Known world-wide for its eco-tourism efforts, stunning natural beauty from the rain forest to the beaches, and an extensive amount of wildlife species that live in the varying habitats, Costa Rica is a top-notch destination. Many visitors favor Costa Rica for its seemingly laid-back culture and to enjoy the lifestyle known as "pura vida" that most locals adopt, which means pure life. This motto not only represents a way of life, but is also a popular greeting, farewell phrase, and is used in many situations in daily life in Costa Rica. The Pura Vida philosophy not only refers to the locals, visitors, and growing ex-pat community but also extends to the abundance of pure nature to be seen and enjoyed throughout Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is located in Central America, wedged between Nicaragua on the northern border and Panama on the southern border. Costa Rica is touched by both the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. The dominant language spoken here is Spanish, although tourist areas and attractions generally have access to English-speaking guides and English is the second most spoken language in the country. Costa Rica is also set apart from its fellow Central American countries in that it survived the harsh days of colonialism and overcame the odds of other developing nations who still suffer from poverty and dictatorships. Instead, Costa Rica has an unarmed democracy and leads the way in terms of environmental standards and green practices. Of course, this was not always the case. Costa Rica's rich history is steeped in the challenges caused by Spanish colonization, but was officially declared independent from Spain in 1821. The country's first major export and boom in terms of economical growth came in the form of coffee and later bananas. Today, Costa Rica's dominant industry is tourism with the wealth of national parks and reserves stretching across the country and showcasing the many ecosystems that exist here.
Although the country may be somewhat small in size, it offers a great variety of places to explore, animals to discover, and clean beaches to enjoy the sun and surf. Located in the Central Plateau region of Costa Rica is its capital city San José. Many visitors either start or end their journey throughout Costa Rica in this city, which boasts local cultural attractions such as historic landmarks, museums, and hotels. Many day trips also originate from San José. Located in the central northern region of the country is the famed Arenal Volcano. One of the many volcanoes throughout Costa Rica, this is perhaps one of the most visited. The Volcano is located near the small town of La Fortuna de San Carlos and is surrounded by many boutique hotels offering therapeutic thermal hot springs and spas. The relaxation, views, and spa treatments offered here all contribute to this area being a huge draw for tourists. Beyond the thermal pools, visitors can embark on nature tours, hiking trails to waterfalls, and horseback adventures with outstanding views of the volcano all along the way. On the Pacific Ocean side of the country is a long peninsula known as Guanacaste. This region boasts some of the country's best beaches and is brimming with all-inclusive resorts and surfing spots. Environmental enthusiasts and adventurous travelers alike can tour the country by car discovering the biodiversity found at the numerous established national parks and reserves found in each pocket of the country beyond the well-trotted tourist trail.