Costa Rica is a fun, laid-back, multi-cultural, peaceful Central American nation. I was happy to have Costa Rica be the fiftieth country I’ve visited and the fourth that does not have a standing military. I also planned to visit Panama, which also does not have a standing Army, but that didn’t work out and will have to come later. The other sovereign states I’ve visited with no standing Army are the Vatican City, Lichtenstein, and Iceland. Education, healthcare, and many other public services are available to all citizens. Like another country I recently visited, the above mentioned Iceland, there are many volcanoes here, some active, some dormant. And surprisingly, or maybe not, I found one of my new all-time favorite watering holes here.
Costa Rica has only 0.03% of the planet’s surface but has 5% of the world’s biodiversity. More than 34,000 species of insects, 20,000 species of spiders, more than 10% of all the world’s butterfly species, and huge crocodiles up to 16 feet long. Overall, around 615 species of animals per 10,000 square miles compared with 104 for the United States. Oh, and some of the most amazing and sparsely populated beaches I’ve ever seen.
Costa Rica is also one of the greenest places on Earth, in both senses. I already knew Costa Rica was covered with jungle and rainforest. Still, while there, I learned that about 99% of their electricity comes from renewable sources such as hydroelectric, wind, geothermal, and biomass. They also have stringent recycling laws. All public businesses have colorful recycling containers prominently displayed, or at least on-site, where the trash is then recycled manually. All this makes for a truly fantastic place for eco-tourism.
Among other fun facts, Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, is one of the world’s largest coffee exporters, and is also the second-largest banana exporter. It is one of the oldest democracies in this region and has a population of a little over half that of New York City.
While I’ve never bothered to confirm the veracity of this, I’ve often heard that Eskimos have dozens of words for different types of snow. I learned here that Ticos and Ticas (native Costa Ricans) have many names for rain. Among these are the light, drizzly rain knows as Pelo de Gato (cat’s hair), and at the opposite end of the spectrum, the tropical downpours known as Aguacero. Since this visit took place during the rainy season, I believe I saw every kind of rain, almost every day. Luckily, there were a couple of good days — or at least good windows in a couple of days that allowed for a little paragliding.
Most towns here have a church that (almost) always faces west, which is helpful since getting around can be confusing for visitors. One reason for this is that many streets are not named, and addresses are often references to the proximity of well-known landmarks. For example, “near the football field, before the school.”
A popular local alcoholic drink, guaro, is made from sugar cane and is often taken with slices of the local mandarin lime — yummy.
The place I stayed in Dominical had metal roofs on all the lodging and there are lots of coconut trees. I point this out because at least once on almost every night, the loud sound of a falling coconut hitting the roof startled me awake. Not a fun fact, but each year around 150 people die globally by being struck by falling coconuts.
Two final things I found surprising: biking and what’s up with WhatsApp? I was amazed to see more people doing recreational cycling here than almost any place I’ve ever been. By this I don’t mean folks were riding bikes just to get around, though I did see that too. What I am talking about here is the folks who wear all the garb and ride street bikes like in the Tour de France. So many of them! As for WhatsApp, this seems to be the preferred method of communication for just about every need. When I went to book a SCUBA trip, the shop gave me a WhatsApp number. Same for paragliding.
On balance, I would rank Costa Rica among my favorite places on Earth. The paragliding was breathtaking. SCUBA diving just off of Caño Island, and hiking out to Nayauka Waterfalls will long rank among my fondest memories. If given a chance to visit, do!