Paradise on Earth: Ten Things to Know About Beautiful Costa Rica

So we’ll get this out there, right off the bat: Costa Rica is one of our favorite places on earth. As a rule, we generally don’t like to go back and visit places we’ve already been, but we’ll always make an exception for lovely little Costa Rica. In fact, in the past ten years since this whole Two for the Road thing started (Two for the Road was really actually born in Costa Rica) we’ve been to Costa Rica a total of four times now. And every time we go back we always have a brand new, totally different, totally amazing experience. So, yeah. We’ll go back again in a heartbeat. Who’s comin’?

Not only is it one of our favorite places anywhere, it’s also one of the most fascinating (and beautiful, of course) countries on earth. And we could go on and on and on about its history, its people, its landscape, its culture, yadda yadda. But for now, we thought we’d just share ten really cool facts about Costa Rica, that’ll hopefully give you a little better idea of what life is like in this beautiful place and why we love it so much. Check ’em out:

It’s all about Pura Vida: as our guide Fabian mentioned in our season premiere episode, “pura vida” is the national mantra of Costa Rica. It literally and quite appropriately translates as “pure life,” and it applies to just about every facet of life in this country. Very simply put, the pura vida way of life is easygoing, worry-free, with an appreciation for friends, family, good times and simple pleasures. So it’s no wonder Costa Rica is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries on the planet. And down here, a happy life translates into a long life too: Costa Rica has a population of 4.5 million, and the life expectancy here is almost 77 years, one of the highest in the world. Pura vida!

Nik and Fabian at the National Museum in San Jose

Costa Ricans call themselves “Ticos” (men) and “Ticas” (women). And it’s usually perfectly fine to refer to them as such in familiar settings, although as visitors to the country it’s always best to start any new conversation or relationship by using “Costa Rican” as a sign of respect. Or better yet, ask what the person prefers! That in itself almost always makes for fun and interesting conversation.

Costa Rica is one of a handful of countries in the world with no standing army. The armed forces of Costa Rica were abolished at the end of Costa Rica’s last civil war in 1948 by then-President Jose Figueres Ferrer, and the money spent on the military was instead funneled into education, the country’s medical system and cultural programs. But really, what would you expect from one of the happiest, most peace-loving countries in the world?

The cloud forest of Monteverde.

Costa Rica is paradise on earth. And Costa Ricans know it. Not only are they fully aware of how naturally beautiful and bio-diverse their country is, but Costa Ricans are fiercely proud and protective of it all. In fact, more than 25% of the whole country is set aside for protection and conservation through a system of national parks, conservation areas and private reserves.

Butterflies at the National Museum in San Jose.

And it’s a good thing, too. Even though Costa Rica is a relatively tiny country – taking up barely .03% of the landmass on earth – thanks largely to its geographical position on the “bridge” between North and South America, it is home to more than 5% of the entire world’s biodiversity. There are more than 500,000 species of plants, animals and insects packed into Costa Rica! Crazy, huh?

And Costa Rica is as spectacularly diverse geologically as well. There are more than 120 volcanoes located within the borders of Costa Rica, seven of which are still active today. Arenal, Poas and Irazu are some of the most popular to visit. And they’re all absolutely incredible!

Arenal Volcano, near the town of La Fortuna.

Costa Ricans are so proud and protective of their natural environment that the entire country now receives almost 100% of its electrical power from renewable energy sources, which is practically unheard of even in this day and age. In fact in 2017, Costa Rica measured at least 300 days where a full 100 percent of its electricity generation came from renewable energy! Most of it comes from hydro-power, wind energy and geothermal energy. Isn’t that awesome?

The Boulevard – Central Avenue – in San Jose

Yes, Costa Rica’s official language is Spanish, but a great many folks in Costa Rica are bilingual. English is widely spoken throughout the country, and Costa Rica is a fantastic place for gringos to learn Spanish, especially in one of the many Spanish immersion schools around the country. Years ago we spent four weeks going to school at the El Paraiso Spanish School in the little town of Quepos near Manuel Antonio National Park, and it was one of the best things we’ve ever done.

Not only is English widely spoken, but US dollars are also widely accepted throughout Costa Rica. The local currency is officially the Costa Rican colon (or colones), and it’s always good to carry around at least some of the local currency wherever you go, but by and large you’ll do just fine with US dollars in your pocket. And if you’re ever short on cash there’s almost always an ATM not too far away.

Dusty ziplines at Sky Trek Arenal.

For all the above reasons (and many more) Costa Rica is an extremely popular tourist destination. And more and more so for Americans especially. Tourism is the main industry in Costa Rica, which welcomes well over two million visitors every year. That growing popularity comes with a few down sides, of course. But from everything we’ve seen and experienced, the government and people of Costa Rica have been managing the influx of tourists extremely well. And there are still so, so, so many places in this country you can go and feel absolutely and wonderfully disconnected.

So there you go! A little bit about Costa Rica – one of our favorite places on earth!

Have you ever been to Costa Rica? Or are you thinking about going? Leave a comment or question below that might help other folks get to know more about making a trip to this beautiful country!

Cheers y’all! And pura vida!

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