Despite it’s small size, the Latin American country Costa Rica has taken a stand on the international stage.
In a world of resource acquisition and the diffusion of cultural heritage, Costa Rica has made the preservation of its environment and its people the number one priority.
Now a leader in sustainable tourism, Costa Rica has preserved that which makes it so unique: a diverse natural environment, a thriving society, and a strong cultural identity.
For an intrepid adventure traveler, this means even more than pristine habitat, thrilling and safe adventures, and authentic gifts at artisan markets. According to an independent research group in Britain, Costa Rica ranks #1 as the “happiest place in the world,” perhaps due to their prioritization of their environment and their people.
Their happiness could also be due to two simple words that have infiltrated nearly every moment of Costa Rica’s daily life.
At any given moment in Costa Rica, you’re likely to hear the phrase “pura vida.” Literally translated as “pure life,” the saying has become a mantra for the country’s unique people and the economy that they’ve built for themselves.
However, the meaning extends far beyond the literal translation. Used as a greeting, a compliment, a description, a farewell and much more, the words have evolved into a constant reminder of living life to the fullest. Pura vida is an affirmation of a great life, an expression of perseverance, a celebration of good fortune, and a suggestion to live life slower and with more meaning.
In fact, pura vida may have altered the mindset of the entire nation enough to change their core values and beliefs about what really matters in life.
Happy Planet Index
Measuring a country’s development and success has never taken into account the natural resources that make that progress possible, until now.
Unlike other indices, such as Gross Domestic Product or Human Development Index, the Happy Planet Index, or HPI, incorporates sustainability as well as well-being into the equation, measuring the environmental efficiency of each country. In this way it shows how an efficient country can convert its natural resources to a happy and fulfilling life for its people.
The HPI helps the world to see that a highly-consumptive economy does not necessarily result in an increased well-being.
Costa Ricans, of course, have known this all along.
Costa Rica topped the charts on the latest HPI ranking. Out of 143 nations studied, the New Economics Foundation found the tiny Latin American country to be doing the best when it comes to general happiness and preserving the resources that helped achieve economic stability.
The Source of Costa Rica’s Success
Richard Bangs, author and world traveler, suggests that pura vida may be at the root of Costa Rica’s contentment.
On the PBS special Adventures with Purpose: Quest for Pura Vida, Bangs dives into the tiny country’s spectacular landscapes, and people to better understand what makes a Costa Rican adventure so exceptional.
Costa Rica “is a hero to the rest of the planet: a magnet and a model for ecologists, adventurers, researchers, and all who want to experience the magic of pura vida and be part of this luminous stitch in time,” says Bangs.
Take a look for yourself at a clip from Bangs’s show.
The Perfect Ingredient for International Adventure
For the adventure travel junkie, Costa Rica’s widespread happiness and value of sustainability make for the ideal combination for an all-around perfect vacation.
Costa Rica’s government has set aside 25% of the country’s land in national parks and protected areas, creating deep swaths of rich biodiversity and undisturbed wilderness. The Costa Rica Tourism Board created the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism so that this resource would continue to preserve the economy and cultural heritage of the unique nation.
Now, the incredible whitewater rafting, zip-line, and mountain biking tours can operate without the excessive consumption of natural resources, ensuring future generations the same experience.
Additionally, the tourism board seeks to maintain a healthy cultural identity. For rafting trips and bird-watchers alike, this translates into a richer experience.
The Wet Planet International Whitewater Adventure
While Wet Planet’s headquarters may be located on the White Salmon River outside of Portland Oregon, the hearts of the owners and staff firmly reside in whitewater rafting and kayaking all over the globe. Traveling throughout the world, it is places like Costa Rica, where an undeniable vision and reality of happiness pervade the entire nation, that we find ourselves returning to the most.
We also understand the importance of sustainable tourism.
In 2011, we received our first level of Eco-Certification through Sustainable Travel International to show guests that we are committed to the preservation of the river environments we cherish, the people that work with us to make our trips so special, and the local community that sustains our business.
Costa Rica, therefore, makes for the perfect international white water rafting adventure location for our company.
Pura vida infected us a long time ago. We hope you’ll take a look at our Costa Rica Adventure itinerary and come discover pura vida for yourself.
Author Susan Hollingsworth writes for Wet Planet Whitewater, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, American Whitewater, and any other river-related publication she can find.