We believe in highlighting the good work tourism businesses are doing to promote responsible travel. In this series, we will be highlighting the work of our platinum sponsors, a group of responsibly-operated hotels and tour operators from around the world whose values align with our mission and have committed to supporting CREST for at least five years. For this feature, we’ve interviewed Bodhi Surf + Yoga, who has been a CREST platinum sponsor since 2017. Read our interview below to learn about how they create a mindful experience for guests, actively and intentionally engage with the local community, and preserve the local environment.
Enriching the guest experience through community engagement
Engaging with the local community can enrich the travel experience. How does Bodhi Surf + Yoga integrate with the community of Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica, to foster cultural exchange and support local businesses and initiatives?
One of our four pillars is community engagement. For us, it’s extremely important that our guests have the opportunity to integrate with our local community of Bahia Ballena. It’s just as important as our namesake surfing and yoga. But it goes beyond just giving guests this opportunity. We encourage and empower our guests to integrate with our local community.
On the afternoon of their arrival, our guests have their first activity – the cultural community tour. This tour is led by Costa Rica Cultural Tours, and on this one-to-two hour walking tour of our local community, the extremely knowledgeable guides teach our guests about all of the different plants and animals that they see. The guides also share information regarding our town’s history, cultural events, and points of interest, and give recommendations on where to shop and eat.
We also purposefully don’t include all meals on-site. Breakfast is prepared daily, but dinner is provided only on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. This means that our guests are encouraged to venture out into our friendly town to try some local flavors and support local businesses.
We also encourage guests to partake in a number of cultural activities during their time here, including:
- Cooking classes
- A very unique coconut tour
- A trip to our weekly farmers market
- Renting bicycles to explore the area
- A visit to a local coral restoration lab
- Nature tours, such as whale watching or ziplining
We have also partnered with Vamoos, a travel company and app that allows us to have our own profile that we can share with guests. Guests who download the app and sign in to our profile have access to a world of information that we upload, the idea being to equip and empower them to go out and experience our local community. They can access a map showing restaurants, supermarkets, beaches, and other points of interest. We also have our directory of blogs and videos available, again providing guests with the resources to empower them to comfortably and confidently integrate themselves into our community. These include our Uvita services and amenities, Uvita restaurant guide, and Activities in Uvita blogs.
Non-formal education through the ocean
Ocean conservation is vital for the health of marine ecosystems. How does Bodhi Surf + Yoga incorporate ocean awareness and conservation education into its surf and yoga programs to encourage responsible behavior among guests?
We understand that the ocean is vitally important to what we do at Bodhi Surf + Yoga. Without it, there wouldn’t be much surfing going on around here! We don’t love the ocean because it allows us to surf, we actually surf and teach people to surf BECAUSE OF our love for the ocean.
We believe that by teaching people to surf, we’re helping them fall in love with the ocean. We understand that for many, the ocean can be a seemingly scary place. It’s strong and unpredictable. But it’s also extremely difficult NOT to fall in love with it once you spend time around it and interact with it.
Surfing allows us to harness the power of the ocean and nature to make us feel good. This is actually scientifically proven. Standing up and feeling the stoke of riding a wave releases what we call ‘happy hormones’. These hormones include dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins – which our body releases when doing something that makes us happy! Because surfing allows us to feel this happiness, we naturally begin to feel more comfortable and confident with the ocean. As we continue to develop our relationship with the ocean, we begin to fall in love with it. This part is extremely important: Having fallen in love with the ocean, it’s our natural human instinct to want to protect it. You want to protect the things/people you love, right?
We believe that by teaching people to surf – and eventually fall in love with the ocean, we’re creating what we call ocean guardians. These are people who love the ocean and want to protect it and keep it healthy.
We also empower our guests to fall in love with the ocean throughout their entire week with us during our surf lessons. At the beginning of each of our surf lessons, we have a ‘theory’ section of the lesson that takes place at the beach. These theory lessons include education on:
- How waves are formed
- The importance of the ocean as an ecosystem
- Coral reefs
- How the ocean impacts our daily lives
- The ocean as a habitat for marine creatures
By developing their understanding of what the ocean is and how it works, we believe we’re helping our guests by giving them a little push in their journey of falling in love with the ocean. Of course, something that you don’t understand or know anything about is going to seem a little scary! We invite you to learn more about the benefits of surfing!
At the end of the week, to capitalize on our guests’ newfound love of the ocean, we have them write down something that they pledge to do in their lives going forward. The idea behind this is that it’s something environmental – that they pledge to make a change in their lives that benefits the environment.
Educating to ensure ethical wildlife encounters
Responsible tourism emphasizes the importance of respecting wildlife habitats. How does Bodhi Surf + Yoga educate guests about the importance of marine life conservation and ethical wildlife encounters?
One of our absolute favorite things about where we live is the world of wildlife and nature that we’re exposed to. Our guests never go a week without at least spotting either scarlet macaws, toucans, sloths, monkeys, iguanas, and many forms of marine life. Some guests are fortunate enough to spot all of the above! Although it’s great to be exposed to these creatures, it’s also crucial to ensure that our guests’ interactions with them are safe and ethical.
We incorporate information on how guests can interact with wildlife at the Marino Ballena National Park during our surf lessons. These marine wildlife interactions include:
- Crabs and hermit crabs
- Sand dollars
Empowering our guests to engage ethically with this wildlife allows them to better appreciate and learn from their encounters. This empowerment comes in the form of educating guests on what the animal/creature is, why it’s there, its role in the ecosystem, and how best to observe and appreciate it.
Another common and interesting interaction with marine life that our guests have at the national park is with coral. They might see coral while on a snorkeling or diving tour here in Uvita, or even find washed-up pieces of coral on the beach during surf lessons. We encourage guests to take a visit to the local non-profit Costa Rica Coral Restoration, which is located just south of us.
Guests can be taken on a tour around their lab and their premises to learn about their work in restoring, protecting, and repopulating the coral population at the Marino Ballena National Park – where we surf!
We also encourage guests to visit the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, which is about a 15-minute drive from us. There, guests can take a tour that lasts about an hour and a half. Throughout the tour, the informative guides offer information about many of the animal species that guests are likely to see during their time here.
They provide information on endangered species and how we can collectively protect them, the origins of many different animal species, and their importance to their ecosystems.
Respecting wildlife habitats is actually something that’s ingrained in the DNA of our community. We’re based in the Osa Area of Conservation here in the southern Pacific of Costa Rica. This area comprises 430,000 acres of protected area, both land and sea. To give you an idea of how vast and rich this protected area is, it contains the largest swath of lowland rainforest and the most expansive mangrove wetlands on the Pacific coast. Just this area boasts more species of plants and trees than any forest occurring north of Panama, i.e. all of Central America.
Living in this area, our entire community understands the importance of respecting this important area of wildlife that we live in. It’s in our DNA! Our guests can undoubtedly feel a sense of this importance and responsibility by engaging in our local community.
Sustainable living and eco-friendly practices
Sustainable living is an important aspect of responsible travel. How does Bodhi Surf + Yoga demonstrate and promote eco-friendly practices within its operations and accommodations?
If we’re encouraging our guests to take sustainable and responsible action, we as a business should be role models of this. We have designed our lodge 100% with the environment in mind.
All of the lights on our property are LED, which are more efficient than conventional incandescent lights, use far less electricity, and last longer. We also have motion-sensored lights outdoors that come on for parts of the evening. This uses much less electricity than lights that stay on the entire time.
In 2022 we also installed solar panels with the help of fellow Costa Rican B-Corp YUXTAENERGY. The solar panels power about 70% of our operations and have led us to an 80% decrease on our electricity bills.
Our bungalows and rooms are also designed to be environmentally friendly. They are all designed to allow airflow and to allow hot air to escape, meaning that we don’t need air conditioners to keep cool. There are also numerous trees around the property that provide shade over the accommodations. Each accommodation also has an infographic poster that guests can use to be a part of our sustainability mission. These fun and colorful posters provide guests with tips on how they can conserve water and electricity during their stay.
In 2022 we also installed a rainwater collector, whereby rain lands on the roof and is transported via pipes into our large tank. We use this water to rinse off our surfboards and all other surf equipment after our surf lessons. Rather than using an electric pump to harness the water through the hose, the tank is raised off the ground. This allows gravity to pump the water, providing enough pressure to be able to hose off our equipment in a more sustainable manner.
Combating climate change
Climate change poses significant challenges for coastal regions. How does Bodhi Surf + Yoga address these challenges and contribute to climate change resilience efforts in the Bahia Ballena area?
In 2022, our sustainability team spent the year focusing on applying for Costa Rica’s Ecological Blue Flag Award (Bandera Azul), specifically for the category of Climate Change. In working towards this award, we had to meet a number of very strict standards and parameters in relation to our efforts in climate change resilience.
There are a number of different categories that businesses, homes, individuals, and even beaches can get awarded in. We chose the ‘Climate Change’ category because of our understanding of the threat that climate change poses on coastal communities – including ours. We are dedicated to addressing these threats and challenges and inspiring resilience efforts within our coastal community.
As a result of our dedication, we were awarded the Bandera Azul. One of our leading projects that inspired big change in combating climate change in our coastal community, was the Rutas Electricas initiative. Co-owner Pilar was a driving force for this project here in the Bahia Ballena region. The Rutas Eléctricas project’s main goal was to introduce and encourage the use of electrical vehicles here, decreasing the reliance on fossil fuels within the region.
This initiative encouraged businesses in the area to sponsor and install an electric charging port at their premises. The idea behind this is to encourage not only inhabitants of our area to get around using electric vehicles, but also to encourage a more sustainable form of domestic tourism from other parts of the country.
Before the Rutas Electricas project, it was practically impossible for electric vehicle owners from the country’s capital, San Jose, to travel to communities further south – like ours. This is because there weren’t any places to charge these vehicles along the way. Now as a result of this project, electric vehicles can travel to our community, enjoy our marine national park, and recharge at several restaurants and hotels while here.
Contributing to important community projects
Supporting local conservation initiatives can make a meaningful difference. How does Bodhi Surf + Yoga actively participate in or contribute to projects that protect the unique biodiversity and natural beauty of the region?
As beneficiaries of the ocean, it’s vital that we participate in and contribute to local conservation initiatives. For the last three years, we’ve actually been leading our own conservation initiatives, in the form of our Smile While You Paddle Surf-A-Thons. Our Surf-A-Thons are fundraising efforts for local conservation projects. In 2022, we raised over USD $16,000 for Innoceana’s Marine Conservation and Education Center, and specifically the Junior Blue Warrior program, which provides local youth with marine conservation educational opportunities.
Our 2023 Surf-A-Thon raised over USD $8,000 for the SOMOS Foundation’s SELAL program. This program’s first mission is to enable youth in our area to have better access to employment within the local “green” economy. Its second is to enact place-based environmental awareness and action through principles of biodiversity and conservation, rural eco-tourism and community sustainable development, and connection and interaction with local environmental leaders.
We also donate $20 from each of our paying guests to conservation projects in our local area. Last year, this initiative helped raise over USD $3,000 for the SELAL program.
We also run what we call “Surf and Service Saturdays”. This program invites anyone from our local community to come down to the beach and participate in an hour of service, and right after we provide participants with a free surf lesson. The service often includes picking up trash or listening to an educational conservation talk from a guest speaker.
Empowering our local community – our home and our future
Empowering local communities, especially women and youth, is crucial for truly sustainable development. How does Bodhi Surf + Yoga work with community members to create opportunities and foster social and economic empowerment?
The idea behind these initiatives is to empower the youth of our community to partake in conservation education programs, creating a more sustainable future for our community. We also realize the importance of creating opportunities for our community of today.
We realize the importance of empowering the women of our community. Our team of full-time staff here at Bodhi Surf + Yoga is 80% female. We also work tirelessly to break the stereotype that ‘surfing is a man’s activity’. We do this by investing in educating and training the females in our community to become surf instructors. This increases the number of female surfers and surf instructors in our community, as well as creating job opportunities specifically for females within our community. To date, 40% of our surf instructors are female, and we are constantly trying to increase that number. Last season 67% of our guests were female. This means that each week, we’re taking a group of majority females down to the beach to surf. This helps tremendously in proving to our local community that surfing is by no means ‘a man’s activity’.
We have also developed a Local Student Internship program here at Bodhi Surf + Yoga. The student we take on through this program will come here once a week on Sundays. This program provides the opportunity to be part of a team, gain insight into the operations of a dynamic business, explore their interests and skills, learn that business and sustainability must go hand-in-hand, and improve their employability.
Our goal for this program is to be able to present it to other businesses within our local community, empowering them to develop something similar. This will provide many opportunities for the youth of our community, as well as foster social and economic empowerment.
Minimizing negative impacts, and maximizing the positives
“Leave no trace” principles are fundamental to minimizing tourism’s environmental impact. How does Bodhi Surf + Yoga ensure that its retreats follow sustainable practices and encourage guests to do the same?
We face an interesting dilemma here at Bodhi Surf + Yoga. We understand the negative impact that air travel can have on the environment, but we also rely on it to be able to deliver our immersive surf + yoga camps!
We believe that the eye-opening and educational experience that our guests have with us is powerful enough to cancel out the negative impacts. We believe that the positive changes that our guests are inspired to make after they leavego above and beyond to make up for the potential negative impacts of their travel here.
There are a couple of ways that this happens. Firstly, as a result of having dived into a week of marine conservation education and awareness with us, we encourage guests to sign our Ocean Guardian Pledge. This pledge follows “leave no trace” principles, and allows guests to join us on our journey to improve the health of our marine ecosystems. By signing up for the Ocean Guardian Pledge, participants will receive a weekly tip about how they and their families can contribute to protecting our oceans, as well as a monthly survey where they can provide feedback on the actions taken.
We also have guests write down something that they pledge to do/change in their lives going forward. A guest once used the metaphor that “Bodhi is a storm” and that our guests are “waves created by this storm, traveling back to shore (their homes)”. The idea behind this is that Bodhi Surf + Yoga enacts and ignites the desire for change in people, which they then take back home with them and use to drive positive change within their communities.
We ensure that our onsite operations here at Bodhi Surf + Yoga “leave no trace” by offsetting our carbon at the end of every year with fellow B-Corp Native Energy. We do this by recording the weight of our trash and recycling, water bills, electricity bills, and vehicle usage every month. Native Energy then calculates what we pay to offset our carbon for the year. This is something that we’ve been doing since 2016.
We also encourage our guests to use the Carbon Calculator on our website to offset their air travel here! In doing this, guests can leave no trace of their trip here.
Yoga and mindfulness for cultivating environmental stewardship
Mindful travel fosters personal growth and a deeper connection with nature. How does Bodhi Surf + Yoga use yoga and mindfulness practices to cultivate a sense of environmental stewardship among its guests?
Practicing yoga is a huge tool in our mission to cultivate a sense of environmental stewardship among our guests. Yoga is much more than just a physical practice. Asana – the third limb of Ashtanga yoga, utilizes the movement of the body and different postures with the ultimate goal of calming the mind and moving into the inner sense of being. This practice believes that by opening your body, you can eventually open up your mind. At the end of the day, the most fundamental goal of yoga is to quiet the mind.
Having ‘quieted our minds’ we’re more able to be at peace with our minds and bodies. This makes us more aware of our surroundings and be more present – ultimately allowing us to be more in tune with what’s around us. And what’s all around us? Nature.
We as humans naturally have an innate connection to nature. Most of the time we’re just too busy or preoccupied with other things to notice it. But through yoga, we can empower our guests to quiet all of that extra noise in their minds, and re-learn to feel that perpetual connection.
Even just realizing that while practicing Pranayama, control of the breath we’re taking in oxygen, which is produced by the trees and nature around us. We realize that we’re far more connected to nature than we might think. Technically speaking, without being even slightly connected to nature, we as humans couldn’t live.
This, like falling in love with the ocean through surfing, makes us appreciative of the nature around us. We want to protect it, realizing that it protects us so much. Our guests quite often leave us after their surf + yoga camp having pledged to be more environmentally friendly consumers when they arrive back home. Or even just to be more environmentally conscious.
Our guests here are automatically immersed in nature just by attending our yoga classes. We’re very lucky here at Bodhi Surf + Yoga to have our treehouse-style yoga platform surrounded by nature. During our classes, we enjoy the soft sounds of rain, visits from curious toucans flying through the platform, the feeling of a cool breeze, the warmth of the tropical air, and the songs of Costa Rica’s colorful birds. We even head down to the beach for some yoga classes to enjoy the cool ocean spray, the sounds of the waves, and the soft sand. This kind of nature immersion through yoga undoubtedly ignites and awakens something within our guests, encouraging a sense of environmental stewardship.
Difficult, but more than worth it!
What is the most challenging and/or rewarding part of Bodhi Surf + Yoga’s sustainability journey so far? What are you most looking forward to down the line?
With each passing year, we are dedicated to being more sustainable than the last. This is by no means an easy goal to achieve, but that’s the point – it’s not supposed to be easy! There are of course challenges along the way of our sustainability journey, but overcoming them and learning from them have been beyond rewarding for us.
Our Sustainability Hub explains in our 2022 Sustainability Video that the biggest challenge is knowing where to start, and understanding that there is so much that we don’t know. At times it seems as though the more we learn about one thing, the more we realize there is to learn about another. This can definitely feel overwhelming, but our passion and commitment to do better help us push through these challenges.
In 2023 we were awarded the Bandera Azul for climate change. This is a local Costa Rican certification that recognizes our ability to reach several (very) strict sets of criteria across nine different parameters that span our entire business. We weren’t even sure that we’d get the award – this was something new to us and there were many things we didn’t know! But we decided to give it a go anyway – we agreed that whether we did or didn’t get the award, this would be a priceless learning experience for us.
It’s also still extremely rewarding for us to be a B-Corp certified business, as well as a 1% for the Planet member. Being a part of these communities of like-minded sustainable businesses allows us to create partnerships and support businesses that are also dedicated to using what they do as a force for good.
Our passion and commitment to driving positive change in the world also led to us being awarded yet another ‘2022 Tripadvisor: Travelers Choice Award’. This achievement is indicative of our providing excellent, safe, and responsible travel experiences for our guests.
Down the line, Bodhi Surf + Yoga looks forward to continuing to be a strong pillar of positive change here in our local community. We continue to strive to improve each year, and to use what we learn to inspire other individuals and businesses to do the same!
One of our favorite quotes is “The greatest threat to this planet is the belief that someone else will save it” – Robert Swan. This reinforces to us that we ALL have a responsibility to play in making the world a better, healthier place.
Learn more about becoming a CREST platinum sponsor.