Travelogue – Sustainable Vacationing in Costa Rica

I recently travelled to the Gulf of Papagayo in beautiful Costa Rica for a one week escape to paradise. I stayed at a resort with many Canadian, American and European travellers, as well as a few locals that were on their spring break.

I was taken aback by the pure naturalness of the entire area. Unlike most southern vacation destinations I had previously traveled to, everything in the Gulf of Papagayo seemed “untouched” by the tourist industry. Sure, I stayed at a resort, but the beach was not groomed, the rolling hills were not flattened — it was like they took a few buildings and adjusted them to the lay of the land, not the other way around.

Natural Beach Landscape on the Gulf of Papagayo

Rugged, natural shorelines make Costa Rica’s beaches unique and beautiful

For some people this might not seem appealing, but to me it was just that and so much more. It was refreshing that there were leaves and twigs on the beach — it’s natural, rugged and what makes Costa Rica so beautiful.

I am a firm believer in protecting and preserving the environment and I try to be a conscientious traveller. But all-inclusive resorts are notorious for being wasteful, resulting in large ecological footprints: plastic cups, wasted food, and the big culprit, plastic bottles. So I knew when I boarded that plane in Toronto that I was probably going to go against my morals on vacation — but I was in for quite a surprise!  The resort had put in place a number of practices that stood out for me.

I arrived at the resort and was greeted with a fruity, pink drink — in a reusable, rigid plastic cup! For the entire week, every drink was in a reusable cup, and most visitors even brought their own.

The rooms were located in various buildings along the steep terrain, and scattered along these paths were several water cooler stations with a large 20L bottle for the visitors to fill up their own cups or bottles. And down at the beach, three human-sized disposal bins, shaped like large bottles, were being widely used for dropping off various plastic, glass and other waste. At the lunches and dinners, I even saw some of the waiters sorting through the waste, and removing any plastic bottles that had been inadvertently placed in the garbage!

Garbage Day in Costa Rica

Waste is put out on a raised platform in a small town in Costa Rica. Two streams of waste are collected – recycling and garbage!

Eco-tourism is becoming a booming part of the tourist industry, and many resorts are even being given an ‘eco’ star rating out of 5, depending on how environmentally sustainable and responsible their practices are.  In fact, a US study found that “71% of travellers plan to make eco-friendly travel choices in the coming year.”  I also like these recommendations about how to choose an “eco-friendly hotel.”

If you are traveling to an all-inclusive resort, you can still do your part to reduce your footprint.

Three things that reduced waste on my vacation were:

  1. Bringing a reusable water bottle
  2. Asking before tossing: does the resort have recycling? Do they compost?
  3. And after all these years, finally listening to my mom’s advice: my eyes are NOT bigger than my stomach (I didn’t waste any food!)

I had an amazing trip and was so happy to see responsible waste management being practiced in the beautiful country of Costa Rica. I’d love to hear what steps you take to reduce your footprint while on vacation!

Pura Vida!

About Allison Tyldesley

Hi I’m Allison and I am the Landfill Technician at the Halton Waste Management Site. I provide technical and administrative support services for the solid waste operations at the landfill. My motto: The sky is the limit!
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