6 Reasons to Visit Costa Rica & 6 Hacks to Optimize Your Trip
Costa Rica is on everyone's radar. Before I moved here, it was on mine too. I was attracted by the rainforest, the beaches, the weather, and of course, the sloths.
And don't worry, I have a "sloth hack" for you to get up close and personal with one of these furry balls of magic.
But since living here for more than a year, there are so many more things I've discovered that are simply remarkable. And I've figured out ways to get the most out of each of them.
This list could very easily be 25 Reasons to Visit Costa Rica but I know Ain't Nobody Got Time For That. So I've somehow managed to narrow it down to the Top 6.
Here are the top 6 Reasons you must visit Costa Rica & travel hacks to optimize your experience.
1. Reason: Happiest Place On Earth
According to the Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica ranks 1st out of 151 different countries based on measuring three different components: experienced well-being, life expectancy, & ecological footprint.
What's so great about Costa Rica aren't these measurements but what they induce. The culture is happier, less stressed, and (quite obviously) less rushed.
It is contagious. When you're here, you find yourself succumbing to the same lifestyle and may even wonder, "What have I been rushing towards?"
Hack: Visit the Blue Zone
There have been 5 regions in the world identified as a "Blue Zone." These rare places have been categorized as areas where people tend to live the longest. The Nicoya Penisula in Costa Rica is one of them.
There are several characteristics that indicate why people live longer here but instead of reading about it, come experience it. Maybe even stay a while. Who knows, you may even leave a little younger.
You could spend your entire trip just on the Nicoya Penisula and leave satisfied, but here are the top spots to see while you're there: Montezuma, Nosara, & Tamarindo.
2. The Food
I don't consider myself a foodie by any stretch of the imagination so I was taken by surprise when I found myself obsessing over the fruit. In fact, back in the States I didn't even like pineapple, mango, or papaya. But they're so good here I went from disliking a food to it being one of my all-time favorites.
Seriously, they're that good. And fruitful. I often go on walks and come home with a dozen green or yellow mangos simply because they line the streets where I live in Manuel Antonio.
And let's not forget about coconuts. You can buy fresh coconut water by the liter here for half the price in the States (and completely unprocessed), or purchase one right on the beach.
Of course, there are the traditional Costa Rican dishes you must try. Casado is a Costa Rican dish of rice, black beans, plantains, salad, & tortilla accompanied by your choice of meat or fish.
And don't forget the gallo pinto. It literally translates to "spotted rooster" but don't let the name scare you. The dish is just rice and beans. But also don't assume that it's *just* rice and beans. It will likely be the best rice and beans of your life.
Hack: Eat Coconut Meat
Coconut water is all the craze but what if I told you the meat was better for you than the water?
It can be become quite the chore to get it yourself but fortunately for you, there are professionals all around.
Purchase your coconut ('pipa', in Spanish) from a vendor and then sip on the water. When you're done, ask the vendor to cut it in half for you.
Grab a spoon and enjoy the meal.
Often times, traveling outside of the United States can be super expensive. But it's actually relatively cheap to fly to Costa Rica.
A simple search online (google.com/flights) while I'm writing this shows me round trip tickets from Los Angeles to San Jose, Costa Rica for $360, only $271 from Miami, and as low as $260 from Atlanta.
Not only is getting here affordable but lodging is reasonable as well. Hostels right on the beach are $15-$25 per night, while a standard hotel room will run you between $50-$80... which is not a bad price to pay for paradise.
But it doesn't stop there. Transportation within cities is often less than a dollar, and you can even hop on a local bus to another city for a few bucks.
Or take a flight with the world's only carbon-neutral airline, Nature Air. They fly to over a dozen locations in Costa Rica and are very reasonable.
Hack: Live in Paradise
Living here is affordable too. I've paid as little as $250/month for a brand new living space complete with a huge outdoor kitchen and yoga deck. Combine that with getting my groceries delivered by a local farmer for less than what I'd pay in the States and my total cost for food and lodging is about 1/8th of what I was used to shelling out every month. That means I could quadruple my cost of food and lodging here and it would still be half of what I was paying in San Diego.
So, perhaps it's time for an extended vacation?
4. Beach Life
Have you ever seen the jungle and the beach collide? It's incredible. But there is more than seeing the green jungle meet the turquoise ocean...
The ocean water temperature averages between the high 70s & mid 80s which means it's always the perfect temperature to swim in. It's also famous for surfing and even if you've never even been on a board, it's a great place to learn how to surf.
But one of my favorite reasons to visit Costa Rican beaches is how few people there are. Most beach destinations are packed with people and you're lucky to find several square feet of sand to temporarily call your own.
Not here. There are so many miles of beach terrain to explore you will likely find yourself staring at one of the most remarkable things you've ever seen asking yourself, "Where is everyone?"
Even the most popular beaches have far less people than the well known spots in Southern California--and if you take the time to talk a quarter mile away from the crowd, you will find even more more space.
Hack: Visit Best Beach in Costa Rica
Costa Rica boasts some of the best beaches in the world... so how do you choose which one to go to?
Under30Experiences did the research and published The Best Beach in Costa Rica so you didn't have to visit every beach to figure it out (although, that wouldn't be a mistake).
The results showed Manuel Antonio beach in Costa Rica was frequently voted the top beach and it actually recently ranked as 1 of the top 15 beaches in the world.
It's located just 2.5 hours from San Jose and is near other popular tourist destinations like Jaco, Playa Hermosa & Arenal.
Bonus Hack: Under30Experiences has a trip to Manuel Antonio priced at a crazy low rate of $645 for 5 days/4nights.
Even though Costa Rica only takes up .03% of the world's land mass, it hosts an astounding 4% of the total species found on the planet!
According to the National Institute of Biodiversity, there are more than 500,000 species and--in an effort to protect them--more than 25% of the land in Costa Rica is protected. Which, as you probably know, is very rare these days given the amount of deforestation happening on a regular basis.
There are even hundreds of species in Costa Rica that you literally can't find anywhere else on the planet...including the Scarlet Macaw. It is a place where Earth still feels wild and--in a strange way--makes you feel right at 'home' in the nature of the jungle.
Hack: Get Up Close & Personal With A Sloth
I told you there was a sloth hack coming.
People from far and wide travel to Costa Rica in the hopes they will catch a glimpse of these magical animals but they're not always in luck. It is the essence of the sloth to move slowly and remain undetected by their eagle predators in the sky so it can be very difficult to spot them with an untrained eye. Even if you are lucky to see one, they'll likely be off in the distance and high up in a tree.
Fortunately for you, we have a way to get you up close and personal.
Kids Saving The Rainforest is a nonprofit organization (started by kids!) located just outside Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica and they're dedicated to protecting the biodiversity in Costa Rica. They have orphaned 3 sloths and on their Wildlife Tour you get to see them face-to-face.
6. Pura Vida Vibe + Culture
Literally translated into English, Pura Vida means pure life but in Costa Rica, it is a way of living.
At its best, the Pura Vida lifestyle will have you slowing down, relaxing on the beach, and wondering what it was you always felt rushed to do back at home. At its worst, you find yourself unable to get out of your hammock and actually do anything at all.
Costa Rican culture is welcoming, kind, & attractive. It's also one of the only countries in the world with no standing army which, ironically, makes you feel pretty safe.
Hack: Get Cultured
One of the most important things you can do while traveling is learn about the country you are visiting.
What is the history? What are the people like? Where do the locals hang out?
Avoid posting up at an all-inclusive resort and sipping on Mojitos all day. Instead, immerse yourself in what it's like to spend a day in the life as a Costa Rican and gain a true sense of the Pura Vida vibe.
After all, it is the Ticos & Ticas (name for Costa Ricans) that founded this way of living and there is a lot to learn from it.
Now that you know some of the top reasons you should visit and how to make the most of them, you are officially ready to take a trip to Costa Rica.
Do you have another favorite spot or questions about Costa Rica? Drop a line in the comments!
P.S. Besides our trip to Manuel Antonio, we adventure to Arenal where we stay at at eco-resort and hike a volcano. It's epic.