Rios Tropicales has pursued environmentally, culturally, and socially responsible business practices and initiatives for Costa Rica and the areas we run our trips since our founding in 1985. The founders of Rios Tropicales were expert paddlers who loved rivers and wanted to share the incredible rivers of Costa Rica with others through rafting and kayaking adventures. But, from the very beginning, they also wanted to incorporate conservation, protection, and community support into their company’s daily business practices. Their mission became to protect and conserve the rivers and rainforests of Costa Rica while empowering and engaging the local community members, including the native Cabecar Indians, to play leading roles in this effort for their own economic, educational, health, and well-being.
Rios Tropicales actively engages and collaborates with the local communities and their individual eco/geo-tourism entrepreneurs. We hire community members to manage its Rios Tropicales Lodge and sustainable farming projects. Our staff is 95% Costa Ricans across all our operations. We take it a step further, and directly facilitate the establishment of complementary geo-tourism companies owned solely by Rios Tropicales senior guides, now turned ecopreneurs.
In 1994 we established the Fundacion Rios Tropicales (Rios Tropicales Foundation) a non-profit environmental organization established to assist in the preservation, protection and restoration of the rivers, streams and watersheds of Costa Rica. Through donations from customers, friends, and our own staff, we have been successful in raising funds to purchase rainforest land for environmental protection and help stop the development of two separate dams threatening the Pacuare river basin.
We created a private Rainforest Reserve and have expanded our Rainforest land protection and reforestation efforts by a factor of nine to over 2470 acres now.
We built the Rios Tropicales Lodge in 1991 entirely in accordance with green construction principles that is powered by 100% renewable energy
We developed environmental education programs for elementary school children that are now part of the country-wide curriculum
We support our local communities near where we operate our adventure tours, including the indigenous Cabecar Indian community near our award-winning ecolodge, through employment, development assistance, building of health clinics and schools, and by providing a consistent, profitable market of adventure tourists among all the Pacuare-based river companies, for local organic produce, private label organic coffee, and sustainable fish and cattle farming.
Rios Tropicales is consistently recognized by National Geographic Adventure as one of the top adventure companies in Costa Rica and one of the top rafting companies in the world. Our conservation, reforestation, ecopreneurs, education, and community efforts have earned us national and international recognition and awards. We are humbled and grateful for the recognition and awards we’ve won in our 30 year history.
Rios Tropicales has the largest private rainforest reserve on the Pacuare River in Costa Rica. We did not set out to achieve this goal – it happened, literally, organically from our initial efforts to stop the sale of a large area of rainforest to a timber company in the community of El Tigre, back in the late 1980s. Every guest who comes to stay at our award-winning Pacuare River ecolodge for several days has the chance to plant a tree in the rainforest if they choose. We have together, with our staff, guests, Costa Rican schoolchildren, EARTH university, and national and international guests, planted over 20,000 trees since we started. Thanks to our rainforest reserve, Rios Tropicales is now carbon neutral.
Rios Tropicales has always hired local Costa Ricans throughout our company. We offer more than just a job though, with training, higher education, international exposure, and ecopreneurship just some of the ways we incorporate sustainability into our ecotourism.
Rios Tropicales has also worked with three communities specifically, above and beyond our regular sustainability practices of local hiring and community engagement. El Tigre, Mollejones, and The Kingdom of Bhutan (well, that’s a country!) These three examples help give an idea of the depth of commitment and service Rios Tropicales believes in and shares, as part of doing business.
Since Rios Tropicales began, over twenty-seven years ago, we have made a conscious effort to protect wildlife in all of the destinations that we visit. We have worked hard to collaborate with our communities to protect wildlife. We are very pleased to report that our numerous programs in the area have produced measurable results for the surrounding environments. Illegal hunting and fishing were common practices in the area surrounding the Pacuare River before we purchased land in 1989 along its banks.
Upon purchasing the land, we opened up dialogue with our new neighbors, both the indigenous Cabecar Indians and locals alike. We began educating them on the dangers and repercussions of this illegal behavior, and how it would affect their livelihood in the long term. We enlisted their help to aid us in protecting the land by having them take a proactive role in confronting poachers, letting them know that what they were doing was both harmful and illegal.
In the early 1990’s, there were several beautiful species of wildlife that were noticeably absent due to illegal hunting and fishing practices. We are now seeing the return of several indigenous species, such as howler monkeys, white-faced monkeys, ocelots, and many other cat species. Rarely seen at all in Central America, the endangered jaguar has once again made its presence known in the Pacuare Basin. Even more recently,w e are seeing the return of the endangered Green Macaw.
Rios Tropicales has participated in the construction of two health clinics in remote, rural areas that serve over 400 and 200 residents, respectively.
From 1994 through 1996, we participated in the construction of a health clinic in the small town of Santa Marta, in the central mountainous region of Costa Rica. We contributed financially to ensure the success of the clinic, using funds from Rios Tropicales, as well as contributions from guests that were made aware of the situation.
The center caters to the needs of nearly four hundred nearby residents, providing them with healthcare much closer to their community than previously available. Now residents are able to have access to quality healthcare right in town, rather than having to travel several hours to the town of Turrialba.
This improved use of preventative care and has helped to reduce the number of complications associated with delayed care in rural areas.
We helped to build a second medical center in the small and remote area of San Isidro de Dota that serves approximately 200 residents.
Public School River Education Projects: Creating Costa Rica’s Next Generation of Environmental Stewards
Our Rios Tropicales Foundation (Fundacion Rios Tropicales) launched environmental education programs in elementary schools in Costa Rica. By educating the children on how and why they should care for their natural resources, Rios is arming a generation of future leaders with knowledge and tools for sustainable business practices that incorporate environmental management. Addressing the children is a very important and longer-term strategy that can increasingly influence Costa Rican government policies when these children push for change in high school, college, in their communities, and in their careers.