OUTLINE Introduction I. Presentation of the country 1) History 2) Government 3) Fauna and Flora II. Main areas to visit 1) Central valley 2) Caribbean 3) Pacific Coast III. Ecotourism in Costa Rica 1) Definition 2) Why is Costa Rica a nice place for ecotourism 3) Impact of tourism Conclusion Introduction In this report, I will talk about Costa Rica and tourism. Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the east and south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south and the Caribbean Sea to the east.
Costa Rica has consistently been among the top Latin American countries in terms of the Human Development Index, and ranked 42 in the world in 2008. The country is ranked 5th in the world, and 1st among the Americas, in terms of the 2008 Environmental Performance Index. In 2007 the Costa Rican government announced plans for Costa Rica to become the first carbon neutral country by 2021. In the last decade Costa Rica has positioned itself in the world as a country of peace – without an army – and as an agricultural nation, with traditionally important products such
It has also distinguished itself for its efforts in the area of biodiversity conservation; and accordingly, has positioned itself as an innovative tourist destination based on its natural wealth, clearly differentiated in the large international market. Considered one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, Costa Rica is divided in 20 natural parks, 8 biological reserves, and a series of protected areas that captivate ecotourism lovers. The variety of activities includes horseback riding, hiking mountainous paths in the cloud forests, and guided bird-watching tours.
Tortuguero National Park is especially famous for sea turtle nesting that takes place every year, and the natural canals that abound with protected species such as crocodiles, manatees, and others. First, we will have a presentation of the country: its history, government, flora and fauna. Then, we will describe the main areas of Costa Rica known for tourism. Finally, we will talk about the eco-tourism, a new trend of tourism which is well-developed in Costa Rica. I. Presentation of the country 1) History Costa Rica was discovered by Cristopher colombus.
The day was September 18, 1502, and Columbus was making his fourth and final voyage to the New World. As he was setting anchor off shore, a crowd of local Caribbean Indians paddled out in canoes and greeted his crew warmly. Later, the golden bands that the region’s inhabitants wore in their noses and ears would inspire the Spaniard Gil Gonzalez Davila to name the country Costa Rica, or Rich Coast. Archaeologists now know that civilization existed in Costa Rica for thousands of years before the arrival of Columbus, and evidence of human occupation in the region dates back 10,000 years.
By the time Columbus arrived, there were four major indigenous tribes living in Costa Rica. The east coast was the realm of the Caribbean, while the Borucas, Chibchas, and Diquis resided in the southwest. Only a few hundred thousand strong to begin with, none of these peoples lasted long after the dawn of Spanish colonialism. Some fled, while many others perished from the deadly smallpox brought by the Spaniards. Having decimated the indigenous labor force, the Spanish followed a common policy and brought in African slaves to work the land.
Seventy thousand of their descendants live in Costa Rica today, and the country is known for good relations among races. Regrettably, only 1 percent of Costa’s Rica’s 3 million people are of indigenous heritage. 2) Government Costa Rica is a democratic republic with a strong constitution. Although there are claims that the country has had more than 115 years of uninterrupted democracy, their presidential election history shows otherwise. Nonetheless, the country has had at least 59 years of uninterrupted democracy, making it one of the most stable countries in the region.
Costa Rica has been able to avoid the widespread violence that has plagued most of Latin America. Costa Rica is a republic with three powers: executive responsibilities are vested in a president, legislative power is vested on the Legislative Assembly, and judicial power is vested on the Supreme Court. There are two vice presidents as well as a cabinet designated by the president. The president, vice presidents, and 57 Legislative Assembly delegates are elected for four-year terms.
A constitutional amendment approved in 1969 limited presidents and delegates to one term, although delegates were allowed to run again for an Assembly seat after sitting out a term. The Supreme Electoral Body, the Office of the Comptroller General, the Office of the Procurator General of the Republic and the Office of the Ombudsman also enjoy a lot of independence. The Supreme Court is divided into four chambers, one dealing with Constitutional Law, one dealing with Criminal Law and two dealing with Civil Law, Merchant Law and the like.
On December 1, 1948, President Jose Figueres Ferrer of Costa Rica abolished the country’s army after victory in the civil war in that year. 3) Fauna and Flora The fauna and flora is very important in Costa Rica. In fact, Costa Rica is one of the biologically wealthiest nations in the world. The country’s varied natural environments include lowland rainforests, coral reefs, sultry swamps and exuberant cloud forests and each one of them is home to a wealth of animal life. This treasure trove of tropical flora and fauna is exemplified by the more than 9,000 different kinds of flowering plants, including 1,200 orchids.
Approximately 850 species of birds have been identified here, which are more than are found in the United States and Canada combined. This country is also home for 205 species of mammals, 376 species of reptiles and amphibians and about 10 percent of the world’s butterfly species. Although Costa Rica covers only . 03% of the surface of the Earth, about 6% of the planet’s plant and animal species can be found here. Costa Rica has 20 national parks, 8 wildlife refuges, 1 national archaeological monument, 26 protected forest areas, 9 forest reserves, 7 wildlife sanctuaries, and a national forest.
Protected areas total 1,077,308 hectares, or 21% of the national territory, which means Costa Rica has a larger percentage of its total surface area set aside in parks and preserves than any other country on earth. Costa Rica is perfect for the nature lover and conservationist and because of the country’s commitment to preservation to the environment, in 1992 Costa Rica was made the world headquarters of the ‘Earth Council’ These many different species of plants and animals are linked with the diversity of landscapes that we find in Costa Rica: mountains, seaside (Pacific and Caribbean sea), dry and humide forest…
II. Main areas to visit We will see the three main areas mostly visited in Costa Rica even if the whole country attracts a lot of visitors. 1) Central valley Central Valley is the first of these areas. Strikingly beautiful with a mild and dry climate all year round, it is no wonder that Costa Rica’s Central Valley is where over two-thirds or 70% of the population resides. Located just south of San Jose Metro Area, the Central Valley or Meseta Central covers a large portion of the interior of Costa Rica. Lush and green with many plantations, farming is one of the main occupations here, s the soil in the area is very fertile and rich in minerals from the presence of the two active volcanoes namely: Irazu and Poas. More than just a visually stunning area, Costa Rica’s Central Valley has a lot to offer in terms of arts and culture as well. In this region you can find the oldest church still in use in the country, the Iglesia de San Jose Orosi which was built in 1734 in Orosi. Another famous town of this region is Cartago, considered to be among the oldest towns in the country founded in 1563.
One of the finest cities in Central America till its destruction in 1732 by the eruption of the Irazu Volcano, Cartago is also an important pilgrimage site as it is home to La Negrita, or “The Black Virgin”. One of the oldest and best known national parks in Costa Rica, the Parque Nacional Volcan Poas is home to the Poas Volcano. The most active volcano in the country, there have been periods in the past where the Poas has been more active than it is now, the last time being in the 1950’s. Though its crater bubbles and steams on a regular basis, it does not pose any treat of eruption at the moment.
There is also an observatory in the park from where visitors can view its bubbly crater, making visiting this volcano worth the trip. Last erupting on March 19, 1963 when US President John F. Kennedy visited the country, the Volcan Irazu is the largest and highest active volcano in Costa Rica. From the summit of this volcano you can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea on a clear day. In one of its craters there is visitors’ center, while there is also a short trail that leads to the rim of volcano’s two active craters. ) Caribbean Then, the Caribbean area is principally focused on water activities. This area, though relatively undeveloped, represents significant opportunity to develop various tourist products ranging from traditional products (sunshine, beaches, recreational sports, etc. ) to adventure-related products (rafting, expeditions, caves, etc. ). Of particular importance, is Tortuguero National Park, it is the most important Caribbean breeding ground of the green sea turtle, and has plenty of birds, monkeys and lizards.
There are a few biological stations set up inside the park and are managed by scientists and volunteers. Besides studying the flora and fauna found in the area, their purpose is to try to keep the park as impact free as possible. In Limon, the most developed Caribbean town offers the heritage of the Afro- Caribbean culture. It also hosts the second most important port for tourism cruise arrivals. The number of parks in the immediate area makes it a great base point for traveling up and down the coast.
The central market found downtown offers from fruits and clothing to local handcrafted items. Limon hosts one of the most renowned carnivals in all of Central America, which attracts both national and international tourists. The Cahuita National Park protects a well-developed coral reef and is one of the most visited parks on the Caribbean Coast. It runs along the coast for 1,067 hectares and over 23,000 hectares make up the marine park including the reef system. The park is excellent for both land and water activities.
The Hitoy-Cerere Biological Reserve has a great disadvantage for its tourism potential, but a great advantage for its ecological life: it is hard to access. The park is within 9,050 hectares and protects the wet tropical forest. 3) Pacific Coast The Pacific coast is completely different than the Caribbean area (in its landscapes and point of interests), even if the water activities are mostly developed too. The Pacific port town of Puntarenas, which sits on a narrow finger of sand jutting into the Gulf of Nicoya, marks the transitional zone and provides access to the country’s mid Pacific.
This territory is composed of a combination of private reserves and active villages. Activities include sports fishing, surfing at its best and many other activities ranging from forest oriented to deep sea adventures. An ancient fishing port, the dark beaches of this sleepy town attracts many Costa Rican tourists escaping the rigors of city life. From Puntarenas one can explore several gulf islands, charter fishing trips and catch ferries to the Nicoya Peninsula. A few miles south of Puntarenas is the port of Caldera.
Here is where the Pacific Ocean liners dock to release their passengers on an idyllic jaunt through Costa Rica. Although tours to all parts of the country are available from here, most stay in the area to take advantage of the well developed infrastructure and multitude of activities available along this coast. The coastal road south from Puntarenas crosses rolling terrain as it wanders part way up the mountainside to Orotina. This a good place for a short break before heading back down to the central Pacific beaches.
All these areas are well-developed for tourism and mostly eco-tourism, as we will see in the next part. III. Ecotourism in Costa Rica Ecotourism is a new kind of tourism that appeared in the 70’s, but it was linked with the sustainable development and redefined in the 90’s. 1) Definition Before talking about the ecotourism in Costa Rica, we will see the definition of ecotourism and its principles. Ecotourism is a « responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. » (TIES, 1990)
Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement and participate in ecotourism activities should follow the following ecotourism principles: • Minimize impact and build environmental and cultural awareness and respect. • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts. • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation. • Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people. • Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate.
Now that we know exactly what ecotourism is, we will see its place in Costa Rica. 2) Why is Costa Rica a nice place for Ecotourism? Costa Rica is one of several countries in the world that has been embracing ecotourism as a national conservation and development strategy (Stem et al. , 2003). Costa Rica is unique due to the magnitude of its ecotourism industry and its maturity when compared to other developing countries. Over the years, Costa Rica has earned a reputation as the premier ecotourism destination in the world and is considered ecotourism’s poster child (Honey, 1999).
The main reason Costa Rica has become such a popular destination for ecotourism is because it has all of the right ingredients. Costa Rica has excellent national parks, a stable democratic government with no army, a pleasant climate, and friendly people. It also has one of the highest standards of living, the largest middle class, the best public health care system, the best public education through the University level, and the highest literacy rate in Latin America (Honey, 1999). Costa Rica’s infrastructure is also very good compared to most developing countries in terms of paved roads, telephones, and electricity.
It has an international airport with flights only a few hours from the United States (Honey, 1999; Weaver, 1998). While all these aspects are important, the most important ingredient for successful ecotourism is nature, which is the key attraction for tourists. In a 1990 survey of USbased tourists, 39% identified nature-based attractions as their primary reason for visiting Costa Rica (Weaver, 1999). Costa Rica is blessed with an abundance of natural resources such as beaches, mangroves, mountains, caves, waterfalls, volcanoes, and tropical rainforests.
The tropical rainforests make Costa Rica one of the most biologically diverse areas of the world, containing 5% of the entire planet’s biodiversity in a country the size of West Virginia (Honey, 1999). Ecotourism has been steadily increasing in Costa Rica since the 1970’s and really began to take off in the 1980’s when tourism garnered tremendous support from the government and assistance from USAID, the World Bank, and the IMF. “In the 1980s, the government began for the first time to invest seriously in tourism, reorganizing and beefing up funding for the country’s tourism board, the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ITC)” (Honey, 1999, p. 33). The government of Costa Rica began to invest heavily in ecotourism, and in 1984 they passed an important piece of legislation, which gave incentives and tax breaks to hotels, airlines, car rental agencies, travel agencies, and sea transportation (Honey, 1999). 3) Impact of tourism While costa Rica is developing ecotourism (by protecting its nature and building accommodation respecting the environment), it can have positive and negative impacts.
Indeed, Tourist activity can have impacts of various types: environmental, cultural, economic and social. According to Briassoulis (1992) the environmental impacts of ecotourism are difficult to categorize, identify and measure due to the fact that ecotourism relies completely on the conservation of natural resources which are generally public property. Although tourism is in fact an “industry with no chimneys”, it has been widely observed that tourism development can destroy the environment. The case of the Spanish Mediterranean coast is an example.
Though Costa Rica seems to have avoided the more deleterious effects of international tourism present in many other developing countries (Chant, 1992) the country is now at a crossroads on how to continue developing in a sustainable manner. As conservation does not imply preservation and to achieve it there must be an economic input, it seems ecotourism fits perfectly well to fill this gap. Conclusion Costa Rica has developed an image at the international level as an ecological tourism destination over the years. The country mostly promotes its spectacular biodiversity and its number of different landscapes.
Moreover, it is portrayed as a place to relax mentally and physically where there is a great diversity of attractions for a small country, allowing people to see in few days two oceans, mountains and volcanoes. The type of tourism that you can find there are the ecotourism and sustainable tourism linked with adventure and nature discovery. Finally, Costa Rica is considered as a peaceful destination which encourages people to come and visit the country. The only fear for Costa Rica is to become a mass tourism destination which could have important impacts on its rich and extraordinary flora and fauna.