I hear it all of the time.
“Costa Rica is so expensive.“
“Costa Rica is so Americanized.“
“Costa Rica is so yesterday.“
And to be fair, in some parts of Costa Rica, it’s actually true.
Cross the border into Nicaragua and you’ll notice that suddenly people are speaking Spanish again. Go to the southern zone of Costa Rica … and you will find more Spanish.
Weave your way through Mexico where nearly every day is a fiesta, and every town has a Mayan temple and witness how alive it is.
Venture into Guatemala, and you’ll connect with indigenous communities and marvel at the authentic artisan crafts.
Go anywhere else in Central America and watch the prices drop a lot!.
Why would anyone spend time in the most expensive country in Central America… with the most diluted culture?
Oh right, because it’s the most amazing country in Central America… if not the world.
Yep, I said it.
Despite the fact that it’s expensive and somewhat Westernized…
Costa Rica is the most amazing country in the world.
I’ve traveled in over twenty countries across 3 continents; and Costa Rica is the one place I call home!
People often ask me, why Costa Rica?
What’s so special about Costa Rica?
Let me tell you…
You’ll Never Find Nature This Good Anywhere Else
The first morning I spent in Costa Rica, way back in 2000; I walked out onto the golden sand, jungle backed beach. I knew it was the most beautiful place I would ever see in my life. There were few hotels, few beach bars, and only the boats from the local fishermen. There were few people. There was pretty much only me, and nature. This rare freedom to simply be with nature is at the heart of why I love it so much here.
It may be a small country, but Costa Rica contains 6% of all the biodiversity in the world; and has the greatest density of natural species of any country. You see it the moment you depart from the airport and head anywhere; but especially in the Southern zone, along the Ballena Coast, near the Corcovado National Park.
Mountains of foliage line the narrow highways, the calls of monkeys set the soundtrack for the day, wild tropical fruit flowers are everywhere! Birds paint a rainbow of colors against the green landscape.
Miles of Pacific and Caribbean shoreline composed of white, black, pink, and golden sand are hugged by wild undeveloped jungle full of monkeys, lizards, sloths, toucans, tapir, armadillos, scarlet macaws, snakes, colorful frogs, and so many more. Butterflies and hummingbirds flutter and dance by. In the sea colorful fish, whales, turtles, and dolphins swim free. Wildlife lives everywhere.
One fourth of the country consists of national protected park housing abundant wildlife and stunning foliage. Costa Rica boasts cloud forests, rainforests, and dry forests, many consisting of primary forest. Waterfalls, mountain ranges, and volcanoes tower over glittering beaches. The nature is first and foremost what makes Costa Rica so special, and for me nothing is more important than nature.
People Respect Mother Earth
More than any other culture I’ve encountered, the people of Costa Rica have a deep connection with the natural world. They know the names of the animals, the medicinal uses of the plants, and treat the land with respect. In fact, every Costa Rican I’ve met (living outside the city) reveres the natural beauty around them. They know the importance of the Earth; and I find that so beautiful. A lot of the people in our village were living off the land less than 20 years ago.. with no power, running water came from a stream or spring. They had no bills, ate what they produced…they are still very connected to the land!
True, there may be many North Americans here, but a lot of them are the kind of people who have an appreciation for Mother Nature. Costa Rica has become a melting pot of people, all connected by their love for mother earth.
In Costa Rica, Nobody is Weird.
Because in Costa Rica, everybody is kind of weird.
Costa Rica has truly become a melting pot for all kinds of cultures and characters, yet everyone lives in beautiful harmony with one another. No matter how unusual someone may be, in my experience, white black, gay, straight, sober-minded or fifty shades of crazy, he or she will be accepted and respected. People accept you, no matter how “weird” you are. Thank goodness for that!! Consequently, in Costa Rica I feel at ease simply being myself, no matter how off the wall that can sometimes be.
You Get to Be Alone, Hallelujah!
Have you ever noticed how difficult it can be to experience true solitude in nature? Since traveling to Costa Rica, I’ve become completely spoiled in this respect. Thanks to environmental protection laws, most beaches in Costa Rica, and all beaches in the southern zone have ZERO development and are backed by pure jungle. You can walk for hours on deserted shoreline and swim with the sunset with no one else for miles. The more I travel, the more I realize that having completely vacant stunning beaches to yourself is extremely rare. As someone who cherishes alone time, the absolute solitude is one of the best things about Costa Rica.
The Best Things Come Free
Ok, so a fruit smoothie may cost more than the hourly wage and a vacation rental may be as much as San Francisco, but when it comes to pure pleasure, there’s plenty for free in Costa Rica. Swim in the ocean, hike in the jungle, walk down the beach, cut a coconut off of the tree, and enjoy the simple beauty of nature that doesn’t cost a thing. Sure, it can be expensive to live like a Gringo in Costa Rica, but it’s still entirely possible to live off the land, and there are less and less places in the world where that’s the case.
There’s a Different Flavor for Everyone
I can think of few other countries on Earth where you can watch the Caribbean sunrise and the Pacific sunset all in one day. Or how about kayak through mangroves, climb to volcanoes, and hike through cloud forest? You can snorkel a live reef or surf barreling waves. You can visit indigenous cooperatives making chocolate and plant medicine or listen to reggae on the beach with Rastafarians. You can eat handmade Italian pasta, then head out to dance salsa. In Costa Rica, I often feel like I can experience just about anything.
The Lifestyle Can’t Be Beat
In Costa Rica, a person discovers quickly just how little he or she needs to be happy. With such abundant nature and the warm climate, things like walls and clothing no longer seem so very necessary. People embrace simplicity, which I’ve observed leads to greater happiness.
Tourists and locals get around the beach towns on foot, by bicycle, quad or ATV and most activities revolve around nature which makes fitness a part of daily life. A typical day in Costa Rica might include surfing, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, hiking in the mountains, swimming under a waterfall, or practicing sunset yoga on the beach.
Being healthy feels easy here and to me health = happiness. It’s no wonder Costa Rica has often been rated the Happiest Country on Earth.
There’s Magic. Pure Magic.
You know how there’s certain places in the world, where you instantly feel magic? Costa Rica is absolutely one of those places. Whether you’re watching the sunset while listening to the crashing waves or dunking your head under a waterfall, in Costa Rica the moments consume you and being present is easy. That’s when you feel the magic that’s been within you all along.
All That Pura Vida
Considering the beauty and abundance of nature and the relaxed attitudes of the people, there could only be one national mantra that would make sense: “Pura Vida“. Directly it translates to “pure life” but “pura vida” can be used to express many things.
Pura Vida means forgetting your time clock and surrendering to the pace of nature. Turning off your alarm clock, stepping away from technology, and being completely present in your surroundings. Pura Vida means letting go of an expectation to always have what you want, when you want it.
If it takes a while to get your coffee in the morning, “pura vida“. If the monkeys wake you before sunrise, “pura vida“. If your bus breaks down on the side of the highway, “pura vida“.
Pura vida means choosing the path of happiness regardless of your circumstances. You can say pura vida on a sunny day, as appropriately as you can in a storm. You can say pura vida when you’re falling in love, and when you’re heartbroken. You can choose to see the pura vida in every single situation that life delivers you.
I can’t imagine anything more beautiful or worthwhile than that.
That said, not all destinations in Costa Rica are created equally.
Some places are overly developed and touristy. Others are not…
The southern zone, the Ballena Coast is not!
Come and experience the jungle covered mountains that meet the incredible Pacific Ocean! The only part of Costa Rica where the mountains meet the sea!
Make it home!
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