A country once hidden in the shadows between Mexico and South America, Costa Rica has become a hotspot for eco-tourism in Latin America. Welcoming over 2.6 million visitors each year, the country’s travel and tourism sector directly contributed 5.0% of total GDP and supported 104,500 jobs, or 5.1% of total employment in Costa Rica in 2017. It’s not difficult to understand why.
Costa Rica: Land of Parks, Pineapples & Pura Vida
With its cascading waterfalls, stunning volcanoes, and rainforests full of biodiversity, Costa Rica is particularly popular with outdoor enthusiasts seeking to reconnect with nature and experience some adventure. More than a quarter of its land mass is protected, and visitors are welcome to visit the 28 national parks and 8 biological reserves spread throughout the country.
Manuel Antonio National Park is the most visited of the country’s parks, boasting 683 hectares of white-sand beaches, rainforest, coral reefs, and hiking trails. Those looking for volcanoes rather than sloths and white-faced squirrel monkeys can venture into Poás Volcano National Park, home to one of the largest and most active volcanoes in the country. Here, visitors find Laguna Caliente, one of the most acidic lakes on Earth, and Laguna Botos, a cool-water lake in one of the dormant craters, surrounded by cloud forest.
The Nicoya Peninsula, on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, is home to quaint towns, beautiful beaches, and some of the best surfing on this side of the country. The peninsula also plays host to large number of female turtles – including Olive Ridley and Leatherback turtles – who come ashore during nesting season to lay their eggs in places like Tamarindo and Ostional. Heavy rains can make navigating the Nicoya Peninsula tricky (and sometimes hazardous) during the wet season, so prepare accordingly.
Though the country isn’t known for its culinary scene (yet, anyway), one would be remiss to spend time here without savoring its incredible variety of fresh fruits. Costa Rica is the world’s foremost producer of pineapple, producing nearly three million tons of the sweet fruit each year. But you’ll find more than pineapple in this tropical paradise. Visit a local market and you’ll likely come across maracuyá (passion fruit), granadilla, carambola (star fruit), cas, guanabana (soursop), mango, and guayaba (guava).
Of course, there’s another great reason to visit Costa Rica: its people. Costa Ricans are incredibly hospitable – and they’ll probably welcome you with a pura vida. Spanish for ‘pure life,’ this saying has become the unofficial motto of the country and is used as a greeting, a goodbye, a show of appreciation, and even as a thank you.
But pura vida is about so much more than its literal translation. It embodies the Costa Rican idea of spending time with loved ones, cherishing simple pleasures, and enjoying life. It’s truly a way of living, and Costa Ricans are happy to share it with foreign visitors.
It’s no wonder, then, why growth of tourism in Costa Rica is expected to continue steadily over the next decade – more people want to experience for themselves la pura vida.