‘Greenwashing’ Costa Rica

Travel Blog  •  Joanna Kakissis  •  01.23.09 | 11:46 AM ET

Tamarindo, Costa RicaPhoto by mikesten via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Eco tourism is a Costa Rican brand. This lush Central American country has long topped green and sustainable travel lists, marketing many of its accommodations as eco-lodges and eco-resorts. It promotes itself as a tropical paradise with stunning biodiversity and “no artificial ingredients.” While that may be true in the country’s forests and national preserves, the scene at the beach town of Tamarindo is not exactly one for the eco-travel brochures.

My friend Chris Welsch recently traveled to the once-quiet fishing village on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast and discovered a town overrun by malls, fast-food franchises, over-development, traffic, drug dealers and water tainted with fecal matter. His moving and troubling story in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune juxtaposed the plight of besieged locals with that of the leatherback turtle, a species which has lived on this planet for more than 100 million years but is now listed as critically endangered due in part to habitat loss and light pollution along Tamarindo’s shore.

You can also check out Chris’s excellent photographs from his Costa Rica travels.

Joanna Kakissis's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post, among other publications. A contributor to the World Hum blog, she's currently a Ted Scripps fellow in environmental journalism at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

6 Comments for ‘Greenwashing’ Costa Rica

Eco Resort 01.23.09 | 4:33 PM ET

Didn’t actually know that Costa Rica was such an eco resort mecca. I have always wanted to visit there, so I am definitely going to go the eco lodge route. Thanks for posting!

Rick Thomas 01.23.09 | 5:52 PM ET

Costa Rica is an amazing place.  Lush rainforests rich with an abundance of wildlife and fauna. 

I agree that there are areas that have been over commercialized but there are still many areas that seem to have stopped in time and preserved its past for future generations.

James 01.23.09 | 5:57 PM ET

I have been lucky enough to travel to Costa Rica about 7-8 times.  There are many eco friendly lodges where you can stay in an area that is striving to preserve its beauty. 

View nature up close and personal.  Green macaws, howler monkeys, flocks of migrating birds. 

Costa Rica is a natural gem that we all must preserve.

Kelly Galaski 01.25.09 | 8:30 PM ET

Reading Chris Welch’s article in the Star Tribune inspired me to write about my own experiences in both sides of Costa Rica. My blog entry is here http://www.greenspot.travel/blog/green-green-battle-costa-ricas-north-coast

The important thing to remember when traveling to Costa Rica (or any place) is that your choice as a major impact. If we keep demanding massive resorts on beaches saturated with construction in dry areas with not enough water, with no benefits accruing to locals, they will continue to be built. Celebrate and support those businesses that are built with the environment, biodiversity, and local communities in mind and maybe Costa Rica will be able to continue to be one of the best places in the world to explore wildlife and plantlife in its undisturbed form.

glenn 01.26.09 | 5:00 PM ET

I read your blog and I see you like Costa Rica as much as I do. I am sure you already know there are many things you can do while you are in CR but like most people you never know where to look to fine the best places to go. So if you are looking for the best things to do while you are in Costa Rica then check out http://www.top10costarica.com as I find they have they cover ALL you could ever what to know.

Eco Interactive 02.04.09 | 9:45 AM ET

I would say this is certainly true of Tamarindo.  The place is a mess.  Jaco has simuliar problems.  However I would not say that either of these destinations are representative of Costa Rica as a whole.

Great blog here on Costa Rica:


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