San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Is travel to Costa Rica ethical?

Costa Rica regained its spot on the list of top ethical travel destinations in 2011, after being left off last year due to its booming sex tourism industry.

According to the organization that drafts the list, San Francisco-based Earth Island Institute, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla has taken important steps to curtail human trafficking, thus addressing a contributing factor to sex tourism.

“While there remains a great deal of work to be done, particularly to stem the country’s sex tourism industry, we applaud the progress,” the organization wrote in its annual report. “Costa Rica should see this as an encouragement to step up efforts to combat human trafficking.”

The list is compiled each year by considering a number of factors, including a country’s level of environmental protection, social welfare and other human rights issues. The institute reviews World Bank and Millennium Challenge Corporation databases to identify top performers, and then conducts a more focused investigation on actions governments have taken to improve.

“No country, anywhere, is perfect,” report co-author Natalie Lefevre said in a statement. “This report showcases the most ethical developing countries, based on dozens of sources and extensive research. But no place gets perfect marks in all aspects.”

Other countries to make the list include Argentina, Barbados, Chile, Dominica, Latvia, Lithuania, Palau, Poland and Uruguay.

Ethical Traveler’s executive director, Jeff Greenwald, said his organization creates the list to inspire travel to countries “that care about human rights and the environment.”

“We sincerely hope that travelers will take this list into account while planning their 2011 travels,” he said.

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