Filled with lush rainforest and rugged mountain views, Costa Rica has a lot going for it just on looks alone. But breathtaking scenery isn't the only thing this eco-destination has to offer.
From their commitment to sustainability to their reputation for making a mean cup of joe, the people of Costa Rica clearly have their priorities in order. Learn more about the qualities that give this tropical paradise reason to boast:
The biodiversity is no joke
Although it only accounts for .03 percent of the planet's landmass, Costa Rica is home to 5 percent of Earth's biodiversity. There are more than 500,000 different species, including more than 300,000 insects. To protect this wealth of plant and animals species, the country safeguards about 25 percent of its total land area as national parks and other protected areas. To put that in perspective, the average percentage of protected areas in developing countries is just 13 percent (and 8 percent for developed countries).
Costa Rica is one of the world's top eco-tourism destinations
Costa Rica has been touted as the "poster child of eco-tourism" for the past several decades, and with its breathtaking landscapes and unrivaled biodiversity, it's easy to understand why. As the country's fastest growing industry, eco-tourism has played a pivotal role in sustainable economic development. About 2.66 million tourists visited the country in 2015 — a significant jump from the few hundred thousand tourists who arrived at the very beginning of the eco-tourism boom in the late 1980s.
The country relies almost entirely on renewable energy sources
Despite many countries' commitments to curb carbon emissions, Costa Rica is one of the few to follow through and produce results. Certainly, the size of its country has something to do with its success, but that doesn't diminish the fact that the country frequently uses 100 percent renewable energy sources for several months at a time.
According to Vox, "for 300 total days [in 2015] and 150 days so far [in 2016], Costa Rica’s electricity has come entirely from renewable sources, mostly hydropower and geothermal. Heavy rains have helped four big hydroelectric dams run above their usual capacity, letting the country turn off its diesel generators."
Costa Rican people have a high standard of living
In addition to its comparatively excellent ecological health, Costa Rica also boasts an exceptionally high standard of living. The average life expectancy is 79.6 years (82.2 years for women), and as of 2015, it ranks higher than the United States on the World Health Organization's life expectancy list.
There are a lot of awesome animal sanctuaries
Whether you're a dog or a sloth, there is a wealth of animal sanctuaries throughout the country that welcome any stray or rescue with open arms. Some of these sanctuaries also play a role in the eco-tourism industry by welcoming visitors to meet the animals. That said, it's important to point out that some establishments are more reputable than others, so be sure to do thorough research before visiting any sanctuary or wildlife center.
Costa Rica takes its coffee seriously
Eco-tourism may be the country's biggest industry, but coffee remains one of Costa Rica's chief exports. Farmers have been growing the crop since the late 18th century when Arabica beans were brought over from Ethiopia, and over the centuries, it has developed a reputation for producing some of the best coffee in the world. To protect the reputation and integrity of the product, only Arabica beans are allowed to be grown in Costa Rica — all other coffee plant varietals are banned.
Of course, as with any large-scale agricultural operation, coffee growing still presents significant challenges for the local environment due to coffee fruit pulp waste that washes into rivers and compromises the health of aquatic life by depleting oxygen levels of the water.
A day at a Costa Rican beach is like no other
Surrounded by both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, it's safe to say that Costa Rica is brimming with gorgeous beaches of varying colors and textures. There are hundreds of these sandy stretches, though some of the most popular and scenic include Manuel Antonio, Playa Jaco, Tamarindo and Playa Avellana.