Next to France, Egypt and China, Costa Rica scores high on most travel lovers' places to visit. News of its environmental-friendliness and rich eco-systems has reached much of the developed world. And photos of monkeys swinging through trees, white sand beaches and colorful toucans are enough to make any wanderlust-stricken traveler drool in anticipation.
Climate change and overdevelopment are only some of the reasons you should put Costa Rica in your travel plans sooner, rather than later.
1. Prices are Right
Costa Rica is notoriously expensive compared to its Central American peers, but the 2009 recession put a dent in the tourism market. If they aren’t offering one already, most hotels and tour operators can be talked into giving a discount: all you have to do is ask.
2. Beat the Climate Change
Because Costa Rica straddles to oceans and two hemispheres, it is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Today, the small country (which is half the size of the U.S. state of Kentucky), holds five percent of the biodiversity in the world. Experts say these fragile ecosystems are vulnerable to the slightest changes in planet temperature.
3. It’s Safe(r)
Under President Laura Chinchilla’s security initiatives, the country has become more resistant to the drug trade and resulting crime. Though petty theft and assaults do occur, the level of crime in Costa Rica pales in comparison to its Central American neighbors.
4. Show Your Support
Costa Rica has walked a different course than other countries’ in the region. In 1948, it abolished its army, choosing to invest in education and social services instead. In 2004, it launched a campaign against corruption, making it clear that it wouldn’t tolerate the same levels of political abuse as other Latin American countries. And, in recent years, its government has announced plans to be carbon neutral by 2021 and become the first developed country in Latin America; all proving that Costa Rica’s heart is in the right place. A vacation in Costa Rica can support the local economy (if done right); and consequently encourage the country in achieving its goals.
5. It’s One of the Happiest Countries
In 2009, Costa Rica was ranked the happiest country in the world, thanks to a number of indicators such as education, lifespan and environment. It has since consulted with countries like Bhutan on how to maintain this happiness. If you need some cheering up, consider booking a trip to Costa Rica to see what makes them so happy.
6. And One of the Healthiest Countries
The last time the World Health Organization ranked countries according to the health of their population, Costa Rica placed higher than the United States. Costa Rica's life expectancy is in the top five in the Americas and its public health system ensures no Costa Rican is turned away. Costa Rica has also become a destination for medical tourism; with thousands of patients arriving from developing countries to take advantage of topnotch dental care, plastic surgery or knee/hip replacements.
7. Untouched Environment
More than 26 percent of Costa Rica is protected, but a development binge has threatened the open space that remains. Every year, there’s less of a chance of seeing animals in their natural habitat and more of a chance of seeing them in an artificial environment, as more people build hotels and big vacation homes.
8. Because You Deserve to Be Treated Right
Costa Rica’s reputation for customer services emerges even in its language. Ticos respond to thank yous with “con mucho gusto” (with much pleasure), instead of a dismissing “de nada” (it’s nothing). They say, ‘I am here to serve you’ or ‘para servirle’ in every day language and ‘a la orden’ or ‘at your order’. What you’ll find across the country is a willingness and a desire to serve … Unfortunately, with globalization, this character trait is slowly evaporating.
9. Improved Infrastructure
In recent years, Costa Rica has opened a new highway to the Pacific Coast, cutting down travel time to 45 minutes. It’s also paved a large section of its Central Pacific highway and replaced one-way, wood-planked bridges with modern installations. Costa Rica’s highway system still isn’t perfect, but it is a whole lot easier (and much quicker) to get around.
10. It’s Pura Vida
Where best to spend your vacation than in a country with a national motto of pura vida or pure life. The motto is not just something they put on t-shirts and souvenirs to please the tourists. The ‘pure life’ attitude is worked into Costa Ricans’ daily lives. When you ask, ‘How are you?’ Many respond, ‘pura vida’. If you are closing a deal on a house or completing a different transaction, it's not uncommon to hear a Tico friend say ‘pura vida.’ Not only is it worked into their language, it’s also worked into their values: For Ticos, enjoying pura vida is much more important than getting ahead, stressing out or working too hard.