In a guided meditation over the weekend, the instructor asked us to bring to mind something or somewhere that makes us happy. At the time, I thought about my dog, Mala, who has a lust for life unlike any other being I’ve ever met. Later in the day, I was still thinking about the meditation, and about a place that I’ve returned to every year for the past six years – Costa Rica. With all of the places that I want to visit in the world, it’s unusual for me to return to one place over and over, but there are many things about Costa Rica that keep me returning. It’s about more than the ease and convenience from Denver as far as international travel goes. Here are the top 10 reasons that Costa Rica is my happy place.
Pura vida lifestyle – “Pura vida” literally translates to “pure life,” but to the Ticos (local people of Costa Rica), this is a lifestyle more than a phrase. Costa Rica has been named one of the happiest countries in the world, mostly because its inhabitants don’t stress about things. Ticos have a relaxed, simple way of looking at life. Pura vida means being thankful for what you have and not dwelling on the negative.
Nicoya Peninsula is a Blue Zone – Blue Zone is a concept used to identify a geographic area of the world where more people live to be centenarians (past 100 years) than elsewhere, as described in Dan Buettner's book, "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from People who Lived the Longest." He identifies longevity hotspots in Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. Scientists and demographers have classified these longevity hot-spots as having common healthy traits and life practices that result in higher-than-normal longevity.
Biodiversity – Costa Rica is only about 200 miles long and 70 miles wide at the narrowest part with
two long coastlines. Even though Costa Rica is a small country that accounts for only about 0.25% of the world’s landmass, it has almost 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Much of the country is set aside forever into protected National Parks, wildlife refuges and nature reserves.
Values – Costa Rica is a country whose values reflect many of the ideals embraced by those of us interested in world peace, environmental preservation, excellent education, and a high standard of health care. It is unique in Central America as it has the longest uninterrupted democracy, no standing army in more than 50 years, and a 95% literacy rate.
Environmental stewardship - Costa Rica has initiated a program to become the first carbon neutral developing country on Earth by 2021, and has already made significant progress in lowering its overall CO2 emissions.
Beaches – The coasts of Costa Rica are diverse and beautiful. You can find miles of stretches of
beaches that are clear of crowds; white sand to black sand; with great surf for beginners and experts; turtle hatchings and more. Blue Spirit is set on the hill that has a short walk down a tree-lined path to a three-mile stretch of white sand beach that makes for a perfect walk into town for a coconut or to shop for a unique piece of jewelry by a local artist.
Climate – Costa Rica has two primary seasons, rainy (green) and dry. From May to November is rainy season, and December through April is mostly dry. During the green season, some days it doesn’t rain at all, and most of the time it rains for a couple of hours in the afternoon bracketed by brilliant sunshine. Green season brings less tourists, so it’s a great time to visit.
Monkeys! – I adore the shy howler monkeys who hang out in the trees all around Costa Rica – draped over a branch napping, swinging from tree to tree or hanging from their tails while reaching for that perfect bite of leaf. One male in each family makes the distinctive howl that earns them their name. They are believed to be the loudest of all land animals, with a howl that can be heard for a distance of up to 10 miles. The bonds are deep with these animals, and they seldom fight among each other. Howlers happen to be my favorite, but they are not the only types of monkeys that you will come across in Costa Rica – there are also white-faced monkeys and spider monkeys. There are many animals that call Costa Rica home thanks to the diverse eco-system.
Yoga – Costa Rica has become well-known as a yoga mecca around the world, with multiple schools offering yoga teacher training, and yoga retreat centers ranging in size and amenities located all across the country. I took my 300-hour advanced yoga training from Nosara Yoga Institute in Costa Rica, and this will be my third year leading a yoga retreat at Blue Spirit, which is also in Nosara.
The ocean – I grew up in New Hampshire, surrounded by water. While the ocean was never really warm, we would head to the beach in August to cool off. Everywhere you go in NH, you will find numerous bodies of water from lakes and ponds to streams and rivers. I’m a water-lover through and through. Living in land-locked Colorado for the past 13 years has meant traveling to coastal places at least a couple of times per year. Studies indicate that people who live by the sea are happier and live longer. For many centuries the ocean has brought enjoyment and peace, and recent science has now supported that spending time near the ocean is good for your health - physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our brains are hardwired to react positively to water. Watching the ocean, listening to the ocean, or being in the ocean, gives the brain a rest from overstimulation. Ocean water is rich with magnesium and simply being in it for short periods of time allows your skin to absorb what it needs for health.
Want to check it out for yourself? Join Firefly for the Bliss, Balance and Beach Retreat November 10-17, 2018. Register now.