Asociación Mar a Mar (which translates to “The Sea to Sea Association”) is a not-for-profit group in Costa Rica that is developing a one-of-a-kind outdoor experience. The project, which is El Camino de Costa Rica, is a massive linked trail system whereby hikers would navigate the country, going from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific in just a two-week period. To complete the project, Mar a Mar is looking for funding through IndieGoGo.
Representatives from Mar a Mar made it clear on their IndieGoGo page that the ultimate goal is to encourage every hiker from around the globe to at some point in their lifetime walk the entire El Camino de Costa Rica, or at minimum, walk a portion of it. Being hailed a “new international tourism opportunity,” this 155-mile trail linking system would provide hikers with incredible challenges but also allow visitors to have a first-hand experience of the many cultural and natural attractions in Costa Rica.
With opportunities that tourism offers to many coastal Costa Rican towns, this trail would make it possible for remote rural areas to participate in economic growth. As part of traveling down the trail, hikers would go through isolated towns, stopping for overnight lodging, food, and various supplies. One of the primary goals of this project is to support the inclusive economic development of these towns.
Established in November of 2016 as a non-profit Costa Rican association, Mar a Mar is comprised of 22 partners. These include tourism operators, business leaders, various local leaders, and even hikers. Within the past 12 months, this group has been extremely successful in promoting their idea with governmental agencies and naturalists in Costa Rica, all of whom are supportive.
To lay the groundwork, the partners of Mar a Mar have come together and established solid relationships in towns that run the length of the trail that can offer lodging. They have also established relationships with leaders in the community and cooperatives like Coopearruco located in Crosi.
Not only will the El Camino de Costa Rica linked trail system go on public roads, it will meander through indigenous lands. In all, there are 15 towns that would provide overnight lodging for hikers. Within the past year, trail organizers guided visitors on day hikes, covering 7 of the 15 sections. They also proudly watched as the first hiker completed the entire trail in February. These organizers said that all but 5 of the 15 towns were able to accommodate a minimum of 20 tourists.
Although things are going smoothly, the trail is clearly mapped at ground level, and anticipation is high, there are still a few obstacles to work around. For example, funding is needed for a project manager whose responsibility it would be to leverage funds for marking, maintenance, and improving the El Camino de Costa Rica linked trail system, including various safety features during the rainy season like bridges.
Promoting carbon neutral tourism, which is sustainable and affordable, is something that this linked trail system will accomplish. In addition, the tourism would greatly respect cultural traditions and the natural environment of Costa Rica. Indigenous communities will start to benefit from this project, marking the first time they have been included.