This might be the world’s most sustainable music and wellness event

It's no secret Costa Rica is a natural wonderland. Surrounded by Pacific and Caribbean waters,  coated in lush rainforests teeming with exotic plants and wildlife, and home to nearly 6 percent of the world's biodiversity, it’s an ideal location for an eco-friendly extravaganza.

A festival crowd gathers in front of a music stage lit with neon lights and laserbeams.
Elaborate stages and light shows make the music experience even better at the Envision Festival © EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP via Getty Images

The Envision Festival is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2020. And over the past decade, Envision has earned a reputation as one of the world’s greenest festivals, as well as a gathering for music, yoga, and a variety of wellness and socially-conscious activities. Built on ideals of sustainability, art, and personal and spiritual enlightenment, the festival is more than a party in paradise. It's also an opportunity to experience models of sustainable business and everyday living – and perhaps take those ideas back home.

Hundreds of people do yoga exercises in front of an a-frame temple in Costa Rica
Serene group yoga sessions are as much a part of the Envision lineup as the musical shows © Jason Najum / Lonely Planet

An eclectic lineup to educate and inspire

The festival program is divided into four distinct parts, including a musical lineup similar to what you’d find at other major venues, with a varied lineup of artists spread across four beautifully designed stages. It’s four days of DJs and musicians dropping beats until sunrise – ample opportunity to dance the night away.

Yoga is another major component of the festival. The events take place at the far end of the site, away from the music, where two open-air yoga temples hold classes from traditional yoga to ecstatic dancing. Workshops cover everything from cryptocurrency to environmental topics like permaculture throughout the festival grounds.

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Finally, various temples offer more quaint gathering areas, including a female-centric Red Tent where women can sit together in privacy and listen to talks on Guided Ritual Self-Love and the Feminine Economy.

Dozens of women sit in a shady cloth tent as they listen to a speaker talking with a microphone
The Red Tent is a place for women to gather, learn and meditate at the Envision Festival © Jason Najum / Lonely Planet

Sustainability as guiding principle

Envision is impressively sustainable, with environmental education at the heart of the endeavor. There are no single-use items and all food and drink is sold in reusable containers with a deposit and trade-in system. Recycling and waste stations are available throughout the camp, with an Eco Hub and Eco Team members available to help campers and guests with any green issues.

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This commitment to sustainability is at the core of Envision’s mission, and not only during festival time. The festival uses only locally-sourced bamboo for all onsite structures, and works year-round with the local community to help repopulate strained ecosystems. The founders also run Punta Mona, an eco-retreat focused on education, permaculture and Costa Rican biodiversity.

The sun sets over the pacific ocean as hundreds of people mill about on a Costa Rica beach and watch
A daily celebration of the sunset is one of the traditional experiences at the Envision Festival © Jason Najum / Lonely Planet

Walking around the festival you’ll find water stations with fresh, free-flowing Costa Rican water and an Herbal First Aid Clinic offering health services and all-natural insect repellent, all locally sourced and free. Despite festival attendance reaching approximately 7,000, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single scrap of trash. Absent is the usual festival carnage of crushed beer cans and discarded marketing freebies.

Instead, food vendors are selected for all-natural ingredients and commercial vendors chosen for their commitment to sustainable materials and ethical production. The atmosphere of environmental care is contagious, leaving everyone better-educated and with a more holistic and sustainable view of travel.

People walk under the tree canopy next to a line of colored tents at the Envision Festival in Costa Rica
On-site camping is common and convenient, and there are places to rent equipment if you need it © Jason Najum / Lonely Planet

Getting there and other details

It all takes place at Rancho La Merced, a national wildlife reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast where Envision has gently laid down roots. Here the rainforest begins its transition into sea – dense jungle opens up, trees offer canopy, and sand suddenly appears underfoot.

The small town of Uvita is the closest urban center, a still-sleepy seaside community home to Marino Ballena National Marine Park and the Whale and Dolphin Festival, which celebrates the arrival of migrating humpback whales. A few miles down the road is Dominical, a more bustling surf town that also becomes a hub during festival time. Both are about a three-hour drive from the capital of San Jose, with local buses, taxis, and an Envision shuttle offering transport.

An enclosed area is marked as a 'Safe space for everyone here' with rainbow-colored triangle
Safe spaces are great places for people to get together, no matter their background and beliefs © Jason Najum / Lonely Planet

For accommodations, camping is a popular choice and gear is available to rent through the festival. Uvita offers some hotels and Airbnb choices, with more options in Dominical and spread out through the nearby rainforests.

For a slightly higher-end and eco-friendly lodging option, check out Selva Armonia, an eco-retreat hidden in the hills of Uvita. This peaceful oasis, run by one of Envision’s founders, offers organic vegan meals cooked with homegrown ingredients, as well as yoga and sunset views over the Pacific.

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While geared towards the more socially conscious traveler, the Envision Festival offers any visitor the opportunity to experience and learn from a truly environmentally friendly event, and to have a good time while doing it.

The Envision Festival is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with an extended 7-day experience taking place Feb 17-24, 2020

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