Costa Rica is sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama and is often called “the Switzerland of Central America” due to its politically stable democracy, technological advancements, high literacy rate, high standard of living and medical facilities, and no standing army. About the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, ecotourism is the lifeblood of this relatively rural country with its vast areas of protected lands.
The country comprises only .01% of the earth’s landmass, yet is home to 5% of the planet’s biodiversity. With more than 10,000 identified plant species, 880 bird species, 9,000 butterfly and moth species, and 500 mammal species including capuchin monkeys, poison dart frogs, and sea turtles, there’s much flora and fauna to observe.
Costa Rica packs in some breathtaking scenery with its 18 national parks and bio-reserves and there are many family activities offered including nature and white water rafting tours. The main language is Spanish though English is widely spoken, and there are two main seasons in Costa Rica – dry (mid-November through April) and wet (May through mid-November) with average temperatures all year around in the 70’s. Some top sites include:
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens with its suspended walkways and jungle waterfalls
- Monteverde Biological Cloud Forest Reserve with its hiking and horse riding trails, serpentariums, bat jungles and zip line canopy tours
- Manuel Antonio National Park with its miles of beaches and plentiful wildlife
Given Costa Rica’s popularity as an eco-destination, it is facing several environmental issues including visitor overcapacity, greenwashing, profiteering, and lack of enforcement. Costa Rica is trying to address these issues with its Certificate in Sustainable Tourism (CST) program, introduction of more offsetting measures, and continued plans to create opportunities for local communities to assist with environmental concerns as well as share in tourism revenue.
Costa Rica is a good choice for a family ecotour destination as it offers children a good mix of education and old-fashioned water fun. With opportunities to experience wildlife at the beaches and national parks as well as participate in white water rafting tours, birding and turtle tours, kayaking tours, and sailing tours, kids will by no means be bored. In addition, everyone will enjoy comfortable standards of lodging and good food. It is worth noting that while Costa Rica is relatively manageable in size, the road infrastructure prevents easy navigation especially during the wet season. Therefore, it is suggested that families, who do not want to go across the country, stay in the Guanacaste region.