Greenwashing and the traps

Many service providers are riding the wave of solidarity tourism, rural tourism or ecotourism, particularly in Costa Rica, but they don’t respect the essential rules. We call this greenwashing.
It’s a common practice to give oneself a good image without being invested or responsible, in order to make people believe in one’s good faith.
The most important points to check to avoid being “taken in” are that the service provider is in good standing with the local authorities.
The first point to check or to request is the presentation of a PATENTE – right to practice – issued by the municipalities. This implies prior possession of a Permiso de Salud which authorizes the company to work according to established criteria.

The second point is registration with the ICT – Costa Rican Institute of Tourism, a prerequisite. Many agencies are not registered and do not declare their income or their employees.
Here again, many agencies fail to comply.

Beware, too, of companies that are members only of certain organizations such as the Chambre Franco Costaricienne, which in no way guarantees that they have passed the first two stages, but some unscrupulous companies use this registration as a way of showing off.

Here again, many local travel agencies don’t fit the bill.

The CST: this label is awarded to companies THAT COMPLY WITH THE FIRST TWO POINTS, but go further by meeting all the criteria of a strict set of specifications on themes as varied as: environmental protection, staff training, concrete actions encouraging tourists to participate in sustainable policies during their trip, the company’s interactions with local communities, waste reduction, the involvement of company staff… In short, obtaining the CST is a pledge of good conduct, respect for local populations and authorities, and a guarantee against greenwashing.

In short, these are the key points to ensure you choose the right company.

Ecotouristes et agence de tourisme responsable

Ecotourism and Costa Rica

Over the past fifteen years, Costa Rica has become the global benchmark for ecotourism, solidarity tourism, rural tourism and environmental preservation. All terms used to describe a commitment to harmony with the environment and indigenous populations. With almost 25% of its surface area protected, its wildlife preserved (6% of the world’s biodiversity is concentrated in the country), its exuberant tropical nature and its perennial democracy, the country enjoys a positive image compared with its Central American neighbors. This has attracted not only tourists, but also scientists from all over the world to observe and understand the country’s biodiversity.

A political choice

As early as the middle of the 19th century, political discourse was tinged with ecology and a desire to protect the environment. Since then, this awareness has continued to grow. In 1948, the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) was founded, followed by the Tropical Scientific Center (CCT) in 1963. That same year, the country’s first biological reserve – Cabo Blanco – was created. It was the Forestry Law of 1969, reinforced in 1989, that established the network of national parks, protected areas, wildlife refuges and biological reserves managed by Costa Rica’s National System for the Management of Conservation Areas (SINAC). The country now boasts 21 national parks and protected areas.

A pioneer in this field, Costa Rica has become THE ecotourism destination in just a few years.

A few spots darken the picture

Behind this image, however, lie shadowy areas. Such is the case in northern Guanacaste, where major hotel chains have built their facilities along the Pacific coast, despite basic rules on wastewater treatment, for example, or the protection of sensitive areas such as mangroves. This is also where the country’s biggest real estate scandals have taken place. A far cry from ecotourism!

That’s why, in keeping with our philosophy of responsible travel, we don’t offer these types of hotels on our Costa Rica tours. Our tours offer you an unforgettable experience, an encounter with tropical nature and Central American culture.

After such a journey into the world of the living, your behavior will change in the face of the challenges of conserving the planet. It’s up to each and every one of us to become ambassadors for the environment!

“Ecotourism is a form of responsible travel in natural areas that contributes to the protection of the environment and the well-being of local populations.”

Being a responsible traveler

According to the Responsible Tourist and Traveler code approved by the International Committee for Ethical Tourism (May 2005)

Open your mind to other cultures and traditions:

– Be tolerant and respect cultural diversity.

– Learn about your destination, its customs, rules and traditions.

– Respect human rights. Any form of exploitation (child labor, sexual exploitation, etc.) goes against the fundamental objectives of responsible tourism.

Protect the environment:

– Dispose of your garbage in garbage cans and use the recycling systems provided.

– Follow the regulations in force in nature reserves and parks.

– Pay any entrance or tourist taxes required for the conservation and preservation of the sites.

– Don’t buy products made from endangered plants or animals.

Contribute to social and economical development:

– Support the local economy by buying local products.

– Bargaining must not stand in the way of fair remuneration.

Find out about the country’s health situation:

– Costa Rica’s sanitary situation is perfectly acceptable. No special vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Find out about local legislation:

– Trafficking in illegal drugs, weapons, antique art objects, protected species and dangerous or prohibited products or substances is punishable by law.

– Comply with the Highway Code.

Respect cultural resources:

– Choose activities that protect our artistic, archaeological and cultural heritage.

Being a responsible agency

Selon les principes de travail émis par ATR (Act for a Responsible Tourism)

Involving and considering local populations:

– By giving priority to local suppliers.

– By working with competent, mobilized and trained service providers who share the same values and working principles.

– By supporting local development efforts.

– By informing and sensitizing travelers and our staff to respect the cultures of local populations.

In particular, we support Aventuras Naturales Yorkin, an indigenous community in the Caribbean.

Minimizing the impact of our activity on the environment:

– Applying a policy of waste management and the use of environmentally-friendly cleaning products.

– Favoring suppliers with a policy of environmental protection.

– By educating travellers and our staff about respect for the environment.

– Actively contributing to environmental protection.

– Participating in reforestation.

Respecting our clients:

– A responsible communications policy.

– Relying on trained and motivated staff.

– By providing advice that meets our customers’ expectations.

1909 langue bribri


Costa Rica Découverte is proud to be a Platinum Member of the Corcovado Foundation as part of their program to protect the Osa Peninsula.

The Corcovado Foundation’s ecotourism missions are to increase wilderness protection, promote environmental education, sustainable tourism and community participation through the sustainable use of natural resources in Costa Rica’s South Pacific region. The Corcovado Foundation’s programs focus on four main areas of work on the Osa Peninsula: sea turtle conservation, environmental education, sustainable tourism and community development.

Sea turtle conservation

Since 2006, the Corcovado Foundation has been committed to ecotourism, protecting turtle eggs from poaching and natural predation, providing sustainable economic opportunities for local people through eco-tourism and volunteer work, and raising community awareness of the importance of conserving natural resources.

Environmental education

This program was initiated in 2003. It provides environmental lessons and programs in local schools, creates sharing through after-school clubs while offering a range of sustainability-related activities, organizes cultural events and works with the community to improve public facilities.

Sustainable tourism

Through a program supported by over 10 local businesses, the Foundation has trained over 400 people in sustainable tourism and ecotourism practices, and planted over 120 native trees for carbon offsetting. The Foundation has also created a non-profit youth hostel that has generated over $17,000 to help fund other environmental programs. It has also sensitized tour operators to sustainable methods, supported the local economy and promoted environmentally-friendly business practices.

Community development

The Osa Rural Tours network and other sustainable community development initiatives aim to reduce poverty on the Osa peninsula while protecting local ecosystems.

The Corcovado Foundation offers :

– support for the creation of tourism micro-enterprises that encourage rainforest protection.

– regular training for local communities in areas such as project management, marketing, accounting and English.

– improvement of essential services such as waste collection and recycling.

The Bandera Azul – Blue Flag – program is a label awarded annually in recognition of effort and volunteer work in the pursuit of conservation and development in line with the protection of natural resources, the implementation of actions to address climate change, the pursuit of better sanitary conditions and the improvement of public health for the population of Costa Rica.