Costa Rica is a top eco-conscious destination with many properties implementing sustainable initiatives to keep their environmental impact to a minimum to preserve the biodiversity of the country. This movement is a natural extension of the country motto, Pura Vida!

Costa Rica is one of the only countries in the world with a sustainability certification program for accommodations. It details a rigorous set of standards for monitoring properties’ management of natural, social, and cultural resources. The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) oversees the certification program.

Some properties focus on natural building materials and avoiding deforestation, while others have banned plastic or installed solar panels. Many places deserve credit for the work they’ve done thus far to make their businesses greener. Here are five accommodations that are working to be environmentally and socially sustainable:

Rancho Margot – La Fortuna/El Castillo

Rancho Margot is an innovative eco-resort and working ranch that is nearly fully self-sufficient. It was recognized as Costa Rica’s first carbon-negative company in 2012. The holistic sanctuary makes almost everything in-house. More than 50 local workers produce everything, from the organic food served in the open-air restaurant, to soap, and the furniture. Everything has a purpose here, from the vegetable garden to the living roofs that naturally regulate room temperature and bind roof tiles together, while creating an ecosystem for indigenous birds.

The off-the-grid eco-friendly lodging creates no waste. Organic food scraps feed livestock, whose waste creates fertilizer and methane gas used for cooking. Biodiesel from cooking oil powers machinery and is used to create artisan soap and laundry detergent. Energy is generated through solar panels and on-site through hydroelectricity, which also powers the chemical-free pool and a few solar panels.

A cabin at Rancho Margot. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
A cabin at Rancho Margot. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Cala Luna  – Tamarind

Cala Luna is an eco-boutique hotel that offers tourists luxury with mindfulness. The hotel has been awarded the highest sustainable tourism certification from ICT– level five. The wellness retreat is installing one of the largest solar panel projects in the hotel industry in Central America to operate as sustainably as possible. They’re on the path to reach carbon neutrality and 100% solar power by 2019.

Beyond renewable energy, they approach environmentalism and social sustainability by operating an organic farm, employing locals, and producing their own bamboo straws. They’re constantly striving to elevate their ecological practices to reach their sustainability goals, which include a long-term project to phase out single-use plastic bottles for the biodegradable toiletries, trash bag liners, and laundry bags. The poolside restaurant offers fine cuisine that is sustainably sourced, including seafood and bio-dynamic wines to compliment their farm-to-table produce and meats.

Finca Rosa Blanca – Santa Bárbara de Heredia

Finca Rosa Blanca operates all aspects of its hotel and organic coffee plantation sustainably. The property, which is certified by ICT, Rainforest Alliance, and National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, is slightly off-the-beaten-path, but still less than 30-minutes away from Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose. This small-scale hotel is as single-use plastic-free as possible with reusable items everywhere, from the kitchen to the toiletries in the guestrooms.

At Finca Rosa Blanca, sustainability is a top priority. Every detail has been taken into consideration, from the solar-powered pool to the organic farm. Their employees are from the area and they work in their local communities on solutions for recycling, water quality and health problems. Their dedication to environmental and social sustainability is unparalleled, as they’ve led the way in implementing sustainable policies that benefit the environment and community.

Coffee plantation.
Coffee plantation.

The Retreat – Atenas

The Retreat sits on a crop of unique white quartz that’s said to promote healing, which makes it a top wellness destination in Costa Rica. Tucked in the mountains between Costa Rica’s Pacific coast and the capital city of San Jose, The Retreat honors the environment and has a positive impact on the local community.

Nearly all of the employees are from the local community and they help to maintain the organic permaculture garden, which grows produce for farm-to-table cuisine, typically served raw. Occasionally, locally and sustainably sourced fish and meat are also prepared at The Retreat’s restaurant.

The hotel uses only organic and chemical free products–from cleaning supplies to spa treatments. Soon they’ll be swapping out all the chemicals from their infinity pool, which boasts mountain views.

Occidental  – Tamarindo

Occidental Tamarindo is an all-inclusive property that’s conscious of its environmental impact and is making improvements daily. They’ve been awarded the prestigious five leaves certificate from ICT and the Programa Bandera Azul Ecologica (Blue Flag Ecological Program) certification for their efforts to conserve in the Las Baulas National Marine Park where they’re located. The resort prides itself on creating a safe environment for the leatherback turtles that nest on their beach. They operate beach cleanups with staff and guests at Punta Del Madero Beach, where volunteers collect debris and trash.

While Occidental has earned an impressive number of sustainability awards, they still have a long way to go in resolving their single-use plastic use. The property uses a shocking amount of plastic. Fresh fruit is put daily in guest rooms in plastic containers rather than reusable bowls. The guest rooms also have plastic laundry and trash bags as well as toiletries. At the buffet-style restaurant and bars, there are plastic straws and coffee lids. Those examples and others, where properties are striving, but have not yet achieved plastic reductions, show that visitors should always investigate the eco-claims of properties.

Pura Vida - Costa Rica