Some would argue that Costa Rica, which encompasses one of the most beautiful and biologically diverse regions on Earth, leads the world in ecotourism. Others would go so far as to suggest that it successfully pioneered the concept on a mass scale decades ago. In order to understand ecotourism in Costa Rica and its benefits as a national conservation, community development and sustainable travel phenomenon, a quick peek into history explains a lot. And it will make you want to visit Costa Rica even more!
First let’s take a look at what we mean by ecotourism, which as defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) is “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” (TIES, 1990). This often involves visiting natural, pristine, exotic and often threatened areas in order to support conservation efforts and or observe wildlife up close and personal.
History in Costa Rica
Of all Latin American countries, Costa Rica is historically unique in many regards, particularly with regard to the government’s conscious effort and path toward sustainability and development. For example, the constitution of Costa Rica was created in 1949, and one noteworthy feature of it is the clause forbidding the creation of an army and the early abolition of armed services. This not only kept Costa Rica out of the constant turmoil that plagued other Latin American countries, but it also freed up large amounts of public funds for other services such as education, health care and…conservation.
In fact, a national understanding of the value of Costa Rica’s forests resulted in mandates for a significant portion of the country to be protected as national parks and reserves, providing the opportunity for revenue from ecotourism and alternative forms of forest based economic activity. Although constantly threatened by other economic pressures that resulted in the ongoing deforestation which plagued many neighboring and other tropical countries, Costa Rica has stayed on course with its conservation policies. As a result, the country continues to shelter approximately 5% of the world’s biodiversity (an estimated one half million species!), while allowing the tourist industry as a significant economic driver to expand further.
If you want to experience one of the world’s premier ecotourism offerings – if not the preeminent ecotourism destination, then be sure to discover all that Costa Rica has to offer with Natural Habitat Adventures, including rainforests, active volcanoes, wildlife and loads of new adventures.