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, it’s actually true.
Cross the border into Nicaragua and you’ll notice that suddenly people are speaking Spanish again.
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 at least in half.
It’s easy to see why many travelers on the Gringo Trail skip Costa Rica completely.
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 Westernized
Costa Rica is the most amazing country in the world.
I’ve traveled in over twenty countries across five continents and Costa Rica is the one place I always come back to.
It’s the one place I consider 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 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 no hotels, no beach bars, and no boats. There were not even any people. There was only me and the wild. This rare freedom to simply be with nature is at the heart of why I love it so much here.
It may be small 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. Mountains of foliage line the narrow highways, the calls of monkeys set the soundtrack for the day, wild tropical fruit falls out of the trees begging to be eaten, and gorgeous flowers and 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, tucans, 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 Their Mother
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 worth of the Earth and I find that so beautiful.
True, there may be many Americans here, but they’re the kind of Americans who build permaculture farms and teach yoga on the beach. 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 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. 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 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 my favorite 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’s 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 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. You can chant to Hindu deities from a yoga temple or sing Native American folk songs from a sweatlodge. 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 necessary. People embrace simplicity, which I’ve observed leads to greater happiness.
Tourists and locals get around the beach towns on foot or by bicycle, 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 latte 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 touristic. To get the lowdown on the best of the best that Costa Rica has to offer, get my ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica: