With “Eco” labels becoming more and more common in everything from clothing to travel, it can be difficult to differentiate between “greenwashing” (simply slapping an “eco” label on a standard product or experience) and authentic “Eco” experiences. With a huge percentage of the world’s biodiversity and a stunning range of habitats and protected areas, Costa Rica is rightfully one of the world’s top destinations for Costa Rica student tours. However, even in such a biodiversity paradise as Costa Rica, many travellers can miss connecting with the heart of the country. All inclusive resorts, typical packaged tours or cruises are sure to be relaxing and fun, but to truly have an Eco-immersion travel experience in Costa Rica, you should aim to go off the beaten path to seek authentic connections with the local people you meet, the incredible natural surroundings, and the inspiring pioneers for sustainability that seek to protect this amazing land for generations to come.
Eco-Travel is about truly connecting and immersing yourself in nature, not just viewing it from the window of the bus or stopping for a photo op on your way to the pool. Unplugging from the stresses of daily life and spending a night under the stars is one of the best ways to do this, and one of the coolest places to accomplish just that is at Diamante Verde. Tucked into verdant lowland rainforest near the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Diamante Verde is one of the most magical places in the country. A literally breathtaking hike up through the forest takes you to your accommodations – comfortable cots in a giant open cave tucked behind a waterfall. Surprisingly dry and comfortable, this is your base for exploring the surrounding forest, swimming holes, and rappelling along the side of the beautiful waterfall. Enjoy a delicious dinner as you soak in the view out over the rainforest to the ocean. A night here is unlike any other experience in Costa Rica, and sure to have you feeling connected with the natural beauty of the country in ways you never thought possible.
Eco-travel is not just about appreciating the nature, but is also about exploring the issues facing our planet and supporting positive solutions for sustainability. Costa Rica is home to many innovators in sustainability, from organic farmers to pioneers of off-grid living. Punta Mona, on the Southern Caribbean coast, is one of the most inspiring examples of seeking sustainable solutions, in Costa Rica and around the world. An off the grid permaculture farm and lodge in the middle of the Gandoca Manzanillo wildlife reserve, Punta Mona is one of the best places on earth to learn about and be inspired by ideas for living lightly. From composting toilets to edible gardens, permaculture education programs, and more, Punta Mona is a can’t-miss destination for anyone looking to learn about the future of sustainability. Charismatic founder, Stephen Brooks, will lead you on an edible adventure through the farm that will have you looking at connections between food, home, and planet in a whole new light.
Finally, authentic Eco-travel is also about connecting with the people of the country you are visiting – people who live in, use, and shape the natural environments. Engaging with warm and welcoming “Ticos” is one of the best routes to gain a deeper understanding of Costa Rica. The most effective way to do this with limited travel time is through a home-stay with a family in a rural village. The village of Santa Barbara, in Guanacaste, is a fantastic place for this. Guanacaste is the cultural epicenter of Costa Rica, and the area of the country that has maintained rich cultural traditions in daily life. In the unique tropical dry forest environment of Guanacaste, the hardworking people of Santa Barbara balance cattle farming with traditional crafts work and tortilla making to subsist. A few days spent in the town will allow you the chance to learn how to cook a mean “casado”, the typical Costa Rican meal, play the marimba, and make clay pottery by hand. Your welcoming host family will help you feel at home as you settle into small town life. A home-stay allows for a truly unique experience that will enrich every aspect of your time in Costa Rica, from your language skills, to understanding of the history, food, culture, and environment of the country.
For travellers truly looking for a meaningful educational tour experience, there is no better place than Costa Rica. Be sure to make the most of your experience there by seeking authentic experiences that go beyond a vacation and an “eco” label. With all there is to see and do in this tiny country, be sure to get off the beaten path and engage with nature, people, and sustainability for the eco-immersion experience of a lifetime!
Crawford Hill is the owner and director of Costa Rican Adventures an educational travel company focused on cultural immersion. An expedition leader, former biology teacher, and educational innovator, Hill has been guiding students and adults on wilderness adventures since 1974. Over the years, Hill has led thousands of students and families on experiential learning trips to Costa Rica, Belize, the Galapagos Islands, Peru and Spain. Hill revels in the opportunity to be able to work with students and families across the country with the world as his classroom.
This post was part of a sponsored editorial partnership with Costa Rican Adventures.