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Say hello to a small country that prides itself on its friendly people, impressive landscaping, and skillful sustainability practices. From gardens to hotels, a large percentage of the population has taken steps to reduce consumption of electricity, waste, and toxicity. It was one of the very first countries to take a strong stance on ecotourism. From recycling tips to educational classes based on environmental sciences, Costa Rica is changing the way people think about their planet. Forget transportation that omits harmful toxins and restaurants without energy efficient appliances, Costa Rica will help you connect with what truly matters- the outdoors! Enjoy heated water warmed up by a volcano, or a new type of flying, like gliding through sturdy trees hundreds of feet up in the air. This eco-friendly vacation will engage you in ways you never thought possible. Holding some of the largest protected parks and forests in the world, Costa Rica is abundant in tropical flora and fauna. For the past few years in a row Costa Rica has been deemed a top destination, by Ethical Traveler, a company that supports strong environmental efforts. Costa Rica has also been recognized as the “greenest” place in the world, by the New Economics Foundation. Costa Rica also participates in the Certification for Sustainable Tourism; they strive to make sustainability a reality by practicing what they preach. From staff members to eager tourists, this is a mission that goes full circle.
Caribbean Costa Rica
Though it offers amazing opportunities for socializing among sea turtles, it encounters the highest amount of annual rain in all of Costa Rica. Because of this, some of Costa Rica’s most stunning parks thrive here. Some of them cannot even be accessed by foot. The lucky ones, who have a boat or small plane, are the ones who get to frequent here most often. If you’re planning to do some snorkeling while on vacation, visit Cahuita National Park, where you’ll get the opportunity to swim among rare, translucent blue-green waters.
Here, you’ll find the main population of Costa Rica. While it contains an entertaining city vibe, it originally attracted Spanish colonists due to its fertile soil. For decades, it has provided great nourishment to the people of Costa Rica. Their sustainability practices have helped their crops to consistently flourish. San Jose and Arenal are major hubs of the Central Valley, and carry spectacular hotels. Don’t forget to see the active volcanoes here, Poas and Irazu. These volcanoes reign thousands of feet up into the air, and some of the world’s most active. Depending on the day you visit, the volcano’s lakes change colors, from an eerie green to a vibrant crimson red. Try to visit early in the morning, as they tend to be less crowded.
This is the most visited part of Costa Rica. Its costal highway captures snapshots of all the best national parks, reserves, and beaches. Here, visitors and locals alike come to soak-up the great surf. For those sensitive to humidity this region also works in your favor. It tends to be less ‘sticky’ than other areas in Costa Rica. Between the majestic cliffs, fiery sunsets, and rich mangroves, this is a favorite to those seeking the best examples of nature.
Guanacaste is the only region in Costa Rica with a wildly dry climate. Its soft, white-sand beaches are simply breathtaking. From steep volcano hikes to playing among invigorating waterfalls, this region epitomizes adventure. Its diverse geography is a nature lover’s dream.
A place where tourists feel right at home. From sweet banana plantations rustic cattle farms, the Northern Lowlands contain countless national parks, wildlife refuges, and stunning national forests. This area is great at exemplifying sustainability, as its streams supply various essential vitamins to the soil, making it fertile for the farmers.
Hot and humid, this region sees extreme amounts of rainfall. Due to this, dense forests happily thrive, thus creating some of the world’s very best bio-diversity. Keep your eyes open, or you’ll miss all the critters above and below. Hop in a raft and see some of nature’s most elusive creatures, from whale sharks to sleek manta rays. This region is incredibly well rounded.
Though small in size (685 square miles), Martinique boasts a whole world of natural wonders, making it one of the Caribbean’s top eco destinations. So bountiful are the island’s ecotourism offerings, in fact, that Caribbean World Magazine has named Martinique “Best Eco Island of the Year 2006.” Two-thirds of Martinique is designated as protected park land, affording visitors to the island with a wide range of nature-themed vacation adventures from north to south.
Mountainous and lush, with eye-popping vistas in all directions, Martinique’s northern region is home to some of the Caribbean’s most vibrant rainforests. The island’s volcanic origin is most apparent here with Majestic Mount Pelée, Martinique’s dormant volcano and tallest peak (4,600 feet), dominating the skyline. The slightly smaller, though equally spectacular Pitons du Carbet (4,000 feet) lay just to the south. This is prime hiking ground with refreshing springs and waterfalls dotting well-marked trails all sheltered by a tangle of ferns, bamboo and other exotic flora and fauna.
Canyoning adventures also abound in Martinique’s lush northern area. The Gorges de la Falaise offer one of the more popular canyoning attractions. This special area, tucked away in the heart of the northern rainforest near Mount Pelée features a remarkable little canyon with a hiking trail to a stunning waterfall. The hot springs of Prêcheur on the north coast, where water temperatures reach up to 120-degrees, as well as the Alma Spring, Rivière Mitan and Absalon Falls – all located in the Pitons du Carbet – also offer tremendous canyoning. It’s no wonder that Martinque was named the Best Canyoning Destination by National Geographic Traveler in 2009.
This region is home to the alluvial plain of Lamentin, an extension of Fort-de-France Bay, and the largest of Martinique’s coastal swamps of mangrove trees. Martinique’s mangrove swamps are an ecotourist’s dream. Living among the mangroves’ arched roots and the salty, muddy surrounding waters is a vast eco-system comprised of an extensive variety of fish and crustaceans. Bird watching is tremendous here as many different species of birds are prevalent in this area as well. To fully immerse oneself in the beauty and splendor of the mangroves, kayaking or canoeing is the best option.
From the mountains in the north to the plains in the central region, Martinique’s topography changes again in the south as rocky hills known as mornes frame pristine beach coves called anses. Here, leisure visitors delight in a collection of the finest beaches in the Caribbean while more active types enjoy hiking adventures within the area’s intricate pattern of valleys and fjord-like coves. Hiking over the mornes from one beach to the next provides a fun and exhilarating way to fully enjoy this sun-kissed paradise. Martinique’s southern beaches are renowned for their wonderful golden sand, a major departure from the silver-blue sands that comprise the beaches in the northern volcanic region.
A central attraction in southern Martinique is Rocher du Diamant (Diamond Rock). The Caribbean’s answer to the Rock of Gibraltar, Rocher du Diamant rises 600 feet from sea and is located just three miles offshore. This massive block of limestone was seized and fortified in 1804 by the British who turned it into a stationary warship, of sorts, which they dubbed the HMS Diamond Rock. The French recaptured Diamond Rock in 1805, whereupon the British sailors fled to Barbados and were court-martialed for abandoning their “ship.”