A day trip from San José and sustainable tourism in Costa Rica

Excited I woke up five in the morning, ready for my first day in Costa Rica. Despite an exhausting and long flight, I could not sleep due to the time difference. On my first day, I was going on a day trip to the Volcano Poás, followed by a visit to a coffee estate.

Sponsored travelVisiting Volcano Poas with the great guide Costas.

After a delicious breakfast and my first taste of Gallo pinto in my hotel, I set out with my guide Costas.

From the first moment I met Costas, I loved his attitude and stories.

Constantino Carabaguiaz Rois is known to people as Costas. He is 49 years old, born and raised in Costa Rica. He has been working as a guide and driver for more than 20 years, and he loves what he is doing for a living.

‑ “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”, he cited Confucius.

Then he continued talking about the landscape, the history of the country and the growth of sustainable tourism in Costa Rica.  He also told me his own story, how he moved from being a driver into working as a multi-lingual tourist guide.

Volcano Poás

After driving about 50 km from San José, the last part on narrow, winding mountain roads, we reached the destination.

– This is one of the most visited volcanos in Costa Rica. Not only for tourists but also for local tourists and school class, Costas said as we were walking.

After walking for only a few minutes, I could smell the sulfur.

All though the volcano has a lot of visitors, not everyone is lucky enough to catch a clear view of the crater and the crater lake. It is often covered with clouds. It is advised to arrive early in the morning, and before we arrived, it was already 10 am.

I was excited as I approached the viewpoint, and it was my lucky day – the magical moment of seeing my first volcano!

Volcano Poas - the crater lakeVolcano Poás is situated at a height of 2300 meters. The crater is massive, the diameter is 1320 meters, and the depth of the crater is 300 meters. The crater lake is actually one of the world´s most acidic lakes, sometimes reaching a pH close to 0. Hence, there is minimal or no aquatic life in the lake.

In addition to the volcano, there are also a few hiking trails in this area, surrounded by the dense cloud forest. About an hour’s walk from the active crater, you can also visit the inactive crater, Lake Botos.

Eco travel and nature

Many people, myself included, travel to Costa Rica to explore the amazing nature.  They are marketing themselves as a great Eco destination, and they are very concerned about keeping the tourism industry green and sustainable.

For eco-adventures, there are definitely great selections of areas and activities. The nature in Costa Rica is amazing; it is the greenest country I have ever visited. Actually, Costa Rica holds 6% of the world’s biodiversity, and 26% of the territory is protected areas.

From the volcano, we drove 25 kilometers towards Doka coffee estate. On the way, Costa told me that he never really planned to work in sustainable tourism. At the time he started, he was not clear about what he wanted to do in life. He was working as a driver transporting people for different companies, and through meeting people who spoke different languages his interest for learning more languages arose.

– I have experienced how life makes you meet your destination on a proper time, he said.

Sustainable tourism in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has turned to eco-tourism as its key to economic development. In the 80´s, at the beginning of developing the tourism sector, the economy of the country still depended on the export of bananas and coffee.

Costas told me that several occasions set Costa Rica on the map during the 80´s, and made people aware of this as a destination to visit. While it was civil wars in the neighboring countries, a visionary politician named Oscar Arias Sanchez wrote a peace plan to get the region disarmed. Costa Rica abolished their army already in 1948! The peace plan Sanchez wrote was adopted by United Nations, and in 1986 Sanches was also elected as the President of Costa Rica. A year later he won the Nobel Peace prize for his effort to end the Central American crisis, and Costa Rica also got their very first medal in the Olympics by their swimmer Silvia Poll. All these events gave important exposure for Costa Rica to the whole world.

With growing interest in tourism, the authorities supported the initiatives of eco-friendly tourism and started several programs to develop a sustainable tourism approach. Today Costa Rica is one of the pioneers in eco- and responsible travel, where education programs and certifications are important parts. The sustainable approach is not only in the tourism sector, they are also focusing on recycling and sustainable energy sources.

– Education is free and mandatory in Costa Rica, and that is a very important tool to teach the new generations about the importance of sustainability and preserving our nature, Costas said.

He continued to give me a number of reasons that contributed to the success in eco-tourism:

– We have active volcanoes and different types of tropical forest. We have the most beautiful cloud tropical forest in the world, we have rain tropical forest and dry tropical forest. Our National Parks and biological reserves are plentiful and well taken care of, and visitors can hike mountains or the dense forests, go through the jungle on the rivers to explore the remote areas, or enjoy life on the beautiful sand beaches.

Photo from Costas. Photographer unknown.

I asked him if he had a favorite spot, and he replied:

– It is difficult to choose, but right now it is Monteverde cloud tropical forest.

The art of coffee

We arrived Doka coffee estate, and in drizzling rain, we were taken around the estate to get an impression of the large fields where they grow the coffee, followed by an explanation of the process of the beans from the field to cup.

Doka - coffee beans

The estate itself is beautiful, and if you join the guided tour you will learn the whole process of coffee production. Our guide had good knowledge about the process itself and about working conditions for the employees and the development of the coffee industry in Costa Rica.

I already knew that it takes a lot of work to process the coffee beans, but during the hour of walking around the estate and a better understanding of the whole process, I realized how much hard work is behind my cup of coffee. Much of it involves manual work. It made me even more aware of buying my coffee fair trade!

The highlight for me was the tasting of the different types of coffee, and smelling the beans, and to compare the smell and the taste of the coffee from the different beans. They had a great coffee shop, and of course, I left with a few bags of coffee.

Doka coffee estate - coffee beans dried and roasted

Would I recommend this trip to others?

Yes, if you are aware that it is a trip for tourists, and your expectation is to learn about coffee. If you prefer a more authentic interaction with the locals, this trip is not for you. Even though I usually prefer the latter, I found the guided tour interesting because I have not visited a coffee estate before.

The joy of experiencing your country with visitors

During lunch, we kept chatting about places to see in Costa Rica. This was my first day exploring the country, and I was excited to see more the coming week. We were heading towards the Caribbean part, to visit the Limón area to see the beaches and visit the Yorkin indigenous reserve, and then continue to the Tortuguero National Park.

– You will have an amazing time exploring the natural wonders on the Caribbean coast, Costas told me.

He told me that he was a grown-up before his interest for nature and outdoor developed. In -93 he was working part-time as a bilingual driver in the tourism sector, and traveling with visitors opened his eyes to new opportunities where he could combine his passion for outdoor, driving, languages and people.

Looking for the red eye tree frog with visitors. Photo from Costas, photographer unknown.

– Tourism in Costa Rica created opportunities for many people in my country, and it encouraged many people to learn languages and to learn about their own country to become successful within the tourism sector.

I asked him what is so special about working in tourism.

– Sharing experiences with our visitors and showing them the beauties of our country, our nature, our people and traditions may leave great memories in their souls, memories which can last forever! Sometimes I teach them something, sometimes I learn something. Working with people who visits my country really means a lot to me, Costas replied.

To be honest, I could not have had a better first day in Costa Rica!

If you want to get in touch with Costas for your Costa Rica travel, here is his contact information:
Email: costastravel@yahoo.com

Would you like to explore Costa Rica?


Disclaimer: I visited Costa Rica in collaboration with Futuropa. As usual, Taste of Slow maintains the full editorial control of the content published on this site, and all opinions are my own.

About the Author Elin

I´m an Oslo based web publisher with passion for communication, travel and a green lifestyle. When I travel, I prefer to go slow, sustainable, and “live like a local”. Why slow? It is about challenging the cult of speed, and to enjoy the small things in life and to live in the present.

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