Although Costa Rica covers less than 0.03% of the Earth’s surface, it contains nearly 5% of the planet’s plant and animal species. More than a quarter of this remarkable country’s land has been protected from exploitation by being designated as national parks, biological reserves and wildlife refuges. In 2010, Costa Rica was awarded the 2010 Future Policy Award at the Global Summit on biodiversity in Nagoya Japan. The prize was given in recognition of the country’s 1998 biodiversity law which was held up as a model for other nations to follow.

Costa Rica’s continued commitment to protecting its rich biodiversity has helped the country emerge as one of the top eco-tourism destinations in the world.  Sustainable tourism initiatives play a key role in actively contributing to the conservation of natural habitats and cultural heritage, while promoting the economic growth of the country. Eco-tourism options in Costa Rica are virtually endless, with cloud forests and volcanoes to lowland rainforests and tropical beaches, all a few hours drive from each other. Here are our top five picks for off-beat eco-lodges in beautiful Costa Rica!

1. Cerro Escondido, Peninsula de Nicoya

Cerro Escondido is located in the Nicoya Peninsula, within the Karen Mogenson Nature Reserve and away from major tourist routes. The eco-lodge is run by an environmental association called ASEPALECO (Asociación Ecológica, Paquera, Lepanto y Cobano), which promotes the protection, preservation and control of natural resources in the southern Nicoya Peninsula.

Cerro Escondido is a charming place, ideal for enjoying nature and relaxing, while having a limited impact on the environment. The lodge is a good starting point for exploring hiking trails and the wildlife and flora in the Nature Reserve. Guests sleep in wooden cabins that are powered by solar electricity, with large balconies and private bathrooms. The lodge limits the total number of guests to sixteen at a time, to keep the impact on the environment as low as possible.

2. Tresoro Verde, Osa Peninsula

Tesoro Verde is located in the village of Los Planes, in the Osa Peninsula, which makes up much of the southern pacific coastline of Costa Rica. The region consists of vast, unexplored tropical rainforests and its main attraction, the Corcovado National Park is very close to the lodge. Tesoro Verde is surrounded by dense forests that are inhabited by a range of bird and animal species, including guacamayas, parrots, peacocks, mountain monkeys, tapirs, wild boars, etc. Plant lovers will not be disappointed either, as the forest is abound with a variety of endemic plant species.

The eco-lodge is a beautiful large wooden house, and has several well ventilated rooms, with solar electricity and shared showers and toilets. The restaurant offers local cuisine and one of the popular traditional dishes they serve (called “gallo pinto”) is not only delicious, but also vegan! Activities offered near the lodge include hiking and horse riding and you can also visit the magnificent Corcovado National Park, where a bilingual local guide service is offered.

3. El Yue

Thanks to an interesting mix of indigenous and Afro-Caribbean culture, the Talamanca region of Costa Rica is rich in color; add abundant and unique biodiversity to the mix, and you’re in one of the most beautiful regions of Costa Rica!

The El Yue lodge is located in the southeast of Costa Rica, between the tourist towns of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo, in the small village of Carbon Uno. It is run by a group of women dedicated to the reforestation of the Costa Rican region and healthy living for community members. They run an organic farming project, where you can find a banana plantation, orchards and nurseries. In addition, they have helped with reforestation efforts in the Talamanca region of Costa Rica and provide environmental education to the children of the nearby villages, focusing on recycling, medicinal plants and organic agriculture. Guests stay in simple, but comfortable wooden houses. Each room has a private bathroom and the cuisine is a tasty blend of Caribbean influences and typical rural food.

4. Los Campesinos Lodge

ASOPROVA (the vanilla producers association), in collaboration with the community of Quebrada Arroyo, operate the community-based Los Campesinos eco-tourism project in the Los Campesinos Reserve. The lodge supports the social and economic development of the village by providing income for families in the village of Quebrada Arroyo, generating jobs and improving their quality of life. In addition, tourism promotes and preserves the culture and traditions, and enriches the visitors through cultural exchange. The project also focuses on carrying out environmental monitoring to fight illegal hunting and tree felling.

The accommodation and restaurant are built entirely of wood. The lodge has 8 cabins with spacious balconies that have views of the forest, and are equipped with electricity and private bathrooms with hot water. The restaurant serves varied traditional meals, using local produce and prepared over a wood fire in a traditional kitchen. The Los Campesinos Reserve is full of trails that lead to natural pools, waterfalls and also boasts the longest hanging bridge in the region, which should not be missed!

5. Finca Kobo

Located in the Osa Peninsula, this lodge and organic farm occupies 50 hectares in the heart of a vast rainforest. It is most well known for its organic chocolate, but also grows a range of fruits and vegetables. Activities at this eco-lodge include learning how to make chocolate, hiking in the forest surrounding the farm and kayaking in the Golfo Dulce to observe the wildlife and flora. You can also take a guided walk in the heart of Corcovado National Park, the largest primary rainforest in Central America and home to rich biodiversity.

The eco-lodge is built of wood and is surrounded by a lush tropical garden. There are 6 rooms (equipped with fans and mosquito nets) and four separate bathrooms. The lodge also has a balcony, where guests can enjoy the magnificent view of the plantations, gardens and forest. The atmosphere is rustic and completely natural and the food served includes typical Costa Rican dishes prepared with organic produce from the farm.

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