Does real eco-tourism exist in Costa Rica?

Trails Playa Nicuesa Costa RicaThere is a lot of talk in travel about eco-tourism and being sustainable. But what does that really mean? Is that simply turning off a few lights, not wasting water and recycling the trash?

According to the United Nations, sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Costa Rica pioneered sustainable tourism over the past decade through its Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program (CST), validated as a global model by the United Nations.

Created by the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT), the CST program rates and certifies tourism businesses based on their compliance with natural, cultural and social resource management. CST consists of five levels, called “Leaves”; Level five, or Five Leaves, signifies that the company is considered “outstanding in terms of sustainability.” The rating process can take more than a year to complete, with frequent inspections and evaluations, and the highest levels are very difficult to obtain.

Beach at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest LodgePlaya Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is one of only three dozen hotels in Costa Rica that have received the highest rating for sustainability of Five Leaves. The extraordinary Costa Rica eco-lodge was constructed in harmony with the environment from naturally fallen trees and recycled materials. A true Costa Rica rainforest lodge, it is located on a 165-acre private preserve in the dense tropical rainforest bordering the Piedras Blancas National Park and the pristine Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) by the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica. Since the only way to get there is by boat across the pristine waters of the Golfo Dulce from either the towns of Golfito or Puerto Jimenez, you can imagine how difficult it was to build.

“We traveled all over Costa Rica and other parts of Central America to find and create a special place where one can intimately experience the natural world of both the tropical rainforest and the Pacific Ocean,” explained Playa Nicuesa owners, Michael and Donna Butler. “Our plan was to create a place that offers the comfort of a lodge and the activities and diversity of an adventure tour.”

Playa Nicuesa sustainability highlights:

  • Lodge buildings are located on less than 2% of property – 98% is a private protected area.Playa Nicuesa bungalow
  • Used recycled construction materials, such as: roof tiles on the lodge and cabins made from recycled plastics, including banana bags.
  • Wood came from naturally fallen trees, permitted by the government to be pulled out of the forest by oxen, or from farmed trees.
  • Electricity is provided by solar energy. Panels are located on main lodge structure. Back-up generator runs on recycled vegetable oil.
  • Solar drying room used to dry all of the lodge wash.
  • Hot water is provided by on-demand propane which means that the propane is used only when the hot water faucet is turned on.
  • Received the Ecological Blue Flag Award for clean beaches.

Check out Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge Green Season Specials for adventure, nature, yoga, relaxation and comfort at great prices through Sept. 30, 2014.

Article by Shannon Farley

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