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Costa Rica is not only one of the most welcoming and safest countries in Central America, it’s officially one of the happiest countries in the world. It topped the Happy Planet Index in 2018 and 2019. The locals say it all comes down to “pure vida.” A literal translation is “pure life,” but it’s so much more. Used as a greeting or expression of joy, pure vida sums up the Costa Rican mindset of being full of life, energy and positivity.
Experience it for yourself and enrich your mind, body and soul with a pura vida trip to this tropical sanctuary.
For the mind
Disconnect from everyday work/life stress with a digital detox. Costa Rica offers visitors the chance to truly be one with nature by staying in luxury ecolodges. Revitalise your mind by swapping technology and tweeting for an energising morning yoga session in a rainforest, a midday jungle trek or a relaxing water voyage to spot whales, dolphins and devil rays.
Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast is surrounded by snaking canals and can only be accessed by boat or small plane. Boat tours run by locals allow you to explore the canal with ease and get up close to wildlife. Visitors usually go during green turtle nesting season, from June to October.
The Osa Peninsula, located on the country’s south Pacific coast, is considered off the beaten track. This region is a haven for those looking to experience complete unspoilt beauty and escape the tethers of Wi-Fi. The opportunities for exploration are endless. Classic activities include:
- Watching the magnificent humpback whale migration
- Gliding alongside mangrove thickets by kayak
- Exploring beaches and mountains on a recreational cycling tour
- Birdwatching for more than 800 different species
- Restorative yoga
- Forest bathing
- Eating a healthy, organic meal on the beach with your toes in the sand
Corcovado National Park, the largest of Costa Rica’s parks, is also located in this area. Take a walk inside the national park to discover animals that can only be found there. It’s home to some of the most unique wildlife in the world, like pumas, tapirs, giant anteaters, jaguars and scarlet macaws. You can also visit nearby areas, such as Drake Bay, Puerto Jiménez, Rancho Quemado, La Palma, Carate, Los Planes and El Tigre, among others, where you can learn about the daily life of the locals.
For the body
Take care of your body with wellness pura vida. The natural surroundings have made Costa Rica an ideal destination for a wellness retreat. Many of the ecolodges and eco hotels, especially on the Pacific side, offer yoga sessions in the rainforest and spa treatments that use local products made from volcanic ash or Costa Rican coffee and cacao.
La Fortuna is home to the cone-shaped Arenal Volcano. There are plenty of physical activities that will keep your heart rate up, like zip lining above the rainforest canopy, hiking to the stunning La Fortuna waterfall and hitting the rapids for whitewater rafting. You can also go stand up paddleboarding and wind surfing in Arenal Lake. After a day of activities, relax the body and the mind – the town has many hot spring pools with thermal water coming from directly under the volcano.
Pura vida gastronomy focuses on making fresh and organic food choices. You will find that local dishes all use locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs. Take advantage of enjoying the fruits that Costa Rica offers – it’s only there that you will discover their true flavor. Try freshly squeezed juices and smoothies – the preferred drink of choice – and don’t miss out on local dishes like ceviche (raw, marinated fish), gallo pinto (rice and beans), patacones (fried plantains) and casado (a complete, traditional lunchtime meal).
For the soul
Enrich your soul with rural and responsible tourism that will give you the opportunity to enjoy authentic experiences. Visit indigenous communities, such as the Bribri, to learn about their culture. For generations, the Bribri indigenous people have lived in a small village near the Panama border. While there, you can take a refreshing dip in the river, walk through banana plantations and follow the cacao route. Make your own chocolate and discover how local products are processed and prepared in traditional dishes.
The Costa Rica Tourism Board launched the Pura Vida Pledge to educate visitors on the real meaning of responsible tourism and the actions they can take as guests of the country. As part of the Pura Vida Pledge, Costa Rica is encouraging visitors to take one of four actions to ensure their holiday is as responsible as possible:
- Before booking a tour or hotel, ask if they have a Certification of Sustainable Tourism by the tourism board (CST approved).
- Be mindful of your carbon footprint and make a donation to local environmental initiatives.
- Volunteer for an afternoon or day to contribute to the wellbeing of the local community.
- Respect the environment by not disturbing wildlife, not littering and taking other actions to keep it intact for future visitors.
Costa Rica has been successful in placing environmental concerns at the heart of its political and economic policies, and sustainable development is very much in Costa Ricans’ DNA. After a mass reforestation programme, more than 50% of rainforests have been recovered. With its aim to be carbon neutral by 2050, already 29% of Costa Rica’s energy sources are renewable.
The country generates electricity from five renewable sources: water, sun, wind, biomass and geothermal. The most relevant is hydraulic, which accounts for 78% of electricity. Costa Rica has been promoting all of these renewable energies since the middle of the last century for two very weighty reasons: to depend less on oil-producing countries and to conserve its splendid environment.
In 2015, Costa Rica managed to use electricity produced entirely with renewable energy for three months in a row. In 2018, it broke its own record by creating 98% of its energy using renewable energy and using electricity generated by these sustainable systems for 300 days. During the last four years, the country has accumulated 1,197 days of totally clean energy production.
In 2019, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognised Costa Rica as a world leader in sustainability. The country was given the prestigious Champions of the Earth award, the UN’s highest environmental honour, placing value on Costa Rica’s role in the protection of nature and efforts to combat climate change.
So when planning your trip to Costa Rica, don’t forget to make a Pura Vida Pledge. Costa Rica will do its part by nourishing your mind, body and soul. Consider what you can do to support Costa Rica as one of the world’s leading sustainable countries.
Live life to the fullest
Experience diverse wildlife, beaches and Pura Vida on this tailor-made tour of Costa Rica. Classic Costa Rica 13 days from £3,885pp.