Caribbean Coast Feature

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Eco-Lodges in the Caribbean

Year-round rainfall begets year-round greenery on the Caribbean coast. You can count on lushness here when the rest of Costa Rica's landscape turns dusty during its dry season.

Not only does Costa Rica's Caribbean region host a different culture than the rest of the country, but its landscape is entirely different, too. Things are verdant all year, and that gives the eastern portion of the country a more tropical feel than the rest of Costa Rica. Development has been slow to come to the coast—anyone over the age of 20 well remembers the days of few roads, no phones, and no television. For you, that means far fewer visitors than along north and central Pacific coasts and a far more authentic experience since the environment is better preserved and the local culture respected. Small is the watchword for tourism around here—always has been and always will be. Developers do float occasional trial balloons about international megatourism projects in this region, but they get shot down quickly by the folks here who do not want their Caribbean coast to turn into the Pacific coast, thank you very much.

Good Practices

Stay at locally owned lodgings. That's easy in the Caribbean, since the international chains are nowhere to be found here. Smaller lodgings that support the local economy are the universal norm. A stay here means that you are supporting those communities, too.

Consider taking public or semipublic transportation when visiting the Caribbean. Cahuita and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca have good bus and shuttle service; your own two feet, bicycles, and taxis make it easy to get around once you arrive. Of course, a Tortuguero visit means you leave the transportation to someone else. There's no other choice.

Top Eco-Lodges in the Caribbean

Almonds & Corals, Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge

Almonds & Corals scatters its comfortable platformed bungalows unobtrusively throughout its forest property along the coast and connects them with each other and to its restaurant, reception, and the beach by softly lighted paths. That and the myriad environmentally themed activities conducted by local guides really do give that "get away from it all" experience with a bit of rustic luxury.

Casa Marbella, Tortuguero

Most visitors to Tortuguero opt for a stay at one of the big all-inclusive lodges lining the canals outside the village. Yet our favorite in-town lodging provides a far more intimate Tortuguero experience with one-on-one nature tours, rather than big groups, for just a fraction of the cost. Canadian owner and naturalist Daryl Loth is a knowledgeable and well-respected figure in the area. Though onetime outsiders, the folks at Casa Marbella have become arguably the town's biggest boosters, working closely with people here to develop sustainable, nonintrusive tourism that will benefit the entire community. We like and appreciate this "transplanted foreigner" model.

Rain Forest Adventures Braulio Carrillo National Park

Although the site is best known for its famous aerial tram, there is accommodation here. The park is one of the Caribbean region's premier attractions, and staying here lets you enjoy the place after the day-trippers have left. The nine unobtrusive cabins are so inconspicuously tucked away that few people even know they exist. In an effort to minimize impact, food is locally grown, and electricity shuts off after 9 pm. Of course, the rates include the full complement of the site's eco-theme activities.

BioGem

In 2009, the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) named the entire country one of its BioGems, a designation the New York-based environmental crusader usually reserves for a single site or species. In doing so, NRDC recognizes the country's wealth of biodiversity and its fragile status. The organization has pledged to work with the Costa Rican government in areas of reforestation and development of renewable energy technology. (With approximately 99% of Costa Rica's energy coming from hydroelectric and wind power, the country already does an impressive job in that latter regard.)

Caribbean residents know NRDC well. The organization worked closely with people in the region at the grassroots level to block attempts to turn the southern Caribbean coast over to offshore oil exploration. Such drilling would have damaged the coast's fragile mangroves, sand beaches, and coral reefs. After many years, the oil companies' proposals have, thankfully, been put to rest for good.

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