Emerald rainforest, pastel-coloured hummingbirds, smouldering volcanic peaks, tumbling rivers, and freshly picked oranges still warm from the glowing Central American sun: if Mother Nature can ever be accused of showing off, it is in Costa Rica.
Sat just north of the equator, this verdant chunk is one of the most bio-diverse spots on the planet. Costa Rica has a simply stunning variety of landscapes, microclimates, flora and fauna. Showcasing the country's breathtaking plant life, Costa Rica's national parks are its greatest glory, with one-third of the country set aside as protected natural areas. As well as being a world leader in eco-tourism, Costa Rica superbly caters for visitors looking for an adrenalin kick, with options including white water rafting, zip line tours through the rainforest canopy, surfing and quad biking.
The country’s eco-conscious bent has been one factor in why Costa Rica remains a pristine wilderness; you won’t find the rampant overdevelopment that blights many tourist spots here. Instead, the government, having recognised the environment to be one of its biggest assets, has maintained its commitment to ecotourism, most recently evidenced by a promise to make Costa Rica the worlds’ first carbon-neutral country by 2021. The country’s long-term stability in a region often fraught with political uprisings is another factor in its relative prosperity – having abolished its army in 1949, all the money can go towards medical and social facilities instead.
Tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to getting up close and personal with nature. Whether it’s catching a glimpse of all four native monkey species in Corcovado National park, admiring the incredible orchids in the Monterverde Cloud Forest reserve, or becoming a bona-fide twitcher whilst out spotting one of the country’s 840 birds, Costa Rica will turn you into a nature-lover if you weren’t already.
The cities may not be its premier attraction, but that’s not to say tourists shouldn’t make a stop at one of Costa Rica’s urban centres. Get a sense of local life and culture as you explore downtown San Jose and its mishmash of architectural styles, national museums and excellent cafes. Or head to Puerto Limón on the Caribbean coast, a sleepy port town which makes an excellent jump-off point for surfers looking to catch the waves off Isla Uvita. It’s worth spending some time in the cities, if only to get a sense of how many Costa Ricans live, and what a multi-faceted country this truly is. For all those looking for an ethical adventure, Costa Rica’s charms will have you under their spell all too quickly.