ByGabriel Killian

Sep 9, 2014

Too often, “sustainable” comes off sounding like “sacrifice.” Even environmentally aware people appreciate luxury, comfort, and convenience on vacation. What travel experiences offer the eco-conscious a way to indulge in the finer side of life?

For an uncommon experience, green enthusiasts should visit Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Tabacon boasts luxury at its absolute best, even as it champions the values and principles of sustainability.

Sitting at the base of Volcan Arenal in La Fortuna, Tabacon started one man’s search for water. In 1991, entrepreneur-architect Jaime Mikowski was looking for a place to bottle and sell water from Costa Rica. He found what he was looking for when he came upon the Tabacon River, but he soon adjusted his vision. Beyond the promise of profiting from bottling ready-to-drink mineral spring water, Mikowski saw infinite beauty in the thermal hot springs and the very active Arenal Volcano.

The international attention La Fortuna and Volcan Arenal were beginning to receive made it an ideal location for the development of higher-end tourism offerings. Visitors from the backpacking community were already flowing into the area like the lava trenches that lit up the night sky. Appreciating the potential of creating a place for these visitors to experience the luxury of natural wonders, Mikowski opened the doors of Tabacon on April 3rd, 1993.


Tabacon is in the upper echelon of both service and sustainability. Having recently undergone a $2.5 million upgrade project renovating all of the rooms, upgrading the food and beverage services, and adding the Grand Spa featuring 11 private open-air treatment bungalows, Tabacon has earned international recognition, including ranking as a world’s top ten “eco-spa” by National Geographic Magazine.

A philosophy of social and environmental responsibility in business has permeated Tabacon since the beginning. Evidence of their commitment to sustainable tourism can be found in Tabacon’s Green Program, A Corporate Philosophy. Tabacon was awarded a fourth level CST Certification by The Costa Rican Tourism Institute; a certification given to businesses who operate responsibly in harmony with the environment according to the institute’s extensive certification standards.

Tabacon’s pursuit of sustainability also includes carbon neutrality through their Carbon Neutral Program launched in 2008. Tabacon became Costa Rica’s first carbon neutral certified luxury resort, showing their commitment to help Costa Rica reach its goal of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral nation by 2021. Other endeavors in sustainability include flora and fauna protection, water conservation, wastewater treatment, energy usage reduction, waste management, and communication programs.

All the sustainability “tangibles” achieved by Tabacon are incredible, but there exists an equal – possibly greater amount of intangible benefits. What is the full potential of a luxury eco-resort like Tabacon to impact the tourism industry worldwide? Their example of embracing social and environmental responsibility while providing a superior experience is fundamentally changing the mindset and approach of other similar operations. Tabacon is showing the high-end market that valuing sustainability is not only possible, but also profitable. If success has left you a little sore and stressed, there’s no better place than this five-star luxury eco-resort for treating yourself with relaxation and renewal. Enjoy.

By Gabriel Killian

Gabriel Killian, Merchant Manager at Earth911’s YouChange marketplace, is passionate about supporting social-connection, environmental responsibility, and economic vitality through social entrepreneurship and sustainable business development. He is committed to promoting real change in lifestyle and consumption behavior, regularly working with social entrepreneurs in his spare time. His professional knowledge and expertise spans both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Killian also holds a Masters degree in International Sustainable Tourism.