What Makes a Whale Watching Company Truly Eco-Friendly? 4 Questions You Need to Ask

Humpback Whale Tours Osa Peninsula

These days, a lot of whale watching companies label themselves as “green” or “eco-friendly.” For many of these businesses, these are just catchphrases they toss around to keep customers and environmentalists happy.

So how do you separate the not-so-green from the truly green whale watching companies? By asking the right questions.

  1. Do they follow guidelines for responsible whale watching?

When boats get too close to the whales, approach too quickly or make too much noise, they may cause the animals unnecessary stress. In some cases, these actions can cost the whales their lives.

That’s why all whale watching companies (and recreational boaters!) must follow a strict set of guidelines that protects the overall health and long-term sustainability of whales in Costa Rican waters.

  1. Are they also environmentally responsible on land?

If a company says they’re eco-friendly, then they should be environmentally responsible in all areas of their business. For whale watching companies, that means they should be as low-impact on land as they are on the water.

So, ask if their daily operations contribute to a greener planet. Look for things like recycling, composting, eco-friendly cleaners, and sustainably made uniforms.

  1. Are their boats specially designed to minimize the impact on the environment?

It’s not enough just to follow guidelines for responsible whale watching. The company should also operate boats that are environmentally friendly and that pose no threat to the whales or their habitat. Ask if their boats have:

A hull design that leaves a much smaller wake (wave). This reduces shore erosion and improves fuel efficiency
An above-water exhaust system that provides a more quiet environment for marine mammals
4-stroke engine technology that consumes less fuel and oil

  1. Are they carbon neutral?

When a business is carbon neutral, they remove just as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they put in.

To become 100% carbon neutral, the business must first establish a baseline for their emissions. Then, they must find ways to counteract these negative effects on the environment.

The most common way to achieve this is to reduce emissions as much as possible through efficiency retrofits and upgrades, then balance the rest by purchasing “offsets.” These carbon offsets are financial investments in new technologies that measurably reduce greenhouse gas emissions that would have otherwise occurred.

Here at Changing Tide tours, our commitment to the environment has been in place since our conception. We go above and beyond to protect our marine ecosystem for generations to come! You can read more about our conservation initiatives or you can book a tour to experience it firsthand!

Our response to COVID-19

In these unprecedented and challenging times, we all must do what we can to support the country’s (and indeed world’s) efforts to lessen the impact of COVID-19. At Changing Tide Tours, we are closely monitoring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization’s (WHO) statements regarding COVID-19 cases and following guidelines from these agencies and the local health departments.

health and wellbeing of our crew members and guests is our number one priority.

Check out our boat tour health measures and guidelines below.

Commitment to Safety

While there have been no reported cases of the virus in our operations, in
order to help slow the community spread of COVID-19 and in accordance with
local and State regulations issued across the country, we have suspended all of
our operations since March until further notice.

The national lockdown measures
have forbidden all touristic activities and people gathering. On 15th
June, when the Minister of Health of Costa Rica gives an update on the
situation, we will re-evaluate the health and safety conditions at national

understand how disappointing this decision may be for guests that have a tour
reserved with us on board one of our vessels.

Commitment to Confidence

Changing Tide Tours is committed to ensuring our guests are confident in making
a booking by providing them maximum flexibility during these challenging times.

We are
making the following temporary changes to our rebooking and cancellation policy
at this time:

  • For guests with existing bookings, if your tour
    is cancelled because of public health authorities’ decisions, we have
    waived change fees and will be happy to reschedule your tour for a future
    date travel at no extra cost.
  • If you are unable to join us for your
    experience due to an illness or because of travel to a restricted area, we
    will apply the deposit you have made toward any future experience offered
    in 2020 or 2021.
  • Guests looking to make a booking for a future
    date can book with confidence knowing that we will work with them to ensure
    maximum flexibility should the situation continue or change.

commitment to your Wellbeing

Changing Tide Tours has an excellent safety and sanitation track record and
have always operated and maintained a rigorous process around cleanliness and
hygiene. Our team is always working to ensure that they meet the latest
guidance on hygiene and cleaning protocols.

When the national lockdown
impositions are suspended, we will adopt safety and hygienic measures for each employee
and customer. For the health of all aboard with us, returning to our activities
with all the precautions necessary will be mandatory. We believe hygienic
measures and social distancing may allow you to enjoy the experiences with
wildlife we have prepared for you:

  • Before each tour, all
    crew will proceed to a safety and health briefing with all the information on
    how to comply with basic infection prevention and control precautions regarding
    the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
  • The temperature of all
    employees will be checked before each tour to ensure they do not have a fever.
  • Thorough boat cleaning
    before and after each tour with proper antiseptic solutions, with
    focus on high-touch areas like handrails and other surfaces.
  • No physical contact
    with customers (hand-shakes, kisses or hugs), which includes a safety distance
    of at least 1 meter when possible.
  • Proper and frequent hand
    washing of guests and crew during tours.
  • Full face masks and
    latex gloves available for each customer and employee to use during our boat
    tours in the Golfo Dulce, Osa Peninsula and Golfito.
  • Disinfection of all
    customer’s hands and feet with 80% alcohol before entering our boats.
  • Available closed-lid bin
    on board for litter.
  • Cardboard disposable
    cups for any drinks on board.

Let’s get through the
Covid-19 all together!

For the most updated information, please refer to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or your local health authority.

Safety first! We look
forward to welcoming you aboard soon.


Sunscreen might help to protect your skin, but most are deadly to coral.
When you go for a dip in the sea, some of your suntan lotion rinses off. And that’s
a big problem when it contains ingredients such as oxybenzone, octinoxate or
parabens (which most sun lotions do), because harsh chemicals can kill coral
and other marine life.

Up to 6,000 tons of
sunscreen are estimated to wash into coral reefs around the globe each year.
And as the National Park Service cautions, rather than
being evenly distributed, much of that sunscreen is concentrated at popular
diving, swimming, and snorkeling sites—such as national Parks like Piedras
Blancas here in the Golfo Dulce. 

We can all still make a difference. By putting our awareness into
action, we can make different choices that lessen our impact on the ocean.

  1. You’ve already taken the first step—becoming informed!
  2. Choose mineral sunscreens, especially lotions containing non-nano zinc dioxide as the primary active ingredient.
  3. Look for reef safe sunscreens which are becoming increasingly available.
  4. Avoid aerosol sunscreen. Much of what you spray leaves a residue on the sand which is then washed back into the ocean. Your lungs will be healthier too, as aerosol sunscreens are easily inhaled.
  5. If you can, apply less personal care products before you go swimming; the fewer chemicals you bring into the ocean, the better. Some ways to protect your skin from harmful UV radiation without lots of sunscreen while on tour with us could be to use protective clothing and a hat.  Dermatologists say clothing is just as effective as sunscreen at protecting from the sun, with the only downside being it doesn’t completely cover the body.

If we lose coral reefs, we will have lost a vital ecosystem. We could also hurt our global economy—coral reefs are a major tourist attraction and source of income for Costa Rica. Be a part of the solution!

Sustainable Tourism

Tourism, one of the world’s largest industries, employs more than 235 million people worldwide and generates some 9.2 percent of the global GDP. While tourism is a vital source of income for many developing countries, it can also result in pollution, deforestation, inefficient energy use and cultural exploitation.

Be a Sustainable Traveler!

Your travel choices make a difference. By choosing sustainable businesses like Changing Tide Tours you will support businesses that conserve natural resources, protect plants and wildlife, and contribute to the well-being of local communities. You will also help to ensure that these treasures will also be there for future generations to enjoy.

What is Sustainable Tourism?

Sustainable tourism businesses are those that are profitable while conserving natural resources and benefitting local communities. Examples of sustainable business practices include conserving water and energy, supporting community conservation projects, recycling and treating wastes, hiring staff from neighboring towns, paying them just wages and providing additional training, and, sourcing locally-produced products in restaurants and gift shops.

Changing Tide Tours was recently awarded the prestigious place on Top Responsible Costa Rica Eco Tours 2019 by Terra Incognita. The list contains tours who go the extra mile by contributing to conservation, communities and education. You are welcome to join our community that promotes travel for good!

How Can You Make A Difference?

  • At the hotel: Ask about environmental policies and practices. Does the hotel support community development or conservation projects?
  • Language: Learn a few words of the local language and use them.
  • Dress: Learn about local conventions and dress appropriately. In many countries, modest dress is important.
  • Behaviour: Be respectful of local citizens’ privacy. Ask permission before entering sacred places, homes, or private lands.
  • Photographs: Be sensitive to when and where you take photos/video of people. Always ask first.
  • Environment: Respect the natural environment. Never touch or harass wildlife. Always follow designated trails. Support conservation by paying entrance fees to parks and protected sites or making a donation.
  • Wildlife or forest products: Never purchase crafts, clothing, furniture, or other products that are derived from protected or endangered wildlife or plant species. In many countries it is illegal to bring these goods back home.
  • Pay a fair price: Don’t engage in overly aggressive bargaining for souvenirs. Don’t short-change on tips for services.
  • Buy local: Choose locally-owned lodges and hotels. Use local buses, car rental agencies, and airlines. Eat in local restaurants, shop in local markets, and attend local events. Hire local guides: Enrich your experience and support the local economy. Ask guides if they are licensed and live nearby. Are they recommended by tour operators?

Feel free to get in touch with CHANGING TIDE TOURS to help you in your sustainable tourism decisions in Costa Rica!

A Dolphin´s Tale

Tours with Integrity

At Changing Tide Tours, we understand how important it is to have trustworthy, reliable and quality services. Changing Tide Tours considers each tour and guest unique. Our professionally trained crew are passionate about sharing their knowledge and excitement for Costa Rica’s marine life. That is what makes our tours one of the best in the region.

Fun tour!

Passengers on our intimate journeys are considered our personal guests, who by the end of their journey should be joyful, enlightened, sensitive to the fragility of Costa Rica´s marine environment, and have a true sense of place.

We do not seek volume on our tours; we aim only to provide a quality, thought-provoking and potentially life-changing experience. Everyone is welcome, whether you want to simply sight see from the deck or explore in the water to your heart’s content. Our charters are for anyone who hears the call of the ocean.

In a global climate of “loving nature to death” Changing Tide Tours educates guests about the plight of our local marine life, promote environmental awareness and stewardship to people from around the world, and leave them with compassion for our incredible sea life. Every member of our team works hard daily to make sure our guests are safe, having the time of their life, and leave with a better understanding of our host culture and precious resources. As a Company we strive to make sure our Guests leave the boat with a smile on their faces and an understanding of why we love what we do.

Our wildlife tours focus on education and conservation so that an interactive relationship can be maintained in the best interest of both humans and dolphins. We strive to foster admiration and deep respect for these wonderful marine mammals.

Reserve your tour TODAY!

Our Mission:

“Offer our clients safe and responsible travel experiences to natural areas that are sustainable, helping to conserve the environment and improve the well-being of local people in and around the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.”


Changing Tide Tours are the Golfo Dulce’s longest running tour operator. The Golfo Dulce is an area that is highly threatened by large-scale development interests as it enjoys a beautiful stretch of pristine beach and good road access. Part of the challenge we face is to accommodate the best interests and needs of the Osa’s communities, including developmental interests, while preserving the ecosystems and natural beauty of the Osa and Golfo Dulce. We feel it is our responsibility to protect and conserve the marine environment, for which we care so passionately about and have dedicated our lives to. We believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to reduce their impact on the environment as much as possible. We are proud to offer unparalleled service and safe, eco-friendly, unforgettable experiences for our guests while on vacation in Costa Rica on our shared and private boat tours.

To maintain this highest quality, Changing Tide Tours is a sustainable company with strict regulations in our operations and sustainable policies with the ecosystem, human development and community support in Costa Rica. We offer our guests dolphin and whale watching, snorkelling, mangrove, diving, costa rican fishing, as well as kayak tours. By setting the standard for high quality service, Changing Tide Tours will continue to be one of the Top Costa Rica Attractions.

Our Vision:

We strive to set a positive example within the Tourist Industry in Costa Rica based on our excellent service and healthy sustainable practices. We aspire to be the ideal model for sustainable and maximum efficiency in the maritime category.

Our Values:

  • Excellence
  • Sustainable Practices
  • Courtesy
  • Helpfulness
  • Respect
  • Commitment
  • Partnership
  • Solidarity
  • Community Support

Our Sustainable Practices:

We use the term ‘eco tour’ because we cover all of these points by:

-Using local captains, guides and helpers

-Paying for our employees to go on educational courses

-Our boats are made and brought locally, as well as maintained by locals


-Conducting beach and sea trash collections

-Buying our fruits from local sources

-Not printing paper flyers or posters, all marketing is done online

– We try to use quieter motors and less destructive gas

-We work with the local college, inviting students to learn about the different jobs involved with boat tours