Awards & Achievements

Together we make a difference

Protecting our precious Costa Rican environment is built into the Rios Tropicales mission statement. We take our role as providers of ecotourism very seriously and always have. Since our founding in 1985, we’ve been promoting sustainability and conservation while sharing our rivers and outdoor adventure with visitors from around the world. Decades before the “green” movement and long before greenwashing (environmental claims with little to no substance) ever became an issue. We’re proud of the awards and recognition we’ve received over the years.

We’re also extremely proud of our guides. Founder Rafael Gallo insisted that all Rios Tropicales guides be trained to U.S. standards and guidelines for rafting and safety. He went on to found the International Rafting Federation and developed all the training and certifications for white water guides across the world. Our guides are world-class rafters and kayakers, who participate in white water rafting competitions and guide commercially around the world, not just in Costa Rica. We believe our trips are only as good as the people who lead them. These friendly, passionate, bilingual and well-trained individuals put our guests first and can’t wait to share the wonders of Costa Rica with you. Learn more about the Rios Tropicales staff.

Environmental & Sustainability Awards & Recognition

2009 – 2016
Rios Tropicales Lodge & Reserve
Blue Ecological Flag for Protected Natural Areas
2009 – 2016
Pacuare River, Terciopelo Creek, San Martin Put-In
Blue Ecological Flag for River Conservation (Costa Rica)
2010 – 2016
El Tigre
Blue Ecological Flag for Protected Natural Areas

Rios Tropicales, led by its founder – renowned conservation and sustainable adventure tourism advocate – Rafael Gallo, has achieved the highest level of recognition to date from the Costa Rican government with the Blue Flag For Rivers and Blue Flag for Natural Spaces awards.  Rios Tropicales has received the Blue Flag for Rivers With three Stars award for its protection and enhancement of 16 kilometers of river corridor along the world-class Pacuare River and neighboring tributary Terciopelo Creek, including contributing to the reduction of pesticides used along the creek.  Rios Tropicales is the only company in Costa Rica to achieve (3 flags) the Blue Flag for Rivers with three Stars in every year since the award was founded, beginning in 2009.


Rios Tropicales received the Blue Flag For Natural Spaces With five Stars award for its private rainforest reserve protecting 900 hectares adjacent to the world-class Pacuare River.  In only the second year of the Blue Flag for Natural Spaces awards, Rios Tropicales is the only adventure outfitter in Costa Rica to be awarded a Blue Flag with all Three Stars in every year since the award since 2009. Rios Tropicales was the first company to purchase land for protection in a private reserve, especially along the threatened Pacuare river corridor.


Rios Tropicales has been the leader in Pacuare River and rainforest protection since 1985, and was the leader in stopping a hydroelectric dam on the Pacuare in the 1990s. Rios Tropicales now protects over 2400 acres of rainforest, more than twice the size of the next largest reserve in the region.


“We are very honored to receive this award and proud to be a part of the Blue Flag Program that prioritizes protecting and enhancing our Rivers and Natural Spaces as the only way to successfully sustain both our natural resources and communities for future generations.”
Rios Tropicales President and Cofounder – Rafael Gallo


About The Blue Flag Ecological Program

The Program awards the Blue Flag with either One, Two, or Three Stars to indicate levels of environmental protection, conservation, and community involvement. Communities are awarded the One Star for meeting 90% of the environmental protection criteria, Two Stars for meeting 100% of the criteria and implementing additional environmental practices, and Three Stars for meeting the Two Star criteria and promoting social responsibility in the community and schools. The Blue Flag with Three Stars is the highest possible level of recognition for achieving ecological protection and sustainability in Costa Rica.


The Costa Rican government established the Blue Flag Ecological Program in 1996 to protect one of its most important assets, its beaches. The Blue Flag Program has since expanded to include new categories for Communities (2002), Education Centers (2004), Natural Spaces (2007), Rivers (2008), and Actions to Confront Climate Change (2008).  The Blue Flag program recognizes Coastal and Non-Coastal Communities or Educational Institutes that achieve environmental excellence by adopting practices to meet environmental standards set by the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewage Systems (AyA). Winners of the Blue Flag undergo on-site assessments before the various Government Ministries, in conjunction with the National Tourism Chamber, (CANATUR), make the final decision to award a flag.

Environmental & Sustainability Awards & Recognition

Best Corporate Social Responsibility Practice on the Environmental Care and Preservation Category
Mexican Center for Philanthropy
Mexican Alliance for Social Responsibility and Business Forum 2012

UNEP The Billion Tree Campaign
United Nations 2009

Geotourism Challenge Winner
National Geographic Society and Ashoka Changemakers 2008

World Savers Award
Condé Nast Traveler 2008

Sustainable Tourism Award
Skål International 2014

 Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards by Diversey Care 2014

Certification by the National Accreditation Commission for the Sustainable Tourism Program (CST)
Costa Rica Tourist Board 2014

Esther Sanborn Environmental Excellence Award Recipient Rafael Gallo
America Outdoors’ Association 2012

Costa Rica Chamber of Tourism Prize (CANATUR) 1994

Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth
#1 Adventure Outfitter in Costa Rica
National Geographic Adventure 2006, 2009

San Jose City Council Recognition
Rescue of Our Water Resources LiRÃ Program 2001

Corporate Social Responsibility in Central America 2012

Orchid Award
Best Graphic Design Expotur 2011

Pioneers for Prosperity Award 2009

Rafting Recognition

“Pacuare River and Rios Tropicales – Best Places to Go Whitewater Rafting”
from The Best Places for Everything: The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to the Greatest Experiences Around the World by Peter Greenberg 2012


First ever Certified Carbon Neutral World Championship Sporting Event:
International Rafting Federation’s Costa Rica World Rafting Championships 2011


Founder Rafael Gallo International Whitewater Hall of Fame inductee 2009


Costa Rican National Men’s Whitewater Team 1999 (1989-1995)


Costa Rican National Women’s Whitewater Team 1999

Media Mentions

We’ve had the great fortune of being recognized and reviewed in a variety of national and international publications, both in print and online. Below is a sampling.

Canoe and Kayak Magazine
Channel 13 – Santiago, Chile
Chicago Sun Times – Travel Section
Conde Nast Traveler
Costa Rican TV channels 2, 4, 7, 6, 13
Discovery Channel “Go For It”
ESPN “Men’s Journal”
Global Adventure Magazine (U.K.)
Green Escapes Costa Rica
Jack Hannah’s Animal Adventures

Jax Fax
Los Angeles Times
Men’s Journal
MSNBC Internet report
MTV Sports
National Geographic Adventure magazine
NBC Today Show “Live for Today”
Outdoor Life Network
Outside Magazine
Paddler Magazine

R.E.I. Great Adventures
Recommend Magazine
River Runner Magazine
Self Magazine
Shape Magazine
Sportchannel America
Travel Channel “Outdoor Journal”
Travel Weekly
USA Channel “Alto Riesgo con ’El Cuaz'”
Westways Magazine

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