Reasons to visit and love Costa Rica

Costa Rica is among the most visited countries in Latin America and the ease of travelling here as well as the beauty of its nature are far from being a secret. Learn some more about what makes Costa Rica unique and why it might just be the very next place your heart desires to see.

Zorhan Mokoele | TDO local expert from South Africa


By Fine Arndt

Born and raised in the city of Berlin, Germany, I started travelling very young out of the urge to understand the crazy world we live in. I was hungry for foreign food and curious about traditions and cultures. My first love was Latin America, but I have since fallen in love over and over again with mountain villages, beach towns, ancient forests and deserts alike. I have traveled all over Latin America, Asia, and Europe. I studied in Denmark and Mexico and have been living in Costa Rica for over a year now. My passions apart from moving and meeting people are organic agriculture and traditional medicine as well as the world of fermentation. I am excited to share some of my favourite places with you!

a Costa Rica based traveler

Costa Ricans have a funny and unique way of speaking which involves putting the diminutive ending “tico” at the end of many words. This means that “Chiquito” or small will be “chiquitico” in Costa Rica. This linguistic difference has brought them the name “Ticos” in Latin America. And Ticos are lovely. Like anywhere in the world, there are all kinds of people living in Costa Rica, but after staying in the country for some time, you will notice that there is an exaggerated amount of absurdly nice people that will go out of their way to make your day.

Compared to the bigger countries of the Americas such as the US, Mexico, or Brazil, Costa Rica is tiny. And believe it or not, that can be a huge advantage. On a political level, the small size makes the country easier to administer and steer which in turn leads to greater stability. On a population level, the low number of inhabitants (around 5 million people) lets you quickly feel at home as you will start to know people all over the country. You will be surprised about how connected the small “Costa Ricita” is. And for traveling, it can be much easier to see a lot of the country and still have time in each place to enjoy and really get to know it.

Costa Rica, which is aiming to be CO2 neutral until 2021 has invested much time and effort into the preservation of its impressive natural diversity and the creation of national parks. A total of 14,300 square kilometers which makes up for 28 percent of the total area of the country is preserved in the form of state or private reserves and many of these offer a big diversity of paths on which you can explore them and see animals such as howler, spider or squirrel monkeys, the famous sloths, and toucans. In times of social distancing, this easy accessibility of nature throughout Costa Rica makes it a really nice place to visit.

If you like to travel and explore a lot you might now think that Costa Rica will not be your cup of tea because if it’s so small, there is surely not a lot to see. But there is. Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse regions of the earth, where seven million years ago the megafauna of the Miocene from North and South America met. The country offers the shrub lands of the paramo, lush green cloud forests full of epiphytes, ancient oak forests in the mountains just as well as hot lowlands, jungle, and dry tropical forests. Its beaches, waterfalls, and hiking trails are countless, and you will have a hard time deciding where to explore first.

Unlike other countries in Latin America where insecurity is an everyday reality that dictates many decisions throughout your day, Costa Rica is a very safe country. It is highly unlikely that you will be assaulted and many Ticos leave their house unlocked even when they’re not at home. I have personally lived in houses that simply had no door lock. The good neighborhood relations that make people watch out for each other help to make visiting Costa Rica truly enjoyable.

Directly connected to the high safety in Costa Rica is the absence of a military. The post-colonial history of the country is much less violent and bloody than that of other Latin American countries, but when they had their own civil war in 1948, the Ticos decided to simply abolish their military. This fact along with the political stability of Costa Rica makes it an attractive place to settle down and has made many expats choose Costa Rica for their retirement home. And if you’re only visiting for some time, you will enjoy the tranquility just as much.

The high diversity of people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds makes for another highly attractive trait of staying in Costa Rica. Be it the Afro-Caribbean population that has its roots in Jamaica or the Chinese Ticos, Costa Ricans of European descent, or the indigenous populations that have been living in this territory for thousands of years, the diversity of different people with different languages and their own ways of living and cooking, is incredibly enriching. If you are considering coming to visit for a longer amount of time, being able to connect with like-minded people and sometimes seeing and exchanging with people who speak your native language can be something to take into account. In this aspect, the big expat community that you will find almost everywhere in the country can be helpful. In most cases, it mixes and engages naturally with the locals and is mutually enriching.

Costa Rica’s many migrant communities have brought their own culinary diversity to the country. Judge for yourself if you prefer dishes such as Arroz Cantones, which were born from the China-Tico fusion, or the traditional Gallo Pinto that was brought to Costa Rica from their northern neighbors in Nicaragua. I personally have a preference for Caribbean food that is rich in coconut milk and turmeric.

Like in many places on this planet, there is a high degree of division between the city and the countryside of Costa Rica. While the metropolitan area of San Jose can be busy and noisy, the countryside is so tranquil. Enjoy waking up to the sounds of a nearby creek and the local or migratory birds singing their song, go about your daily business, and stop at your neighbors’ for a chat. They will likely invite you to have local coffee with them and might not let you leave without some of their own harvests.

Literally translating to “pure life”, Pura vida, this common Tico expression can mean “thanks”, “you’re welcome”, “hello”, “I’m fine” and much more. And it sums up nicely the way of life in Costa Rica, where nature is pristine and offers abundance, that makes life sweet and easy. It means that life doesn’t need much, that it’s life itself with its many small everyday joys which makes it valuable, and that a pure life is a good life.