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Costa Rica: an eco-conscious destination

Travellers are becoming increasingly concerned with sustainable travel, which means destinations that offer eco-friendly holiday options are becoming more popular. Costa Rica has done an excellent job of developing its tourism industry while protecting its natural attractions.

In fact, one-quarter (25 per cent) of the country is protected by its national system of conservation areas, giving you some indication of just how important the natural environment is to Costa Rica. The government has also implemented a Blue Flag ecological programme to encourage local communities and state institutions to work together to protect the environment.

More than 50 of Costa Rica's beaches have been awarded an Ecological Blue Flag, with criteria such as the cleanliness of the water, the amount of litter and efforts to provide environmental education to local communities among the factors that are assessed.

Stay in an eco-lodge

There are numerous eco-lodges in Costa Rica, particularly along its stunning Pacific coast. Don't imagine that having an eco-conscious holiday will mean you have to go back to basics, though, as many of these establishments offer refined luxury with a sustainable twist.

If you're keen to make your holiday to Costa Rica as eco-friendly as possible look out for hotels and tour operators that carry the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism (CST). This is awarded to establishments that use resources sustainably and that operate responsibly by helping local communities to develop and protect their cultural heritage.

There are hotels and lodges that hold CSTs all over the country, so whether you're staying on the Caribbean coast, by the Pacific Ocean or in the heart of Costa Rica, you should be able to find somewhere eco-friendly to stay.

Discover Costa Rica's natural attractions responsibly

Costa Rica is home to 20 natural parks, as well as eight biosphere reserves, with these protected areas including some of the country's most spectacular scenery. It's possible to travel sustainably and visit all these wonderful places with a little preparation and research.

There are excellent hiking and horseback riding trails in most of Costa Rica's national parks and the best way to discover these is with a local guide who won't just ensure you stick to any regulations relating to the protection of these amazing ecosystems, but who will also point out some of the unique flora and fauna you'll see as you explore.

There is a wide range of habitats within Costa Rica, including cloud forests, rainforests, mangroves, grasslands, active volcanoes, swamps, wetlands and lagoons. Due to the diverse collection of ecosystems, you can expect to come across a wide variety of wildlife within the various national parks.

One of the most famous - and striking - natural sights in Costa Rica are the glowing lava flows of Arenal Volcano. These look particularly spectacular at night, but are still an amazing sight to behold during the day.

Tips for sustainable travel

If you're keen to make your tour of Costa Rica as sustainable as possible, follow some of these tips when planning your holiday.

  • Aim to buy and spend local as far as possible - this means staying in locally-run accommodation, shopping at small stores and using local transport to get around. Doing this will help ensure the money you spend during your holiday goes back into the communities you visit.
  • Use local guides wherever possible - not only will they know the area really well, but you'll also be supporting the local economy.
  • Think about the resources you're using while you're away. Make sure you turn off lights when you leave a room, avoid using too much water and ask your hotel not to change your sheets and towels every day.
  • Educate yourself about the places you'll be visiting and any local customs before you travel. Understanding and respecting local communities will mean you have a more rewarding holiday and ensure that their traditions, environment and culture are protected.
  • Support sustainable hotels and tour operators as far as possible - Costa Rica's CST makes it easy for you to see which companies are embracing eco-tourism.

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