A total of 80 beaches from all over the country received the ecological blue flag award during the 16th ceremony of the Ecological Blue Flag Program (PBAE), which took place last March 28th at the Double Tree Hotel in Puntarenas.

For the first time, the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism (ICT) decided to hold an exclusive ceremony for the beach category, as a way to honor the hard work of the winning committees. In the past, the ceremony was held at the Presidential House, as part of a community event.

The awards were distributed among the different regions of Costa Rica as follows:  North Guanacaste 25, Central Pacific 13, South Guanacaste 12, Puntarenas 11, South Pacific 10, and South Caribbean 9.

Although 106 beaches enrolled in the program this year, only 80 of them met the evaluation requirements.

The PBAE evaluated each beach based on 7 different aspects: quality of seawater (35%), quality of water for human consumption (15%), sanitary quality of the coast, which included garbage (10%), domestic sewage (15%), industrial sewage (5%), environmental education (10%), and safety and administration (10%).

Based on the performance across these seven dimensions, each beach was then given a grade of 1 to 5 stars.

Out of the eighty winning beaches, only two of them got a 5 star grade. These were Punta Madero and Blanca, located in Guanacaste and Puntarenas respectively.

According to Alberto Lopez, Coordinator of Sustainability for ICT, the Ecological Blue Flag program goes hand in hand with the sustainability strategy of ICT, which goal is to guarantee the development of sustainable tourism places.

In addition, Lopez indicated that the addition of 13 beaches this year represents the biggest growth of the program since its creation in 1996.

However, other beaches had to be removed from PBAE as they failed to meet the established requirements.

Ocotal, Ventanas, Grande, Dominical, Tambor and Manzanillo were some of the beaches that lost their blue flag. Yet, the ICT hopes they will recover it next year.

The administration of the Ecological Blue Flag Program is in charge of the Costa Rican Institute of Water and Sewage (AYA) in coordination with the Costa Rica Institute of Tourism (ICT), the Ministry of Health (MINSA), the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAET), the National Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR), among others.

PBAE’s Grading Criteria

One star (A): If it gets a score between 90 – 100%

Two stars (AA): If it gets a score of 100% and also has: warning signals for national and international tourists, surveillance and first aid services during weekends and high seasons.

Three stars (AAA): If meets the requirements for two stars, and also has: public showers and bathrooms, touristic information center, comfortable and safe access for people with disabilities.

Four stars (AAAA): If it meets the requirements for three stars, and also has: recycling and solid waste separation programs, cleaning actions to prevent vector-borne diseases, permanent surveillance and first aid services, and Local Emergency Committee, participation in AyA’s Sanitary Quality Stamp.

Five stars (AAAAA): If it meets the requirement for three starts, and also has: designated parking for people with disabilities, ramps or synthetic rugs to access the beach, Tourist Police services, and participation AyA’s Sanitary Quality Stamp program.

By David Gomez