Costa Rica's Ecotourism Marred by Development, Evictions

Costa Rica’s lauded ecotourism industry is under new, and not always positive, scrutiny.

Community-based ecotourism is getting raves for creating jobs in agricultural areas, where tourists delight in glimpsing and sharing a day in the life of a Costa Rican farmer, Inter Press Service reports.

President Oscar Arias approved a law in July to support “agro-ecotourism” as a way to let small farmers and some indigenous communities share in the tourism boom.

Yet another law protecting coastal resources is being used to remove impoverished communities living on beachfront plots on or near ecotourism destinations.

Lacking titles to land they say their families have occupied for decades, residents near the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, a haven for sea turtles on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, are set for removal.

“They want to get rid of us like a bunch of dogs,” one resident told Latin America Press.

Evictions and demolitions under the law have targeted communities near prime beach ecosystems and surfing spots, according to reports.

One official, Mayor Alberto Cole of Osa, made national headlines when he invited a condominium and resort developer into the same region where an older woman’s home was razed.

Federal legislators are considering a new law to protect longtime residents and limit large resort projects, but many community members are considered squatters, and do not have papers proving their tenancy.

–Ronnie Lovler/


“TOURISM-COSTA RICA: Much More Than a Walk in the Countryside”
Inter Press Service, August 15, 2009

“Environmentalism at a cost”
Latinamerican Press, July 23, 2009

2 thoughts on “Costa Rica's Ecotourism Marred by Development, Evictions

  1. I’ve lived in southern Costa Rica for 14 years and am surprised at your story. My observation has shown that though many families have been evicted from untitled properties, the greatest impact along the southern coast has been to prevent numerous opportunistic folks from invading the beaches with expensive houses, condominiums, bars and hotels, all to the betterment and preservation of the natural beauty of Costa Rica.

  2. I own some property in the town of Rayo. This town is right next to Ostional. I love visiting the little town of ostional and its people. The problem is not the people who live on the beach. The problem is with these major developments that keep popping up so close to the turtle refuge. What a joke , politicians dumpiming on poor people. Sounds like costa rica is taking lessons from the U.S. Senate.