Costa Rica is a popular vacation destination because there’s so much to explore. While you daydream about your upcoming vacation, you might wonder how to spend time having fun without compromising your eco-friendly lifestyle.

Check out these sustainable things to do when traveling in Costa Rica to plan the ultimate green getaway. You’ll fill every minute of your adventure with plenty of fun without accidentally harming the environment.

Sunset while traveling in Costa Rica

1. Surf at Tamarindo Beach

After unloading your luggage at your chosen lodgings, stretch your legs and find the nearest beach. Don’t forget to rent a surfboard while you’re on your way. Tamarindo Beach is one of the best places to ride the waves.

Surfing is sustainable if you don’t leave any litter on the sands. Become one with nature and appreciate how the oceans give back to the planet to kick off your sustainable trip while traveling in Costa Rica.

Hotel recommendation: La Ramona – a gorgeous small hotel with a lovely pool and beautifully decorated rooms

2. Raft Down the Savegre River

You could also appreciate Earth’s beauty by booking a whitewater rafting tour. Many people float down the Savegre River because it has rapids for Class Two, Three and Four.

If you’re interested in going, bring everything you’ll need for the day. No matter which rapids class you choose, the tours last the entire day because the river is an extended adventure. Bring your loved ones or go by yourself — either way, it’ll be one of your favorite sustainable things to do while traveling in Costa Rica.

3. Tour Arenal National Park

Tourists and locals love touring Arenal National Park because there are plenty of hiking trails for beginner and expert adventurers. You could also bring a pair of binoculars if you love spotting birds. Experts estimate over 850 species live in the park, along with other animals like jaguars, capuchin monkeys, and coati.

Hotel recommendation: Casa Torre Eco Lodge – Wow! What an amazing view of Arenal Volcano while hanging around in a relaxing hammock.

Wildlife & nature in Costa Rica’s national parks

4. Get Locally Made Souvenirs

Souvenirs are available at any vacation destination. You’ll find them in most stores around tourist attractions or popular spots, but many get shipped in from production facilities in other countries. The brands that make them may also not have the most sustainable business practices.

Goods made by local Costa Rican artists won’t present the same environmentally harmful problems — they come from nearby and help the local economy. You’ll support the country’s creative minds when you purchase treasures that didn’t have to fly or float across oceans to reach you while you’re traveling in Costa Rica.

5. Visit the Trapiche Sugar Mill

Monteverde is one of the many popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica. It’s also home to numerous ecotourism activities. Add the Trapiche Sugar Mill to your list while gathering ideas for your upcoming adventure.

It’s a big tourist attraction in Monteverde because while you’re there, you’ll learn about how farmers grow crops in the area. Wear your best hiking boots, too — a tour guide will lead you on a hike that winds through farmland.
In the end, you’ll even get locally-made sweets that didn’t pollute the environment because there was no need to ship them. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this could become your favorite sustainable thing to do while traveling in Costa Rica.

6. See the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

You don’t want to travel in Costa Rica without experiencing the cloud-misted trails in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Tree frogs cling to trees as hikers pass them on their way to the peak. Plenty of other creatures also live in the reserve, which houses 2.5% of the planet’s biodiversity within its protected borders.

Whenever you make an eco-friendly decision at home, your contributions to the planet keep places like the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve alive. Take every opportunity to witness nature in action while you’re on your next vacation that prioritizes its well-being. You’ll return with renewed energy and motivation to continue helping the planet thrive.

Hotel recommendation: Belcruz Family Lodge – Beautiful rooms with a gorgeous view of the natural surroundings


7. Watch Whales Together

Anyone traveling to Costa Rica between July and October or December and February could see whales on a boat tour. Local guides know precisely how to make the most out of this sustainable adventure when traveling in Costa Rica. They know where they surface, so you can see them safely.

The boats are typically small, as the tour guide companies don’t want to disturb the whales’ natural habitat. Bring your camera and prepare to snap a few pictures if you decide to go. You never know when a humpback whale will leap into the air to pose for the ultimate Instagram update.

8. Stop by Caño Island

You could choose to visit any island in the world, but Caño Island is the biological reserve that will align best with your sustainable values. It’s home to multiple protected plant and animal species above and below the water lapping its coasts. If you sign up early enough, you could be one of the few people who get to see it each day.

The park rangers limit how many people are on the island at any given time to prevent tourism and waste from ruining the environment. You can enjoy every minute without worrying about how your visit affects the area’s biodiversity.

9. Zipline Through the Jaco Rainforest

Ziplining is another sustainable thing to do while you’re traveling in Costa Rica. It’s an activity that doesn’t produce pollution or change how the environment develops. Instead, you’ll glide through trees while they continue growing alongside each other.

Many ziplining courses also go on for longer than a few minutes of glide time. Consider how much of your day you’ll spend in the air while browsing tours that include multi-platform zipline routes. Some even include stops for food at locally-owned restaurants, which means you can enjoy authentic Costa Rican food grown nearby.

Ziplining while traveling in Costa Rica

10. Explore a Local Market

Most towns in Costa Rica have downtown markets where local farmers bring their seasonal harvests. It’s worth stopping by one after choosing your destination. The town’s public calendar will show you where and when to make a visit. You’ll get to explore the culinary world of homegrown food that didn’t pollute the atmosphere with carbon dioxide to reach the market.

There may also be a few farmers who advertise their green farming strategies. Any food grown without chemical fertilizers will align with your eco-friendly lifestyle. Purchase enough food to get through your trip and you could travel even more sustainably in Costa Rica by cooking every meal in your rental lodgings.

11. Camp at Tortuguero National Park

Camping takes sustainable vacationing to another level — you won’t have to use electricity or machinery that relies on fossil fuels to eat, sleep or have fun. Many people camp in Tortuguero National Park while traveling in Costa Rica because it’s easy to access and a mostly untouched environment.

Except for your campsite, you’ll get to hike through forests and swim in rivers that no one has ever tried to develop. It’s nature at its best, so consider spending a night under the stars to appreciate the planet’s beauty. Remember to collect all your trash and recycle whatever you can when your camping adventure ends.

12. Explore Corcovado National Park

Curious hikers can also walk the trails that wind through Corcovado National Park. The protected rainforest has everything from swamps to beaches. You could eat a picnic lunch by a river before hiking to the crown jewel of international rainforests.

Pack extra water to stay hydrated and enjoy a beverage on a boat trip back to town. With a backpack and a permit, you can spend all day under the canopy of leaves.

Hotel recommendation: La Cotinga Biological Station – You feel like you’re in the middle of a jungle, but in a super nice wooden house. What a wonderful experience!

Amazing nature in Costa Rica’s national parks

13. Donate to Carbon-Offsetting Programs

After flying to your lodgings, you may want to relax before exploring the country for the first time. While sitting on your couch or bed, consider donating to carbon-offsetting programs.

You’ll need to calculate the distance flown between your hometown, your Costa Rican destination and back home again. Once you have the total miles you’ll travel, carbon offsetting websites will reveal how much you can donate to cancel out your plane’s pollution.

Most people can’t travel to Costa Rica without gas-reliant cars or planes. Donating minimizes how your travel affects the environment to make your trip more sustainable. You could also give money for the miles you’ll drive while in the country if you have room in your budget.

14. Drink Local Coffee

Coffee lovers might picture their favorite morning beverage when they imagine Costa Rica. The country is one of the biggest coffee producers globally, typically making around 1.4 million bags per year.

You could support the local economy and sustainable coffee farms by grabbing a local blend while traveling in Costa Rica. Many use agroecological farming methods like fertilizing with natural manure to avoid contaminating the surrounding environment with chemicals. You’ll energize yourself for each day’s adventures without helping companies profit from unsustainable coffee production practices.

15. Climb the Arenal Volcano

There’s one thing most people do when they reach Arenal Volcano park — they find a tour guide to take them to a nearby peak. You could ride a horse across the plains to get the best viewpoint for taking photos.  

The active volcano may even have minor explosions and large columns of smoke curling from its crater while you’re there. However, it’s still safe to visit unless news reports say otherwise. If you don’t want to get too close, the Arenal Volcano National Park also has natural hot springs and fishing spots to explore.

Hotel recommendation: Casa Torre Eco Lodge – Wow! What an amazing view of Arenal Volcano while hanging around in a relaxing hammock.

Arenal Volcano

16. Enjoy Costa Rican Chocolate

Chocolate is another significant export for Costa Rica. Many international brands farm cacao plants there but don’t consider the environment in their production methods. That’s why the Costa Rican government passed a National Cacao Plan in 2019 to improve the sustainability of cacao farms and return the majority of chocolate production to local families.

You can stock up on chocolate while traveling in Costa Rica after researching eco-friendly, locally-owned brands. The product’s farming, production and transportation won’t clash with your green values. Take a few bars home for your loved ones to share the sweet treats that are also a treat for the planet.

17. Bike Through Rincon de la Vieja

Vacationers often walk along the trails within Rincon de la Vieja National Park, but you can also rent a bike. That’s one of the most fun sustainable things to do while traveling in Costa Rica. Many courses feature paved or gravel paths that make it easy to pedal from one part of the park to another.

You could even bike to the horseback riding center and experience the park that way, too. Bring a raincoat in a waterproof backpack if you’re traveling in Costa Rica during the park’s rainy season.

18. Snorkel in Cahuita

A trip to Costa Rica might not feel complete until you’ve spent time along the Caribbean coast. Cahuita exists on the southern coastline and offers visitors black sand beaches created by the unique ecosystem beneath its waves.

It’s a quiet getaway that might be perfect if you’re tired of busy city destinations or life in the suburbs. Bring your snorkeling gear to watch the local marine life while you’re at Cahuita. You’ll get to see nature in action without disturbing or polluting the aquatic environment.

Hotel recommendation: Villas Piña – An adults-only hotel in beautiful, lush surroundings with a nice pool and lovely hosts

Cahuita National Park

19. Wear Biodegradable Sunscreen

While picking out sunscreen after arriving at your destination, don’t just look at the SPF (sun protection factor) on each bottle. You should also look at the ingredients from your favorite brands.

Sunscreen often contains chemicals that pollute oceans and rivers. Your preferred lotions or spray bottles might include environmentally harmful ingredients like:

  • Octocrylene
  • 3-Benzylidene camphor
  • 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor
  • Nano-zinc oxide

It’s better for the environment when you wear biodegradable sunscreen. When it inevitably washes off your skin while you’re splashing around, the additives won’t do things like bleach coral or harm the reproduction of local fish species.

20. Join a Volunteer Effort

Sustainability is about giving back to the planet, but you don’t have to do it alone. Make your upcoming vacation more eco-friendly by joining a volunteer group that helps the environment. You might spend an afternoon cleaning up a beach or pulling weeds in a public garden. However you contribute, you’ll leave the environment better than you found it.

Enjoy Sustainable Activities when traveling in Costa Rica

Anyone thinking about visiting this paradisiacal country can consider these sustainable things to do while traveling in Costa Rica. Explore nature, give back, eat local foods and support small-town artists while experiencing a new culture in eco-friendly ways.

Do you have more ideas on sustainable things to do when traveling in Costa Rica? Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment below.

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