La Mitad del Mundo – the middle of the earth, just outside of Quito, Ecuador is well worth a visit and certainly marks the equatorial line around our planet. However, due to the earth’s tilting axis, the sun sets and rises most punctually over little Costa Rica – the hemisphere’s shinning model of environmental diversity and stewardship.
This small, fairly expensive country has made two important decisions over the last 60 years – eliminate its army and establish a network of national parks. Both decisions have proven successful.
Little Costa Rica, with two coastlines and two boarders explodes with biodiversity. And explosive indeed, with ash falling on the capital, San Jose from nearby volcanoes!
Blessed by an almost perfect tropical climate, steep elevation changes and rich volcanic soil, Costa Rica’s active environment is home to more birdlife than in all of North America or so they say :). And they also say it is rare to meet Ticos (Costa Ricans) living in other countries because they miss their own climate so much!
It is also friendly and peaceful. What a civilized little country. Hunting is illegal – and this is justified economically. A healthy animal is so valuable to tourism that they have chosen to protect as much of their ecosystem as possible. I expect we can all get on board with this model.
Costa Rica is not really a cultural destination. This is not pejorative, just realistic. The country does have its own history and enjoyable cultural particularities – for example, almost everyone – even children – use the formal ‘Usted’ form of Spanish.
Almost predictably, there are undercurrents of racism towards Nicaraguans (of whom there are around 500K informally in the country), but generally Los Ticos are friendly to visitors and understand the important role of tourism in their economy.
As a destination Costa Rica fully deserves its excellent reputation. Services are good, the landscape varies dramatically and it is wonderfully safe. There is no other place in the Americas where you will simply not see a soldier!
The capital and home to a quarter of the population is not a highlight, but nor must it be avoided. Also visitors must come understanding that cloud forests are cloudy and rain forests are rainy!
Costa Rica is about biodiversity, safe travel and warm, humid weather. I think it is happy that way and it deserves an applause and a visit.