Costa Rica: A Model of Sustainability And Your Next Adventure

  • 01 of 10

    Welcome to Costa Rica, Land of Green

    Olivia Balsinger

    Pura Vida, one and all. 

    It may not be easy being green, but it seems like Costa Rica is up for the challenge. In fact, over the years, the country has solidified itself as a model of sustainability throughout the globe due to its progressive initiatives in environmental consciousness.

    This "paraíso" was recently voted "The Greenest and Happiest" country in the world in 2009 by The New Economics Foundation and is the first and only country considered to be a "BioGem" by the Natural Resource Council.

    And a model for the rest of the world is right. About 30 percent of Costa Rica's landmass is held in reserve. The country additionally produces more than 93 percent of its own energy through renewable means including wind power, hydroelectric and geothermal power. The country also conserves about 30 percent of its natural territory. ​

    And so much beauty to sustain, as Costa Rica is considered to be one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Though approximately the same size geographically as West Virginia, Costa Rica is home to about five percent of the planet's total biodiversity! Costa Rica is home to about 20 natural parks and eight biological reserve scattered throughout. 

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  • 02 of 10

    But there's more!

    Olivia Balsinger

    With so much beauty to sustain and such successful sustainable practices, Costa Rica is the ideal destination for the most avid nature lover or for the traveler looking to become acquainted with the greens of our planet by immersing themselves in the country's impossibly verdant landscapes. 

    The adventure is endless in Costa Rica. The hum of "Pura Vida"--eternal optimism--rings through the hills and mountains, down the footpaths towards billowing waterfalls, along with the coastal Pacific coast's volcanic black sand beaches, even in the verdant canopies, swinging alongside the sloths and the toucans.

    Activity is everywhere. North. South. East. West -- Each corner touched with a paintbrush of greens, blues, purples, and yellows, flowering dramatically or detailed concisely throughout. Every few miles you will be sure to see something new, and as equally breathtaking as the last.

    Vamanos! What are we waiting for?!

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  • 03 of 10

    La Fortuna de San Carlos

    Olivia Balsinger

    The town of La Fortuna is a particularly ideal base to become immersed in some of nature's most intense offerings.

    "La Fortuna" translates to "The Fortune" and is a constant reminder of the town's intimate connection with Arenal Volcano. The Volcano erupted in 1968, spewing gas, ash, and rocks for days--death and homes were destroyed in all neighboring towns. But not in La Fortuna.

    The town was saved by the volcano that it now takes such monumental presence. Indeed, there is a saying that "from Sugar Bread to powerful volcano: a natural catastrophe converted La Fortuna on what it is nowadays, an obligatory touristic destination."

    That La Fortuna was able to thrive after a small brush with catastrophe speaks volumes to the symbiotic relationship that the country has developed with the natural world; a mutual respect, but also a reminder that there are forces more powerful than what can be perceived, no matter how long you design or prepare a destination to your ideal.

    In this sense, Costa Rica's conservation efforts can be seen in an almost spiritual light; caring for and protecting Earth blindly, instilling confidence that She will always serve you to her best. 

    And La Fortuna is certainly not lacking in activity choice now, with options for beach bums, adrenaline junkies and everyone in between. Thrill seekers can drool over a wide range of activities, including horseback riding, whitewater rafting, waterfall rappelling, hiking, canopy tours, cave explorations and enjoying the natural hot springs created by the volcano's heat.

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  • 04 of 10

    Farm Experience The Granja Eco Truistica Cooking Experience

    Olivia Balsinger

     The Granja Eco Truistica cooking experience transcends traditional activities in Costa Rica, as it truly allows visitors to not only become acquainted with the nation’s significant tradition of agriculture, but immerse themselves completely in it.

    The truly amazing project is the brainchild of brothers Jose "Toño" Antonio and Danilo Sibaja Moreno, who envisioned it as a place for visitors to have a comprehensive understanding of the lifestyle of the Costa Rican farmer, focusing on the correct handling of natural resources and our impact on the environment.  Having learned the intricate skills of tilling the ground, handling the yoke of oxen, grinding cane in the mill, and the reward of honest hard work. After a fascinating immersion with agricultural practices and animal husbandry, partake in a cooking lesson like nothing else--using delicious ingredients picked ripe from the exquisite grounds, incorporated into traditional Costa Rican flare.

    You might take more than enough test takes before you get to sit down and enjoy your fresh cooked meal. 

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  • 05 of 10

    La Fortuna Tour Operator Experience: Desafio Adventure Co.

    Olivia Balsinger

    No matter how lovely it sounds, you don't go to Costa Rica only to sit in your resort and enjoy pina coladas all afternoon. Sure, there will be the time to unwind and live a day in slow motion, just basking in the beauty of your surroundings.

    But when it's that adrenaline rush and feeling of living on the edge that you're craving, La Fortuna and Desafio Adventure Company is where to begin. The tours are very easy to book--no further tour operator needed--and are suitable for children ages 15 and up.

    Dubbed the most extreme way to interact with nature, push yourself out of your comfort zone to embark on the Gravity Falls Tour, where you will be led (safely!) through canyons 10 meters high and through ravines of clear, rushing water.

    Perhaps the most arduous, breathtaking portion of the tour is rappelling down a 140-foot tropical rushing waterfall. There is nothing to make you feel invincible like looking down from the billowing, pounding water into the deep pool of crystal clear water. Test your limits during a hike through the rain forest by putting your faith in gravity: jump off elevated faces, crawl through caves and tiptoe on the edge of cliffs.  

    The stunning Lake Arneal, which looks like something straight off of a movie set, is the prime spot to try one of the world's hottest new sports: Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP). For those who have never been the most graceful at surfing: Have no fear! The boards are incredibly buoyant and wide, allowing even first-timers to stand and soak in the glory of the surroundings. If you are feeling especially comfortable, try yoga and meditation pose on the board to elevate yourself just a little bit higher. ​

    Dry off post water activities with a high energy mountain biking experience that takes you through the forests and villages of the Costa Rican landscape. The country is not new to mountain biking--in fact, the Ruta de los Conquistadores, an extreme adventure race, takes place in La Fortuna every year! With tours for novices and biking connoisseurs alike--ranging from a few hours to an all day adventure-- all who desire to add a little scenic adventure into their itinerary are able to do so.

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  • 06 of 10

    Where To Stay: Hotel Arenal Manoa

    Olivia Balsinger

    Intimate yet chalk full of activities, The Hotel Arenal Manoa is the place to rest following the busiest itineraries in La Fortuna. This stunning property is in close proximity to many activites in the town and the dormant Arenal Volcano looming in the background, The Hotel Arenal Manoa stands out.

    Developed in sync with the lush nature surrounding it, hotel guests enjoy the sprawling pastures, gardens, and wildlife distinct to Costa Rica. In fact, a sign on property encourages guests to be mindful of crocodiles!

    In addition to a luxurious grounds that encourage meditation and mind relaxation, an elegant spa sits on the property, designed to escape the hectic realities of the world beyond its quarters. Treatments at the spa include  Swedish, Aromatherapy, Hot Stone Massage, Reflexology and Body & Facial therapies.

    Interested in learning more about the way of life in La Fortuna prior to the development of tourism post the volcano's eruption?  An interactive tour through the property highlights main productive activities of the Manoa farm, including the Los Palmitos trail, milk, and egg production, along with a visit with the farm sheep, pigs, and chickens.

    After a busy day of exploring La Fortuna, relax and retreat to one of the hotel's junior suites, each designed to showcase a panoramic view of the volcano through the large glass windows and on the terraces.

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  • 07 of 10

    Monteverde Explorin'

    Olivia Balsinger

    Monteverde, directly translated to "green mountain," is a pivotal spot for eco-tourism in Costa Rica. Home to a plethora of volcanos, both active and dormant, the area is known worldwide for being a cloud forest, with reserves that adventure seekers, scientists, bird and animal watchers dream​ about.  On a clear day, visitors are at enough an elevation to see both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

    Nestled high in the verdant mountains, Monteverde is home to The Extremo Canopy Tour, an adventure high about the trees and amidst the area's famous clouds. The course spans over nearly two miles, and includes a "superman line," Tarzan swing, a rappel and a new tunnel cable.

    Adrenaline pumping through your veins following the course? Never fear. Channel your inner daredevil while bungee jumping from the highest bungee jump in Central America. A short tram and cable bring you to a platform of 143 meters, high above the foliage. Now all there is left to do is scream "Pura Vida!"  and let gravity do the rest.

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  • 08 of 10

    Surfs Up at Jaco Beach

    Olivia Balsinger

    While Costa Rica is certainly more than just a beach destination, heading west to check out the Pacific Coast and Jaco Beach can (and should!) be seamlessly incorporated into any itinerary. Jaco beach is the closest beach to San Jose in the Central Valley and is continually one of the most visited destinations in the country! 

    That quintessential median between sun soaking and adventure seeking, Jaco is easily reached--about 100 kilometers (or about a two-hour drive) from the capital San José and an hour and a half from Costa Rica's primary international airport, Juan Santamaría International. The black volcanic sand is especially noteworthy, as it is contrasted by the vibrant aqua of the Pacific waves. Test your balance with a surfing lesson, explore the Costa Rican rain forest by horseback or sea kayak to remote caves. 

    Learn about the local flora and fauna of Costa Rica's rain forests as you traverse the green trails on horseback. ​Commute between its splendid beaches, remote villages, and tucked-away waterfalls via ATV tours. Trying to raise that heart rate? Try your hand at sport fishing, paragliding, sea kayaking, or even bungee jumping! For those surfers with considerably more experience, you must check out La Roca Loca and Playa Hermosa for a challenge. You may find that wave you had always been looking for...And once you've had your fill of adventure, simply enjoy a stroll or siesta near one of the area's beautiful waterfalls and gardens. 

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  • 09 of 10

    Where To Stay: Hotel El Establo

    Olivia Balsinger

    Stay at  Hotel El Establo if you've ever wondered what its like falling asleep in the clouds and waking up to the in the midst of the cloud forest to the sun rising the vast forest below.

    An adventure in and of itself, the resort boasts heated indoor pools, restaurants, café-bars, special events center, internet access, souvenirs shop, tennis court, basketball court, mini soccer court, hiking trails, an evening canopy tour to enjoy a rare view of Costa Rican nature and spa. The Green Leaf Spa aims to rejuvenate body and soul, with hot stone, deep tissue, aromatherapy, facials, and clay or algae wraps. 

    Additionally, as stated on the hotel's website: "We also have a serious commitment to the environment and promote sustainable and responsible practices that ensure the minimum impact to our most valuable resource… 'nature.'"

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  • 10 of 10

    Sustainable Costa Rica

    Olivia Balsinger

    Costa Rica is an example for the rest of the world. It is currently on track to become one of the most sustainable countries on this planet--and the first carbon-neutral country by 2020.

    However, Costa Rica hasn't always been such a model of sustainability. In 1940 more than 75 percent of the country was covered in lush forests. Fast forward to 1987 where just over 20 percent of the country was still forest land. However, this extremely rapid deforestation produced many negative outcomes quite quickly--the soil became much more infertile and there was a significant decrease in the clean air and water for Costa Rican citizens. 

    Conservation became the name of the game. Policies were implemented by the government to encourage healthy and sustainable initiatives. Organic farming and agriculture were encouraged, more national park land was established, and even ecotourism began to come into fruition. 

    And that, frankly, is why we say "Pura Vida" so often now. And completely mean it.