What an adventure! This past July, three members of the NuMundo team embarked on a journey to Costa Rica to visit the newest impact centers in our network.
We wanted to see and experience these amazing projects first-hand and grow our network of impact centers.
What are they?
Impact centers are sustainable living and educational spaces that embody a holistic lifestyle in harmony with nature. Hubs for practical solutions to the global climate crisis, they can range from permaculture farms, ecovillages, and natural building schools to yoga retreat centers, reforestation centers, and much more.
Why did we choose Costa Rica, of all countries?
NuMundo has been growing communities in Central America, especially Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, for more than four years. Our co-founders met at an ecovillage in this region and planted the seed for the growing NuMundo network. Costa Rica has both Pacific and Caribbean beaches, expansive national parks and rainforests, and some of the most biodiverse flora and fauna in the world. This past year, the country produced 98% of its electricity without fossil fuels. It is also a peaceful nation with no army and a high happiness index.
Naturally, impact centers have been popping up in Costa Rica over the past 20 years, with hubs in the Dominical and Tinamaste areas, the Nicoya Peninsula, Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, Arenal, and the Osa Peninsula. Tropical climates allow centers to grow food year-round and attract travellers and tourists looking for natural beauty and life-changing experiences in the jungle.
Our team of three—Sara, David and I—traversed the country for 30 days straight, visiting at least one impact center per day. Our “day in the life” looked like: a tour of the project in the morning while we took photos, a chat with the founders and staff, and a farm-to-table meal before heading to the next center. With some bumps in the road (there were many river crossings and flat tires!), we visited some of the most incredible land-based projects making change in the world.
Below are the hand-picked impact centers we couldn’t wait to share with you.
Here you will find some of the top Costa Rican projects for permaculture, yoga, plant medicine, natural building, spirituality, rainforest conservation, and indigenous wisdom.
Take your time and explore the fruits of our month-long adventure! You may find your perfect workshop or course, an inspiring work-trade or volunteer opportunity, or a chance to transition to a lifestyle that brings you closer to nature.
Education & Youth-Friendly
With a focus on education, these impact centers offer opportunities (often open to youth as well) for high-quality experiential learning programs. Visit these spots if you’d love to learn about rainforest conservation, growing your own food, and cooking from the garden.
Chilamate Rainforest Eco-Retreat (Sarapiquí)
A family-run, educational eco-retreat center focusing on rainforest conservation, Chilamate is nestled in primary rainforest near a flowing whitewater river. Be prepared to see dart frogs, toucans, and abundant other wildlife. Owners Meghan Casey and Davis Azofeifa are incredibly passionate about working with children and the local community, and volunteer opportunities abound (Whitewater Kayak Instructor, Guest Services, Scientists).
Great for: student groups, volunteering, a stay in the rainforest, families.
Campanario Biological Research Station (Osa Peninsula)
This biological research station on the Osa Peninsula, just at the tip of the Corcovado National Park, is run by the lovely Nancy Aitken. The only way to arrive is by boat or a trek in the jungle; there is no road access. The natural beauty is impressive. If you choose to visit this ocean-facing center, expect some exciting wildlife sightings while you learn about the latest ecology, biology, and conservation research. It’s not uncommon to see jungle friends in the common areas!
Great for: groups, scientists, wildlife-watching, Corcovado Park treks, conservation, youth.
Buenaventura Eco-Adventure Rainforest Retreat (Upper Savegre River Valley, San Isidro area)
Blue clay, hiking, mountains, cooking, cacao, rivers—Buenaventura, run by Harlow Newton, is down-to-earth, fun, and educational all at the same time. Along with sister center Tres Semillas, run by Tamara Saenz, Buenaventura is the ideal land-based project for a rejuvenating learning experience in nature. What’s more, they’ve been working hard on recycling and gardening projects with the local community. Enjoy the sounds of the whitewater rivers and make sure you visit the historical Ceiba tree in the area.
Great for: river-front stay, student groups, work-trade, solo travel, permaculture, spiritual journeys.
UPDATE: Buenaventura has been hit hard by tropical storm Nate. Support this wonderful center to rebuild here.
Earth University (Limón)
A unique university offering degrees in agricultural sciences and natural resource management, Earth University hosts students from all corners of the globe. Most come from lower-income families in Central America, South America, and Africa to learn critical skills for work in agriculture and farming. Nico, Director of International Academic Relations, gave us a full tour of the campus. We loved the organic farm, the diversity of the student body, and the functional waste management systems.
Great for: a day visit, or applying for a college agriculture or farming program.
Yoga & Wellness
Below are our favorite impact centers for a yoga or wellness retreat. Relax, rejuvenate, and boost your practice at these sustainable living centers. Going beyond yoga, these specific centers work with permaculture, natural building, and upcycling, and they often produce their own food. Not your average yoga resort!
Blue Osa Yoga Retreat & Spa (Osa Peninsula)
Top-notch yoga center and spa on the beach, Blue Osa is nestled in the remote jungles of the Osa Peninsula, the second most biodiverse place on Earth. Beautiful yoga studios, pools, gardens and beachfront views make Blue Osa a real treat. The dining is outstanding. Marie brings a classic French touch to healthy and elegant dishes, and Michael is a kind and knowledgeable host. We loved the permaculture garden, too; Blue Osa grows the majority of the food they consume in their backyard!
Great for: permaculture work-trades, Yoga Teacher Trainings, retreats, relaxing stays.
Danyasa Yoga Retreat & Eco Lodge (Dominical)
Located a few steps from the beach in the center of Dominical, Danyasa is a cozy and chic yoga boutique hotel and studio. Sofiah Thom and Brendan Jaffer have combined their love for yoga, dance and sustainable living in one exceptional location. We especially loved the upcycled shipping containers used to build the hotel rooms. Take a yoga class, stay for ecstatic dance, and enjoy a dip in the pool.
Great for: Guest Liason/Yoga Teacher work-trade, yoga classes, ecstatic dance, yoga retreats or trainings, a lush stay in Dominical.
Just a few minutes up into the valley overlooking Uvita beach on the Pacific Coast, Selva Armonia is a gorgeous ecolodge and retreat center. With retreats focused on wellness and yoga, it is the place to stay if you’re looking to relax and get pampered. We were really impressed by the plant and fruit tree collection on the property, the hospitality from Leluna and Josh, and the beautiful design and decor.
Great for: yoga retreats, a vacation, a plant tour, teacher trainings.
Ocean Forest Ecolodge (Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula)
Nestled just south of Drake Bay in the wild Osa Peninsula, Ocean Forest Ecolodge is a stunning retreat center focused on plant medicine, wellness, ethnobotanical gardens, and conservation. Jonathan Miller, ethnobotanist and author of Rainforest Medicine: Preserving Indigenous Science & Biodiversity in the Upper Amazon, has created a center with the feel of the Amazon. The lodge has also been doing incredible conservation work, such as creating a project to save sea turtles in the area.
Great for: marine turtle rescue volunteers, plant medicine, wellness, healing retreats, volunteering.
Permaculture, Exotic Plants & Plant Wizards
A must-visit for plant lovers! These impact centers have incredible collections of edible and decorative plants, fruit trees and natural magic. We were dazzled by the knowledgeable plant “wizards” who run the following centers. Some practice permaculture, others biodynamic farming; all of these centers are regenerating soil, growing food and creating stunning gardens.
Finca Luna Nueva Lodge (Arenal Volcano)
Biodynamic farm meets gorgeous ecolodge at Finca Luna Nueva. This center has it all for an educational experience in paradise, and is the only Demeter-certified biodynamic farm we visited. Finca Luna Nueva focuses primarily on drawing carbon down from the atmosphere and reversing climate change. We were awe-struck after our farm tour with founder Steven Farrell, and appreciated the hospitality and warmth of his daughter Kimberly and their staff. Delicious farm-to-table food, educational biodynamic farming experience, and volcano views with a bit of luxury—wow! Don’t forget to enjoy the pool and hot tub.
Great for: Luxurious-but-affordable hotel stays for families or couples, retreats, biodynamic agriculture, farm tours.
The Ark Herb Farm (San José Valley)
One of the largest collections of herbs, plants and flowers in Central America, The Ark Herb Farm lived up to expectation. This is the place to buy the plants you dream of—a resource for growing impact centers, gardens, and food forests. The Ark Herb Farm has one of the most impressive plant tours, too. Tommy Thomas took us on an educational tour replete with anecdotes, belly laughs, and a multi-sensory experience. Ask to see the treehouse overlooking San José valley.
Great for: buying plants, plant tours, treehouse stays, questions for plant specialist Tommy.
Finca La Isla (Puerto Viejo)
Close to the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo, this farm and botanical garden has some of the most diverse tropical fruit trees in Costa Rica. Peter and Ansel were so knowledgeable; their passion for plants, particularly fruit and cacao, is contagious. On Peter’s plant tour, we tried many rare species like marang, snakefruit, and jackfruit. And Ansel showed us how she makes organic artisanal chocolate from scratch. Yum!
Great for: plant tours, chocolate workshops, buying chocolate and plants.
Vago’s Place (Puerto Viejo)
Just outside of downtown Puerto Viejo lies Finca Vago’s, a quaint center focused on growing and foraging medicinal plants to turn into natural products. The sweet Vago sisters gave us a tour of their permaculture gardens and lab where they make products like deodorant, toothpaste, teas, tinctures, and soap. They value activating and bringing community together and host women’s circles, school groups, and holistic and wellness workshops, as well as participating in the weekly farmer’s market.
Great for: Exhale Jungle Retreat, stays in Puerto Viejo, work-trades, anyone interested in learning about plant medicine
Punta Mona (Manzanillo)
One of the best-known permaculture farms in Costa Rica, Punta Mona has been around for over 20 years. On the remote Caribbean coast by the Panamanian border, it is only accessible by boat or jungle hike. An inspiration to many centers, it is a true tropical beachside food forest paradise. Farm manager Nick gave us an interactive farm and plant tour, and the crew was exceptionally hospitable. We enjoyed every bite of our fruit-filled organic farm-to-table meal, too.
Great for: Medicines From the Edge, herbal education, permaculture, private beaches, fruit lovers, yoga retreats, cooking, and botanical studies.
Finca Morpho (Puerto Jimenez, Osa Peninsula)
One of NuMundo’s favorite impact centers, Finca Morpho is a beautiful beachfront permaculture community on the remote Osa Peninsula. They have been using permaculture principles for the past five years to rebuild the soil and grow food, and the results are uplifting. Finca Morpho offers delicious farm-to-table meals and works hard to cultivate a tight-knit community. On top of all that, founder Ticon is deeply knowledgeable about permaculture in the tropics. Great community vibes and sweet beach platform!
Great for: permaculture apprenticeship, bamboo building workshop, Permaculture Design Course, retreats, volunteering, work-trade, farm-to-table meals, farm tours, magical cabina stays.
These impact centers offer courses and apprenticeships focused on natural building. Learn to build with natural and renewable materials like clay, wood, cobb, wattle and daub, and bamboo. Sustainably designed structures minimize the negative impact on our environment. Not only are these skills incredibly empowering and useful, but they also build more resilient communities.
Rancho Mastatal (Mastatal, Puriscal)
Rancho Mastatal is the top sustainability education center in Costa Rica for natural building, permaculture design, and fermentation. Established in 2001, it is an impressive family-led display of sustainable living. We were impressed by their efficient systems and delicious locally sourced food—definitely try their homemade hooch, kimchi and jackfruit hummus. Tim O’hara, his family, and their apprentices gave us a captivating tour and warm welcome to the farm.
Great for: Permaculture Design Course, 3-month or year-long apprenticeships, natural building workshops, wilderness first response programs, farm tours, student groups.
Earth Ayni (Platanillo)
Earth Ayni originally started in Peru and later made its way to Costa Rica. It is a young project focused on sustainable living, energy medicine, and natural building. Steve, one of the founders, is a jack-of-all-trades and deeply knowledgeable in aquaponics (a system combining aquaculture, raising fish, with hydroponics, growing plants in water), permaculture, and natural building. Earth Ayni is located in the Tinamaste area, a gorgeous valley overlooking the Pacific and a hub for organic farms, community living, and wellness centers.
Great for: Volunteering, apprenticeships, natural building, aquaponics, getting involved with a project from the ground up.
These centers have developed impressively sophisticated systems and are striving to live entirely off their land. Effective food production, superb organizational skills, and lush gardens are just a few of their striking qualities. These are great learning centers where you can develop critical survival skills.
Rancho Margot (Arenal Volcano)
This hidden gem boasts beautiful bungalows, farm-to-table food, natural pools, yoga, and group programs. Started almost 20 years ago with the goal of attaining sustainability and self-sufficiency, they produce everything themselves, from fruit and veggies to meat, soap and even furniture. The self-sufficient organic ranch near Arenal Volcano is a must-visit for an educational experience filled with activities.
Great for: groups, couples, volunteering, bungalow stays, workshops, farm tours.
Sat Yoga Institute (Río Nuevo, San Isidro)
An intentional community, wisdom school, ashram and retreat center, the Institute is guided by the teachings of Shunyamurti. It is a place to study, heal and transform through meditation, intentional community living, and consciousness work. While here, we enjoyed a farm-to-table meal in the pristine dining room and toured the gardens that provide food for the community. This refuge is the place to go for a journey inward.
Great for: intentional community living, ashram community, meditation retreat, off-grid living, consciousness studies.
While most of the centers we visited were in remote rural areas, a few extraordinary projects are sprouting in urban areas as well. We enjoyed visiting the following sites in the capital city, San José.
Unity (San José)
Unity is an urban conscious community in San Pedro, an alternative and artsy neighborhood in San José. Charlotte, the founder, has a beautiful vision of an urban impact center and has united diverse individuals seeking a more conscious and spiritual life path. The space contains indoor and outdoor gardens, a yoga and movement area, a community kitchen, and rooms for short- or long-term stays.
Great for: community living in San José, short- or long-term rentals, day trips to San José, yoga classes or workshops.
Fundación Gaia (San José)
With the goal of making Costa Rica carbon neutral, Gaia has created an “Accord for Peace with Mother Earth.” Their mission is to spread awareness of climate change and encourage individuals to reduce their carbon footprint. In addition, Fundación Gaia has works closely with indigenous communities, children, and reforestation projects.
Great for: signing the Accord for Peace with Mother Earth, volunteering, day visits to the center in San José to see how you can get involved.
Yoga Lamat (San José)
Urban center for yoga and wellness, Yoga Lamat is the ideal destination for a relaxing and intentional experience in San José. They offer holistic therapies like reiki, shiatsu, integral massage, and sound therapy. Lamat also organizes yoga teacher trainings and retreats.
Great for: yoga classes, workshops, healing sessions, retreats.
Meeting an indigenous group is an incredibly humbling and inspiring experience. There is so much wisdom—so many ways of living and doing. We have a lot to learn. This next center works closely with local indigenous populations, which is a rare opportunity in Costa Rica. Some indigenous tribes in Costa Rica include the Bribri, Cabecares, and Borucas.
Planet One World (Puerto Viejo)
Sustainable farm and wildlife sanctuary, Planet One World also maintains close contact with the Bribri and other indigenous tribes in the high Talamanca area. The permaculture project borders pristine rainforest, and we loved hiking in the primary rainforest and taking in the impressive wildlife and trees. Planet One World also offers learning experiences visiting neighboring indigenous tribes in the area.
Great for: volunteering, farm tours, work-trades, stays in the Puerto Viejo area, contact with indigenous tribes.
Hotel/Ecolodge Meets Impact Center
Travelers visit these centers on vacation to have the Costa Rican experience, but leave with much more. These ecolodges and boutique hotels offer a relaxing and exciting jungle stay, but guests leave with meaningful knowledge about permaculture and sustainability. A great way to introduce people to permaculture and holistic living!
This ecolodge is secluded in the pristine Valle Escondido Preserve in Monteverde. Streams, waterfalls, and primary and secondary forests run alongside the valley, and hotel guests are offered daily permaculture tours. Jonas, the founder, gave us a sunset tour of the lodge, rainforest, and permaculture projects. He is extremely knowledgeable about permaculture, wildlife, and the Monteverde area. We appreciated the center’s unique approach to introducing guests to permaculture and sustainability.
Great for: stays in Monteverde, night animal tours, rainforest hikes, private events.
Essence Arenal (Arenal Volcano)
Boutique hostel and organic farm, Essence Arenal is perfect for the backpack traveler or adventurer. Funky glamping tents as big as a house, a sweat lodge and hot springs—beautiful. If you’ve only come for a stay around the Arenal Volcano, be sure to take time to discover the organic farm just a short trek from the cabinas and tents. We enjoyed our farm tour and loved the army tent-style glamping cabinas.
Great for: stays in Arenal, volunteering, work-trades.
Finca Exótica (Carate, Osa Peninsula)
Boutique hotel with rustic flair meets the wild nature of Corcovado National Park at Finca Exótica. This hidden gem offers views of the ocean, diverse wildlife, delicious cuisine, and impeccable design incorporating indigenous Costa Rican weaving patterns. Owners Markus and Gaby were such warm hosts, and they happen to be looking for a permaculture designer to visit on a work-trade.
Great for: cabin stay, glamping, romantic stays, retreats, couples, permaculture/guest services work-trades, a bit of luxury in the wild.
Investing in a Community
Maybe you are ready to invest in land and live alongside like-minded individuals in community. You are ready to take this step and are looking for the perfect place to relocate and settle down. We recommend these spots for long-term living and investment.
Overlooking the Pacific, Puerta is a health and wellness-oriented residential development project. The center often hosts events like ECHO, nutrition seminars, social impact retreats, and wellness workshops. Chic decor, a large community space, the gorgeous “Vida Tree,” and sunset ocean views make this space particularly special.
Great for: people interested in buying land or joining a residential community, wellness or social impact retreats, groups, preventive medicine.
Fully immersed in the lush jungle landscape, the international team at SEED has created a sustainability learning center and community. Interested in applying your college research in ecology, hydrology, or agriculture? They are looking to partner with universities to offer hands-on courses and research opportunities. There are some lots available for sale in this budding self-sufficient, warm-hearted community, too.
Great for: people interested in buying land or joining a residential community, college students
Ecovilla is a 44-lot international community with permaculture gardens, forest trails, pools, and a famous community-owned alternative school. Although the majority of lots are sold out, there are a few available for sale and some homes up for rent. This community attracts individuals looking to invest in property in Costa Rica who also wish to live in nature with clean drinking water, fiber optic internet, like-minded neighbors, and international community. We didn’t visit the school, Casa Sula, but we’ve heard Wonderful things about it.
Great for: Families, people looking to purchase land and settle down, investment.
Wow! After a full month on the road, we have only touched the surface. There are so many incredible impact centers in Costa Rica creating community, doing great things for the planet and living simply. It’s a privilege to have witnessed these projects.
We hope this gives you an idea of where to start exploring our extraordinary network of impact centers. Buen viaje!