Green Getaway

Costa Rica keeps a low carbon footprint, and a large part of its economy is bursting with ecotourism. The lush green jungles and tropical waters are a perfect green getaway. Read below for more from, The New Costa Rica.

“I had spent the last two weeks tumbling through this lush country as a so-called ecotourist. I had hiked through misty cloud forests, hovered over a VW-sized green sea turtle as it laid eggs on a Caribbean beach, and shot through the rain-forest canopy on a zipline that crossed gorges 1,000 feet deep. I had also been peed on by a howler monkey and, finally, spoiled so rotten at a seaside resort that I was ­irritated at how long it had been since anyone had taken my drink order.

Bound to the north by Nicaragua and to the south by Panama, Costa Rica is the science geek of Central America. It has the highest literacy rate and standard of living in the region. While its neighbors were fighting civil wars, Costa Rica—the first country ever to constitutionally abolish its army, in 1949—was studying moss and saving sea turtles. It could be Al Gore’s poster child.

Costa Rica’s green era began in 1970, when, following nearly 50 years of unrestricted logging, lawmakers founded what would become a heralded national park system. The country’s political serenity attracted a group of mostly American entrepreneurs, who by the end of the decade had set up the first lodges and adventure outfitters. It was small business. There were few direct flights into the country and little available money to promote Costa Rica as a destination. The few thousand people per year who came were mostly backpackers and hard-core birders who didn’t mind sleeping in simple spaces in order to enjoy the biodiverse rain forests, raftable rapids, and pristine beaches.

The following day, I left by boat for a port near Limon, where I transferred to a van that would carry my group to Arenal, the site of an active volcano and surrounding cloud forest. As we got closer, we saw signs along the lush roadside advertising lots and houses for sale—mostly in English: lake view, virgin forest. New hotels and spas were under construction. “All of this used to be watermelon farms and things like that,” our driver said, somewhat wistfully.

I left this paradise in a Hola! Rent-a-Car with a trunk that didn’t open, setting off south for the beach town of Nosara. (For the record, Kelso departed in a striped black helicopter.) When I arrived in front of my new hotel that night, I was greeted by Luis, the same man who had set me up with the one-way rental in the morning; he was there to retrieve it. This was indeed convenient, but having torn myself from the lap of luxury, I couldn’t imagine anything could console me. I was pleasantly surprised, however, as soon as I was ushered into the aptly named Harmony Hotel.

Three years ago, the land on which the Harmony sits was about to be turned into a condominium complex when American entrepreneur and environmentalist John Johnson bought it in order to save it. Having never been involved in the hotel business before, he hired a team of eco-consultants who designed a 24-room beachside property—including a yoga studio, a juice bar, and a pool—that not only aspires to be environmentally sound but also employs an on-site sustainability coordinator to make sure that it is.”

For more check out Travel and Leisure.