The first time you visit Costa Rica, the experience is overwhelming. This is a country bursting with vibrancy. That word is often overused, but it’s true when it comes to Costa Rica. The landscape is lush and brilliantly green. The oceans on either coast are deep, sparkling blue. And the land is covered with some of the most astoundingly colourful animals you’re ever likely to see.
Costa Rica is a natural wonderland. It’s also one of the most accessible destinations for North American travellers. If you want to spot exotic wildlife, zipline through jungles, hike across volcanoes and over hanging bridges, and lounge on beaches on the Pacific or Caribbean coasts, Costa Rica should be on your radar. It’s also safe, affordable, and unbelievably friendly. If you haven’t visited already, it’s time to experience the pura vida lifestyle for yourself.
Why should you go on a trip to Costa Rica?
1. Costa Rica is home to some of the world’s most unique wildlife
The animal life in Costa Rica is unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Despite being a relatively small country in Central America, stretching just over 51,100 square-kilometres / 19,700 square-miles, Costa Rica bursts with wildlife. This is partially due to its location along the meeting point of migration routes of both North and South America. Many North American and South American birds winter in Costa Rica, meaning that it’s flush with bird species year round. Species include colourful favourites such as the scarlet macaw, keel-billed toucan, and legendary resplendent quetzal.
It also has a varied geographical environment within its small borders. The landscape shifts between various microclimates within relatively short distances, changing from dry coastal beaches to volcanic jungles, cloud forests to deep river valleys. Depending on where you are in Costa Rica, you’ll find monkeys, tree frogs, nesting turtles, and maybe even ocelots and jaguars, if you’re lucky enough to spot one in Corcovado in the south. And let’s not forget about sloths. These adorable, famously slow animals abound throughout Costa Rica, feasting on the narcotic leaves of cecropia trees. You won’t have problems spotting them, especially if you’re equipped with a good pair of binoculars—or simply follow the crowds gazing up into the trees.
2. Costa Rica is an adventure haven
Costa Rica’s diverse natural environment lends itself to a lot of adventure opportunities. The landscape around Arenal Volcano is one of the most popular spots in Costa Rica. It’s a great place to go ziplining if you want to feel the rush of wind as you fly over the jungle canopy. There are hanging bridges in Arenal as well, but more famous ones in the cloud forests of Monteverde. These bridges let you observe wildlife high in the trees—and provide a sizable adrenaline rush if you’re scared of heights, like I am. In the volcanic highlands, mountain biking and hiking are also very popular activities. You can bike around Lake Arenal, hike up to the caldera of one of the active volcanoes—although you should always follow safety precautions and explore with a guide. There are rivers criss-crossing Costa Rica which are great for white-water rafting. And the beaches on the coastlines are not just for lounging. You can snorkel and swim, but even more exciting, you can surf and scuba dive. Costa Rica’s landscape is made for outdoor adventure.
3. Costa Rica is one of the happiest nations in the world
In Costa Rica, pura vida is the national slogan and the way of life. “Pura vida” literally means “pure life,” and it’s a greeting and a national philosophy. It means to simplify and appreciate what matters most: family, health, community, education, and the natural environment. The people in Costa Rica, known as Ticos, take pura vida very seriously. Costa Rica invests heavily in education and conservation. They are rated as some of the happiest people in the world. The Nicoya Peninsula is even one of the world’s Blue Zones, where people live the longest in the world. The food in Costa Rica is all about locality and freshness. Every meal is served with fresh fruit. Every dish is made with fresh seafood or fresh farm eggs. And the people are happy and welcoming. It’s hard to top how gracious they are as hosts.
Costa Rica is a beautiful nation, with fascinating wildlife, gorgeous natural environments made for adventure, and welcoming people who are the perfect hosts. If you’re looking for wildlife encounters, adventure, leisure, and a hearty, welcoming cultural experience, plan a trip to Costa Rica for this winter and beyond.
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