How We Support Sustainable Tourism in Costa Rica

Lauren Coffey
January 16, 2024

Creating trips that are sustainable for the environment and the communities that we interact with on a daily basis is one of Under30Experiences' main goal for 2018.

This year, we've decided to make a big change to our Starter Costa Rica trip which supports a local community in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Quepos.

Oh, and did I mention home cooked food is involved?

What Does Our New Project Look Like?

Local home in Cocal

Surrounded by the beauty of the Manuel Antonio National Park, the communities of Quepos and Manuel Antonio are developed in a touristic environment, building large hotels and tourism projects without taking into account the environmental and social damage they cause to their community.

We always strive to support local businesses and communities, not big tourist traps or companies that are run by foreigners. We are trying to be mindful of our waste, care of our environment, and educate both our travelers and our communities about sustainable practices

The big takeaway is that we are travelers, not tourists. We want to give back to the communities that we are involved with and not just consume.

A big change that we have made to the Starter Costa Rica itinerary and one that we are really proud of is called, El Cocal Cooking Experience

This addition to the itinerary has had a very positive impact in both the community and with our travelers.

A Little Background on El Cocal

Locals in Cocal

El Cocal is a beautiful peninsula located off the coast of Quepos, Costa Rica which is home to some of the most beautiful beaches and best surfing waves in the area. It is mostly inhabited by Nicaraguan immigrants, who have moved to Costa Rica in search of a higher quality of life. However, Costa Rica refuses to recognize El Cocal as a legitimate town and won’t provide a trash pick-up service to the peninsula. This has created problems as people tend to either burn their trash or bury it in the tidal zones.

Our goal is to empower a local committee with the resources necessary to create and run their own trash service. 

How are we planning on doing that? Glad you asked.

Currently we are using the funds that previously used to go to visit Manuel Antonio National Park and we are now using that money to go towards a cooking experience for our travelers and a fund for the clean-up committee.

Prepping food time

The Cooking Experience

We are invited into the Cocal Community Center, a place where the local children come to play, and learn, celebrations are held, and where Under30Experiences travelers can learn to cook traditional Costa Rican food.

We take a 5 minute ferry ride to cross over onto the peninsula of Cocal, and make our way up the main road in town to the colorful community center turned kitchen.

We are surrounded by delicious smells of home-cooked meals, and the company of different families excited to share their culture. From Doña Rosi, you’ll learn how to make tortillas from scratch. From Doña Milady, you’ll learn to caramelize plantains. And Don Giovani will help you prepare the best coffee. The best part is you get to enjoy your freshly-cooked meal all together for lunch.

U30X Co-Founder Matt Wilson showing off patacones

Here's a taste of some of the of the typical dishes you can expect to learn how to cook

Platanos maduros - sweet fried plantains

Chimichurri - a diced tomato dish

Tortilla de maiz - corn tortilla

Patacones -  fried green plantains

Boñuelos - fried yucca

Pescado - fish

Pollo a la plancha - grilled chicken

Ensalada - Salad

We like to wrap-up our delicious lunch with a freshly picked pipa (coconut) straight from the source!

Time to eat all the food

We have worked hard to make our itineraries impactful for both the communities we are involved with and especially for YOU, our travelers.

This experience is great because you get to return home with new skills, we get to interact with a local family, and also support the community of Cocal in an impactful and authentic way.

Capping the day off with a cold coconut


Interested in experiencing this cultural exchange for yourself? Join us in Costa Rica.

Learn more about our sustainability initatives here.

Lauren Coffey
Lauren is a trip leader for Under30Experiences. She was born and raised in the desert but feels most at home in the mountains. Her goal is to get people out of their comfort zones and pumped about new experiences.


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