Costa Rica is named the third best Green Country in the World, according to the recently released 2014 Global Green Economy Index.
In the 1940s more than three-quarters of Costa Rica was covered with trees. From lush tropical rainforests, home to hundreds of rare species, to cloud forests at the top of the world a total of six different ecosystems could be found across the tiny Central American nation. But the decades that followed devastated the country’s forests as logging companies turned this irreplaceable natural resource into profit. Land was cleared to be used for crops and livestock, changing it forever. An all-too-familiar story in tropical regions where an area of rainforest the size of a football pitch is thought to be lost every 6 seconds.
By the 1980s, only a third of the woodland that used to blanket the Central American nation remained. It had one of the highest rates of deforestation in all of Latin America. Reading its history, you might not expect Costa Rica to be world-leading in its conservation efforts. In a remarkably short space of time, however, the country has managed to dramatically turn things around.
It has become one of the first tropical countries to all but end deforestation and reverse its loss of nature. Today, around 75 per cent of its land is once again covered in forest. Making up just 0.03 per cent of global landmass, Costa Rica now protects 5 per cent of the world’s rapidly shrinking biodiversity.
The country’s respect for the environment is also being reinforced by its successful ecotourism industry. Nearly two-thirds of the three million people that visit Costa Rica every year do so because of its nature, according to the tourism board. Tourism makes up 8.2 per cent of the country’s GDP and around 10 per cent of citizens are employed in the sector. Unlike some other destinations that rely on visitors to keep their economy afloat, the industry is helping to protect the environment that draws people in rather than destroying it.
“We made a decision as a country that tourism would become a tool for social progress, not just an industry that produces jobs,” says Gustavo Segura Sancho, the country’s minister for tourism.
“Had we chosen a model of aggressive growth in mass tourism, then there would have been no conservation of nature.”
He explains that the small rural and coastal areas, likely to attract the most visitors, are also those most in need of social progress. In the last 30 years or so a healthy number of tourists has allowed the building of multiple new schools, hospitals and health clinics to strengthen these communities. It has led to a 97 per cent literacy rate which makes sharing all kinds of information among the population a lot easier. Segura Sancho says that tourism now helps to directly fund this combined approach to education, health and conservation.
“What that has really meant is we have now 26 per cent of our territory in some form of conservation and the main source of financing for those efforts of conservation, is tourism,” he adds.
Costa Rica is known for its incredible national parks, where tourists can enjoy some thrilling activities like river rafting, canyoning, cave tubing, and zip lining. It’s also one of the best places for animal lovers to discover some interesting wildlife like macaws, sea turtles, and adorable sloths.
”We are Alberto & Margherita, an Italian couple that decided to live a new life in paradise: Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.”
Alberto and Margherita built Buena Onda Bungalows – https://www.buenaonda.cr/ with the aim to share this special place with us, letting us live the best holiday surrounded by the jungle life with all the modern comforts and services at the same time. A perfect fusion between nature, sustainability living and functionality of various activities like yoga, surf, meditation and beach walks.
We were so impressed by their dream project built during the pandemic period, but planned few years before during a holiday, so we got in touch with them to find out more:
How did you discover your favorite place in Costa Rica and how Buena Onda was born?
Alberto: I came to Santa Teresa with a friend in 2013 and immediately fell in love with this place. It is a surfing paradise: perfect waves, many spots to experience and warm water all year round. This location on the Costa Pacifica offers 15km of open beach, with white sand and the lush jungle that surrounds it. It is the tropical beach of dreams.
Margherita: We went back together on holiday in Playa Santa Teresa in 2019 and, for fun, we made some appointments with the local real estate agent. We fell in love with the first land we visited, 150 meters from the beach. We took it as a sign of destiny, perhaps it was time to make Alberto’s dream come true. For me the process of developing the project was much longer and more painful but it was an opportunity and an adventure that I didn’t want to miss for any reason. Therefore, after a few months Alberto returned to Costa Rica to buy the property and from there the project was born, which was already in our minds.
Which decades of generations influenced you the most and why?
Both: The 70s for the explosion of energy: the end of darkness, the rediscovered freedom, new rights conquered, economic growth, the possibility of being able to express one’s individuality, the feeling of being free in a world of colors.
What makes Buena Onda so unique and original?
Both: We are Buena Onda, it is a place that represents us and wherever our touch is found. The project was carried out by us as well as all the stylistic details. We used local materials, everything is made with natural elements from Costa Rica: wood, palm leaves and bamboo, which comes directly from our garden.
”We wanted to create chic zero-impact huts, surrounded by nature but with all the comforts, we hope we have succeeded!”
What do you expect from your clients when they choose Buena Onda?
Both: Let them be smiling in the first place. We called our place Buena Onda because in Spanish it has the double meaning of “Good Vibes” and “Beautiful Waves”.
Our goal is that customers become friends and can return home having had a 360 ° positive experience. We are very keen to convey to our customers the philosophy behind the Buena Onda: to live the Pura Vida to the fullest, that is to come into contact with nature and its animals, to enjoy the beach and natural spectacles such as sunsets. Leave the busy life aside and embrace the rhythm of the jungle.
Speaking about your choice to leave Italy and follow a dream, what is the message that people should understand when it comes to make a decision like yours?
Alberto: It is never too late to pursue a dream that seems feasible to you somewhere in the world.
Margherita: Life is a changing adventure, you never know what the future holds for you. So it’s important to be able to pick the right signals and know when it’s time to jump in and try.
Tell us a little bit about your background and what freedom means to you?
Alberto: After graduating in business administration, I traveled the world working in almost all fields of hospitality. I have always known that the office was not a reality for me so I wanted to experience experiences that made me grow as a person. I was a chef in Australia, ice cream maker in Miami, I spent several seasons in Romagna; everything served me to be able to realize my dream.
For me, freedom means being able to decide on one’s life without being accountable to third parties.
Margherita: I left my home when I was 18 years old, I graduated in Oriental Languages, I obtained the MA in Management and Communication and I worked for 5 years in the fashion field. I have lived in many places both during university (China and Spain) and for work (Switzerland, France and around Italy).
For me, freedom means deciding how to manage your time, the most precious asset.
What other hobbies make you tick?
When I get home I make myself a smoothie with banana and coconut water then my day starts.
I understand their point of view, they certainly did not expect such a choice from me since I had a completely different life. But seeing the satisfaction in their eyes is the thing that makes me most proud. It means I did something good.