Costa Rica classic vacation

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Costa Rica classic vacation

Environment

Costa Rica is known as one of the most environmentally-friendly countries in the world. En-route to becoming the first carbon-neutral country by 2021, this vibrant destination with a flourishing democracy utilizes eco-tourism to supercharge its economy. They practically invented ecotourism, and over 25% of the country is a protected reserve. During this trip you will be visiting a good selection of these important reserves. The country runs a successful conservation initiative called the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST). This recognises services committed to preserving the environment and sustainability of the country. Costa Rica also has a Blue Flag programme and around 30% of the total land area in Costa Rica is protected, making the country a prime destination for hikers who want to experience the best of Costa Rica's rainforest.

Tortuguero (turtle catcher) National Park is made up of myriad canals is best seen from the water. It is one of Costa Ricas most popular ecotourism destinations. Here your guide will help you identify different species such as spider, capuchin and howler monkeys, sloths and a wide variety of birds. Marine wildlife includes crocodiles and turtles, and among the plants are beautiful orchids and waterlilies.

At Arenal, the hanging bridges await! Marvel at one of the most beautiful eco-tourism projects in Costa Rica. As well as the local species, the area is full of migratory species too. With over 250 hectares of protected land covered primarily in rainforest, the area contains immeasurable biological diversity. Your guide takes on a thoroughly absorbing walk in the rainforest, incorporating a series of 16 hanging bridges, sturdy structures set at various heights from which you can look out into and over the forest at the base of Arenal. Birds, monkeys, reptiles and insects abound, and you come away with a great appreciation of life in the rainforest. The trails are designed with modern technology to be enjoyed by anyone and offer great security and comfort while not disturbing the environment.

With a unique environment created by changes in altitude, areas around volcanoes are a breeding ground for rich biodiversity that you won’t be able to see anywhere else in the world. Arenal Conservation Area protects some 16 reserves between the Tilarán and Guanacaste mountain ranges, including the Chato and Arenal Volcanos. Chato has been inactive for nearly 3,500 years and has a collapsed crater that contains a picture-perfect lagoon, however, Arenal is still active. Arenal plays a large role in Costa Rica's power production. You might spot deer, tapir, howler monkeys, white-faced monkeys and snakes, or birds like parrots, orioles and brown magpies. Plants include various species of palms and bromeliads (including the endemic specie Pitcaimia Funkiae), guayabo de monte, bait, ceiba, cirri, laurel, higuerones, fungi, orchids, and ferns.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve of the Tropical Science Centre was the first private area for the conservation of wildlife founded in Costa Rica in October of 1972. It houses 2.5% of worldwide biodiversity and 10% of its flora is endemic. What we call clouds is actually mist produced by the high humidity at the elevation of 1,600 meters above sea level. The moisture catches around the branches of the tallest trees, harbouring a thriving ecosystem below resulting in a reserve which encompasses a 26,000-acre biozone, brimming with a marvellous diversity of wildlife and plant life.

As an example of the properties we work with within Costa Rica, Lomas del Volcan, one of our preferred hotels in the Arenal area, has a clear sustainability policy covering environmental and socio-economic policies in line with their work alongside the Costa Rican Tourism Institute and the National Accreditation Commission for Tourism Sustainability Certification (CST).

The Trapp Hotel in Monteverde participates in the CST programme. The CST has 5 levels of achievement based on the degree of compliance of different sustainable practices involving natural, cultural and social resource management and the Trapp Hotel is a level 4 certified property. They have a waste management program and recycling program. They do Vermicomposting, with uncooked organic waste from our restaurant and the cooked waste from the restaurant is donated for food to a local pig farm. They have a wastewater treatment plant, awareness Campaign for daily washing of towels, rainwater reuse programme, biodegradable cleaning products, as well as personal care products. They are allies of the Bellbird Biological Corridor, quantify their carbon footprint every year, have reduction goals and compensate these emissions (carbon offset), they support health, sports, environmental and cultural projects in nearby communities, all of their employees are from the Monteverde area or nearby communities and most of the hotel furniture and decorations were handcrafted by local and national artisans or company.

All of the properties we use in Costa Rica are opposed to the use of single use plastics, in line with the country’s determination to become plastic free by 2021. Therefore, the use of disposable bags, cups, straws, cutlery, and bottles is discouraged, and we suggest that guests travel with a refillable bottle for drinks. The ground services provider participates in a programme which is part of the Project "Donatapa". This initiative collects plastic container lids, in order to make ramps with them, so that people with disabilities can have access to the beaches of Costa Rica. The use of stereoron is prohibited in the company, and the cleaning supplies containers are returned, to the supplier for reuse. When is possible, drums of drinking water are put into the vehicles used on the ground, in order to use refill bottles and reduce the amount of plastic bottles delivered. They have a Waste Collection Centre where they have control of the waste they generated and involve their staff and clients. Every week they weigh out the materials and deliver it to the center that will be processing them for recycling.

The tour operator is a multi-award-winning responsible travel company. Every person that travels with this company automatically has their flights carbon offset. This is done through The Travel Forest. The Travel Forest plants indigenous trees to offset the carbon emissions produced when you fly on vacation. Whilst this is the primary motivation for planting the trees, the project also works as a poverty alleviation scheme and aims to combat environmental degradation

The UK head office has a good policy of recycling, reducing and re-using (electricity, paper, plastic etc). They also buy only fair-trade goods such as tea, coffee, and use biodegradable detergents etc. They also make a point of buying only top eco-rated equipment (e.g. monitors).

Community

Local guides and drivers are used throughout this trip, and lodges which promote using local staff. We've weaved in visits to local villages on this trip. The visit to Tortuguero village for example, gives a good insight into local life and culture, and an understanding of how the villagers back the turtles protection projects, or the women’s cooperative in Monteverde cloudforest to see and buy home-made crafts.

Whether in San Jose, or Guanacaste, we always encourage and advise visitors to try local restaurants and buy locally-made products. Local artisan markets, such as the Mercado Nacional de Artesanias in San Jose, are great places. Many local artists sell their crafts here and are very honest about the origins of their materials to ensure that what has caught your eye is an authentic product of Costa Rica. Among all the eco-tourism activities in Costa Rica, a tour around Costa Rica’s organic farms is still the best way to not only enjoy local fare but learn about how the nation produces its fresh ingredients. Corsa Lecheria, 50 minutes from San Jose, will have you walking through cloud forests and vibrant strawberry fields.

The company offering this vacation works with partners on the ground in each destination, and only uses local guides. They also primarily promote locally-owned services, hotels and restaurants etc with a clear preference for any accommodations which has great environmental and social responsibility credentials. This information allows their travelers to make informed decisions based on ecological and sustainability factors, to ensure they are really making a difference when choosing from the available accommodation options.

The company also backs a charity with funds and administration. This is a registered UK charity whose principle aim is to relieve the poverty of indigenous communities in areas outside of the UK which are affected by tourism. The charity backs poverty alleviation, education, cultural preservation and conservation projects within these regions. It has backed schools, clinics, micro-business projects and more around the globe. Travelers are encouraged to donate to the company projects if they would like to give something back.

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