Ecotourism activities in Costa Rica: Nature parks and lodging

The Republic of Costa Rica is a rough and tropical rain forested Central American country, with a population of around 4.5 million. The country is popular for nature travel destination among the tourist because of its rich flora and fauna, beaches and volcanoes. Costa Rica has the highest population of plants and animals species on earth.

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There are around 26 nature parks, 8 biological reserves, 32 protected zones, 11 forest reserves, 58 wildlife refuges, 15 wetlands in Costa Rica (source: Costa Rica National Parks) which is home to 850 type of bird species, 237 mammal species, 1,260 tree species, 1,200 orchid species, and 361 reptile and amphibian species. Because of the rich wildlife, ecotourism activities in Costa Rica are one of the popular and key activities of the tourism industry which attracts large crowd of tourist to this country. As ecotourism is a major source of income; the country has very strict environmental policies, to safe guard the environment. Government also implemented special programs like Bandera Azul Program (Ecological Blue Flag) and Voluntary Certification Program to evaluate and maintain sustainable tourism with the conservation of the environment.

Ecotourism activities in Costa Rica provides a combination of luxury and adventure activities, which includes visits to rich wildlife to experience flora and fauna, visiting volcanoes, hiking, river rafting, bird watching, whale watching, canopy tours, horse riding, bungee jumping, surfing and snorkeling are some of the few mentions. You can also visit to the local coffee plantations and visits to the local communities to know more about their culture. In Costa Rica you will experience rainforest, volcanoes, beaches, wetlands and caves all at one place. These activities are not only for fun and leisure but also take you closer to the nature and help you understand the natural life more properly.

Top 5 nature parks in Costa Rica

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Manuel Antonio National Park (Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio)

A small national park established in 1972 near Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Although smallest of all Costa Rican natural parks, the park is among the most beautiful natural parks in the world. It covers an area of around 680 hectares. About 150,000 tourists visit this park annually. Manuel Antonio National Park encompasses tropical rain forest, white sand beaches and coral reefs. Although the park is smallest of all in Costa Rica, the diversity of wildlife is immense. This park is home of is 109 mammal species and 184 bird species. Brown-throated three-toed sloth, Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth and white-headed capuchin monkey are the major feature of this park.

Rincón de la Vieja National Park ( Parque Nacional Volcán Rincón de la Vieja)

A national park situated in the Guanacaste province of the northwestern part of Costa Rica. This 34,800 acre national park is a combination of active volcanoes and tropical forests with naturally heated pools, mud fumaroles and beautiful waterfalls. Rincón de la Vieja, Santa María and dormant volcano Cerro Von Seebach are the volcanoes in this national park. The park is rich of flora and fauna which include species like pumas, jaguar, monkeys-howler, spider, and white-faced-kinkajous, sloths, and tapirs.

Isla del Coco (Cocos Island)

An uninhabited island declared as a protected national park, situated in Pacific Ocean around 550 kms from Costa Rica. Cocos Island is the only oceanic island in Pacific region with such a dense rainforests and diverse flora and fauna. Because the island is never linked to the continent, the island is home of endemic species. There are around 230 species of plants, 400 species of insects, 90 bird species and rich marine fauna with a large population of yellow fin tuna, giant mantas, sailfish and sharks such as white tip reef shark, scalloped hammerhead shark and the whale shark. About 3200 of tourists visits this park annually. One of the major attractions of this park is the rich underwater world, ideal for scuba diving.

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Corcovado National Park (Parque Nacional Corcovado)

A national park established in 1975 situated on Osa Peninsula in south eastern part of Costa Rica covering a 42,400 hectare of area. It’s the largest park in Costa Rica, with intense and richest bio diversity in the world. The park is open for day and overnight visits (with professional guides) for tourists. This park is home to abundance of wildlife like, scarlet macaws, spider monkeys, Central American squirrel monkey, mantled howler monkeys, sloths, anteaters, pumas, white faced capuchin monkeys, woodpeckers, hermit crabs and pelicans just to name some few.

Tortuguero National Park

This is third most visited national park, which is situated in the northeastern part of the Costa Rica, reached only by airplane or boat. It covers an area of 31173 hectare. This national park is a protected area because of its bio diversity and eco system, which supports endangered species of flora and fauna. The park is located in a tropical climate, which includes rain forests, mangrove forests, swamps, beaches, and lagoons. This national park has a long beach nearly 35 kilometers, which serve as protective nesting ground for the sea turtles which is the main attraction. This park consist of around 400 species for trees and 2200 species of plants and fauna species like,  sea turtles (hawksbill, loggerheads, green, and leatherbacks), bull shark, eel and  30 species of freshwater fish.

Where to Stay in Costa Rica

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Apart from the ecological activities, Costa Rica is also famous for the ecofriendly resorts. As the government in the country have very strict environmental rules. Every resort in the country has to go through CST (Certification for Sustainable Tourism) program. Under this program, the resort has to be made and run in such a way that they have minimum impact on the nature. Some of the key parameters which all the resorts have to maintain is recycling products, implementation of water and energy saving devices, proper disposal of the waste and conservation and expansion of Costa Rica’s forests.

These ecofriendly resorts are built very close to the nature, far from the towns, which gives the visitors a direct access to the natural outdoor. Tourists can very easily hike through the trails from the resort property to the surrounding forests, hill sides and beaches. As they are situated in isolated locations, they are dependent on solar and wind power for electricity and grow their own food with the help of the local people. These resorts are less fancy and no that much luxurious in comparison of the regular resorts, but definitely they provide accommodation in places like these, which is hard to find mostly. Also the Costa Rican food available in eco lodges is very organic, tasty and fresh. Still some of these are providing luxury rooms, villas and bungalows with AC and WIFI facilities.

Not only the stay, the activities offered in Costa Rica resorts is numerous and also very popular, which includes day and night tours to the wild life, hiking tours, horse-back riding tours, tours to the natural hot springs with local eco-guides, volcano views from observation towers, visits to herbal farms, bird watching, dolphin, whale-watching and adventure activities like mountain bike rides, canopy zip line tours, sport fishing, white-water river rafting, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking and scuba diving. Also the resort helps you to properly schedule your activities and tours for you.  So if experiencing nature is your priority travel goal in Costa Rica, these eco lodges will be your priority spots for stay. Here are some popular eco-friendly Costa Rica resorts, Lapa Rios, Luna Nueva Lodge, La Cusinga Lodge, Bosque Del Cabo, Danta Corcovado Lodge, Costa Rica Tree House Lodge, Cerro Escondido and Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge and Reserve.

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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