Costa Rica, The Greenest Country In The World
Where is Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is located in Central America that is bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south and east. The Pacific Ocean borders the western and southern parts of the country, and the Caribbean Sea borders the east. About 24% of its area is made up of protected rainforest that is rich with wildlife including spider monkeys, sloths, quetzal birds and many more.
The country is known for its progressive environment policies, being the only country to meet all five UNDP criteria established to measure environmental sustainability. In 2009, it was identified as the greenest country in the world and became the first country in the Americas to ban recreational hunting. It has over 500,000 plants and animal species and is one of the world's most biologically diverse countries.
But being such a fascinating country, what stops some people from visiting one of the most remarkable countries in the world?
Zika Virus in Costa Rica
Most people have heard of Zika Virus due to its first outbreak in Brazil in April 2015. What most people didn't know is that Zika Virus was first discovered in Uganda, Africa in late 1940s. For about 60 years, it remained in the equatorial regions of Africa. In 2007, it started spreading across the South Pacific and later on spread in the areas of South and Central America. Sadly, Costa Rica was one of the countries who got affected by this terrifying virus.
Zika is a moquito-borne virus that is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, the same type of mosquito that carries dengue fever and yellow fever. Zika infection causes birth defects of the brain called microcephaly and other severe brain defects. Public health officials have reported that mosquitoes in Costa Rica are infected with Zika virus and are spreading to people. Because of this, CDC recommends that travelers to Costa Rica protect themselves from mosquito bites.
To learn more, click here.
But despite the Zika Virus warning, what made us decide to visit the country???
Don't get me wrong.. but Zika is serious and something you should not ignore. My trip to Costa Rica has been pushed way back since my original plan to visit. As someone who lives by the quote, "You only have one life, so make the most of it", I made the decision to go. But before going, I made sure I read a ton of research about Zika, the areas affected and how to prevent mosquito bites to make sure I have everything I need. Remember, knowledge is everything and its always better to be ready.
FIVE REASONS TO VISIT COSTA RICA
There are so many reasons to love Costa Rica. The country offers beautiful beaches, volcanoes and biodiversity. When my friend Rebecca and I were looking for a destination spot that is easy to get to and within the budget, we did not hesitate once about the idea of going to Costa Rica. We immediately booked the flight and made our plans. With so many reasons to visit Costa Rica, I put together five reasons why you should visit the country.
1. Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio is home to many of Costa Rica's endangered species. Being the smallest national park in the country, it was named by forbes in 2011, as one of the world's most beautiful parks. Created in 1972 to preserve the richness of the forest and the idyllic beaches, the park is internationally recognized as being of of the most biodiverse parks on the planet. From the entrance, it will take about 20-30 minutes walk to get into the park.
The park is home to 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. It is also home to white-faced and howler monkeys, sloths, iguanas and the endangered squirrel. Warning! as though it is not humans who you need to worry about stealing your stuff, but the animals who is watching every move you take. It is also important that you do NOT feed them.
During my visit, I've seen a raccoon stole someone's grocery bag and a monkey who was fearless on trying to grab my sandwich from my hand while I was eating it. Make sure you bring a bag that has a zipper due to they are not afraid to dig through your belongings.
Definitely watch out for this guy! :D
My first time seeing a sloth climbing up and down the tree. It was amazing!
The park has a well marked trails that allows visitor to explore and a chance to get in touch with the other species hiding within the rainforest. To see some gorgeous views of the coast, I suggest doing the hike to the Cathedral Point that lies between Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio.
The park is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. Even though regulations have been in effect to limit the amount of visitors to visit the park, it will still be hard to avoid the crowd. To beat the crowd, I suggest to go as early as you can.
To learn more about what to expect before visiting, here's a video that you can watch.
2. Arenal Volcano National Park
Arenal Volcano National Park is made up mostly of primary rainforest. The park encompasses four different life zones and harbors a tremendous amount of flora and fauna. The quiet town of La Fortuna, 4 miles from the Arenal Volcano and about 75 miles from San Jose, is a location that provides visitors with easy access to the Arenal area and its amenities. The activities within this area are endless. From horseback riding, whitewater rafting, zip-lining, canoeing, surfing and many more, adventure always awaits.
Arenal Volcano was the most active volcano in the country. For 30 years, the views of the lava flows and red hot boulders ejected from the volcano glowing in the darkness has been truly a remarkable sights for many. For the past 7 years, the volcano has been limited to puffs of steam and a few deep rumbles, but even when the volcano is not erupting, the peak is still a beautiful sight.
Costa Rica only have two seasons, wet and dry. We came during their wet season and the volcano was covered by the clouds. We experienced rain but that did not stop us from enjoying the sights. Rain or shine, it was still a fun day to remember.
3. Thermal Hot Springs
The volcano's geothermal activity heats dozens of underground water flumes. Local landowners, tapping into this natural source, have created a number of beautiful hot springs that you do not want to miss! It is a perfect way to end a day in Arenal. One of my favorites is the Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa.
The spa offers a river was "transformed into a marshlands and have them resembled with what it could have been like before the cows grazed here lands, prior before". They planted acres of native flora, which gave Tabacon the feel of beautiful gardens. You will find yourself lost trying to find your way out due to it was built to create "privacy".
truly a stunning place!!!
4. The People
Costa Rica is known as the happiest country on Earth. During our tour, they made sure that we know what the people in their country stands for. A common saying that often locals say is "Pura Vida", which means, "pure life." Costa Ricans are generally friendly, polite and kind people. Being ranked as one of the highest latin countries that provides excellent education, the people in Costa Rica are known to also be well-educated.
5. Meeting Great People Around The World
One thing I have been enjoying a lot is being able to meet new people around the world. It's always great to meet some fellow travelers with a whole different background as you. It's always fun to hear about their home town, places they've been, and tips from the places you seek to visit one day. Its a great way to open up new perspectives and learn to appreciate different ways of thinking in life. We met these two kind people, who's company we truly enjoyed. Had to take a picture with them to always remember the laughs that we shared during our trip. Thanks for the memories! :)
Tips To Prevent Zika Virus When Traveling To Affected Areas
Costa Rica is a country that you do not want to miss. The mosquitoes that spread Zika usually do not live at elevations above 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) because of environment conditions. Although Zika is on the run and continues to hunt their victims, there are a few tips on how to prevent them.
1. Bring the right insect repellent - The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends products with active ingredients DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, or IR 3535. Re-apply as needed and follow the direction on the label.
2. Repel with your clothes - wear long sleeves, pants or closed shoes to prevent mosquito bites.
3. If pregnant, cancel your flight - I would not highly recommend a trip to any affected areas especially if you are expecting. It is up to you whether you are willing to take this risk or not, but a healthy pregnancy is definitely more important.
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