Costa Rica has long been considered a world leader in environmental matters and a shining example of social democracy in Latin America. In many ways, Costa Rica has earned its reputation. Regarding the environment, more than 98% of electricity comes from renewable energies, more than 25% of the land is protected by parks and reserves, and the country has an ambitious plan to decarbonize its economy by the year 2050. Forests of Costa Rica cover almost 60% of the national territory. In addition, its Payment for Environmental Services (PES) system helped reverse skyrocketing deforestation rates during the 1970s and 1980s.
The small nation has also been highly respected for its strong democracy, its social welfare state and its public health system. However, a deeper look at this country shows a very different picture. Inequality is rampant in Costa Rica.
This is particularly evident in the province of Guanacaste, where the poorest live alongside the richest. On the most popular beaches of Guanacaste and the south of the Nicoya Peninsula, a tourism model is being developed with profound social and environmental consequences. Tourism on the Costa Rican Pacific coast grows under confusing processes, often without planning or transparency, excluding the local population and benefiting foreign-owned tourist complexes. The dependence on tourism has created a paradox for this area of Costa Rica. Uncontrolled tourism growth threatens ecological integrity to accommodate tourists attracted by that same ecological beauty. The dependence on tourism has created a paradox for this area of Costa Rica. Uncontrolled tourism growth threatens ecological integrity to accommodate tourists attracted by that same ecological beauty.
This research presents a synthesis of the unfolding situation. First, an exhaustive review of the bibliography and press articles was carried out. The data was then triangulated with interviews and a field visit.