Overtourism in Costa Rica, find here ten ways you can help

Sometimes we are here, sitting in front of our keyboard. Our window shows buildings, people walking, indifferent pedestrians, and honking cars, and we dream about this trip to the rainforest, monkeys, sloths, a piña colada, and the ocean waves. We do not dream about long lines and noisy groups of teenagers, but over-tourism is a fact in Costa Rica, as in many other places.

Costa Rica overtourismWhen I was a kid, iWhich is still late sixties and early seventies; I lived in a town called Moravia (Still dedicated to tourcentraland souvenirs). There used to be a leather factory on a corner of the main plaza, and now and then, we got big and noisy buses of tourists.

I have no idea where did they come from. Now, I can guess they might have been missionaries or people coming from the US Military Base in Panama. In those days, we barely had tourism. By the late ’80s, we had arou00,000 visitors a year. Very few hotels in San Jose, almost none out of the typical and very rustic beach cabins, and a ple of more significant places in Guanacaste (Tamarindo Diríá) or Jacó (Jaco Beach Hotel). Other than that… Nothing.

I went on the first tours to the Arenal Volcano. We used to go out of San José at 5:30 am and returned around 9 pm. because it was extremely isolated. We would go across La Fortuna town, and get pretty close to the volcano (Remember in those days it was deadly active, literally speaking), there were no controls, no national park, no beautiful hotels, no delicious restaurants, no noisy bars, just a hot river going through a cattle field.

We would stop in the middle of nowhere, have the tourists come down and through barbwire and touch the water… See? It’s hot! Ok! Back to the bus! And we would travel a couple more hours to get to another region to enjoy a couple of hot springs-fed swimming pools.

The rest of the nowadays most popular tourist destinations of Costa Rica were not better. Terrible roads, no accommodations, no hot water in the shower, and not even fans in the rooms.

When the World discovered Central America in the early nineties (After the cold war ended and finally we had peace in the area) Costa Rica began to invest a lot of money in encouraging tourism. All sorts of programs to support and encourage investors into the travel business. And beyond, fantastic ways to attract foreign investors and big hotels to our coasts and beauty.

Costa Rica is such a beautiful place! And it has everything you dreamed about when you thought about adventure, jungle, or freedom. All are immersed in peace and sustainability!

After a couple of decades, Costa Rica has multiplied its visitors numbers exponentially and continues to do so, up till today. And we are not an exception. This is how the travel industry has surged in; the watch few years.

You may also like: Manuel Antonio National Park, watch it on Netflix!

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, worldwide visitors surged from 25 million in 1950 to over 1.3 billion in 2017. This figure is predicted to rise by 3.3 percent annually such until 2030 when 1.8 billion international visitors go abroad.

Cities as Prague, Venice, Barcelona, Edinburgh, and Paris, among others, suffer from an influx of tourists every year. Countries, though, have begun to push back. Some impose tourist taxes, day charges, and pollution costs; others limit the number of tourists permitted per day; others prohibit the development of new hotels and Airbnbs.

Will these measures, however, be sufficient to curb over-tourism? No!

Our visitors must help us with this! Especially if we want to preserve Costa Rica’s natural beauty and originality.

I found this article on Tic. o Times where Astha Garg relates 10 Overtourism Management Strategies

On an individual level, the following are some simple initiatives we can all do.

1. Travel during the off-season

When you visit a destination during peak season, you have to deal with crowds and spend more on everything, from flights to accommodations. By conducting some study on the location, you may identify shoulder season as’ a season when the weather is still pleasant, the people have dispersed, and costs have returned to normal.

When we talk about Costa Rica and depending on what you are looking for, we can talk about two different periods, one for the Pacific and the other for the Northern and the Caribbean.

In this area (Manuel Antonio) and the Central Valley, and the rest of the Pacific Coast, May, November, and early December are some of the best times to come as these are transition months where there the weather is still lovely or it’s getting to be sunny again, and everything is virtually empty.

September and October are the best months to visit the Caribbean coast and the Northern area. Empty places and dry weather as it is the sunny season in that part of the country alone.

2. Move slowly
Some visitors have a bucket list of destinations they wish to see and aim to check as many off as possible on a side trip. They stop in one place for a day or two before continuing on to the next.

When I think about areas like Manuel Antonio, Arenal, or Monteverde, with all the beauty they offer, and see people hurrying through the trails to cover as much as possible of these paradises in one day, I honestly feel a little saddened.

From my point of view, this nonsensical take a picture and checking the bucket list items is quite non-sensical. Take time, and breathe in the places you visit. Feel the aromas, take time to touch them and eat and smile, talk to the local people, explore the towns, and go beyond the usual or most advertised. This way, you may concentrate on quality rather than quantity.

3. Spread out your travels
This step is related to the previous one. When you travel slowly, you see areas that aren’t as well-known.

Don’t limit yourself to the most popular attractions when visiting a city. Leave the town center. Discover unusual locations. This would result in fewer tourists in hotspots and more significant tourism benefits to local communities around the region.

In the area of Manuel Antonio, for instance, you can also visit Dominical, Parrita, Uvita, and even Perez Zeledon if you are renting a car. You can also visit the Puriscal route and see more of the countryside.

You may also enjoy: Tipping in Costa Rica, a guide

4. Take public transportation
Many international visitors hire a car as soon as they arrive in Costa Rica. They then drive to each location on their list. Taking private transportation to a place just contributes to the problem of congestion and increased traffic.

Use public transportation wherever possible. Otherwise, utilize a shared shuttle. A shared shuttle may transport up to 12 visitors (often even more) at once, instead of 4-5 passengers in a car.

5. Be a well-informed traveler.
A little study about the place or places you’re visiting can help you understand its culture, customs, values, norms, and regulations. You will be more educated and appreciative of the location this way. When I travel, I love to buy a novel or an informative book about a place fantastic going and read it while I travel. You can go for many blogs and vlogs about all places in Costa Rica or wherever you travel! Make it your goal to be informed about where you are traveling.

6. Be a responsible traveler.
In several places in Costa Rica (Including t-shirts), it reads: ‘Don’t take more than images, leave only footprints! This is an excellent summary of what a responsible visitor does.

Don’t leave an unfavorable impression. Respect the local culture and be mindful of the ecology and surroundings of the location you are visiting. Bring your garbage with you.

Two toed sloth - Costa Rica overtourism7. Go in smaller groups.
When huge groups travel together, they add to the crowd in one location. You’re also in your social bubble, which limits your possibilities to interact with others. Traveling in small groups allows you to interact with the location and the inhabitants.

8. Dine at local establishments
If you enjoy eating at McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King, or Subway, even when traveling, you should think about it. The money spent at these large MNCs is frequently transported out of the nation, providing little benefit to the inhabitants.

Consume locally! You not only receive special meals, but you also contribute to strengthening the local economy by spending money at local companies.

9. Stay at a local hotel, Airbnb, or bed and breakfast.
The same is true for lodging. When looking for a place to stay, seek hotels, hostels, beds, and breakfasts, and Airbnbs managed by locals. This is the primary source of income for many residents. You not only aid them, but you also get to sample local culture and food.

In Manuel Antonio, even the big hotels are local. And local people work in all facilities. However, think about this before reserving accommodation.

10. Highlight lesser-known locations
Post images and talk about unusual locations on your social media accounts if you are a YouTuber, social media influencer, or travel blogger (or even if you are not). This would draw people’s attention to previously unknown locations. They might even put that location on their bucket list.

Every step is essential! You may begin with as little as you choose. All of this will come naturally to you one day. And we hope you will be the torchbearer one day, illuminating others!


Written by Olga Saenz


Astha Garg. “Overtourism In Costa Rica: 10 Ways to Manage it.” The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate. 1 Aug. 2022. Web. 4 Aug. 2022. <https://ticotimes.net/2022/08/01/overtourism-in-costa-rica-10-ways-to-manage-it>

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