Costa Rica ecotourism is the country’s main factor for drawing in visitors each year. Below I show you why you should visit Costa Rica, from the stunning Orosi Valley, wet Tapanti National Park, panoramic Osa Peninsula, lush tropical Corcovado National Park to escapism at places like Chayote Lodge along with all the best ecotourism activities Costa Rica has to offer!

If you’re looking to travel to Costa Rica please make sure to offset the carbon released from your flight. Per person, the average person emits 1.5 tonnes of CO2 per return on a transatlantic flight. You can do this directly by clicking here.

A land of serenity and peace depicted perfectly on the country’s flag showcasing opportunities, perseverance, previous bloodshed and the peace, warmth and generosity of the people. Costa Rica has just celebrated its 70th year without an army.

Costa Rica filled with all the factors to create the ideal vacation holiday, tropical beaches, vast adventures, lush nature and vibrant culture. Located on the Central American isthmus just north of the equator Costa Rica hosts a tropical climate year round. Along with many microclimates and 14 known volcanoes makes Costa Rica rich in biodiversity and a nature lovers paradise. 

Costa Rica ecotourism draws in many visitors year round, one of few countries with ‘true’ ecotourism read below why Costa Rica is considered one of the best tourist attractions in Central America, what you should know before visiting Costa Rica, why it is known for ecotourism and the best ecotourism activities. 

What is Ecotourism?

The International Ecotourism Society now describes ecotourism as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education and this education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests.

What are the characteristics of ecotourism

  • Minimise physical, social, behavioural, and psychological impacts.
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
  • Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
  • Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates.
  • Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
  • Recognise the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.

Examples of ecotourism

Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. It should provide effective economic incentives for conserving and enhancing bio-cultural diversity and helps protect the natural and cultural heritage of our beautiful planet. Increase local capacity building and employment opportunities, ecotourism can be an effective vehicle for empowering local communities around the world to fight against poverty and to achieve sustainable development. To enrich personal experiences and environmental awareness through interpretation, ecotourism can promote greater understanding and appreciation for nature, local society, and culture.

Why is Costa Rica so famous?

Costa Rica is famous for many reasons, one of the main reasons it’s known is due to its coffee production. Since it’s independence in 1821 (Full independence 1838) coffee has remained Costa Rica’s main export and its and principal source of wealth. 

Coffee from Costa Rica is highly rated and is often considered to hold some of the best flavour profiles in Central America, having even been recently introduced into Starbucks under their “reserve” program. 

The reason coffee grows so well in Costa Rica is due to its perfect elevation and climate, with different types of coffee produced throughout the country at different altitudes all growing in the lush volcanic soil, the best Costa Rican coffee tends to be those that are found at higher altitudes.

Why is Costa Rica considered one of the best tourist attractions in Central America?

Costa Rica is considered to be one of the best tourist attractions in Central America due to the varying landscapes and climates all located within this small country. 

For the adventure seeker’s there’s zip-lining tours, whitewater rafting, kayaking, scuba diving, cliff diving, and skydiving among other adrenaline-pumping activities.

For beach lovers there are more than 1,000 miles of coastline, the country is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. (although I would avoid the rainy season, between April and November.) Costa Rica is also one of the top surfing destinations in the world.

Animal lovers can come to gaze at the slowest mammals in the world, sloths found all over the country … if you can manage to spot them (we, unfortunately, did not).

Culture lovers can dig into the Costa Rican national cuisine while enjoying the Pura Vida (Pure Life) lifestyle with the people of the “the worlds happiest country”.  

Filled with beaches, rainforests, volcanoes and vast wildlife there seems to be something for everyone in Costa Rica

Is Costa Rica Known For Ecotourism?

Costa Rica Is home to rich biodiversity and immense ecosystems, which is why many of the first visitors to the country were Biologist ecotourists. Although Costa Rica accounts for only 0.03 per cent of the earth’s surface it contains nearly 6 per cent of the entire world’s biodiversity.

Having devoted nearly 26% of the country’s land to national parks and wildlife reserves, for quite a small country of only 19,730 sq. miles, Costa Rica is ensuring the preservation of its ecology and actively ensuring its continuing future as an ecotourism destination. 

Costa Rica ecotourism shows us that conservation and economic growth goes hand in hand.

Origin and history of ecotourism in Costa Rica

Costa Rica arguably leads the world in ecotourism, mostly down to the fact its one of the most biologically diverse and beautiful country on earth.

The Costa Rican government has always especially out of all the Latin American countries has a particularly conscious effort and a path toward sustainability and development. With an abolished army, this gave an increased amount of funding towards education, health care and of course conservation.

This increase in education and conservation eventually led to the mandates that created these protected areas, this now provided the country with ample opportunity to produce revenue from ecotourism. The ongoing deforestation that has consistently affected its neighbour countries Costa Rica ecotourism has allowed the country to stay on course with its deforestation policies and now protects over an estimated 1.5 million biodiverse species. 

Must see places in Costa Rica

Here are some of the must see places in costa rica

  • Monteverde Cloud Forest and Santa Elena
  • Volcán Arenal
  • Tortuguero National Park
  • Volcán Irazú
  • Reggae in Puerto Viejo
  • Corcovado National Park

Below are a few destinations I visited in particular and would recommend. 

Costa Rica ecotourism destinations 

Orosi valley, Costa Rica

An area of Costa Rica not often visited by many tourists is the beautiful Orosi Valley. Orosi Valley, Costa Rica is a historic town located south-east of the capital San Jose, and not of a far drive from Cartago. Part of its historic charm is due to it containing the oldest running catholic church in the entire country. 

1743 The Iglesia de San Jose is basically a national landmark you feel as though you’ve been swept back in time. As you walk through the church doors you find a home for religious art, Spanish colonial artefacts and a small museum. Funnily enough as similar to most churches in Costa Rica The Iglesia de San Jose, Orosi Valley is paired next to a football (soccer) field.

Aside for Orosi Valley’s historic elements the area itself is extremely lush and home to incredible scenery. 

Mirador de Orosi is a great day to spend the day both as a local and as a tourist. Providing panoramic views of the Orosi Valley and filled with playgrounds, picnic tables and BBQ spots it’s the perfect way to spend a day or weekend relaxing over one of the most beautiful views to have in Costa Rica.

If relaxing isn’t your thing and prefer your vacations to be filled with a bit more adventure Orosi Valley is also home to white water rafting along the rapids of the Grande de Orosi River. Whilst also a stone’s throw away from the Orosi Valley is Tapanti National park, which I will go onto next. 

Tapanti National Park

Tapanti National Park which sometimes can be referred to as Orosí National Park is not only one of the rainiest park in Costa Rica it is one of the rainiest parks on the planet with rainfall expected 360 days of the year. Costa Rica is, in fact, one of the wettest countries on earth!

Falling under the Pacific La Amistad Conservation Area of Costa Rica, Tapanti National Park covers 12,500 acres (5,058 ha), two life zones—lower montane rainforest and pre-montane rainforest alongside three ecosystems of Cloud, Rain and Humid. Tapanti National Park is also home to 400 Bird species and 45 mammal species, including the white-faced capuchin monkey, paca, Baird’s tapir, agouti, ocelot, jaguarundi, and kinkajou.

Corcovado National Park (Osa Peninsula)

Probably the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity as referred to by National Geographic, Corcovado National Park located on the stunning Osa Peninsula along southwestern Costa Rica is the country’s largest national park at 164 square miles, making it the largest primary forest on the American Pacific coastline.

Protecting over a third of the Osa Peninsula, Corcovado National Park is a lush green paradise and is one of the top ecotourism destinations on the planet. Due to its remote location and being one of the largest lowland tropical rainforests in Central America, it is one of the best places to see wildlife. 

With the majority of Corcovado National Park being virtually untouched and animals having rare human encounters it is the prime location to observe wildlife in their natural healthy environments in which they were meant to thrive.

Due to the large size of Corcovado National Park, it is home to the richest biodiversity and ecological variety. Corcovado National Park is the only place in Costa Rica where you can see all four species of Costa Rica’s monkeys: the howler, white-faced capuchin, squirrel, and spider monkey. Big cats like the puma and the endangered jaguar call Corcovado home along with other animals including two-toed and three-toed sloths, endangered Bird’s Tapirs, toucans, scarlet macaws, peccaries (wild pigs), crocodiles, sea turtles, lizards, and anteaters. 

Just attempting to get to Corcovado National Park is an adventure. You will first need to travel to your eco-lodge located near the Osa Peninsula (I have suggested one below). You will then have to get over to Drake Bay most likely by ground transportation, then get ready for one hell of a trek!  

Costa Rica ecotourism resorts 

Lapa Ríos Lodge

Located on the pristine Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica you can find one of National Geographic’s most unique lodges of the world Lapa Rios.

A prime and perfect example of a Costa Rica ecotourism resort, covered by the lush green blanket that is the last lowland tropical rainforest in Central America and surrounded by beaches rich in marine life, Lapa Rios is an icon in sustainable luxury. Protecting 1,000-acres of rainforest and it’s biodiversity whilst finding a safe way to share it with the world, the Lapa Rios 17 bungalows are built on natural ridges within the rainforest providing unmatched views of the spectacular coastline and rainforest while allowing guests close-up observation of tropical flora and fauna.

Named after the scarlet macaws Costa Rican name Lapa, by owners John and Karen Lewis on their first visit to the land that would eventually be the property, they witnessed a number macaws flying creating a river of red in the sky. Thus once the property was create by these former Peace Corps volunteers they named it Lapa Rios – River of Scarlet Macaws in English.

It had always been the vision of John and Karen to create a luxury resort that was sustainable. Since it’s opening Lapa Rios has won numerous award and assists in the vital development of the local community

They have beyond succeeded in providing guests with an intimate and authentic rainforest experience of a lifetime.

Chayote Lodge

Chayote Lodge in the beautiful Naranjo just one hour north of San Jose is a stunning boutique, coffee-themed hotel located in Costa Rica‘s mountainous Central Valley.

1500 meters above sea level in the middle of a cloud forest Chayote Lodge boasts 12 spacious bungalows featuring a private terrace with a breathtaking view of Poas, Barva, and Irazu Volcanos, as well as the Central Valley and the Nicoya Gulf in the Pacific Ocean seen on clear days. The theme and styling of the rooms were inspired by the rich coffee culture of the region, each nook of the property resembles a piece of the coffee picker’s story and their lifestyle. The bungalow rooms resemble traditional Coffee Receiving Stations known locally as “Recibidores”. 

Arriving at the Chayote Lodge property you feel as though you’ve left vibrant Costa Rica for the serenity of the Alps or northern Italy, yet there is something typically Costa Rican about it. Chayote Lodge’s strategic location right in the middle of Costa Rica surrounded by coffee fields, green pastures, and a rich agricultural environment provides guests with what I would describe as the perfect “wind-down” time. With easy access to different national parks, waterfalls, rural villages, coffee plantations as well as the local city all within the vicinity of the stunning Chayote Lodge property the owners have found a great way to merge relaxing isolation with culture and adventure.

Chayote Lodges panoramic positioning in the cloud forest fills their property with an abundance of light from sunrise to sunset, as you watch the sunrise over the city below and set in the mountains behind as the city you once knew in the morning lights up like a galaxy below. Their on-site restaurant offers an intimate fireplace and fusion cuisine dishes the perfect way to spend the cooler evenings.

Chayote Lodge not only is unique in its placement and structure its eco-friendly and sustainable design make it an ecotourist’s dream.

Costa Rica ecotourism activities 

Hiking Trails in Costa Rica

There are many amazing places within Costa Rica that are perfect for the hiking beginner to the hiking enthusiast. 

Tapanti National Park in the Orosi, Valley is more of an incline stroll than a hike so will be perfect for beginners. The surrounding forestry is a perfect way to experience the Costa Rican rainforests without it being to energy consuming (see Corcovado). Easily accessible by road, unless there is torrential rainfall or cloud cover, the hikes can vary from 1 hour to 3 hours depending on your route and although a guide is not necessary it is nice to have to point out things you may miss with an untrained eye.

Corcovado National Park in the Osa Peninsula has a great network of trails each venturing deep into the dense lowland rain forest. It is said to be the most strenuous in Costa Rica, and can only be done with a guide at all times as trails follow both coastal and inland routes and passing by habitats ranging from Pacific beaches and mangrove swamps to lowland and montane rainforests.

White Water Rafting in Costa Rica

Whitewater Rafting the Grande de Orosi River is definitely something for the adrenaline and adventure junkies to experience when visiting Costa Rica. Although I opted to experience the Tapanti National Park, my fellow traveller Wanderlust Chole chose to check out exactly what rafting in Orosi had to offer, here’s what she had to say:

“It was my first time rafting, and I was really nervous as I waited by the edge of the river listening to the safety briefing. The guides were enthusiastic and fun, and I started to feel at ease… until I hopped on the raft and we set off!! The water was flowing so fast, and almost immediately we reached one of the trickiest spots on the entire course. After a thorough soaking, I relaxed into the experience, whooping and screaming as I paddled. I loved it and would say it’s one of my favourite experiences from the trip!”

Volcanic Thermal springs at Hacienda Orosi

Surrounded in the foothills of the rainforest Hacienda Orosi taps into the hypothermal mineral water of the local volcanoes to produce rich mineral hypothermal springs. 

It is the most ideal place to unwind after a morning hiking or day spent rafting. You can relax with a view of the cloud blanketing the rainforest behind you or stare out onto the lush valley below. All while the minerals, salts and ions that compose this water enrich the skin tissues and stimulate your senses.

Dolphin and Whale watching in Costa Rica

It’s not just the Costa Rican lands that are filled with an abundance of animals the Costa Rican waters are also home to dozens of marine mammal species. In fact, Costa Rica has the most months with humpbacks being present in their waters than anywhere else in the world. Thousands of whales migrate southward to the warmer waters of the Pacific in December, just of the coast of Central America. 

The times to spot these marine mammals in Costa Rica varies, the very best times tend to be along the southern Pacific coast stretching from Jacó to the warm waters around the Osa Peninsula between the months of August through October. Whales are wild and there is never any guarantee that you’ll see them, or a rare chance you might! My trip took place in November and attempted to keep an eye out along the Osa Peninsula coastline to no avail, unfortunately. 

What should you know about Costa Rica before visiting.

What Is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica?

The best time to visit Costa Rica is from mid-December to April (the dry season). This is a perfect time to explore the vast rainforests or lounging on the stunning beaches as the season boasts plenty of sunshine. This does, however, come at a cost (literally) as the season is more popular it is in hand a more expensive to visit Costa Rica. Although the US Dollar does go relatively far in Costa Rica, it is recommended to have accommodation and tours for this period of time booked in advance as far ahead as three months. If you don’t mind a little rain (we didn’t) you can visit during the cheaper period between the months of May and November, although I would recommend the shoulder of this period. 

Weather does vary by region so plan ahead and keep that in mind when booking your trip to Costa Rica. There will be high humidity and ranging temperatures in the rainforests of the Caribbean coast and Northern Plains. There is lower humidity to be expected in the North Pacific side of Costa Rica however temperatures can hit around 30 degrees Celsius in during the dry months in Costa Rica.

5 Things To Know About Costa Rica

  1. On arrival into the country make sure you have in hand proof of departure. The departure ticket must be within a 90 day period as most tourists (country dependent) are allowed a 3-month tourist visa on arrival. 
  2. Costa Rica has a departure tax, unless already covered by an airline (i.e. Please see below for airlines that cover the Costa Rica departure tax ) Tourists are expected to pay an “Exit Tax” or “Departure Tax” when leaving Costa Rica. Typically $30 USD (infants and children too whether they are occupying a seat or not). This can be organised through your hotel for an additional small fee or paid at the airport, prior to checking in for your flight. 
  3. Costa Rica is very “Americanised” by that I mean prices reflect similarly to what you’d expect travelling to the USA. This includes going out to eat, going to bars, and souvenir shopping.
  4. Ensure you’re carrying insect repellent, lots of it. Travelling to a tropical climate goes hand in hand with an abundance of bugs so be prepared.
  5. Costa Ricans are some of the friendliest people on earth but crime is a part of life and Costa Rica is no exception. Most Costs Ricans are poor by the western standard, so ensure you keep your common sense and wits about you to ensure you aren’t victamised, even for a petty crime.

Airlines That Cover The Costa Rica Departure Tax

Costa Rica Departure Tax is covered by the following airlines (Correct as of Dec 2018)

  • Aeroméxico
  • Air Canadá
  • Air France
  • Air Panama
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Avianca
  • British Airways
  • Condor
  • Copa
  • Delta
  • Edelweiss
  • Iberia
  • Interjet
  • Jetblue Airways
  • KLM
  • Lufthansa
  • Southwest
  • Spirit
  • Taca Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Veca
  • Volaris
  • Wingo
  • US Airways

Costa Rica Departure Tax is NOT covered by the following airlines (Correct as of Dec 2018)

  • Air Transat
  • Albatros
  • Cubana
  • Sun Country
  • WestJet
  • Thomson (TUI) – Said to include from May 2019

The only way to be sure you’ve paid is the look at the taxes and fees listed on your fare breakdown.

Well, I hope you guys found this article about Ecotourism Costa Rica interesting and insightful! Let me know below if you have any thoughts or questions!

If you find yourself travelling through the Americas, check out my Nortern California Road Trip!


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