Costa Rica is famous for its world class National Park system. There are approximately three dozen parks composed of national parks, biological reserves, wildlife refuges, monuments and recreational areas. These make up almost 12% of Costa Rica.
Forest reserves and indigenous reservations protect additional land areas. This raises the total amount of protected area to 27% of Costa Rica. This remarkably enlightened view has produced a wide variety of benefits, for the wildlife, of course, but also for visitors and the local populace that work in tourism and conservation related activities.
There is a plan to link some of these protected areas into so-called regional conservation units. By joining national parks, private conservation areas and others, bridges can be created which would allow wildlife to migrate, and move through larger areas that protect their natural territories.
There are several private conservation efforts in Costa Rica, several with lodging and tour facilities. These are efforts to create a sustainable protection program where tourism pays for the conservation of the land. This model has proven to be very effective.
12, 7% of Costa Rica`s territory is protected in national parks and biological reserves. These protected areas: a total of 26 national parks and 8 biological reserves, provide economical, social and institutional benefits thanks to activities such as hydroelectric power, tourism, scientific research and environmental services, among others. These activities generated an income of approximately 814,965 US million dollars for the country in 2002, according to the study.
This makes the national parks and reserves attractive spots for Ticos as well as for tourists. Tourism represents the greatest contribution of national parks and biological reserves with a total amount of approximately 708,470 US million dollars in 2002.
A study carried out by Centro Internacional de Política Económica (CIMPE) at Universidad Nacional and the National Institute of Biodiversity (INBio), finished in May 2004, revealed that Costa Rican national parks, more than provide ecological benefits, generate different activities and services in the surroundings. These contribute to the socioeconomic development of the country. The research considered three cases of study: Cahuita, Chirripó and Poás Volcano National Parks, which together generated near 28.9 million US dollars in 2002 (19.95% locally; 20.26%, regionally and 59.78%, nationally).