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Rural Community Tourism in Costa Rica

Get to Know the People, Their Culture, and Their Environment

Costa Rica community tourism
Costa Rican cowboy from Zapote, Costa Rica

One of the most intriguing efforts to encourage tourists to get to know the real Costa Rica is known as Rural Community Tourism. A consortium called COOPRENA provides international and national exposure for its member organizations and cooperatives, all of which must meet strict criteria based on this concept. The organizations promoted, each composed of rural, low-income families, are committed to sustainable tourism—bringing income into their communities while preserving their local environments and traditional ways of life.

Through COOPRENA, travelers can find accommodations at small lodges, farms, indigenous villages, and homestays throughout Costa Rica. In addition, hiking, tours, and volunteer options are offered throughout the country following the same guidelines. The organization provides Costa Rican lodging possibilities, most of them simple but with the benefit of access to the community and its culture.

Here are a few (please note that some come and go, so there may be new options available at any point):

Near San Jose

La Cangreja Lodge features a sugar mill, waterfalls, horseback riding, the nearby Quitirrisi Indigenous Reserve and a chance to observe the making of cigars. A lodge for up to 20 people and a camping area are provided.

San Jose Rural Lodge conducts hiking tours in the Quitirrisi reserve and maintains farm and reforestation projects, an eco-friendly coffee-processing plant, and mountain biking trails.

La Flor de Paraiso is a "typical Costa Rican community located in the surrounding mountains of the Orosi Valley." Cottages for guests, vegetarian meals from the organic farm, a sugar mill, a botanical garden, and a medicinal plant garden are some of the possibilities. The Alternative Spanish Institute language school is located here.

Northern Plains

Rincon de la Vieja Agro-ecological Lodge and Tropical Rainforest offers a camping area and a lodge. Thermal pools, meals prepared on a woodstove with organic produce, an interpretive trail through Rincon del la Vieja National Park, horseback riding tours, a butterfly garden, and a small zoo are some of the attractions.

North Pacific Area

Monte Alto Eco-tourism Lodge runs a huge reforestation project that has been a vital link in preserving not only the forest but also the upper Nosara River. They have award-winning environmental programs, trails through the 800-hectare preserve, a lodge with capacity for 20 guests, an orchid garden, a 19th century agricultural settlement, a sugar mill and a conference room.

Also in the North Pacific area is the Isla de Chira, and getting there will mean a boat trip. You can visit the mangroves and learn about the daily lives of community members. Two rooms are available; the price includes typical (mostly seafood) meals. Barge tours around the mangroves, walking tours and fishing are possibilities. Nearby Paloma Island features a bird sanctuary and a tour of the fish processing plant.


The Talamanca Area boasts many small rural lodges and activities, including the Yorquin Indigenous Community. At Yorquin, the Stibraupa Women's Group cooks traditional food based on local natural products. There is a lodge and a cottage. Possibilities include visits to cocoa, heart of palm, and pejibaye organic farming operations; thermal springs and hiking trails throughout the forest; a waterfall; and talks on local legends.

This is just a taste of the many rural opportunities that enable visitors to get to know the real Costa Rica. The biggest problem is deciding which one to try first.

For more information visit COOPRENA. They will arrange tours or make reservations at any of the rural facilities.

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