For Costa Ricans, the greatest form of existence is the ‘Pura Vida’ or ‘pure life’, a phrase that has come to become its unofficial slogan. It is considered so uniquely Costa Rican, that the use of the phrase often identifies one as a Costa Rican. The phrase is used to express satisfaction, happiness, and peace. And how else could you conceivably feel when visiting this tropical getaway and feeling the warmth in your heart at the majesty of its natural beauty?
A country looking to preserve its natural heritage
Costa Ricans enjoy the pleasure of living with more trees per capita and per square kilometre than any other part of the world. They also live alongside 500,000 species – more per unit area than any other country on this planet. This incredible and dizzying biodiversity makes the country a natural treasure. Housing five percent of the planet’s biodiversity with just a thousandth of its landmass, Costa Rica is an essential part of any nature-loving tourist’s itinerary.
The world is fortunate that Costa Rica’s ecology has remained largely unspoilt, and this is largely attributable to the progressive and eco-friendly policies that the country has adopted since it declared independence in 1847. Since then, the country has committed itself strongly to the protection of its natural heritage, being the only country to meet all five UNDP criteria to measure environmental sustainability. By 2016, over 98 per cent of its electricity was being generated from renewable sources, and it is on target to become a carbon-neutral country by 2021. Costa Rica’s focus on conservation and its respect for its ecology have also extended to its tourism sector, with Costa Rica widely considered to be one of the best eco-tourism destinations in the world.
Costa Rica’s ecology and habitats
The country’s imposing volcanoes, tropical forests, extensive wildlife, botanical gardens, stunning river valleys, and hundreds of beaches along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts ensure that there’s something in Costa Rica for everyone to enjoy. The different terrains are juxtaposed against a climate that is diverse and varied, creating different habitats
and the perfect foundation for the country’s biodiversity. The mountain system running through the country, the six active and 61 dormant and extinct volcanoes, and the complex riverine system are home to its remarkable flora and
There are 12 ecosystems in Costa Rica, including tropical wetlands, primary dry forests, and tropical mangrove swamps. The country houses a number of rare and endangered plant and animal species, including Olive Ridley turtles, resplendent quetzals, fer-de-lance vipers, and the West Indian manatee. The most impressive sights and sounds are created by Costa Rica’s incredible birds of paradise. Bright toucans, parrots, honeycreepers, hummingbirds, macaws, mountain gems, woodpeckers, tanagers, and finches make Costa Rica a haven for birdwatchers and wildlife lovers.
Things to do in Costa Rica
The most impressive sights and sounds are created by Costa Rica’s incredible birds of paradise. Bright toucans, parrots, honeycreepers, hummingbirds, macaws, mountain gems, woodpeckers, tanagers, and finches make Costa Rica a haven for birdwatchers and wildlife lovers.
Given Costa Rica’s incredible bio-diversity and natural beauty, most of the things to do in Costa Rica revolve around them. Around a fifth of the country is protected land, and it should be no surprise for a visitor if their time is spent either on a beach or on a national park. You can walk through and even camp in the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park, or indulge in adrenaline-pumping activities like ziplining and tubing on the Horseback River.
The Arenal Volcano – one of the most active volcanoes in the Western Hemisphere – is a popular hiking-destination, enabling visitors to understand more about the volcano and its impact upon the surrounding habitat. This is also proximate to the La Fortuna Waterfall, where you can experience the crystalline and clear waters, and even swim in them while studying the rock formations around. You can round off your day by hiking through a primary rainforest to reach the Mistico Hanging Bridges, where the elevated walkway will allow you to observe more bird species closely.
However, not all your exploration of the country needs to be so hectic. If you’re looking to relax during your visit, make it a point to unwind at the renowned Tabacon hot springs, where you can soak in some natural spring water. Travelling to the Manuel Antonio National Park could help you relax and explore on the same day: the park contains a pristine crescent-shaped beach, surrounded by dense forest trails with monkeys, sloths, tropical birds, and iguanas. You can even hike to Cathedral Point to get a breathtaking view of the forest and the sea.
Another prominent attraction is Tor-tugero National Park, where you cruise through freshwater rivers on a boat to access the inner reaches of this beautiful nature reserve. The park’s incredible biodiversity (11 distinct habitats!), as well as the opportunity to visit a green sea turtle nesting-site will definitely fill your heart with awe and wonder at the beauty and majesty of nature.
Ecotourism and conservation
The sense of absolute befuddlement at the incredible beauty of natural life in Costa Rica makes it abundantly clear that we are caretakers of immense bio-diversity richness that we must do everything to preserve. Costa Rica has managed to do as well as it has due to a sustained and uninterrupted commitment to preservation and protection, an attitude other countries might do well to emulate. However, the country has only managed to sustain this commitment due to its economic success, driven by tourism. Essentially, eco-tourism is simultaneously both the cause for and the product of conservation. In countries where responsible ecological tourism is successful, the people and society of that country are more likely to be invested in preserving their natural heritage. Tangible and everyday benefits in the short and medium term can help people better appreciate the long term value of conserving the environment.
What Costa Rica is doing is investing in this world’s future. You can also contribute by visiting the country, and experiencing its incredible vivacity and beauty for yourself. Visiting with your family and behaving in an ecologically conscious way around them will go a long way in setting the right tone for your family’s subsequent interactions with nature.