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A river in Costa Rica | © Michel Rathwell / Flickr
A river in Costa Rica | © Michel Rathwell / Flickr

How Spending Time Outdoors in Costa Rica is Good for Your Health

Picture of Jenn Parker
Updated: 27 November 2017

The famous naturalist and environmental philosopher John Muir once advised that we “keep close to nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash the spirit clean.” This is advice that we should all heed, and Costa Rica is a great place to do all these things, and more. Why not wash your spirit clean underneath a waterfall, or in a volcanic hot spring? 

Bathe in a Forest

More than half of Costa Rica is forested, and there are multiple types of forests including rainforests, dry forests, cloud forests, and mangrove forests. Mindfully spending time in a place that is densely populated by trees, a practice called forest bathing, has proven to have a multitude of health benefits. The benefits of spending time in a forest include reduced stress, decreased blood pressure, increased immunity, and lessened symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for bone health and reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases, and certain types of cancer. Sufficient vitamin D is also crucial for the absorption of calcium. One of the best ways to absorb vitamin D is from the sun. This doesn’t mean that you should go bake out in the equatorial sun, but a little exposure to those sunshine rays is good for you, especially considering that between 40% and 75% of people are vitamin D deficient.

Get Some Physical Activity On Land

The most amazing ways to explore Costa Rica on land are by using your own physical strength. Walking, hiking, and biking allow you to really see and experience the natural side of Costa Rica. Hiking through the rainforest, biking along the Caribbean coast, and walking through the picturesque little towns in the Central Valley are all experiences that are not only fantastic for your health, but are also truly enjoyable.

… and in the Water

Spending time in the sea is just good for your soul! There are so many exhilarating ways to spend time in the ocean and waterways in Costa Rica, including surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming, and white-water rafting. These activities will get your heart pumping, your muscles heated up, your adrenaline flowing, and your lips smiling more widely than they’ve ever smiled before.

Explore the Wide Open Spaces

Most of us live in areas that are the opposite of wide open. The majority of us are city and suburb dwellers, where our everyday surroundings include tall buildings, paved streets, busy highways, rush-hour congestion, and more concrete than nature. We choose to visit places like Costa Rica for a change of scenery, and there is something soothing and liberating about being in a place where you have space. The forests are immense, the ocean and coastline are vast, the valleys and plains are endless, and aside from the major cities and towns, the population is very spread out. You may find yourself by yourself for the first time in years.

Take in the Inspiring Beauty

Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful and diverse places on earth. Nearly 5% of the world’s biodiversity can be found within its 12 main ecosystems, while a quarter of Costa Rica’s land and sea is protected as national parks and reserves. The beauty that can be found all around in Costa Rica is simply inspiring. Where that inspiration takes you is up to you. It might inspire you to take photographs, write poetry, reflect inwardly, reprioritize what’s important in your life, or perhaps just inspire you to let your inner child and adventurous self come out.

Try Moving Meditation

Contrary to popular belief, meditating doesn’t have to be done in complete stillness with your eyes closed and your legs crossed in lotus position. The practice of a moving meditation involves moving in a mindful and present-minded manner. Taking a long stroll on the beach, practicing yoga in a shala in the rainforest, surfing perfect waves at sunset, or walking through the cloud forest can all be forms of moving meditation if you focus your mind on what’s in front of you and around you. Meditation helps reduce stress, improve mood, increase self-awareness, improve the immune and cardiovascular systems, and slow down the aging process.

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Mindfully cruising on the face of waves | © Jenn Parker

Eat Straight From the Earth

Most towns in Costa Rica host their own farmer’s market, and there’s nothing better than walking through the market and picking out fresh-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables to eat for the week. Some markets even have local fishers who are selling their day’s catch. It is easy to eat farm-to-table and ocean-to-table when you’re in Costa Rica. Visiting one of the outdoor farmer’s markets is an authentic way to experience daily Costa Rican life, too. If you are into fishing, you can even go out and catch you own dinner.

Good for the Environment, Good for You

Costa Rica has been internationally recognized for its continual efforts to instil environmentally conscious practices. Hotels, lodges, restaurants, tour companies, environmental groups, and animal sanctuaries are doing their best to protect and preserve the wild terrain and flora and fauna of Costa Rica. When you visit Costa Rica, you can participate in the green efforts too. You can say no to single-use plastics, stay at green-certified ecolodges and hotels, eat and buy locally, and take nature and adventure tours with eco-conscious tour operators, for starters.

Let the Earth Heal You

Volcanic mud baths and mineral-rich thermal hot springs are highly beneficial to your physical and mental wellbeing, as well as doing wonders for your skin and hair. There are over 200 volcanic formations in Costa Rica and plenty of volcanic mud and hot springs to go around. Thermal hot springs promote relaxation, a sense of wellbeing and happiness, and a release of muscle tension and soreness. After a long day of adventuring, covering yourself in volcanic mud and then rinsing off in a thermal hot spring is absolutely divine.

Giggle at the Animals

Did you know that laughter helps reduce stress, releases endorphins, lowers blood pressure, decreases the risk of certain diseases including the common cold, decreases pain in the body, and boosts your immune system? In Costa Rica, you will definitely have wildlife encounters that will make you giggle. You can’t help but smile when you are in a traffic jam caused by a herd of cows, especially when the cows are walking right past your window as if you aren’t even there; or when little white-faced capuchin monkeys come down from the trees to steal fruit from your table at breakfast; or when you see an enormous pig walking down to the beach for a dip in the ocean (if this floats your boat, check out Lola’s in Avellenas).

Find out the best ways to spend New Year’s Eve in Costa Rica.