Green Travel: Green Resorts: Hotel Punta Islita

http://www.motherearthliving.com/Wiser-Living/Green-Traveler-Green-Resorts-Hotel-Punta-Islita.aspx

Having just spent a nearly sunless month soaking in the rain at the beautiful yet formidable and cold coasts of Northern Ireland, my mind is stuck in a fantasy of white sandy beaches, crystal blue water and warm beams of sunshine packed with vitamin D. Although I have neither the time nor money to travel to a beach resort, this hasn’t stopped me from daydreaming about—and researching—eco-friendly beach resorts in semi-nearby Central America. Join me in my armchair (or desk chair) travels to Guanacaste, Costa Rica to the Hotel Punta Islita.

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Natural beaches and rainforests teeming with wildlife surround the Hotel Punta Islita. Photo Courtesy Hotel Punta Islita. 

The Hotel Punta Islita holds many awards, including a prestigious four-leaf rating from the Costa Rican tourism board’s Certification in Sustainable Tourism (CST) program. The CST evaluates the company’s interaction with its natural surroundings, its management policies and operational systems, the company’s interaction with the local communities and how much the company invites its clients to be active in its policies of sustainability. The program rates companies on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being the highest level attainable.

The hotel has many eco-friendly features and amenities, including:

• a strict recycling policy
• waste water management
• electric golf carts, and
• low-flow showerheads

What is perhaps most impressive about the Hotel Punta Islita is how it interacts with and supports the local community. The hotel opened in 1994 in an economically depressed area that had been overexploited by unsustainable cattle ranching and wood extraction. Fifteen years later, the area looks quite different. By providing alternative economic and professional opportunities, the hotel changed the life of the locals and the state of the surrounding rainforest. Of the staff, 85 percent are locals, and 50 cents of every dollar spent at the hotel stays in the community in the form of salaries, contributions, taxes, social benefits and local purchases.

As for the local environment, the devastation done to the surrounding rainforest by slash-and-burn agriculture and hunting has started to reverse. The hotel has a 50-acre area of tropical rainforest on its property that has been designated a private conservation area for local species. The hotel has also worked with the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment to create a safe and natural nesting area for sea turtles.

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Take a swim in one of the hotel’s pools or enjoy fresh, local food at the hotel’s outdoor dining room. Photo Courtesy Hotel Punta Islita. 

All this makes the Hotel Punta Islita a great place to visit for environmental and social justice reasons, but the hotel has much to offer in the way of relaxation and natural beauty as well, including:

• a beach club with swim-up bar
• an exercise room with mountain and beach views
• an infinity pool that seems to merge with the horizon, and
• an open-air dining room that serves local fresh ingredients

Hotel Punta Islita seems like a great place for an eco-friendly trip. If you know of any other eco-friendly hotels and resorts around the world, please let me know.