Costa Rica

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New Grant

Alianza Comunitaria Conservacionista de Turismo Alternativo Rural (ACTUAR), $155,700 over three years; counterpart committed, $743,600.

ACTUAR will open a café, gallery and store in San José to sell the products of its 40 member organizations and promote community tourism. More than 200 Costa Ricans will benefit directly and another 800 indirectly. (CR-337)


Supplemental Grant

Cooperativa Autogestionaria de Servicios Profesionales para la Solidaridad Social, R.L. (CoopeSoliDar), $34,760; counterpart committed, $29,100.

CoopeSoliDar will continue its work with organizations of fishers, businesses, the Costa Rican Coast Guard and the municipal government of Garrabito, Puntarenas, toward community management of a marine reserve and the development of alternative sources of income that reduce pressure on marine resources. (CR-329-A1)

Win-Win for Visitors and Residents

Tropical beaches, luxuriant rain forests and towering volcanoes make Costa Rica a major destination for travelers from North and Central America and Europe. In 2010 the country
hosted more than 2 million foreign tourists; the resulting revenues represented 5.5 percent of the gross domestic product. Many visitors were ecotourists interested in the enrichment that rural destinations provide through exposure to la pura vida—the sights, music, cuisine and daily life enjoyed by Costa Ricans themselves.

Alianza Comunitaria Conservacionaista de Turismo Alternativo Rural (ACTUAR), a not-for-profit organization founded in 2001, promotes community-based tourism through 40 inns and tour enterprises owned and operated by cooperatives, women’s and youth groups supplementing income from farming and fishing. ACTUAR provides these rural entrepreneurs technical assistance and training, extends them loans, markets packaged tours and manages an online reservation service.

Options for travelers booking through ACTUAR range from long- term rentals to accommodations for day-trippers and with the lodgings come other possibilities. La Casona Tortuguero, a family-operated bed-and-breakfast with direct access to Tortuguero National Park, for example, offers guests excursions by barge along the canals and a tour to observe the turtles for which the park is named. Visitors to the Keköldi Indigenous Reservation are housed in rooms whose balconies let them enjoy the serenity of their surroundings deep in the rain forest. Local hosts offer the opportunity to experience Bribri and Cabecar food, customs and story-telling.

ACTUAR will use its IAF funds to remodel its headquarters in San José with an art gallery, a café serving typical fare and providing Internet access, and an outlet selling items produced by ACTUAR’s members, such as organic coffee and soap. Staff will use the space to develop itineraries that take visitors to watch sea turtles and birds, climb volcanoes or help out on a coffee farm. The reasonable cost includes cultural immersion and—because all ACTUAR members apply practices compatible with the responsible use of the environment—an opportunity to become involved in conservation. Everything adds up to an unforgettable experience that enlightens tourists and generates needed income for rural Costa Ricans and their communities. For more information, visit

Amanda Hess, IAF program staff assistant