15 Reasons Why You Should Visit the World's Happiest Country At Least Once

Beautiful blue lake near the Poas volcano | © William Berry / Shutterstock
Beautiful blue lake near the Poas volcano | © William Berry / Shutterstock
Photo of Jenn Parker
29 November 2017

Costa Rica continues to reign supreme as the world’s happiness country, according to the Happy Planet Index. While the country’s gross domestic product is a quarter of that of many Western European and North American countries, the overall happiness, wellness, and average life expectancy rates are far higher, not to mention the fact that their ecological footprint is light. A visit to this jubilant country will surely inspire a feeling of euphoria.

Unleash Your Inner Child

Costa Rica is well known for its array of adventure activities and tours. Canopy zip lining, Tarzan swinging, white-water rafting, waterfall repelling, horse riding, snorkeling, diving, and trekking through the dense rainforest will definitely bring out the kid in your heart.

A child at heart | © Tong_Stocker / Shutterstock

Let the Sea Seep Into Your Soul

The average sea temperature in Costa Rica is 21–27°Celsius (70–81° Fahrenheit). There is something undeniably soothing about soaking in the sea after the hot equatorial sun has heated up your bones. There are over 300 named beaches in Costa Rica, and plenty that lead right into shallow, sand-bottomed, crystal-clear water.

Just the sea and me | © Parshina Marina / Shutterstock

Eat the Blue Zone Diet

The Nicoya Peninsula is one of five recognized Blue Zones in the world. These are places where people commonly live active lives past the age of 100, and one of the leading reasons why the people of this region are living to such extraordinary ages in good health and high happiness is their diet. The Blue Zone diet is what most Costa Ricans are eating on a daily basis. This includes beans and rice, homemade corn tortillas, plenty of fruit (papaya, plantains, and bananas), and squash, pejibaye, and yams. The Costa Rican diet is high in protein, antioxidants, and essential vitamins and minerals, not to mention homemade, farm fresh, ocean-to-table, and smile inducing.

Eat this meal every day and live to 100 | © EQRoy / Shutterstock

Soak up Some Sun

While we’ve been told that exposure to the sun is bad and that it causes skin cancer and premature aging, it should also be revealed that sunbeams have a bright side. Those who spend time in the sun, or indirectly exposed to sunlight, are less likely to experience signs of depression and seasonal affective disorder. The sun also affects the release of melatonin and serotonin, which contribute to our sleep patterns, anxiety levels, and moods. Costa Rica is the perfect place to soak up a bit of sunshine, while wearing reef-friendly sunscreen, of course.

Here comes the sun | © Inga Locmele / Shutterstock

Get Physical

The best way to experience Costa Rica is by surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, rafting, snorkeling, hiking, rapelling, biking, and walking. Physical activity and exploration go hand and hand here.

One with the waves | © William Bradberry / Shutterstock

Detox From the Digital World

Costa Rica offers a rare opportunity to disconnect from our everyday lives and digital addictions and reconnect with nature, the ones we’re with, and ourselves. The astonishing beauty of nature is intoxicating here. The food, people, culture, activities, tours, wildlife, plant life, and terrain will definitely inspire present mindfulness.

Easy to be present when there’s no where else you’d rather be | © Simon Dannhauer / Shutterstock

Treat Yourself to a Wellness Vacation

Costa Rica is host to a number of wellness and yoga retreats. Whether you want to be beachside, on top of a mountain, or deep in a forest, and whether you want to do yoga, surf, have spa treatments, detoxify, or meditate every day, there is a retreat for you here. There are also opportunities for customizable retreats and packages to help you unwind and rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul.

Yoga, ocean, sunset = bliss | © Cookie Studio / Shutterstock

Play out Your Swiss Family Robinson Fantasy

There are probably not many of us who have never wanted to live in a treehouse; some of us probably still wish we lived in a treehouse now. There are some incredible treehouses and treetop bungalows, lodges, and suites in Costa Rica where you can stay and finally fulfil this childhood fantasy.

Spend time in the trees | © Sayam Trirattahapaiboon / Shutterstock

Explore a Dozen Different Ecosystems

While Costa Rica is only the size of West Virginia in the United States or Denmark in Europe, it may come as a shock that there are 12 main ecosystems here. Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world.

This beauty will take your breath away | © Julio Alberto Bragado / Shutterstock

Witness Unique Wildlife

Costa Rica is home to around 5% of the world’s biodiversity. There are estimated to be around 900 species of birds, 5,000 species of insects, 212 species of mammals, and 225 species of reptiles. There are also thousands of species of amphibians, fish, and marine creatures. Costa Rica is a hummingbird and butterfly hotspot. Combined, around 500,000 different species call Costa Rica home.

An arboreal frog | © Eduard Kyslyskyy / Shutterstock

Experience the Raw Power of Mother Earth

Costa Rica is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and there are nearly 200 volcanic formations here. Only six volcanoes are truly classified as active, though, and are all part of exquisite and diverse national parks. Arenal, Turrialba, Poas, Rincon de la Vieja, Irazu, and Orosi are all active or have been active in the recent past. Barva, El Viejo, and Miravalles, while not currently active, are worth visiting as well.

Earth’s energy | © Michal Sarauer / Shutterstock

Party Like a Local

There seems to always be some sort of celebration taking place here. Costa Rican fiestas always include an abundance of delicious food, plenty of libations, uplifting music, seemingly endless dancing, parades, bombas, carnival rides, and traditional bullfights.

Adopt a Pura Vida Attitude

Pura vida is synonymous with Costa Rica. This common phase has a number of meanings, but is an embodiment of the Costa Rican way of life. The pura vida attitude is a very laid-back, friendly, warm, and lighthearted one. To adopt this way of being is to go with the flow with a smile on your face.

Be playful and free | © reisegraf.ch / Shutterstock

Practice Spanish

Costa Rica is an excellent place to practice your Spanish. Costa Ricans are typically very friendly and highly appreciative of any attempt to speak their language. They will kindly correct your Spanish and help you practice, if you are open to it, and they also won’t make you feel bad for making mistakes. Learning English is also very important to most Costa Ricans, so a language exchange is a great way to connect with local people.

You’ll Catch the Happiness Bug

After all, happiness is contagious.

Everyone smiles when a sloth smiles | © jdross75 / Shutterstock

Check out this common-sense Costa Rica safety guide.

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