Tips for Responsible Travel
Green tourism is booming in Costa Rica – more than 26% of the country is protected, from beachfront rainforests and high-montane cloud forests to roaring rivers and active volcanoes. The country has enacted many eco-friendly policies, including plans to become the first carbon-neutral country in the world. Together with the Costa Rican government, responsible tourists can help the environment by having as little impact as possible.
Travel with respect, and show by example – if you travel responsibly, you might encourage others to as well.
- Buy local: Tantalize your taste buds at a locally owned restaurant, or stop at the farmers’ market and purchase some delicious fresh produce for a light meal.
- Don’t feed the animals: Costa Rica’s animals are often friendly and adorable, but you should never feed them. Variations from their natural diet are not only hazardous to the animals’ health, but may result in aggressive behavior toward humans with food.
- Help keep paradise clean: always pick up your trash.
- Shop responsibly: Don’t buy souvenirs made from endangered woods or animal products. When in doubt, always ask the vendor about materials and labor before making a purchase.
- Use a non-disposable water bottle: Costa Rica water is potable almost everywhere in the country, so it’s safe to fill up your water bottle every morning.
- When in doubt, ask: If you don’t know whether something is permitted, just ask. For example, some indigenous do not want their picture taken, so always ask first.
CST (Sustainably Certified) hotels and eco-lodges are rated on a sustainability scale of one to five (most sustainable) and provide you with the service and amenities you expect without compromising the environment. From charmingly rustic to downright deluxe, Costa Rica’s eco-lodges and hotels strive to conserve resources and reduce waste – electronic keys control your room’s lights and air conditioning, staff use biodegradable cleaning products, and linens are washed once every three days to conserve water. Such environmentally conscious hotels implement many important ecological practices, among them:
- Proper disposal of produced waste.
- Measures to reduce or eliminate emissions.
- Exchange of harsh chemicals for eco-friendly, biodegradable and recyclable products.
- Maintain a water and energy efficiency program.
- Patronize local companies instead of huge conglomerates.
Tours and Activities
In Costa Rica, the best way to be responsible is to stay local. Ask your travel agent to arrange locally operated tours, patronize national parks, and embrace rural tourism.
- Local Tourism: Request tours from companies that are owned and operated by residents and hire local guides. Their knowledge and community pride will add a personalized touch to your vacation and your tourism dollars will help families and improve local communities.
- National Parks: Costa Rica’s private reserves and national parks benefit directly from your patronage, using profits to fund conservation projects and environmental education. Most national parks charge a very reasonable $10 entrance fee, which grants you access to a web of trails and natural beauty.
- Rural Tourism: Rural tourism is important to the economic development of Costa Rica’s isolated areas, and your support will help these communities grow.
Costa Rica offers several transportation options suitable for a responsible and green vacation.
- Car Rental: Rent from one of the country’s carbon-neutral companies. Reforestation and other carbon-offset projects help them compensate for the effects their cars have on the environment.
- Domestic Flights: Nature Air, one of Costa Rica’s domestic airlines, went carbon-neutral in 2004. Its inexpensive flights use biofuel derived from cooking oil and will deliver you quickly and efficiently to many popular destinations. Reforestation and rainforest conservation projects have helped the airline completely offset its carbon footprint.
- Public Bus: Though often heralded as a budget-conscious option, Costa Rica’s public bus system is also a very responsible way to travel.
- Shuttles: Hop aboard a sustainably certified, carbon-neutral, comfortable mini-van with passengers headed to the same destination. You’ll save some hard-earned cash – shared shuttles are inexpensive – and you won’t have to worry about getting lost.
- Walk: Many destinations are highly walkable. When possible, use the world’s oldest mode of transportation: your feet!