World Rainforest Movement

Costa Rica: Depredatory tourism takes everything with it

Tourism has come to stay in Costa Rica and, with it, ransacking and depredation of the country’s prodigious ecosystems (see WRM Bulletin 84). This is denounced by Juan Figuerola, of the Costa Rican Federation for Environmental Conservation (FECON), in a press release under the heading of “The environmental devil: lord and master of Costa Rica” (“El diablo ambiental: amo y señor de Costa Rica”, available in Spanish at

Among the examples denounced as reflecting the critical environmental situation, Figuerola mentions that “the recent electricity cuts scourging the country are a perfect pretext to justify the construction of more dams and geothermic projects in forest areas, implying the destruction of National Parks and Ramsar sites that gave Costa Rica so much international renown.”

Furthermore, the restrictions are not felt equally by all the population. “We are told to switch off the light and that water is saved drop by drop … But the tourist enterprises and the five-star hotels in Guanacaste – the driest region of the country – are not told to stop watering their golf courses in the summer or not to change the water in their swimming pools every week. How much water is consumed during the dry season in Guanacaste just by building projects, condominiums, hotels, luxury residences? The communities are already complaining that the building companies are drying up the emblematic Tempisque River.”

The best places are passing into private and foreign hands, such as those of the Canadian citizen Paul Lambert, “owner of various millionaire projects in Quepos and Manuel Antonio, including the sale over Internet of the State’s natural heritage, monumental buildings on sharply sloping land, felling of trees to obtain panoramic views, buildings in the middle of forests.” Figuerola also tells how “in the Golfito Wildlife Refuge in Cerro Adams, an individual known as Carrión, dizzy with the delirious but much questioned Marina project, is building lookouts and felling trees to clear the view on sharply sloping land, threatening to cause a disaster that could mean the loss of dozens of human lives if a landslide were to occur due to deforestation, which would fall on the village of Golfito.”

Forests are one of the ecosystems that mega-tourism wipes out. “In Liberia, in the Papagayo Tourist Pole project, declared of national interest, the dry coastal forest is being felled to set up hotels, swimming pools and golf courses.” “In Tamarindo, in the Baulas Park buffer zone, the Tamarindo Preserve company is attempting to develop an ecological residential project over hundreds of hectares.” “There are buildings already where until this January a mangrove grew in the San Francisco swamp.” “In Nicoya, at Sámara beach the last remnants of wetlands – home to migratory birds and of a rich and diverse wildlife – are being filled, drained and cut down to open up the way for tourist and residential development.” “All along the Coastal Strip, between Dominical and Palmar, tourist and residential projects are the main cause of deforestation, putting an end to biodiversity, forest lands and coral reefs. One of the best highways in the country is being built in this zone, precisely aimed at attracting foreign investment.”

In March 1993, on occasion of the Berlin Tourism Fair the then Minister of Tourism of Costa Rica was “awarded” the Environmental Devil Prize. So many years after this warning, so-called “development” is still causing losses that are impossible to assess.

Article based on: “El diablo ambiental: amo y señor de Costa Rica”(The environmental devil, lord and master of Costa Rica), Federación Costarricense para la Conservación del Ambiente, FECON, sent by Juan Figuerola: