Choosing what to do and where to stay when you travel can have direct social impact on the destination and community you visit. In Costa Rica, the government and local ticos believe in sustainable eco-lodges where you can sleep, eat, and travel in a more conscious way, and where your tourism dollars help support the local development. The Costa Rican way of life is la pura vida – to live pure and well, preserving natural resources as much as possible. As a result, very few commercial hotels are given the green light to set up shop here.
If you’ve never stayed in an eco-lodge, here are 3 eco-lodges to stay in Costa Rica and where you can have some of the coolest adventures too.
Neat fact: Costa Rica’s Certificate of Sustainable Tourism measures accommodations not on their level of luxury, service, or how fluffy their pillows are, but they are ranked on their sustainability out of 5 leaves (not stars).
There is nothing like eating a meal sourced right from the backyard behind you. Every morning my breakfast at Casa Turire consisted of freshly squeezed oranges, scrambled huevos, passion fruit, homemade marmalade and café (brewed from coffee beans also from their backyard). This hotel eco-lodge was built 22 years ago by a married couple. It sits behind Lake Angostura and has 200 acres of rich plantations of macadamia, sugar cane and coffee including the owner’s farm and vegetable garden where they produce the crops that they serve in their kitchen.
The menu changes each day and is based on whatever is fresh from the farm. In North America we’re used to going to the supermarket and finding all kinds of fruits and vegetables all year-round, but we should be producing and consuming food supply that is in-season and without over-use. Sometimes we couldn’t order from the menu because the ingredients were not available. That was alright with me because I knew I was helping to lessen the environmental impact.
Fruits and vegetables are fertilized using compost produced by organic waste in the hotel and farm which means zero-kilometre ingredients. This was actually a hotel I didn’t want to venture far from because everything they served was deliciously home-grown and organic. It made me feel good that my eating habits were not compromising this beautiful environment I was staying in, that my sleeping and eating here was supporting the local farmers and their conservation efforts.
Tip: The eco-lodge encourages guests to donate school supplies or medical supplies for communities in Turrialba. Leave some room in your suitcase for pens, notepads, rulers, band-aids or hygiene products and the staff will help deliver them for you to local families and children who need it most.
Sleep in the Jungle
When we pulled into Selva Bananito we knew this was going to be a different kind of adventure. We were about to sleep in the middle of a jungle! Our guide Hector drove through river water, quicksand mud and a labrinyth of trees to get us here. It wasn’t easy but you get your own spacious deck, a hammock to laze around in, and a rare view of the rainforest from your bed!
Each cabin is an open concept. There is no wall separating you from the outside world which means you’ll hear wildlife when you’re trying to get some shuteye. We heard capuchin monkeys laughing and playing at all hours of the night and I know we had bats flying across our deck a few times too. I couldn’t fall asleep the first night, with all the ruckus going on.
We didn’t see any lions, tigers or bears. But this room is the closest you can get to wildcats, slots, and toucans.
When you book here, any profits from tourism helps support and promote natural resources. The eco-lodge is constructed of recycled wood to maximize trees once they are cut down – from the beds, to the walls, to the tables you share meals at. They purify waste water using bacteria, enzymes, and water lilies and provide bio-degradable soaps, so no need to pack shampoo. Electricity is solar powered in each cabin and there are no noisy, polluting generators which means you can actually experience the natural ambiance of nightfall.
There is also an emphasis on zero kilometre, farm-to-table which means food that can’t be grown out back is locally-sourced from nearby vendors and producers. Staying here really lets you become an integral part of the conservation process.
Where: Limón, Costa Rica
Sustainability Level: 5 out of 5 leaves
Adventures you can do here: Horseback riding, Hiking, Ziplining, Tree climbing, Waterfall rappelling
Tip: This eco-lodge is not for everyone; you really do need an open-mind and an adventurous side to stay here. You also need to be comfortable with geckos in your room (they’re everywhere). If you can get past these elements, this eco-lodge really is an amazing experience. After all, when do you ever get to sleep in the middle of a jungle?
Eco-Lodge on the River
On the Sarapiquí river is the Hacienda Pozo Azul, a 200 acre landscape of rainforest, mountains, and rivers, with the Arenal Volcano to the west and La Paz waterfalls to the south. It’s a beautiful sense of peacefulness and tranquility when you’re surrounded by so many different elements of nature! Workers here have a great respect for preserving their natural resources and there are tons of adventures and activities to do so you can take advantage of the scenery.
We zip lined a 900-foot cable across the Sarapiquí canyon.
Where: Sarapiquí, Costa Rica
Sustainability Level: 5 out of 5 leaves
Adventures you can do here: Horseback riding, Hiking, Ziplining, White Water Rafting
Neat fact: Costa Rica is ranked the happiest country in the world by the New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index, based on human well-being and environmental impact or low ecological footprint that causes the least amount of permanent damage to the planet and impact on future generations.