Reasons Why You Should Visit the Happiest Country in the World at Least Once

This beautiful lake is found near the Poás volcano, one of six active volcanoes in Costa Rica
This beautiful lake is found near the Poás volcano, one of six active volcanoes in Costa Rica | © William Berry / Shutterstock
Photo of Jenn Parker
5 September 2021

Costa Rica continues to reign as the happiest country in the world, according to the Happy Planet Index. While the 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, and the Costa Rican ecological footprint is light. Still not sure whether to visit? Here’s why you should book a trip to Costa Rica.

To unleash your inner child

Costa Rica is known for its array of adventure activities and tours. Canopy ziplining, Tarzan swinging, whitewater rafting, waterfall rappelling, horse riding, snorkeling, diving and trekking through the dense rainforest will definitely bring out your inner adventurer.

Let Costa Rica bring out the adventurer in you | © Tong_Stocker / Shutterstock

To bathe in the clean, crystal-clear ocean

The average sea temperature in Costa Rica is 70F to 81F (21C to 27C). There is something undeniably soothing about soaking in the sea after the hot equatorial sun has heated your bones. There are more than 300 named beaches in Costa Rica, and plenty that lead right into the shallow, sand-bottomed, turquoise water.

There’s no shortage of crystal-clear waters in Costa Rica | © Parshina Marina / Shutterstock

To 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 main reasons the people of these regions are living to such extraordinary ages in good health and high happiness is their diet. Most Costa Ricans are eating the Blue Zone diet on a daily basis. This includes beans and rice, home-made corn tortillas, plenty of fruit (papaya, plantains and bananas), and squash, peach palm fruit and yams. The Costa Rican diet is high in protein, antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals, not to mention home-made, farm-fresh, ocean-to-table and smile-inducing.

Costa Ricans typically eat a healthy mix of foods | © EQRoy / Shutterstock

To soak up some sun

While exposure to the sun causes skin cancer and premature ageing, sunbeams have a bright side. Those who spend time in the sun, or are indirectly exposed to sunlight, are less likely to experience depression and seasonal affective disorder. The sun also influences the release of melatonin and serotonin, which contribute to our sleep patterns and moods. Costa Rica is the perfect place to soak up a bit of sunshine while wearing reef-friendly sunscreen, of course.

The shorelines of Costa Rica are a great place for a spot of sun-worshipping | © Inga Locmele / Shutterstock

To get physical

The best way to experience Costa Rica is by surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, rafting, snorkeling, hiking, rappelling, biking and walking. Physical activity and exploration go hand and hand here, and it’s hard not to return home feeling happier in your body.

Costa Rica is one of the world’s great surfing destinations | © William Bradberry / Shutterstock

To detox from the digital world

Costa Rica offers a rare opportunity to disconnect from our everyday lives (and digital addictions) to reconnect with nature, our friends and ourselves. The astonishing beauty of nature is intoxicating here, and the food, people, culture and activities will inspire mindfulness.

It’s easy to be present when there’s nowhere else you’d rather be | © Simon Dannhauer / Shutterstock

To treat yourself to a wellness vacation

Costa Rica offers 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, detoxify or meditate, there is a retreat for you here. There are also customizable retreats and packages to help you unwind and rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.

Rejuvenate your mind, body and soul in Costa Rica | © Cookie Studio / Shutterstock

To play out your Swiss Family Robinson fantasy

Many of us will have dreamt of living in a treehouse as a kid; some of us probably still do. There are some incredible treehouses and treetop bungalows, lodges and suites in Costa Rica where you can stay to finally fulfill this childhood fantasy.

Live out your childhood dreams of staying in a treehouse | © Sayam Trirattahapaiboon / Shutterstock

To explore a dozen different ecosystems

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

Costa Rica features 12 distinct ecosystems | © Julio Alberto Bragado / Shutterstock

To witness unique wildlife

Costa Rica is home to around five percent of the world’s biodiversity, with about 500,000 different species. There are estimated to be around 900 bird species, 5,000 insect species, 212 mammal species and 225 reptile species, plus thousands of species of amphibians, fish and marine creatures. Costa Rica is also a hummingbird and butterfly hotspot.

This poison dart frog is just one of the many weird and wonderful creatures that call Costa Rica home | © Eduard Kyslyskyy / Shutterstock

To 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, Poás, Rincón de la Vieja, Irazú and Orosí are all active or have been active in the recent past. Barva, El Viejo and Miravalles are not currently active and are also worth visiting.

There are six active volcanoes in the country, of which Poás is one | © Michal Sarauer / Shutterstock

Party like a local

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

Adopt a ‘pura vida’ attitude

Pura vida is synonymous with Costa Rica. This common phrase has a number of meanings, but is an embodiment of the Costa Rican way of life – and neatly sums up how you’ll feel on our thrilling nine-day trip around the country. The pura vida attitude is laid-back, friendly, warm and light-hearted. To adopt this way of being is to go with the flow, with a smile on your face.

Live with a smile in your heart | © / Shutterstock

To practice Spanish

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

To catch the happiness bug

After all, happiness is contagious.

Everyone smiles when a sloth smiles | © jdross75 / Shutterstock

Feeling inspired? Join our carefully curated nine-day trip to Costa Rica for the chance to experience the country with a local insider as your guide – taking you to places where other tourists won’t know about.

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