On perhaps what was one of the most magical trips of my life, I woke up before sunrise to backpack across a river before the tide was too deep to cross, I saw baby turtles making their way out of the sand and into the ocean, I rode horseback as fast as I could as the sun set by the ocean, and I got drenched in an insane storm while hiking through the rainforest to my eco-lodge. And this all happened within a week.
On my first trip to Costa Rica, I knew I wanted to visit the Osa Peninsula, a location that holds 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity and is also much more secluded than the mainstream Costa Rica tourism. I mapped out my trip, planned everything as much as I could, and I set off. Upon my arrival, I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to get far without a guide, and even with a guide, my options were somewhat limited based on my timeframe. I promised myself I would come back.
How can you plan a trip to a remote destination where most of the tourism is community-based, and many don’t have online listings? If the only way to see a destination is by asking the locals, how can you ensure that you can maximize on those experiences in the pre-trip planning process? And perhaps, most importantly, how can you rest assured that your efforts are actually empowering locals, as opposed to greenwashing an experience?
Meet Lokal, an online marketplace for community-based tourism, and my guides for my second trip to the Osa Peninsula. With Lokal, travelers can find and book off-the-beaten-path adventures, and do so in confidence that they are empowering local communities.
After almost a lifetime of wanting to come to Costa Rica, I took my first trip here three years ago. After researching the country and the diverse areas, I decided that the Osa Peninsula was at the top of my list to visit. It wasn't until I got here that I realized that much of what I wanted to see was in Corcovado National Park, and the only way to get through it was by backpacking. Unprepared for such a trek, I made a promise to myself to come back, and added hiking through Corcovado to my bucketlist. Fast-forward to this week when I was able to take one of the most stunning hikes of my life — 20 kilometers through the rainforest and by the beach — to finally finish by La Leona and find the tiniest, cutest baby turtles making their own journey into the ocean. Thank you @lokaltravels for making this experience possible in the most perfect and magical way. #lokalstory
As an entrepreneur in the impact and travel space, I spend a lot of time researching best-practices for sustainability, and I am confident that the co-founders of Lokal are achieving an immense amount of impact within the industry. They are deeply invested in these projects to build an innovative way that bridges the gap between local experiences that empower communities with the travelers who are seeking those authentic experiences.
One of my favorite moments of the trip was a tour with a gold miner, who took us through a beautiful rainforest (his backyard, no less!) and showed us a sample of how to mine for gold in the area. When you mine for gold, you have to dig into the landscaping, causing corrosion in the area. He explained to our group that he’d prefer to work as a tour guide, and to act as an advocate to save the environment, but there weren’t enough tourists in the area to allow him to make this transition and still support his family. There is so much potential for tourism, done right, to act as a force for good in this magical corner of the world.
For those seeking an off-the-beaten-path, adventurous trip with the epic experiences, all of which empower the local community you’re visiting, look no further than an experience with Lokal.
I went on a press trip with Lokal as part of the research for this post.
All opinions are my own.