Sustainable Communities

We all win.

Sustainable Communities

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.

Local Staff  – Big Impact


Our Local Hiring Philosophy Makes A Difference to Communities


95% Local Staff, Higher Wages, Broader Opportunities


We not only use 95% local guides and all staff for Rios operations across Costa Rica, we have worked hard to develop a world-class river guide training program for Costa Ricans that draws from international industry standards of excellence. Rios Tropicales was the first rafting company to hire guides from the nearby town of Turrialba in 1985, the closest town to both the Reventazon and   Pacuare rivers. Turrialba now is home to more than two hundred raft guides, many of who work for us. Shortly after hiring and training the first two local guides from Turrialba, we began to hire and train locals from the tiny community of El Tigre and indigenous Cabecar Indians for hiking and river tours. All our trips have local guides who offer a wealth of knowledge of the area and natural environment.

Higher Education

Many guides have taken courses at InBio or ACOPROT (Association of Costa Rican Tourism Professionals), and EARTH University. Several have studied biology, geology, engineering, architecture, etc., and have continued their education while with us—especially in wildlife and environmental conservation. Rios also offers education reimbursement benefits to help employees pursue higher education. This kind of support and encouragement makes all the difference for young Costa Rican adventure professionals. They can achieve degrees that they otherwise would not pursue, and open the door for advanced career opportunities. Rios Tropicales consistently engages local Costa Ricans in their communities to participate in the wide-scale tree-planting conservation program. In the process, these residents have learned English such that they also help educate Rios clients on conservation and indigenous culture.

Guides Become Role Models for Their Communities

These guides have a unique opportunity to not only make a significantly greater living, but also importantly serve as role models for other members of their families and communities, especially youth. Occupational opportunities are often limited to agricultural positions, much of it subsistence farming, in many of these rural areas. These guides now show others that there are many positions available within the ecotourism industry. By actively taking part in the everyday practices of the company, they have learned, and are now able to teach others, the importance of sustainable business practices, not only within their country, but abroad as well. Many of our guides have moved on to other jobs in the educational tourism industry, and are now working all over the world, in areas such as New Zealand, California, and the Himalayas.


Rios Tropicales Facilitates Staff Entrepreneurial Opportunities


Rios takes it a step further and directly facilitates the establishment of complementary geotourism companies owned solely by Rios’ former top guides, now turned “ecopreneurs”. It would have been easy for Rios to simply hire guides to run more Rios “outposts”, but because of the founders’ beliefs in entrepreneurial ownership & mentoring, instead Rios helped their best guides start their own businesses. Rios collaborates with each to best serve guests with countrywide geotourism opportunities now. Learn more about our ecopreneur partner adventure franchises here.

Learn more about our ecopreneur partners

Rios Tropicales has also worked with three communities specifically, above and beyond our regular sustainability practices of local hiring and community engagement. 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.

El Tigre

One of its signature projects, involving the nearby village of El Tigre, exemplifies exactly how Rios Tropicales engages with the local community and environment to promote sustainability and conservation. The El Tigre South-South Project is an international collaboration between the Republic of Costa Rica and the Kingdom of the Bhutan, involving the rural community of El Tigre, and the newly created Association of Bhutanese Outfitters. The South-South project transformed El Tigre into a sustainable community tourism destination, providing income, jobs, education, while prioritizing conservation and protection of the fragile rainforest environment. Rios Tropicales was awarded a grant from Fundecooperacion’s Programme for South-South Cooperation (PSC) for El Tigre in August 2008, and the project was finished in April 2010. The project met the goals and guiding principles of PSC: Sustainable tourism, Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity, Sustainable Chains of Production and Consumption, Gender Equity, Equality, Reciprocity and Participation.


The successful El Tigre model is already being replicated with Mollejones, a small community also located along the Pacuare River. Mollejones hosted the October 2011.


International Rafting Federation’s World Rafting Championships (WRC), thanks to Rafael’s leadership. Mollejones launched 4 major initiatives: 1) a campaign to save the Bobo fish, a native species of the Pacuare River that is currently listed as in danger of extinction due to illegal fishing, 2) developing and distributing organic food products during WRC, 3) installing solar energy and internet capacity to the race site, which stays on for future community use, and 4) local tree-planting for participants and spectators. The community’s achieved its own audacious goal of making the WRC the first-ever carbon-neutral sports event.


Rafael presented this model of Sustainability and Sport at the second People, Peace -EcoTourism Conference in Costa Rica in the winter of 2011-2012. Rios Tropicales continues to guide the transformation of Mollejones into another replicable model of sustainable adventure tourism focused on protecting natural resources, providing income and educational opportunities, and sharing best practices, training, and resources.


As part of the international project funding requirements for the El Tigre sustainable rural ecotourism development, the Kingdom of Bhutan was able to develop sustainable adventure-based tourism, specifically white water rafting, in its country. Costa Rica has a very successful adventure tourism industry that has been operating since the early 1980s, and the country’s leader in sustainable adventure tourism and white water rafting is Rios Tropicales. Rios Tropicales senior guides and Rafael Gallo went to Bhutan in 2009 and provided operations consulting in sustainable adventure ecotourism and river guide training for white water rafting. Bhutan now has several local adventure companies operating on rivers in the small mountainous kingdom. Bhutan is about two thirds the size of Costa Rica in landmass.

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