Sustainable Tourism Guidelines for Surf Tour Operators

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Every year more than two million tourists visit Costa Rica and over half of them are headed to the beach to relax, to frolic in the  waves, or go surfing. Since infrastructure is limited along the coast, the extra beachgoers can put a strain on natural resources and cause excess pollution if the tour operators are not aware of how to lessen their impact on the coastal ecosystem.

The following is a set of guidelines created by Andrea Tantamjarik for Costa Rica surf tour operators, adapted from principles of the Surfrider Foundation (Gordon, 2003, pers. comm.), The International Ecotourism Society (, Tour Operators’ Initiative (, and the Eco Certification Program from Australia (

  1. For each visitor experience, integrate opportunities to understand the natural ocean environment and conditions.
  2. Minimize surf tourism’s negative impacts through education, training, and leading by example.
  3. Maintain small enough groups to ensure minimum group impact on the surf destination, and avoid those surfbreaks that are undermanaged and overvisited.
  4. Contribute to the conservation of surf areas being visited.
  5. Participate in programs for reducing waste, recycling, and disposing waste in a safe and responsible manner.
  6. Contribute constructively to the local beach communities.
  7. Strive to minimize risks to employees, community, and visitors by supplying safe equipment, tour guides trained in lifesaving skills, and always being prepared for emergencies by having medical services available to treat surf-related injuries.
  8. Market surf tours accurately and responsibly that lead to realistic expectations, and consistently meet client expectations.

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