Despite not being one of the cheapest options in the region, this ambitious little country is a place to visit and never be forgotten. With its big plans of becoming carbon neutral by the year 2021, and having abolished its army around the middle of last century, Costa Rica certainly sets a different pace to life, not only for the locals, but for visitors as well. The following are the five main reasons for visiting this green spot in the world.
Its kaleidoscopic biodiversity
Keep your eyes open, because this is something worthy of your attention. While occupying just 0.03% of the entire globe’s surface, this country still makes up for one of the richest biodiversity spots on Earth, having an average of 234.8 plant species, 16.9 bird species and 4.6 mammals in just 1,000 km2. It is a place where you will find splendid beaches like that one of Montezuma, mystical cloud forests such as Monteverde, tall and imposing volcanoes like Irazú, secluded islands such as Isla de Cocos, unbelievable magical blue rivers as Río Celeste and a miniature version of the Amazon, like the bodies of water flowing around the jungle at Parque Nacional de Tortuguero. All found just a few kilometers away from each other.
If you are lucky enough you might run into a sloth eating dinner in a tree top, a tapir peacefully roaming around a pond, tons of hummingbirds, weird coatimundis or collard peccaries, flashy and scary looking vipers and bright frogs, wonderful anteaters—this list could go on forever.
Its cultural nature
Though at first glance it might be hard to believe, rich diversity in Costa Rica does not stop when it comes to its natural wonders; it can also be found in its local people and culture. Having at least seven different local ethnic groups spread over the country, such as the Bri Bri, Chorotega, Cábecares, Malekus, Térrabas, Huetares, plus the Ngabe and Teribes who immigrated from Panama years ago, as well as a very reduced group belonging to the Miskitos and Sumos group, this is a country of many customs and traditions. Some of these tribes have opened their doors to visitors who wish to stay and learn about their culture. The Bri Bri for example, offer experiencing their way of life by hosting tourists and preparing activities like going on a cocoa route, through their banana plantations, cooking their typical food, and so on.
Chances are that some colorful and joyful festivity will be going on during your stay in this happy country, and that is something not to be missed. Hosting dazzling and loud festivals like the Festival de Palmares, Carnaval de Puntarenas, Celebración Nacional de la Natividad or the Carnaval de Limón, it is a time to mingle with the locals and to get to understand what Costa Rica is all about.
Its mysterious past
One of the most enigmatic archeological discoveries lies in the Diquís Delta, and are groups of massive stone spheres that can measure up to eight feet in diameter and weight more than 20,000 pounds; their meaning remains a well-kept secret and are yet linked to an unknown civilization. Perhaps the most important archeological site that can easily take you back in time is the Guayabo National Monument located northeast of Turrialba, which was once home to an indigenous city of about 1,500 to 2,000 inhabitants and dates back to 1,200 B.C.
Its gastronomy and coffee
Beyond Costa Rica’s spectacular natural surroundings, its people and its festivities there is another detail that makes visiting lush paradise so attractive: its food and popular coffee. The commonly eaten plate of Chifrijo, with its rice, beans, pork bits and pico de gallo, makes their way to your mouth on top of a fresh crunchy nacho. A filling Casado melds both salty and sweet into one big dish: rice, plantain, salad, chicken, pork or fish, and sometimes even Picadillo—a mix of vegetables with potatoes, chayote or other base ingredient. Rondón, the typical heavenly exquisite Caribbean dish featuring crab, fish, lobster, coconut, ñame, yucca bananas, tiquisque, malanga and other ingredients that blend into something that you have never tried before.
Its unique range of hotels
In Costa Rica, the experience of visiting a foreign country is somehow being challenged by several places, “challenged,” in the good sense of the word. Live like a monkey in tree house lodges like the ones offered by Finca Bellavista; staying in a stranded airplane like the one offered by 727 Fuselage Home; enjoy staying at an incredibly designed place such as Finca Rosa Clanca Country Inn, or appreciate deeply stunning views from the pool edges at Kurá Design Villas.
Regardless of not being the cheapest of locations, Costa Rica does offer loads of affordable hostels situated in convenient, and very often even beautiful places; therefore, money is not something that will take away the pleasures that come with discovering the country’s endless destinations.
Its slow pace of life
Some might say that the best thing about Costa Rica is the fact that you can immerse yourself in the Pura Vida relaxing rhythm. True or not, it has not been named once as the happiest country in the world without reason: Leave your laptop, cellphone, tablet and worries behind; open a coconut, grab a hammock, watch the sunset over a memorable view, listen to the birds in the background and start appreciating the good things in life.