The Eco-Travel Revolution Sweeping Across Costa Rica… & 10 Green Destinations Leading the Way

Travel can and should have a positive impact.

The Vida Tree — iconic feature of Puerta a la Vida, site of our upcoming NuLiving Experience.

So many travelers today seem caught up in the narcissism of Instagram-ready photographs and made-in-China souvenirs. We need “vacations” from our chaotic, over-stimulated lives, and so we “check out” for a week when we check into a beachside resort.

But there are other, more mindful ways to take a vacation.

We can unplug from the daily grind and plug into alternative lifestyles in harmony with nature. We can spend our tourist dollars to support local economies and sustainable projects. We can continue to live our values, even when we’re taking a break from everything else.

At least, that’s what we believe. That’s why we work at NuMundo, a global online network connecting conscious travelers to mission-driven “impact centers” that focus on permaculture, natural building, education, and community.

When we go on vacation, we’re looking to relax in a hammock and drink coconuts on the beach, of course — but why shouldn’t we learn something new and support eco-restorative, community-building projects at the same time?

In Costa Rica especially, we don’t have to choose.

In 2017, we (Sara, Katia, and David) went on a lush roadtrip through one of the greenest and happiest countries in the world to experience 30 impact centers putting regenerative, earth-centered values into practice.

Costa Rica has both Pacific and Caribbean beaches, expansive national parks and rainforests, and some of the most biodiverse flora and fauna in the world. This past year, the country produced 98% of its electricity without fossil fuels. It is also a peaceful nation with no army and a high happiness index. Thus, it’s only natural that impact centers would pop up in Costa Rica over the past 20 years. Tropical climates allow centers to grow food year-round and attract travelers and tourists looking for natural beauty and life-changing experiences in the jungle.

These places did not disappoint! We visited some crazy-inspiring sustainable living and educational spaces that embody a holistic lifestyle in harmony with nature. And, we got an inside look into avant-garde hubs for practical solutions to the global climate crisis.

With some bumps along the jungle roads and an abundance of mouth-watering farm-to-table meals, we managed to visit 30 centers in 30 days. We experienced so many incredible projects making change, it’s hard to sum it up.

Below are just ten of the greenest impact centers we couldn’t wait to share with the world. From permaculture to yoga, and natural building to indigenous wisdom, the world of mindful travel is vast, green, and waiting to be explored. Pura vida, conscious travelers!

1. Finca Exótica (Carate, Osa Peninsula)

A boutique hotel with rustic flair meets the wild nature of Corcovado National Park at Finca Exótica. This location is great for romantic couples’ retreats, work trades, or wild cabin stays with a touch of luxury. Finca Exótica won our hearts with its ocean views, diverse wildlife, delicious cuisine, and impeccable design incorporating indigenous Costa Rican weaving patterns. To top it off, owners Markus and Gaby are warm hosts, and happen to be looking for a permaculture designer to visit on a work-trade.

2. Finca Luna Nueva Lodge (Arenal Volcano)

Finca Luna Nueva manages to combine an ambitious biodynamic farm project with a gorgeous ecolodge. This center offers travelers an educational experience in paradise, all while focusing on drawing carbon down from the atmosphere and reversing climate change. We were awe-struck after our farm tour with founder Steven Farrell, and appreciated the hospitality and warmth of his daughter Kimberly and their staff. Delicious farm-to-table food, educational biodynamic farming experience, and volcano views with a bit of (affordable) luxury… don’t forget to enjoy the pool and hot tub, too!

3. Rancho Mastatal (Mastatal, Puriscal)

Rancho Mastatal is the top sustainability education center in Costa Rica for natural building, permaculture design, and fermentation. For travelers seeking a permaculture design course or apprenticeship, this should be a first pick. Established in 2001, Mastatal is an impressive family-led display of sustainable living. Tim O’hara and team gave us a captivating tour of the farm’s efficient systems and delicious locally sourced food. Definitely try their homemade hooch, kimchi and jackfruit hummus.

4. Finca Morpho (Puerto Jimenez, Osa Peninsula)

Finca Morpho is a beautiful beachfront permaculture community on the remote Osa Peninsula on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. They have been applying permaculture principles for over five years to rebuild the soil and grow food, and the results are uplifting. Finca Morpho concocts exceptional farm-to-table meals and works hard to cultivate a tight-knit community. On top of all that, co-founding members Ticon and Joshua are deeply knowledgeable about permaculture in the tropics.. This is the place to go for beach vibes, magical cabina stays, permaculture apprenticeships and courses, or natural building workshops.

5. Punta Mona (Manzanillo)

One of the best-known permaculture farms in Costa Rica, Punta Mona has been around for over 20 years. On the remote Caribbean coast by the Panamanian border, it is only accessible by boat or jungle hike. Not a bad start to an epic vacation! A true food forest paradise, it has been an inspiration to many other newer centers. Organic, fruit-filled farm-to-table meals, herbal education programming, yoga retreats, botanical studies, and private beaches — they really have it all.

6. Selva Armonia (Uvita)

Just a few minutes up into the valley overlooking Uvita beach on the Pacific Coast, Selva Armonia is a singular ecolodge and retreat center. With retreats focused on wellness and yoga, it is ideally suited to travelers seeking a relaxing, pampered, and mindful vacation. We were really impressed by the plant and fruit tree collection on the property, the hospitality from Leluna and Josh, and the beautiful design and decor.

7. Diamanté Solution Center (South Pacific)

This center has focused on hosting wellness retreats, building a local sharing economy, and empowering other organizations to create a regenerative society. It hopes to be a “template organization,” which other like-minded eco-entrepreneurs can emulate in their own communities. Travelers who want an immersive ecological experience or are curious about creating this kind of center should check out their week-long expeditions.

8. Danyasa Yoga Retreat & Eco Lodge (Dominical)

A few sandy steps from the beach in the center of the coastal town of Dominical, Danyasa is a cozy and chic yoga boutique hotel and studio. Sofiah Thom and Brendan Jaffer have combined their love for yoga, dance and sustainable living in one extraordinary location. We especially loved the upcycled shipping containers used to build the hotel rooms. Between yoga classes, ecstatic dance events, and a refreshing pool, they are truly one of the best and greenest destinations for movement-lovers and yogis.

9. Blue Osa Yoga Retreat & Spa (Osa Peninsula)

A top-quality yoga center and beachside spa, Blue Osa is nestled in the remote jungles of the Osa Peninsula, the second most biodiverse place on Earth. Beautiful yoga studios, pools, gardens and beachfront views make Blue Osa a real (re)treat. It’s also a wonderful setting for permaculture work trades and yoga teacher trainings. Chef Marie brings a classic French touch to healthy and elegant dishes, and Michael is a kind and knowledgeable host. We loved the permaculture garden, too. Blue Osa grows the majority of the food they consume in their backyard!

10. Rancho Margot (Arenal Volcano)

This secluded farm contains beautiful bungalows, farm-to-table food, natural pools, yoga, and group programs. Started almost 20 years ago with the goal of attaining sustainability and self-sufficiency, they produce everything themselves, from fruit and veggies to meat, soap and even furniture. The self-sufficient organic ranch is also near popular Arenal Volcano, so it’s really a must-visit for an educational experience for groups, couples, or first-time visitors to Costa Rica.

Wishing you all sweet, green and happy trails! Buen viaje!

Have a favorite Costa Rican impact center that’s not in the list? Please share in the comments! (We wish we could include everyone—for a full list of our incredible centers in Costa Rica, check out our center directory.)

Want to come to Costa Rica? Ready to dive into a sustainable lifestyle of coworking and co-living? Connect with a like-minded crew of changemakers and vagabonds with NuMundo’s first co-living and co-working immersion. Each day you’ll have solid wi-fi with time to keep your projects going AND join activities such as acro-yoga, surfing, ecstatic dance, authentic relating games, hiking to the river, and touring the permaculture orchards. This unique event will take place at a stunning NuMundo impact center called Puerta a la Vida.

Enter our special discount code LIVEIT at checkout for $100 off.

Sara Johnstone and Katia Alferova are conscious travelers and digital nomads in the NuMundo family, a global network connecting people to meaningful, transformational experiences. They love yoga and permaculture, and they’re passionate about regenerative lifestyles. Connect with the NuMundo community on their website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.