Costa Rica is such an easy place to travel, it’s no wonder so many Americans visit the world’s happiest and most environmentally advanced country each year (it’s true, check out the Happy Planet Index).
While the entire country has so much to offer, I really recommend heading south. Skip the ultra-touristy Jaco and spend a couple of days in laid-back Dominical. Be sure to check out the Maracatu for drinks and dancing and the horseback tours to the Nauyaca Waterfalls. Continue your journey south and check out the Osa Peninsula, which the world’s most ecologically diverse place or make the pilgrimage to the world renowned left at Pavonnes.
You can catch a direct flight from many cities in the U.S. and surf one of the plethoras of rippable, beautiful beaches by the afternoon. But the real value in visiting Costa Rica is that being around so many happy people will make you happy. It’s contagious.
Here are ten reasons that Costa Rica is a great place for all sorts of travelers to visit.
ONE – “Pura Vida,” It’s a Way of Life –
The term “Pura Vida” has a myriad of meanings including “pure life,” “plenty of life”, “full of life”, “this is living!”, “going great”, “real living” and “hello.” But the phrase’s most important expression is the mantra of the Costa Rican way of life. Costa Ricans, known colloquially as “Ticos,” lead an existence that abounds with life. They flourish as a happy, easy-going people in a place of unrivaled natural beauty and resources. Let their stoke ignite your stoke. After a few days in CR, people will ask, “how are you?” and you will happily reply “purrraaaa vidddaaa.”
TWO – Mucho Take it Easy –
Life in Costa Rica is slow, mellow and things are often late. For instance, during my last trip, my puddle-jumper connecting flight was late. When it did show up, everyone took their time getting on the plane. No one is in a hurry; get used to it, embrace it. Often Norte Americanos run around at a fever pace like chickens with their heads cut off. Punctuality is prized and we expect flights and everything else to be on time. Take a minute in Costa Rica to slow down, smell the roses and accept that not everyone exists in a world of Instant Noodles, Instagrams and instantaneous gratification.
THREE – Fruit, Fish and Salsa Lizano –
Start each day with all the mango, paw-paw, pineapple, banana and melon you could ever want. Try exotic fruits that are unique to this region such as pitaya, star fruit, mamon chino, guayaba, pejibaye. Besides an amazing array of fresh produce, Costa Rican cuisine consists of fresh, high-quality ingredients prepared in a simple fashion. Expect rice and beans, rice mixed with beans, beans mixed with rice and heaps of fresh fish. Real, tropical-inspired food tastes amazing and does a body good after a long day of surfing or attempting to surf Costa Rica’s powerful beach or point breaks.
FOUR – Good Vibrations –
Costa Rica has a real rasta vibe. You’ll hear Bob Marley at many bars, see Ticos with dreadlocks and see a lot of red, yellow and green around. Although there is no direct correlation between roots-rock-reggae and contentment, people are damn happy. The locals are generally pretty friendly and eager to interact with the endless stream of tourists. Catch the vibe, smile, say “pure vida” and if you’re lucky they might even share a song with you.
FIVE – ¿Hablas Ingles?
As tourism is one of the main industries in Costa Rica, many of the locals speak fluent English although the national language is Spanish. The affable Ticos are generally willing to struggle along with you as you communicate in Spanish, making the country an ideal place for learning and practicing your Español. It’s also a great place to perfect your Spanglish. Now, which way to the playa, señor?
SIX – Tropical Switzerland –
CR is Central America’s longest established democracy and is often dubbed the “Switzerland of Latin America.” This freedom-loving country has a female president, high education rates, and low unemployment. Why do you care? Well, my gringo friend, all this peace and love means it is unlikely you will get shanked outside the Coco Loco or get your precious Kindle stolen from your room. However, be travel smart and don’t just leave your items or your person in any old sketchy place.
SEVEN – Real Life Jungle Book
Mowgali would fit right in with CR’s plethora of wildlife – monkeys, sloths, alligators, macaws, frogs, snakes, and even pumas. The biodiversity of CR is unparalleled worldwide – the country is home to 4% of all species said to exist on the entire earth! If hearing the howler monkeys outside your window, seeing iguanas crawl beside your pool and watching exotic birds fly down the street only wets your thirst for wildlife, you can head to one of the several national parks with a guide and meet a sloth or even a python!
EIGHT – The Sun Sets in the West (Duh!) –
Californian readers may not appreciate the significance of the fact the sun sets in the west over the pacific ocean but after spending years on the east coast of Australia, I genuinely appreciate a good sunset and Costa Rica does them extremely well! There’s nothing like a Costa Rican sunset replete with sundowner Pina Colada, fire jugglers and hippies doing yoga. The people watching is epic, but the skies are legendary.
NINE – Surf’s Up – Boasting both a Caribbean and Pacific coastline, CR has waves for days pretty much all year long. Yes, the peak surf seasons on both coasts is when the surf is the biggest and most consistent. However, in my experience, there is seldom a flat day in the offseason. CR is a great place for surfers of all abilities. For beginners, every town has its own surf school and lots of places have heaps of schools to choose from. You can even do an all female camp run by San Diego’s Surf Diva in Nosara.
TEN – Much To Do About Nothing – CR is the sort of place that has something for everyone. You can sloth out at the beach or pool with a good book and a cocktail or partake in a variety of adventures. Go zip lining through the rainforest canopy, climb a volcano or rip through the hills on a quad. Surf all morning and feed howler monkeys in the afternoon. Chose your own adventure.
Costa Rica is TUANIS (local slang for cool or rad)! The place abounds with good vibes, good waves and good people that will leave you smiling for weeks.
Author Audrey Hill
Audrey is a 5th generation Californian who called La Jolla home for most of her life before moving to Sydney, Australia. She now splits her year between Manly Beach, Australia and La Jolla. You can usually find her surfing, body surfing, camping and adventuring when she’s not working on her blog www.surfstokedmoms.com or chasing after her 2 year old daughter, Valentina.