As pioneers of sustainable tourism in Costa Rica, we have taken many steps to improve our relationship with the environment. And we share the lessons we’ve learned with our guests, staff, and the surrounding communities. Through experience, we know that sustainable operations and environmental conservation are not only possible but practical.
Here are a few examples of sustainability in practice at Tortuga Lodge:
Costa Rica’s wild areas face multiple pressures, and Tortuguero is a prime example. Population growth, poverty, and the lack of environmental education threaten to unbalance the coexistence between local communities and the environment. A coexistence is essential for the survival and well-being of both. After all, the communities of Tortuguero rely almost entirely on the tourism associated with the national park and its surroundings.
We want our guests to know they are helping nature when they stay at Tortuga Lodge. Through a one-time $10/person Tortuga Lodge & Gardens Conservation Fee—less than 1% of a standard vacation—our sustainability programs reach fruition. We engage our guests by sharing regular program reports and updates that demonstrate how important their contribution is. Many guests are even inspired to give more to the fund.
At Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, we believe responsible tourism should benefit local communities and take great strides to ensure it happens. Tourism is the primary source of income (and livelihood) for the residents of Tortuguero and its neighbor San Francisco. And no one knows and loves this area more than the people that live here.
Our Staff: All of the lodge’s staff are local, and their love for their home is reflected in the genuinely friendly and personalized service they provide. To support their development, we offer regular training opportunities so they can learn new skills and grow professionally. Through cross-training with colleagues from our other Boena Wilderness Lodges, we encourage employees to build leadership potential and expand their professional horizons.
Community Outreach: By supporting the local recycling initiative, Asociación Planta Recicladora de Basura Barra del Tortuguero de Pococí, local neighborhoods are provided with waste management alternatives as well as education and income-generating opportunities.
Children and Education: We develop and support local programs and educative curricula that strengthen environmental awareness among our youth and school children. One such program is a Tortuga Lodge & Gardens sponsored visit to Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge, where students learn about protecting local resources and putting sustainability into action.
Working in tandem with the local biological research station, the Estación Biologica Caño Palma, we collect and distribute books and other educational supplies to community schools.
We engaged our staff and raised funding through donations to upgrade the San Francisco Municipal School. Infrastructure improvements were made to the electrical system, bathrooms, and septic tank.
At Boena, we strive to preserve and celebrate the history and culture of the regions where we operate. By restoring Tortuga Lodge’s original Caribbean Victorian architecture and design, we captured the natural light, cheerful colors, decadent porches, and intricate wooden details typical of the era. The effect is a luxuriously cool and comfortable open-air environment reminiscent of ages past.
We also use the names of notable locals in the titles of our suites. For example, Miss Florentina, Miss Evelyn, and Mr. Mishak were Tortuguero residents renowned for contributing to the area’s gastronomy, leadership, and development.
In addition, Tortuga Lodge & Gardens is a proud sponsor of the local Caribbean School of Music. Through monthly donations, over thirty children and adolescents have the opportunity to learn about Caribbean-style music and are encouraged to spread culture and art in Tortuguero and San Francisco. We also pay the full salary of Professor Marlo Cabezas, who specializes in Afro Caribbean music. He provides free weekly classes to students using traditional instruments like conga and bongo drums, cowbells, guitars, ukuleles, banjos, and quijongos. Many of the instruments were donated to the school by fellow Costa Rican musicians.
Applied environmental conservation is the foundation of everything we do. And like our sister Boena lodges, we dedicated 26 hectares of land from our property as a private nature reserve – the only of its kind in Tortuguero.
At Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, we invite our guests to embrace sustainability practices such as responsible water use, electricity conservation, and waste disposal. Through our efforts, we aim to demonstrate to our staff and guests how sustainable living is fully achievable.
The following list captures a few more of our conservation efforts:
- Approximately 55% of our total energy consumption is supplied through the lodge’s 55 solar panels. Using high-tech software, we analyze our consumption patterns and efficiently distribute energy generated by the panels throughout the day.
- Our active biodigesters create the methane gas used by the kitchen to prepare staff meals.
- Through a high-tech system of filters and ultraviolet light, we purify the local water so that it is 100% drinkable and delicious. It also helps to eliminate the use of bottled water.
- By installing specified water meters, we analyze the lodge’s water consumption and implement preventative actions for improved water management and responsible use of our resources.
- We use a three-tank Environmental Septic System to treat gray water produced at the lodge. The system ensures no contaminated water enters the canals and produces clean water useful for many purposes.
- Our swimming pools are purified with salt and stabilizers instead of chlorine. Salt systems are much kinder to the environment and our skin.
- We use biodegradable and environmentally friendly soaps, detergents, and cleaning products.
- We’ve installed only high-tech toilets for the most efficient water use.
- Our transfer and tour boats use efficient four-cycle engines that help minimize water and noise contamination in the canals.
- We separate our trash and encourage our guests to do the same. Recyclable materials and organic waste are taken to the town Centro de Acopio and a local farm.
- Single-use plastics are not used – or allowed – at Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, nor at any of our sister Boena Wilderness Lodges.
To further support the Tortuguero community, we buy the majority of our produce from local sources. We also give preference to local service providers for the repairs and upkeep of the lodge.
In an effort to share Tortuguero’s cultural riches with our guests, we developed an immersive outing where lodge guests can visit and interact with a local family and learn about the area’s customs, food, and daily life.
We belong to and support the Tortuguero Development Association, which takes great measures to improve the quality of life for Tortuguero residents, promote the local culture and arts, and implement environmental conservation initiatives.
Boena’s Collection of Wilderness Lodges forms part of the National Chamber of Sustainable Tourism (CANAECO). A non-profit organization, CANAECO provides stimulus to develop responsible and sustainable practices across the tourism industry.