Ecotourism and Sustainable Rural Development in Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica

Josephine Howitt, Courtney W Mason


This article explores the contributions of ecotourism to sustainable community development in a predominately rural area of Costa Rica’s southern interior, away from the country’s more concentrated touristic regions. An ethnographic case study was undertaken in the village of San Gerardo de Rivas, the entry point for tourists who climb Costa Rica’s highest peak. Here, tourism has become a complementary source of income to agriculture. Drawing on local perspectives, an understanding emerges of how this industry has shaped environmental perspectives and practices, as well as how local people are negotiating the direction of tourism development to optimize the benefits to their community. The potential opportunities and limitations for further ecotourism industries in Pérez Zeledón are also explored, along with an assessment of other sustainable rural development options.

Keywords: ecotourism; rural livelihoods; sustainable development; environmental practices; local perspectives.

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.