A Spanish-speaking, vibrant and beautifully green Costa Rica in Latin America is home to nearly 5% of the world’s biodiversity, even though it makes up just 0.03 per cent of the planet. About a quarter of the country is part of a protected national park, wildlife sanctuary or private reserve, and while many countries drag their heels on urgent sustainability issues, Costa Rica has made clean-beach programmes and sustainable energy projects part of its DNA and plans to become carbon neutral by 2021.
Whether you choose to visit Costa Rica to watch sea turtles or surf on some of the world’s best beaches, explore the Monteverde cloud forest, see its vast array of sloths or 52 species of hummingbird, climb its huge volcanoes or go white water rafting at Turrialba, the money you spend as a green traveller is likely to be wisely used. There are an impressive range of Eco-friendly hotels in Costa Rica, and it’s the kind of place where enterprising entrepreneurs convert a crashed passenger jet into a luxury hotel suite in the rain-forest rather than allow the debris to go to landfill (we kid you not*).
It also has more than its fair share of community-led sustainable tourism projects, such as Caminos de Osa, which won the Best Active Tourism award at FITUR 2017, the International Tourism Fair in Madrid, Spain. Delivered by Reinventing Business for All, Costa Rica’s leading sustainable tourism organisation and an EarthCheck partner, this offers travellers three new routes that pass through the beautiful Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve and gives them the chance to visit rural communities, support their tourism businesses, and give back to the locals.
You would also want to come, however, to catch some of the joy and vibrancy of its people, for according to a recent report in The National Geographic magazine***, Costa Rica is one of the world’s happiest places because their people feel secure, have a sense of purpose, and enjoy lives that minimize stress and maximize joy. Rather marvelously, the research found that more people report feeling positive emotions each day than most other countries surveyed. When it comes to living in the moment, it seems that these guys really do know how.
Why might this be? It is peace loving, having forbidden a standing army since 1949. The life expectancy is an impressive 79 years, higher than all of its Central American neighbors. Literacy is 97.8 per cent, placing it in the top 40 countries worldwide, and Costa Rican women don’t take their husband’s last name,retaining their maiden name and independence throughout their life.
Costa Rica’s landscape has also affected the national psyche. Its mountainous terrain meant it never developed large farms, as other countries in Central America did, so it has never been dominated by a powerful landholding class. Instead, locals have simple, straightforward lifestyles on small farms or cattle ranches, and have elected presidents who’ve made education a priority, ensured clean water, instituted social security, and established free clinics in most villages.
Isn’t it about time you paid them a visit?