Leatherback Turtle — Photo courtesy of Daniel Evans
'Tis the season to start a tradition that matters, and a trip to Puerto Viejo de Limon the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica offers abundant opportunities for the ethical traveler. Ecologically and socially responsible activities are part of everyday life in Puerto Viejo, and you'll find an eco-friendly community eager to help you explore. Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center, help with a reforestation project, learn the traditional customs of the indigenous Bri Bri and Kekoldi tribes, take a Caribbean cooking class, explore botanical gardens and a working permaculture farm. In Puerto Viejo, one can speak Spanish, French and Italian over espresso, get a braided hairstyle on the beach, study sacro-cranial massage, try Mexican, Indian or Thai for lunch and dinner, have gallo pinto for breakfast, and awake to the roars of howling monkeys.
Three-toed Sloth — Photo courtesy of Lizard King Resort
Sloths are the ubiquitous, slow-moving mascots of the Caribbean, their smug smiles symbolic of the relaxed life-style that epitomizes la pura vida. At the Jaguar Rescue Center, animals are rescued, rehabilitated, and released back into the wild on the Center's expansive preserve. Visitors interact with monkeys, sloths, and whomever else is being treated as part of recreational therapy that offers a mutually rewarding experience. Tours are offered at 9:30am and 11:30am everyday except Sunday, and volunteer options are available. http://www.jaguarrescue.com
The Sea Turtle Conservancy is a non-profit organization with a mission focused entirely on the conservation of marine turtles. Founded more than fifty years ago, STC is based in Florida and has a satellite tracking program in Costa Rica in which they identify the marine life migratory patterns which are vital for improving their conservation. A Leatherback Adventure is an exciting and educational way to support the much needed research of this endangered, exotic species. As an eco-volunteer for the Sea Turtle Conservancy, you'll be counting turtle tracks on the sand and helping tag nesting turtles in the aptly named remote village of Tortuguero. Leatherback season is March until June. For more information visit www.conserveturtles.org
Salsa Brava, Puerto Viejo — Photo courtesy of slamonica
The Talamanca Association of Ecotourism and Conservation (ATEC) is an organization started more than twenty years ago by Puerto Viejo residents concerned about the social, cultural, and environmental factors that come with tourism. ATEC's objective is to promote ecological tourism, environmental protection, and promotion of indigenous and Afro-Caribbean cultures. As well as arranging tours to the Manzanillo Gandoca Wildlife Refuge, Cahuita National Park, and the BriBri Waterfall, ATEC can put visitors in contact with local guides and experienced native naturalists who can help customize your itinerary based on your interests, from handmade chocolate to green iguanas, ATEC has all the eco-travel angles covered. ATEC's tiny office is located on the main road in the center of Puerto Viejo, and the website is http://www.ateccr.org