There is a battle going on. Years ago when I visited Tamarindo it was starting. Foreign-owned condos and large all-inclusive resorts conveniently located near the northern international airport at Liberia are taking over a place where massive leather-back turtles are finding less and less peace and quiet to do their nesting. A place where alerts for bacteria in swimming areas due to lack of infrastructure for hotels is a problem. JacÃ³, also on the Pacific coast in the middle of the country is experiencing a lot of the same. The awful picture of the condos going up all in a row amid the trees right on the waterÂ is an example. Costa Ricans didn’t create this mess. Costa Rican development while some may say has happened in a haphazard and unplanned way, has at least taken surroundings into account. Buildings in Dominical for example, are set back behind the natural vegation, making the beach framed by a wild backdrop of palms.Â
When we were there last year we were sad toÂ see the changes.Â On the one hand, prosperity has come to the region. There are work opportunities for a lot of people. ButÂ unfortunately, prosperity has taken its toll in other ways and it couldÂ have been designed in a muchÂ moreÂ sustainable way.
The lodges we love to celebrate and recommend to our clients are examples ofÂ sustainability that not only have taken into account the impact building a hotel has on the naturalÂ environment, but also the daily operations, the electricity usage, theÂ water usage – especially important in drier zones which Tamarindo is havingÂ to deal with now, and the waste production.
Another important factor to think aboutÂ is who is benefitting fromÂ large-scale developments? Are the staff membersÂ Costa Rican?Â Is there any other benefit they are receiving besides some (low-paying) jobs?Â If a lodge is contributing to its localÂ economy it should be purchasing products including food and building materials locally. Many of theÂ lodges we recommend to our clients such as Harmony Hotel, Finca Rosa Blanca and Lapa Rios support one or moreÂ local schools in addition to major contributions to biodiversity conservation. Â
Over the years of living and traveling in Costa Rica, we have discovered alternative places that our clients love because they are places that are still in balance, where wildlife flourishes and the people touch your hearts.Â We like to support those making efforts to maintain Costa Rica’s natural beauty so that we can continue to travel there knowing our travel choices are making positive impacts.
See more on the Star Tribune’s The Price of Paradise.