Winner for Tourism: Lapa Rios Ecolodge

By Eleanor W. Hand
March 12, 2009
 Winner for Tourism: Lapa Rios Ecolodge
Courtesy of Lapa Rios Ecolodge

At Lapa Rios Ecolodge in Costa Rica, expect a wake-up call via howler monkey, not the front desk. Lapa Rios founders Karen and John Lewis created a main lodge and 16 private oceanview bungalows on a hillside amid Central America’s last remaining lowland rain forest, the ultimate eco-tourism destination.

“I’ve watched people who normally wear suits and ties become transformed into children here,” says Karen. In 1993, she and John purchased a 1,000-acre farm and made it a private reserve, hoping to educate tourists about the environment while providing a luxurious spot to take it all in.

Lapa Rios has been awarded all five levels of the Costa Rican Certification for Sustainable Tourism. Who would have guessed sustainability could be so chic? Basking in the cool ocean breezes from 350 feet above sea level, each palm-thatched bungalow is outfitted with locally made bamboo furniture, hammocks, and solar-heated showers. Rooms have private wooden decks with stunning Pacific Ocean panoramas. If you can tear yourself away, explore Lapa Rios’ more than 25 interactive activities and guided tours. Karen suggests taking a sustainability tour of the ecolodge’s practices and the native flora, planting a tree in the rain forest, or participating in the release of baby sea turtles.More than 60 area residents train and work at Lapa Rios, and they’re inspiring other locals to value and protect their resources.

The rewards are far-reaching, says Karen. “By sharing the values of sustainable practices, we have many visitors who leave with a new hobby or passion. When we receive letters from previous guests who have returned home to join the local Audubon or help clean up a city park, that’s the best benefit.”

For more information on Lapa Rios Ecolodge, visit

Winning Strategies!

• Locally made furnishings, including bamboo furniture and hammocks

• Solar-heated showers

• Interactive and educational tours and activities

• Acting as a source for local employment

• Environmental education program at nearby school