Centering yourself on a surfboard or yoga mat, descending into bat-filled caves or ascending misty volcanic peaks, hiking, biking or ziplining – your only limit is your return date.
The Peaceful Soul of Central America
If marketing experts could draw up an ideal destination, Costa Rica might be it. The "rich coast" has earned its name and sits on the cutting edge of so many trends: surfing, farm-to-table restaurants, and sustainable tourism. Developing infrastructure is balanced by green energy such as wind and hydro. One of the world's most biodiverse countries, with half a million species – from insects to the giant anteaters that devour them – it also protects one-quarter of its wild lands through law.
Rainforest hikes and brisk high-altitude trails, rushing white-water rapids and warm-water, world-class surfing: Costa Rica offers a dizzying suite of outdoor adventures in every shape and size – from the squeal-inducing rush of a canopy zipline to a sun-dazed afternoon at the beach. National parks allow visitors to glimpse life in both rainforest and cloud forest, simmering volcanoes offer otherworldly vistas, and reliable surf breaks are suited to beginners and experts alike. Can’t decide? Don’t worry: given the country’s size, you can plan a relatively short trip that includes it all.
The Wild Life
Such wildlife abounds in Costa Rica as to seem almost cartoonish: keel-billed toucans ogle you from treetops and scarlet macaws raucously announce their flight plans. A keen eye will discern a sloth on a branch or the eyes of a caiman breaking the surface of a mangrove swamp, while alert ears will catch rustling leaves signaling a troop of white-faced capuchins or the haunting call of a howler monkey. Blue morpho butterflies flit amid orchid-festooned trees, while colorful tropical fish, sharks, rays, dolphins and whales thrive offshore – all as if in a conservationist’s dream.
The Pure Life
A recent study showed that many Costa Ricans live longer, healthier lives than people on the rest of the planet, and it all comes down to pura vida (pure life), a term you'll hear everywhere. Before you dismiss it as marketing banter (and it is a big marketing phrase), listen to how it's used. It means hello, goodbye, everything's cool, same to you. It never has a negative connotation. You may enter the country not believing it, but after a week you'll be saying it, too, unconsciously: pura vida, mae. Relax and enjoy the ride.