Manuel Antonio State Park on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
The next day we were picked up and traveled to the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The trip was bumpy, since the roads are not well paved in many places. (This is called a Costa Rican massage!) On the way, we stopped at an Israeli restaurant where we had hummus and pita. Hana, who waited on us, jokingly told us it was the best hummus in Costa Rica! The restaurant was part of a hotel down the road, owned and operated by a group of vegetarians from Israel who also had a kind of animal sanctuary. An Israeli restaurant in the heart of Costa Rica was a surprise!
We arrived at our second hotel, which is located on the beach next to Manuel Antonio State Park. It holds a certification for sustainable tourism, and instead of having 5 stars, it has five green leaves. Small animals are everywhere: iguanas, hummingbirds, monkeys, sloths and those we cannot see.
Here is a photo of a hummingbird’s nest. We were told not to touch it or the mother would destroy the eggs. It could fit into
the palm of your hand. (Photo taken by Silvia, my guide on the hotel property for the eco-tour.)
Here is some information directly from the website: http://www.arenasdelmar.com/sustainability.html:
At Arenas Del Mar, we define the term sustainable tourism as:
“Responsible travel that conserves the environment
and improves the well-being of local people.”
We seek to demonstrate that a world class resort can be successfully combined with the highest levels of sustainability. Working with Costa Rica’s Certificate for Sustainable Tourism (CST), Arenas Del Mar is truly an exemplary project for tourism worldwide.
Onsite Sustainability Features
At Arenas Del Mar, sustainability has been a key feature since the planning and construction phase. Sustainable features of the physical property itself include:
- Solar panels to heat hot water coupled with energy saving auxiliary water heaters.
- Underground electricity systems that do not interfere with surrounding wildlife.
- Chlorine free ionization systems to clean pool water.
- Energy efficient lighting and illumination throughout the entire property.
- Extensive recycling programs.
- Recycling and waste management system
- Advanced waste water treatment systems, which assure that all water leaving our properties will not affect the surrounding water sources.
- Use of low flow toilets.
- The use of electric cars on property that significantly reduce our carbon emissions.
- Roof tiles made from discarded plastic bags from the banana industry.
- Recycled materials throughout the property.
- An advanced vermiculture-based compost system to recycle organic waste
- Onsite soap production made from leftover cooking oil from the kitchen.
- Non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products.
- Support of local artists and businesses throughout the gift shop and spa.
- Plant a tree program*
- Donations made to local organizations that promote reforestation and the protection of squirrel monkeys.
- Native plants nursery.
- Hydroponic garden on the hotel property.
- And much more! (Watch the video on the website at the end of this list.)
* We donated $15 for this program when we were there. You can do it through the website as well.
Again, the building where we stayed was tucked into the trees and the colors blended into the environment. My husband learned that the owners of the hotel bought the land and planted trees, waiting twenty years for them to grow tall before adding the hotel buildings.
The hotel is a five-leaf hotel. In our bathroom were little cloth packets of toiletries with the green leaf logo on them.
Best of all, we could hear the waves slapping against the shore from our room, high up on a hill. And we ate either in the hatched building on the beach or outdoors (See Home Page picture).
We also saw a sloth and monkeys in the trees of the state park next to us as well as in the trees surrounding the beach and outdoor eating area. (The sloth photo is seen through the special telescopic device on our tour of the state park.)
This white-faced monkey sat eating his lunch while we were eating
Our tour of Manuel Antonio State Park was very interesting. Our tour guide had studied to be a Naturalist and without him we would have seen very little. He carried a small telescopic-like device (sloth above) that allowed us to see animals way up in the trees. At the beach the monkeys grabbed food from visitors’ bags and sat on the branches eating.
I held out part of my banana and a little mono (monkey in Spanish) took it right from me without flinching. (I flinched!)
The day before we left I went on a “green” tour of the hotel with Silvia, the young woman with excellent English who is head of hotel sustainability. I couldn’t believe there was a special office for sustainability. What she showed me and told me knocked my socks off! (See list above.)
From protecting the tiny hummingbird nest to composting the garbage to recycling tetra packages to plant tree seedlings, the tour impressed me and made me wish I could stay longer with Silvia to learn more about how Costa Rica protects its environment. We visited all the areas where services are performed, such as the laundry area with its high tech-low water washer. We also visited the spa, where the woman in charge explained that all the skin products were from Costa Rica and contained no artificial ingredients or harsh chemicals.
The food at our hotel was very good. There were vegetarian choices, a breakfast buffet, and dancing on two nights: calypso and traditional Costa Rican music.
I drank piña coladas made by another lovely young woman named Nury, who also spoke wonderful English. All the waiters were very attentive, especially Luis, who came from San Jose and worked hard to support his children in college. Because he lived far away from the hotel, he stayed in the part of the hotel reserved for staff, which was near the area that the nursery for the new trees and the recreation area for their off hours. The staff seemed to like their work and Silvia educated them about the importance of sustainability.
Our last night there was a heavy, two-hour rain forest rainstorm. At breakfast our last morning at the hotel all the monkeys “in the neighborhood” came out looking for food in the gutters of the restaurant roof. We were told not to feed them, because then they would swarm all over the hotel. They were adorable, swinging in the trees and swaying on the branches, like in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Best of all were the tour guides and hotel staff. From my viewpoint, these (mostly younger) workers seemed committed to keeping their country “green” and were genuinely interested in showing us how they do it. There was a sweetness about them that I found heart-warming. Their concern for our stay was expected, but not their strong, positive attitude about ecology.
As you can tell, I loved going to Costa Rica and hope to return. There is so much more to see! And I know that our tourist dollars are being used to keep the country green. From my experience, I think every day is Earth Day in Costa Rica!
P.S. There are no giraffes in Costa Rica, but at the rest stop where we saw the crocodiles I spotted this ceramic giraffe painted in the style of Costa Rican objects. Good thing it was too big to take on the plane! It would have made a nice addition to my many giraffes at home.