zone management at Monteverde Reserve, Costa Rica Trip Report by WT Williams, 1992
  • Management of ecotourism in the protected areas of Costa Rica by J Courrau, JHM Willison & S Bondrup-Nielsen, 1992
  • Private reserves, parks and ecotourism in Costa Rica by Y Rovinski & T Whelan, 1991
  • Ecotourism in Costa Rica: a conceptual framework by DA Fennell & PFJ Eagles, 1990
  • Biological and Social Aspects of Eco-Tourism: The Monteverde Case by D Tobias, 1988
  • Ecotourism in Costa Rica by R Mendoza-Hernández, 1986

Costa Rica Data