by Shannon Farley

Sometimes it’s not always easy to find real eco-friendly or sustainable tourism businesses when traveling. At least there are more possibilities for ecotourism in Costa Rica, which maintains rigorous standards.

Costa Rica essentially pioneered the flourishing ecotourism trend nearly two decades ago. Since then, with the many stringent demands of its Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) program, it takes a great deal of commitment, hard work and dedication to authentically be a sustainable eco-friendly business in Costa Rica. Luckily, many are.

When you visit Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure, a nature and adventure park in Costa Rica’s Caribbean mountains, you contribute directly to the planet’s sustainability by helping fund conservation and scientific research with the Veragua Foundation for Rainforest Research. The all-in-one rainforest adventure park has a nationally-acclaimed biology research center on its 3,212-acre (1,300-hectare) private reserve.

Named the No. 1 of 18 things to do in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica on TripAdvisorVeragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure is located about an hour inland from the Caribbean port town of Limon. It is an area of breathtaking tropical rainforest bordering the La Amistad International Park, the country’s most remote national park that is shared by both Costa Rica and Panama.

“We’re located in a poor area that traditionally was involved in logging, mono-agriculture and hunting. We’re turning the region into a conservation-focused area, giving locals jobs and teaching them to protect their resources. We’re very involved in the community with education and infrastructure,” commented Veragua owner Marti Jimenez.

Veragua Rainforest is currently awaiting its first Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) from the Costa Rica Tourism Board. The 1999 program grades the sustainability of a tourism company based on specific criteria such as proper waste management, environmental protection, use of resources, respect for local cultures and support of local communities. The five-level rating process is very detailed and involves rigorous demands, frequent inspections and evaluations.

“The CST program fits right in with the triple-bottom-line philosophy (people, planet and profit) we’ve had at Veragua since inception,” said Jimenez.

In addition to being certified sustainable, Veragua will soon be one of the only tourist adventure parks in Costa Rica using mostly clean energy. Due to Veragua’s remote location, they currently depend on a diesel generator system to supply all of their electricity at the adventure park, which is both extremely costly and not eco-friendly. In February 2016, they will install solar panels on three buildings in key locations on the property.

“Our solar energy project is a huge milestone because we finally will have a renewable source of energy after almost eight years of depending on diesel,” said Jimenez. “It will allow us to offer 24/7 electricity to our day and overnight visitors, and to avoid frequent, costly, and even urgent maintenance of the diesel generator.”

In other recent news, Veragua Rainforest has constructed a new accessible mini-trail that will let wheelchairs and scooters access both sides of theiaerial tram, thereby doubling the frequency of rides for visitors.

And if you have read on TripAdvisor or other travel forums any concerns about the road to Veragua Rainforest, rest easy – the local government recently paved 6 kilometers of the road from the main highway turnoff, and repaired the remaining 6 kilometers of gravel road. The private road inside Veragua’s gate also received extensive repair and improvement to make transportation to Veragua Rainforest even easier.

Don’t miss this top shore excursion in Limon, Costa Rica. Plan your visit today to Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure during your Costa Rica vacation.

Open Tuesday to Sunday (and cruise ship Mondays), from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Entrance is free for children under 4 years old. Tours start every hour on the hour; the last tour begins at 3:00 p.m. Tel: +506 4000-0949.