Walk down the Pacific beaches of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica and you’re likely to see long, empty stretches of white sand, beautiful blue rolling waves, multicolored crushed seashells and interesting rocks and pebbles. What you won’t see so much is trash.
The southern Nicoya Peninsula beaches of Playa Hermosa, Playa Santa Teresa, Playa Carmen and Mal Pais all were honored once again with the Costa Rica Ecological Blue Flag Award by the Costa Rican Tourism Board for being some of the cleanest beaches in the country. A record 108 Costa Rica beaches received Ecological Blue Flag Awards for 2014, presented at a ceremony in March 2015. Award-winning Santa Teresa Beach in Costa Rica also was chosen one of the Top 15 Places to Go in 2015 by Condé Nast Traveler.
Costa Rica’s Blue Flag award is an honor for a community to earn. It means that community’s beach has near-perfect ocean water quality, potable water quality, coastal sanitation areas, treated waste and run-off water, garbage containers and very little litter.
At Playa Hermosa, it all started four years ago when hotel owner Tara Shaw encouraged her business neighbors to join her in cleaning the beach. “I used to go running on the beach and used to cry about all of the plastic trash. My family and I used to go out there and clean up,” said Shaw, who owns the small hotel of Villas Hermosas at Playa Hermosa with her husband, Brad. “Now, Hermosa has grown enough that a lot of people are really supportive.”
Playa Hermosa – aptly named “Beautiful Beach” – keeps its beauty thanks to the hard work and dedication of Costa Rican Maxfred Moraga and the committed business owners who sponsor him in the community beach cleaning program. Nine businesses at Playa Hermosa cooperate to pay Moraga’s salary and the cleanup expenses. Moraga works six days a week all year – with vacation time – to pick up trash brought in on the Pacific tides, that is left behind by beach-goers or washed out from nearby rivers. The rubbish is collected in extra-large garden-size trash bags, separated between garbage and recycling, and brought to a municipal trash collection spot.
“Such a proud moment today! Our beach, Playa Hermosa, has been given the honor by the respected Blue Flag program of the cleanest beach in the entire (large) province of Puntarenas,” wrote Shaw on the Villas Hermosas Facebook page. “Several Northern Santa Teresa / Hermosa businesses (Batik, Pranamar Villas and Yoga Retreat, Zopilote Surf Camp, The White House, Florblanca Resort, Latitude 10º Resort, Purasonica, Rancho Cielo, and us at Villas Hermosas) have been contributing for a full-time worker to pick up garbage 6 days per week for the last 4 years in our part of town, and it has obviously paid off! Thanks so much to Maxfred, our cleaner the last three years, and all contributors who help us with this program. Best. Neighbours. Ever.”
“I am happy, not only that we got the award for being one of the cleanest beaches in the country and being able to enjoy it every day, but by the fact that my kids are growing in a community where people do care,” commented Mario Matarrita, manager at Pranamar Oceanfront Villas & Yoga Retreat, which contributes to the community program. “After all, this is for our future generation, and these kinds of actions will hopefully set them on the right path.”
Being right on the beach at Playa Hermosa in Santa Teresa, Pranamar Oceanfront Villas also uses its own staff to keep its area of the beach well-groomed and free of trash and debris. The Santa Teresa Costa Rica hotel specializes in Costa Rica yoga retreats and Costa Rica surfing vacations, with daily yoga classes for hotel guests and the public. Pranamar Oceanfront Villas was named a Top 5 Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica by Travel & Leisure Magazine.
Article by Shannon Farley