I’m sitting here in beautiful, verdant, and charming Costa Rica. It recently occurred to me that this is my 20th trip to this fascinating country and that is something of a victory for me. I used to want to see every continent, every country, every major city and landmark (and I will see new ones certainly) but I’m happy that I am able to love and revisit a familiar place again and again.
So it makes me reflect now what is so special about this country, why has this destination tamed my competitive impulses and domesticated my insatiable wanderlust? The passage of time and maturity from traveling have certainly played a part, but I think there are genuine characteristics about Costa Rica that make it a place to see again and again.
The range between the exotic and the familiar
Costa Rica offers a variety of experiences in every regard. The very name of the country implies riches and abundance. This is true of the landscape where towering and violent volcanic peaks exist just hours from idyllic and lazy beaches. One can zip-line through the living rainforest as monkeys howl overhead and water cascades below or soak in the rolling fog of the mountainside farms overlooking the Central Valley. Every type of topography seems to exist here, it has a dense population of living things of every classification and at the same time it is not overcrowded or overdeveloped. There seems to be just the right amount of tension between a country that is bursting into life yet tranquil and pensive at the same time.
The hospitality and friendliness
People are often a reflection of their environment and the Tico’s are no exception. I speak decent Spanish, but I’ve never been so complemented for doing so as I’ve been here. It is immediately noticeable how friendly and hospitable Costa Ricans are. Once you get to know them well you realize in outlook and customs overall they inhabit a small world. It is not a huge country or a big population on the world scale so it is understandable that the nation is like an oversized neighborhood in many ways. You might be tempted to think this would make Costa Ricans insular and closed minded, but to be honest I’ve never been welcomed so lovingly by so many. Tourism flourishes here because the country is unique, but even more so because the people share their country with pride and without reserve. From a friend’s mom making a delicious Gallo Pinto, to a most gracious waiter in a fancy Santana restaurant, to sampling exotic fruits in a Sunday morning farmers market there are limitless opportunities to exchange life experiences in the most cordial way.
There are hundreds of interactions, experiences and wonders I have seen and will continue to see in Costa Rica. That is why I have returned so often, it is not about just conquering lists of destinations, but being fulfilled and happy wherever you go and Costa Rica is a place that delivers happiness and quality and amazement every time, pura vida!