Lush, biologically diverse Costa Rica is well known for its pristine beaches, wildlife-rich rainforests and dedication to sustainability. With twenty national parks and eight ecological preserves, more than twenty-five percent of the country is protected, making it one of the world’s leading destinations for ecotourism.
A number of resorts in the country under the aegis of Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality now provide unique experiences for visitors, from learning how sugarcane is made to discovering local ingredients to seeing how coffee is grown and harvested.
For the most affordable time to visit, travel during “Green Season” from May to October, when rain showers may be more frequent but seldom wash out entire days.
Hacienda Tayutic & Assukkar Sugarcane Plantation
One of Costa Rica’s most well know products is sugar cane and the Assukkar Sugarcane Plantation provides visitors with an overview of this product’s production. Found in the Tayutic Valley in the mountainous central Turrialba region, home to the country’s most active volcano, the plantation specializes in fair trade organic products, including cane syrups and specialty sugars.
On site at the plantation is the five-room boutique Hacienda Tayutic Luxury Guest House (website), a hotel featuring a full-service spa and restaurant. Use the hotel as a base to tour the rainforest, raft on the Pacuare River or visit Guayabo National Monument, the country’s largest archaeologial site with its pre-Colombian digs.
Green Season rates (May – mid-December) start at $295 per night, including breakfast and a second night free. Packages include Honeymoon & Romantic Escape (stay three nights, pay for two and enjoy a complimentary dinner for two and couple’s massage) and Preferred Family Promotion (stay three nights – pay for two and children (12 and under) stay and eat for free).
Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn
Coffee-lovers can tour the organic Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn (website), located in Heredia in the Manuel Antonio Central Valley. Situated at 4,000 feet above sea level, the perfect altitude for growing coffee beans, the thirteen room inn sits among forty acres of coffee beans. A tour of the plantation takes visitors behind the scenes to learn about the harvesting, cleaning, drying and packaging process, followed by an authentic coffee cupping session. Between October and January, guests can even help pick coffee beans.
Inn amenities include a spring-fed swimming pool, waterfalls and hot tub, a gift shop selling local crafts, organic skincare products and chocolate and a full-service spa. The culinary program features an educational component. During dinner, servers explain the local ingredients, including pejibaye (fruit from the heart of the palm tree, used in soups and salads), yuca, narubbib (fruit of the cashew nut used in desserts and ice cream) and nampi, which is similar to yuca. Guests can also visit the beautiful garden full of indigenous fruits and vegetables. All food waste is composted and their garden uses a drip irrigation system to cut down on water usage. Five percent of restaurant and bar proceeds support projects including community schools and the Barva Volcano Sector of the Braulio Carrillo National Park.
Low season rates start at $250, including breakfast.
Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort (Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica)
The central Pacific beach town of Manuel Antonio is home to Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort (website), the country’s only resort with both five stars and five sustainability leaves. Situated in the Manuel Antonio National Park, the resort sits perched on a cliff above the white sand Espadilla Beach and provides direct access to two beaches. The resort is closely tied to neighboring Quepos with their two gourmet restaurants purchasing more than eighty percent of their ingredients from the local community.
The resort offers two culinary-themed tours. Tortillas at Petatillo is a walking tour of the Arenas Del Mar property and takes visitors behind the scenes to Petatillo, where the focus is learning how tortillas are made the traditional way. The Spices, Gardens and Flavors Tour takes you to Villa Vanilla, an organic 27-acre tropical farm surrounded by 125-acres of primary and secondary rainforest. Here guests experience how tropical spices are farmed, dryed and packaged.. At the end of the three hour tour, you can sample vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate treats with stunning mountain vistas.
Rates for Green Season start at $270 per night including daily breakfast and both culinary tours.
Lapa Rios Rainforest Ecolodge and Wildlife Reserve, Osa Peninsula
Set in a private 1,000 acre nature reserve in Central America’s last remaining lowland tropical rainforest, Lapa Rios Rainforest Ecolodge (website) overlooks the point where the Golfo Dulce meets the Pacific Ocean. Lapa Rios has won many awards for social and environmental excellence, and by staying at Lapa Rios, guests support the conservation of the rainforest while providing employment and income to more than forty five area families. The lodge’s restaurant, Brisa Azul, is run by eight former farmers taught to cook by Lapa Rios’ founder Karen Lewis. Enjoy a meal brimming with local ingredients in front of the private waterfall in the heart of the rainforest.
Rates for Green Season start at $250 per person (based on double occupancy) and include three meals daily as well as a selection of tours.